As inter-league play continues, it’s been the pitchers that have caught the eye over the past week. Read about the good, the bad and the shameful in “Weekly” hit ground ball.
Highlight of the week – What else could it be? Justin Verlander pitched a no-hitter for the Tigers on Tuesday against the Brewers. Any no-hitter is special, but the dominant fashion in which Verlander pitched throughout the game was something else. He struck out twelve while hitting 101mph on the speed gun with his 109th pitch of the game. It brought a 4-0 victory for the Tigers, fifty-three points for my fantasy team, and a whole heap of awestruck comments. As Placido Polanco concluded after the game: “It was what we call in baseball, ‘filthy,'”. Verlander now has a 7-2 record on the season and will be going for win number eight, and dare I say back-to-back no-hitters, later on today. Good luck Philadelphia!
The wonders of run support – Despite Verlander’s phenomenal performance, he still only ended up with one more win in his season column. His team mate Jeremy Bonderman showed that sometimes you don’t need to try so hard. Bonderman gave up four homers and five earned runs in six innings against the Phillies on Friday and walked away with win number seven for his troubles. However, before the Tigers’ batting line-up carps too loudly, Bonderman played his part for the offense as well. As the game was played in Philadelphia, National League rules applied and he had to come to bat, something which he neither has much experience with nor much aptitude for (relatively speaking). In the fifth inning, Bonderman broke out of a career 0 for 21 slump and squeaked a base hit before eventually being driven home. His journey around the bases was a venture into uncharted waters and it’s fair to say that it showed. Still, he crossed home plate in the end and that’s all that matters. “I don’t ever want to play in the National League,” was Bonderman’s reaction. Tigers fans will be more than happy with that if it means he stays in Detroit for years to come.
From the good to the bad – Kip Wells is having a dreadful season and he hit a new low with his performance against the Royals this week. Wells managed just 1.1 innings before he had to be pulled out by Tony La Rusa after giving up four walks and six earned runs. The loss made it a Major League worst eleventh for the season, with just two wins to go alongside. At the time of writing, Wells remains on the Major League roster, but his immediate future is in doubt. His team mate Anthony Reyes suffered the indignity of being sent down to the Minors earlier this season having pegged an 0-8 record from his first nine starts. Reyes was called up yesterday and Wells may be replacing him in the Memphis Redbirds’ rotation shortly. Sometimes, one good performance is all it takes for things to start falling in place again; therefore both Wells and Reyes would have looked on with envy yesterday as the Cards racked up a ten run inning against the A’s during a 15-6 victory.
See, this pitching game is easy! – Things got so bad for the Cardinals on Friday that they resorted to putting outfielder Scott Spiezio on the mound for the eighth inning of a blowout loss. While Spiezio seemed to enjoy it, the whole affair left many a Cards fan wondering what has happened to their reigning World Series winners. Firstly, the Cards were largely in a hole because of the performance by the A’s starter Dan Haren, who they traded away (with two other players) prior to the 2005 season for Mark Mulder. Secondly, Spiezio’s inning was probably the most effective one thrown by a St Louis pitcher that night (he gave up just one walk and no hits).
And hitting’s not much more difficult! – Spiezio’s performance on the mound may have been an attempt by the batters union to claw back some pride from their pitching counterparts. After Carlos Zambrano showed the hitters how it’s done by going deep for the second time this season on Monday, the Dodgers’ Hong-Chih Kuo repeated the trick on the following day. Kuo showed he had a taste for the dramatic though. Not only was his blast the third of a three-pitch, three-homer sequence, but he celebrated his achievement with a Major League bat flip that the likes of David Ortiz would have been proud of. Kuo was quick to apologise after the game (although it’s hard to blame him for being excited) and that was probably the wise thing to do. The Padres took offence at Alfonso Soriano’s post-homer posing on Friday and it ended up with a massive bench clearing bust-up taking place the following day. These baseball players can get a bit touchy at times.
Even Jason Kendall! – Zambrano homered on Monday, Kuo homered on Tuesday, so it was no surprise that this sequence was finished off with an even more unlikely event on Wednesday. Jason Kendall, no doubt spurred on by the embarrassment of these “soft pitchers” making him look bad, hit his first home run in over a year. This gap was relatively small compared to the 247 game homer-less streak he had endured prior to his previous long ball (also coming during a Joe Blanton start, strangely enough). What odds would you get for 2007 being Kendall’s first multi-homer season since 2004?
Look away in shame – Finally, it’s always good to see British people taking an interest in baseball, but we probably could have done without this week’s escapade. Victoria Beckham waltzed out to the mound at Dodgers stadium on Monday and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Somehow she managed to retain her “pouting like a demented fish” facial pose during the event. What a pro! Funnily enough, Posh wasn’t there as a dedicated baseball fan and it was actually just a part of some “reality” TV show she is making to sell the Beckham brand to America. Yes, I’m dumbfounded by the idea of the Beckhams being part of a “reality” programme as well. L.A. probably doesn’t need two more hideously vain, celebrity-obsessed idiots, but at least they’re taking them off our hands.