Dodgers and D-Backs bring back the ’90s in Phoenix; Mets First in Wild Card Chase

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday,  Sept. 19.

The two most notorious ball parks for high-scoring games and soaring home runs are Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out, and Coors Canaveral in Denver always because of the altitude.    But Chase Field in Phoenix deserves the same notoriety considering the amount of high-scoring games with multiple home runs which have been played in the desert. There are no rocket launching bases to name it after, since Jim Rome already took Coors Canaveral.  But name or no name, yesterday’s 10-9 D-Backs win in 12 innings was just the latest in a series of ’90’s-style offensive displays in Phoenix.

Early on the D-Backs built a 7-1 lead and their fans hoped it might be a laugher. But the Dodgers, in  first place and wanting to stay there fought  back to tie the game, then take a 2-run advantage they couldn’t hang onto. The Giants lost again to St. Louis, keeping the Dodgers’ magic number at 9. 9 was also the number of pitchers the Dodgers turned to.  That’s no record, recently the D-Backs themselves used a dozen pitchers in a game in their yard. In the sixth inning, with the score 7-1 the visiting Dodgers put up a six-pack, highlighted by a 3-run pinch-hit double by Adrian Gonzalez. It was the Dodgers’ third double of the inning and his first pinch-hit in 3 years. In the visiting half of the 8th, pitcher Enrique Burgos gave up a two-run double to Howie Kendrick putting the D-Backs in a 9-7 hole. But the Snakes hadn’t lost their bite yet in spite of being stomped on. Chris Owings drilled a two-run home run off the Dodgers’ Louis Coleman in the home 8th, leveling the game at 9. The D-Backs’ starter Robbie Ray got off to a dynamite start, retiring his first 14 men with 8 K’s.  But dynamite is unstable, and he melted down in the 6th, with 5 of the Dodgers’ runs on his record. The Dodgers’ Jose De Leon did little better, giving up 6 runs and not surviving the 4th inning.  He served up home runs to Mitch Haniger and Brandon Drury.  In fact Drury had 4 hits in 5 tries plus a walk including the walkoff single that made the home D-Backs winners.

against all odds the Mets are first in the wild card chase with the Giants losing again to the Cardinals.  The Flushing 9 completed a sweep of the Twins with a 3-2 win Sunday. Gabriel Ynoa is the latest of the no-name starting rotation to succeed at Citi Field, following Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  These guys would still be in Nowhere, USA-also called the minors except for devastating injuries to Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jonathan Niese and now Jacob DeGrom who has already survived one Tommy John surgery and could be staring a second one in the face. Ynoa, who had never started in the bigs struck out 8 but was pulled before he could qualify for a win. Two of the Mets’ runs were driven in by Michael Conforto and one scored on the second career home run by T. J. Rivera. Eric Goeddel got what the boys call a “Vulture win,” taking one when the starter is removed before 5 innings are up. Lefty Jerry Blevins got his second save in a week after not garnering one in the past 4 years.

There is a rare Monday matinee in Kansas City as the Royals host the White Sox at 2:15 Eastern. This is a makeup of an earlier game that was rained out. At night, Rick Porcello tries again for his 21st win as he faces the Orioles.   Last time out he lost 1-0 to the Birds  on a Mark Trumbo home run.  Tonight, instead of being up against the Orioles best in Kevin Gausman, he faces the much younger Dylan Bundy. The Mets host the Braves to start their final week at home.   Noah Syndergaard, the last of the Mets’ Mohicans faces Aaron Blair who hasn’t won in a dozen major league starts since the Braves traded Shelby Miller to get him.   The Nats face the Marlins in Miami as they continue their quest to win the division. The game of the night is in Los Angeles where the Giants face the Dodgers.  Two of the league’s best take the hill: Madison Bumgarner against Clayton Kershaw, while the best in the booth begins his last week at Chavez Ravine.   Vin Scully, a Dodger since 1950 in Brooklyn will take the mike for the early innings of his last Giants-Dodgers series in L.A.    He has already announced he won’t cover the playoffs, but will handle the final weekend series in San Francisco.  He has only covered 3  away games up to now in 2016, one in San Diego and 2 in Anaheim.

George Springer of the Astros is  27 today. The great game is in his blood-his dad, also named George played in the 1976 Little League World Series.    The native of New Britain, CT was taken from UConn in round 1 of the 2011 draft. At that time UConn was only_ known for its incredible women’s basketball teams.  Of late years though, coach Jim Penders has been working to raise the status of the school’s baseball program, and Springer was in the forefront of that movement that has seen UConn reach the last few regionals. In fact he was an All-American in 2011 when UConn still played in the Big East before their recent ill-conceived move to a conference with many lesser schools in it.   Springer reached the majors in April 2014 and has been a key figure when healthy for the Astros since then.

Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals is 31. Born Giovany Aramis Gonzalez and raised in  Hialeah, Florida the White Sox took him late in round 1 of the 2004 draft. The high school-age  pro  was sent to Oakland by way of Philadelphia before ever reaching the majors, where he broke in during 2008. He became a fulltime big leaguer in 2010.   Since then he’s put up a 102-76 record mostly with Washington, whom he joined in 2012.  He’s been an All-Star in 2011 with Oakland and a year later with the Nats. He won 16 in 2011 and 21 the next year.

On “Talk like a Pirate Day,” John Jaco is 33. The Devil Rays drafted him in round 12 back in 2003. As of now he’s a first baseman on the sinking ship of the Pirates, who after making the playoffs the last 3 years are destined to finish six feet under this year. He was drafted as a catcher but problems with concussions have forced him to doff the tools of ignorance. He was still catching when he was traded to Seattle in early 2012, and in August he caught Felix Hernandez’s perfecto again the Rays. He was traded to Oakland where he spent two seasons, then went back to St. Pete. His first free agent signing was when he joined the Pirates just before Christmas 2015.

Jim Abbott is 49 today. In the early days of my marriage when Abbott was still playing, if his name came up on a sportscast I’d sing the old ad jingle “We’re not looking for a handout, just a hand.”  My wife thought that was tasteless, because it’s well known Abbott has just one hand due to a birth defect. Born in Flint, Michigan he was drafted in round 1 in 1988 by the Angels from University of Michigan. I would have heard a college game of his if he had pitched against Fordham in the NCAA Regionals, but he had pitched the night before against Dartmouth.  He pitched in the PanAmerican games in 1987, the Baseball World Cup in Rome and the Olympics in Seoul the next year.  Without pitching a game in the minors He was in the show just a year after being drafted  and pitched until 1999. Because he played on bad teams he was 87-108 in his career. After 4 years with the Angels he went to the Yankees but left before their playoff years began in 1995. After the Yankees he played twice with the White Sox, with the Angels again and finished in Milwaukee. As a Yankee he pitched a no-hitter on Sept. 4, 1993. I remember I was taking a nap before a doubleheader in Reading, PA. when my partner Jim Lucas woke me and said I had to hear the end of the game in case Abbott pitched a no-hitter.  We could barely get the signal but we knew when he pulled it off. He was 7-15 in 1992 with the Angels and just 2–18 with them in 1996. His memoir “Imperfect,” came out in 2012.

Randy Myers, of “Nasty Boys’ fame is 52.  The Reds drafted him in the third round in 1982. While his record was 44-63 he had almost 350 saves. He was an All-Star 4 times between 1990 and 1997.  He was NLCS MVP in 1990 and his Reds swept Oakland in that year’s World Series. He became a Mets’ closer when Jesse Orosco left to join the Dodgers. He was sent to the Reds for John Franco and was the lefty among the Nasty Boys of the Reds bull pen along with righties Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble. With the Astros, on Sept. 28, 1995 he gave up a vital home run to a Cub player and was attacked by some foolish fan who got to tpend the night in what Cubs’ announcer Pat Hughes calls “The Crossbar Hotel.”

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan is 73 today. When he broke in, he was five-seven and 155 pounds and Houston announcer Loel Passe called him “Little Joey Morgan.” After a career of over 2500 hits, pitchers who faced him probably called him a lot of things I wouldn’t print. The bulk of his career was spent in Houston and Cincinnati.  When he broke in with Houston they were the Colt .45’s, but by the time he was established they were the Astros. He was an All-Star 10 times over and part of 2 World Series winners with the Big Red Machine. In those two seasons he was also league MVP. He reached Cooperstown in 1990 on his first ballot. He began broadcasting in 1985 on Reds TV, and covered Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s record for hits. He then broadcast 9 years for the Giants and one with Oakland. He was with ESPN as early as 1985 for the College World Series, and broadcast on ABC later in the decade. He was with NBC in 1986-87 and then from 1994-2000. He and John Miller began on ESPN Sunday night baseball in 1990 and they also teamed on a few playoffs and World Series on ESPN radio. He and Miller were both cut loose by ESPN at the end of 2010 and Sunday night baseball has been unwatchable since.

Another Hall of Famer, the Duke of Flatbush, Duke Snider was born this day in 1926 and died in February 2011. Edwin Donald Snider  reached the show two days after Jackie Robinson, April 17, 1947.  He was from Los Angeles, while Robinson grew up nearby in Pasadena.  Duke lasted until the end of 1964. In that time he hit .295 with 407 home runs. Only his last two years weren’t spent in Dodger blue. In 1963 he was a Met, the next year he was with the Giants. He was an All-Star 8 times between 1950 and 1963. His Dodgers won the World Series in 1955 and 1959. He broadcast for the  padres during their first 3 years, then with the Expos from 1973-86.


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