Hi all. Here’s how I see baseball on this Monday, July 31.
The Dodgers carved out yet another late win in this amazing season they’re building. Meantime two teams bound for oblivion-the Jays and Athletics-each gave their fans something to cheer about with late wins.
Yet again in 2017 the Dodgers have written another script the old Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille wouldn’t touch. They already have more than 70 wins and had won 7 in a row coming into last night’s ESPN game against the Giants. The streak started the day before their best pitcher-that is, the best pitcher on Earth-Clayton Kershaw went down with an injury that could keep him out until the postseason and that’s being kind. Their streak seemed doomed as they went to the last of the 9th down 1-0. Their bats had been silenced by Madison Bumgarner and it didn’t matter what I wrote yesterday of his diminished velocity. The Dodgers couldn’t touch him. But in the end the perfidy of Bumgarner was his undoing. In any other year he would not be pulled after 7 innings with a shutout going. But, coming back off smashing his dirt bike and nearly smashing up his career Bumgarner could only go 7 and that wasn’t enough. His team got him a run in the top of the 8th as Conor Gillespie homered off the Dodgers’ Josh Fields. But In the home 9th Chase Utley in spite of his age beat out a bunt and stole second. From there Yasiel Puig singled him home. It was all too easy. But wait, the Giants made it a 2-1 game in the top of the 11th on an RBI hit by Joe Panik which should have caused widespread panic and a frantic exit from Dodger Stadium. But these fans know the 2017 Dodgers too well to leave with the team down a run in extra innings. Though two men were on base any other team’s chance would be small considering lowly rookie Kyle Farmer was coming to the plate. This was his first major league atbat. He was a boy among men who he had seen on baseball cards. ESPN doesn’t show games from Oklahoma City where the Dodgers’ AAA team plays. This was the biggest stage a rookie could imagine. Somehow the novice hit a booming double. In my mind I can hear Red Barber’s cry of “Here comes the tying run, and here comes the_ winning_ run_.” That was an actual call the Ol’ Redhead made 70 years ago but it could have been made last night as Farmer’s double brought yet another win to a Dodgers’ team for the ages. Their record is an insane 74–31. Not since Darren Dreifort in 1994 had a Dodger gotten a walk-off hit for his first MLB hit and in 1994 the term “walk-off” was just beginning to be used.
Have we been here before? Last Friday I wrote about Steve Pearce winning Thursday’s Blue Jays game with a walk-off grand slam. I remember writing that I doubted decent salami could be gotten north of the border for love or money. In the land of exceptional beer and substandard food, a second walkoff grand salami was sent out of the park at Rogers Center and again it was Steve Pearce doing the deed. Pearce is a 34-year-old utility man from Lakeland, Florida-another town far away from the land of salami, provolone and prosciuto. Originally the Pirates drafted him from University of South Carolina. He’s been in the game for a decade including 3 separate hitches with the Orioles who first acquired him for cash from the Yankees in 2012. The last 4 days have produced 2 walk-off grand slams by this particular baseball nobody. Only Cy Williams of the 1926 Phillies and Jim Presley with the Mariners in 1986 had hit two walk-off grand slams in the same season much less in the same week. Just by the way Jim Presley had been Steve Pearce’s hitting coach in 2014 with the Orioles when the Lakeland native had his best year. Thursday Pearce’s blast beat the A’s 8-4 in 11. Yesterday if possible the drama was even higher. The Jays entered the 9th down 10–4 to the Angels. No Jays’ team had been down 6 in the 9th and won. Against pitcher Brooks Pounders, Kevin Pillar’s two-run home run cut the Angels’ lead to 10-6. With the score 10-7 Pearce stepped in against former teammate Bud Norris with the bases full. He launched a “no-doubter” unlike Thursday’s slam which barely hit the foul pole. Josh Donaldson of the Jays ended 3 games in 2015 with walk-off home runs but they weren’t hit with the bases full. Pearce’s historic moment undid all the good work by the angels’ Albert Pujols (2 home runs) and Andrelton Simmons (two-run double.)In spite of Pearce’s best effort the team is 49-56 while the losing Angels are now 51-55.
Even the league’s worst team can give its fans a thrill for a day. That’s what makes baseball the most compelling if not always the most exciting of all the major sports. Oakland, by anybody’s yardstick the worst team the American League has to offer pulled off a 12-inning 6-5 win over a Twins’ team which was a contender until this week. They had traded for Jaime Garcia only to trade him when their fortunes turned. They’ve now lost 6 of 7 including 5 of 6 on the west coast. Yesterday the Twins were up 5-0 early against embattled A’s starter Jharel Cotton. Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar took Cotton out of the park in the first inning alone and he was gone in the fourth. But Oakland’s bull pen proved stout as their offense chipped away. In the home 8th rookie Matt Chapman’s 2-run double tied things at 5.
Joe Smith kept the Twins off the board in the 11th and 12th. In the home half Yonder Alonso, topic of trade talk second only to Sonny Gray in the East Bay hit a walk-off solo home run which, if he is traded will be a fond farewell to Baseball Hell. He now has 22 home runs for the 2017 season.
The Phillies and Braves meet in a rare Monday afternoon game in Philadelphia. Other than that all games are under the lights and after the trade deadline of 4 PM Eastern. The Tigers are slated to start Michael Fulmer in the Bronx although they’ve been shopping him. Either way the Yankees go with Luis Severino, who appeared worthless after an 0-8 2016 season. Now all the gold in Fort Knox wouldn’t coax him away from the second Yankee Stadium on 161st Street. In Baltimore The Royals go with Danny Duffy who I also heard had been on the trading block. The Orioles are so dreadful their quality play-by-play broadcaster Joe Angel had to take an unheard-of two–week vacation just to survive. The Red Sox hope for anything good from Doug Fister against the Indians. Up to now he’s been a disaster but they need him with David Price and his high-maintenance elbow on the DL again. The Mariners will start King Felix Hernandez against the Rangers’ Cole Hamels. Neither Hamels nor Yu Darvish have been traded as of 8 AM Eastern when I’m writing this. In Chicago, The Blue Jays start Marco Estrada whom they haven’t been able to move as of now. Oakland is supposed to start Sonny Gray when they face the Giants at 10 PM tonight but by then he may be headed for the Bronx. By the time I return to the computer later today much may have changed. My best suggestion is to follow me on twitter and/or join my Facebook group which is also conveniently called Baseball As I See It. My twitter handle is taffy6578.0