Not Artistic but An Exciting Night in San Francisco

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Saturday,  July 22.

You can have grand opera or a Johnny Cash prison concert, and both are called music by their millions of fans.  You can have the Monaco Grand Prix or the Indy 500 and followers of both are race fans.  You can have lobster or a Cuban sandwich.  Thursday night’s game between the Yankees and Mariners was a joy to lovers of old-fashioned baseball.  Last night’s wild 12-9 win in 11 innings by the Padres over the Giants might offend the wine and cheese crowd but it would leave Joe Sixpack and his chronies yelling for more.

As I mentioned when spotlighting the game in yesterday’s edition, neither of these teams has a hope in Hell for 2017.  The San Diego Padres knew it but have played better than my estimation while the Giants have entirely come off the rails.  Last night proved both of my points. The faithful who were there watched as rally followed rally.  First the homestanding Giants took a 5-1 lead over their visitors from the city near the Mexican border. The Padres’ early play might make you think of the 1962 Mets who I thought the San Diego 9 would resemble when 2017 began. They were down 4-0, 5-1 and 6-2 and all that before inning number 5 started.  But the Padres showed stout hearts in the face of defeat.  They built a 9-6 lead and almost had the game salted away when Conor Gillaspie of the Giants stepped to the dish with 2 out in the 9th. The game was still 9-7 in favor of the Padres and one Giant was aboard as Conor faced the Padres’ closer Brandon Maurer.   This is the same Conor Gillaspie whose name is a dirty word to Mets’ fans.  He hit a 3-run home run last year in the NL wild card game sending the Mets home for the winter.  As he did on that night, he launched a drive out of sight to tie this game at 9 all.  The Padres saw 3 of their own-Matt Szczur (pronounced Caesar) Jose Pirela and Carlos Asuaje each put up 4 hits before the nnight was done. Each of those 3 modern musketeers drove home a run in the final 3-run rally in the top of the 11th. From the bull pen Hunter Strickland took a particular pounding.  He gave up 6 hits and 3 runs in just 1.1 innings.  George Kontos was the Giants’ 7th pitcher and he took the heat and the defeat. All told 20 hits came off Padres’ bats off the beleaguered Giants’ staff.  It didn’t help that the Giants walked 6 men on top of all the hits that were slammed off their futile efforts.  The Giants scored their 9 runs with the benefit of only 11 hits. They were assisted by 5 walks.  After chasing starter Trevor Cahill with 2 gone in the 4th, the Giants had little luck against the next 4 Padres’ pitchers who are a modernday no-name defense.  But Maurer the closer let his team down and was picked up by Phil Maton who earned his second win in relief in his first 6 weeks in the show. He would be a long shot to make it on any team but the Padres.  He was taken in round 20 of the draft in 2015, and taken from Louisiana Tech.  That school is known for one thing only-their women’s basketball team which for some 30 years was a force in women’s college hoops. But Maton figuratively burned buildings down everywhere the Padres sent him.  He was so skilled that he skipped AA and went directly to AAA El Paso after a stint in A ball in 2016. He and his mates, along with the Giants will have no rest as they play at 4 PM Eastern following their long night’s work last night.

The Eastern division leading Nationals faced the D-Backs in another exciting game last night, this one in Phoenix with the home team winning 6-5 on a walk-off single.  You may have just caught the first inning when Max Scherzer did the unthinkable.  He gave up home runs to the first 3 men he saw-David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb.  Hardly a murderers’ row there but they were powerful enough to put the Snakes ahead of the Nats 3-0 early on. The D-Backs weren’t through.  They made it 5-0 in the home second.  Scherzer somehow found his groove and it was only a 5-4 game when he left. Wilmer Difo tied it at 5 on an RBI grounder in the 8th. But in the 9th Pollock hit a booming triple off Enny Romero to start a rally.  Following 2 intentional passes to Jake Lamb and Paul Goldschmidt, Brandon Drury singled home the game winner.

No matter what I think of the Red Sox I have to tip my hat to Chris Sale.  On his last pitch last night in Anaheim he struck out his 200th man.  Only 3 men had struck out 200 in 20 or fewer starts until Sale became the 4th.  One of the 3 was not Sandy Koufax, not even in the year he struck out 382 men.  The 3 in question were Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Johnson In fact did the deed 3 times.  He and Sale are the two lefties in this exclusive quartet. In his 20 starts he’s 12-4 which makes you wonder how 4 teams managed to beat him. If he carries on, Red Sox fans will start saying of the team’s other costly lefty “David who?”

On today’s slate the Padres and Giants in fact play the earliest game.  Nothing moves in the majors before 4 PM today. The Padres’ Luis Perdomo barely lasted 2 innings last time but he owes it to his team to survive if nothing else in today’s game.  The same can be said of Matt Moore.  He worked 7 innings last time and his team are desperate for him to do the same or better considering the abuse they took last night. The Cards and Cubs also meet in a 4 PM start. From there, the rest of the action comes at night. For the first time all season long Collin McHugh will go for Houston. He’s had elbow trouble and been on the shelf from the start. While the Orioles’ pitching is in shambles their hitters aren’t exactly an easy first assignment for McHugh. The Mets send out Zack Wheeler against the A’s Sean Manaea in a 7:10 start tonight. While Manaea is as consistent a starter as Oakland has, Wheeler’s outings have been wildly unequal. His 2 outings against Oakland have been poor with an ERA just north of 9. Toronto’s best pitcher Marcus Stroman faces the Indians’ Danny Salazar.  The Indians sent him out on a wing and a prayer in late May and soon enough he was back on the DL with the shoulder trouble he has faced since last year. The Pirates’ Chad Kuhl (Cool) had better keep his cool as he faces the Rockies in Denver. He’s never faced the task of pitching at Coors Canaveral but it’s his turn in the barrel tonight. The D-Backs’ Anthony Banda makes his MLB debut in Phoenix against the Nationals. He’s two weeks shy of turning 24.  He was a Brewers’ 10th-round draftee in 2012 out of San Jacinto Junior College in Texas.  He and Mitch Haniger went to the D-Backs in 2014.  Arizona had tried to take Banda right out of high school but their 30th-round pick was not enough to keep him out of college. The Red Sox send David Price to the hill in Anaheim. He missed the first two months.  Had he stayed healthy he and Sale could be neck and neck in the league’s strikeout race and the Cy Young voting.

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