Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, April 5.
IT appears last night’s best game was witnessed by a tiny crowd of 11,000 at the Oakland Coliseum, a stadium to be abandoned by the NFL’s Raiders for the glitz and gambling of Las Vegas. The Athletics have been trying to get out of there since the place opened and have seldom drawn good crowds. The intimate gathering saw Danny Espinosa of the Angels hit a 3-run home run in the visiting 9th to erase a 6-4 Oakland lead. The A’s had put up a 4-pack in the home 7th but it wasn’t enough.
The feel-good story of the night was the Angels’ starter Matt Shoemaker who was skulled last September in Seattle by a line drive off the bat of Kyle Seager. Shoemaker underwent surgery that awful night to stop bleeding in his brain. Boxers who undergo that surgery routinely die. My oldest nephew had this kind of operation following a horrific car crash and has had great difficulty speaking ever since. Shoemaker returned to the hill and threw 5 good innings which is all MLB seems to ask of any starter these days. He wore an insert under his cap to protect the area where a metal plate was put into his head. Down 6-4 in the 9th and facing Oakland closer Ryan Dull, the Angels got singles from Jefry Marte and Cameron Maybin leading up to the home run from Espinosa, late of the Washington Nationals. This is his first season in LaLaLand. Last night’s star will turn 30 in just under 3 weeks. He is a local from Santa Ana who played college ball for the Long Beach State Dirtbags. Yes, that’s their real name. They were the 49Ers until the name change.
The Yankees won last night after a terrible performance on Opening Day. CC Sabathia got the win in a 5-0 win under the dome in St. Pete. The Yankees put up a 3-spot in the third inning that may have lowered the blood pressure of Bronx fans who were horrified by the poor pitching of Masahiro Tanaka and the 0-for-5 start of Gary Sanchez. Everybody wants Sanchez to avoid the Kevin Maas syndrome and have a good career following an outstanding rookie year in 2016. Sabathia gave up 3 hits over 5 innings and was followed to the hill by Bryan Mitchell, Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. The Rays scored off none of these.
The Royals face the Twins in Minnesota in today’s earliest game at 1 PM Eastern. While he isn’t pitching today the biggest question for the Royals is how Danny Duffy will pitch after his stint with the American team in the World Baseball Classic. Pitcher Seth Lugo of the Mets has a partially torn UCL in his elbow after pitching for Puerto Rico in the Classic. While I hold out that pitchers tear their UCL’s in spring training the overwhelming voice of baseball’s irrational fear says to panic about the classic and never let it be played again for fear of injury. Meantime, the Cubs face the Cardinals in St. Louis in a 1:45 matinee game. The Cubs’ John Lackey faces Lance Lynn of the Cards who hasn’t pitched since 2015 when he underwent Tommy John surgery. The Tigers and White Sox play another daylight game in Chicago at 2 PM Eastern. The visitors were easy winners yesterday behind Justin Verlander. Tanner Roark who was also on the USA team in the World Baseball Classic pitches tonight for the Nats against the Marlins. All eyes will be on him to see if he’s healthy. The Blue Jays have another WBC alum, the Miracle Man as I call him, Marcus Strohman. If anybody can survive that tournament he should be the guy. In New York, the Braves send out Bartolo Colon to face his old teammates with the Mets. I was shocked when they let him go considering their history of injured pitchers. Tonight he faces the DeGrominator, Jacob DeGrom who continues to be my niece Lacey’s favorite player. Chris Sale makes his first start for the Red Sox against the Pirates at Fenway. Surprisingly, while the National League had a team in Boston from 1876-1952 Pittsburgh had never opened the season against a Boston franchise until this past Monday. In Texas, the Indians’ Danny Salazar faces the Rangers’ Cole Hamels. Salazar was an All-Star last year after a 10-3 first half. He was injured much of the second half and wasn’t available during the postseason. The D-Backs look forward to the debut of Taewon Walker who they got from the Mariners in the winter. They’re hoping to avoid losing 90 games again as they did last season and Walker is part of a plan too improve their pitching staff. Last year’s supposed big catch was Shelby Miller who pitched poorly as he had the year before with the Braves.
On this day as I turn 54, Jung-Ho Kang of the Pirates turned 30. The day I turned 30 was the day of the first game of the Florida Marlins’ existence. I was there with my girlfriend Minera as the Marlins beat the Dodgers that day. At 30 I had few regrets whereas Kang probably has many. He was denied a work visa to come back here from Korea after his third drunken driving conviction over there. He isn’t among the Pirates’ 40-man roster.
Former pitcher Brandon Backe is 39 today. I broadcast games of his with the Charleston RiverDogs. That was his first season as a pitcher, 2001 which was a year after we described the games of Josh Hamilton, Carl Crawford, Jorge Cantu and James Shields-all of whom were 18 years old and went on to the majors. Backe (Pronounced BackKey broke in with the DevilRays in 2002 and played parts of 8 seasons until 2009. From 2004–09 he was with the Astros which had him playing some 48 miles from his home town of Galveston. He won game 3 of the 2004 NLDS against the Braves and pitched gallantly in game 5 of the NLDS which the Astros ultimately won over the Cardinals. However the Cardinals took games 6 and 7 to advance to the 2004 World Series. He pitched in the 4th and final game of the 2005 World Series giving 5 hits to the White Sox and striking out 7. Brad Lidge ultimately took the 1-0 loss that night ending the World Series.
Rennie Stennett is 66 today. If he’s remembered at all, the Panamanian is remembered for having a 7-hit game which only two other men have done. he went 7 for 7 as the Pirates destroyed the Cubs 22-0. This occurred on Sept. 16, 1975. He’s the only man since 1900 to go 7 for 7 in a 9-inning game. Stennett spent a decade in the bigs from 1971-81 and hit .274. Most of the time he was with the Pirates, leaving for San Francisco after the Pirates took the 1979 World Series.
Ron Hansen is 79 today. The Nebraska native is known for pulling off an unassisted triple play while he was with the Senators. For his reward he was traded 2 days later to the White Sox. He broke in with the Orioles in 1958 and lasted until 1972. He was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year in 1960. As early as 1957 he had back trouble which shortened his career.0