Tagged: Justin Morneau

One wild night

Ah, now this is the type of night Passed Ball likes to see. Let’s start in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates faced the Brewers, who had won 17 straight against them. Leading 7-2, the Bucs oddly allow reliever Jeff Karstens to bat in the eighth inning (wait, the Pirates moved him to the bullpen? Are they assuming that this was a fluke?) This is important because in his last appearance against the Brewers, Karstens hit Ryan Braun with a pitch–and the Brewers got their revenge, plunking him to start a bench-clearing brawl. Karstens and the Pirates would have the last laugh, however, as the former came around to score to extend the lead to 8-2 and the Bucs broke the losing streak with an 8-5 win. On to our nation’s capital, where it was the same old story–Washington loses again, 6-2 to the Mets, dropping to 26-66. They’re 54 losses away from tying the major league record with 70 games left to play. Just saying. Anyway, a real wild one in Oakland, where the visiting Twins got off to a 12-2 lead after 2.5 innings. Let it be noted that heavy early scoring doesn’t always lead to victory–just ask the Rangers, who in 2006 were 0-2 when scoring their tenth run of the game in the third inning. (If memory serves me correctly, they didn’t actually lead by ten in either of those games, leading 10-1 in the first of those two and 12-4 in the second). Sure enough, the A’s roared back to get within 12-7 after 4 innings, taking a 14-13 lead with a 7-run 7th and holding on with a disputed third out call in the top of the ninth. (Justin Morneau was quite clearly safe with the tying run, but replays are not allowed on those types of calls, so the Twins were robbed.) The Rays almost put on a smaller rally, after the White Sox had a 4-1 lead after 3. Bobby Jenks, summoned in the ninth to protect a 4-3 lead, was less than perfect. After striking out the first two batters he faced, he gave up a walk, a single, and another walk and went to a 3-ball count on Jason Bartlett before finally striking him out to end the threat. All I can say, Bobby, is what is the deal with that beard??? Seriously, does he bleach it or something? Back to the National League, where aside from the Nationals, the NL East had a stellar night, the Braves scoring heavily in the late innings to top the Giants 11-3, the Phillies applying steady pressure in a 10-1 thrashing of the Cubs, and the Marlins nipping the Padres 3-2. Of note is that Giants loss, for it opens the door for…the Colorado Rockies! The Rockies, who had bottomed out at 20-32 following a June 3 loss to Houston and had a worse record than any team other than the Nationals, climbed to 51-42 with their 10-6 win over Arizona yesterday, giving them the lead in the NL Wild Card race. From second-worst in the majors to second-place in the division (and with a better record than one of the other two division leaders, at that) in just 47 days, a 31-10 run. This is much greater than their late run in 2007. This is incredible. And with more than two months remaining in the season, they have a chance to even take the division, now sitting just 8 back of the dominant Dodgers, winners again last night thanks to homers by Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier. The LA area’s other team got rained out in Kansas City; Angels and Royals will play a doubleheader today.

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Game time!

7:49 EDT: Okay, not game time quite yet, but it’s definitely time to start the entry. Decided it’s best to time-stamp this one, even though it’s going to be tough to keep it up all night. Especially if this computer starts acting up again the way it had been this weekend. Anyway, I’m happy to see that I might finally be catching on, and we’re off

8:21 EDT: Whoa, still not started. We haven’t even seen President Obama’s first pitch yet!

8:26 EDT: Yeah, inspirational is fun, but this is getting ridiculous!

8:35 EDT: Finally! Barack Obama comes out in his White Sox jacket and throws a strike to Albert Pujols.

8:47 EDT: The NL All-Stars take the field!

8:49 EDT: Ichiro steps up to bat, and the computer starts to freak out. Sigh…

8:50 EDT (I hope): Whoa, really, Derek Jeter’s had a resurgence with the bat? I hadn’t noticed. No, honestly, I hadn’t.

8:52 EDT: Jeter’s been hit, and there are two on with no outs. So much for the mighty Lincecum. Mauer up.

8:53 EDT: …What’s up with Lincecum? He’s not pitching like his usual self. Wait, double play…no, not a double play. Pujols pulled off the bag. Still got Ichiro out.

8:55 EDT: Normally I’d be happy that the AL has the early lead, but that’s not what I predicted! E-3.

???: Yeah, my computer’s clock froze up again, so no more time stamps. Half-inning done, 2-0 AL.

