Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, Sept. 13.
In the last postseason, the Cubs’ pitching staff amounted to Jake Arrieta and that was about it. Hence their demolition by the Mets in 4 straight. This year, Kyle Hendricks who was an afterthought a year ago has 14 wins against 7 losses and was 3 outs away from putting his name in baseball’s vaunted record book. He had given no hits to the Cardinals through 8 until Jeremy Hazelbaker hit a home run. The Cubs’ offense had provided Hendricks ample margin to win the game 4-1. His win lowers the team’s magic number to 3 for a Central division flag. The Mets were humiliated 8-1 by the Nationals and as a result they stay right where they were, half a game ahead of the Cards. The win lowered Hendricks’ ERA to 2.03, the best in the game this year. He was a Dartmouth boy, taken by the Rangers in 2011 and dealt a year later to the Cubs. Besides Jake, the Cubs have the two Johns, Lackey and Lester who by all accounts should have put Hendricks in the shade. Because of his Ivy league background-a rarity in baseball at any time-he’s called “The Professor,” by his teammates. He was lost in the shadow of the supernova that was Jake Arrieta 2015. Hendricks had to duel it out with Adam Warren for the fifth starting spot. No contest even then. Now, With Jake looking much more like Clark Kent this year Hendricks appears to have donned the red cape with the S on the chest. He only walked two Cardinals all night in St. Louis, where the home team is only 32–40. The Cardinals had not been no-hit in their own ballpark since 1906, and still haven’t thanks to Hazelbaker. In 1906 when they were no-hit, they played at Robison Field. They would not move to Sportsman’s Park until 1920.
Are We in the Wrong Ball Park?
Last night the D-Backs took a 12-9 win over the Rockies. You might ask, So what? another night at Coors Canaveral. Not so fast. This one was a shootout some 180 miles from the O.K. Corral, at Chase Field in Phoenix. Yasmany Tomas was the big gun of the night with a 6th-inning grand slam that put the D-Backs ahead for keeps. Early though it was he already had 4 hits on the evening when his 4-bagger left the lot. Brandon Drury and Mitch Haniger also had home runs for the home team. Haniger had not hit a home run in the majors until last night. At one point the D-Backs were 5 runs ahead but Shelby Miller holds a lead the way a sieve holds water. He gave up 3 in the 4th and 3 in the 5th before getting the hook. The grand slam by Tomas in the home 6th bailed him out.
All the action in MLB happens tonight. The Dodgers send Julio Urias to the hill against the Yankees. This isn’t the same quavering rookie the Mets pounded in his MLB debut. his last 5 decisions have been on the winning side and his August ERA was a microscopic 1.99. The Yankees counter with CC Sabathia. We’ve seen this movie. He gave up 3 dingers to the bottom-feeding Rays last week. Is there no way to unload this dead weight? His pitching of late has been the sort to drive Yankee fans to drink. After being hammered by the Nationals last night, the Mets go with Noah Syndergaard against the Nats’ A. J. Cole. Cole was tapped to replace Stephen Strasburg while the team sees if the fragile ace will be able to pitch should they make the playoffs. The Pirates will start the enigmatic Ivan Nova-unhittable for them, all too hittable in the Bronx. The Buckos face the Phillies’ Aleck Asher whose season and reputation lies in ashes following an 80-game suspension for PEDs. The best pure pitching matchup of the night appears to be Jason Hammel of the Cubs in St. Louis against Jaime Garcia.
Before we get into today’s birthdays, I want to mention one I missed yesterday as I was having dental work done. Mickey Lolich turned 76 yesterday. The Portland, Oregon native christened Michael Stephen Lolich put up a 217-191 mark between 1963 and 1979. He struck out nearly 3,000 men before Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson would make that number irrelevant. When Lolich was pitching the record was 3508 strikeouts by the Big Train, Walter Johnson. Lolich pitched at hitter-friendly Tiger Stadium from 1963-75, then spent a year with the Mets and two with the Padres. As a Tiger he was an All-Star 3 times, in 1969, 1971 (when the game was held in Detroit,) and 1972. He was the World Series MVP in 1968 when his Tigers came back from 3 games to 1 and beat the Cardinals in 7. In game 2 Lolich hit the one home run of his MLB career as the Bengals routed the Cards 8-1. Lolich won game 5 and, on two days rest bested gbob Gibson in game 7. This was the same Gibson who had struck out 17 Tigers in game 1 setting a World Series mark that will never fall, given the way pitching has changed in the decades since. It would be 33 years until a pitcher won 3 games in a World Series. Randy Johnson did it in 2001 but game 7 was a win from the bull pen. While Dennis Dale McLain won 31 games, Lolich won 17 in 1968. His career high was 25 wins in 1971 with McLain gone to Washington. If I may tell a personal Lolich story: In 1993 the AA Tigers were in London, Ontario. This was their final year in that beautiful city. Mickey Lolich came to London to do color commentary for a Tigers game against the New Britain Red Sox, for whom Jim Lucas and I broadcast the games back to New Britain on radio. As always, my Seeing Eye dog Gizmo was in the booth with us. The press box in London was a wide open affair, so Lolich could easily see the 3 of us at work. Jim noticed Lolich feeding pieces of doughnuts to Gizmo. This is a flagrant violation of Seeing Eye rules. But how could a pair of 30-year-old baseball fans who admired Lolich (even though he wasn’t a Yankee,) tell this great pitcher not to feed the dog? I’ll tell you how–we didn’t!
