Hello everyone, it’s time for my one and only AllStar break update. I have to sandwich this between a ThursdaySunday vacation I just took in which I had no Internet access and a flight to San Diego tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. So I’ll do what I can in talking about my teams and their headlines.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously?
- Carlos Pena competed in last night’s Home Run Derby, where he narrowly missed advancement to the second round. Albert Pujols would like to thank the fan who brought an out over the wall and turned it into a home run. Pena had a bad pitcher, Scott McNulty, who threw the ball outside 90% of the time. And he’s an assistant baseball coach at my school. Maybe I should interview him about the experience. I’ll leave out the “bad pitcher” part.
- Speaking of the Home Run Derby, I thought Nelson Cruz, who lost in the finals to Prince Fielder, was quite impressive. Looking at him, I can see that he’s a good allaround player with an easy power swing. I would like to see him go on to big things. He has already shot up from “FourA” journeyman to AllStar.
- Despite my approximately 3,300 votes for Pena, he did not win the Final Vote. I also voted against Shane Victorino because he’s a Phillie, but he won anyway. I would like to thank Dustin Pedroia for opening up a spot for Pena, though I’m surprised Ian Kinsler isn’t there. He should be, he deserves it.
- The Rays stand at 4841, 3.5 games behind the Yankees and six games back of the Red Sox. They have started slowly making their move lately, though the last place Oakland A’s have inexplicably given them a lot of trouble. At least here there was no long losing streak prior to the AllStar break. The Braves are 4345, a half game ahead of the Mets, which is hilarious. I hope the Mets crash and burn for the rest of this season. And beyond.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously? He was sent packing for Ryan Church in Thursday night’s trade, the first between the Braves and Mets in more than 15 years. Francoeur had been on the chopping block for several weeks as the Braves had run out of patience, but I never thought they could send him to the enemy. Church didn’t think he would be a Brave either, but here he is. He’s been the better player since last year, and his lefthanded bat gives the Braves options between him and righthander Matt Diaz. This may be a good deal.
I’ll be watching the AllStar Game tonight as I pack for San Diego. I’ll be staying for six nights at a little family reunion in Escondido. We should be seeing about 30 of our relatives, including a few that I haven’t met. Hopefully we have some baseball fans in the house. News just broke that Evan Longoria, the first ever Rays starter in an AllStar Game, is out due to an infected ring finger. I hate that for him and the team. Good luck to the remaining Rays and Brave in the game tonight, and until I’m back, go Rays.
The Atlanta Braves soundly defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the opening game of 2009 by a count of 41.
Derek Lowe pitched an absolute masterpiece, going eight innings allowing only two hits and no runs. He only had four strikeouts, but that’s just Lowe being Lowe. He allowed zero walks as well. Mike Gonzalez did allow a run before proving his worth with big strikeouts of Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with the tying run on base.
How about that Jordan Schafer? He came up against Brett Myers and hit a home run in his first Major League atbat! He became the 99th MLB player ever to accomplish this, and the first Brave since the one and only Jermaine Dye back in 1996. Not only did Schafer do it, he hit it to the opposite power alley in left center field. In Citizens Bank Park. It gets no better than that.
Brian McCann and the reformed Jeff Francoeur also hit early bombs in support of Lowe. McCann’s was an absolute cannon shot into the second deck that followed a great atbat from Chipper Jones. Francoeur tagged Myers on the first pitch of the second inning on a line drive into the left field seats. Sure enough, he was spraying the ball around all night.
Now the Rays will march right into Fenway Park and manhandle the Red Sox in similar fashion. That is, if I have anything to say about it. The Braves and Phillies meet again Tuesday night, weather permitting. Until next time, go Rays and Braves.
The Rays are right back on track upon their return home, beating the Orioles 2-0 and 11-4 in their first two games of this season-long 10 game homestand. I, along with my friend Lori and one of her friends, made a last-minute decision to attend Friday night’s game. I have one picture of us all together in our seats, in Section 140, Row JJ, viewable in my MySpace Rays photo album. For the first time this season, the Rays won a game that I saw in person. I had fun screaming at Aubrey Huff (“Hey Aubrey, if you did that (get thrown out at home) less often here, you would be here right now”…”Go back to Bubba (the Love Sponge) and tell him how badly your team sucks!”) and cheering the Rays on to a close victory. Matt Garza pitched very well, and the Rays capitalized on a stolen base thanks to a bad throw and a dropped running catch by Nick Markakis to score their first run in the sixth inning. On an extra base hit-turned-sacrifice fly by Carlos Pena, who got robbed on a diving catch by Luke Scott, the Rays doubled the lead in the eighth inning, leading to the save from Troy Percival. Overall, it was a fun game to be at, with an energetic, albeit small, live crowd.
Today was a little different, as this afternoon, I actually got to watch a Braves game as they hosted the Diamondbacks on FOX. One night after being on the losing end of the triumphant return of Doug Davis, the Braves put Jorge Campillo up against the legendary Randy Johnson. Johnson struck out ten Braves in just six innings, but was down 1-0 thanks to an RBI single by Yunel Escobar. Jorge Campillo had a great game before departing early with a blister. In the seventh inning, with Jeff Bennett on the mound, the umpires bought Arizona a run. Justin Upton (B.J.’s brother) was ruled safe on a close play at second base, when replays showed him to be out by a narrow margin. With two outs, pinch hitter Augie Ojeda drove Upton home with the tying run. In the bottom of the ninth inning, however, the Braves would strike last, and best. Chipper Jones singled off Doug Slaten to lead things off, and after an out by Mark Teixeira, the Diamondbacks went to right hander Chad Qualls to deal with Jeff Francoeur. Qualls hung an 0-1 slider inside, which Francoeur blasted high, deep, and over the left field wall for a walk-off home run and a 3-1 victory. They desperately needed that rebound on the day that the Mets finally won, and right before having to face Micah Owings and Brandon Webb. The Braves are now just one game out of first place in their division.
The Rays also stayed in second place, manhandling Steve Trachsel as if he were a 37-year-old has been…wait, that’s exactly what he is. He pitched less than two innings and got teed off for nine runs, including two home runs by rookie Evan Longoria, who finished the night with six RBI. Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and Carlos Pena (2-3-4 hitters) all had three hits–Upton actually had four–and Crawford stole his 13th base. Edwin Jackson had an average performance, three runs in five innings, but finally got the run support to earn a victory. The Rays rolled to an 11-4 win to knock the Orioles back to .500 (24-24) and send themselves to 29-20, nine games over .500 for the first time in franchise history. They reach new highs by the week, and this isn’t the end of it the way they’re playing now. And next Friday night, I’ll be in Section 131, Row G to see the Rays take on the White Sox. I’ll see you all there.
The Braves win on national TV and give Chipper Jones the exposure he needs to get All Star votes, and the Rays once again dismantle the Orioles. It’s a perfect day for baseball. Until next time, go Rays.