Just before yesterday’s game in Baltimore, word came that Jays’ slugger Jose Bautista had to go on the disabled list with a strained big toe. Considering his mighty bat, the comparison to Achilles of mythology is obvious. Achilles could only be stopped if he were wounded in his heel, Jose Bautista has been stopped at least for a while by a toe injury.
At least for a night his team got by without him. Michael Saunders put up 3 home runs and 8 RBIS as they walloped the Orioles 13-3. The little-known Saunders, 29 hails from far western Canada in British Columbia. This is his second year with the Jays after having played for the Mariners since 2009. This was a rare moment in the sun for Saunders who lost all but 9 games last year with a serious knee injury. Besides his 3 dingers, Josh Donaldson left the lot and Justin Smoak smoked one out of sight for the other two home runs. In their last 4 contests the Blue Jays have put up 11, 7, 13 and 13 runs for an eye-popping 44 in 4 games. The Jays and Red Sox are tied a game behind the Orioles in the AL East.
The Jays weren’t the only team putting up goners. The D-Backs unleashed 6 out of the park in Philly on their way to a 10-2 demolition of the Phillies who are starting to look like last year’s Phillies. Peter O’Brien and Yasmani Tomas each hit two for the D-Backs. The other two goners were hit by Wellington Castillo and Paul Goldschmidt. They hadn’t hit 6 in a game since 2012. Pitcher Robbie Ray backed up the offense by keeping the Phillies quiet. O’Brien now has 3 hits, all home runs in 20 atbats since coming up from AAA.
The Yankees are the earliest game on this Saturday, as they face the Twins at 2:10 Eastern. They’ve beaten the Twins the first two games of the series behind CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. Now the improving Michael Pineda is on the bump against Ricky Nolasco. As if the Phillies didn’t have enough trouble hitting ordinary pitching, today they see Zack Greinke who’s hotter than the sun in Phoenix. He’s won 6 in a row coming into this game. Tim Lincecum pitches for the Angels against Oakland. He hasn’t pitched in almost exactly a year-June 27 to be exact. In September he had hip surgery and the Giants let him go. The Angels are eager to see what they’ve got. The Reds’ Cody Reed makes his MLB debut against the Astros and Dallas Keuchel.
In the minors, the AA Trenton Thunder, the Yankees AA team is approaching 9 million fans since their park’s belated opening in 1994. If they get a Saturday crowd of 4,608 they will hit 9 million on the button. The lucky fan who is number 9 million will get a major prize package thanks to the team’s local sponsors. On a Saturday night, 4,608 or more can usually be expected. If more incentive was needed, the Thunder will face the Binghamton Mets.
Before I get to today’s birthdays, the College World Series begins today in Omaha with two games, one at 3 Eastern and one at 8 Eastern. In the first game, UC Santa Barbara will play the Cowboys of Oklahoma State. Fans won’t soon forget Sam Cohen’s walk-off pinch-hit grand slammer that propelled the Gauchos to a 4-3 win over Louisville and a spot in Omaha. Oklahoma State had a much easier time beating South Carolina than pundits would have thought. In game 2, the Arizona Wildcats face the Miami Hurricanes. Miami took 2 of 3 from Boston College to reach their 25th CWS. Arizona took out Mississippi State in Starkville in two games, the second going 11 innings. None of these teams will play again until Monday. On Sunday, TCU faces Texas Tech at 3 PM. The Red Raiders of Texas Tech took out East Carolina in 3 games in Lubbock, while the Horned Frogs of TCU won over Texas A&M on the road in College Station. The last game, at 8 PM will feature Coastal Carolina against the Florida Gators, the number 1 team in the land. The Gators took 2 of 3 from Florida State in a unique series considering the games were all shutouts. Coastal beat LSU in two very long games played late in the evening in Baton Rouge. Game 2 featured its own dramatics as Coastal lost the lead in the 9th but then won the game in the bottom half on a hit by Michael Paez. Paez is bound for pro ball in the Mets’ organization when he’s done in Omaha.
Matt Moore, who is pitching today for the Rays is 27. The native of Fort Walton Beach, Florida was an 8th-round draftee in 2007 by the Rays. He reached the majors by September 2011. In 2013 he was an All-Star. His dad was in the Air Force, because of which the family lived in Japan for 4 years, then went to New Mexico where Matt went to high school. This year he was given the honor of starting the game the Rays played in Cuba against the Cuban National team.
Sandy Alomar JR. is 50 today. He is best known as the catcher with the Indians from 1990 to 2000, in which they reached the World Series twice. He’s been coaching with the Indians since 2010. He was an All-Star 6 times and Rookie of the Year in 1990. He hit a home run off Mariano Rivera in game 4 of the ALDS which tied the game. The Yankees would lose it and lose game 5. They had won the 1996 World Series, and would win them in 1998, 1999 and 2000. His unthinkable home run off Mariano Rivera could have prevented the Yankees from winning 5 straight World Series, which they had also done between 1949–53.
Andres Galarraga, the Big Cat is 55 today. He was one of the first players I ever interviewed after I began announcing pro baseball. He and Dwight Evans were part of an exhibition game between the Expos and Orioles in Pompano Beach, and both men were more than kind to me, novice that I was. Galarraga lasted nearly 20 years in the bigs, from late 1985 with the Expos until 2004 with the Angels. He hit .288 with over 2300 hits in that time. He was an All-Star 5 times, the last in 2000. But he twice faced an opponent tougher than any pitcher in either league, and won both times. In 1999 and 2004 he fought and beat cancer. John Lester is the one other player I know to have beaten cancer and played big league ball.
Hall of Famer Lou Brock is 77. After Maury Wills broke the old NL stolen base record, Brock came along and shredded Wills’ record. In fact he led the league in steals 8 times. The Arkansas native played from 1961 to 1979, hit .293 with over 3,000 hits. He was an All-Star 6 times starting in 1967. The Cubs had him as early as 1961 but thought little of him, though once he hit a gigantic home run at the Polo Grounds that reached the Eddie Grant monument in center field. The next day Hank Aaron would hit one into the same sector. He and Brock were the fourth and fifth men to reach that distant locale with a home run. By 1964 the Cubs wanted him gone. At that time the trade deadline was June 15, not July 31 as it is now. On June 15, they unloaded Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio, a trade Cub fans curse to this day. Twice Brock and the Cards won the World Series and they were ahead 3 games to one in another World Series but lost it. Brock was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1985. A diabetic now, he lost his left leg last October to that dreaded condition that had earlier taken both of Ron Santo’s legs.