This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: April 15-21, 2013
The Red Sox Comfort Boston, But is it Enough? Growing Hatred for Old Wrigley
Will Hockey at Dodger Stadium Skate? Jean Segura's Wrong-Way Adventures

Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
29 5 10 5 1 1 10 3 0 0 0

Are the Red Sox sure the Hollywood, Florida native failed that physical last Fall? Napoli played this past week like the guy who should’ve gotten the bigger pot of gold, before the Red Sox swiped most of it away out of concern for his hip—leading the charge on the field in an emotional week for Boston and its fans. Helping Napoli at the plate is that he’s been playing exclusively at first base, as opposed to splitting his time doing demanding catcher duty as he did in Texas.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
24 7 10 3 1 1 6 3 0 0 2

Coors Field always sweetens CarGo’s chances of taking this honor when the Rockies get a week full of home cooking. A lifetime .354 hitter at Coors (and .258 elsewhere), Gonzalez was every bit as hot as the weather was cold during the Rockies’ three-game sweep of the Mets, then gave a more light contribution to the weekend series against Arizona. Home or away, a healthy Gonzalez is badly needed by the Rockies to extend their eye-opening start to the year.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
25 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0

After hitting .325 for the Rays last season, the White Sox brought on “Keppy” with the idea that he’d be a solid bat to help lift the offense to a better place. The toilet was not exactly what the Sox had in mind for that place. He’s been no help whatsoever for the Pale Hose so far, producing one extra-base hit (a double) and no walks in 72 at-bats to go with a wretched .153 average; hitting into two double plays this past week only coated his performance with more ugly tarnish.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Cliff Pennington, Arizona Diamondbacks

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
15 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

A warmer climate and livelier home ballpark was supposed to enhance the Corpus Christi native’s numbers after hitting a weak .215 for Oakland in 2012, but a hitless week on the road in New York and Colorado—neither of which are currently classified as pitching paradises—only seem to suggest a depressive status quo. Granted, the Diamondbacks aren’t expecting the second coming of Ted Williams with this guy, but they weren’t hoping for this, either.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 8 4 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 12

Frankly, this honor was something of a toss-up between King Felix and Detroit’s Max Scherzer, his opponent for Wednesday’s strikeout-a-thon at Seattle; they each pitched eight innings and racked up 12 Ks and left with a 1-1 tie, but Hernandez was a wee bit better—walking none and allowing only an unearned run when Victor Martinez scored after reaching on a Brendan Ryan error. Offensive support continues to be an issue for Hernandez, even with the fences moved in at Safeco Field; the Mariners have averaged 2.3 runs in his four starts.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati Reds

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 14 9 2 2 3 0 0 0 0 18

Rain kept the 26-year-old right-hander from finishing the job on Tuesday against Philadelphia—and that was a shame as he pitched magnificently against the Phillies, allowing just two hits and no walks while striking out ten in eight innings. He was deprived of another deserving win on Sunday when he left with a 2-2 tie in the sixth; the Reds scored eight runs an inning later, officially earning a win for the bullpen. Bailey’s maturation towards stardom continues in promising fashion.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Phil Humber, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 0.1 8 8 8 1 0 0 0 0 1

The ay-yi-yi’s of Texas are upon the frustrated 30-year-old who pitched so well in his first three games but came away with a 0-3 record as the Astros could only manage one measly run of support. Finally, this past Friday, his teammates broke out the bats—and Humber responded by getting badly shelled by the Indians in what was the shortest and most unsatisfying outing of his career. Boy, does that perfect game seem so long ago.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
John Maine, Miami Marlins

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 5.1 10 9 9 4 1 0 1 0 5

Remember the Maine? It’s getting harder and harder to do just that. Once a promising part of the Mets’ rotation, Maine’s shoulder went kaput in 2010 and he’s had trouble trying to make it in the majors ever since. He caught on with the Marlins to start 2013 because the team is so talent-depleted, but even that has proven too difficult a task as he was designated for assignment after two rotten relief appearances this past week—including a messy stint against the Reds in which he walked five batters in two innings.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Minnesota Twins (4-0)

For the Jekyll-and-Hyde Twins, the question this past week became: Why couldn’t have the postponements come a week earlier when things were awful (0-5)? In a complete turnaround, the Twins started the week with a pair of home victories against the Angels, then ended it with two more victories on the road at Chicago. In between was a three-day layoff, two days of which were due to bad weather that cancelled games. They hope to continue the momentum this coming week—weather permitting.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Milwaukee Brewers (6-0)

