Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday.
The best games last night were played in Pittsburgh and San Francisco. In Pittsburgh, the Mets needed 10 innings to salvage a 6-5 win from the homestanding Pirates. Out west, the Giants beat David Price and the Red Sox 2-1 on an 8th-inning home run by rookie Mac Williamson.
The Giants and Red Sox were tied at 1 as the home team came up in the 8th. Their only run had been a drive into McCovey Cove by Brandon Belt. His home run was one of only 2 hits Price had given up as the 8th inning started. The Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner had left after 6. Williamson led off the 8th. He had been child’s play for Price up to that point as the wily ace had struck out the novice twice. The Jacksonville, Florida native will be 26 next month and last September was his first sniff of the show. He’s a rarity-an outfielder who has had Tommy John surgery which cost him the 2014 season. Williamson made his first major league home run count, launching a Price cutter out of sight. He nearly blew the whole thing in the top of the 9th by dropping a fly ball but the bull pen retired the Sox with no runs scored.
Earlier in the evening in Pittsburgh, the Mets’ offense resurfaced, at least for a night. They’d scored all of 2 runs in their last 3 games and were behind 2-0 in the 4th last night when unheralded Ty Kelly hit a game-tying 2-run home run. Noah Syndergaard, who already wasn’t having his best night promptly gave the lead back on a booming John Jaso double in the home 4th. But the Mets responded as quickly. Syndergaard himself got it going with a double to right in the visiting fifth. After Alexander De Aza bunted him over, Michael Conforto brought him in on a scoring fly ball. After letting Syndergaard hit for himself in the 7th, manager Terry Collins brought in Jim Henderson, and for the aged rookie this wasn’t his night. He walked Andrew McCutchen and gave up a double to Gregory Polanco. Neil Walker then made an error on the return throw allowing the run to score and putting Polanco on third. From there a Josh Harrison scoring fly ball gave the Buckos a 2-run lead. But the Mets had another rally left, and Pirates pitcher A. J. Schugel began his own trouble by walking De Aza. Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle turned to Jared Hughes from the bull pen, but Michael Conforto tied the game by crushing one to dead center. For the Mets, Addison Reed pitched as good a pair of innings as you could ask for, taking the game into extras. In the tenth off Cory Luebke, both Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker singled to center. After a sacrifice and an intentional walk, Wilmer Flores pinch-hit for Ty Kelly and singled home what would be the winning run. Sealing the deal wasn’t as easy as it should have been for Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia who has had his struggles since a pair of blown saves against the Dodgers. He walked both Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer to start the inning. He induced a double play, then walked pinch-hitter Chris Stewart. Only after David Freese struck out were the Mets’ fans able to exhale. They stagger out of Pittsburgh with only one win in the series and head to Milwaukee for four games this weekend.
There’s afternoon baseball on this Thursday for those with the opportunity to watch. The Astros face the Rangers in Arlington, where afternoon ball is almost unknown due to the Texas heat. The Rockies host the Pirates at 3:10 Mountain Time, which seems insane considering the Pirates had a late game last night and had to fly to the edge of the Great Divide. Some Pirates’ wit will doubtless curse whoever scheduled this makeup game this way.
You’ve seen the name of Braves’ starter Williams Perez in this forum. He’s one of their better pitchers and had a birthday recently. Now he’s got one of the pitcher’s two biggest worries-rotator cuff trouble and he’s on the DL with it. If a pitcher isn’t paranoid about his elbow, he is so about his rotator cuff, which is in his shoulder.
I’ve torn mine twice. I’m not sure how many baseball writers can say from experience how this injury hurts. If you’re a non-athlete you wear a sling for a month and then take therapy. Even if it heals, you can develop arthritis in the shoulder. If that happens, a simple move like putting your arm around a woman can be an exercise in pain. On a brighter note, the Orioles are a step closer to getting back Yovani Gallardo, one of their better starters. He’s heading to a rehab assignment with their AAA team in Norfolk. Meanwhile, tonight is the night of the baseball draft. Unlike the NFL and NBA drafts, baseball players-even first-round draft picks-can be years away from the majors if they make it at all. But such is the sports landscape today that the MLB draft will be televised both on the MLB web site and their cable-tv outlet. 30 years ago it would have been next to impossible to find out who drafted whom-if anybody cared. With the Internet it became possible for the computer savvy. Fast forward a few years and it is on TV. Pitchers Anthony Kay of UConn (Which is University of Connecticut if you live outside the area) and A. J. Puck of University of Florida are two pitchers I am betting will be early picks. Neither was at their best when they dueled in Gainesville in the regionals this past Saturday but the scouts go by their entire body of work and I doubt either one’s stock fell sharply just because of that game. Many draftees still have work to do. They will perform in the super regionals which begin tomorrow and run through Monday unless they encounter bad weather like last weekend’s regionals did. I’ll write a full spread about the super regionals in tomorrow’s column.
Boston starting pitcher Joe Kelly is our first baseball birthday. He’s 28 today. The Anaheim native made his MLB debut one day after he turned 24. This was with the Cardinals in 2012. They had drafted him in round 3 in 2009 out of Cal Riverside where he pitched for the Highlanders. He pitched in 4 playoff games for the Cardinals in 2013 when they lost the World Series to the Red Sox. He was traded at the 2014 trade deadline for John Lackey of the Red Sox.
Dave Parker is 65 today. To show you how imperfect a science the draft is, the Pirates chose him in round 14 in 1970. 331 men were taken before him, as good as he was. While his career lasted 8 years after he left Pittsburgh, he’s best remembered in the Steel City for his 10 years there between 1973 and 1983. All told he hit .290 with more than 2700 hits. He was an All-Star 7 times between 1977 and 1990, by which time he was playing for the Brewers. He was a World Series winner twice-in 1979 with the Pirates and 1989 with Oakland. He won 3 gold gloves and was league MVP in 1978, which was when he won his second batting title. Born in Mississippi he went to Western Hills High School in Cincinnati as Pete Rose had done years before. In AAA he hit a home run that is the stuff of legends. He was playing for the Charleston WV Charlies in their home park. His shot landed in a coal car on a passing train. Said ball was collected when the train stopped in Columbus, Ohio-200 miles away! Top that, Jose Bautista.
Former Pirate outfielder and manager Bill Virdon is 85. Tell me the name Bill Virdon and before I tell you of his managing I’ll mention a terrific catch he made in the first game of the 1960 World Series, a game the Pirates won 6-4. They won games 1, 4, 5 and most famously game 7 on Bill Mazeroski’s walkoff home run before the term was in use. Virdon managed the Pirates, Yankees, Astros and Expos. His Missouri high school had no baseball team, so he crossed the border into Kansas to play ball whenever possible. Yankee scout Tom Greenwade, who had signed Mickey Mantle signed Virdon, who was traded to the Cardinals in 1954 for Enos Slaughter. After being Rookie of the Year in 1955 with the Cardinals he was shipped to Pittsburgh where he played until the end of 1965.