Sunday is a Day for Westerns

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

On Sundays in the 1950’s, westerns ruled the airwaves on CBS radio. “Gunsmoke” began in 1952 and stayed on for most of the decade.  Later, “Have Gun, Will Travel” followed “Gunsmoke,” and the other networks had their own shows depicting mayhem in the Wild Wild West.  Yesterday, all the exciting action Major League Baseball had to offer took place in what once was the wide open land west of the Mississippi.

Just for starters there was a game in Minneapolis which the Royals stole from the Twins as brazenly as the Jesse James gang had robbed the Northfield bank (some 43  miles from there) in 1876. The Twins had the lead in the game 3-1 as they went to the visiting 9th inning.  Facing their closer Glen Perkins the Royals put up two runs to tie.  The featured hit was an RBI-tripple by Eric Hosmer which, had he run hell for leather  he might have legged into an inside-the-park home run.  Hosmer expected the Twins’ left fielder to catch the ball and when he didn’t Hosmer put spurs to his horse and reached third, from where he scored on a sac fly moments later. In the 10th Terrance Gore scored on a wild pitch by Trevor May giving the Royals the win and a sweep of the series.  The Twins are the only team winless in their league up to now.

The other  action-packed game of the day took place in distant California, where men once searched for gold and a generation later a man called Paladin wrote “Have Gun Will Travel” on his business cards. In San Francisco the Giants and Dodgers played their third intense game of the weekend.  it looked like an easy win for the Dodgers as they put up 5 runs in the top of the first.  Scott Kazmir was on the hill, their hired gun brought in when Zack greinke broke ranks and headed for Arizona. The Giants had him under siege from the start, getting two first-inning runs.  They tied the game at 5 on a solo home run by Buster Posey and a two-run shot by Brandon Belt. The Dodgers put one up in their half of the 4th but Angel Pagan tied it with yet another home run.  By the way, the Giants have a home run or more in each of their first 7 games for the first time since the days of Mugsy McGraw in 1913-when they were the New York Giants and San Francisco was in rebuilding mode following its earthquake.

With the score even at 6, in the home 6th Joe Panik put up a two-run double and was driven home on a scoring fly ball by  Hunter Pence making the final score 9-6. The Giants ended up taking 2 of the 3 games in the series, which began Friday night when the Dodgers’ Ross Stripling was pulled with a no-hitter and a win for the team in his grasp.

The last game of note took place in the state of Washington, a place too remote to draw the interest of Western writers but fertile ground for the modern “Twilight” series. The Mariners had King Felix Hernandez on the hill, and batters all over baseball will swear his talent is something supernatural. He looked that way yesterday, striking out 10 Oakland hitters in 7 innings.  When he left the Mariners were ahead 1-0. Felix doesn’t have a large family of supernatural pitchers to back him up, which was proven in the Oakland 8th when Marcus Semien tied the game with a home run. Two innings later, veteran Coco Crisp hit a no-doubter for a victory for the visitors.

As a new week starts, 5 day games will be played, which is customary early in the season.  The Pirates and Tigers meet in the day’s earliest game. The Red Sox host the Orioles, the Padres come east to face the Phillies, the White Sox face the Twins in Minneapolis and the Cardinals host the Brewers. Under the lights, the Nationals host the Braves, the Marlins face the Mets in New  York, the Reds and Cubs play a night game at Wrigley, the Astros host the Royals, the Rangers travel to face the Mariners and Oakland hosts the Angels.  Gone are the days of almost no games Monday and Thursday nights in baseball.

The Dodgers’ pitching sensation Kenta Maeda is our first baseball birthday today.  He is 28. He pitched for 8 years with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp before throwing a pitch with intent for the Dodgers. He put up a 97-67 record. He was an All-Star 5 times there, starting in 2010. Their Cy Young award is called the Eiji Sawamura award and he owns two  of those. The Dodgers signed him for 8 years, so they’ll have him until he’s 36. Considering how young he started, they could come to regret the length of the contract.

Talking about regrettable contracts, Mark Teixeira is 36 today.  He was well-traveled even when the Yankees got him in 2009.  He’d begun with the Rangers 6 years earlier, at 23. He joined the Braves in 2007 and the Angels during 2008. Before going to Atlanta he passed on an 8-year deal to stay deep in the heart of Texas. His first taste of postseason pplay was with the  2008 Angels who lost to Boston in the ALDS.    Admittedly, he helped the Yankees win their latest World Series in 2009 and was an All-Star as late as last season-his third All-Star selection. But his name has repeatedly turned up on the DL since 2012. He damaged his wrist during the 2013 World Baseball Classic and as a result played only 15 games for his employer all year. He only hit .216 in 2014. He was on a pace for his best year in recent memory when he broke his leg in August 2015.

Jason Varitek is 44. He was one of the vanishing breed that played his entire career for one team-the Red Sox.  He and Nomar GarciaPara had been teammates at Georgia Tech and they continued to be so until Nomar left the Old Town Team. He was an All-Star 3 times between 2003 and 2008. He was behind the plate in the Sox’ first 2 World Series winning teams of the modern age, 2004 and 2007. He, Ed Vosberg and Michael Conforto are the only 3 men to reach the Little League, College and MLB World Series in a career. He and the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz have each caught 4 no-hitters. He’s been a special assistant to the team’s general manager since 2012.

Bret Saberhagen is 52 today. The Chicago Heights native was the American League’s Cy Young award winner at 21, and part of the only Royals’ World Series winner until 2015. He put up a 167-117 mark between 1984 and 2001. He was with the Royals until 1992, then with the Mets, Rockies and Red Sox. He was an All-Star 3 times, the last in 1994. Twice he was injured either during or right after the All-Star game and was lost for the rest of the season.   He took home another Cy Young award in 1989. He pitched a no-hitter on August 26, 1991. He had fired one at Dodger Stadium-but it was a city high school championship game in 1982.

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