After a 2-8 start, the Brewers have come flying back to life with a seven-game win streak, the latter six of which took place this past week in which the Brew Crew dispensed of the good (Giants) and bad (Cubs) with equal impunity. They did it in spite of a patchwork rotation, a DUI for the staff ace (Yovani Gallardo), an embarrassing episode of wrong-way running theatrics from Jean Segura and the ejection of Ryan Braun on Sunday. If anything else, it was good character building at work.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Seattle Mariners (1-5)

The scuffling M’s are once again proof that you should never believe spring training stats. Back then in Arizona, the Mariners were belting one homer after another and looked primed to pounce on opposing pitchers for the regular season. Instead, Seattle’s offense has come crashing to a halt, with only the lowly Marlins hitting worse for average—and the very lowly Astros striking out more. Not even a weekend trip to hitting-friendly Texas could cure the M’s hitting blues.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (1-5)

Money doesn’t buy you happiness—and so far for the Dodgers, it’s not buying many wins either. A six-game losing skid that finally came to a halt on Sunday at Baltimore really stung because it included a three-game sweep at home at the hands of the Padres, the team that brawled with them a week earlier and sent Zack Greinke to the shelf. Nobody probably feels the heat more than manager Don Mattingly, for whom the Dodger brass will soon throw all the blame on if things don’t turn around.


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, April 15
In the last few hours of normality in Boston before five days of terror, anger and lockdowns, the Red Sox get a walk-off double from Mike Napoli to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2. The Rays had tied the game in the top of the ninth on a Ben Zobrist single off closer Andrew Bailey, who gets the “accidental” win out of a save situation.

In his first career start against the team he played for 12 years, Toronto’s Mark Buehrle stymies the Chicago White Sox for 6.1 innings, allowing two runs and collecting his first win in a Blue Jays uniform with a 4-3 victory at Rogers Centre.


Tuesday, April 16
On a night in which everyone on the field is wearing number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson, New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera—the only active player left wearing it everyday—earns his 611th career save by retiring the Arizona Diamondbacks in order in the ninth, preserving a 4-2 win at Yankee Stadium.

Five solo home runs—three alone in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie—give the Atlanta Braves their tenth straight win, defeating the Kansas City Royals at Turner Field, 6-3. Juan Francisco belts two of the homers for the Braves, whose winning streak is now the team’s longest since 2000; the Royals’ lone shot is provided by second baseman Chris Getz, who goes deep for the first time since 2009—a span of 958 at-bats.

Barry Zito had yet to give up an earned run on the year—and the San Francisco Giants hadn’t lost with him starting in 16 previous games, postseason included—but both streaks come crashing to an end when the veteran southpaw gives up nine runs in less than three innings of work at Milwaukee; a sustained comeback attempt by the Giants falls short and the Brewers outlast the defending champions, 10-8.

The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers reconvene at Dodger Stadium a week after a testy series in San Diego—and Chris Capuano, starting in place of Zack Greinke (out with a broken collarbone sustained in his brawl with the Padres’ Carlos Quentin), gets shelled for five runs in two innings of work. The Dodgers cannot recover and lose to the Padres, 9-4. Quentin, serving an eight-game suspension, does not play.


Wednesday, April 17
Several days after Boston’s Clay Buchholz flirts with a second career no-hitter, Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett does the same. Burnett, who threw a no-no back in 2001, takes another into the seventh inning—but St. Louis’ Carlos Beltran breaks it up with a two-out double. Burnett and the Pirates prevail, 5-0, before a small PNC Park crowd of 9,570.

The Detroit Tigers edge the Mariners at Seattle in 14 innings, 2-1, in a game in which both teams combine for 40 strikeouts—a franchise-tying 21 of them by the Tigers. Prince Fielder whiffs a career-high five times, part of an ugly 0-for-6 night.

Mike Carp, whose activity over the Red Sox’s first 13 games consisted of just three pinch-hit performances, gets a start at first base and collects two doubles and a triple in three at-bats to give Boston a 6-3 win at Cleveland over the Indians and Justin Masterson, who suffers his first loss of the season.


Thursday, April 18
Days after being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo pitches six strong innings and belts a two-run, second-inning homer to defeat the Giants, 7-2, and finish a three-game sweep at Miller Park. Matt Cain gives up all seven Brewer runs within the first three innings.

