Tagged: home runs

Splamitovich

Even retired, Kevin Millar makes the game of baseball more amusing. Last year he was with the Blue Jays, and they brought up a pitcher from the minors named Mark Rzepczynski, one of those great unpronounceable names you see occasionally in sports. (For the record, it’s pronounced zep-CHIN-skee.) Asked on the radio how that name was pronounced, he replied, “We just call him ‘Ski’.” However, with Rzepczynski making his first start of the year, Millar, now working for MLB Network, revealed that he and Bryan Butterfield gave the pitcher a different nickname: Splamitovich. Which Rzepczynski now has on his glove. Kevin, man, I love you. Don’t ever disappear from the spotlight.

On another note, yesterday looked like an anomaly for the Year of The Pitcher II. 47 home runs were hit yesterday, including 3 by Adam Dunn, two each by Casey Kotchman, Martin Prado, and Buster Posey, and an inside-the-park homer by Jose Bautista, whose 22 homers lead the majors. The only game without a home run was the Angels-White Sox game. But back to Bautista: Where’s all of this power coming from? Bautista never had more than 16 home runs in a year prior to this year, and suddenly he’s the biggest bomber in the league. Do you remember what we used to assume when players set new career highs for home runs by the end of May? Yeah, exactly–“Must be juicing.” (Okay, so Bautista was only tied for his career high at the end of May–and, of course, my example had already set a new career high by the end of April. Still valid.) I want to believe that the game is really completely clean now, but…when there are still players putting up anomalous numbers like this, I can’t be sure.

Of course, it could just be that Bautista is having a breakout season. The aforementioned Brian Roberts had only played more than 100 games in a season twice prior to 2005, when he set a new career high for home runs by the end of April, but he tailed off and ended that season with fewer than 20 home runs, and while it’s still a career high, he has reached double digits three more times. The performances you really have to worry about are when players can’t replicate them afterwards–think Brady Anderson, whose only season with at least 25 home runs was 1996, when he hit 50. Only time will tell which is the case for Bautista.

Final note: The Cardinals blew a five-run lead to the Rockies, their first time blowing leads of at least 5 runs in back-to-back games since 1930. Chris Iannetta hit a walkoff home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth off of Evan MacLane, who was making his major league debut and now currently has a career opponent’s slugging percentage of 4.000 (not that they keep track of these things) and an infinite ERA (1 earned run in 0 IP) as well as an 0-1 record. Not the best start.

Why the Phillies need to win Game 6

Okay, full disclosure: As a Red Sox fan, I want the Phillies to win the Series, period. Heck, there’s even a good reason for that one, as a pure fan of the game. That reason, of course, is Chase Utley. With two home runs in Game 5, Utley now has five homers in the World Series, tying the single-series record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977–a Series the Yankees won. If Utley ties or even breaks Reggie’s record in a losing effort, it just wouldn’t seem right. (Then again, the 1960 Yankees still hold most of the records for team offensive production in a single Series, and they lost that in seven games, thanks to three double-digit wins and four losses by three runs or less. So maybe that’s not important.)

Here’s why the Phillies need to win Game 6: a return to the way things used to be.

Now, I may be young, but I’m not so young that I don’t remember a Series that went seven games. That last happened in 2002, and although I probably wasn’t paying attention to that one, I do remember 2001, probably the best Series of my lifetime the period of my lifetime that I would reasonably be expected to remember (the only debate when limiting it to my lifetime would be 1991 vs. 2001, but I was just a toddler in ’91.)

I’m talking about pitchers making three starts in a series. I’m a fan of the history of the game, and way back when, three-man rotations in the postseason were the norm (and four-man rotations in the regular season, but that’s besides the point.) And when three-man rotations in the postseason were common, a pitcher would pitch Games 1, 4, and 7. (Okay, okay, that actually happened in the 2001 World Series, too, although the Diamondbacks did use four starters–Schilling in 1, 4, and 7; Johnson in 2 and 6; Brian Anderson in 3; and Miguel Batista in 5). If this series ends tonight, we’re denied that. But if the Phillies send it to Game 7, C.C. Sabathia makes his return for Game 7. I’d rather see the Phillies win that game, too, but either way, Game 7 is what I want to see.

Trouble in Yankeeland

Chien-Ming Wang got lit up for the third straight start, as the Indians had a record day. Records that were broken or tied yesterday by the 14-run, 13-hit top of the second inning:

Runs allowed, Yankees, single inning: new record (former record not known)
Hits allowed, Yankees, single inning: new record (again, unknown)
Runs scored, Indians, single inning: tied (June 8, 1950, first inning, vs. Philadelphia Athletics)
Runs scored, Major League, single team, second inning: new record (former AL record was 13, I think held by two teams, but the site I found that on has already been updated; NL record is still 13, held by three teams spanning over a century. Here‘s the site if you want to see it.)

