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There was high drama in the finale of the San Diego Padres-NY Mets series at Petco. Thanks to FanGraphs for the graph:
The excitement started in the bottom of the 9th, with the Padres trailing 1-0, when Tony Gwynn Jr. started things off against Francisco Rodriguez with a line drive single to right. Gwynn got a big jump and stole second, getting the tying run into scoring position. Gwynn’s single and steal brought the Padres Win Probability from 17% to 41%. K-Rod settled down, however, striking out Matt Stairs and Jerry Hairston Jr., lowering the Padres chances considerably (back down to 13%).
David Eckstein was the last chance for the Padres, and after falling behind, grounded a single up the middle, just past Jose Reyes to tie the game. Huge moment, and who else would you want up in that spot? Okay, Gonzalez, and maybe someone else, but Eckstein’s contact rate is a huge plus, especially against a guy like Rodriguez. The Padres win probability jumped to 56%.
Adrian Gonzalez followed with a line drive down the left field. The ball was played by Jason Bay and Eckstein was sent home. A perfect relay by Bay and David Wright nailed Eckstein at the plate. Certainly, a defensible move to send Eck there, with two outs and K-Rod on the mound. It took a perfect relay, and the Mets executed.
The Padres bullpen, led by Ryan Webb, shut the door on the Mets for five innings, after a solid performance from Clayton Richard. Ho-hum. In the bottom of the 11th, Gwynn again started things, this time off Raul Valdes, with a double down the left field line. Jon Garland, however, failed to get Gwynn over as he was thrown out on Garland’s sac bunt attempt. Jerry Hairston followed with a single and Eckstein was hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Adrian Gonzalez with one down.
With the outfield drawn in, Gonzalez crushed a Valdes offering, and the only question was what kind of walk off hit it would be. The ball cleared the fence easily and the Padres were 5-1 winners. The WPA leaders:
Tough luck for Gonzalez. He hits a walk-off grand slam and is fourth on the team in Win Probability Added. Of course, it makes sense. When he stepped into the box in the 11th, the Padres, with one out and the bases loaded, already had a 82% chance of winning. And a walk or single would have the same impact on the game’s outcome as a grand slam. Eckstein and Gwynn’s heroics came when the Padres trailed in the 9th, and had little chance of winning.