Orioles’ New Boom Boom Mancini Lands Left Hook and Straight Right to KO Pirates in 11; In AA Akron Scores 21 runs in a 7-inning game

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Thursday, June 8.

It’s been 35 years since Ray Boom Boom Mancini electrified the boxing world, winning the lightweight championship that was denied his father because of World War II. He won the title with a 1-round knockout in May 1982.   6 months later he became a worldwide name for the worst possible reason.  His opponent in a world title bout, Duk Koo Kim died of injuries inflicted during a 14-round thriller of a bout.   the undue panic caused by this tragedy put an end to 15-round boxing matches.  Now, at least for a night Baltimore fans who remember Boom Boom can call their Trey Mancini “Boom Boom,” because of home runs hit in the 9th and 11th innings of a 9-6 walk-off win over Pittsburgh last night. The O’s had also won the night before in walkoff fashion thanks to a single by Mark Trumbo.

Mancini, 25 is in fact no relative to the boxer immortalized in Warren Zevon’s song “Boom Boom Mancini.”  He is in fact Joseph Anthony Mancini of Winterhaven, Florida. While he grew up there he played college ball at Notre Dame-and believe me, when the Fighting Irish won one for the Gipper it wasn’t a baseball game.  The Domers from South Bend are better known for women’s hoops than they are for baseball.

That being said the O’s took Mancini in the 8th round of the draft 4 years ago and now he’s at the top. He was a late-season call-up a year ago and homered in his first 3 games, which only 2 others have done. after a dozen games he had 7 career home runs-reminiscent of Trevor Story a year ago.  If the Orioles’ Joe Angel knew of this piece the nickname Boom Boom would be a natural for this young slugger.

The story value is there.  The O’s were down 6-1 to the Pirates early on and Mancini wasn’t even in the lineup. It was still 6-2 in the 9th with two birds on base.  The Pirates turned to closer Tony Watson.  But closing has not been elementary for our dear Watson, not this year.  Tuesday he had blown his fourth save of the year and he was in no better form last night. Joey Rickard hit a scoring fly ball and J.J. Hardy doubled a run home making it 6-4. Enter Mancini.  Like a 15-round boxing match he and pitcher Watson engaged in a duel to a finish.  The finish, on the 8th pitch was a mighty home run to level the game at 6. Two innings later Wade LeBlanc was the Pirates’ pitcher who fell victim to the new Boom Boom. With two on Mancini launched one out of the lot to send Orioles’ fans home smiling.  Not in 6 years had a man hit a game-tying home run in the 9th or later, then won it with another 4-bagger.  Brian McCann, then of the Braves was the last to do this difficult deed and he did it in 2011.

Without the late heroics, the Birds’ Starting pitcher Wade Miley would have been a loser.  He threw 83 pitches and didn’t survive the third inning giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. Max  Moroff and Elias Diaz each hit two-run doubles which might have resulted in an early KO for the Pirates. Jose Osuna tried to insure the win with a 2-run blast in the 7th.  But the Orioles’ Adam Jones, hero of the recent world Baseball Classic hit a solo shot in the 8th setting the stage for the 9th-inning drama. The Pirates’ starter Chad Kuhl has to take some of the blame.  He barely survived 5 innings walking 4 Birds and giving up 4 hits.  He was fortunate to only allow a run but he couldn’t answer the bell for the 6th.  This caused an already taxed bull pen to work harder than they would have if the starter did his job. Diaz, who hit one of the Pirates’ two-run doubles was catching as the regular pirates’ receiver Francisco Cervelli is on the DL with a concussion.    The Orioles won without the machete of Manny Machado who was injured in the third inning.  He took a spike to his left hand. Knowing the lack of toughness notorious in today’s baseball players he’s probably headed for the DL.

In the minor leagues, doubleheader games are scheduled for 7 innings.  In AA last night, Akron (Indians) was able to put up 21 runs in 7 innings to beat the Portland Sea Dogs (AA Red Sox) 21–4. In my years in AA Akron was the Canton-Akron Indians playing at Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium.  In fact my first AA broadcast was at that stadium.  I can’t put into words the fear I felt that somehow I would mangle the opening line of the broadcast, “Live, from Thurman Munson Memorial Stadium.”  I mangled it just writing it down here but you can’t see the strike-overs. Another memorable night in Canton was when I foolishly allowed a broadcast partner who shall remain nameless to go visit the Football Hall of Fame.  He had strict orders to return to the baseball stadium and be in the booth half an hour before gametime. But when did a kid of 20 obey orders from a gray-beard of 33?  Said broadcaster arrived some five minutes before gametime.  If I had my vision and could have broadcast alone I would have sent him back to the motel.  With no real way to punish him All he got was a lecture questioning his parentage punctuated by many words I couldn’t say on the radio and won’t repeat here.

