It’s a big weekend with Hall of Fame inductions, Bonds’ home run chase and the trading deadline just days away. The week leading up to it was pretty eventful as well.
Baseball mourns and gives thanks – The week started off with two emotional events, one from each end of the spectrum. Mike Coolbaugh, the first base coach for the Tulsa Drillers (the Rockies’ Double A affiliate) was tragically killed on Sunday when he was hit in the head by a line drive. The accident has re-opened the debate on whether coaches should wear batting helmets. When something like this happens, it hardly seems like a debate at all. The following day, baseball remembered Coolbaugh while being heartened by another tale of courage. One year ago, Jon Lester was forced to consider his mortality when he was diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, he has battled through and returned to the Majors on Monday, picking up a win against the Indians.
Perfect no more – J.J. Putz saw his Mr Perfect impression come to an end this week. After thirty-one successful saves in a row, including twenty-nine this season, the Rangers finally got to him on Wednesday. As often happens in these cases, the blow wasn’t dealt by one of the established hitters such as Teixeira, Young or Sosa. No, it was Ramon Vazquez who hit a two-run homer as Texas beat the M’s 7-6. Sadly for Putz, it came at a terrible time for Seattle as it extended their losing streak to six.
Unbelievable Biggio – While Putz’s timing might have been off, Craig Biggio couldn’t have planned things any better. Before the Astros’ game on Tuesday, the future hall-of-famer announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season. He then promptly hit a grand slam to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning. “Who’s writing this stuff?” wondered the announcer. The guy with the initials CB might be worth questioning.
Close, but not close enough – Another CB wasn’t quite able to write his own ending. Chad Billingsley was one out away from a complete game shutout against the Astros on Monday before Luke Scott smacked a two-run homer (the Dodgers still beat the Astros 10-2 though). If Tim Hudson watched the footage and wondered “what does that feel like?”, he soon found out. The following day, Hudson himself was one out away from a complete game shutout before the Giants rallied and sent the game into extra innings. Hudson’s effort went to waste in relation to his win column (he got a no decision), but the Braves at least managed to fight back and get the win in the thirteenth inning.
First impressions count (sadly for Lannan) – Wily old veterans like Biggio can write their own scripts, but rookies such as the Nationals’ John Lannan have to accept the role they are given. The twenty-two year old lefty had his dreams come true on Thursday when he made his Major League debut against the Phillies. It didn’t quite go to plan though. First, Lannan hit Chase Utley, breaking the All-Star second baseman’s hand and lodging himself near the top of the “most wanted” list in Philadelphia in the process. Then he hit Ryan Howard. Now, in normal circumstances you could accept it as a nervous debutant losing his control (and pretty much everyone did after the event). The trouble was, Howard had hit a two-run bomb in his previous at-bat. 4.1 innings into his Major League career, Lannan was heading for an early shower after the umpire chucked him out of the game for deliberately plunking the Phillies’ slugger. At least he made an impression, I guess.
From hero to zero to hero again – Anthony Reyes was a hero in the World Series last season, but this year has been a struggle for the young right-hander. Reyes was 0-10 in his first eleven starts and had been sent down to Triple A to gain some more experience (and, no doubt, to restore his confidence). The Cards had originally planned to keep him there for the rest of the season, but injuries necessitated his call-up yesterday and he finally got his first win of the season. Reyes pitched six innings, giving up two hits and two runs, as the Cards beat the Brewers for the second time in the same day. In fairness to Reyes, while his 6.40 ERA heading into the game was hurting his cause, his team mates were not helping him much over that span as they were only averaging around 2.4 runs during his starts. St Louis put three runs on the board in the first inning against Chris Capuano and Reyes took over from there.
The tale of Tyner’s tater – Reyes showed that if you keep trying, eventually you will get your reward. Jason Tyner had gone 1,220 at-bats since his Major League debut without hitting a home run before finally launching his first last night against the Indians. Needless to say, his homer-less streak has been the source of much banter within the Twins’ clubhouse, with MLB.com revealing that even Johan Santana had a bet at the start of the season that he would hit one before Tyner. While I’m no fantasy guru, it’s probably safe to say that picking up Tyner on the expectation of a home run surge now the first is in the books would be unwise.
History beckons – Finally, while Tyner set his own homer landmark, messrs Bonds and Rodriguez are closing in on slightly more prestigious numbers. Bonds hit number 754 on Friday at AT&T Park and will be swinging like an axe murderer tonight against the Marlins in the hope of equalling Aaron’s record in his home park. If he hits it anywhere else (and the same goes for number 756 as well) you can rest assured that it won’t be met by wild celebrations. That the Giants now move on to a three-game set in LA against their fiercest rivals raises the possibility that Bonds will be kept on the bench during the series. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez hit career home run number 499 off Gil Meche on Wednesday. The search for 500 is on, although it could have been brought to a peculiar end on Friday when the Yankees and Orioles played the final two innings of a suspended game from 28 June. Had A-rod homered, it effectively would have gone in the record books under the previous date and therefore his 499th would have been his 500th already. Fortunately for everyone’s sanity, he grounded out to Tejada in his only at-bat.