In my Twins preview I wondered how Target Field will play this season. We get a chance to see it in action on Monday. But based on Henry Schulman’s excellent walk down AT&T Park memory lane in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, we shouldn’t necessarily take what we see in the early going at face value:
For three months, everyone thought it would be great for hitters and
death for pitchers.In January, even before there was grass on the field, the Giants took
batting practice at what was then Pacific Bell Park on a foggy but
windless day. Bonds kept hammering balls over the right-field wall and
ended his session a happy man.
On April 1, 2000, the Giants played a night exhibition against the
Yankees, also on a windless night. Bonds christened McCovey Cove with
one of six homers hit that night.
In the regular-season home opener 10 days later, a 6-5 Dodgers
victory, 35-year-old Los Angeles shortstop Kevin Elster hit three home
runs, two off Rueter and one off Felix Rodriguez. Only four times in 12
previous seasons had Elster hit two in a game.
I remember Elster hitting those three homers, as it was nationally-televised. My first thought: total bandbox. While AT&T doesn’t depress runs quite as much as it did a few years ago, it’s certainly not a hitter’s paradise.
Most people who know things about park effects know that you can’t get a good read on how a park plays for at least a couple of years. So, even though it’s the small-sample size season (Will Big Papi ever hit the ball again?!) we shouldn’t draw any conclusions from Target Field’s first few days. Or months. Or really even the year.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.