As Vanessa Williams Would Put It, CC Saved the Best for Last

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Friday, Sept. 30, the last Friday of the regular season.

In a huge departure from last season when CC Sabathia was at his worst, he pitched a couple of his best games at the end of the season. One of those came last night in his last start as the  Yankees completed a 3-game sweep of the Red Sox, 5–1.  He, Bryan Mitchell who pitched so well Wednesday night and (probably) Masahiro Tanaka will be 3 Yankee starters when the 2017 season begins. Remember, you have to cross out Nathan Eovaldi who had Tommy John surgery last month.

It certainly helped that the Yankees got Sabathia a lead to work with early on, unlike several of his starts this year when they haven’t scored at all. Jacoby Ellsbury walked, stole second and scored on a Starlin Castro double in the first after CC had struck out the side in the top half. The Sox put up their only tally in the 4th on a home run by Xander Bogaerts. The home team put up a run in the 5th and two more in the 6th to give CC a 4-1 lead.  He lasted into the 8th inning and left to cheers from what crowd there was. He had allowed a run on just 4 hits and a walk to a very potent Red Sox offense, striking out 8 in gaining the win. While CC’s record is still an unacceptable 9-12 from a $25 million man, a few runs here and there might have put him above .500 which is all the Yanks can expect from an aged former ace. The crowd was light and many of those who were there had come down from Red Sox nation to see David Ortiz’ last performance at the stadium where he has done more damage than anybody in recent memory. The Yanks’ honoring Ortiz makes about as much sense as the Cubs honoring Steve Garvey or Steve Bartman, and that isn’t going to happen.  In spite of winning their last 4 games the Yankees are out of the playoff hunt because of an Orioles win.  They and the Blue Jays are tied for the top wild card slot. The Tigers and Mariners are still in  that murky picture but the new-look Yankees aren’t.    The Yankees, who had_ a perfectly good bull pen until the white flag deals  of August 1 now have to get bull pen help and starting pitching help.

While the Dodgers are heading to the playoffs, neither Vin Scully or Bud Norris will be there to take part.  In the last month we’ve known Scully would do his final 3 broadcasts this weekend in San Francisco, and now Norris has been released by a team which already had major question marks as far as pitching depth is concerned.  Beyond a recently injured Clayton Kershaw and an untested Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers’ pitching heading into the playoffs is iffy at best.

The Orioles, still trying for the top wild card berth finish their regular season at Yankee Stadium. They send out Yovanni Gallardo against the  Yankees’ Michael Pineda. Like Sabathia, Pineda has pitched his best in his last two starts, after the season was pretty much lost. Toronto will end their regular season with a weekend in Boston. It will be the Red Sox’ 21-game winner Rick Porcello perhaps pitching for the Cy Young award. The Mets send out Robert Gsellman in tonight’s game against the Phillies.   He may end up pitching the wild card game Wednesday against the Phillies if the Mets can’t go with either Noah Syndergaard or Bartolo Colon. As the Tigers try to beat out the Orioles or Blue Jays, they get to play a weekend series in Atlanta, a much softer assignment than their two counterparts have as they face each other. The Cardinals, still hoping for a wild card in the NL face Pittsburgh as the Giants and Dodgers clash in the city by the bay. Rich Hill, who has been troubled by blisters since the Dodgers claimed him faces Madison Bumgarner.

The Dodgers’ closer Kenley Jansen is 29 today. He calls home Willemstad, Curacao. That island is a Dutch territory, and he has twice represented Holland in the World Baseball classic.  We had a man from Curacao with us on the 2000 Charleston RiverDogs.  He was also the team barber, and taught me one expression in Dutch. Unlike one of my Spanish-speaking friends, the expression our man taught me wasn’t a curse word.  Jansen was a catcher from 2005 when he was signed until 2009 when he was converted to pitching, which makes what he’s done on the hill that much more remarkable.  He’s piled up 181 saves since mid-2010 when he reached the show with the Dodgers, his only team. This season he was an All-Star fror the first time. He was dogged by heart problems in 2011 and 2012 until a procedure he underwent took care of the issue.

The very colorful Jose Lima was born this day in 1972 and died at 37 of heart issues in May 2010. His personality is more memorable than his 89-102 record or his ERA which was north of 5. In spite of these facts he lasted a dozen years in the show and played in Asia   as late as 2008. Incredibly he won 21 for the Astros in 1999 and was an All-Star that year when the game was played in Boston.  We saw Lima in AA ball when the Tigers played AA in London, Ontario. When he pitched he said it was “LimaTime.”  This lasted even to his final years when he would appear on the Jim Rome sports talk radio show. He made the Tigers major league team in 1994 only a year after we broadcast his games in AA. In 2004 with the Dodgers he shut out the Cardinals on 5 hits in game 3 of the NLDS. Until that day the Dodgers hadn’t won a postseason game since 1988.  Young though he was, Lima had suffered heart problems before a massive attack took his life.

Johnny Podres was born this day in 1932 and died in January 2008 at 75. He had a highly respectable 148–116 record, but that isn’t why he’s mentioned here. He was an All-Star 4 times and was  on 4 World Series winners, but that isn’t why he’s getting his space here.  He’s here because, as an unknown 23-year-old lefty, he and his Dodgers beat the Yankees in game 7 of the 1955 World Series.  It was to be the only time Brooklyn won a World Series.  He was still bleeding Dodger Blue in 1959, 1963 and 1965 when the Los Angeles version of the Dodgers won the World Series. His 2-0 win in game 7 in 1955 got him the World Series MVP award for that year. He had also shut down the Yankees in game 3, played on his birthday that year and keeping the Dodgers in a series where they had lost the first two games. There had not been a World Series MVP before 1955 and he received one of the earliest Chevy Corvettes made. He spent 23 seasons as a pitching coach for several big league teams. Among the vast number of pitchers he worked with were Frank Viola and postseason hero Curt Schilling.

Hall of Famer Robin Roberts was born this day in 1926 and died in May of 2010. He put up 286 wins against 245 losses between 1948 and 1966. He struck out close to 2400 men. He was an All-Star 7 times, all while with the Phillies. It took 4 ballots but he reached the Hall of Fame in 1976, by coincidence the same year the Phillies played postseason ball for the first time since 1950. With Curt Simmons suddenly called into the Army, Roberts had to pitc 3 games in 5 days for the Phillies to win the 1950 pennant. With the final win, during which Dick Sisler hit a 3-run home run in the 10th, Roberts became a 20-game winner. The Phillies hadn’t had one of those since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1917. He pitched and lost game 2 of the World Series on a 10th-inning home run wallop by Joe DiMaggio. Roberts won 28 in 1952, the most since Dizzy Dean pulled that off in 1935. He spent one year, 1976 doing TV color commentary for the pennant-winning Phillies, then coached for nearly a decade at University of South Florida in Tampa, near the Phillies’ spring training base in Clearwater. His team, the USF Bulls made their first ever NCAA baseball appearance in 1982. No other pitcher beat the Braves in all 3 cities where they have played–Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.  He beat Atlanta while with the Cubs in 1966, their inaugural season in the Peach state. The Phillies had never retired a number until 1962, when they retired his number 36. He was playing with the Orioles and playing well when his number went up on the wall at Connie Mack Stadium. In an era when even greats like Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra needed jobs in the offseason, Roberts was no exception.  He was president of the Gold King Seafood shrimp company.  He fooled the panel of “What’s My Line,” on a 1957 show.  They knew him for a ball player but had no idea he doubled as top man for a shrimp company.

 

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