Mets Give ‘Em Something to Talk About;

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball in this Friday, Sept. 23.

Even if the Mets don’t make the playoffs, they’ve sure given their fans dramatic moments to remember in the depths of a wretched winter in the New York-New Jersey area.  And last night’s 9-8, 11-inning roller coaster win over the Phillies may be the one the fans remember best, especially if there’s no postseason for this patched-together lineup with more casualties than an infantry unit in combat.  The day started with still more grim news on the pitching front.  Steven Matz, their lefty phenom from last year is through for the year and may need shoulder surgery, which if anything is more dangerous for a pitcher than Tommy John surgery.  So add Matz to Harvey, DeGrom and Niese and you have 4 shelved pitchers and I won’t even go into the position players that won’t be heard of until next year if ever.  I’d rather talk about the game that spun out after the fans found out about Matz’s injury. Early on Ryan Howard and Cameron Rupp homered off starter Seth Lugo, the first of 10 pitchers Terry Collins would use while the Phillies used 9. Howard’s homer tied the game at 2-2 in the visiting fifth after Curtis Granderson had hit a two-run shot in the home second to give the Mets an early lead. Rupp went back-to-back with Howard to give the Phillies a lead they could  not maintain even for half an inning.  After a walk and an infield hit by Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes singled home runner Ty Kelly to appropriately tie it up. Two innings later the Mets found themselves facing pitcher Michael Mariot, whose name sounds like a hotel with choice accommodations.  The pitcher accommodated the Mets by walking Jose Reyes, after which Cabrera singled and Cespedes doubled Reyes home giving the Mets a short-lived 4-3 lead. The 8th inning is the territory of Addison Reed.  Normally he rules the roost in the 8th inning. But last night he just didn’t have it.  I’ve announced plenty of games where I just didn’t have it at the mike.  I’d feel wrong somehow, annd it wasn’t always my health or what I might have been doing the night before. But when a broadcaster doesn’t have it, only other broadcasters notice.  When a pitcher of the calibre of Addison Reed doesn’t have it, the fans see it in the crowd and millions more see it on TV.  What they saw in the Phillies’  8th was ugly indeed. Cesar Hernandez led off with a bunt single. After Roman Quinn sacrificed his mate over, Odubel Herrera reached by way of an infield hit putting Hernandez within 90 feet of his goal. The next batter Maikel Franco took a 3-2 pitch and corked it into the night and out of the lot for a 6-4 Phillies’ lead. Hansel Robles came in to what looked like a mop-up operation and some of the 40,000 at Citi Field started chanting “Terry Sucks,” in malediction to the Mets’ manager Terry Collins. The taunting continued until the last of the 9th by which the front runners had started home to beat the traffic.  Those who stayed saw the first of two unlikely comebacks. With the Phillies’ closer Jeanmar Gomez and his 37 saves on the hill, Brandon Nimmo found a way to ignite a rally. He singled to right. After jay Bruce all too predictably struck out,  Jose Reyes launched a 2-1 pitch high, wide and handsome into the night to tie the game at 6. Nobody was chanting now. With all the pitching reenforcements Terry Collins had, he allowed Jeurys Familia to pitch both the 10th and 11th.  In the 10th Familia made failures of the Phillies.  But not so in the 11th. Freddy Galvis struck a double to left center to lead things off. After retiring the next two hitters, Familia intentionally walked Cesar Hernandez. This brought up catcher A.J. Ellis, recently acquired from the Dodgers.  Ellis is nobody’s Campanella, and Familia figured to get him.  Not so fast. Ellis singled to right making it a 7-6 game. Jerry Blevins came in for Familia and plunked the first man he saw, Odubel Herrera, loading the bases.  That was the only_ man Blevins saw and Jim Henderson took the hill. He walked Franco forcing home a run making it 8-6.  With the midnight hour approaching, still more fans flocked towards the exits.  But those who stayed will talk about what they saw to their children. The Phillies turned to Edubray Ramos to try and lock the win down. He retired Brandon Nimmo but walked Michael Conforto. Jose Reyes followed with a single to left after which Asdrubal Cabrera, playing on an injured leg sent a mighty wallop far over the right field fence and into the pages of Mets’ lore. As a result of the win, the Mets and Giants are still tied for the first wild card slot and the Cardinals, who were idle are half a game back.  The Giants beat the Padres to stay even with the Mets.

Where did Those Tigers Come From?

A few weeks ago it seemed like another season in oblivion for the Tigers.  The Red Sox, Orioles and Bluejays seemed destined to duke it out for the 3 available playoff spots-the East division and the two wild cards.  Detroit was doing nothing and Cleveland will win the Central by a fair margin.  But the Tigers have managed to take the second wild card slot from the Orioles.  Their latest move in this comeback was sweeping the simply hideous Twins, 9-2 and 4-2.  The Twins have but 55 wins at this point, so while they won’t be the worst team ever theylook like it at times. The second game saw Justin Verlander once again look like the 2012 model Verlander rather than the sad model the Tigers saw during much of 2014 and 2015 that had Michiganders wondering if Verlander should just find something else to do for a living. While the Tigers were wiping out the Twins, the Red Sox swept a four-game series from the Orioles in Baltimore, a considerably more difficult feat than what the Tigers performed in the twin cities.