Very soon, the New York Mets will welcome a concept called heat. After chattering their teeth through a cold (and sometimes snowy) series last weekend at Minnesota, they finish off a three-game series in Colorado also plagued by lousy weather; in fact, the first pitch of their 11-3 loss to the Rockies at Denver’s Coors Field is 28 degrees, said to be the coldest game-time temperature for any major league game going back to 1991. With the win, the Rockies improve to an impressive 11-4 on the young season.


Friday, April 19
Washington ace Stephen Strasburg takes the unusual role of representing something of the old guard—taking the mound against hot New York Mets pitching prospect Matt Harvey, who outshines Strasburg with seven strong innings to become the majors’ first four-game winner in the Mets’ 7-1 victory. Ike Davis and Lucas Duda each hit a pair of homers for the Mets.

Colorado pitcher Jhoulys Chacin is forced to leave in the seventh inning against Arizona, but his last pitch is his 100th of the night—thus becoming the first Rockie pitcher in 117 games to throw 100 in a game. The Rockies defeat the Diamondbacks at Coors Field, 3-1, before far more balmy conditions (52 degrees) than the day before.


Saturday, April 20
There’s no enticements of discounted food needed to sell out Fenway Park on this day. In the first game in Boston since the Boston Marathon bombings (Friday’s scheduled game was postponed)—and the first game back in eight months for Red Sox slugger David Ortiz—a packed house watches the Red Sox get three runs in the bottom of the eighth on a Daniel Nava home run to overcome the Kansas City Royals, 4-3. Clay Buchholz goes eight innings to pick up his fourth win of the year; Ortiz knocks out two singles in four at-bats and drives in one.

After losing five straight games in which they scored a total of 11 runs, the Cleveland Indians burst out with 14 runs over the first two innings at Houston and roll to a 19-6 rout of the Astros. Nick Swisher collects four hits (including three doubles) and Jason Giambi, making his fourth appearance of the year, smashes his first homer of the season and knocks in five runs. Despite the early outburst of offense, Cleveland starting pitcher Scott Kazmir—making his first major league appearance in two years—doesn’t earn the win as he lasts only 3.1 innings and allows six runs.

In Tampa Bay’s 1-0 win over Oakland, the Rays’ Desmond Jennings becomes the first outfielder since 1992 to perform an unassisted double play when he catches Coco Crisp’s pop-up in short center field and runs to touch first base, doubling up Eric Sogard—who was running on the play and had gone all the way to third.


Sunday, April 21
Roberto Hernandez—not the Roberto Hernandez who used to save games for Tampa Bay back in the 1990s, but the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona—holds down the A's for six innings and picks up his first major league win since changing his name two years ago as the Rays defeat Oakland, 8-1.

After winning their first eight home games, the Rockies finally succumb at Coors Field to Arizona, blowing a 4-3 lead in the ninth when the Diamondbacks rally for two runs off Wilton Lopez. Every team has now won and lost at least one game at home and away this season.


In the Shadows of Tragedy, Again
When the bombings at the Boston Marathon took place this past week—a mere hour or two after the end of the traditional Red Sox’ Patriots’ Day morning game at Fenway Park, itself a mere mile or two from the finish line of the Marathon—we couldn’t help but think back to what we wrote last summer in the wake of the Aurora theater shootings near Denver. Back then, we said: “The sad fact is, if someone wants to target a ballpark, they will. Being vigilant can only go so far.”

In this case, a marathon proved to be a more tempting soft target than a ballpark because, in a sense, the sport comes to the street rather than vice versa, as security has more control over arriving visitors within a ballpark that is contained and closed off to those who don’t have tickets or credentials. Still, the bombings served as yet another reminder for MLB that crossing its fingers in hopes that someone doesn’t target one of its venues, alone, will not be enough to deter such heinous acts from happening on its watch.

Do the Right Thing
Playing Sweet Caroline during the seventh inning stretch at ballparks everywhere is a nice touch, but it’s a hallow sound to those directly and horribly affected by the bombings. The National Hockey League and the Boston Bruins, who postponed two games while Beantown was locked down and the manhunt proceeded, contributed $250,000 to aide those injured in the bombings. Robert Kraft, owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, has donated $100,000. Ticket proceeds from a Wake Forest baseball series with Boston College went towards assisting the victims. For awhile, it appeared that the Red Sox and MLB were sitting on their bank accounts, but finally on Sunday it was announced that the Sox, MLB and the player's association would, in fact, combine their charitable muscle and donate $650,000 to the victims.

