The Astros have a secret weapon. But he’s only really needed once a year.
Former big league pitcher Steve Sparks is a radio broadcaster for the Astros. Sparks also happens to have been a knuckleballer. The Astros faced current knuckleballer R.A. Dickey last night so yesterday Sparks tossed knuckleballs in BP to Astros hitters to prepare them. It worked too: the Astros got five runs on six hits in seven innings off Dickey and won the game.
This is the second time Sparks has provided this service for Houston hitters, doing so before they faced Dickey last season. They roughed Dickey up then too — five runs on seven hits that time — even though they ended up losing the game thanks to their own pitching staff’s follies.
Would that everyone in the broadcast booth could be so helpful. Last night Chipper Jones showed up as a guest during the broadcast of the Braves-Mets game. During his visit he broke down B.J. Upton’s hitting problems in highly technical terms. Which was great, actually. Far more detail than one normally hears from any analyst. He also helped Upton during batting practice. I’d like to say it helped — Upton did go 1 for 4 which, as of late, is an improvement — but I think I’ll reserve judgment.
The Yankees fell behind early to the Orioles on Sunday afternoon, a day after dropping both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader. Their game, as did every other game on Sunday with the exception of the Braves-Cardinals doubleheader, started at 3:05 or 3:10 EDT, a change Major League Baseball recently made to create fairness on the final day of the season.
Girardi is not a fan. Per the Associated Press:
It was cloudy at Camden Yards at 3:05 p.m., but late-afternoon games often make it difficult for batters to see pitches.
Girardi said, “Here’s the thing that bothers me: If it’s a sunny day you’re playing in shadows.”
He added, “If it’s the most important game of the year to get in, I don’t think that’s right.”
Understanding the idea is for every team to play at the same time, Girardi said, “Then play all night games.”
One wonders if MLB had scheduled Sunday’s slate of games for the night, if Girardi would have instead complained about batters losing fly balls in the stadium lights. Furthermore, both teams have to play in the same conditions.
Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki was given an opportunity to play a new position in Sunday’s series finale against the Phillies. After the Phillies rallied to take a 6-2 lead in the seventh, the Marlins let Suzuki take the hill in the eighth. And, in news that surprises no one, he was impressive.
Though Suzuki gave up a run on two hits, he flashed a fastball that hit the mid-80’s and a breaking ball with some bite.
Suzuki, who turns 42 years old later this month, is 65 hits of 3,000 in his major league career. The Marlins are interested in bringing him back in 2016.