You just can’t make this stuff up. There was no column yesterday since I had a church commitment. Had there been, I would have mentioned the birthday of Walt Terrell, the last Mets’ pitcher to hit two home runs in a game. Of all the impossible coincidences you couldn’t sell to Hollywood, Mets’ pitcher Noah Syndergaard hit 2 tremendous home runs late last night in Los Angeles, on Terrell’s 58th birthday. Terrell did the deed in 1983 at Wrigley. Noah, the man known as Thor hammered a pair out of Dodger Stadium, a notably pitcher-friendly park as the Mets beat the Dodgers 4-3. And that was just the capper on one of the more incredible days the great game will see. Earlier in the day Houston won a marathon over the Indians on a two-run walkoff home run in the last of the 16th. The Giants won on a bases-loaded walk in the last of the 13th. And the Nationals’ Max Scherzer struck out 20 Detroit Tigers to tie the record for a 9-inning game. That’s a good week’s worth of baseball and it all happened yesterday.
I turned off the radio after the second inning to miss the commercial, as I usually do when I’m listening on the radio. After selling, writing and voicing commercials for many years I detest them now. I tuned back in a little late to hear Syndergaard’s first home run of the night, which cleared the fence in distant right center. By the time I tuned in the next hitter Granderson had struck out and on the radio they had moved on from Syndergaard’s shot, so I had no idea it had happened. Later, I found out from talk show host Tony Page about the 3-run shot Noah uncorked over the centerfield fence, an amazing blast in that ballyard. He also pitched 8 innings, giving up 2 runs to the Dodgers. What Bartolo Colon began Saturday night with his first career home run in San Diego Syndergaard continued and multiplied with his pair of enormous home runs last night just up the coast. The last pitcher to do so was Micah Owings of the D-Backs and that was 9 years ago. He put up 4 RBIS, and the only other modern Met to do that is Steven Matz.
Earlier in the evening in the nation’s capital, Max Scherzer took to the hill for the Nats against his former team the Tigers, for whom he had done so much in the most recent good years of 2011-13. Until the game began, his career highlight was 15 strikeouts in one of his two no-hitters last year. The Tigers have a pitcher, Anibal Sanchez who had done better than that, striking out 17. The incomparable Bob Gibson had struck out 18 Tigers to set a World Series record that probably will stand forever. But Scherzer carved out another page for himself in history by striking out 20 Tigers, tying the regular-season 9 inning record. He, Kerry Wood, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson have done the deed since 1986. Clemens in fact did it twice. The most recent 20K effort was by Randy Johnson in 2001. Scherzer had 18 by the end of the 8th with the Nats ahead 3-1. To start the 9th he gave up a solo home run to J. D. Martinez. Jose Iglesias had hit one earlier on. He got Miguel Cabrera for his 19th K on a pitch that traveled 98.1 MPH, his fastest of the night. After a single by Victor Martinez he struck out Justin Upton, number 20. Catcher James McCann grounded out to end the game and keep the record tied at 20. Even Scherzer admitted that was Not bad for a guy who allowed 4 bombs to the Cubs his last time out of the gate.
And then there were the marathons. In Houston, Marwin Gonzalez launched a two-run shot off Cody Anderson for a 5-3 Astros win. Normally Anderson is a starter, but the Tribe had run out of relievers. 18 pitchers took the hill in the third-longest game played since MinuteMaid Park opened. The Astros received a dozen walks and left 17 men on base in victory. In the first, second and 4th they left the bases full, squandering 3 chances to make it an early afternoon. It was their getaway day after a 10-game home stand, and take it from me nobody_ wants a marathon on Getaway Day. They want to get the game done and get moving. As it was, they could have won in 9 but for a double by Mike Napoli and a tripple to tie the game by Carlos Santana. So ended a run of 16 saves converted by Astros’ closer Luke Gregerson
Another game ended on a walkoff home run in extras. This one was in Seattle, where Mariners’ catcher Chris Iannetta ended things with a long shot in the last of the 11th giving the home team a 6-5 win over the Rays. Here again it was a boomer to dead center in a pitcher’s park, Safeco Field. The Rays had tied the game at 5 on a home run in the top of the 9th by Kevin Kiermaier. The Mariners were working with two vital relievers-Joaquin Benoit and Tony Zych-on the DL. Early on it looked like a breeze with the Mariners up 4-0 in the top of the 6th-until Taijuan Walker walked 3 and gave up a grand slam to Corey Dickerson to square things for the Rays. The Mariners remain in first in the AL West ahead of the Rangers.
