Painful Win for Cubs; Padres Walk Off in Rare Home Run Derby at Petco;

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday morning.  The headlines come from last night’s west coast games.

It was all well and good that the Cubs beat the Giants  8-1 last night in San Francisco.   Likewise, Jake Arrieta put up his usual dominating performance over 7 innings and is now 8-0.  But Jason Heyward, who the Cubs signed over the winter was injured making a sensational catch against the first batter of the game. Denard Span led off with a long drive to right center which Heyward caught on a diving play, but he then slammed into the fence.   He left at once with an injury to his right side. While x-rays proved negative, he’ll miss some time for the Cubs, who are off to a 29-11 start. After Heyward left the game, his teammates put up 5 runs in their half of the second.  Chris Bryant unloaded a 3-run home run to highlight the rally. The Giants had won 8 in a row until the big kids came to town. They only got a run on 4 hits against Arrieta. Ben Zobrist and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back home runs for the Cubs in the 8th. Jake Peevy, now 1-5 hardly looks like the man who once won a Cy Young award.  He didn’t make it out of the second inning for the second time in his career  and once this season he only lasted into the third against the Mets and didn’t get a man out in the third.

Petco Park in San Diego may be the most notorious pitcher’s ball park in today’s major league baseball.  But only two weeks ago Bartolo Colon hit his first career home run there at age 42, and last night the Padres and Dodgers put up a rare slugfest in the big ball park in San Diego.  The game ended with a walkoff home run by Melvin Upton JR. of the Padres as they won the game 7-6. This is Upton’s second walkoff home run of the year, the first time a Padres’ hitter has done that in 9 years. Justin Turner had hit a two-run shot to put the Dodgers ahead setting the stage for their closer Kenley Jansen-or so they thought. As it happened,  Jansen’s  cutter was last seen in the right center field seats.  Derek Norris and Christian Bethancourt had hit home runs earlier in the game for the home team while Yasiel Puig had hit a two-run home run for the Dodgers. Their starter Scott Kazmir walked 7 men and hit a batter in 5 and 2/3 innings while giving up 5 Padres runs. But his mound opponent Christian Friedrich didn’t get out of the 4th inning.

I wouldn’t care to be in John Lamb’s spikes today as he takes the hill for the Reds against the Mariners.  Just for starters, he’s facing King Felix Hernandez.  Add that to the fact that Lamb gave up 7 runs in his last outing and I probably won’t be the first or last to refer to him as a lamb to the slaughter in this matchup. Both the Mets and Nationals won last night, and while the Mets send out Jacob DeGrom against Milwaukee the Nats have to face Jose Fernandez of the Marlins. The Royals will welcome back Mike Moustakas as they face the White Sox in Chicago.  Their third baseman broke his thumb and had been on the DL. Good as he is, pitchers won’t mind seeing the back end of Cheslor Cuthbert, Moustakas’ replacement. Meantime, the A’s had to put Josh Reddick on the DL with a broken thumb, as if losing their last two in a row to the Yankees wasn’t bad enough.

Joe Ross of the Nationals is 23 today.  He’s also pitching tonight against the Marlins and Jose Fernandez.  Ross hails from Berkeley, CA and was the first round draft choice of the Padres in 2011 out of high school. He planned on going to UCLA before being drafted. He and Trea Turner went to the Nats as part of a 3-team trade. His older brother Tyson pitches for the Padres. The trade spoiled any plans the brothers Ross might  have had about being the new Dean brothers or the Neikro brothers of a more modern vintage.

Williams Perez of the Braves is 25 today.  He also takes the hill on his birthday against the Phillies. The Venezuelan native has an 8-6 mark since breaking into the show last year. The Braves put up a 7-1 win last night so he has to hope they saved him a few runs, since 7 runs is a normal week’s output for this year’s Braves offense.

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (pronounced Waiters) is 30 today. The Charleston, SC native has been an All-Star 3 times since making the show with the Orioles in 2009. They had taken him in round 1 of the 2007 draft out of Georgia Tech with the fifth overall pick. As a high schooler he played at Stratford High in Goose Creek, a Charleston suburb where I lived for almost 9 years. Justin Smoak of the Blue Jays also played on Wieters’ high school team. Wieters claimed two gold gloves, in 2011 and 2012.  He was a rare non-pitcher to have Tommy John surgery, which was done in June 2014 and cost him a full calendar year on the shelf.

Yankees reliever Andrew Miller  is 31.  He, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman form as good a trio at the back end of a bull pen as you can have.  They can only stay together if the starters start lasting into the 7th inning or beyond. Miller was the league’s reliever of the year in 2015.  He started out as a Tigers’ first-round draft choice in 2006. He then went to the Marlins in a large package for Miguel Cabrera, and on to the Red Sox where he came into his own as a reliever.  They sent him to the Orioles, and from there he joined the Yankees as a free agent.

Josh Hamilton is 35 today.  As a boy of 18 he was the first overall pick in the 1999 draft by the Devil Rays, as they were called then.  My partner and I broadcast his games in 2000 with the Charleston RiverDogs in the South Atlantic League.  He was an exciting player for us.  One highlight was hitting two tripples in the league’s All-Star game played in Charleston. That game was a personal highlight of my 3 years broadcasting for the RiverDogs. Hamilton, Jorge Cantu, Carl Crawford and James Shields were all boys  of 18 on that team who made the majors. Our broadcast intern Joe Block, who is  only a few years older than Hamilton and Company is now one of the radio voices of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Unfortunately, Josh’s road to the show was bumpier than it should have been. He had all the talent in  the world but gave in to drugs and alcohol before ever making the show. He lost 2 full seasons under suspension for drugs. He finally made it with the Reds in 2007.  Though he has been severely troubled since, (a 2015 relapse got him traded from the Angels to the Rangers and cost him his marriage,)  he still has a .290 batting average. This is his second hitch with the Rangers. With them he won the league MVP and the ALCS MVP in 2010. He won the league batting title that same year.  He was an All-Star 5 times between 2008 and 2012. On May 8, 2012 he became one of the few men to hit 4 home runs in a game.

Former Yankee infielder and Braves manager Bobby Cox is 75 today.  He will never be remembered for his short career with the Yankees where he hit .225.  He made the majors with them as a 26-year-old rookie in 1968, in the depths of their worst years. His first two stints as manager also were relatively undistinguished-with the Braves from 1978-81 and the Blue Jays from 1982-85. But he will always be remembered by Braves fans for managing their team from 1990 to 2010. He was manager of the year 4 times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, one of a handful of managers to be so honored. His record of being ejected 158 times (plus 3 in the postseason) bested the old record held by John “Mugsy” McGraw.

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