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Tuesday’s Crazy Comebacks

After Brian Matusz struck out Willy Aybar in the 8th inning of last night’s Rays-Orioles game, Matusz was probably feeling pretty confident about leaving the game with a win. At the time, the Orioles led the Rays 3-0, and with only 5 outs remaining in the game, the Rays’ chances of winning were slim – 5.5%, to be exact.

Similarly, Brian Bannister had to feel good after recording the first out of the seventh inning. At the time, Bannister’s Royals led the Tigers 5-0 with only 8 outs remaining for Detroit. The Tigers’ chances at the time sat at a mere 2.9%. Even though Bannister allowed a run at the hands of Gerald Laird before exiting the game, the Royals’ win probability was still over 90% when he was replaced by Roman Colon.

Naturally, I wouldn’t be mentioning either of these situations if the improbable hadn’t occurred – neither Bannister or Matusz recorded a win, and in both cases their teams lost.

The Royals’ bullpen worked with remarkable efficiency to blow the lead. Colon gave up two doubles to only one out in the three batters he faced, allowing the Tigers to close the gap to 5-3. Dustin Hughes gave up a single and a walk to load the bases, setting the table for Juan Cruz. After a walk to Miguel Cabrera closed the gap to 5-4, Cruz finished the job by allowing a two run double to Carlos Guillen. By that point, the Tigers’ win probability had skyrocketed to 79.2%, a gain of 76.3% in merely 8 batters. The Tigers managed to hold the lead, and the game finished with a score of 6-5.

The collapse of the Orioles in the 8th was also quite rapid – Jim Johnson immediately recorded an out after replacing Matusz, but then combined with Will Ohman to allow 3 straight run scoring hits to Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and B.J. Upton. The hits combined for 4 runs, and put the Rays up by a score of 5-3, boosting the Rays win probability up to 85.3%. The Orioles hitters nearly reclaimed the game, however, as Luke Scott tied the game with a two run shot in the bottom half of the inning. Ohman and Cla Meredith combined for a quiet 9th inning, and a Nick Markakis single brought Baltimore back to a 72.4% chance to win, but the Orioles bullpen just wasn’t deep enough to handle the Rays in the 10th. Carlos Pena sealed the game for Tampa Bay with a 3 run shot off of Matt Albers. Rafael Soriano managed to save the game, despite a solo home run by Ty Wigginton, and the Rays won 8-6.

After dominating the majority of the game, both the Orioles and Royals were let down by their bullpens. The odds of both comebacks happening on the same night are a mere 0.16% chance – we would expect two comebacks of this magnitude to happen on the same night only about 0.25 times per season. Tuesday’s heroic comebacks (or unbelievable choke jobs, depending on your perspective) certainly provided us with some entertaining baseball, possibly on a level we won’t see again this season.