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Tuesday, June 26, 2012
40 years ago today, a pitcher mad a damn impressive debut. For a few innings, people could be forgiven for thinking the next great hurler was making his debut. That did not turn out to be the case, but it was a memorable start.
The pitcher was Bill Slayback, and he was a 24-year-old the Tigers had just called up from the minor leagues. The Tigers were in first place in the AL East, they wanted Slayback to take the place in the starting rotation of Joe Niekro, who was having some health issues with his arm.
On June 26, 1972, starting against the Yankees, Slayback got off to a nice start, striking out leadoff hitter Horace Clarke, and retiring the side 1-2-3 in the first. In the second inning, Slayback walked Ron White to begin the frame, but then quickly recovered.
And after that, Slayback was off. He retired the last three batters he faced in the second. And three more in the third. And again in the fourth. And the fifth. And the sixth.
He retired 15 in a row, and 18 of the first 19 batters he faced. Oh, and it was a no-hitter. Yeah, that’s a nice way to start a big league career.
Leading off the seventh, Slayback walked Bernie Allen to end his streak of retired batters, but the no-hitter was still going on. Then Slayback once again retired everyone else. Through seven innings the no-hitter was still going on. This was looking like one of the greatest debuts in history.
And that’s when it ended. Leading off the eighth, Johnny Callison singled off Slayback to end the no-hitter. Then, Thurman Munson singled him to second. Suddenly, the Yankees had a rally going. Then came a double play and a K, and the no-hitter was gone, but the shutout survived.
In the ninth, he lost that on a walk, single, double, and RBI ground out. The no-hitter was gone, the shutout was gone, and now Slayback was gone. Team manager Billy Martin yanked Slayback with a 4-2 lead and two outs to go.
The Tigers held on to win, 4-3. As for Slayback, that day was the highlight of his career. He went 6-9 over three years work in the big leagues. But for one day, he looked like he could something really special.
Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versaries” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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Twins 4, White Sox 1: Kevin Youkilis made his Chisox debut and went one for four in a loss and gave us this odd picture of him in a White Sox uniform. Adam Dunn went 0 for 4 and struck out four times, but the list of things he gives less of a crap about than that is pretty short, I'd presume. Francisco Liriano went seven innings and allowed only one run. Looked like the Twins' ace.
Reds 3, Brewers 1: When I was at Great American Ballpark over the weekend I learned that if Reds pitchers combine for 11 or more strikeouts that everyone in the park got a free small pizza and a free scoop of ice cream from LaRosa's. Johnny Cueto and the bullpen came close to that on Saturday, and when, late in the game, a Twins batter would ground out or fly out, some people in the upper deck near us would boo because, dammit, they wanted their free pizza and ice cream. Well, Mat Latos got it for 'em last night: 13 strikeouts in a four-hit complete game.
Royals 8, Rays 0: Luke Hochevar tossed a seven hit shutout while striking out eight. I wonder if anyone gets free burnt ends in Kansas City for eleven strikeouts.
Rockies 4, Nationals 2: You'd think that Steven Strasburg giving up only three runs while striking out eight and walking only one dude in Coors Field would lead to a Nats win, but the park played somewhat reasonably on a 100 degree night in Denver. Jeff Francis allowed only two runs over five and the Rockies' pen shut 'em out over the next four.
Cubs 6, Mets 1: The AP headline as of 11:44 last night was "Wood pitches Cubs to win over Mets." Made me think of Kerry and I got all sad and nostalgic.
Padres 8, Astros 7: Last week at the Padres game I used Carlos Quentin as the example to my kids of why a player may be traded in the middle of a season. As in, "sometimes when a guy is playing well for a team that isn't so good, he'll get traded to a team that is doing better in the middle of the season in exchange for someone who might help the bad team next year." Since then, the boy keeps asking me if Carlos Quentin has been traded yet. Not yet, Carlo. He was around to double in the winning run on the top of the tenth for the Padres.
Tigers 8, Rangers 2: Rangers starter Justin Grimm lived up to his name -- and I'm sure inspired some punny headlines this morning -- in allowing six runs on eight hits in a single inning of work which saw him throw 52 pitches. Way to lay one on the pen on a night that saw triple digit temperatures.
Cardinals 8, Marlins 6: Miami had a 6-1 lead as the eighth inning began, and a 6-2 lead entering the ninth, but then Heath Bell worked his magic, allowing four runs on three hits in the ninth. But hey, since it was such a large lead he surrendered, no blown save! I'm always looking on the bright side of things, folks. It's just who I am.
Yankees 7, Indians 1: Robinson Cano stayed hot, homering and driving in three. DeWayne Wise -- really? -- homered, tripled and drove in three too. Maybe it's too early for watching the standings, but a Tigers win and an Indians and White Sox loss pulls Detroit to within two of first place. For as miserable as their season has gone, they're in the Central, so I've never really worried about them. Until they have to face teams like the Yankees in the playoffs, of course.
Phillies 8, Pirates 2: If you had told me that Joe Blanton would be one of the Phillies best two starters before the season started I woulda told you you was crazy. But there you go. Blanton struck out eight and allowed two earned runs over seven innings while walking one. Jimmy Rollins continued his recent tear by going long again.
Blue Jays 9, Red Sox 6: Colby Rasmus drove in three. The Jays also lost another starting pitcher to an injury when Henderson Alvarez had to leave the game early, but what the hell else is new for Toronto? On the Boston side of the ledger, two homers for Big Papi. Meanwhile, Will Middlebrooks went 1 for 4, a mirror image of Kevin Youkilis' night in Chicago. Yeah, that's kind of meaningless, but if you don't think the Boston media won't be keeping track of that kind of thing for the rest of the year, you're just not familiar with their work.
Giants 8, Dodgers 0: Barry Zito shut the Dodgers out for seven innings on three hits. Meanwhile, Pablo Sandoval drove in three while Angel Pagan and Hector Sanchez added a couple a piece. The Giants -- who a month ago trailed the Dodgers by seven and a half games -- have closed the gap to two. After getting swept by the A's last week, I'm thinking that the Dodgers want the hell out of the Bay Area.
Athletics 1, Mariners 0: Did you know that heading into yesterday's games the A's led the league in runs scored for June? Yep! That was weird. Seeing an A's-M's game end 1-0 in a crisp 2:18, then, is much more normal and comforting. Tommy Milone outduels Erasmo Ramirez, who struck out ten in eight innings in a losing effort.