Somewhere, Ernie Banks must be smiling down on major league baseball. His battle cry during his Cubs’ years was “Let’s play two.” For the second time in July of this year, a game has gone 18 innings or better. The latest was the Pirates’ 2-1 win over the Nats yesterday in 18 innings. Back on July 1, the Indians turned to their next day’s starting pitcher to beat the Blue Jays in 19 innings, also by a 2-1 score.
The visiting team seemed to have the getaway game in the bag until Daniel Murphy came off the bench to tie it with a home run in the last of the 9th. The Nats had played an extraordinary game earlier in the season against the Twins and won that one. They couldn’t manage it this time, as Starling Marte hit a home run for the visiting Pirates in the 18th. Starters Chad Kuhl and Max Scherzer kept the opposing offenses quiet-Kuhl for six innings, Scherzer for 7. Oliver Perez, the pitcher who gave up Marte’s home run was the eighth Nationals’ hurler called upon. Their manager Dusty Baker said he meant to walk Marte intentionally but didn’t give the sign to his catcher quickly enough before Marte hit the first pitch out of the park. As for Murphy, he hadn’t hit a pinch-hit home run in 5 years since he was a Met. Jonathan Niese, who the Pirates acquired from the Mets this winter got the win, working in consecutive games out of the bull pen for the first time. By rare good luck, both teams have an open date before returning to play tomorrow.
Around Citi Field in Flushing, Jacob DeGrom is known as “The DeGrominator.” Well, if the 7 Line Army of Mets’ supporters wants to carry on with the word play, he DeGrominated the Phillies in his first career shutout, a 5-0 win in Philadelphia yesterday. Only one Phillies player got a hit, and it was Zach Eflin, the opposing pitcher who singled in the third keeping DeGrom from baseball immortality. No Met has thrown a one-hitter in 4 years, and that was R. A. Dickey who now throws his knuckleball in Toronto. The Mets continue their road trip and need to bring their A game as they’re heading for Chicago. The Cubs remember well the 4-game sweep at Citi Field the Mets laid on them over the 4th of July weekend. The Mets go to the Matz, Steven to be exact against the Cubs’ John Lester in tonight’s game. Tomorrow night in a truly special matchup Noah Syndergaard, aka Thor faces Jake Arrieta. What more need be said? The Cubs lost 15 of 21 before the break but are still 55-36 and 8 games ahead of the field in the Central division.
All the action tonight is under the lights. The Yankees, who only won the last game of the weekend’s 3-game series against the Red Sox send out Ivan Nova because they haven’t found another warm body. He was battered by the Orioles the last time he saw them. They have 7 games to go on a 10-game home stand that pundits say will determine whether they try to buy more MLB-level talent or tear up this team and try to get prospects for the future. In Seattle, Chris Sale goes for his 15th win. With 14 he leads the majors with Steven Strasburg close behind him with 13.
Before we get to today’s birthdays here is a bulletin just in. Terry Ryan, general manager of the Twins has been fired. While the Braves and Reds expected to be God-awful and have lived up to expectations, coming out of spring training much more was expected of the Twins. As of now they’re 33-58, 21 games behind the Indians. This is not what was supposed to happen and as always somebody has to take the fall. For some reason it isn’t Twins’ manager Paul Molitor. Instead, it’s Ryan, age 62 of Janesville, Wisconsin. This was his second hitch with the Twins, and it began in November 2011. He’s been a scout as early as 1980 with the Mets. He replaced Andy MacPhail in 1994 as general manager when MacPhail left for the Cubs. He was named executive of the year in 2002, the first time the Twins made the postseason since their World Series year of 1991. They made the playoffs five years running, starting with that 2002 team.
Torii Hunter, one of Ryan’s triumphs is our first birthday guy today. He is 41, and actually does spell the name with two I’s. The Twins took him in round 1 from high school in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Drafting him kept him from playing for the Anteaters of Pepperdine University. He first reached the show in August, 1997 and ended his career back with the Twins in 2015. Lifetime, he hit .277 with 2452 hits. After leaving the Twins at the end of 2007, he played for the Angels and Tigers, then returned to finish with the Twins. He was an All-Star 5 times, the last in 2013. He won the gold glove 9 years in a row, 2001–09. I’ll never forget him as a member of the AA Eastern League New Britain Rock Cats in 1996. He was easily the best player we had on that team.
The Gator, Mike Greenwell is 53 today. The Louisville native was Boston’s third-round choice in 1982 from high school and his accomplishments are well known, especially up where Route 84 and 91 meet.
Joe Torre is 76. Officially he was listed as weighing 210 pounds, but in his book “Ball Four,” Jim Bouton said of Torre “He dissolves camera lenses.” Joe and his brother Frank Torre both played for the Milwaukee Braves. Joe also had great years with the Cardinals. He was an underrated broadcaster and a losing manager until he joined the Yankees in 1996 and wrote his ticket to Cooperstown. He was the only manager Yankee owner George Steinbrenner listened to in 30+ years owning the Yankees. Just for one example, Steinbrenner repeatedly tried to trade Andy Pettitte, but Torre wouldn’t allow it so the Texan lefty never got traded. During the 1996 World Series, Torre had to concentrate on beating the Braves while his brother Frank was undergoing what would be a successful heart transplant. Joe finished by writing a book about that season, “Chasing the Dream.” He narrated the audio version of that book. After a dozen years managing the Yankees, a tearful and deeply offended Torre left and managed the Dodgers for 3 undistinguished seasons as the owners cared more about their divorce than putting a decent product on the field.