Gizmo had a cast iron stomach and was none the worse for eating Lolich’s doughnut pieces.
Brent Brede (Pronounced Brady) is 45 today. He briefly appeared with the Twins and D-Backs. He also played in Japan in 1999. B ut I remember him with the Hardware City (New Britain, CT) Rock Cats when Jim Lucas and I broadcast for them. The Twins had taken him from high school in round 5 of the 1990 draft. He was an OK hitter in a park where it was difficult for any hitter to be above average.
Lefty pitcher Denny Neagle (rhymes with bagel) is 48 today. The Twins drafted the Maryland native in the third round of the 1989 draft from University of Minnesota. As a Golden Gopher he had the privilege to pitch in the MetroDome where the Gophers played many of their home games at the time. Two summers later he was in the show with the Twins. He lasted into the new century. When all was said and done his record was 124-92. He had been an All-Star twice, in 1995 and 1997. He was left off the 1991 roster when the Twins won the World Series, and sent to the Pirates the next spring. The Braves traded for him in late August 1996 as they charged toward the World Series. He started game 4 of the 1996 World Series and the Braves got out to a 6-0 lead mostly off starter Kenny Rogers. Neagle was removed in the 6th and the Yankees came back to win 8-6 in 10 innings of a game that has to be on anybody’s top 10 list of greatest World Series games ever. From there it was on to the Reds, then to the 2000 Yankees where the team won the last Subway Series in 5 games. After that it was on up to the rarified air of Coors Canaveral where his career flamed out.
The great Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams is 48 today. He collected a .297 average between 1991 and 2006 all with the Yankees with over 2300 hits. He was an All-Star 5 times, between 1997 and 2001. He was the ALCS MVP and hit the home run in the 11th inning to win game 1 of that series against the Orioles. That was the first of 4 seasons the Yanjkees would win the World Series with Williams in center field. He won a batting title in 1998, the year the Yankees won 114 games. Before joining the Yankees he had been a track star in Puerto Rico. He and his family now live in Armonk, West Chester County, New York where the humorist and novelist Dave Barry was born.
Pitcher Rick Wise is 71 today. The native of Jackson, Michigan moved with his family to Portland where his team made the 1958 Little League World Series. Wise first played in the majors at age 18 on Gene Mauch’s 1964 Phillies. He won game 2 of the doubleheader played June 21, 1964 when Jim Bunning had pitched a perfecto in game 1. Wise’s career ended with the briefest of appearances in 1982. He was an All-Star as a member of the Phillies in 1971 and with the Cardinals 2 years later. Also with the Phillies he fired a no-hitter against the Reds in 1971. In that game he also hit a pair of home runs. He was sent to the Cardinals in 1972 for Steve Carlton who won 27 games on a Phillies team that won 59. With the Cards, Wise almost no-hit the Reds, being thwarted in the 9th. Had he done it, he and Addie Joss of Cleveland would have been the only men to no-hit the same team twice. The Cardinals sent him to Boston in 1974, and a year later he saw his only World Series action. In game 3 he gave up a home run in the 4th, then two more bombs and a tripple in the fifth before getting the hook. The Sox came back to tie in the 9th on Dwight Evans’ home run but the Reds won it in 10. A week later to the day, Wise was the winning pitcher in game 6, quite possibly the greatest World Series game ever played. In 1991 he was a coach for the New Britain Red Sox, two years before Jim Lucas and I got there. As bad as our teams were, his was worse–47 up, 93 down. He would later coach and briefly manage the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League.