-It was a tough night for the baseball locals as both the Yanks and Mets dropped close ones. In the Bronx, Joba Chamberlain got into trouble in the eighth serving up a two out pinch hit three-run job by one-time Bomber David Dellucci to blow a win for Andy Pettite in a stinging 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Indians. Only difference was this time there were no killer gnats. It was the first home run Joba had allowed at the Stadium in his brief career.Â Called on to protect a one-run lead after Kyle Farnsworth had recorded the final two outs of the seventh, the 22 year-oldÂ flamethrower from NebraskaÂ issued walks toÂ Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta.Â Following the second out, he got to two strikes on Dellucci but theÂ well traveledÂ gritty veteran got around on a 96 MPH heater on the inside of the plate driving it into the short porch.Â It wasn’t a bad pitch. Just a great piece of hitting by Dellucci, whose fourth dinger of the season snapped a three-game Yankee win streak.
-With Joba showing his human side, lost in the shuffle were good nights from Pettite along with struggling sluggers Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano. The only damage Pettite gave up was a Peralta two-run homer, going six and a third on two earned, five hits while walking one and fanning six. As for Giambi, the veteran first baseman drove in two of three runs including a tying opposite field double. Cano drove him home with an RBI single to left for just the second baseman’s ninth RBI. Maybe that will get each going.
-As for the Mets, they suffered their own tough loss at the hands of former Yankee skipper Joe Torre’s Dodgers, who stayed sizzling with their 12th win in 13 thanks to a come from behind 5-4 win at Dodger Stadium. The Amazin’s got off to a quick start when right fielder Ryan Church took Dodger starter Hiroki Kuroda yard in the first inning. Willie Randolph’s ballclub increased the lead to 3-0 when they took advantage of a Kuroda throwing error plating two more runs courtesy of Luis Castillo’s RBI single followed a couple of batters later by Jose Reyes RBI base hit.
An inning after a Juan Pierre runscoring single got the Dodgers on the board, Moises AlouÂ executed a double steal swiping home to restore a three-run lead. However, it was shortlived thanks to a memorable night for Dodger rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt. The 22 year-old former 2004 first round pick came up with a huge two out two-run third inning hit off ineffective Met starter Nelson Figueroa to slice the deficit to one. Two frames later also with a man on and two out, he drove a Figueroa pitch to deep right. A hustling Church couldn’t haul it in allowing Russell Martin to score the tying run.
What he didn’t know was that the ball was still in play. Thinking it had cleared the wall, he didn’t get up right away. By the time he did, it was too late as the sprinting DeWitt came around to score on third base coach Larry Bowa’s signal for an exciting inside the park home run. A night before, he had slugged his first career major league homer the conventional way. This time, it was his speed which victimized the Mets and wound up being the winning run due to outstanding relief work from Hong-Chih Kuo (W, 3.2 IP, 1 H, BB, 8 K’s), setup man Jonathan Broxton (1 IP, 1 H, 2 K’s) and closer Takashi Saito, who stopped a two out Met rally by freezing Castillo on a nasty slider to end the game.
Dodger pitchers struckout 12 Mets including David Wright looking with the tying runner Church in scoring position to end the Met eighth. The Mets stranded 21 runners in dropping their second straight in L.A. They’ll send John Maine (3-2, 3.48 ERA) to go against Dodger ace Brad Penny (5-2, 3.19 ERA) looking to avoid a sweep this afternoon (3:10 ET, WFAN, SNY) with an early start time out West.
-As usual, the Roger Clemens saga has been beaten to death by the usual suspects. This is probably Mike Lupica’s version of a wet dream. Like this nerdy columnist doesn’t have a few skeletons in his closet? Come on. Obviously, the Rocket is a liar. The question is does anyone really care anymore?
-Think recovering Ranger Sean Avery was exaggerating when he told the NY Post’s Larry Brooks that he thought he was done? Just saying.
-So it turns out A-Rod fainted when his wife gave birth to their child. It just makes him more normal even if he makes all that dough.
-The talk about thatÂ filly Eight Belles wanting to race in last Sunday’s Kentucky Derby is a travesty. Like it had a choice. I must not have realized it could talk. It’s about horse racing and gamblers getting rich off poor innocent horses such as Eight Belles, who had to be jettisoned on that very track where favorite Big Brown won the first leg of the triple crown. Gamblers don’t care what happens to these horses who basically put their lives on the line. Maybe it’s time for us to rethink this brutal sport. Sure. It gives us excitement. But something’s very wrong.
-LeBron just bricked another shot and lost the ball off his leg. Just thought you wanted to know.
-Tell ya one thing. If that’s the best the East has, it should be a cake walk for whoever comes out of the West. I’m still betting on Kobe’s Lakers.
