Desperate Desert Dozen: Giants Win in 12 in Arizona

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday, September 10.

We’re at that hectic time of year when college football slams it into high gear and the NFL begins tomorrow.  But let’s not forget baseball.  The Giants, who have played poorly since the All-Star break pulled off a win they badly needed in order to keep their names in the wild card hunt, much less the divisional race that should have been theirs.  They took 12 innings to beat the last-place D-backs 7-6.  They had one-run leads in both the 7th and 10th but Arizona fought back to tie both times. The D-Backs could have won it in the 9th but for Hunter Pence, who had 4 hits on the night making one of the more amazing catches of the Giants’ year on a long drive by Mitch Haniger.  For the third time in 10 tries Santiago Casilla blew the save in the 10th  when Jake Lamb turned out to be a wolf in lamb’s clothing by unleashing a home run to tie the game at 6. At long last the game was won when Kelby Tomlinson put up a pinch-single to score the tiebreaking run and Cory Gearrin got the save Casilla couldn’t manage. As a result they still hold the first wild-card slot a  half game ahead of the Mets who won in Atlanta 6-4. St. Louis is right on the Mets’ tails after beating Milwaukee.

Rick Porcello got his 20th win last night, the first Red Sox hurler to win 20 in 9 years. The Sox trampled the Blue Jays 13-3 givving Porcello more run support than he needed. The offense was led by Xander Bogaerts (rhymes with Humphrey Bogart) and Hanley Ramirez, each of whom hit home runs. The Sox ruined any faint hope the Jays had with 6 runs in the 7th inning. In spite of the pounding they took, Toronto leads Detroit and Baltimore by a game for the first wild card slot in their league.

The Red Sox face the Jays in Toronto in the earliest game today. eduardo Rodriguez, who lost a no-hitter in the 8th his last time out faces J.A. Happ, who with 17 wins was right behind Porcello before coming apart in his last few outings. The only other early game features the Cubs in Houston at 1:05.  At 4:05 King Felix Hernandez takes the mound in Oakland. As good as Kendall Graveman, the Oakland starter has been of late he’s matched tough against the King. The Rays and Yankees get it on at 4:05 after last night’s game didn’t end until nearly 1 AM because of several rain delays. The Rays’ Chris Archer still has a chance for 20 losses. He has 17 now with 3 weeks to go and he’s facing Masahiro Tanaka and the resurgent Yankees today. Last night even Mark Teixeira looked like a ball player and not an aging quarter cripple as he hit a grand slam in the Yankees’ 7-5 win.  The rest of the slate is under the lights. Last night the Nationals did what first place teams do-they won on a walkoff home run.  Tonight they’ve got their horse, Max Scherzer against the Phillies. Baltimore faces Detroit with each team a game behind Toronto for the first wild card spot. The Tigers send out a surprisingly frail Jordan Zimmerman, just off his third stint on the DL in the first year of a big contract.

The Pirates’ surprisingly cool rookie Chad Kuhl (pronounced Cool,) is 24 today.  He wasn’t intimidated when his MLB debut came against Clayton Kershaw. He won his debut in fact, 4-3.  Kuhl was a 9th-round Pirates pick in 2013. He had played college baseball at University of Delaware, a team that hasn’t been NCAA relevant in something like 35 years but he made enough waves to be noticed by the Pirates. To this point in his young career he’s 3-2 with a 3.70 ERA and is pitching on his birthday.

Another Delaware native, Paul Goldschmidt of the D-Backs is 29 today. Unlike Chad Kuhl, Goldy as he’s called left Delaware as a kid and played high school and college ball in Texas.   The D-Backs claimed him in the 8th round in 2009. He made his MLB debut in 2011 and has been an All-Star the last 4 seasons. He led his league in home runs and RBIs in 2013. As a rookie he hit a grand slam in game 3 of the NLDS against the Brewers. Though he hit .438 the D-Backs lost in 5.

Neil Walker, second baseman of the Mets until seriously injured last month is 31 today.  The Pittsburgh native was a pirates’ first-round choice in 2004 out of high school.  His injury is serious enough to warrant concern whether the Mets will ask him back in 2017.

Joey Votto, one of the few legit players the Reds still have is 33 today. The Reds drafted him in round 2 in 2002 as a high school boy. Had they not taken him so early he planned to go to Coastal Carolina University.  He maintains a .311 average in his decade with the Reds. He was an All-Star 4 times, 2010–13. He won the league’s MVP award in 2010. As a minor leaguer he carried Ted Williams’ book “Science of Hitting,” on his person at all times.  He now owns a mastiff/golden retriever cross named Maris, after Roger Maris.

The man my ex-wife called “Scary looking,” Randy Johnson is 53 today. At six-10 and listed at 230 pounds he frightened tougher personages than my ex-wife. Even such a good lefty hitter as Wade Boggs would run miles to avoid facing him. And why not? He hit 188 men, third among all pitchers.  As a college student he played at USC in Los Angeles and was a teammate of Mark McGwire.    The Expos took him in round 2 of the 1985 draft but he never mastered control until he joined the Mariners. Also, in the Expos’ minor league system he showed at least one major lack of judgment.  On a hundred-dollar bet he stuck his pitching hand into a bed of fire ants, the only critters in Florida more frightening than the Social Security Agency there.  He won the hundred but landed on the DL. He was a late call-up in 1988 with the Expos and pitched as late as 2009. He compiled a 303-166 record in that span with 4875 strikeouts. He spent a decade with the Mariners and six seasons with the D-Backs, leading them to their fluke World Series win in 2001. He was an All-Star 10 times, the last being 2004, a year before_ he joined the Yankees. He won the Cy Young award 5 times-first in 1995, then all 4 years from 1999-2002. He threw a no-hitter as early as 1990, then a perfecto in 2004 against the Braves. He was the oldest pitcher to fire a perfecto.  He was inducted in 2015 into Cooperstown on his first try. Amazingly he only had 64 wins by age 30. On Sept. 27, 1992 facing Nolan Ryan and the Rangers he struck out 18 men throwing 160 pitches. No man has thrown that many pitches in an MLB game since that day. Unlike many who turn to broadcasting when the cheering stops, Johnson has become a photographer-an interesting choice since a vicious confrontation with cameramen in New York before he had ever thrown a pitch as a Yankee.

Roger Maris was born this day in 1934 and died in December 1985, at 51.  He broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record of 60 by hitting 61 in 1961. While the Roger Maris museum is in Fargo, (where he went to high school)  the man hailed from Hibbing, Minnesota, and passed away in Houston, Texas. He was a .260 with 275 home runs in a dozen years, 61 in one season alone and 39 the season before that. The Yankees got him from Kansas City in time for the 1960 season and kept him through their downfall in 1965-66.  Then he was sent to the Cardinals where he played in two World Series-a win and a loss.

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