The National League hasn’t seen a pitcher start a year on a roll the way Stephen Strasburg has since the sinking of the “Titanic” was still a hot button issue. Until losing yesterday to the Dodgers Strasburg had gotten off to a 13-0 start.
The record was 18-0 set by the New York_ Giants’ Rube Marquard in 1912, the year Opening Day in Boston was cancelled in deference to the dead on the sunken ocean liner and mail ship of unending fame.
Josh Turner hit two home runs as the visiting Dodgers were Strasburg’s iceberg in a 6-3 win. The lifeboats were deployed early, as Turner launched a two-run home run in the first and a 3-run shot 2 innings later ending all hope. Dodgers’ starter Julio Urias only lasted 4 innings giving up a run, so he can’t say he beat Strasburg (unless he likes to spin tall yarns.) The win went to Adam Liberatore, just one of 7 Dodgers relief pitchers who got work on an incinerating day in the nation’s capital.
Considering the weather in much of our country it’s a mercy the schedule making computers put all the games of this date under the lights. When the Indians and Orioles meet, two first-round draftees from the class of 2011 square off. Trevor Bauer was the Indians’ top pick that year and the O’s chose Dylan Bundy. The two meet tonight. There hasn’t been a duel of two first-round draftees since 2004 when the moundsmen were Justin Verlander of the Tigers and the White Sox’ Philip Humber. In the fullness of time Humber would throw a perfecto and Verlander a pair of no-hitters. I am not clairvoyant enough to say if Bundy or Bauer will do such great deeds or end up as historical footnotes. The MLB Network is sending some of its best men to cover tonight’s Giants-Yankees game in the Bronx. If you get the channel (and if you can find it in the morass of modern TV) you’ll hear Matt Vesgerdsian, Jim Kaat and Tom Verducci describe a contest between Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees and Madison Bumgarner of the Giants. MadBum, aka the Angry Hobo has never pitched at Yankee Stadium. His team needs his A game as they’ve lost their last 5 in a row. While the Yanks have won 4 out of 5 they threw in a clinker yesterday losing 4-1 to the Orioles in a listless game in the Bronx. There should be some interest in the Mets-Marlins game in Miami. Ichiro Suzuki of the Marlins is 4 hits shy of 3,000 since coming to the States from Japan. Logan Verrett is the Mets’ starter and he’s not in the class of the injured Matt Harvey whom he is replacing. The Dodgers are also simply desperate for pitching and turn to Brandon McCarthy, who’s done well in 3 starts coming off Tommy John surgery. They face the Cardinals in St. Louis.
Former Blue Jays standout pitcher Dave Stieb is 59 today. The Jays took him in round 5 of the 1978 draft. He was 176-137 in a nearly 15-year career. He was an All-Star 7 times over. He pitched a no-hitter in 1990 and came very close on numerous other occasions. Two were Sept. 24 and 30, 1988 when the no-hitter was lost with two outs and two strikes in the 9th. He threw 8 hitless in a 1985 game before back-to-back home runs. I was at Shea Stadium on August 4, 1989 doing a practice broadcast as the Mets walloped the Expos. Word came that Stieb had a perfect game going, and when the 9th inning came I re-created what I was hearing from the Yankees’ broadcasters as Stieb faced them. Willie Randolph broke up the perfecto in the 9th. The fans close enough to hear me appreciated the effort I made so they would know about the almost perfecto.
Cliff Johnson is 69 today. He was a catcher, first baseman and DH in his days with the Astros and Yankees in particular. He was a reserve on the Yankees’ World Series winners of 1977 and 1978. Known as “Heathcliff” for his build and name, the San Antonio native was taken in round 5 of the 1966 draft and took 6 years to reach the Astros.
One of my early favorite Yankees, Albert Walter “Sparky” Lyle is now 72. He hails from DuBois, PA where his mom worked in a coffin factory. I must digress here. I once asked a bank teller how she handled giving people large amounts of money. She said she acted as though she was dealing out playing cards. I can only imagine Mrs. Lyle had to have some coping mechanism to work in a coffin factory. Back to Sparky’s sketch. He was originally a reliever with the Red Sox, which I didn’t know as a boy of 9 which I was when he joined the Yankees. He had a 99-76 record with 238 saves in a career than ran from 1967 to 1982. He was selected as an All-Star 3 times between 1973 and 1977. He was with the Yankees as they won their 1977 and 1978 World Series. He took the Cy Young award in 1977 and twice led his league in saves. He famously titled his book about the team “The Bronx Zoo.” When he was freed from the zoo and sent packing to Texas, the Yankees got back an unproven Dave Righetti who would go on to pitch a no-hitter and then become a great closer in his own right. Lyle himself narrates the audio edition of his book which was recorded in recent years. He managed the Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots from 1998-2012 and is still manager emeritus in which capacity it was my good fortune to meet him. I was still recovering from a major injury when I went to a Patriots’ game in the summer of 2015. I was using a walker by then and was prepared to try to walk down and meet Lyle, such was my fanhood for him. However, he took the time to come to where I was and talk to me. He did me the favor of telling me of his audio narration of his book which I have enjoyed greatly.0