PNC Means Pirates Not Caving; Toprank Team in the Land Tested Sternly in One Dandy College Game out of Many;

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

The Pirates broke open a low-scoring game by tallying  5 7th-inning runs, then held on for dear life as the Angels put up 4 in the 8th.  The homestanding Buckos came away with an 8-7 win thanks to a quiet inning from their closer Mark Melancon. With the game 3-3 in the home 7th, the Pirates’ Gregory Polanco hit a mighty jolt to untie it. After an RBI  single by   Josh Harrison, Matt Joyce clouted the second home run of the inning. As the former Pirate announcer Bob Prince would have said, “He really cremated that one,) to dead center, a mighty wallop even in today’s smaller parks. It was a pinch-hit blast for Joyce.  At the difficult discipline of pinch-hitting he has 8 hits in 23 tries this year, well past .345. It had to be an unkind blow to the Angels, for whom Joyce hit a paltry .174 a year ago. Melancon claimed his 17th save in a win that broke up a 4-game losing streak for the Buccos.

The other game of the day took place in Houston, where the Astros beat the Oakland A’s 6-5 in 12 innings.  Carlos Correa sent everybody home happy singling home George Springer  who had doubled to start the home 12th. The Houston closer Luke Gregerson could have ended the game in the regulation 9 innings, except for a home run by Jed Lowrie tying the game at 5. Each team put up 3 in the second, the Astros then built a 5-3 lead before a Danny Valencia home run in the visiting 6th.

The White Sox aren’t taking their  recent 6-17 record sitting down.  They got James Shields, a solid veteran starting pitcher from the Padres a full two months before the trading deadline, when teams who know they’re on a cruise to nowhere unload what talent they have and try to rebuild.   The PaleHose  acquired  Shields  in exchange for two minor leaguers.  Shields was at his best with the Devil Rays when they were a team in the running for the postseason, as they were for a number of years while he was there.

On Friday I laid out some of the best matchups in the NCAA baseball regionals which began that day.  Last night, the top-ranked Florida Gators got all they wanted from the UConn (University of Connecticut,) Huskies.  The Gators got an 8th-inning home run from Jonathan India for a 6-5 win.  Through the decades, schools from the south and from the west coast tend to sneer at northern schools where the climate doesn’t allow a large  amount of games to be played. But as time has gone by, more and more teams spend weekends in warm climates playing as many games as they can fit in the schedule, allowing a Connecticut to give the top-ranked Gators a battle.  As the tournament is double-elimination, the Huskies now have to beat Georgia Tech in a noon affair to stay alive.  If they do, they would have to beat the Gators twice-once at 6 PM tonight and once tomorrow night to climb the next rung to the super regionals next weekend.  The Gators might have thought they had an easy win coming, as they got ahead 5-2 in the 4th but almost instantly the Huskies had it tied at 5, where it stayed until India’s home run in the 8th.  Both starters-A. J. Puck of Florida and Anthony Kay of the Huskies are expected to be drafted in round 1 of the draft on Thursday, June 9.

Both the Mets and Yankees resemble a MASH unit as June begins.  In the Bronx, Dustin Ackley is done for the year after shoulder surgery.  He was an outfielder playing first base for the oft-injured Mark Teixeira who is now on the DL and may be done for the year with torn knee cartilage. In desperation they turn to Chris Parmelee, a first baseman they picked up over the winter. They just missed out on James Loney, a first baseman the Mets grabbed off the scrap heap when Lucas Duda went down with a fracture in his back.  Now, the Mets’ captain and third baseman David Wright, who lost most of last year with spinal stenosis is on the DL again with a herniated disk in his neck.  He’s out a minimum of 6-8 weeks and it could be a lot longer than that.  Yoenis Cespedes had to be scratched from yesterday’s lineup with a sore hip and Juan Lagares hurt his thumb making a terrific catch in the Mets’ 6-4 win in Miami.

Brewers  pitcher Jimmy Nelson is 27 today. The native of Klamath Falls, Oregon broke in with the Brewers at the end of 2013. The Brewers took him in round 2 of the 2010 draft from University of Alabama.

In a game of brave men, maybe one of its bravest was Lou Brissie, born this day in 1924 who died in 2013. Born Leland Victor Brissie in a South Carolina backwater, he caught the eye of Connie Mack as early as 1940.  Though offered a contract his father insisted he finish school.  When that was done, the country had recently entered World War II and Brissie enlisted in the Army.  That took him to Italy in 1944. An exploding artillery shell did such horrific damage to his leg that doctors wanted to amputate.  He insisted they keep the leg even if it meant his life.  With so many others to work on, they listened.  It took 2 years and 23 major operations but, wearing a brace he began his delayed baseball career.  Connie Mack kept a promise made 6 years earlier. Brace and all, he won 25 games with Savannah in the Southern League and was called to the show at the end of 1947. As bad as Mr. Mack’s teams were, Brissie was 14-10 and 16-11 his first two seasons there. In 1949 he pitched 3 innings in the All-Star game. I met Mr. Brissie in Charleston, where he graciously came upstairs and allowed an interview.  While he isn’t the most famous man I’ve met, his heroism might be the greatest.

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