Syndergaard and Price in Midseason Form; Buckos and Tigers Win in Extras

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball today.

Two of baseball’s best pitchers were on their mettle as MLB settles down to the pace of its regular season following the ceremony that is Opening Day.  In Kansas City, where the Mets lost Sunday night they turned to Noah Syndergaard, their only pitcher to win a game in the last World Series, and Noah delivered.  The Royals’ P.A. system played “American Woman,” by the Guess Who in derision of Syndergaard’s shoulder-length locks. A pitcher who n otices the music won’t last long, and Syndergaard was oblivious to it as he dominated the Royals through 6.  Newly acquired Neil Walker provided the day’s offense with a two-run home run in the fourth.  Noah put up 9  strikeouts, and was followed to the hill by Jim Henderson, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.  The Royals could do nothing with any of the above.  So both teams are 1-1 and neither plays a game until Friday.  The original schedule called for the games to be played Monday and Wednesday before ESPN called for the season opener to be moved to Sunday night. This is how both teams have two days off, which is unheard of in modern scheduling.

Meantime in Cleveland, after Monday’s opener was postponed to yesterday David Price pitched the way the Red Sox hoped he would when they signed him to a 7 year contract. He struck out 10 Indians as Boston took a 6-2 win. Mookie Betts and David Ortiz homered in the opener.  For the second year in a row, Indians’ opening-day starter Corey Kluber was tagged with the loss.

The Pirates won their second straight, taking 11 innings to beat the Cardinals 6-5.  Jordy Mercer hit the walkoff single driving home Gregory Polanco. The action was fast and furious through 5. The Pirates put up 2 runs in the home second, only to see the Cards level the game half an inning later. In the home third, Andrew McCutcheon doubled home the Bucs’ third run. But John Niese, who the Pirates got in the Neil Walker trade gave up a home run in the fourth good for two runs and a fifth run in the fifth, making it 5-3. But the Pirates evened the score again in their half of the fifth.  Both bull pens kept their opposition on lockdown until the home 11th. There was another 11-inning affair in which the Tigers beat the Marlins 8-7. Ian Kinsler drove in 4 runs including the game winner in the top of the 11th. His other 3 rbis were on a 3-run home run as the Tigers built a 5-0 lead that held until the last of the 6th. At that point the Marlins scored 3 runs, highlighted by a 2-run home run from GianCarlo Stanton, whom they had desperately missed last year following his broken hand. With the score 5-3 Justin Verlander was taken out following 6 innings of work.  Though the Tigers put up two more to make it 7-4 in the last of the 9th the Marlins fought back to knot the game and force extras.

Two games were decided amid controversy.  The Yankees and Astros were even at 2-2 in the 8th when Carlos Correa hit a grounder on which Dellin Betances made an errant throw, letting in the first of 3 Astros’ runs.  The Yankees maintained that Correa interfered with Betances’ throw by being in fair territory.  The umps disagreed and ejected Joe Girardi, who played the game under protest. While the Yanks put up a run later, it was too little, too late as the Astros won 5-3.  The Rays beat the Blue Jays 3-2 on another controversial call, this one to end the game. It appeared a bad throw on a game-ending double play grounder had tied the score, but again the umps disagreed, this time giving the win to the homestanding Rays.

As if the injury to Andrew Miller and his loss for some 3 months wasn’t bad enough, the Yankees found out they will lose reliever Bryan Mitchell for not less than 4 months.  He had surgery on his broken big toe. Both men were injured in the same spring game last week against the Braves.  Interestingly enough, in the last week of the 1994 season I suffered a broken toe when my broadcast partner, all 250 pounds of him crashed down on it in his folding chair.  He had it leaned back on two legs, which we were all told never to do as children.  He lost it and, instead of going backwards and leaving him mortified it fell forward, breaking my toe.  The truly funny part was, we were on the air at the time so I wasn’t even allowed to swear over the pain, which is truly better imagined than described. You’re also better off imagining what I said to my partner once we were off the air.  I was told there was nothing to do about a broken toe but wear slippers for two months.  I was able to do this because I worked from home after the season ended.  I guess, with the passage of 22 years there are repairs that can be done to Mitchell’s toe and all he loses is time spent on the DL.

