Very Late Show in Omaha; Gators Survive and Advance

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Friday, June 22.

If you went to bed before, say 10:30 last night you would have thought Florida had won a rather dull victory over Texas Tech in the College World Series.  Those who held out until the finish got a show.  Though Texas Tech could never quite catch the Gators, they certainly kept them interested.  With the score 5-0 in the last of the 7th, the Red Raiders rallied for 3 runs.  The Gators, on their mettle answered back with 3 more to make it 8–3.  But the boys from Lubbock weren’t ready to give up yet.  They put up another 3-spot in the 8th making it an 8-6 contest.  The death blow was the Gators’ scoring a run in the 9th.  That was the one the visitors couldn’t recover from, and the Raiders went meekly in the home 9th.

So the Gators from the Gainesville swamp advance and will play Arkansas tonight.  Before that happens,  Oregon State and Mississippi State will face each other at 3 PM Eastern. In both cases, one team is undefeated.  The unbeaten pair ar Mississippi State and Arkansas.  Their foes-OSU and Florida-would have to win today to force a rematch tomorrow whose winners would advance to the final round starting Monday.  The obvious advantage would be for either Mississippi State or Arkansas to win now meaning they could rest all the pitchers both tomorrow and Sunday.  These games are taxing all the pitching staffs involved and any team that can get an extra day’s rest has a leg up on a team that can’t.  OSU and Florida will be desperate, and all hands will be on deck where pitching is concerned.  Pitchers who are either too young for the draft or seniors who haven’t been drafted will throw their hearts and souls out there, knowing it could be their last game before going from college hero to new kid on some demeaning job.

No pitching coach will allow a pitcher to do what Fairleigh Dickinson’s Mike Mongiello did in 1988.  The youngster who would be later drafted by the White Sox threw over 200 pitches in a 14-inning playoff against Fordham with no relief pitcher replacing him.   He later told me nobody was keeping count of his pitches.  One long winter day I played a recording of the game from my vault, and stopped counting his pitches at 200.  That being said, 120 or 130 pitches might be allowed from some freshman, sophomore or senior pitcher who no team has a claim on. If he’s ahead and getting hitters out, he can stay.  Let there be trouble, and … well each team used multiple pitchers last night once the late-inning hits started falling.

On a rare cool day where you can open your windows and feel actual air moving, a full major league slate will be played. The earliest will be on Chicago’s south side where the A’s and White Sox have what used to be called a twi-night doubleheader.  They were rained out yesterday, requiring the old-fashioned twin bill today. What few fans attend the early game will get to see Sean Manaea of Oakland, the one pitcher with a no-hitter under his belt this year. He faces one of the older starters around, James Shields.  I called his games when he was a boy of 18.  Now, at 36 he’s right behind CC Sabathia and still giving the White Sox innings when he starts.  In the other game, the White Sox’ Lucas Giolito is on view.  He’s the man the Sox so badly wanted when they gave up Adam Eaton (smart move considering Eaton’s injury record since then.) In Pittsburgh, Ivan Nova faces the D-Backs’ Patrick Corbin. The Phillies throw Zach Eflin at the Nationals.  He’s been a major part of why the Phillies aren’t quite the disaster they’ve been in the last few years. For the Mets, Zack Wheeler faces the Dodgers.  He’s the one decent starter they have who isn’t part of trade rumors.  I have nothing I can bank on, but all the talk is that Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom could be traded. The Yankees have CC Sabathia who reached the 8th inning for the first time in years.  I’ve written him off as a 4- or 5-inning pitcher at the most.  Although he lost, he struck out 10 and mostly looked like the CC the team signed before 2008.  Facing the Rays again, He faces Ryne Stanek (at least for openers.)  Stanek pitched for Arkansas in the College World Series in 2012.  He’s really a relief pitcher but the Rays are so desperate for starters that they use Stanek and some other relievers for the first inning or two, then trot out somebody who can go 4 or 5 innings hopefully.  3 of their starters are hurt, and 3 of their AAA starters have all required Tommy John surgery. It’s a controversial way of doing business which baseball pundit Brian Kenny loves to debate on twitter with anybody who has enough time on their hands to engage him.

In the depths of the minors where radio seldom interferes, and if a game is covered at all it’s on the Internet, there is still room for high drama.  In the rookie Appalachian League, Johnson City thought they were on their way to a 10-2 win through 7 innings.  However Bluefield put up 4 in the 8th, after which the home team got a run making it 11-6.  Did that stop the team from the Virginia-West Virginia border?  It didn’t.  They put up 4 in their half of the 9th to make it 11-10. It was a gallant but unsung rally as neither team wrote a game story for the Associated Press. Johnson City is a Cardinals’ team and has been for some years.  Bluefield, a city which country star Stonewall Jackson sung about 50 years ago was an Orioles’ team for decades but now has a contract with the Blue Jays.

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