Walk-Off in the Desert; Yanks Need Pitching Bad, but Get Bad Pitching

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Hi all.   Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, August 23.

The sport’s best games took place well after most of the country had gone to bed last night.

In Phoenix, an Arizona win became a tie game which became an Arizona 9-8 win before the dust had settled.  Meantime in Seattle, a place so distant it makes Phoenix seem like a walk around the block, the Yanks’ depleted  pitching staff outdid their recently promoted batters in a 7-5 Mariners win.

The game in Phoenix went back and forth all night long. The Braves were up 5-0 early on, thanks to two-run home runs by Freddie Freeman in the first and Adonis Garcia in the second. But the Braves’ starter Mike Fultynewicz left after  giving up 4 runs before the 7th inning. Yasmani Tomas hit another home run, proving he can hit home runs against pitchers who don’t wear the Mets’ orange and blue.  Jean Segura had 3 more hits after a five-hit game a few days ago.   In the home 7th Wellington Castillo drilled a 3-run double to put his team ahead for the first time all night. The Braves fired their last cannon shot when Freddie Freeman tied the game in the visiting 9th with his second home run of the night.  But Atlanta reliever John Gant entered the last of the 9th, threw one pitch to D-Backs’ first sacker Paul Goldschmidt, watched it disappear and headed for the showers.

In Seattle, Gary Sanchez hit two more home runs and Starlen Castro hit a pair, but without Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, the bull pen gave up the game, 7-5.  With those two gone and not one major leaguer coming to New York in exchange, it could be years (if ever) before the bats of Sanchez, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge do the Yankees any good.  What Hal and Hank Steinbrenner seem not to know is that the great Yankees didn’t just hit the ball.  They also pitched-superbly, from Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock in the 1920’s, to Raschie, Reynolds and Lopat in the early ’50s, to whitey Ford later in the decade, to Andy Pettitt, Jimmy Key and company between 1996-2000. Michael Pineda, who will never be confused with any of the aforementioned pitchers blew an early 2-0 lead provided on solo home runs by Sanchez and Castro. Kyle Seager, supposedly the lesser of the two seager brothers launched a Pineda meat ball into the distance with two Mariners aboard in the 4th to make it 3-2. After the same duo of Sanchez and Castro had homered again, Mike Zunino (Who) unleashed another 3-run shot to effectively win it in the 6th.  Two innings later, after a Robinso Cano near-home run that Bret Gardner caught, (Yankee announcer John Sterling was utterly certain it was gone)  Nelson Cruz hit one that left the lot for the final margin of victory and left no mistake about it.  Zunino’s bomb came off Anthony Swarzak, who in spring training was as much of a nonentity as Zunino. Swarzak is a 30-year-old righty who was pitching in Korea last year and has a 17-25 record in MLB. Sanchez has 7 home runs in his first 19 games, which only Kevin Maas has done while wearing the pinstripes. The home run by Cruz in the 8th was not hit off Miller or Chapman,(traded)  but off somebody named Kirby Yates. He’s a 29-year-old Hawaiian righty who went undrafted in 2009-for good reason considering his ERA is north of 5 in MLB. Incidentally, his wife Ashley owns a business that places “Sitters” with athlete’s families.  She may be able to place a sitter with Ryan Lochte soon. At 32, while he would be her oldest client he might be the one most in need of a sitter.  Back to baseball,     With such men as Pineda, Schwarzak and Yates on this pitching staff, as another man pronounced Yates but spelled Yeats said “Things fall apart. The center  cannot hold.” He never was more correct.

MLB’s entire schedule is under the lights tonight.  Houston sends rookie Joe Musgrove against Pittsburgh.  If he gives up 8 runs to the Pirates as he did to the Orioles, his name in Houston might be “Joe MustGo.”  But he’s facing Ivan Nova, which gives the Pirates at least a fighting chance. When the O’s host the Nats, Kevin Gausman faces Reynaldo Lopez of the Nats.  Last time he threw 98 MPH, but leave too many of those straight and they go from 98 too 100+ leaving the band box that is Oriole Park. The Nats have a major problem which shockingly didn’t make the news last night. Stephen Strasburg, already a survivor of one_ Tommy John surgery has had to go on the DL with elbow soreness.  No doubt he and Dr. Andrews will be in communication before long.   The Mets face the Cardinals in an absolute make-or-break series considering the Cards are the next team above them in the running for the second wild card spot.  Lose this series and the Mets might as well pack it in until next April. The Mets have two major problems: Neil Walker may or may not be available. He has not_ been put on paternity leave as I write this but it may happen.  The more serious problem is Jonathan Niese will be starting.  Mets’ fans, and Pirates fans who also watched Niese earlier this season know all too well how much damage he can do to the team’s hopes of winning.      Danny Salazar only went an inning in his first start off the DL, which hints he might still be disabled.  The Indians will try him again tonight in Oakland.  Jake Arrieta got his 15th win last time out and goes for his 16th in San Diego. The Mariners hope for more bombs tonight against the Yankees. They may need them: they had to put reliever Drew Storen on the DL again. At least, it wasn’t for punching a locker as he did last year in Washington. This time it’s shoulder trouble.  The Yankees send 7-10 CC Sabathia out again in Seattle.  early on  he looked like CC 2009, but especially in August where his ERA is nearly 7, he’s looking like CC 2013-15. Last Call, big guy. Dizzy Dean was built like him and made a good broadcaster, why not CC? And on the subject of broadcasters, this is the last series at Dodger Stadium which Vin Scully will call where the Dodgers host the Giants.  He’s been calling that grand old rivalry since the Brooklyn Dodgers hosted the New York Giants and Harry Truman was president. Then it was Newcombe hosting Magley. Tonight it’s Maeda hosting Bumgarner.  The only way it could be better would be if Clayton Kershaw were healthy enough to face MadBum, AKA the Angry Hobo.

