Auf Wiedersehen Baseball–German-born Kepler Ends Game with Second Homer; Who Said Yanks-Red Sox Rivalry was Dead? San Jose Giants-Cycle Built for Two

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday evening, April 11.

As today’s game began in Minneapolis, the series was even at a game apiece.  The Twins hadn’t won a series from the Astros since 2015.  The Twins built an early 8–1 lead by tallying all 8 runs against the defending World Series champions in the 4th inning. Eddie Rosario, Logan Morrison and Max Kepler drove runs home in that massive rally. Besides Kepler’s home run, Rosario hit a bases-loaded triple in the 4th.  On their mettle the Astros battled back, tying the game at 8.  They put runners on in every inning, keeping the heat on the opposing pitchers.  Finally in the 9th, The Twins’ ageless closer Fernando Rodney committed an error allowing the tying run to cross the plate.  In the home half however, the Twins’ German-born outfielder  Max Kepler hit his second home run of the game and sent everybody home happy.

While soccer will always dominate the mind of the German sporting public, baseball has been played there by amateurs for decades.  A German team came to America and took on the St. Paul Saints when I worked for the Saints in 1997. But digging deeper into the history of the great American game, some of its early players were either born in Germany or were the sons of German immigrants.  In the homes of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, German was the language spoken among family members though the players were both born here.  When he was first introduced to Mom Gehrig, Ruth impressed her by greeting her in her native language. Tommy Henrich, the last surviving teammate of Gehrig was born in Ohio of German parentage.  Fast forward a few decades and you discover that Braves’ infielder Glenn Hubbard, reliever Craig Lefferts, Mariners’ broadcaster Mike Blowers and Tigers’ managerRon Gardenhire hail from Germany.  As baseball has risen again there, the Phillies’ Aaron Altherr and pitcher Edwin Jackson who has pitched for almost everybody  are of German birth. Today’s hero Kepler is the child of two ballet dancers, and was offered a scholarship to a tennis school at age 7. Like any other international player Kepler was eligible to turn pro at age 16, which he did for the Twins.  Unlike most Dominican and Venezuelan players who sign at such a tender age, Kepler received a relatively large signing bonus. He got his first call to the bigs at the tail end of the 2015 season after being Southern League Player of the Year. This isn’t his first walk-off home run at the highest level.  Last year he clouted one, good for 3 runs in the 10th inning off the Red Sox’ Matt Barnes. Facing the Indians on August 1, he hit 3 home runs, which no European-born player had done. He and Miguel Sano are two international players who might blossom into major heroes for the Twins in the near future.

The talking heads you hear on sports radio or TV have been saying for years that there’s no passion in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, and that the rivalry part ended in 2004 when the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino by winning their first World Series since 1918.  I hope the honks who spout that molarkey watched last night’s game.  The game at Fenway featured some good old-fashioned fireworks on yet another frigid  night. The Yankees jumped out to an 8–1 lead but the Sox failed to pick up their cue, fold up their tents and go home for the night. It didn’t help that Masahiro Tanaka served up a meatball to the Sox’ J.D. Martinez with the bases full.  Things got edgy in the 7th inning when Boston’s veteran pitcher Joe Kelly drilled the Yankees’ Tyler Austin in the elbow. Austin slammed his bat and charged the hill, where pitcher Kelly had dropped his glove and was beckoning Austin like it was a street fight in South Boston. In a tradition as old as baseball itself, both benches and bull pens emptied as Kelly and Austin squared off. 3 Yankees and one Red Sox player-the pitcher Kelly-got the thumb from the umpire and may face fines and suspensions going forward. Along with Austin, Yankee pitcher Tommy Khanle and third base coach Phil Nevin were tossed unceremoniously from the game. Kelly and Austin left the field bloodied but unbowed.  Kelly compared his defensive action to what his two dogs would do if somebody ventured onto his property. Austin was driven to exchange punches because he thought he’d been thrown at following a hard clean slide in the third inning. At that time he and the Red Sox’ Brock Holt exchanged words, prompting the benches and bull pens to empty just in case, but fists didn’t fly until the 7th. Oh yeah, there was also a game which the Yankees won 10–7. The beleaguered Giancarlo Stanton who has taken a pounding in the media lately launched a 2-run triple to start the fun.  Gary Sanchez’ first home run of the night put the visitors up 4–0 as J.D. Martinez watched in bewilderment as the ball cleared the Green Monster. It was a 4–0 game and the Sox hadn’t come to bat yet.   Sanchez’ second blast was a “no-doubter” as was Martinez’ grand slam. Boston starter David Price left the game after an inning with his cranky pitching arm troubling him again. To be specific he felt a tingling in his pitching hand.  I’ve felt that sensation and found out it was a problem with my elbow nerve-and I never played the game!  Price’s bad hose (arm) cost him most of last year, and the last thing he or any pitcher wants is to risk their million-dollar arm if it’s hurting and the temp is hovering around freezing.

In the A-ball California League, the San Jose Giants hadn’t had a man hit for the cycle since 2009.  Then last night, in an away game at Lancaster, California two Giants did the unusual feat of collecting all 4 varieties of hit-single, double, triple and home run-in the same game.  In the minors, the game isn’t always about winning.  Orders come down from above and guys have to play, which can be painful if they aren’t doing too well.  Jethawks starter Matt Dennis was hammered for 9 runs in the first two innings, effectively ending his team’s chance to win.   The Giants found themselves in a position to have two men hit for the cycle because the team was destroying the Lancaster Jethawks (Rockies) 18–6.  The visitors put up 25 hits on their way to victory.  The two who hit for the cycle were second baseman Jalen Miller and first sacker Gio Brussa.  Miller hit second in the order while Brussa hit fifth. Brussa completed the cycle with a triple in the 8th, then Miller tripled an inning later. Miller had 5 hits in 7 tries while Brussa, who had 4 hits for the season as the game began hit 4 out of 6 in this one contest. The game was never in doubt, as the visitors put up 4 runs in the first and 5 more an inning later, all off starter and loser Matt Dennis. He now has 2 losses and a 17.18 ERA for the young season. But you don’t stand out in a crowd.  His fellow pitchers Juan Pena and Salvador Justo both got smacked around almost as badly as the starter did. As for the twin cycles, at the big league level two men have hit for the cycle, once in 1920 and once in 2008 but they were opponents.  As far as anybody knows, two teammates have never      hit for the cycle until last night’s game.

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