Bret Boone, the lesser-known of the Boone brothers is 47 today.  Aaron Boone is remembered for his 2003 game-winning home run in game 7 of the ALCS and is now heard on ESPN baseball.  Both are the sons of Bob Boone and the grandsons of Ray Boone, both former major leaguers. Bret played from 1992 to 2005 mostly with the Reds and Mariners. He was an All-Star 3 times with 4 gold gloves. He was with the Mariners when they won 116 games in 2001, tying the Cubs’ record dating back to 1906. The Mariners lost the ALCS to the Yankees in 2001.

Tommy Greene  is 49 today. Ira Thomas Greene of Lumberton, NC was briefly with the loaded Atlanta pitching staff, but went to the Phillies in 1990 where he threw a no-hitter a year later.  Well I remember going home after broadcasting my game in the Florida State League and hearing a recording of the end of Greene’s nono on the answering machine.  Our pal Chuck Manka had recorded the ending for us. Only 8800 attended the game in Montreal. In 1993 both he and Curt Schilling were 16-game winners, most on the pennant-winning Phillies.  Greene started game 4 of the World Series, which the Blue Jays won 15-14.  It broke every offensive record you can name for a single World Series game.

Hall of Famer Burt Blyleven is 65 today. If anybody in his day threw a better curve, I don’t know him. The Dutch native came to the show at 19, in 1970 with the Twins. Before he was done in 1992, he put up a 287-250 record with 3701 strikeouts. Surprisingly he was only an All-star twice, 1973 and 1985. He pitched for the World Series champion Pirates in 1979 and Twins in 1987. At the peak of his powers he fired a nono on Sept. 22, 1977. The result was a 6-0 Rangers win over the Angels in Anaheim. He was traded before throwing another pitch with intent. He and Cole Hamels are the only two pitchers traded following a nono with their former teams.     It took 14 ballots to put Blyleven  in Cooperstown, which only happened in 2011. I consider that a travesty of justice. He’s been broadcasting on TV with the Twins for 20 years now. His Chris Berman nickname “Burt Be Home BlyLeven” is one of Berman’s best-known nicknames for a player.

Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane was born this day in 1903 and passed away in 1962.  Mickey Mantle was named for Cochrane, the great Athletics catcher and Tigers’ catcher/ manager. His given name was Gordon Stanley Cochrane, and he was known both as “Black Mike,” and Mickey.  He was the catcher in the 3 World Series between 1929 and 1931, the first two of which his teams won.  Connie Mack, always on the edge of bankruptcy unloaded him to Detroit where he caught and managed the team to two World Series-1934 which they lost and 1935 where they took out the Cubs in 6. Before he was named manager, Tigers’ owner Frank Navin tried to get Babe Ruth to come to Detroit as a player-manager.  Ruth was arranging a trip to Japan and wouldn’t take the time out of his schedule to call Navin, says Robert W. Creamer in his biography of Ruth.  So Babe ruth’s blunder put Cochrane in position to play and manage.  He was an All-Star twice, in 1934 and 1935.  He might have been an All-Star several more times, except there was no All-Star game until 1933. His career ended in near-tragedy.  He stepped to the plate May 25, 1937 wearing no helmet as was customary then.  A pitch from Irving Bump Hadley of the Yankees caught him in the head and nearly killed him outright.  As it was, Cochrane spent a week in the hospital and never played again.  He could still manage the Tigers, which he did until 1938. You’d think such a catastrophe would instantly generate a call for helmets.  It was another 15 years before they became mandatory.  Head injury or no, Cochrane served in the Navy during World War II, as did Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.                up

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