Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Friday, May 24. With injuries in the Bronx and mind-numbing futility in Queens, it’s necessary to look elsewhere to see where anything new and interesting has appeared on the baseball landscape. It has, in Atlanta and Minnesota.
The term “Life of Riley” started out as the name of a very funny radio show starring William Bendix. Riley was a bumbling dad who was forever sticking his nose into the lives of his two kids and, when things went spectacularly wrong, saying “What a revoltin’ development this is.” Now there’s an entirely new version of “Life of Riley” being played out in Atlanta, and there haven’t been any revoltin’ developments in it up to now. The star is Austin Riley, a kid of 22 and a Memphis native. Born Michael Austin Riley, he goes by his middle name when playing third base or the outfield for the Braves. He’s only been in the bigs since May 15, but he’s made a big splash early on. The Braves took him in round 1 in 2015. If they hadn’t, he meant to play for Mississippi State, a team who has been on the verge of reaching Omaha the last few years. Instead, he endured the low pay, questionable food and interminable bus rides of the minor leagues to get where he is now. As so often happens, a new rookie makes the show due to somebody else’s misfortune. In this case, Ender Inciarte landed on the DL and Riley was summoned from nearby Gwinnett, the Braves’ AAA team. He had hit double digit home runs in 3 of his 4 minor league seasons. He hit his first MLB four-bagger off the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha in his second big-league atbat. Now, he’s put up 5 bombs and a dozen RBIS in 9 games. Surprisingly, no member of the Braves has managed 5 homers in their first 9 big league games in their long and storied history. Not Aaron, not steady Eddie Matthews, but Austin Riley. He hit 3 home runs in a 4-game series in San Francisco which the Braves took 3 games to 1. Oracle Park is no easy place to launch home runs unless your name is Barry Bonds. Monday Riley unloaded one which put the Braves ahead for keeps. Wednesday he left the lot with 2 men aboard. Yesterday was everybody’s nightmare–a 13-inning game on getaway day. Riley first tied the game, then drove in the winning run. With the Braves down 4-2 in the 8th and a man on, Riley took a Tony Watson pitch over the fence in left center and into the seats. 5 innings later, against Reyes Moronta, he singled home Dansby Swanson with what would turn out to be the winning run. Riley, Swanson and Ronald Acuna JR. are just 3 of the kids who have brought the Braves back after some truly brutal years. Following their triumph in the city by the bay, it’s off to St. Louis for Riley and the Braves. Tonight they send Mike Foltynewicz to the hill where his year hasn’t been good up to now. He’s 0–3 with an ERA just under 7. The opponent is Miles Mikolas who was battered for 7 runs in less than 2 innings during his last outing.
Before spring training, fans could have assumed the Yankees would break every home run record ever made. We Yankee fans thought_ our team would have both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, each of whom have had seasons where they hit 50 home runs or more. Neither has done a thing up to now, and nobody knows if either one will play again this season. With smoke and mirrors the Yankees are keeping their heads above water while the Red Sox have begun to look frighteningly like last year’s Red Sox. The surprise home run leaders are the Twins. If they should hit 2 bombs tonight in their home park against the White Sox, that will give the Twins 100 homers in 50 games. Only one team did that before, and it wasn’t a Yankee team, not even one powered by Ruth and Gehrig. It was the 1999 Mariners who hit 100 dingers in 50 games. Thanks to MLB’s nonexistent effort to market their sport, nobody outside the twin cities (and very few inside them) could name a Twins’ player if they were offered a million dollars to do so. Here are some of the Twins’ hitters who are giving pitchers around the league sleepless nights. Their left fielder Eddie Rosario leads the charge with 14 home runs with 39 runs driven in. Right on his tail is C.J. Cron with 13 long ones. A year ago he was languishing in the Angels’ organization. Jonathan Schoop (pronounced Scope) was an Oriole a year ago. Now he’s thriving in the upper Midwest with a dozen doubles and 10 home runs while playing second base for the Twins. Max Kepler had 10 doubles and 10 home runs before getting hurt. Both he and Nelson Cruz were injured yesterday with Cruz landing on the DL. Kepler has the best eye among the Twins’ home run hitters with 20 walks against 28 strikeouts. Shortstop Jorge Polanco adds another dimension with 14 doubles and 5 triples to go along with his 9 taters. Like Kepler, Polanco can be patient, with 21 walks against his 31 strikeouts. Mitch Garver had 9 homers before landing on the DL. He has a high ankle sprain and will be gone until mid-June at the earliest. Jason Castro and the injured Nelson Cruz have 7 home runs each. These men account for79 of the Twins’ 98 home runs to date. From top to bottom the Twins can take a pitcher out of the yard. The result is a 33–16 record heading into tonight’s action. They are a game better than the Bronx Bleeders who would have been the Bombers but for a busload of injuries. Early though it is, the Twins have an8-game lead on the Indians, their nearest foe in a truly awful AL Central. They’ve done well at home with a 15–8 record. Surprisingly they’ve done even better out on the road where they’ve taken 18 of 26 games. The White Sox, Tigers and Royals have all they can do to be better than the Orioles over in the Eastern division. In the AL West, Houston is 33-18, with as many wins as the Twins but two more losses. The Twins were a laughing stock not so many years ago, but 1/3 of the way through this season they look like a playoff contender. with 2 home runs tonight they would take t place in the record book.0