Cubs and Mets Keep The Fans Up Late

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, August 30.

There will be some heavy-eyed workers in New York and Chicago this morning.  (Where’s that coffee I wanted?) This is because the Mets took 10 innings and the Cubs took 13 to vanquish their foes. (We’re out of coffee? Are you kidding me?)

In New York, the Marlins and Mets matched 0 for 0 through 7 innings. Rafael Montero, called up from AA by the Mets hung in there with  one of the game’s best young guns Jose Fernandez. Montero walked 6 men, so he was done after 5 leaving it to the bull pen.  Each side put up a run in the 8th. For the visiting Marlins, Xavier Scruggs hoped he would leave the Mets flat by doubling home Ichiro Suzuki.  But the Mets were up to the challenge, as Jose Reyes scored on a wild pitch.  The ninth inning went by scoreless, and in the last of the 10th Nick Wittgren fired a thigh-high heater which Yoenis Cespedes launched over the left field fence.  The 32,000 in attendance went ballistic and the team congratulated La Potencia which is Cespedes. Both the Mets and the Fish are 2.5 games behind the Giants, Cardinals and Pirates for the second wild card berth.

The Pirates made a mighty effort to raise the Jolly Roger.  They were up against it from the start. Stephen Brault was up from AAA to make the start, as Gerrit Cole is on the DL with inflammation at the back of his elbow, a symptom with dire possibilities. He’ll have to go to Birmingham in all likelihood for a consult if nothing worse. However, Brault held his own and For   once Jake Arrieta was human and had to leave the hill in the 7th.  The Pirates had a 6-3 lead, all runs scored off the reigning Cy Young winner. Josh Bell hit a solo

home run and Gregory Polanco nailed a 3-run shot making it 6-3.    But Wrigley isn’t a place to sit on a small lead.  Wilson Contreras took a 2-run shot out of there in the 8th and Jorge Soler homered  in the 9th.  The Buckos  took the lead in the 13th at 7-6 on a scoring fly ball by Josh Harrison, only to have the Cubs put up a deuce in the last of the 13th for the win 8-7. Anthony Rizzo singled home the tying run and with the bases full, pinch-hitter Miguel Montero singled home the winning run. Bob Costas, John Smoltz and Tom Verducci probably wish they had covered that game for the MLB network.  However, they’ll be at the mikes tonight as Chad Kuhl of the Pirates faces this year’s NL ERA leader, Kyle Hendricks.

When Toronto and the O’s meet tonight, J.A. Happ of the Jays tries for his 18th win against only 4 losses in a year like he’s never had.   Rick Porcello is now 18-3 as he led the Red Sox to victory over the Rays last night. Max Scherzer looks at one of the simpler assignments a pitcher can have today, stopping the Phillies. The Mets start rookie Seth Lugo for the third time, this time against the Marlins and Tom Koehler who’s been about as good as they could want over the last month. Possibly the pitching matchup of the night comes in San Francisco, where Zack Greinke of the D-Backs faces Johnny Cueto for the home Giants.

The Red Sox’ knuckleballer Steven Wright is 32 today. He was originally a second-round draft choice of the Indians in 2006 but he didn’t flourish on the shores of Lake Erie. It took him 7 years to make the show, which is a lifetime for a second-round choice.  They’re expected to make it in two years at the most unless they’re right out of high school, which Wright wasn’t. The Torrence, California native played his college ball for the Rainbows of University of Hawaii.  After 4 pro years he turned to the knuckleball in the hopes of reaching the bigs. He was traded at the deadline in 2012 but wouldn’t have seen Fenway except for an injury to Joel Hanrahan that opened a spot in the Red Sox bull pen. He wasn’t on the roster as they won the World Series that year.  He was there parttime during their two dreadful seasons of 2014 and 2015. This has easily been his best year. He was 9-5 before the All-Star game. As of now he’s on the DL with bursitis in his pitching shoulder, a rarity for a knuckleballer.

Adam Wainwright, who is pitching tonight in Milwaukee is 35 today. He was the Braves’ first-round pick in 2000 and is a Georgia native. He has only pitched for the Cardinals in the bigs.  Starting in 2005 he has a 130-75 mark in spite of missing all of 2011 and most of 2015 with injuries. In 2011 he tore up his elbow in spring training, needing Tommy John surgery.  In 2015 he ruptured his Achilles tendon on April 25 and only by a miracle came back to pitch from the bull pen in late September and during the NLDS, which was as far as the team went.   His Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, and Wainwright has been an All-Star 3 times.

Former Indians’ and Phillies’ lefty Cliff Lee is 38 today. The Expos drafted him in round 4 of the 2000 draft, but it was his good luck not to have to pitch for them as they faced contraction.  He made his debut in 2002 with the Indians.  Technically he’s not retired, so a team could have him if they thought he had anything to offer. He has a 143-91 in his MLB time. He spent most of 7 years with the Indians, then bounced around to 4 other teams.  The Yankees could have had him for a song in 2009 and again in 2011  where he could have rejoined his old teammate CC Sabathia but with George Steinbrenner no longer making the moves, the smart move never was made. He has been an All-Star 4 times, twice with the Phillies. With the Indians he won both the Comeback Player of the Year and Cy Young Award in the same year, 2008. In 2009 he won his 4 postseason games with the Phillies including beating the Yankees in the first game of the World Series with a complete game. His reward was to be traded to the Mariners for a trio of nonentities. The M’s shipped him to the Rangers where his team made the World Series but lost to the Giants. Then Lee rejoined the Phillies, this time as a free agent. A troubled elbow caused him to miss part of 2014 and all of 2015 and no offers were made for this season.

The great reliever Frank “Tug” McGraw was born this day in 1944 and died at the very start of 2004, at age 59. He made his earliest appearances with the Mets in 1965 at the almost-new Shea Stadium.  His final year was 1984 with the Phillies. He was in over 800 games, so you can discount his 96-92 record. He spent a decade with each of his two teams and was a part of both the 1969 Mets and the 1980 Phillies who won the World Series.  He also pitched stoutly for the Mets in 1973 when they came within a game of winning another World Series. He coined the phrase “Ya Gotta Believe,” that rallied the Mets to victory in the East.  Then he pitched brilliantly against the Reds in the NLCS and appeared in 5 of the 7 World Series games against Oakland.  He was an All-Star twice, in 1972 as a Met and in 1975 with the Phillies. Once as a starter he and the lowly 1965 Mets beat the mighty Sandy Koufax and his Dodgers who would win the upcoming World Series.  His son is country singer Tim McGraw.

The Splendid Splinter, Hall of Famer Ted Williams was born this day in 1918 and passed away in 2002. His body was controversially frozen after death, though his frozen state well describes his relations with the Boston media during his time with the Old Town Team.  That was his only team, except for Uncle Sam’s squad who he served hitches with both in World War II and in Korea.  At least two books have been written by Williams and others have been written concerning his life.  He was said to have psyched  himself up for games by yelling in batting practice “I’m Ted Blanking Williams and nobody can hit me.”  In his book “My Turn at Bat,” he referred to him in the third person as “Teddy Ballgame.”  I have no more adequate words to say about this man.

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