Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, April 9.
The Braves knew they were up against a tough customer in pitcher Max Scherzer last night. The man has 2 no-hitters, and any opponent who doesn’t know that certainly should. But stealing a base wasn’t on the warning label that comes with Scherzer when he takes to the hill. Approach 100 MPH-Check. Make you look foolish, check. Win 3 Cy Young Awards and play in the last 5 All-Star games–been there, done that. Steal a base? No-or at least not until last night. As his agent cringed, Scherzer became only the second man to throw a shutout, strike out 10 or more foes and yes, stick a knife in their pitcher and catcher’s ego by stealing a base. The other man to do that? the guy from Alvin, Texas, Nolan Ryan.
The Nats and Braves opened their series with a night game in Washington on Monday. The home team had lost their last 5 including being swept by last year’s patsy, the Mets. That’s just the sort of situation that calls for Max Scherzer. He threw a 2-hit shutout at the hapless Braves, striking out 10 and walking no one. And in the 7th inning, by which time most starting pitchers nowadays have showered, Scherzer singled and swiped second. Nolan Ryan had done that in 1984 against the Pirates, but no other pitcher had pinched a base in the midst of a shutout that included 10 strikeouts. The only offensive help Max got was a 2-run double by Howie Kendrick in the first inning, but that was plenty for him. Braves’ pitcher Peter Moylan wasn’t paying the base runner any heed, allowing Scherzer to get an enormous lead off first. He took off, Moylan buried one in the dirt and the base was his–literally. Nats’ manager Dave Martinez gave Scherzer second base as a trophy after the game. Fans in Washington will see what Stephen Strasburg can do tonight against the Braves.
As the minor league season begins, the dreaded morning games begin. April and May especially tend to be brutal attendance months for minor league baseball. So whenever possible, the teams schedule midweek games in the morning hours, starting as early as 10 AM. The sales forces in the various cities try to line up youth groups to come to these games. Sometimes they’re called “Camp Day,” sometimes “Youth Day.” In one city where I worked, the annual early game was officially called “Parks and Rec” Day and unofficially called “Wreck the Park” day by the employees who had to clean up the mess after the game. Especially before computers, these games were difficult on announcers because the stats were almost never available before 9:30 AM, which doesn’t give much time for preparation if your game starts at 10. With computers the fresh stats were available around 6 AM when I was broadcasting and the hour is probably earlier now. Today begins the first round of those midweek games, usually played on Wednesday and Thursday but with the odd Tuesday thrown in. Today the Charleston RiverDogs (Yankees) face the Rome (Georgia) Braves at 10:30 AM. Two Midwest League games start at Noon, though one is being played in the Central time zone so it’s an 11 AM start for them. The same goes for two Texas League games which start at Noon Eastern. One Midwest League game and one AAA International League game start at 1 PM. And in the latest of the day games, the Rancho CuCamonga Quakes (Padres) face the Stockton Ports (Athletics) at 2 Eastern, 11 AM out there in California. When those two teams met last night, Rancho Cucamonga pitchers walked 11 batters, as Stockton won 10-2 with just 6 hits. The Quakes (Padres) starter walked 6 without surviving the third inning.
As for major league baseball, both Chicago teams try to play again this afternoon in Chicago. While the White Sox got their game in following a short delay, the Cubs were snowed out yesterday. As on Monday, these are the only two day games on the ledger. The Indians host the Tigers at 6 PM, a nod to the cold weather in Cleveland. The Yankees and Red Sox play tonight at Fenway, and with both teams playing well it’s easy to get excited about these old rivals meeting again. The Yanks have Luis Severino on the hill against the Red Sox’ incomparable Chris Sale.1