Mark Appel, once the first overall pick in the baseball draft knows very well how Justin Dunn feels this morning. Appel, who had been nearly unhittable for Stanford was a newly-minted first pick of the Astros when he faced Florida State in the NCAA 2013 Super Regionals. He was bombed-and he’s never been close to dominant since. He’s now languishing in the Phillies’ minor league system, and frankly if you can’t reach the bigs with the Phillies you can’t reach the bigs.
Last night it was Justin Dunn’s turn. He was drafted by the Mets in the first round on Thursday night and their execs, and fans I am certain were eager to see him pitch last night for Boston College. We all waited out a two-hour rain delay and the 5 PM game started just after 7. Dunn had an off night on the wrong night, as Miami defeated Dunn’s Boston College Eagles 12-7. It was 12-3 before a 4-run 9th inning by the Eagles. Dunn gave up a titanic 3-run home run to fellow first-round pick Zack Collins, then a solo shot to second baseman Johnny Ruiz to make it 4-1 as the fourth inning began. Collins’ blast was mighty enough to strike a parking garage in the distance beyond the right-field fence. Against lesser foes Dunn had given up but one home run all year. Ruiz hit only his second career home run following Collins. He would hit a grand slam in the 8th but Dunn had been chased in the sixth. As for the rest of the contest, The Eagles tried to make a game of it by scoring two in their half of the fourth. But Miami put up two in the sixth to send Dunn to the showers, then a run in the 7th and 5 in the 8th. Game 2 is at Noon today.
In other Super Regional games, TCU defeated host Texas A&M 8-2. Arizona took a 1-0 win over Mississippi State in Starkville. Owing to computer difficulties I wasn’t able to follow that game as planned. Surprising East Carolina continued their run with an 8-6 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock. If they win one more game a lot of people will be researching the small school from Greenville, NC for the first time.
While game 2 will be played in all 4 cities that hosted games last night, 4 new series will begin today. At Noon, Louisville will host UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos in past years have been best known for their women’s basketball team, if they’ve been known for anything. At 3 PM, the South Carolina Gamecocks will face Oklahoma State in Columbia, SC. At 6 PM, Florida State and Florida will duel in the swamp that is Gainesville, Florida. In tonight’s final encounter, tiny Coastal Carolina from Myrtle Beach will face the once-dominant LSU Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge at 9 PM. Owing to an all-day bachelor party I’m attending, that last game is the only one I have a prayer of listening to as I root for David to use his slingshot against the Louisiana version of Goliath.
In the majors, the Cardinals broke a 3-all tie with 6 runs in the 12th ignited by pinch-hitter and usual ace starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. In these days of teams carrying 12 and even 13 pitchers, they have fewer bench players to work with than they ever have, so using starting pitchers in that role has been an increasing trend. Facing another starter in Pittsburgh’s Juan Nicasio, Wainwright unloaded a two-run double and the rout was on. Wainwright is hitting .261 on the year, better than a number of highly-paid Mets and Yankees.
The Pirates had a 2-0 lead going to the visiting 8th. At that point Matt Carpenter smashed a 3-run home run to right field. But the Buckos weren’t sunk for keeps. In the last of the 9th Jordy Mercer singled home Starling Marte to level the game. After Wainwright had doubled home Matt Carpenter and Aldemys Diaz, Matt Adams doubled home a run. Following an RBI infield hit by Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Moss lost one deep in the Pittsburgh night to cap the scoring for the Redbirds. As if the loss wasn’t bad enough for the Pirates, their ace pitcher Gerrit Cole had to leave in the third with triceps tightness in his pitching arm. As a result 8 Pirates pitchers took the hill, and there was no choice but to leave Nicasio hung out to dry to give up 6 runs in the 12th.
Today’s major league slate begins at Noon as the Phillies face the Nationals in the nation’s capital. In a rare Saturday night game at Yankee Stadium, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander faces Masahiro Tanaka. He and CC Sabathia who won last night have been as good as it gets for the Yankees who have won 5 straight. one of today’s better pitchers, Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals faces a former star who may be on the decline in Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano.
A player I remember well from independent ball is our first birthday man today. Ron Jones was born this day in 1964 and died in 2006 a week before he should have turned 42. He was never drafted but signed with the Phillies and ultimately made the team. He suffered two knee injuries, the first of which was done by hitting an unpadded wall at Shea Stadium. The injuries limited him to independent ball where we broadcast some of his games. He played for the Thunder Bay Whiskeyjacks while we broadcast for St. Paul. He was a player in the WhiskeyJacks’ final game, a playoff loss in 1998 which ended on a Matt Nokes walkoff home run. The next year the team moved to Schaumburg, Illinois.
Dave Cash is 68 today. He is remembered as the leadoff hitter and second baseman for the Pirates at the start of their run of greatness between 1970 and 1973. They won 3 division titles in that time and the 1971 World Series. He went to the Phillies in 1974 while the Pirates won two more division titles. Cash and the Phillies won the NL East in 1976 but were swept in 3 by the Big Red Machine. The last inning of game 3 of that series is a moment of high drama I remember listening to as it happened. In the home 9th The Reds, down 2 runs tied it on a pair of home runs, then won it later in the inning. Cash spent the next 3 years in Montreal and his final year with the Padres. He was an All-Star 3 times running, from 1974-76. Later in life he has coached in a number of independent leagues.
The original home-run-hitting Frank Thomas is 87 today. The Pittsburgh native was almost lost to the priesthood. He studied for that for 6 years before signing with the Pirates in 1947. He made the majors with his home town team in 1951 and stayed put until he was traded in 1958. He bounced around until the Mets got him in a trade with the Braves. He was an All-Star 3 times, all as a Pirate. As horrible as the Mets were, 40-120 to be exact Thomas took advantage of the Polo Grounds’ small dimensions for 34 home runs and 94 rbis. His home run record would be the gold standard for the Mets for 13 years until Dave Kingman hit 36. As fate would have it, one of Thomas’ 8 children answered the calling and became the priest his father never was. I’ll close with a funny story involving Frank Thomas and his 1962 Mets’ teammates. Center fielder Richie Ashburn kept running into shortstop Elio Chacon on short fly balls. Elio didn’t know a word of English, and Richie knew just as much Spanish. Somehow he made it known he wanted to learn the expression “I got it,” in Spanish. This expression is “Yo la tengo.” Ashburn thought he would be safe with that bit of knowledge. Sure enough a pop fly was hit. He ran in yelling “Yo la tengo,” to keep Chacon off his back. He was promptly flatten by Frank Thomas who didn’t know what “Yo la tengo means.” The ball went for extra bases.0