I’m in the press box of Phoenix Municipal Stadium. I can’t say for sure how long I’ll be here, however, because real estate is at a premium. Most of these boxes have two rows. The first row is for the beat writers who cover the team every day, the official scorer and people like that. The second row has spaces for reporters covering the visiting team and a few empty slots. I usually slide into an empty slot.
Here the second row — a full 15-20 spaces, which is large for Arizona — is dedicated to the Matsui Brigade. As in, the Japanese media covering Hideki Matsui. I’ve heard tell of the size of that contingent, but seeing the kind of real estate theyoccupy is something to behold. For now I’m in a visiting media slot. There a five of them. The Indians are the visitors, so I may be safe. If Paul Hoynes or Jordan Bastain kick me out of my slot, I’ll have no reason to complain.
Get a load of this stadium, though. It was built in 1964. That poured concrete facade is the tell. It reminds me of a government building in Brasilia or something. Which isn’t a criticism, because I rather like government buildings of that era for some strange reason. They can be hideous in their Brutalism, but they’re comforting to me. They remind me of elementary school. Heck, they remind me of Denney Hall on the Ohio State campus, where I probably spent most of my in-class time as an undergrad. I’m digging Phoenix Municipal.
Oh, and this doesn’t hurt:
I’m heading down to the clubhouse. I promise to not to tell you if I see anything interesting.
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.