The Cardinals and Cubs square off in today’s lone matinee in Chicago.  The Cubs have clinched, but the Cardinals are struggling for their playoff lives. Their struggle doesn’t get any easier as they face Jake Arrieta. While he’s not as dominating as he was last year, he’s still a menacing presence. If the Orioles want to hold back the Tigers, they’ll have to do their job by beating the woeful Diamondbacks and their most woebegone soul, Shelby Miller. If Chris Archer is to avoid becoming a 19-game loser he would have to beat the Red Sox and Drew Pomeranz tonight in St. Pete. The Phillies send a 12-game winner in Jeremy Hellickson against the Mets and Gabriel Ynoa. The New york  rookie’s  Sunday start against the Twins was his first in the bigs. The Rockies send out John Gray, who struck out 16 men while throwing a shutout his last time out.  He faces the Dodgers and Scott Kazmir, who has  spent a month on the shelf with a neck problem. The Giants will continue to try and hang onto their wild card position against the Padres in San Diego in the latest game of the night, at 10:40 PM Eastern.

Matt Kemp, who has experienced a resurgence with Atlanta is 32 today. He’s a 10-year man, having first reached the bigs with the Dodgers in 2006. In that decade he’s collected 1500 hits and a .287 average, but also a reputation for getting injured. His reputation has led him to be an All-Star only twice, in 2011 and 2012. He calls home Midwest City, Oklahoma and was a 6th-round Dodgers’ draftee in 2003. He hurt his shoulder for the first time in 2007 and had it operated on 5 years later.  In 2013, injuries to the shoulder, an ankle  and a hamstring cost him most of the season and drew the wrath of Dodgers’ fans. He missed the 2013 playoffs due to microfracture surgery in his ankle, the sort of thing that ruined Grant Hill’s NBA career. The next year he drew the anger of his manager Don Mattingly, and in the winter was traded to San Diego for Yasmani Grandal and two bodies-one of whom, Zach Eflin by name is now in Philadelphia. At the deadline this past July, the Padres unloaded Kemp and his two arthritic hips to the Braves.

Former pitcher Pete Harnisch is 50 today. The Orioles took him in round 1 of the 1987 draft out of Fordham University in the Bronx. Fordham hadn’t been in an NCAA Regional in many years until Harnisch, a righty from Comack, Long Island got there.  His final year, 1987 was the first of 2 seasons in a row when the Rams made the NCAA regionals, and in ’87 he was a big part of how they got there. In the 3 seasons leading up to the 1987 tournament he went 21–3 in a hitter-friendly Jack Coffee Field, which has since  been remodeled.   He won the final game of their conference tournament, then shut down Georgia in the first game of the NCAA regionals. So brutal  were the Orioles that Harnisch appeared in the show some 15 months after he was drafted. He was in the game until early in 2001 with the Reds. His longest runs were 4 years with the Astros and 3 with the Mets. He was an All-Star just once, as an Astro in 1991. Since 2013 he’s been a roving pitching coach for the Angels.

Dennis Lamp is 64 today.  He was a righty pitcher who began with the Cubs as a third-round draftee in 1971 straight out of high school in Los Angeles. He was in the show from 1977 to 1992 and put up a 96-96 record with six teams.  But he’s best known for a few things a pitcher would rather not be known for.  He started a game on May 17, 1979 that would be a precursor to the steroid-era game of the late 1990’s. With the wind howling out of Wrigley Field, Lamp got lit up to say the least, giving up 6 runs on 6 hits including a pair of 3-run home runs to the Phillies in 1/3 of an inning.  All told the Phillies put up 7, but the Cubs put up 6 in the bottom of the first.  No pitcher on either side covered himself with glory as the Phillies finally won in 10 innings, 23-22.  For the Cubs, Dave Kingman hit 3 home runs and Bill Buckner hit a grand slam. As Casey said, “You could look it up.”  Lamp was also known for giving up Lou Brock’s 3,000th hit on August 13, 1979 and Cal Ripkin’s very first big league hit in 1981 after being traded from the Cubs to the White Sox.  He was in the ALCS 3 times-with the ’83 White Sox, the ’85 Blue Jays and the ’90 Red Sox-all losers. For the past 12 years he’s been the guy behind the seafood counter at Bristol Farms in Newport Beach, CA.

Former pitcher and broadcaster Jim Rooker is 74 today. The Oregon native  got his first taste of the show in June of 1968 with the Tigers and lasted until 1980 by which time he was a Pirate. He had sailed under the Jolly Roger since 1973 after a few years with the expansion Royals. As a 1970 Royal, Rooker had a no-hitter going until the top of the 9th when Horace Clarke of the Yankees broke it up and Bobby Murcer drove him home. Rooker lost the game in 12 innings.     Rooker pitched in the NLCS in 1974 and 1975, both of which the Pirates lost. He was with the 1979 World Series winning Pirates. He broadcast for his Pirates’ team from 1981–93, then 4 years with ESPN.  But if he’s remembered at all, it is for a rash remark he made when the Pirates had a 10-0 lead over the Phillies after half an inning of  a game at Veterans’ Stadium in Philadelphia. Rooker said on the air  “If we don’t win this one … I’ll walk back to Pittsburgh.” The Pirates’ bull pen obligingly blew the game, giving 2 home runs each to  Von Hayes and Steve Geltz.  The Phillies won 15-11.  In the off-season Rooker did the walk from Philly to Pittsburgh for charity. He took to writing children’s books and has 3 to his credit as of now.




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