But here's another thought, and perhaps this is just old thinking—but when there was a cause to be met, baseball used to respond with a benefit game. When star pitcher Addie Joss died over 100 years ago, his Cleveland Naps (Indians) held a benefit to help pay off his widow’s debts. When America went to war in the 1940s, the majors held numerous exhibitions to aid the war effort. When Roy Campanella became paralyzed after a car accident in 1957, the Dodgers drew over 90,000 for a special exhibition game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in his honor to help pay his bills.

We understand that the MLB schedule is tight with more games and less off-days due to less doubleheaders than what was normal some 50-100 years ago, but the Red Sox need to find the time to schedule a benefit, pack the joint and have all the proceeds go to the victims, many of whom have staggering medical bills from loss of limbs. Channel Bill Veeck and make such a game fun; have the Red Sox take on a team of recent Sox stars now retired (Pedro Martinez, Mike Lowell, Dave Roberts) or local college all-stars, and hold raffles or a silent auction of items donated by local businesses in between innings. It’s a visible and noble way to involve the community and take the lead on doing the right thing.

Rebuild It and They Won't Come to Blow it Up
The City of Chicago and the Cubs agreed on a $500 million renovation of 99-year-old Wrigley Field this past week—and the makeover couldn’t come soon enough for the outspoken Lance Berkman, who visited the facility along with the Texas Rangers for a midweek interleague series. “If they’re looking for a guy to bush the button when they blow the place up, I’ll do it,” exclaimed Berkman. Perhaps part of Berkman’s ire for Wrigley is derived from the fact that he holds a career .215 average in 83 games at the historic ballpark. Everywhere else, he’s hitting a collective .300.

Berkman is part of a growing chorus of voices slamming the current Wrigley as too old and antiquated; as friendly and charming as the facility is said to be, it hasn’t kept others from slamming it, most notably last year when baseball writer Peter Gammons declared it a “dump.”

Skating on Warm, Thin Ice?
A few years ago there was talk of the NHL staging one of its “Winter Classic” outdoor games at San Francisco’s AT&T Park (home of the Giants), a more mild wintertime client than what you might experience in, say, Chicago or Boston. That fell through, but now the NHL is ramping up to do one better for this coming season—by holding an outdoor game at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. Question: Does the NHL realize how freakishly warm it can get in Southern California in January? (It’s been known to hit 90 degrees when the Santa Ana winds kick up.)

One other request should the game go on: Give Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully the ultimate challenge and let him do play-by-play and weave a story or two for a sport that moves at a far brisker pace.

Dumb Quote, Definitely Dumb Quote
In the days after the brawl that cost San Diego’s Carlos Quentin an eight-game suspension and Los Angeles’ Zack Greinke an eight-week stay on the disabled list, Padre CEO Tom Garfinkel rubbed it in during a chat with season ticket holders that went viral this past week. Garfinkel claims that even though the Dodgers were leading by a mere run and Quentin was a leadoff hitter with a full count, Greinke intentionally hit him anyway. “They can say 3-and-2 count, 2-1 game, no one does that. Zack Greinke is a different kind of guy. Anyone seen Rain Man? He’s a very smart guy.”

The Rain Man reference seemed interesting, as it inferred that Greinke, who suffers from social-anxiety disorder, is also autistic to boot. Once the comments gathered legs in the blogosphere, Garfinkel apologized to Greinke and the Dodgers. “I said some things I shouldn’t have,” he remarked.

Hey, Wasn’t I Just Here?
Milwaukee speedster Jean Segura participated in one of the majors’ strangest-ever sequences on the basepaths this past Friday after an eighth-inning single against the Cubs at Miller Park. Segura stole second, and attempted to steal third after Ryan Braun walked; but he was caught in a rundown and retreated back to second—where Braun, also attempting to steal, was tagged out. Believing he was called out, Segura started back toward the Brewers’ dugout on the first base side—and, halfway to first, realized he was still a live runner; he high-tailed to first without a throw from the Cubs, perhaps stunned as to what the heck he was doing. Trying to make up, Segura next tried to steal second—again—and this time was tagged out. The Brewers overcame Segura’s gaffe and won the game, 5-4.

