11 AM MLB Start Unheard of in 2017

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, July 4.

Before night baseball became commonplace, morning games were played on holidays as part of doubleheaders.  The Pirates held on to the tradition into the 1970’s.  Since then, only Patriots’ Day in Boston has been celebrated with morning baseball.  Until today, that is.

The Mets and Nationals meet at 11 A.M. this morning in Washington.  Last night, in a game that began at 6 PM to accommodate fireworks, the host Nationals beat the Mets 3-2 on a walk-off.  The game had gone scoreless into the home half of the 8th inning.  Pitchers Stephen Strasburg and Steven Matz were at the top of their game.  In the home 8th, Michael Taylor hit a 2-run home run which looked like it would give his team the win.  But with a man on and two outs, pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson launched a game-tying home run with two strikes against him.  That wasn’t enough, considering the state of the Mets’ pitching staff.  Paul Sewald might have walked the bases full on 3 batters had not one hitter tried to bunt and made an out. He did eventually fill the bases on free passes after which Fernando Salas gave up the game-winning hit.

There were fireworks both during and after the Mets’ Florida State League game.  The Mets were in Fort Myers facing the Twins’ FSL team, called the Miracle. A fireworks show is a big draw throughout the minors and Fort Myers is no exception.  Then add Tim Tebow, recently promoted to the St. Lucie Mets to the equasion. Friday night the series opener drew 6300.  Saturday was a rainout which probably caused management to use words Tebow would frown on.Sunday night-when most minor league games are lightly attended saw 4,000 people in Fort Myers.  But last night was the crescendo. 250 miles from Gainesville to Fort Myers is a long trip in some cultures, but Tebow fans who remember him from his days at University of Florida will drive 250 miles to see him even if their pickup trucks haven’t passed inspection since Tebow won his last Heisman. The stadium where the Miracle play was renovated 3 years ago, increasing its capacity from 7500 to 9300 for nights like last night.  The announced crowd was almost 9500 and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the real numbers were closer to 11,000. The truly manic fans stayed through a 2-hour rain delay early on which meant the fireworks didn’t get going until past Midnight.  Unlike the Miracle of my day who gave a pathetic performance when we got our biggest crowd, this year’s Miracle pulled a come-from-behind 10-7 win over the visitors in spite of a double and 3 RBIs by Tebow himself. St. Lucie drew first blood on a solo home run by Michael Paez.  The Miracle put up 4 in their half of the first making it 4-1. Outfielder Wuilmer Becera took a page out of Yoenis Cespedes’ outfield play book, butchering a routine fly into a triple in the midst of the uprising. The hitter in question-Kevin Garcia-notched his first ever triple and his first extra base knock of 2017.  The visitors tied the score in the third on a bases-clearing double by the Guest of Honor, if you will.  The Mets held a 7-4 lead heading to the home 7th.  That’s when the Miracle struck for 6 runs to end the scoring. The Mets are but 2–8 in the second half of their season. They return to St. Lucie where, if nothing else they can hope to cash in on having Tebow on hand. It’s their misfortune their park only holds 7100.

With the first pitch just moments away as I write this, the Mets’ Seth Lugo prepares to face the Nationals’ Joe Ross.  Ross may never live down the fact that he couldn’t work 5 innings of the game where his team beat the Mets 23–5.  Their game is the earliest but far from the only day game on this national holiday. The Yankees host the Blue Jays at 1 PM. Instead of competing in the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, CC Sabathia will come off the DL to face the Blue Jays.  He may live to wish he had faced Joey Chestnut instead. The Giants face the Tigers just after 1 PM in Detroit. An hour later the Angels and Twins meet in Minneapolis, as do the Marlins and Cardinals in St. Louis.  The Rays face the Cubs at Wrigley in a 2:20 PM start. In that game, Chris Archer who should be a better pitcher than he is, faces John Lester, one of the few Red Sox I ever rooted for while he played for Boston. Among 4 PM starts the White Sox visit Oakland, the Phillies host the Pirates and the O’s face the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Phillies pulled off a true rarity-a shutout at their home ballpark which is a notorious band box. The Royals face Seattle at 6:40 Eastern, making it a day game in Seattle. Both starters in this one-the Royals’ Danny Duffy and the Mariners King Felix Hernandez-have seen their seasons marred by injuries. In fact this is Duffy’s first start in over a month. Easily the pitching matchup of the night takes place in Arlington, Texas and begins at 8 PM.  The Red Sox’ David Price faces Yu Darvish for the Rangers. With unbalanced scheduling Darvish hasn’t seen the Red Sox in 3 years, missing them while they were cellar dwellers and catching them now as they have gained a substantial lead on the Yankees. The Dodgers put Clayton Kershaw on view against the Diamondbacks, but instead of Zack Greinke he faces Patrick Corbin, one of the D-Backs’ lesser starters. Kershaw hasn’t lost in 11 starts.

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