Of even greater concern than Wang’s struggles is the fact that New Yankee Stadium is starting to look like a real launching pad. Through three regular-season games, 17 home runs have been hit in the stadium, and the two preseason exhibition games held there had another 8. Two more homers have been hit so far today, halfway through the sixth. Yankee Stadium, a launchpad? It could happen. And frankly, that’s a really scary idea. Considering the stars that the Yankees find themselves able to land, we could end up with a clean home run record again in no time at all–or, worse, A-Rod. (Not this year, obviously, because he’s going to miss too much time.)

Showing they have a sense of humor, when Wang’s replacement (Anthony Claggett, in his major league debut) failed to stop the bleeding, the Yankee fans started chanting “We want Swisher!”

Cleveland has done this to New York quite a bit, apparently. A graphic in ESPN.com’s recap of the game shows that the four highest single-game run totals posted against the Yankees have all been courtesy of the Indians–24 at Cleveland on July 29, 1928; 23 at Cleveland on September 2, 2002; 22 at New York yesterday, and 22 at New York on July 19, 1987. Obviously, they’re forgetting about the other time Cleveland scored 22 runs at New York. You’d think they’d remember that one…

Also of note: The pitcher holding the Yanks to 1 run right now is Carl Pavano.

They went around…and around…and around…and around…

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A real football score at Fenway
last night–Papi alone drove in a touchdown in the first inning with a pair of
three-run homers as the Sox took a 10-0 lead after one inning. With run support
like that, you’d think it would be all too easy for Charlie Zink to pick up a
win in his major league debut…and you’d be wrong. After allowing 10 runs (4
earned) in the first, Texas starter Scott Feldman remarkably came back out, got
through the second without allowing a run, and got the first two outs of the
third before being removed for Josh Rupe with the bases loaded. Rupe proceeded
to walk the first two batters he faced to restore the Sox’ ten-run lead at
12-2. Zink recorded his second perfect inning of the night in the fourth, but
things began to unravel in the fifth. One out, 12-6 now, runner on first, and
there’s a fly ball to centerfield, Crisp going back, leaping up, makes the
catch…no, he dropped it! Runners on second and third now. Crisp tries to
convince the umps that he caught the ball and dropped it on the transfer.
Replays do appear to show him attempting to transfer the ball at the time of
the drop, but it wasn’t in his glove for very long, either…perhaps we should
defer to the NFL rulebook. A receiver must retain possession of the ball
throughout the course of going to the ground…yeah, I’m going to have to say no
catch. Call it an E-8…What do you mean it’s a base hit! He “doubled” right into
Crisp’s glove! There’s no way you can rule that a hit…this is bullsh**. Anyway,
that’s the night for Zink, 12-6 as Javier Lopez comes on with one out in the
fifth. Something similar happened with David Pauley’s debut, if I remember
correctly–left with a lead but too early to get the win. Lopez picks up an out
and allows an inherited runner to score on a base hit, and then David Aardsma
comes on. He proceeds to give up a three-run homer to Ian Kinsler, and it’s 12-10 after 4½. Papi leads off the bottom of the fifth and
appears to hit his third home run of the game, a career first, to straightaway
center. Umpires say otherwise, ruling fan interference and sending him back to
second base. No matter as Kevin Youkilis follows with a no-doubt-about-it home
run to make the score 14-10. So, despite the rain that fell in the second
inning, we’ve made it to five, and this game will be official. Are we sure
that’s a good thing, though? Aardsma returns for the sixth, leaving with the
score 14-11 and two runners on base. Sadly, by the rules of the game, he’d be
the one getting the win if this score holds up. Manny Delcarmen fails to make
it so and is charged with a blown save, as the Rangers batter him around to
take a 15-14 lead, and despite a less-than-inspiring performance, Rupe is now
in line for the win. Warner Madrigal, who sounds more like one of my made-up
players in Dream than an actual major leaguer, pitches a hitless sixth,
the only blemish a walk, for his first hold of the year. Delcarmen comes back
out and is charged with another run, leaving with one out and one on in favor
of Hideki Okajima. Okajima loads the bases with a walk and a hit batsman but
manages to keep the score at 16-14, and Jamey Wright gives up an unearned run,
the result of his own error, in the process of picking up a hold in the seventh.
Okajima shuts the Rangers down in the eighth, and on for the next hold is Frank
Francisco. Crisp leads off and makes an out, and Jacoby Ellsbury, a late
scratch from the starting lineup with a bruised tailbone (result of being hit
by a John Danks pitch the previous night) comes in to pinch-hit for Kevin Cash.
He draws a walk, and Drew flies out to right for the second out. Up comes
Dustin Pedroia…long fly ball to left, will it stay fair? Yes! Off the wall for
a double, as Jacoby motors home with the tying run! 16-16 with two outs in the
eighth! Now, in that long first inning, David Ortiz had a pair of three-run
homers. Kevin Youkilis, batting right behind him, had a pair of strikeouts.
First base is open. You know what the smart move is. It’s the wrong one,
though, as Youk hits his second homer of the night, a three-run shot
over the Monster to give the Sox a 19-16 lead. “A good year,” I said, “we won
the World Series.” Now Papelbon comes on, and my father begs him “not to make
this exciting”, something I try in vain to explain to him is impossible. Yes,
it’s a three-run lead in the ninth with the closer on the mound, but the
circumstances that led to it make it impossible for it to be “boring”. Besides,
it’s Papelbon. Watching him work is never “boring”. I would’ve used the word
“tense” rather than “exciting”, because the game has been exciting, and
Papelbon is an exciting player to watch–as are most dominant closers.
Unfortunately, semantics don’t matter when Papelbon isn’t being lights-out. One
double, one error–Youk’s second of the night, at as many positions–and the
tying run is at the plate, 19-17 the score. Have the Sox ever won a game by the
score of 19-18? Well, it didn’t happen here, as Pap finished it out, 19-17 the
final. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, a see-saw game is going on. The Yanks led
first, 1-0, but the Twins took a 2-1 lead, only to see it go to 3-2 Yanks. The
Twins tied it at three, but the Yanks scored next, twice, and then once more to
make it 6-3. By the time the postgame show started on NESN, however, it was
6-6. I later found out that Delmon Young’s home run off of Mariano Rivera was
the first Mo had ever allowed to a Minnesota Twin–in his fourteenth
professional season, all of them in the American League, with two ALDS meetings
with the Twins thrown in for good measure (’03, ’04). A-Rod and Nady homered
in a three-run twelfth, though; 9-6 the final.
Continuing the theme of ways that I’m right and Dad’s wrong, late in the game
he dismissed the idea that anything significant would’ve happened in the Tampa
Bay-Oakland game as of yet. I told him that the A’s had taken a 2-0 lead on a
home run by Bobby Crosby. “Too early to mean anything.” No, the 10-0
first-inning lead the Red Sox had was too early to mean anything; the postgame
update showed the Oakland lead cut to 2-1 in the top of the fourth, but that
eventually became the final as the Rays lose a game that was more fútbol
than football and the Sox get back to within three games. Are those injuries
hurting yet?