Okay, yeah, we’re only in the first inning and I already want to press mute. FOX, do you actually listen to anything anyone says? Because consensus is that your “B-team” announcers are actually bearable. Hell, even McCarver isn’t a total idiot…Buck brings out the worst in him, and is the truly unbearable one. And FOX feels that Buck is their best broadcaster, even sending him to multiple sports.

Yeah, I had to leave for awhile. We’re now in the bottom of the second, with President Obama in the booth.

Wright breaks up the no-hitter, and Victorino follows it up with another single.

Holy crap it’s tied! Yadi Molina singles to drive in Wright, and Victorino scores on an error. And now Prince Fielder has a pinch-hit ground rule double to give the NL the lead. Whoa.

Ryan Franklin is coming into the game second? Huh? Closers this early?

So far, Franklin’s effective. Teixeira’s up. And now he’s down.

Ah, “Lie To Me” is going to be this year’s over-promoted ASG show. Last year it was Fringe, which I predicted was going to flop miserably, saying nobody wants X-Files knockoffs these days. Shows what I know.

Buehrle nearly hits Pujols, but gets him to ground out 3-1 for the second out. 1-2-3 top of the inning, and the first two–yes, 1-2-3 bottom.

Interview with Buehrle as Haren pitches to the AL All-Stars. Two fly-outs so far. Young singles to extend the inning for Hill.

Greinke comes in and gets Ibanez on one pitch. Ends up being a quick inning.

Billingsley pitches to Crawford, the pinch-hitter. Suzuki up.

9:58 EDT: Hey, my computer caught up to reality! And…we made it through three and a half innings in an hour, when it took an hour just to get from the supposed start time to the end of the top of the first. Ichiro grounds into a fielder’s choice.

10:01 EDT: Stupid facts about Jeter, who also grounds into a fielder’s choice.

10:02 EDT: Mauer’s still in, which is good because he’s the only AL catcher with experience catching a knuckleball.

10:04 EDT: Mauer of Power! Joe Mauer ties it up with an RBI double. Tex’s turn.

10:05 EDT: Pujols makes a beautiful defensive gem to get Tex, 3-1. Tie game after 4-1/2.

10:14 EDT: Hoffman pitching, Miggy T at short. (Speaking of short, did you see him during pregame introductions? Looked like he was sitting down, he was so low to the ground!)

10:16 EDT: Inning over already, double play. Five pitches! All it took! Now I’m watching an extremely bizarre commercial for Taco Bell’s value menu declaring that “silver’s our new green” and “it’s all about the Roosevelts” (dimes). What the hell do they think this is, the Super Bowl?

10:19 EDT: Morneau at first, Zobrist at short, Felix Hernandez pitching, Adam Jones in right, Curtis Granderson in center, and Orlando Hudson pinch-hit for Utley. Yes, it’s finally that time of game. No, wait, Bartlett’s at short. Where’s Zobrist? And wasn’t Bartlett on the DL? Justin Upton pinch-hits for Braun.

10:23 EDT: Oh, I give up. You can figure out who the subs are.

10:26 EDT: Pujols interviewed by Eric Karros. Man, this game’s boring compared to last year…or maybe I’m just not sleep-deprived enough yet.

10:28 EDT: McCarver says that the evening started with “The Man” (Stan Musial), and in the seventh, “El Hombre” leaves. Last night, Pujols said he didn’t want to be called “El Hombre” because regardless of language, the title of “The Man” belongs to Musial. Luckily, McCarver’s Spanish isn’t so great, and he actually called Pujols “El Hambre”, which means “The Hunger”.

10:34 EDT: CARL CRAWFORD!!! Robs Brad Hawpe of a home run!

10:37 EDT: Pap’s making us nervous, but so far, he’s getting the job done.

10:42 EDT: Now in the eighth; Papelbon got the strikeout of McCann to end it. Heath Bell takes over for the man he succeeded as San Diego closer.

10:48 EDT: Adam Jones sac fly gives the AL the lead, scoring Granderson, who tripled.

10:57 EDT (hopefully): Computer’s seizing up again. What a drone. Amazing that there have been that many hits at all. Oh, yes, they just mentioned that the AL has retired 18 NLers in a row, second-longest stretch in ASG history and longest by the AL. And sure enough, Joe F*ck jinxed it, as Adrian Gonzalez walks, followed by Hudson singling. Ryan Howard up to pinch-hit.

11:03 EDT (probably not): Howard strikes out. We’re safe, no thanks to “Would You Please Shut The Buck Up?” there.

11:04 EDT: Absolutely MUST find out what song that Lincoln commercial uses.

11:12 EDT (okay, not really): 1 down for Mo. Hawpe up to bat.

