An Ultimate Grand Slam and Junior’s Moment

Just another day at the beach for the Rays

1. Well That Was Easy
The Tampa Bay Rays showed the Yankees what they have been showing everyone else: they are the best team in baseball. They finished off a two-game sweep last night besting the champs, 8-6 and Andy Pettitte (5-1).

Carlos Pena homered twice and Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton each banged one as Tampa Bay hammered their way to its sixth straight victory. James Shields (5-1) was the winner for the Rays who are now 17-4 on the road and 30-11 overall. Rafael Soriano earned his 11th save in 11 chances.

2. Astros Ubalded
The Astros can’t hit mediocre pitching, against Ubaldo Jimenez (8-1) they had no chance. Jimenez allowed one hit over seven innings and Troy Tulowitzki had a three-run homer and the Colorado Rockies beat the Astros, 4-0.

The Astros were Ubalded

Yesterday was the sixth time the Astros have been shut out this season, which comes as no surprise to Houston starter Roy Oswalt (2-6). Oswalt has a streak now of nine straight Quality Starts after he allowed just two earned runs and three hits in six innings. Oswalt entered the game with the lowest run support in the National League at 2.29 runs a game.

Roy beg, hands-and-knees beg, to be traded. Get out, you don’t deserve this, you don’t need this.

3. Completely Different Pitcher

Jon Lester and Francisco Liriano are as different as Daisy Duck's nieces

Jon Lester threw a complete game 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins last night moving to 3-0 in May, and 4-0 in his last five starts. Twins starter Francisco Liriano (4-3) failed to make it out of the 5th as the Sox swept the two-game mini-series from the Minny-Twins.

Kevin Youkilis had a three-run homer and four RBI and Victor Martinez had three doubles. Adrian Beltre, who batted sixth, hit a solo home run. Youkilis, who has hit safely in 17 of his last 20 games to up his average to .324.

Liriano went 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in April. But he has allowed 16 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings in May and has lost his last three starts. In April, Lester was 1-2 with a 7.21 ERA. Last night, Lester needed just 103 pitches to lift his winning percentage to .719, the best ever for a pitcher with at least 100 starts.

4. Phils Eke Out a Win
Jimmy Rollins hit a three-run homer and Chase Utley also went deep and the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Chicago Cubs 5-4. The Phils had suffered through a mini-slump in which they scored a total of two runs in their last two games.

Cubs starter Ryan Dempster gave up four runs and five hits in six innings but got a ND as did Phillies starter Joe Blanton, who allowed three runs and five hits. Philadelphia starters are 12-5 with a 3.05 ERA in 18 games this month.
5. Interesting future for SI
Sports Illustrated this week unveiled the magazine’s new app edition that users will be able to access from tablets like the iPad as well as good old-fashioned Web browsers. The app will not be for free, but may be compelling enough for consumers to shell out the money. It was pointed out by Ad Age that selling meaningful numbers of browser-based digital editions might require magazines to cut back on the print content they make available free on their websites, which is something that would affect all of us.

I thought you would find the preview interesting, despite its minimal baseball content

6. You Can’t Get There From Here
Apparently Mets pitcher John Maine can’t get very far throwing the way he did in the 1st inning last night against the Nationals. Maine, who has had problems with his right shoulder, was removed after facing one batter last night, much to his dismay. He threw just five pitches, issued a walk, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel removed him.

“I didn’t get asked,” Maine said. “They said they saw something, and they were taking me out. I’m a little hurt by that.”

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen apparently wasn’t pleased that Maine didn’t hit 80 mph as he warmed up in the bullpen and then bounced a number of pitches when he got to the mound preparing for the 1st inning.

Meanwhile the Mets won 10-7 with David Wright driving home four runs and breaking his streak of 15 straight games with at least one whiff.

Two Moments
The American Idol judges talk about “moments that are memorable.” Moments that will impact voters and make fans remember who the contestants are as they battle they colleagues and obscurity.

Are you voting for Crystal Bowersox?

Are you voting for Lee Dewyze?

I only bring that up because of my love of walkoffs. I love walkoffs because they truly are memorable for the participants and for the fans and hopefully for you folks.

There were two such moments in yesterday’s action.

Get an autographed copy of my book for just $15. Email me today to find out how.

