May 19, 2013
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Monday, April 30, 2012
Giants 4, Padres 1: Madison Bumgarner keeps rolling (7.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 6K). After the game he explained his recent success by saying "I'm just trying to make pitches." I've heard that for 30 years and I'm still not quite sure what it means but I always like hearing it for some reason. It's a satisfying answer to me on some level. I think I'm going to start using it in everyday conversation:
Mookie: Dad, why do you keep putting strawberries in my lunch. You know I don't like strawberries.
Dodgers 2, Nationals 0: Chris Capuano outpitches Gio Gonzalez as the Dodgers sweep the Nationals. They're now 0-2 with Bryce Harper. Let's pretend that's a thing because it will probably annoy the hell out of him.
Twins 7, Royals 4: Single, double and a triple for Josh Willingham in his first game back from paternity leave. Man, I remember going back to work after my kids were born. Most relaxing place to be on the planet after a few days of that noise. Don't look at me like that. The people with parents know what I'm talking about.
Mets 6, Rockies 5: Johan Santana was pretty awesome again, but he had a big lead blown when Tim Byrdak gave up an 8th inning pinch hit grand slam to Todd Helton. The Mets pull it out in extras, however, when Ike Davis singled home David Wright.
White Sox 4, Red Sox 1: Gavin Floyd took a no-hitter into the seventh but then he eased up on that stuff because he realized that if you throw a no-hitter you're gonna suck on your next outing and he didn't want any part of that. Just ask Phil Humber. Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer. He's at .231/.368/.513 and is on pace for 35+ homers. So I guess that means Adam Dunn is back to being Adam Dunn.
Brewers 3, Cardinals 2: Zack Greinke scattered seven hits and gave up one run over six to help the Brewers avoid the sweep. The game ended on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out at the plate on a delayed double steal thing, which was kinda interesting.
Orioles 5, Athletics 2: The A's led the O's 2-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, but then Matt Wieters doubled home two runs to tie it and then Wilson Betemit walks off with a three-run homer. For the first place Orioles.
Cubs 5, Phillies 1: Matt Garza allowed one hit over seven innings and struck out ten. The hit was to Jimmy Rollins leading off the game and he wasn't touched after that. Philly only got two hits all day. There is just little if any light to be seen with their offense right now. They just don't have the talent in that lineup to get the job done. It's that simple.
Blue Jays 7, Mariners 2: Edwin Encarnacion has homered in three straight games. The M's were 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
Braves 4, Pirates 3: Welcome back Tim Hudson. He was rusty, but he survived and stranded a bunch of Pirates runners. Bad defense hurt Pittsburgh too. Andrew McCutchen just plain dropped a fly ball Hudson hit in the third, and Hudson eventually came around to score. In other news, I was reminded, as I am reminded every year, that Pirates games are blacked out in Columbus, Ohio. Which makes all kinds of friggin' sense.
Indians 4, Angels 0: The best thing about the Angels since the callup of Mike Trout: outfield defense. Trout is great with the glove, Peter Bourjos is probably the best in baseball and Torii Hunter has a gajillion gold gloves. So of course the Indians scored two runs when Hunter done lost one in the sun. Manny Acta after the game: "The mighty sun was on our side today." I can just picture how he said it too. I love Manny Acta so much.
Diamondbacks 8, Marlins 4: Wade Miley had a no hitter going into the sixth. In other news, I learned who Wade Miley was yesterday. Jason Kubel drove in three. Kubel is hitting .333/.400./528 this season. Guess he doesn't miss Target Field all that much.
Yankees 6, Tigers 2: CC Sabathia was solid for eight innings and despite stranding a ton of runners early, the Yankees won easy. The Tigers have lost eight of ten.
Reds 6, Astros 5: Jay Bruce has hit four homers in four games. Joey Votto drove in four runs. The Reds entered April like a lamb but are leaving it like a lion.
Rays 5, Rangers 2: David Price had struggled against Texas his entire career, but he beat 'em last night. Three hits for Ben Zobrist. Josh Hamilton left with back stiffness. Ron Washington left because he got ejected.
Ten years ago today, Mets pitcher Al Leiter made a bit of baseball history. On April 30, 2002, he pitched seven strong innings against the Diamondbacks, allowing just one run for a 6-1 New York victory.
By picking up the win in that game, Leiter became the first pitcher to beat all 30 major league franchises. It was about time he accomplished it. He’d topped franchise No. 29 (the Marlins) way back in June, 1998. Incredibly, it took him just 69 career wins to beat the first 29 clubs. The final piece in the puzzle came 51 victories later.
He was in the right place in the right time. He played on a pair of AL teams, followed by a pair of NL teams. Interleague play didn’t hurt, as that allowed him to defeat the Devil Rays. If you’re curious, here is when Leiter lodged his first triumph against each of the 30 clubs.