 

Zink was sent back to the minors
after the game to make room for the Red Sox’ newest acquisition, pitcher Paul
Byrd, traded from the Native Americans Indians for either cash or a PTBN.
Cleveland fans seemed happy enough to get rid of him, but although his ERA is
around 4.5 and his record is 7-10, he’s 4-0 since the All-Star Break, which is
good enough for me. Besides, we don’t need an ace; we just need someone to fill
in for Wake and/or be better than the struggling Buchholz. I heard that Byrd
will be pitching in Buchholz’s spot in the rotation, but with Zink back at
Pawtucket, you’ve got to figure that Buchholz is just being held back a few
days, till Wake’s next turn in the rotation. On to the constant drama that is
the National League.

 

Two teams with streaks of six
games, both victorious last night. One was the Milwaukee Brewers, extending
their winning streak to seven games with a 5-2 victory over San Diego–oddly
enough, a streak that did begin right after the Parra-Fielder dugout
scuffle. The other was the Cincinnati Reds, Edinson Volquez picking up his
fourteenth win as the Reds handed Jeff Karstens his first NL loss, 5-1 the
final. The win gave the Brewers a four-game lead in the wild card as St. Louis
lost to Florida, 4-3, in a game lengthened by rain delays, and they closed to
just three games behind the Cubs, who got hit even worse by the southeastern
rains, postponed completely in Atlanta. The Braves and Cubs will play a
doubleheader today. Out west, the Dodgers rallied to a walkoff win in the ninth,
4-3 over the Phillies as Andre Ethier drove in Russell Martin with the winning
run, and remained a game behind the Diamondbacks, victorious at Coors by a 4-2
score. Back east, the Mets blew another late-game lead, Ryan Langerhans with a
pinch-hit solo homer, his first long ball of the year, in the seventh to tie
the game at 3-3. But nobody blew a save; starter Johan Santana was still in the
game. He picked up the win when a 1-2 pitch from Saul Rivera was ruled to have
grazed the helmet of Damion Easley, forcing in a run, and Joe Smith and Pedro
Feliciano each pitched scoreless innings to preserve the 4-3 lead, something
the Mets have struggled with in the absence of Billy Wagner. The Mets now stand
at just a game behind the Phillies; Marlins are 1½ back. But the hottest team
in baseball right now (with the possible exception of the Los Angeles Angels of
Anaheim, who never seem to lose) is the Houston Astros, 13-3 since July 27 and
above .500 for the first time since June 11 following a 12-4 win over San Francisco
last night. Don’t look now, but they’re just 8½ behind the Brewers in the wild
card race–a deficit they’ve (almost) covered in much less time than what
they’ve got to work with here. (See: September 2006. Actually, just the second
half of it.) Their pitching might not be what it was then, but I wouldn’t count
them out of it just yet. You don’t mess with Texas.

