The Phillies played Florida St. on Wednesday and there were three more exhibitions between Florida-based MLB teams and colleges today, but the spring season officially started later in the afternoon, with the Mariners and A’s squaring off in the Cactus League opener.
As one would assume with such noted powerhouses playing each other, there were six homers in the game, five delivered by the mighty Mariners on their way to an 8-5 victory. Michael Saunders, who could be the early season replacement for Franklin Gutierrez in center, started it off with a two-run shot off Graham Godfrey in the second. Carlos Peguero, Luis Rodriguez, Jesus Montero and Johermyn Chavez also left the yard in the game.
Utilityman Eric Sogard hit the lone homer for the A’s.
Montero was involved in a scary moment a half-inning after hitting his homer, as he went to the ground after taking a foul tip to the face. He was down for a couple of minutes and he left the game, but reports indicated that he was fine afterwards.
Montero, a catcher in the Yankees’ minor league system, will be the Mariners’ primary DH this season, but he could catch once or twice a week, too.
Also of note from the game was that Manny Ramirez hit cleanup for the A’s and went 0-for-2. And old friend Oliver Perez, launching a long shot bid to make the Mariners as a reliever, allowed one hit in a scoreless fourth inning.
Albert Pujols kicked things off for the Angels in dramatic fashion on Friday night, cranking a two-RBI home run off of the Orioles’ Jeremy Hellickson to give the club an early lead in the first inning. The 350-footer was his 18th home run of the year and No. 609 in his 17-season career, tying Sammy Sosa on the all-time home run list for eighth overall and most home runs hit by a player born outside of the United States.
With the home run, Pujols sits just three homers shy of tying Jim Thome’s 612-home run record for seventh on the all-time list. That figures to be the last major milestone still ahead of the designated hitter this season, with Ken Griffey Jr.’s 630-home run mark still a distant 21 blasts away.
The Angels, meanwhile, ran with Pujols’ lead, collecting home runs from Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Kaleb Cowart and Mike Trout. It wasn’t quite enough to quash the Orioles, however, who surged to a 9-7 finale after Manny Machado went 3-for-5 with three home runs and struck a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.
The Nationals placed right-hander Max Scherzer on the 10-day disabled list with left neck inflammation, the team announced Friday. Scherzer was scratched from his scheduled start against the Padres and replaced by left-hander Matt Grace, though an official roster move has yet to be made to fill his spot on the roster. The assignment is retroactive to August 15.
Scherzer experienced a similar pain on the right side of his neck at the start of the month, though this is the first official stint he’ll serve on the disabled list in 2017. While comments from club manager Dusty Baker suggest that the injury wasn’t caused by any particular trauma, it seems likely that the ace right-hander will be sidelined for at least one more start.
It’s a terrible time to lose a star pitcher, especially with the Nationals positioned to make a deep run in the postseason, but their 14-game cushion in the NL East should buy them some time while Scherzer’s on the mend. Prior to his bout of inflammation, the 33-year-old looked remarkably healthy this season. He pitched through his fifth consecutive All-Star campaign and currently boasts a 12-5 record in 24 starts, complete with a 2.25 ERA (good for second-best among qualified starters), 2.2 BB/9 and 12.3 SO/9 in 160 1/3 innings.