Opponent First Win Brewers 9/15/1987 Orioles 9/25/1987 Jays 4/14/1988 Twins 4/19/1988 Angels 5/24/1988 Seattle 5/7/1993 Red Sox 6/17/1993 Royals 7/15/1993 W. Sox 7/21/1993 Yankees 9/25/1993 Indians 5/21/1994 Rangers 7/23/1994 A's 7/28/1995 Tigers 8/17/1995 Pirates 4/4/1996 Padres 4/9/1996 Dodgers 4/20/1996 Mets 5/6/1996 Rockies 5/11/1996 Reds 5/27/1996 Braves 6/28/1996 Astros 7/17/1996 Cards 8/29/1996 Expos 9/15/1996 Cubs 4/2/1997 Giants 6/2/1997 Phils 6/24/1997 Rays 6/10/1998 Marlins 6/21/1998 D-backs 4/30/2002
Leiter became the first man to accomplish this feat, but he’s not the only one. By my count, nine pitchers have done it in all. I’ll list who them in a second, but before I do, take a second and see if you can figure out who any of them might be.
Ready? Thought up your guesses? Okay, here they are, in order of when they completed the achievement by beating their 30th franchise:
Completed Pitcher 4/30/2002 Al Leiter 3/31/2004 Kevin Brown 7/3/2004 Terry Mulholland 9/10/2004 Curt Schilling 5/26/2008 Jamie Moyer 4/19/2009 Randy Johnson 6/12/2010 Barry Zito 7/21/2010 Javier Vazquez 8/10/2010 Vicente Padilla
Yeah, there are some names I wouldn’t have guessed either.
If you know of any others not included, feel free to note them in the comments section at the end of the article.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold in case you want to skim:
Click for more...
Sunday, April 29, 2012
I got my first chance to watch my nine-year-old nephew Holland play baseball on Friday. His game was, unsurprisingly, a very different experience from watching the big leaguers. I won't give all the gory details, but a short example from the third inning will show what made an impression on me.
Holland reached base on a 5-4 force-out. On the next pitch, the opposing catcher let strike one roll a couple feet away, and Holland swiped second. The next pitch, ball one, went in the dirt too, and Holland took third. Then, after a walk, the pitcher turned his back for a moment, and not only did Holland steal home, but in the confusion the runner on first got all the way to third.
From my rough scoring of the game (yes, I was scoring it), four and a half innings produced 18 instances of what in professional baseball would be judged wild pitches or passed balls. Nothing more need be said to illustrate the chasm between these kids and "real" ballplayers, right? The professional game, the true game, is on a plane of effective perfection, right?
Jump-cut to the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium that night. Game knotted at six, with Derek Jeter on first and Brayan Villarreal pitching to Curtis Granderson. The payoff pitch goes wild, and Jeter makes it all the way to third. Three pitches later, a slider goes off the end of catcher Alex Avila's glove, and Jeter beats the throw back to the plate to score the winning run.
This was a highly dramatic example, but not an isolated one. On that busy Friday night in major league baseball, there were four passed balls and 12 wild pitches (including two "dropped" third strikes) that led to 20 runners gaining extra bases. Ten of the 15 games on the schedule had at least one wild pitch or passed ball—and all five that didn't had at least one hit-by-pitch.
Maybe most interesting, one of those wild pitches led to that bizarre rarity: a four-strikeout inning. In the top of the eighth at Camden Yards, Oakland's Ryan Cook got the first two Orioles hacking, but strike nine to Adam Jones was a wild one that let Jones reach. Cook regrouped and threw strike 12 past Matt Wieters' bat to end the inning.
It was, according to MLB.com, the 59th four-K inning in history. (And the second one in four days. Who knew?)
So on a pretty ordinary day in baseball, arguably the two most interesting and memorable moments are defined by their imperfection, by someone goofing up. Kinda brings those multi-millionaire celebrities down to the level of nine-year-old boys playing for fun, right?
Well, no. Let's not get carried away. The pros are light-years in quality beyond those kids. But they aren't machines; they aren't infallible.
And thank God for that.
A flawless game is a sterile game. Tic-tac-toe holds no interest for anyone but kids, because adults can figure out the perfect strategy pretty easily and make a perpetual tie of it. Several years ago, computers solved the game of checkers, figuring out its optimum strategies, and the world of human tournament checkers has been reeling ever since. Once there's an equation for a game, the game is over. It's a solved puzzle, thrown out like a completed crossword in yesterday's paper.
It is the possibility, indeed the inevitability, of imperfection that makes the game what it is. The pitcher missing the outside corner; the batter getting under a fastball; the infielder's dive deflecting the hot-shot grounder. You can be perfect for a moment, or for a few at-bats. You might, like Philip Humber, be perfect for a whole game—but then there's the next game.
This should give us a bit of perspective. The players are going to keep striving for perfection, and we're going to keep rooting for our teams to exhibit it, and that's exactly as it should be. But the pursuit of that flawlessness is only interesting because it's so hard to achieve, even briefly, even for the best in the game. In baseball as in so many other endeavors, nobody's perfect.
