Fresh off referring to the Yankees as chickens in the New York Post, Frank Francisco was called on to close out Friday’s game. It wasn’t pretty and he didn’t strike out the side like he promised, but he was able to escape a jam to notch his 18th save as the Mets won the first game of the weekend Subway Series by a score of 6-4.
The Mets plated five out of their six runs in the first inning off Andy Pettitte, the big blow of which was a three-run home run by Ike Davis. He actually got a little help from Nick Swisher, as the ball deflected off his glove and over the right field fence as he was attempting to make a leaping catch. Pettitte settled down after the rough first while the Yankees chipped away against Jon Niese and the Mets’ bullpen, getting home runs from Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Robinson Cano.
The man of the hour, Frank Francisco, entered the top of the ninth with a two-run cushion and got Russell Martin to fly out to deep center field for the first out. In typical Francisco fashion, he made things interesting by walking Raul Ibanez and giving up a single to Derek Jeter, but he was able to get Curtis Granderson to strike out looking and induced a pop up from Mark Teixeria to end it. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who had Luis Castillo flashbacks on that last one.
The Mets are now winners of four straight and will enter play tonight at a surprising 39-32, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East.
SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo hears from a source that former major leaguer Jonny Gomes has decided to retire from baseball. The 35-year-old spent the 2016 season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japan Pacific League, but he struggled at the plate, batting .169/.280/.246 in 75 plate appearances. Gomes left the Eagles by mutual consent back on May 11.
Gomes won a championship with the Red Sox in 2013 and the Royals last year. He ends a 13-year major league career having hit .242/333/.436 with 162 home runs in 4,009 trips to the plate.
Gomes was known as a clubhouse leader during his playing career, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up coaching or managing in some capacity in the future.
The pitching match-ups aren’t at all exciting, sadly, but there are a few streaks to pay attention to tonight. Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. is on a 28-game hitting streak, tying him with Wade Boggs for eighth-most in Red Sox history. Teammate Xander Bogaerts is on a 17-game hitting streak as well.
Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna has reached base in 31 consecutive games. And to think that owner Jeffrey Loria would have traded him during the offseason if not for manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Barry Bonds speaking up in favor of keeping Ozuna.
Frisco RoughRiders manager Joe Mikulik got his money’s worth last night. He was ejected after arguing an automatic double play on an enforcement of the slide rule, and he didn’t go gently into that goodnight.
Rather, he threw things, kicked things, threw things and then subsequently kicked those same things, gave overly-demonstrative slides and safe signs and basically went all Earl Weaver/Lou Piniella on everyone.
Double-A baseball is the best minor league because you tend to see more prospects there than you do at Triple-A. But it’s also the best because, when you’re a manager who is not quite a heartbeat away from getting your shot at the big leagues, you’re a little less uptight about things. Or at least Mikulik was. Or maybe he was more uptight. I don’t know. He just went with it, and going with it has its charms.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation with their epic chase of Roger Maris’ home run record. But it has been, and after years of reaction, counter-reaction and, of course, baseball’s reckoning with the performance-enhancing drugs which helped fuel the chase, it’s probably finally time to do our best to contextualize it historically.
Today one of my favorite news outlets does that with an oral history. All of the key figures weigh-in on it, from McGwire and Sosa to Bud Selig to Tony La Russa. Randy Johnson makes an appearance as well, reminding us that it wasn’t just the sluggers who had an amazing year in 1998. Indeed, his story, including his being traded to Houston and going on an amazing second-half run, has almost been lost to history.
This is bookmark material, my friends. For savoring later if you can’t read it now. And for revisiting at another time given the depths to the drama which justifies multiple readings. I’ll just warn you that there is some adult language in the story, but that’s to be expected given the passion the 1998 baseball season inspired.