December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013
White Sox 10, Blue Jays 6: "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on." Carl Sandburg said that about fog. "It was worse than when it rains. With the lights, it made it really really bright. It was weird." Adam Dunn said that about fog. Which may not be as good as what Sandburg said, but Dunn hit two homers so he has that going for him, which is nice.
Reds 6, Cubs 2: Fog on the north side too, but this time it didn't inspire any poetry that we know of. It did feature Brandon Phillips driving in six runs, though, and the way some people love RBIs I'm sure they're composing some epic verse about Phillips' clutchiness or what have you. The Reds have beaten the Cubs 17 of the past 20 times they've faced them and 10 straight times at Wrigley Field.
Red Sox 10, Rays 8: Fisticuffsmanship! Well, more like a violence-free, bench-clearing shuffle no one's heart was really in after John Lackey drilled Matt Joyce in the back for flipping his bat after he thought he had hit a second home run off the Boston starter (it was foul). Boston won this one despite blowing a 6-0, 8-7 and a 9-8 leads, the first of those it enjoyed in the first inning, the second and third of which it enjoyed in extras. This one was over in a crisp five hours, 23 minutes.
Brewers 6, Marlins 1: [CTRL-V]: [Pitcher] tossed [number] shutout innings against the Marlins. [highlight, CTRL-V: "Yovani Gallardo"] [highlight, CTRL-V: "eight"].
Orioles 4, Angels 3: The O's got two runs in the sixth before the game was halted due to monsoons and such for two hours and change. That was all the scoring that would happen, though. I sorta feel like Mother Nature didn't want a lot of baseball played last night. Maybe She had some TV to catch up on.
Rangers 6, Indians 3: Well, those Indians sure are doing what they can to derail Terry Francona's Manager of the Year campaign. Eight straight losses for The Tribe, who are now tied with the Royals for second place in the AL Central. Eighteen days ago they were in first place.
Diamondbacks 5, Dodgers 4: This was not one for fans of stellar bullpen work. Brandon League was handed a 3-1 lead in the ninth and surrendered four runs, all on singles, two of the infield variety. Heath Bell came in to close it out for Arizona, and ultimately did, but not before allowing a homer and allowing the Dodgers to get runners on the corner with nobody out. He still got the save, though, and someone will one day say that Bell knows what it takes to lock down games in the ninth inning or some such.
Padres 7, Braves 6: A late rally falls short for Atlanta. San Diego beat up Julio Teheran and Jason Marquis stymied his old mates. Well, not his old mates since he last played for Atlanta a decade ago, but you know what I mean. Jason Heyward was 13 then. He hit two homers last night. Will Venable drove in three.
Royals 3, Tigers 2: Break up the Royals. Kansas City wins its sixth in a row, as Tigers hitters not named Miguel Cabrera could do nothing against Jeremy Guthrie and four Royals relievers. Doug Fister pitched a complete game loss. You don't see a ton of those these days.
Mariners 3, Astros 2: Hisashi Iwakuma continues to roll right along, upping his record to 7-1 and lowering his ERA to 1.79 after seven innings in which he allowed only one unearned run. Indeed, he hasn't allowed an earned run since May 26.
Ten years ago today, something happened to the Yankees that hadn’t happened to them in a long, long time. The opposing team no-hit them.
And that wasn’t even the capper. The Yankees were no-hit despite the fact that the opposing starting pitcher had to leave the game after one inning pitched. It was truly a team effort to keep the Yankees hitless, as six pitchers combined for the no-no.
It was June 11, 2003 when the Yankees hosted the visiting Houston Astros for an interleague series. It promised to be a great game. Both teams entered the day in first place in their respective divisions, with Houston tied with the Cubs in the NL Central and the Yankees a half-game ahead of their archrival – the Red Sox.