Except for Holland's team, that is. They're 4-0 on the season so far—but there's still a lot of baseball left to be played.
Twenty-five years ago today, baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson had the greatest game of his career. It was pretty good timing for it, too. Not only was he in his first month playing for his new team, the Cubs, but the game occurred at home in Wrigley Field. What Dawson did that day went a long way to creating a love affair between Dawson and the Wrigley Field fans.
Heading into the game on April 29, 1987, Dawson was having a rocky start in Chicago. It was 19 games into the season, and he was hitting .236—and that was thanks to a recent hot streak. Less than a week earlier he had been well under .200.
The team couldn’t complain too much about the price. In the 1986-87 collusion offseason the Cubs signed him because Dawson offered them a blank check. They could name their price if they were willing to sign him for one year. And so Dawson came for $500,000. But that would put more pressure on Dawson to deliver so he could get a paycheck he deserved.
And that takes us April 29, 1987.
Dawson’s day got off to a terrific start. In the bottom of the first, he belted a solo home run to tie the game, 1-1.
As nice as that was, Dawson outdid himself a half inning later with a great defensive play. While playing in right field, he threw a runner out at first for the rare 9-3 ground out. Yeah, you don’t see that too often. Sure, it was just opposing pitcher Roger Mason he threw out, but still—he threw out a guy at first from the outfield!
The rest of the game, Dawson continued to batter San Francisco with his bat. In the third inning, Dawson doubled in a run to give Chicago its first lead of the game, 3-2. Not bad. He nearly drove in another run, but the Giants threw out Ryne Sandberg at the plate.
Next inning Dawson faced Giants reliever Greg Minton and singled. He was now 3-for-3 and just a triple away from the cycle. So you know what happened next, right? Yep, in the sixth inning Dawson tripled to right to complete the cycle.
Last but not least, Dawson singled in his last plate appearance to conclude a perfect day. He was 5-for-5 with a double, triple, homer, and pair of singles. Oh— and let’s not forget that assist on a 9-3 groundout.
Dawson’s batting average leapt from .236 to .286. His slugging percentage catapulted from .500 to .610. By the time the Cubs' home stand ended less than a week later he was hitting .317 with three more homers.
Dawson would win the MVP in 1987. By the numbers, he didn’t deserve it. Yes, he led the league in homers and RBIs, but he also made his share of outs.
That said, the fans at Wrigley fell in love with him, and you could see why. At Wrigley in 1987, Dawson batted .332 with 27 homers and 71 RBIs in 74 games. But he was never better at Wrigley—or anywhere—than he was on April 29, 1987, exactly a quarter-century ago today.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim the list.
Click for more...
Friday, April 27, 2012
Rays 4, Angels 3: Pinch hit walkoff bomb from Brandon Allen to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Albert Pujols got a hit but he was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double. I think that's what the fancy commentators on those evening baseball television programs call "pressing." The Angels are nine games back of the Rangers already which, dude, wow.
Mariners 5, Tigers 4: As my Twitter friend Grey said yesterday: "Brandon Inge is gone and the Tigers still have 24 other guys who have also struggled this week! woooooo!" Yeah, not a week to write home about if you're the Tigers. Which is worse considering they were at home for all of it. Chone Figgins was 3 for 4 with an RBI double. If Chone Figgins is kicking your butt, you gotta look in a mirror.
Royals 4, Indians 2: Break up the Royals, they're on a winning streak! Two straight for Kansas City. Alex Gordon after the game: ""We can't lose now. It's unbelievable." Yes, he actually said that.
Orioles 5, Blue Jays 2: Brian Matusz went six allowing two runs -- but neither were earned -- as the O's sweep the Jays and take their fourth straight overall. You know who's happy Albert Pujols is struggling so much? Jose Bautista. Because not that many people are paying attention to his .194/.349/.343 line.
Mets 3, Marlins 2: Rule of thumb: if your closer comes in to a one-run game and throws 46 pitches, he's not having a good day and you're not winning. Heath Bell threw 46 pitches, he was not having a good day and the Marlins didn't win.
Giants 6, Reds 5: I hit the ending of this one up yesterday. In the comments to that post someone suggested that I pointed out the fact that Angel Pagan -- who hit what proved to be the game-winning three-run homer -- should have struck out but for the bad call because "you still can’t get over the fact that the Giants beat your Braves in the 2010 DS. Stop hating and give a little credit." Yes, that's exactly why I pointed that out. You got me. I've been harboring my hate for the Giants for over a year and a half and finally -- finally! -- found my chance to pounce.
Red Sox 10, White Sox 3: I'm sure someone has done a study of how dudes do after throwing a perfecto, and I imagine they do quite poorly on average. Maybe not as poorly as Phil Humber did, though (5 IP, 8 H, 9 ER). Saltalamacchia hit two homers.
Padres 2, Nationals 1: Edinson Volquez gave up one run over seven. Which was one more than Edwin Jackson gave up over six, but Volquez had a better bullpen on his side last night.