-HowÂ special is Chris Paul? Two splendid games in uncompetitive second halfs against the defending champion Spurs has the Hornets thinking big. I still have to believe Gregg Popovich will get his team back in this one. Never count out Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
-TNT’s Ernie Johnson happens to be the coolest studio host in all of sports. Who else would wear a fisherman’s hat during the end of a segment with Kenny Smith and not bust out laughing?!?!?!?!?!
-It was 25 years ago yesterday that Darryl Strawberry debuted with the Mets. What a talented player he was. The Amazin’s most exciting first round pick lived up to the hype slugging catastrophic homers which defied logic. Remember when he hit one off the light beam in Montreal? Or what about in the old Astro Dome? Straw was just awesome. You never missed an at bat because you wanted to see what the powerful right fielder out of Los Angeles could do. He made you believe anything was possible as did teammate Dwight “Doc” Gooden. In eight seasons at Shea, he slugged 252 homers and stole 191 bases. He never hit lower than 26 dingers in an era when 30-or-more was considered great. Something Straw did three times including 39 in back-to-back seasons (1987, ’88). The 1983 NL ROY was robbed of the MVP in 1988 losing to Dodger outfielder Kirk Gibson. The eight-time NL All-Star (Mets-7, Dodgers-1) also finished third in 1990 which turned out to be his final season in Queens.
The question is how great would he have been if drugs and alcohol didn’t hound his career? He was a flawed superstar who somehow wound up back in NYC getting a second chance with the Yankees, where the baby face produced some nice moments including a towering blast to cap off the ALCS against Baltimore on the way to a second World Series in a decade. Only this time with the AL New York team. There also was a pinch hit ninth inning walkoff against the Royals where then WPIX’sÂ Bobby Murcer actually predicted it. I also recall being at a three home run game against the White Sox with buddies. Special to say the least. I also was at Gooden’s no-hitter against Seattle with a good buddy. That we saw it for nothing due to snow in the home opener was pretty darn cool.
In many ways, Strawberry and Gooden will always be linked due to on field performances and off field disappointments. What if they had stayed on the field all the time? How great could they have been? We’ll never know.
-And finally, on that very theme comes the story of Cubs closer Kerry Wood. It was 10 years ago yesterday that as a rookie, he tied Roger Clemens’ strikeout record by fanning 20 Astros at Wrigley Field in just his fifth outing. To hear Houston hitters tell it in the Daily News baseball writer Anthony McCarron’s well written column, they had no chance against the wiz kid who at the time was 20 looking like a Cy Young fixture at the top of the Cubs’ rotation. He’d win 13 games in 26 starts losing just six while posting a 3.40 ERA and striking out 233 batters in 166-plus to win NL ROY and get them back to October. Then the next year, Wood’s elbow snapped and he missed all of 1999 and was a shadow of the promising hurler he once looked like drawing favorable comparisons to a young Clemens and Nolan Ryan.
That’s what injuries can do unfortunately. At least he’s still closing for the same team which selected him fourth overall 13 years ago. In 15 appearances this season, Wood’s 2-1 with a 4.24 ERA converting five of seven saves while fanning 16 in 17 innings.Â I’m rooting for him to have a good year.
-You don’t think the Phillies wish they could have that Gavin Floyd for Freddy Garcia deal back. Do ya?
-Big ups to former Baby Bomber pitching prospects George Kontos, Zach McAllister and Dellin Betances. All three are pitching extremely well rising up the Yankee charts. The other night, Kontos who only pitched Staten Island to a repeat with a dominant seven innings two summers ago K’d a season high 11 in five innings to notch his first win with Double-A Trenton. He’s 1-3 with a 3.79 ERA in seven starts with 33 K’s in 35.2 IP. Eighteen strikeouts have come in the last 10 and a third showing the promise the former Northwestern product has.
McAllister continues to perform very well. Sunday, the 20 year-old former 2006 third round pick went seven strong allowing no runs on six hits with a walk and four K’s to improve to 4-1 with a miniscule 0.92 ERA. In 39 innings with Single-A Charleston of the South Atlantic League, the Chillicothe, Illinois native has permitted 26 hits walking only five while whiffing 29 with a batting average against of .190.
Betances also has fared well with Charleston matching McAllister with his fourth victory in seven starts despite a season high seven walks Monday. The 20 year-old former Grand Street High School standout from Brooklyn, New York is 4-1 with a respectable 2.92 ERA with only a .171 BAA. In 37.0 frames, the former Yankees’ 2006 eighth round pick has given up 21 hits while walking 28 and K-ing 45. If he can improve his command, the lanky 6-8, 245 pound hard thrower with a mid-90′s fastball and wicked curve could crack the Yank rotation as early as 2010.
It’s always nice to see a few players I had the privilege of covering doing well. As we draw closer to another New York-Penn League season in mid-June, we’ll have more prospect updates. Stay tuned!