Since I left AA the team moved to Akron where they were the Aeros, and are now the Rubber Ducks-the most ridiculous nickname in the game perhaps. The major league team is, say 50 miles from Akron so it’s easy to get a AA man to the top if a spare part is needed. The doubleheader last night was played at Hadlock Field in Portland, Maine-a park I jokingly call a Little League park because of its small dimensions. In the 21-4 romp, Francisco Mejia put up 4 hits including 2 home runs and 6 RBIs. Luigi Rodriguez also had 4 hits including a home run and two doubles.  The second game, also scheduled for 7 innings went 8 with the visitors winning 7-6. Rodriguez stroked the home run that would be the winning run. In that game he had 3 out of 4 with the home run and another double. Unlike Washington pitcher Joe Ross who couldn’t last 5 innings in a game his team won 23-5, the Ducks’ pitcher Matt Esparza pitched 6 of the 7 innings in the game his team managed to eke out,  21-4. As small as Portland’s Hadlock Field is the Sea Dogs haven’t given up 21 runs since they took up residence there in 1994. Akron took an inning to measure the Sea Dogs’ starter, then put up 4 in the second.  After an inning to rest they put up 4 in the 4th, 8 more in the fifth, one in the sixth and 4 for good measure in the 7th. The visitors notched 22 safeties and were the beneficiaries of 4 Portland errors and 6 walks.  Elih Villanueva was the unfortunate Sea Dog starter.  He lasted until there was one out in the 4th but gave up 10 hits and 8 runs, 7 of which were earned. His successor did no better.  Williams Jerez finished th4th but only got one man out in the fifth.  In that time he gave up 7 hits and 8 earned runs. Luis Ysla took the rest of the pounding, giving up 5 hits and 5 runs. After the beating they took in the two games last night, Portland has to pull it together in time for an 11 AM start this morning-the earliest start in the minors among 6 daylight affairs today.

The majors will also have their share of games under God’s own daylight.  The Cardinals and Reds meet at 12:35 in Cincinnati in today’s earliest big league start. The Tigers host the Angels just after 1 PM. What fans make the trip will be treated to Tigers’ starter Michael Fulmer who is following on from last year’s Rookie of the Year performance.  That can’t be said of Boston’s Rick Porcello, last year’s Cy Young award winner who got bounced around by the Yankees last night. The Giants and Brewers meet at 2 PM in Milwaukee. The D-Backs host the Padres in a 3:40 PM Eastern time start. From there on any games are night games. Joe Ross, mentioned above faces the O’s in the first game of a 4-game Beltway series. The Red Sox finish out their series in New York after being stunned by CC Sabathia who has managed to win 5 straight decisions for the first time since Heaven knows when. Considering David Price is the Boston starter, the Yankees’ Michael Pineda will have to pitch a lot better than he did last time out against the Jays. 5 runs in 5 innings won’t cut it if Price is on his mettle. The Marlins’ Edinson Volquez has his first start following his Saturday no-hitter. He faces the Pirates who are reeling after back-to-back extra-inning losses to the Orioles. When the White Sox and Rays meet, neither starter finished the third inning in his last time out. Not the Sox’ Derek  Holland, not the Rays’ Jake Odorizzi for whom the word “Odor” goes well with his last outing against the Mariners. One of the game’s youngest starters faces one of its oldest when the Phillies and Braves tangle in Atlanta.  The greenhorn or rookie is the Phillies’ Ben Lively.  The sage is knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.  Lively is 25 while Dickey at 42 was first drafted 3 months after Lively had been born. The Astros have lost 2 in a row against the Royals following their 11-game winning streak.  A win tonight would split the 4-game series. The Twins face the Mariners in a 10 PM start in Seattle.  While James Paxton has returned the rest of the Mariners’ starting pitching staff looks like they came from an open tryout camp.  Christian Bergman gets the nod tonight for Seattle. If your team isn’t mentioned they’re off tonight.  It’s a relatively light Thursday night schedule in the bigs.

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