A No-No in the Northland, a Donnybrook in the Desert

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Wednesday, May 9.

It’s been a short season of feast or famine around the big leagues.  Either there’s nothing to write, or there are more items than I can fit in one column.  Last night was one of those super-size nights.  In the grand tradition, the Yankees and Red Sox battled it out until the last man was standing with the Yankees winning 3–2. The Mets found a sucker for Matt Harvey and shipped him to the Reds for Devin Misoraco, a catcher.  The Mets would have taken on Blockade Billy Blakeley to catch if he were a real person and not a figment of Stephen King’s imagination.  Devin Misoraco is starting today, and whether he turns out to be good or bad, the Mets desperately needed a catcher with some experience, considering Travis D’Arnaud is done for the year and the emerging Kevin Plawecki broke his hand and isn’t expected back until July by those in the know. Now, Tom Nito who has been overmatched can return to AAA.

The truly amazing events of the evening came from two cities that have only had baseball because of expansion.  In Toronto, where baseball only began in 1977 Seattle pitcher James Paxton hurled a no-hitter at the Blue Jays.  Hours later and a continent away, the Diamondbacks, who joined the National League in 1998 beat the tradition-laden Dodgers 8-5 in a 12-inning treat for the Phoenix faithful.

James Paxton came into last night’s game on a roll.  Last Wednesday, he had struck out 16 Astros only to have his team lose the game once he left. This time he threw a bare 99 pitches en route to a 5-0 no-hitter over the Blue Jays. Greg Maddux would be proud of that.  While throwing few pitches, his last was as blazing fast as his first–a 100 MPH heater at the end. That would bring a smile to the stony visage of Randy Johnson.

Paxton is a giant of a man.  At six feet 7, his teammates call him “The Big Maple,” both because he’s the size of a tree and because he hails from north of the border. While a native of Richmond, British Columbia, he went to high school in a smaller town in that province, Ladner.  Since college baseball as we know it isn’t played beyond our northern border, Paxton sought stiff competition here, and found it at the University of Kentucky.  The teams from LSU and University of South Carolina offered him stiffer tests on a weekly basis than today’s Marlins or Reds would. The Mariners took him in round 4 of the 2010 draft and he was in the show by September, 2013. He lost most of two seasons with injuries but came into his own when he was most needed.  In mid-2016 King Felix Hernandez suffered the first of a string of injuries that still hamper him.  Paxton leapt into the breech and earned a spot in the rotation he has held onto when he’s been healthy.   Paxton  went 3-0 in April and 6-0 in July 2017, but lost most of the rest of the year to an injury. Now Paxton is the first man to strike out 16 men and throw a no-hitter in the same week since Nolan Ryan, at age 44 did it in the same game on May 1, 1991 as a Texas Ranger.  His hapless victims?  The Toronto Blue Jays.

Only one other Canadian has thrown a no-hitter.  It won’t be the one you’re thinking of.  It wasn’t Ferguson Jenkins, as great as he was, and he’s a Hall of Famer.  The Canadian who first twirled  a no-hitter was one Dick Fowler, pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1945 against the St. Louis Browns (today’s Baltimore Orioles.)  Also, no Mariners’ hurler has pitched a no-hitter away from Seattle.

I believe I mentioned when writing about Max Scherzer’s 15 K’s out of 19 outs that the record of 20 may fall one day this season.  Now from Sports Illustrated comes information I didn’t have when I wrote as I did.  The American League’s batting average up to now is .244.  Since 1900, only 1908, 1967 and 1968 were seasons when the league hit as poorly as it is hitting now. Further, 22.7 of the outs made are strikeouts-a higher number than ever. From 2008 on, every year the K percentage has gone higher as hitters try to get more $$ by hitting home runs. In counterpoint, in 2003 a 95 MPH heater was about the best a hitter would see.  Now, Paxton usually threw around 97 MPH and touched 100 with the penultimate pitch in the 9th inning.  He worked fast as well, a throwback to the days of Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton who worked like lightning.  I couldn’t tweet as fast as Paxton could retire hitters, and believe me I tried in that last inning.

In a game that began as Paxton’s no-hitter was wrapping up, the Dodgers and D-Backs put on a great show with both teams scoring heavily on their opponent. The Dodgers’ starter was Rich Hill, recently activated from the DL. He got a rude welcome.  AJ Pollock blasted a 2-run home run in the first, with Chris Owings following suit in the third with nobody on base and John Ryan Murphy doing the same an inning later. Meantime the D-Backs starter Zach Godley was as good as he had to be. Yasmani Grandal hit an ungodly shot, as a home run is sometimes called, which cut the lead to 3-2 after 2 innings. The home runs by Owings and Murphy kept Godley ahead though it was 5-4 when he left. It stayed that way until the 9th when Brad Boxberger was touched up for a solo home run to knot the game at 5 in the 9th. Enrique Hernandez was the unlikely Dodger hero of the moment.  after two tense extra innings, the visitors broke it open for keeps in the 12th when Daniel DeScalso sent a 3-run home run out of the lot to provide the final score of 8–5.

There will be a number of afternoon games today.  As I write this, the Mets and Reds are about to start. The Brewers host the Tigers at 1 PM, and an hour later the Rangers take on the Tigers in Arlington. Both Chicago teams are at home and playing in daylight.  The Pirates visit the White Sox while the Marlins face the Cubs.  The Angels and Rockies have a matinee in Denver, as do the Astros and A’s in Oakland. This is Gerrit Cole’s next outing for Houston after striking out 16 Mariners last Friday night.   The rest of the schedule takes place at night. The highlight is another meeting of the Yankees and Red Sox.  Boston sends out Rick Porcello though he has done poorly at Yankee Stadium.  The Yanks counter with Masahiro Tanaka.

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