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N.L. CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – TEM @ SAC G#4

SacramentoGame #4 –  Justin Verlander vs. Brandon McCarthy

The hometown Sacramento Capitals host a must-win Game 4 championship game. Down 2 games to 1, a Capitals loss would put them in a hole out of which–with the prospect of Matt Cain back on the mound–they may never escape.  While the first three games have been extremely close–with a total score of 15-13 in favor of Tempe–Sacramento knew that success would depend to some extent on Verlander’s ability to keep Adrian GONZALEZ in check.  Through the first three games, AGONE had batted .545 with 3 runs, 4 RBI, 3 doubles, and 2 home runs.  Simply put, GONZALEZ has been killing the Capitals.

Both Justin VERLANDER and Brandon MCCARTHY cruised through two relatively uneventful first two innings.  VERLANDER opened the game by striking out Curtis GRANDERSON and Melky CABRERA, and induced a Hunter PENCE ground-out to Robinson CANO for an easy 1-2-3 first half.  This time, McCARTHY struck out three–leadoff hitter Daniel MURPHY, Kevin YOUKILIS, and cleanup hitter Albert PUJOLS, but stumbled a bit walking CANO, giving Pujols the opportunity to leave a runner on base.  The 2nd inning didn’t prove much more eventful; while Verlander opened the 2nd by issuing a free pass to Adrian GONZALEZ, Troy TULOWITZKI promptly whiffed for one out; Adrian BELTRE was handcuffed and grounded to J.J. Hardy–moving Gonzalez to 2nd but BELTRE was out at first.  VERLANDER, in typical Sacramento fashion, made things interesting; both Dustin PEDROIA and Carlos RUIZ coaxed walks with two outs.  VERLANDER is showing is wild side much too early for a make or break game.  Luckily, McCARTHY walked up to the plate, bases loaded, and promptly grounded toward first … PUJOLS to his right and picks it up … he flips to VERLANDER covering … to retire the side.  A lot of drama, but nothing to show for it.  MCCARTHY, it would turn out, had an easier job with Sacramento in the bottom of the 2nd.  HARDY, facing MCCARTHY, opens the inning with a walk, while Willingham follows-up with a strikeout; with one out, Yadier MOLINA grounds to TULOWITZKI, who guns it to second for one and back to GONZALEZ for the deuce.

The game began to get a whole lot more interesting in the 3rd inning, and quick.  Facing VERLANDER, well, let’s listen to the announcer: “Facing VERLANDER, … The pitch … belted to right … near the foul pole … and it’s … long gone! home run for GRANDERSON. TEMPERS 1, CAPITALS 0. Here we go again.  Luckily for VERLANDER, this is as difficult as it would get.  While CABRERA legs out an infield single, Hunter PENCE promptly grounds toward HARDY for the double play.  GONZALEZ was fell too, this time with the K.  Sacramento’s luck would turn in the bottom of the 3rd, but it wouldn’t come easy.  Torii Hunter steps up to the plate, but grounds weakly to GONZALEZ for the first out, and VERLANDER would go down on strikes for out number 2.  McCARTHY began to struggle with his control, however.  Facing MURPHY, McCARTHY gives him a free pass, perhaps preferring to face the unpredictable YOUKILIS.  Yet, again, YOUKILIS takes ball four and trots slowly to first.  With runners on 1st and 2nd, two outs, CANO steps up to the plate.  Facing McCARTHY, CANO swings like he means it … it’s a fly ball to the gap in right … PENCE’s racing over, but he won’t get it … it’s to the wall … MURPHY scores … tie game.  With Pujols up next, Sacramento holds YOUKILIS and CANO at 3rd and 2nd in the hopes of breaking it open in the 3rd.  Let’s listen to the announcers: “PUJOLS facing McCARTHY, … He comes home … powered into left field … toward the gap … that could be trouble … it drops; one run scores … two runs score … PUJOLS’s headed for second … here’s GRANDERSON’s throw, and he slides in safely … back-to-back doubles by the CAPITALS. TEMPERS 1, CAPITALS 3.  Fortunately for McCARTHY, that is all the damage Sacramento could muster; HARDY quickly grounded out to TULOWITZKI for the third out, stranding Pujols at 2nd.  Sacramento ended the 3rd with enough runs to win the game, but Sacramento wasn’t done.  The bottom of the 5th provided more fodder for Sacramento’s offense.  By the 5th, McCARTHY was out and Bartolo COLON was on the mound, starting the inning facing VERLANDER, who promptly doubled past CABRERA for a leadoff double.  With that, TEMPERS manager, Chris Douglass had had enough; he’s asking COLON for the ball, and hands the game over to Josh SPENCE.  SPENCE would face left-hander MURPHY with a runner in scoring position … this will test his effectiveness.  And test it, MURPHY did, walking to set up the double play.  Murphy isn’t known for his wheels, so Sacramento pulls him for speedster Nyjer MORGAN.  With VERLANDER on 2nd and MORGAN on 1st, YOUKILIS steps up to the plate … and flies out to CABRERA.  This time, CANO gets the opportunity.  Again, let’s listen to the anouncers: “Facing SPENCE, CANO gives it a ride … PENCE back for it … I think it might go out … yes it does! it’s long gone! … a three-run shot to deep right, SPENCE served up some cannon fodder that time.

TEMPERS 1, CAPITALS 6.  Tempe immediately pulls SPENCE and hands the ball to Tim STAUFFER, who without delay serves up a hard single to PUJOLS.  HARDY, however, promptly struck out to end the nightmare inning for Tempe.  The score would remain TEMPERS 1, CAPITALS 6 through the top of the 7th, until Sacramento would find time to score one more run.

Still facing STAUFFER, MORGAN leads off the bottom of the 7th with a soft liner toward left field; rolling to the wall with MORGAN’s speed, this one had triple written all over it–his first hit of the series.  Stauffer did his best to get out of the inning unscathed, striking out YOUKILIS and inducing a ground out from CANO, but the run would score nonetheless.  STAUFFER delivers, and Ryan ROBERTS lines to PEDROIA for the third out of the 7th, and that’s all the excitement this game would bring.

Sacramento ties the series at two games apiece behind a solid effort from VERLANDER, pitching 7 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball, and CANO, who hit a spectacular 2 for 3 with a walk, double, home run, 2 runs, and 5 RBI.

FINAL SCORE : TEMPERS 1, CAPITALS 7
WP: Verlander
LP: McCarthy

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