Thursday, April 12, 2007

Getaway Day Grab Bag

Last night, the Mariners-Red Sox game was nationally televised for one reason: Daisuke Matusaka's first start at home, Fenway Park. And as an added bonus, he would be firing gyroballs at former rivals from the Japanese league, Ichiro Suzuki and Kenji Johijama. Matusaka pitched well, allowing 3 runs over 7, striking out 4. But the man who stole the show on this night, amongst all the flashbulbs and "Dice-K" signs, was Felix Hernandez, the 21-year old phenom of the Mariners. Us east coast people don't get to see a lot of Seattle games, but it was pretty hard for King Felix to fly under the radar on this night. He pitched a complete-game shutout, striking out 6. He carried a no-hitter into the 8th, until that lazy overpaid guy J.D. Drew broke it up with a single up the middle. I got to watch 6 innings of this game at the bar, and this guy was just outstanding. The movement he had on some of his pitches for a guy his age tells me this kid is going to be around for a long time, barring injury.

The big story in my neck of the woods this year has been Josh Hamilton. A former rising star and former 1st round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, his career came to an abrupt halt due to a cocaine addiction. He played for a few years in the D-Rays farm system, and now after being out of baseball for nearly 5 years, he is back on the field, cleaned up and looking better than ever with his new team, the Reds. He made the team in spring training with hustle, determination, and not to mention a .403 batting average. He is primarily going to be used off the bench, but he did manage to get his first career homerun in his first career start on Tuesday, and last night in his 2nd start, he had a double and a homerun. These are the stories that you just love to hear about in Major League Baseball. For every Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry out there, there's a Sammy Sosa and a Josh Hamilton that fight for and deserve a second chance.

Just a quick thought...I noticed in watching a few innings of the Yanks-Twins series this week that A-Rod seems to be on a mission this year, as he now leads the Majors with 6 HR and 16 RBI. Maybe he's going to finally stop letting the New York fans get to him, even though I'm sure they'll always be ready to boo at the drop of a hat. A-Rod has never hit below 30 HR and .280 in a season, and he seems to be a .300/40 HR/120 RBI guy year in, year out. He's one of the best players in baseball, even under the microscope, and I really hope he does well this year for the sake of his mental health. This isn't Seattle or Arlington anymore - it takes a special player to play under constant scutiny and to win the favor of such a tough crowd year in, year out, much as his teammate Derek Jeter has.

Lastly, our Brew Crew managed to win 2 games in a little over 4 hours last night, taking their first road series on the year against the Marlins in Miami. A new rule this year (see "New Rules" post from last month) allows suspended games to be resumed the next day, and the Brewers took full advantage of this, as Prince nearly came out of his shoes knocking in the go-ahead run in the 13th. The Brewers' defense and pitching looked much better this series, and Dave Bush, typically a pitcher who struggles on the road, looked phenomenal. The bullpen is looking outstanding, minus a few shaky appearances by Villanueva. Turnbow certainly looks to be back to his old form - giving up a walk and a hit, and then striking out the side. Hardy, Jenkins, Estrada, and Fielder are all hitting a ton, and everybody seems to be getting good swings at the plate except Bill Hall, but I'm sure he'll come around. We have plenty of other outfielders to spell him until he gets hot and starts hitting opposite field jacks ad nauseum.

Twins W (5-3)
Brewers W, W (5-4)
Reds W (5-4)

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