The day’s other marathon ended not with a bang but with a whimper. Buster Posey walked with the bases full in San Francisco to give his team a 5-4 win in 13 over the Blue Jays. It took that Herculean effort to keep the Jays from sweeping the Giants in a 3-game series at home. The Giants were ahead 4-1 after 7 when Madison Bumgarner left. The Jays scored two in the 8th and Michael Saunders tied it with a leadoff home run in the 9th off Santiago Casilla going for the save.
The Padres didn’t employ high drama but they did the unusual-they swept a doubleheader from the Cubs. It was a day-night doubledip made necessary by a rainout earlier this week. This drops the formerly lovable losers to 25-8 in the season of their best start since 1907.
Tonight the Yankees can still hope to take the series from the Royals, considering they won the first two games before losing last night. Nathan Eovaldi goes for them against former Yankee Ian Kennedy for the Royals. Last year’s NL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel faces David Price in Boston as the Astros start a road trip there. Johnny Cueto of the Giants faces Zack Greinke of the D-Backs in another of tonight’s better matchups. Bartolo Colon leads the Mets as they face Clayton Kershaw in the finale of their four-game series in Los Angeles. As good as last night’s win was, the Mets have their worries. Steven Matz’ elbow is hurting and he’s set to see a doctor next week. He should be put on the DL so they can bring up another gun, but that hasn’t happened. It was my understanding Wilmer Flores was going on the DL and lefty pitcher Sean GilMartin would join the Mets, but again this hasn’t occurred as yet. GilMartin was tearing it up in AAA when I last checked. He had an ERA under 2 in a hitter-happy league, the PCL.
Half of the Tigers’ famous eighties infield, Lou Whitaker is 59 today. He was their second baseman from late 1977 until 1995. He had been chosen in round 5 of the draft in 1975 and won the Rookie of the Year award 3 years later. He was an All-Star in all five seasons between 1983 and 1987. He and shortstop Alan Trammell can hardly be thought of separately in Detroit. Together they were baseball’s longest running double play combo. They first played in AA Montgomery, Alabama when the Tigers had a team there. The Tigers won the 1984 World Series in 5. On the day of game 5 the eldest of Whitaker’s 4 daughters was born. He hit 20 or more home runs 4 times-rare for a second-baseman in the 1980’s even at hitter-friendly Tiger Stadium. After his playing days he was an instructor during spring training for 15 years.
A footnote to history, Pat Darcy is 66 today. He was the pitcher who gave up Carlton Fisk’s famous home run in the 12th inning of game 6 of the 1975 World Series, arguably one of the most famous home runs in the game’s history. It was also one of the most famous and greatest games ever played. He had reached the bigs in September 1974 and was done by June 1976. The Reds got him for third baseman Dennis Menke who went to Houston in the deal. He had pitched in game 3 of the series, relieving Gary Nolan who left with a sore arm. In game 6, Nolan started and had nothing but courage. That barely got him out of the first inning after a 3-run home run by Fred Linn. No pitchers were spared in the game, particularly by the Reds. The Red Sox got 7+ out of Luis Tiant, also going on courage alone by that point. Darcy was the Reds’ final pitcher available when he entered the game in the 12th, and the rest is history.
Felipe Alou, the eldest of the 3 Alou brothers is 81 today. He reached the show in June 1958 and lasted until early 1974. In that time he put up a .286 lifetime average. Later he spent a decade managing the Expos and 4 years managing the Giants. As a player he was an All-Star once with the Giants and twice with the Braves. In 1994 he was NL Manager of the Year as Expos manager. He’s still with the Giants as a special assistant to the general manager. Overall, the Giants didn’t do bad for the $200 they spent to get him in 1955.
Hall of Famer Yogi Berra was born this day in 1925 and passed away last September 22, at age 90. I was awakened that morning at 5:30 AM by my brother-in-law to tell me of his passing, after which I wrote his tribute in this space. RIP Lawrence Peter Yogi Berra.