9 Home Runs and Counting and April Isn’t Done Yet

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday.

The National League has a 4-way tie with 9 home runs to start the year, and we still have 3 days in April to go.  Bryce Harper, Neil Walker and two Rockies-Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story-all have 9 dingers before the first month has ended. Harper reached 9 with his pinch-hit home run Sunday as the Nats beat the Twins 6-5 in 16 innings.  For Story, 9 April bombs is a rookie record passing the old mark of 8 set by Albert Pujols in 2001.  The American League mark is 10, held by Jose Abreu of the White Sox who pulled it off in 2014.  Story and Arenado hit their 9th home runs in what would turn out to be a 9-8 12-inning defeat to Pittsburgh. The Buckos perhaps thought they had a laugher on the way when they jumped out ahead 7-0. But a 4-run 4th featuring the Arenado and Story home runs made it a game again. Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra would hit home runs later. Parra tied the game 8-8 in the home 8th. The game ended when Story took a called third strike with runners on second and third in the last of the 12th. Meantime in New York, Neil Walker hit his 9th en route to a Mets’ 5-2 win over the Reds. They swept the 3-game series and have won 11 in a row and 16th in 18 tries over one of the game’s worst teams. As good as that is, the Mets once did better.  They took 15 in a row from the Pirates between 1986-87.

Four games will be played in daylight today.  The earliest one features Oakland at Detroit. Neither starter, Chris Bassitt for Oakland or Anibal Sanchez for the Tigers did well in their last start. The Cubs and Brewers play today after last night’s game was postponed.  It’s the same scheduled matchup, Taylor Jungman and his 8.47 ERA and Jake Arrieta who threw a no-hitter his last time out of the gate. The Pirates and Rockies have an early game after their marathon last night. Also the Phillies and Nationals have a day game at 4 PM. They get to see Tanner Roark fresh off his 15-strikeout performance his last time out. Under the lights, Atlanta faces the Red Sox.  The Braves knew this year would be bad, but at 4-17 they’re chasing the 1962 Mets record of 40-120.  They’ve hit a grand total of 4 home runs all season, counting one last night by Freddie Freeman in their latest loss. The best matchup is the late late show, at 10:10 PM. The Marlins send Jose Fernandez to the hill against the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda. Again, this shows why the bedside computer may replace the bedside radio for late night listening pleasure.

You may have heard of Tigers’ outfielder Tyler Collins flipping off the fans at Comerica Park. Lipreaders may even have seen him say an evil word to the multitude.  He won’t get the chance to do that again for some time. He’s been sent to the AAA Toledo MudHens.  There he can flip off the press box, but there won’t be a multitude in attendance. The Mets again find themselves without  a major-league quality catcher, as Travis D’Arnaud has been put on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. This leaves them with Kevin Plawecki as the main catcher.  While he may be acceptable on defense he didn’t hit his weight last summer.  Their backup is a 32-year-old journeyman  Rene Rivera. He has a .211 batting average compiled over parts of a dozen years. He wasn’t seen in the majors between 2007 and 2011 in what should have been his prime. The Mets had him at AAA in 2009.

David Freese, now of the Pirates is 33 today. The Corpus Christie, Texas native whose name is pronounce “Freeze” was drafted in the 9th round by the Padres in 2006. He had played college baseball for the Jaguars of the University of South Alabama.  He made the show in less than 3 years, as a Cardinal. This is his first year in Pittsburgh after two with the Angels. He was the MVP of the 2011 NLCS and then the World Series in which the Cardinals beat the Rangers. He put up 21 RBIS in that post-season setting a record.   He was an All-Star a year later. As of now he’s on third while Jung-Ho Kang rehabs from his gruesome leg injury last September.  When he returns, Freese and John Jaso figure to split time at first base.

Hall of Famer Barry Larkin is 52 today. A native of Cincinnati, the Reds took him in round 1 in 1985, the 4th pick overall that year. He had played in two College World Series’ with the University of Michigan in 1983 and 1984.  It took him all of 14 months to make the bigs, where he was a fixture with the Reds until the end of 2004. He hit .295 with 2340 hits in his day. He was an All-Star a dozen times including his final season 2004. He was with the Reds when the won the 1990 World Series, and was league MVP in 1995 though the Braves were the champions that year. He was the first shortstop to win a National League MVP award since Maury Wills in 1962.  He reached Cooperstown in 2012 on his third try. In 1988 he struck out 24 times all season long.  Now guys strike out 24 times in a month and think nothing of it. Since his retirement he spent some years as an analyst, first with the fledgling MLB Network and then with ESPN.  He is now a roving minor league  instructor though he has been considered twice for managerial jobs.

Another member of the Reds in Larkin’s time, pitcher Tom Browning is 56 today. While no Hall of Famer he had a fine 123-90 record and once fired a perfect game. This feat came on Sept. 16, 1988 against the Dodgers.   Two years later he and Larkin were team leaders as the Reds swept the World Series from Oakland, and a year later Browning got the one All-Star selection he ever would get. In 1985 he won 20 as a rookie, the first rookie to do so since Bob Grim in 1954 with the Yankees. His career ended with a bang, as his arm broke as he threw a pitch in San Diego.  The arm could be seen and heard breaking by fans in the stands and viewers on TV.

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