Maybe These Aren’t Last Year’s D-Backs; Heart Pounding Action in the Texas League that wasn’t Written by Larry McMurtry

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday, May 27.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been surprisingly good out of the gate, following yet another horrible year last year when they lost over 90 games.  Other than A.J. Polack (who’s hurt again by the way,) they had basically the same material to work with, including a starter in Shelby Miller who has required Tommy John surgery. Last night’s 4-2 win in Milwaukee was the latest in a number of surprising wins for the D-Backs.  Meantime, not so far away from the majors the AA Athletics and Royals put on what Dizzy Dean would have called ‘a real slugger’s fest,”  when he and Pee Wee Reese called games on TV.

It wasn’t so long ago folks were acting like this year’s Milwaukee Brewers, the Brew Crew were the ’61 Yankees of Mantle and Maris after they destroyed a Mets’ team destined for a bad 2017.  But the Brewers’ jolt of reality that started against San Diego continued last night. D-Backs catcher Chris Ianetta, recently off the DL following a concussion launched a game-tying home run with two  out in the 9th off the Brewers’ closer Corey Knebel. The D-Backs put up a deuce in the 10th on a run-scoring wild pitch and a booming double off the bat of Jake Lamb. That’s 10 wins out of 11 for the team from the Valley of the Sun. Meantime the Brewers are flat as an hour-old beer, having lost 5 straight. Lamb had homered earlier in the contest, making it 7 games out of 10 in which he’s performed more like a lion than his namesake. It won’t get any better for the humbled Brewers as they face Zack Greinke today.

Meanwhile in the AA Texas League, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (AA Royals) pulled one out of the fire at home with an 11-10 walk-off win against the Midland Rockhounds (AA Athletics.)For starters the home team had a 4-0 lead before the visitors’ bats (which had apparently gotten lost in the luggage) showed up with a vengeance. Midland put up 2 in the 5th and one in the 6th. After the Naturals put up 2 in their half of the 6th to make it 6-3 the visitors produced a 7-run explosion in the 7th to make it a 10-6 game. The huge inning was capped off by a grand slam off the bat of Viosergy Rosa. It happens that the 26-year-old career minor leaguer had also homered earlier in the contest.     Most teams would pack it in at that point, but not the Naturalls on this particular night. The team, whose name evokes memories of the old baseball movie with Robert Redford mounted a rally to make Roy Hobbs smile, although the walkoff was not a home run. The Naturals (who were almost named the Thunder Chickens in 2008) put up 2 in the 8th and 3 in the 9th to send the fans home happy. Their centerfielder Donnie Dewees JR. drilled a 2-run single for the win. Before Dewees’ winning hit, Alfredo Escalera (no relative to the former boxing champion) singled home a run to make it a 10-9 game. To start things off Jack Lopez homered in the last of the first.  Zane Evans hit a 2-run dinger in the 4th to make it 4-0. Lopez hit his second bomb of the night with a man on in the 8th. Some 5300 were there to see the Naturals, who had been the Wichita Wranglers until the start of 2008.

The Yankees and Oakland have today’s earliest start at 1 PM.  Last night, Masahiro Tanaka pitched much better than in his last two brutal outings but still lost as the Yankees left their bats home. He only gave up a run but the bull pen gave up 3 which gave Oakland their margin of victory. Oakland’s Jharel Cotton was recently demoted to AAA Nashville, but did so well in the land of cotton that he returned to the majors. He faces CC Sabathia has actually won his last 2 outings.  He hasn’t won 3 straight starts in 4 years and I admit I’ve surmised that he was finished in this forum. Texas and Toronto also play at 1 PM in Toronto in a game featuring playoff teams that have met the last couple of seasons. The Rangers’ Yu Darvish is 4-0 in his last 6 outings.  His foe Marco Estrada whiffed a dozen Orioles his last time out. The Tigers and White Sox have an old-fashioned single-admission doubleheader at Comiskey Park II in Chicago. In the second game the White Sox turn to Tyler Danish, and I hope they got coffee when he arrived from AAA Charlotte.  He proved he couldn’t pitch at that level, so why not bring him to the top to face last year’s Rookie of the Year, Michael Fulmer. Both the Red Sox and Mariners are starting minor leaguers in their game at Fenway. The Mariners, whose pitching woes have been well documented turn to 23-year-old Rob Whalen who had almost a 7 ERA a year ago with Atlanta and did little better at AAA Tacoma to open this season.  Brian Johnson who starts for the Sox has bounced around like a yo-yo considering their AAA team is in Pawtucket which is basically just down the street. The Marlins, whose name symbolizes pitching desperation turn to Vance Worley who somehow was passed over by both the Mets and Mariners in their search for pitchers with pulses. Worley in fact has a 33-30 record, better than that of the Mets’ celebrated Matt Harvey. But he’s been on 5 teams in 7 years. He faces the Angels today in Miami. The Mets, who finally won a game last night behind Jacob DeGrom turn to Zack Wheeler tonight. He and DeGrom are the Mets’ version of “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain.”  Other than those two the Mets have nobody they can trust.  Their hopes for Seth Lugo took a nose-dive when the pitcher on rehab had to go on the 60-day DL. Their spin doctors say it’s “Bookkeeping,” but I’ve tried that dodge and it never worked. The Mets have brought up pitcher Tyler Pill, and they hope he’s the wonder drug that cures all your ills, to quote Ray Stevens.  The Braves and Giants have the only truly late game.  The Braves won 2-0 last night in a game every bit as dull as I thought it would be.

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