11:14 EDT (or something like that): Tejada flies out to end it. 1-2-3.

11:?? EDT: 2 hours, 31 minutes–or shorter than the pregame cermonies. Geez, shouldn’t All-Star Games be, I don’t know, longer than the average game? Because a 2-1/2 hour game is pretty damn quick these days. This blows. I had more snarky comments about my computer than I did about the game, and I didn’t even get a chance to call Tejada any names! I started to, but then it went from him being the “last hope” to being out before I could get it off. Also, he seems to have shrunk all over so I can’t make any steroids references anymore. (Insert “shrinkage” joke here.)

Blackout

Paul Lukas must be going ballistic. In the tradition of hockey games and Penn State football, the White Sox have asked their fans to dress in one color, and for a team called the White Sox, it’s only natural that they should all be dressed in…black! Here’s hoping they don’t get burned… The Twins have so much intrigue on this game. The pennant race isn’t the only race still alive. A flashback to last year: After 162 games, Ryan Howard led the National League in RBIs with 136. Right behind him with 135 was Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies, who had an extra game. Holliday tied Howard with an RBI single in the fifth inning of Game 163 and took the crown with an RBI triple in the 13th. Back to the present: Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers leads the AL with 130 RBIs. Justin Morneau has 129. Deja vu? Holliday, incidentally, also won the NL batting title last year. Currently, the AL batting lead belongs to Joe Mauer of the Twins. It would take 7 hitless at-bats, plus two hitless at-bats for every hit (1 for 10, 2 for 13, etc.) for him to lose it, at which point my glowing prediction about Dustin Pedroia will come to pass sooner than I expected.

Record!

The Seattle Mariners put on a brilliant rally last night, coming from a 7-0 deficit after seven innings to…create a save situation for Francisco Rodriguez, who picked up his record-tying fifty-seventh save of the season. In the wake of the Angels’ AL West clinch, manager Mike Scioscia says they’ll still be playing for home field advantage, but I don’t know if they’ll really be going all out. Making sure everyone’s ready for the playoffs is what’s important, and besides, the Angels are still far and away the best road team in the majors, so no home field advantage isn’t a huge deal to them. The manager also said that his usage of K-Rod wouldn’t change after the record was set and the playoff spot clinched, and this I believe. To be effective, a closer has to be in a good rhythm. Assuming that the rate of overall Angels wins to K-Rod’s saves stays constant, even a conservative 7-9 estimate for the Angels’ last 16 games would produce 61 or 62 saves. As for other hotly contested races, Chipper Jones has retaken the NL batting lead, .362 to Albert Pujols’s .360. Josh Hamilton’s once-dominant lead in RBIs has vanished, now just four ahead of Justin Morneau for the AL lead and trailing NL leader Ryan Howard by 5. Jacoby Ellsbury still leads the American League in stolen bases, 45-42 over B.J. Upton, although it would take a remarkable run for him to break the Red Sox’ team record, something that seemed a sure thing midway through the season. (He picked up number 35 on July 1). Still, it’s a sign of how unusual it is for Boston to have such a player that a player still considered a rookie is tied for 41st on the Red Sox’ all-time career stolen bases list. At this rate, he’ll likely be the team’s all-time leader by the time he’d first be eligible for free agency (if the Sox don’t sign him to an extension before he’s eligible, which they probably will.) On to the elimination scenarios… Detroit from AL Wild Card with loss and Boston win, that’s all for one-day. Two-day: Texas from AL Wild Card with two losses and a Boston win or a loss and two Boston wins; Cleveland from AL Wild Card with two losses and two Boston wins. Yeah, boring.

Final note: The first two games of this weekend’s Cubs-Astros series have been preemptively postponed due to Hurricane Ike. No word on when they’ll be made up–and trust me, with the way the NL Central/Wild Card race has been going, they will be made up.

