Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Sunday, July 23.
It won’t help them make the playoffs but for a night both the Mets and Giants showed a flash of what they should have been and hope to be again. The Mets, down 5-0 after another marginal performance by Zack Wheeler staged a late rally and won 6–5 on Wilmer Flores’ walk-off home run in the 9th. On the other coast, after losing in 11 innings on Friday night the Giants, arguably baseball’s worst team bettered the Padres 5-4 in a dozen frames.
The game In San Francisco was the earlier of the two though as it moved along it overlapped the start of the Mets’ game. The Padres got out to a 4-1 lead thanks to pitcher Luis Perdomo’s 2-RBI triple. It was his third of the year. No pitcher had as many as 3 triples since the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis managed it a decade ago. But the Giants bounced back with the help of an error by the Padres’ shortstop Allen Cordoba. They scored 3 times in the last of the 4th. Neither team scored for 7 innings. Remember, these same two teams went 11 innings Friday night with the Padres taking a 12-9 decision. This time it was the Giants who prevailed in the 12th. The Giants’ backup Nick Hundley, a former Padre in his own right launched an RBI hit off pitcher Kevin Quackenbush to end things. 4 Padres’ relievers held the fort until Quackenbush gave up the winning run. Had the Padres scored in the extra frames Brandon Maurer would have been chosen. Other than Maurer, Quackenbush was the last possible pitcher for the day.
By the time the game ended on the west coast, if you tuned in to the Mets’ game you would have found them behind 5-0. 4 Oakland runs scored before the Mets got up to bat. Starter Zack Wheeler lasted 5 innings but gave up all the runs early and hasn’t won a start since before Memorial Day. The Mets, whose window that opened with the 2015 World Series has slammed shut thanks to constant injuries to their pitching. Their general manager is looking to unload what he has and get what he can. But starting in the 6th inning the Mets showed a flash of the magic from 2015. Wilmer Flores, who was almost traded in July 2015 began with the 6th with a ringing double and scored on Jay Bruce’s 25th home run of this ill-starred Mets season. Jose Reyes then tripled for the second time in the game and later came on to score with Travis D’Arnaud getting a rare RBI. Michael Conforto finished the rally with an RBI-double bringing home Curtis Granderson making it a one-run game at 5-4. Two innings later, Lucas Duda came off the bench with an RBI single tying the game. None of the Mets’ relief corps-Josh Smoker, Josh Edgin or Hansel Robles gave up a run. For his efforts Hansel Robles ultimately got the win and is now 6-1. This is the case because in the 9th, as he did two days after his near-trade to Milwaukee Flores hit a home run to give the Mets the 6-5 win. Simon Castro was the Oakland pitcher who gave up the second walk-off home run of Flores’ career.
A lot of last night’s heroes may have Allied Van Lines on speed dial-Duda, Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera and Addison Reed who somehow didn’t worke from the bull pen last night. Even starter Jacob DeGrom may go and the word is Houston wants him in a major way. But Flores isn’t part of any trade talk around Flushing. Most of the nearly 40,000 who jammed Citi Field last night love Flores. He’s been a Met as man and boy since 2007 and was seen openly crying on the night he was nearly traded. His home run two nights later off the Washington Nationals’ Felipe Rivero was a script no Hollywood movie writer would take, not even when movies like “Pride of the Yankees” were being made. Flores’ story would have been too corny for even those oldtime moviemakers to swallow. But it happened that night in 2015 and was repeated in last night’s Mets’ victory.
As always, most of the Sunday slate is in the afternoon. That makes Sunday columns a challenge to any scribe with a religious commitment. For the relatively few players who have found God, all teams offer baseball chapel. When the prayers are said, then it’s “Play ball.” The Reds and Marlins have today’s earliest start at 1:10 PM in Cincinnati. Both Marllins’ starter Tom Koehler and Reds’ hurler Sal Romano did poorly in their last outings. The same can be said of the two starters in the Athletics game at Citi Field. Their rookie Daniel Gossett and the Mets’ Rafael Montero who is anything but a rookie both underperformed their last time out and neither has done well overall. Montero would have been on the same plane to Nowhere with Neil Ramirez if only the Mets could find an available pitcher with a pulse. On the other side of the coin, both Blue Jays’ starter J.A. Happ and the Indians’ Corey Kluber have been hot as the July sun over the last couple of months. They tangle today at what should still be Jacobs Field in Cleveland. The Indians are coming off a walk-off win thanks to a home run by Francisco Lindor. The Brewers and Phillies meet in Philly with the home team still feeling stung by yesterday’s 9th-inning 9-8 loss. The Phillies had battled from 8-1 down at stretch time to tie it as the 9th began but they gave up a go-ahead home run and never came back. The Brewers start Junior Guera. I found out that if a Latin calls himself Junior it’s paying homage to his father. He faces Jerad Eickhoff today in the city of brotherly love. Neither the White Sox’ Derek Holland nor the Royals’ Travis Wood have done much to be proud of as they take the hill today in Kansas City. One thing I’ll give the Royals-their ball park is still Kauffman Stadium and does not bear the name of some transient business. This year marks 45 years in business for “The K” as the locals call the stadium. The Pirates’ Ivan Nova is just the kind of pitcher any team would want if they had to play at Coors Canaveral which the Pirates do today. He gets mostly grounders and rarely serves up a gopher ball. He faces Denver native Kyle Freeland who had a no-hitter going into the 9th in his last start two weeks ago. Since he didn’t get it the Rockies have still never thrown a no-hitter at their home, a notorious pitcher’s graveyard. Having played back-to-back extra-inning games the Padres and Giants are beyond desperate for their starters to go deep. The Padres ask the impossible of Dinelson Lamet, who they hope is a star in the making. The Giants pray for innings from Ty Blach who has more than held his own since the perfidy of Madison Bumgarner. The Braves’ rookie phenom Sean Newcomb locks horns with the best in the business, Clayton Kershaw. The Yankees turn to Caleb Smith, whose MLB debut was a loss coming from their bull pen. The Huntsville, Texas native will turn 26 Friday and is one of a dozen Yankees to make their MLB debut in 2017. His alma mater, Sam Houston State (also where Dan Rather was educated) made it to the NCAA super regionals this past baseball season. He faces an old hand in Yovani Gallardo of the Mariners. The Cardinals meet the Cubs at Wrigley in this week’s ESPN Sunday night game. Both Michael Wacha of the Cardinals and the Cubs’ new plaything Jose Quintana were on top of their games the last time out.