Houston had one big advantage, though. The Astros had star pitcher Roy Oswalt going for them on the mound. As a rookie in 2001, he led the NL in winning percentage: .824 (14-3). Not bad for a 23-year-old. In his first full season he went 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA. Heading into today, Oswalt was only 4-4 on the season, but with a solid 3.10 ERA.
The Yankees had to counter with the frustrating Jeff Weaver on the mound. New York did, however, have a terrific batting order on its side, including stars Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, Jeremy Giambi Jorge Posada, and Robin Ventura.
Today Oswalt retired the side in order in the first inning, fanning All-Stars Jeter and Giambi, along the way. But as nice as that start was, there would be no more from Oswalt. He pulled his groin and couldn’t go back out.
So the bullpen took over. And boy, did Houston’s bullpen truly take over. The Astros did have a great bullpen. (In fact, manager Jimy Williams always had great bullpens wherever he worked in his dugout days). Houston’s team-wide bullpen ERA would be 3.24, the second best in the 2003 NL. As an added bonus, it was a very well rested bullpen. On June 9, the day before, the team needed just one inning from the bullpen, and two relievers combined for that. June 8 had been a day off. So essentially everyone was available. Upshot: Houston was exceptionally well suited to survive the loss of its ace after one inning, it was them.
First out of the bullpen was Pete Munro. He actually wasn’t a very good reliever. But there’s no sense wasting one of your relief aces with this much game left to go. In 2.2 innings, he walked three batters and hit a fourth. But when the Yankees hit the ball, it went right at Houston fielders.
After Munro threw 57 pitches, Williams put in Kirk Saarloos. Like Munro, Saarloos was also a second-tier pitcher in the bullpen. He had an ERA of 4.93 on the season, but he had to face only four batters in this game, and he retired all them all.
That was five innings down, and the Yankees still needed to get their first hit. And Houston still had its best relievers to go. You had to think that maybe—just maybe—it could happen.
Well, maybe not. After all, this was a great lineup. And the Yankees hadn’t been no-hit since Sept. 20, 1958 when Hoyt Wilhelm did it. That’s the longest stretch a team had gone without being no-hit in baseball history. So the smart money would still be on the Yankees getting a no-hitter at some point.
In the sixth inning, Houston began bringing out the big guns. Brad Lidge, then a middle reliever, came out to face the heart of the Yankees order—Giambi, Posada and Ventura. He retired them in order. And then he put down the bottom of the order 1-2-3 in the seventh, fanning the last two.
Now you had to start wondering. Houston still had some great arms ready to go and New York had only two more innings to get a hit. Yeah, you should expect them to get at least one hit, but Houston kept getting closer.
Octavio Dotel came on to pitch in the eighth and did he ever bring his A-game. First up, Juan Rivera. Gone—struck him out on three pitches. Next up, Alfonso Soriano. Boom—four pitches and he struck out Soriano. But—well, there was a but. That third pitch was a swinging strike three in the dirt, and Soriano galloped to first. So though there were two strikeouts in the inning, there was only one out. Turns out all that did was help Dotel make history. He fanned Jeter and then Giambi for a record-tying four Ks in one inning. Not bad, Mr. Dotel.
Now it all came down to one inning. And Houston brought out the best pitcher from a fantastic bullpen: Billy Wagner. The southpaw posted a 1.78 ERA with 105 Ks in 86 innings in 2003. This is the man you want on the mound to preserve a no-hitter.
Posada led off the inning, and battled Wagner something fierce. He fouled off four pitches, but missed on Wagner’s eighth pitch of the at-bat for the K. That brought up New York pinch hitter Bubba Trammell. Wagner took just five pitches to whiff him. For those keeping track, not only were the Yankees being no-hit, but that was eight straight strikeouts from three different Astros relievers.
So I guess it was a moral victory that Hideki Matsui made contact in the last at-bat. But it was just a weak grounder to the first baseman to end the game. Houston had done it, six pitchers had combined to no-hit the mighty New York Yankees. Houston won, 8-0. And it happened 10 years ago today.
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