Today’s first birthday is Tyler Glasnow, Pirates’ prospect who is  23 today.  The Pirates drafted the native of Newhall, California out of high school in round 5 of the 2011 draft.  So far, the glass has been half empty, as his record is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA since his first start on July 7.

Jeff Manto is 52 today.  He wouldn’t be mentioned except he and John Marzano played for Temple University in the first baseball game my broadcast partner Jim Lucas and I did together.  We were broadcasting for Glassboro, who Temple buried 11–4.  It would have been 15–4 but before the last 4 runs could be officially counted, it rained and the game was stopped.  Marzano and Manto both hit home runs in that game. A native of Bristol, PA., Manto was drafted in round 14 in 1985 by the Angels.  He hit .230 in parts of 10 years in the bigs, then coached briefly with the Pirates and White Sox.

Julio Franco, the Satchel Paige of hitters is 58 and may well be in the Braves’ lineup tonight. (JK) In fact, he made his debut with the Phillies in 1982 and played his last game with the Braves in 2007. In that incredibly long career he hit .298 with almost  2600 hits. He lasted 5 years each with the Indians and Rangers and Braves-a short stretch then, an eternity now. He spent 2 years playing in Japan and one in Korea.  In two and a half decades he was an All-Star 3 times, between 1989 and 1991. In 1991 he also won a batting title while playing for the Rangers. He left before their best years began in 1996. A rookie Franco faced Jim Kaat, who in his own rookie year had walked Ted Williams. As of 2006 Franco was the one active hitter to face a pitcher who had dealt with The Splendid Splinter, aka Teddy Ballgame. Franco was the sixth man Roger Clemens ever faced, and their meeting in 2007 made them the oldest pitcher and batter to square off in 74 years.

Mike Boddicker is 59 today.  At five-eleven and 185, it’s doubtful he could get drafted in today’s game where most righties are much taller and bulkier than he was in his prime. The Iowa native was in the majors from late 1980 through 1993. He put up a 134-116 record, doing his best work with the Orioles between 1980-1988. He left the floundering Orioles for the Red Sox who won their division in both 1988 and 1990, then proceeded to the Royals and Brewers. He was the ALCS MVP in 1983, the year his Orioles beat the Phillies in 5 to take the World Series. The following year was his only All-Star season. He led his league in wins and ERA in 1984 but it didn’t stop the Tigers demolishing the competition. Rod Carew affectionately called Boddicker’s pitches “Little League Slop.” He can be compared with Eddie Lopat of the Yankees of another era.

The very first DH, Ron Blomberg is 68 today. Oddly, as long as he was a minor celeb in baseball and later on radio his name  was pronounced “Bloomberg.” After finishing dead last in 1966 he was the Yankees’ first pick, the overall first pick in the country in 1967. While he began as a DH in 1973, his debut came in September, 1969 with the Yankees. He hit .293 as a parttime player between 1971 and 1978. In 2007 Blomberg managed a team in Israel to a 29-12 record. To this day he is a Yankee scout near his native Atlanta.

Former Tiger player and broadcaster George Kell was born this day in 1922 and died in March, 2009 at age 86. After breaking in with Connie Mack’s Athletics in 1943, he had his longest run with the Tigers between 1946 and 1952.  Before his career was done he had been an All-Star 10 times. His last selection was in his final year, 1957 while with the Orioles. He began broadcasting with CBS-TV before joining the Tigers in 1959. He would  not leave them until 1996, but for one season, 1964. Kell and Bob Delaney called the 1959 NL playoff between the Dodgers and Braves on ABC-TV.  3 years later, when the Dodgers and Giants met, Kell and Bob Wolf called that series on NBC-TV. The 1962 World Series was his only exposure on national radio where he did all 7 games of play-by-play with Joe Garagiola on color. His next World Series was in 1968, where he and Curt Gowdy called the action on NBC-TV. With the Tigers he worked with Van Patrick in 1959, then Ernie Harwell starting the next year.  He broadcast  TV exclusively  beginning in 1965 when TV games were fewer and farther between. Making what was then an unheard-of agreement  was the only way the Tigers could persuade him to return to the airwaves.     Kell  and Al Kaline were the Tigers’ TV broadcasters for 32 years.

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