 

…Say, I wonder if Roger Clemens is
still available to them. Luring him out of retirement worked for them before,
right? (See: 2004 and 2005)

Hit parade in the AL East

Wow. Some game the Yanks had today, eh? Johnny Damon had a career day
today–yes, even better than the day that he was just a homer away from
the cycle by the end of the first inning

going 6-for-6 and driving in
the game-winning run in the Yankees’ 12-11 victory over Kansas City.
The Yanks faced a 2-0 deficit before they even came to bat and trailed
5-1 after 3 innings, but battled back to tie it in the fourth and take
a 6-5 lead in the fifth. Kansas City took a 10-6 lead into the
seventh-inning stretch, but pairs of runs in the seventh and eighth had
the game again tied before KC scored once in the top of the ninth,
setting the stage for the tense Yankee win. Jose Guillen drove in seven
of the Royals’ eleven runs with two-out homers in the first and seventh
innings, the latter a grand slam, along with an RBI single in the
third. The Sox weren’t hurting for runs either, as Manny homered in the
first to tie Eddie Murray on the all-time home runs list, J.D. Drew
came a double shy of the cycle, and Lowell and Youk doubled
back-to-back to drive in four insurance runs in the eighth in an 11-3
win most notable for the fact that at one point both teams had
knuckleballers on the mound: Tim Wakefield for the Sox and R.A. Dickey
for the Mariners.

Bad blood boiling

You knew it was only a matter of time now that they’re both contenders.
The Rays and Red Sox went at it today, rekindling an ongoing blood feud
from years past. In yesterday’s game, Coco Crisp felt that Tampa SS
Jason Bartlett blocked the bag with his leg on Crisp’s steal in the
sixth inning, and retaliated by sliding into second hard in the eighth,
hitting Akinori Iwamura in the process. In today’s game, Coco charged
the mound after being hit by a pitch from starter James Shields in the
second inning, getting in a few glancing blows before being restrained
by Rays catcher Dioner Navarro, who tackled him. In the ensuing
benches-clearing brawl, Rays DH Jonny Gomes then jumped on top of Crisp
and Navarro and threw a few punches at Crisp, which was sufficient to
get Gomes ejected in addition to Crisp and Shields. Gomes was suspended
at the start of the season as the result of a brawl in a spring training
game with the Yankees under similar circumstances. Four days after Rays
prospect Eliot Johnson barrelled into Yankees catching prospect
Francisco Cervelli at home plate, Shelley Duncan slid into second base
with spikes high after alluding to possible retaliation before the
game, spiking Iwamura in the thigh, and Gomes charged in from his place
in right field, ramming into Duncan. Now, there are two possibilities.
One is that Gomes is just volatile (you can make your own assumptions
as to why this might be). The other is that he’s unusually protective
of his second baseman…Iwamura was also hit by a pitch in the game, as
were Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, and Dustin Pedroia. Youkilis, who
entered the game after Jacoby Ellsbury left with a wrist injury in the
fourth inning, also got into a shouting match in the dugout with
teammate Manny Ramirez, the starting DH on this night; Manny also had
to leave the game in the seventh, appearing to have his knee buckle
during an at-bat in which he would eventually walk. Manny also hit his
503rd career home run in the game. Chris Carter made his major league
debut pinch-running for the ejected Crisp in the second, scoring on
Dustin Pedroia’s sac fly, and went 2 for 3.

The Native Americans Indians and Rangers combined for
sixty-five runs over the first three games of their series in Texas.
Generally, we call that bad pitching, but these are two highly
offensive-minded teams and Texas is a hitter’s ballpark, so we’ll let
it slide. Wait…Cleveland’s not an offensive-minded club! And yet they
won two of the first three, a real surprise considering the fact that
they’re poorly suited to the slugfest, their best slugger is on the DL,
and road teams have just been generally bad this year. Go figure.