It’s Super-Home-Run-Collector-Man!
Zack Hample, who’s made catching home run balls in the bleachers so much his business that he’s written a book on the subject, snagged two deep drives hit at Yankee Stadium this past Thursday—including the first career shot for Arizona’s Didi Gregorious in the Diamondbacks’ 6-2 win over New York. Hample claims to have caught 29 home run balls over the years, including Mike Trout’s first career blast and Barry Bonds’ 724th in 2006; this is the second time he’s come up with two in one game, having done it previously at Baltimore in 2010.

Sign of the Times
The Detroit Tigers set a major league record by striking out 37 times over consecutive games, Tuesday and Wednesday at Seattle—and won both games. The record eclipsed the 36 combined over two games by the 1986 Mariners—one of those being the famous 20-strikeout gem authored by Boston’s Roger Clemens.

Not Walking into History
Cliff Lee walked the bases loaded in the third inning of Philadelphia’s 5-0 loss to St. Louis on Saturday, and that opened a lot of eyes given Lee’s record-setting accuracy of late; he had set a modern big league record for the most consecutive starts (20) throwing at least six innings while walking one batter or none. In Saturday’s game, he couldn’t accomplish either. In those previous 20 games, Lee was 8-4 with a 2.29 ERA, 136 strikeouts and just ten walks in 145.1 innings.

Walking into History?
Through Saturday, Cincinnati’s
Joey Votto has racked up 25 walks on the year—nearly double the guy with the second-most number of bases on balls. Still, Votto is behind pace with Barry Bonds’ record-setting total of 232 from 2004.

So When Does That Mercy Rule Take Effect?
A high school game in Ohio was called after three innings with Licking Heights ahead of Columbus Harvest Prep—by a score of 65-0.

YouTube Clip of the Week
Most outfielders that get heckled from the bleachers just grin and bare it, let it roll off their shoulders and ignore it. But in a clip that’s surfaced from last year,
Tony Gwynn Jr. had a rather novel approach to some knuckleheads, answering back in a way that actually brought smiles to all involved. (Some profanity is included—not from Gwynn.)

He Said What?
“This is our f***ing city. And no one is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong!”—Boston slugger
David Ortiz, speaking defiantly to the crowd before Saturday’s game between the Red Sox and Kansas City Royals—the first game at Fenway Park since the Boston Marathon bombings.

League vs. League
After falling behind in the interleague race, the American League caught up by winning six of ten games against the National League and closed the gap on head-to-head competition with its senior sibling. Through this past Sunday, the NL holds a 12-9 edge over the AL in interleague play.

This Week’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Young
Starlin Castro of the Chicago Cubs ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak, at 13 games—one shy of his personal best set between 2011-12.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekAs if losing Zack Greinke to a major injury during a recent brawl wasn’t enough sting for the Dodgers, there was insult (and injury) added to injury this past week when Greinke’s replacement, Chris Capuano, was placed on the disabled list with a strained left calf—suffered, it was said, while charging from the bullpen to assist Greinke and his teammates during that brawl.

Otherwise absorbed at the MLB Medical Ward were injuries to Philadelphia pitcher John Lannan (quad, out 15 days), Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (strained hamstring, 15 days), Chicago White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo (strained left oblique, 15 days), Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill (broken left hand, one month), Cincinnati catcher Ryan Hanigan (strained left oblique, 15 days), Cleveland outfielder Michael Bourn (right hand laceration, 15 days), Houston outfielder J.D. Martinez (sprained right knee, 15 days), San Francisco reliever Jeremy Affeldt (strained right oblique, 15 days) and San Diego outfielder Cameron Maybin (right wrist, 15 days). Also, top New York Mets prospect Travis d’Arnaud broke his foot in a minor league game, leaving him out of action for two months—and delaying what many had believe would be an inevitable promotion to the Mets before the All-Star Break.

Finally, there was Houston coach Jeff Murphy, who was suckered from behind by a protective fence (an ironic name, given that it all but attacked him) as it fell upon him from a gust of wind during batting practice before Wednesday’s game between the Astros and A’s at Oakland. And because almost nothing escapes the camera’s eye at a baseball game these days—even an hour before the first pitch—let’s go to the videotape.

TGG’s 2013 Season Preview
Lock the doors, batten down the hatches and head for the hills, because TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry and Ed Attanasio are stormin’ through with their picks for the coming baseball season. Check it out now in our Opinion section!


The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.


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