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Lexington Drops One-Game Playoff For First Half Title

Spent a lot of time with this game this evening. Which kinda makes sense, as it may represent the closest any team in the organization comes to a championship this year. When Lexington--who'd had a three game lead in the South Atlantic League North division with six games to go in the first half--then proceeded to lose four of those games, and second place Hagerstown responded by winning five of six, the previously scheduled game today was promptly dubbed a playoff game, with the winner taking on the mantle of first half champion.

I listened to the contest--which started within three minutes of the end of the Houston-Texas game--on the internet through WLXG, the flagship station on the Legends radio network.

I was so psyched about the game I did a WPA chart:

Click image to view larger version in new window

Both Hagerstown and Lexington were playing without their best sluggers. Hunter Pence--rumored to be on his way to Round Rock once he's off the DL--was out for Lexington, and Mike Carp, third in the SAL in homers for Hagerstown, was mysteriously out, as well. Don't know why, although the radio people said he'd be playing Tuesday in the All Star game.

Both teams of course put their best pitchers on the mound. Lexington had Troy Patton, who will be starting that All-Star game on Tuesday, and Hagerstown had Gaby Hernandez, who was coming off his no-hitter last Sunday. Funny thing, though: neither ace was particularly effective.

Hagerstown got to Patton immediately, in the first inning, and although the two runs he allowed were unearned, they scored on a home run, and there's no making excuses for that.

Lexington would walk twice and advance on a wild pitch in their half of the first, but it would take them until the third to put runs on the board against Hernandez. JR Towles began with a solo homer, and Jonathan Ash followed with a double to get the Legends off and running in the third. After a sacrifice to get Ash home, Ben Zobrist doubled, Kevin Vital singled, and Ole Sheldon hit yet another double to drive home the last run of the frame None of those hits were bloops, either; they were all hit hard. I was frankly surprised Hernandez was able to get out of the inning behind only 4 - 2.

Hagerstown tied the score in the fourth when Patton, after one out, hit Grant Psomas (pronounced Peh-so-mis) with a pitch, then yielded a double to Ambiorix Concepcion. Patton retired the next guy on a K to get to two outs, but just when you thought he was gonna get out of it, he gave up a double and the game was tied again.

Lexington had not picked up where they left off against Hernandez in their half of the fourth, but Hagerstown certainly did against Patton in their half of the fifth. Bryan Triplett made his second error, but Patton also gave up two singles, and that was it: manager Tim Bogar came and got Patton with nobody out in the fifth inning. It was Patton's second straight crappy outing against Hagerstown.

After Patton was gone, and with Pence sitting, there then blossomed a certain air of inevitability about the whole thing. Garrett Murdy relieved Patton, and relieved Patton poorly. Hagerstown ended up scoring five times in the bottom of the fifth, and the game was never in doubt after that. In fact, neither team scored again, and the game ended with the Hagerstown 9 Lexington 4 final.

Despite the lopsided end result, it was good to be able to catch a Legends game for the first time this year. They really are more than just Patton and Pence: shortstop Ben Zobrist and second baseman Jonathan Ash hit for average and take walks, and Mitch Einertson, despite a low BA, has hit twelve doubles and taken 36 walks himself. The bad news is that Francisco Caraballo, tied for tenth in the SAL in homers with 11, can't hit a curveball.

Here are your heroes for Lexington:

Player WPA
JR Towles 0.134
Jonathan Ash 0.100
Ole Sheldon 0.081
Kevin Vital 0.046
Ben Zobrist 0.033

And these are your goats:

Player WPA
Garrettt Murdy -0.091
Bryan Triplett -0.250
Troy Patton -0.342

These gentlemen performed admirably for the enemy:

Player WPA
Derran Watts 0.236
Grant Psomas 0.204
Carlos Gomez 0.141
Ambiorix Concepcion 0.062

You can find a boxscore for the game here.