7. Junior’s Moment
The Seattle Mariners rallied for three runs in the 9th off AL saves leader Kevin Gregg in a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Seattle broke a five-game losing streak with their first game-ending hit of Seattle’s disappointing season, which included 14 losses in 17 games this month.

But that’s not the story.

Gregg (0-1) allowed singles to Mike Sweeney and Jose Lopez then walked Milton Bradley to open the inning. Then he walked Casey Kotchman on a full-count pitch to make it a 3-2 game. Josh Bard hit a game tying sac fly and then Junior Griffey came to the plate pinch-hitting for Josh Wilson.

Junior's Moment

The .183 hitter, whose nap has been repeatedly over-written about in his premature obituaries, pulled a 2-1 fastball into right field and Bradley scored easily from second base with the winning run.

That is the moment.

8. An Ultimate Grand Slam
There is only one way a seven-run game-winning 9th inning can be improved upon and that is with an ultimate grand slam, so named because it is a walkoff four-run homer for a team that trails by three. That magical moment occurred yesterday in Atlanta.

Trailing the Reds 9-3 entering the 9th you can be assured that many of the 21,621 fans had already left the ballpark as they watched their Braves trail 8-0 early in the game as their star Tommy Hanson give up eight, including Joey Votto’s first career grand slam, in just 1.2 innings. They left because they tired of watching Reds rookie Mike Leake pitching six innings, giving up three runs (just one earned), and leaving with a healthy lead.

They left because they don’t understand that good baseball fans get to the par for the first pitch and leave after the last pitch. And now, those who left have to suffer the indignity of having missed one of the greatest finishes in the history of the Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves franchise.

I feel no pity.

Please allow me to share with them (and you), the bottom of the Atlanta 9th:

  • Mike Lincoln is on the mound for Cincinnati
  • Troy Glaus singled to right.
  • Eric Hinske singled to right.
  • Yunel Escobar reached on a ball hit to shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who got a glove on it, but it got away from him. It was generously scored a hit, to load the bases.
  • Nate McLouth singled to deep right, scoring Glaus and Hinske making it a 9-5 game.
  • Nick Masset comes on to pitch.
  • David Ross walked.
  • Martin Prado hit a grounder to third that looked like a sure double play, but Miguel Cairo commits Cincinnati’s fourth error of the game Escobar scores, McLouth reaches third, Ross goes to second and Prado to first.
  • It is 9-6 as Arthur Rhodes comes on to pitch
  • Jason Heyward who had a walkoff hit struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch.

    Brooks Conrad's moment

  • In for Cincinnati is their closer Francisco Cordero (1-3) for the last two outs.
  • Up for Atlanta is Brooks Conrad pinch-hitting for pitcher Craig Kimbrel (1-0), who earned his first major league win (can you imagine?).
  • Conrad hits a long drive to left. Laynce Nix leaps over the wall and the ball deflects out his glove as Conrad had turned to go back in the dugout for a 388-foot ultimate grand slam to complete the largest 9th inning comeback in Braves franchise history.

Conrad became the seventh different Brave to hit a game-winner in eight final at-bat victories this season, and the third in the past three games.

Have a great weekend.

9. The start of hideous interleague play
Braves (Tim Hudson) at Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf), 7:05
Reds (Bronson Arroyo) at Indians (Jake Westbrook), 7:05
Orioles (David Hernandez) at Nationals (Scott Olsen), 7:05
Red Sox (John Lackey) at Phillies (Cole Hamels), 7:05
Yankees (Javier Vazquez) at Mets (Hisanori Takahashi), 7:10
Cubs (Ted Lilly) at Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05
Rays (Matt Garza) at Astros (Brett Myers), 8:05
Marlins (Ricky Nolasco) at White Sox (Mark Buehrle), 8:10
Rockies (Jason Hammel) at Royals (Brian Bannister), 8:10
Brewers (David Bush) at Twins (Nick Blackburn), 8:10
Angels (Joel Pineiro) at Cardinals (Brad Penny), 8:15
Blue Jays (Brandon Morrow) at Diamondbacks (Dan Haren), 9:40
Giants (Barry Zito) at A’s (Trevor Cahill), 10:05
Padres (Wade LeBlanc) at Mariners (Cliff Lee), 10:10
Tigers (Dontrelle Willis) at Dodgers (Chad Billingsley), 10:10