Triumph of the sawbuck

A sawbuck is slang for a ten-dollar bill, aka…a Hamilton.
Okay, yeah, that was a horrible pun; the point is, Josh Hamilton was amazing
last night! At one point, he had thirteen straight home runs without an out.
His 28 home runs in the first round broke the record set by Bobby Abreu, who
had 24 in 2005. I missed most of the first round, doing homework, but I saw
almost all of Hamilton’s performance. My father called me downstairs early on
after mistakenly thinking that Hamilton had done the impossible–drive a fair
ball clear out of Yankee Stadium. (Mickey Mantle once hit one off of the iconic
frieze, the closest anyone has ever come to hitting one all the way out.) The
ball that had fooled my father’s eyes? Only the third longest that
Hamilton hit, estimated at 502 feet. The announcers made a joke about Milton
Bradley actually doing something nice when he came out to towel off Hamilton’s
tired pitcher, who, by the way, adds yet another interesting scene to The
Josh Hamilton Story
. Apparently, back when Josh played American Legion
ball, he promised his coach that if he ever reached the big leagues and was in
the Home Run Derby, he’d bring the coach along as his pitcher. True to his
word, in the long tradition of obscure or otherwise odd Home Run Derby pitchers
(David Wright put on a great first-round show in Pittsburgh in 2006 with Mets
catcher Paul Lo Duca throwing to him), 71-year-old high school coach Claybon
(Clay) Counsil was behind the screen for Hamilton’s at-bats, throwing 54 pitches
in the first round alone. (A second mention of the Star-Ledger in as
many days: this morning’s paper mistakenly identified him as “Clay Council”.
BOOOOOO!!!) By the way, does anyone know what was in the case that Edinson
Volquez set on home plate after Hamilton’s twelfth home run? It added a bit of
intrigue to it all, Volquez of course the other primary in the deal that sent
Hamilton from Cincy to Texas. Hamilton was the last of the eight contestants to
go in the first round, and with the rule change that makes all home runs from
the first round carry over to the second, he had already out-homered everyone
else before he’d even come up for the second round, securing a spot in the
finals; they allowed him to take a few swings anyway, and he hit four home runs
and made four outs in a shortened second round. The “Call Your Shot” contest
was a bust, as even with two left-handed hitters in the finalist taking aim at
Yankee Stadium’s short right-field fence, neither could win a car for the
contest winner, Hamilton’s shot hitting in fair territory in right and then
landing on the foul side of the pole on one bounce, Morneau’s landing in left
field. Oh, that’s right: lost in all of this kerfuffle was the fact that Justin
Morneau won the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby, with five final-round bombs to
Hamilton’s three. (Wright’s first-round heroics in 2006 likewise didn’t
translate into a win, but that was no big surprise as Ryan Howard had already
taken the stage with a late charge in the second round–five or six gold-ball
home runs, I think–to surge into the finals on the brink of elimination. Howard
also punctuated his amazing run by hitting his Derby-winning home run right at
one of those “Hit it here, win $1,000,000” MasterCard┬« signs, making one lucky
fan a millionaire. As if all of those gold-ball home runs weren’t enough
charity.) Tonight, the 79th Annual All-Star Game, live from New York
City! And remember…”This One Counts!”

 

Correction: It was actually the first round in which Howard
made his late charge, with four of his eight home runs coming with the gold
balls. Furthermore, while the MasterCard┬« signs last night said “Win
$1,000,000”, in 2006 the prize was 500 flights–a slightly lesser prize,
considering that not even first-class tickets should cost $2,000. Of course,
the gold balls were more valuable then–$21,000, for the sponsor at the time,
Century 21, as opposed to the $17,000 that they were this year. He had six of
those, all totaled. Not to mention, while the fact that the donation goes to
the local Boys and Girls Club instead of to a single lucky fan makes it more
charitable, the $50,000 that Justin Morneau earned for charity with his win
last night pales in comparison to the quarter-million that Howard got for his
paired fan. I made a big comment about how charitable Howard was at the Derby
in my ’06 journal–blog-like in nature but not a true blog in that it exists
only on my hard drive.

 

Addendum: Listening to XM 175 on my afternoon commute, they
brought up a good point about closer salaries skyrocketing and how there’s
going to be that type of situation this year with K-Rod, who hasn’t yet
re-upped with the Angels, and I got to thinking, is this one of the best “walk
year” salary campaigns ever? After 95 games, the Angels are 57-38 and K-Rod has
38 saves. Prorated to a 162-game campaign, that’s somewhere around 97 wins for
the Angels and 65 saves for their closer. I did say in an early entry that I
thought the single-season save record would fall, and I even did say it would
be a West Coast team whose closer would set it…but, like most of my
predictions, something was a little bit off. In this case, the league of
the team was off. The NL West was touted as the “most competitive division in
baseball”, and it seemed to be a division rich in pitching and, well, not so
much so in hitting, so it seemed natural that there’d be a lot of low-scoring
games. What I didn’t take into account would be the quintet’s near-inability to
win outside of their division. While it would be ludicrous to believe that
K-Rod really is on pace for 65 saves, 60 sounds like a reasonable enough
number–and that would still best the old record by three. So while I’m changing
the name of the new record holder, I stand by my former statement: Enjoy the
record while it lasts, Mr. Thigpen.