J.A. Happ probably would have opened the season as the most well-compensated pitcher in Triple-A if Ricky Romero hadn’t struggled so mightily this spring. Inserted into the Blue Jays’ rotation instead, Happ struck out six in 5 1/3 innings and combined with three relievers on a two-hit shutout of the Red Sox on Saturday.
The Blue Jays got homers from J.P. Arencibia and Colby Rasmus to account for all of their runs in the 5-0 game.
Rather than retain Happ as a reliever, the Blue Jays were expected to keep him stretched out by letting him lead Triple-A Buffalo’s rotation initially this season. That only changed at the very end of the spring, when they opted to demote Romero instead. Before that, Happ was frustrated enough with his situation that he considered asking for a trade. It’s safe to say he’s a lot happier now; not only did he get the rotation spot, but he received a two-year, $8.9 million contract at the end of March.
It was a miserable day for the Red Sox. Starter John Lackey, making his return from Tommy John surgery, left clutching his arm in the fifth and was diagnosed with a biceps strain that figures to keep him out for some time. His likely replacement in the rotation, Alfredo Aceves, came in and soon afterwards gave up a three-run bomb to Colby Rasmus.
The Red Sox also went 26 outs between hits. Jacoby Ellsbury started the top of the first with a double, but he was left stranded. The next hit came when Dustin Pedroia collected an infield single with two outs in the ninth. Mike Napoli followed that with a drive to the wall in center, only to be robbed by Rasmus.
With the Dodgers trying to make it back to the World Series for the second year in a row — and trying to win it for the first time in 30 years — it’s worth looking back at the last time they won it. More specifically, it’s worth looking back at the signature moment from the last time they won it. Which, really, was one of baseball’s all-time signature moments.
Yep, I’m talking about Kirk Gibson’s famous game-winning home run off of Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, which happened 30 years ago tonight.
All playoff magic for anyone too young to remember Bill Mazeroski’s homer in 1960 is measured against Gibson taking Dennis Eckersley downtown to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 5-4 win. Heck, even if you were around in 1960, it’s far less likely that you saw Mazeroski’s homer than it was for you to have seen Gibson’s. Nationally broadcast in prime time to a nation of millions who had not yet fragmented into viewers of hundreds of obscure cable channels and various forms of streaming entertainments, it was a moment that sent shockwaves through the world of sports.
For my part, I was fifteen years-old, sitting in my living room in Beckley, West Virginia watching it as it happened. Like most of the rest of the country, I was convinced that the Dodgers had no chance to beat the mighty Bash Brothers and the 104-win Oakland A’s. Especially given that the Dodgers’ leader, MVP-to-be Gibson, was hobbled and not starting. Even when he was called on to pinch hit, I had no faith that he’d be able to touch Eckersley, the best relief pitcher on the planet, let alone hit the ball with any kind of authority.
But, as Vin said when he called it, the Dodgers’ year was so improbable that, in hindsight, it made perfect sense for Gibson to have done the impossible: