Carlos Zambrano beat the Phillies with 7.2 innings of one-run ball yesterday and also homered for the first time since joining the Marlins and the 24th time in his career.
That ties him with Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Walter Johnson for the seventh-most homers by a pitcher in baseball history and Zambrano has hit those 24 homers in just 732 plate appearances, whereas Gibson needed 1,489 and Johnson needed 2,520. On a per-plate appearance basis Zambrano has the third-best homer rate among all pitchers to go deep at least 20 times.
He’s now five homers from tying Don Drysdale for sixth place, but moving up any further than that will be tough. Warren Spahn and Earl Wilson are next with 35 apiece, Red Ruffing has 36, Bob Lemon has 37, and Wes Ferrell is the all-time leader with 38.
Zambrano has shown legitimate 20-homer power if given a chance to play every day for a full season, but his overall production would still be pretty modest for a position player. He’s a career .239 hitter with a .249 on-base percentage and .391 slugging percentage, which is good for a .640 OPS that would rank 345th among the 376 active non-pitchers with at least 700 plate appearances.
He basically hits like a backup catcher or a utility infielder, which is pretty damn good considering he’s got a 2.81 ERA and .207 opponents’ batting average in 74 innings as a pitcher this season.
Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.
Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.
Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.
Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.
Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).
Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.