What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

AP Photo/Todd Kirkland
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We’ve had a bunch of day games already. As a result, there’s not a whole lot to preview. So we’ll dig a bit into each game.

The game we are highlighting is, naturally, the Braves game. The Twins lost again to the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, running their record to 0-9. The Braves are also winless through eight games and will take on the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg shortly, at 4:05 PM EST. A loss will keep them neck-and-neck with the Twins and will bring them one step closer to matching the worst start in franchise history: 0-10 in 1988.

Julio Teheran arguably gives the Braves the best chance to win and that’s who will be opposing Strasburg. And one figures that Freddie Freeman will wake up eventually. He’s hitting an abysmal .080 with a .200 slugging percentage in 33 plate appearances to begin the season.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

New York Yankees (Nathan Eovaldi) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), 7:07 PM EST

Would you believe me if I told you that if you take out Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays have hit five home runs as a team? The club that made a living hitting dingers last season has had trouble hitting them to begin the 2016 season. Even their 4.22 runs per game average seems good at first glance, but pales in comparison to the 5.5 they averaged last year. At 4-5 and with a run differential that is barely above zero, the Blue Jays need their bats to wake up.

Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EST

The Orioles finally lost a game on Wednesday night, a 4-2 loss to the Red Sox. Unlike the Jays, everyone’s been hitting for the Orioles. The club is tied for the league lead in homers with 14 and their bats have combined for a collective.289/.356/.511 triple-slash line. The starting pitching, contrary to expectations, hasn’t been terrible. However, the starters have been inefficient, averaging fewer than five innings per start over the first eight games.

Cincinnati Reds (Raisel Iglesias) @ Chicago Cubs (Jason Hammel), 8:05 PM EST

In a season that has very quickly countered pre-season expectations, the Cubs are one team that has thus far been exactly as billed. At 7-1, the pre-season World Series favorite Cubs are tied for the best record in baseball and currently have the best record in the National League. The starting rotation has been the MVP so far, as John Lackey is the only one to turn in a substandard start, allowing six runs in six innings in his season debut. Only the Nationals, Dodgers, and Phillies have put up a better rotation ERA than the Cubs’ 3.10.

Kansas City Royals (Ian Kennedy) @ Houston Astros (Doug Fister), 8:10 PM EST

The Royals haven’t been hitting much to begin the season, averaging a paltry 3.5 runs per game, but they’ve been pitching masterfully as a unit. Tonight’s starter, Ian Kennedy, tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings his first time out. He’ll have to work around a hot-hitting Astros lineup. While one is familiar with the Astros’ star-studded middle infield of Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, it’s their rookie first baseman who has been raising eyebrows thus far. Tyler White has three homers, 10 RBI, and a .483/.529/.897 triple-slash line over his first 34 plate appearances. White was ranked 13th in the Astros’ minor league system by MLB Pipeline, but A.J. Reed (#2) has been considered the first baseman of the future. This is what’s known as “a good problem to have”.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling)

Ross Stripling, of all people, flirted with a no-hitter in his major league debut last Friday against the Giants. The right-hander, however, walked four and ran his pitch count up to 100, so manager Dave Roberts took him out with one out in the eighth inning. Reliever Chris Hatcher came in and promptly served up a game-tying two-run home run to Trevor Brown. Though the Dodgers would go on to lose on a Brandon Crawford walk-off homer, Roberts ultimately made the right call, prioritizing a young pitcher’s arm health over an individual achievement.

Gaylord Perry, two-time Cy Young winner, dies at 84

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
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GAFFNEY, S.C. — Baseball Hall of Famer and two-time Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry, a master of the spitball and telling stories about the pitch, died at 84.

Perry died at his home in Gaffney, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said. He did not provide additional details. A statement from the Perry family said he “passed away peacefully at his home after a short illness.”

The native of Williamston, North Carolina, made history as the first player to win the Cy Young in both leagues, with Cleveland in 1972 after a 24-16 season and with San Diego in 1978 – going 21-6 for his fifth and final 20-win season just after turning 40.

“Before I won my second Cy Young, I thought I was too old – I didn’t think the writers would vote for me,” Perry said in an article on the National Baseball Hall of Fame website. “But they voted on my performance, so I won it.”

“Gaylord Perry was a consistent workhorse and a memorable figure in his Hall of Fame career,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement, adding, “he will be remembered among the most accomplished San Francisco Giants ever … and remained a popular teammate and friend throughout his life.”

Perry was drafted by the San Francisco Giants and spent 10 seasons among legendary teammates like Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who said Thursday that Perry “was a good man, a good ballplayer and my good friend. So long old Pal.”

Juan Marichal remembered Perry as “smart, funny, and kind to everyone in the clubhouse. When he talked, you listened.”

“During our 10 seasons together in the San Francisco Giants rotation, we combined to record 369 complete games, more than any pair of teammates in the Major Leagues,” Marichal said. “I will always remember Gaylord for his love and devotion to the game of baseball, his family, and his farm.”

Perry, who pitched for eight major-league teams from 1962 until 1983, was a five-time All-Star who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1991. He had a career record of 314-255, finished with 3,554 strikeouts and used a pitching style where he doctored baseballs or made batters believe he was doctoring them.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement that Perry was “one of the greatest pitchers of his generation.” The Texas Rangers, whom Perry played for twice, said in a statement that the pitcher was “a fierce competitor every time he took the ball and more often than not gave the Rangers an opportunity to win the game.”

“The Rangers express their sincere condolences to Gaylord’s family at this difficult time,” the team’s statement said. “This baseball great will be missed.”

Perry’s 1974 autobiography was titled “Me and the Spitter,” and he wrote it in that when he started in 1962 he was the “11th man on an 11-man pitching staff” for the Giants. He needed an edge and learned the spitball from San Francisco teammate Bob Shaw.

Perry said he first threw it in May 1964 against the New York Mets, pitched 10 innings without giving up a run and soon after entered the Giants’ starting rotation.

He also wrote in the book that he chewed slippery elm bark to build up his saliva, and eventually stopped throwing the pitch in 1968 after MLB ruled pitchers could no longer touch their fingers to their mouths before touching the baseball.

According to his book, he looked for other substances, like petroleum jelly, to doctor the baseball. He used various motions and routines to touch different parts of his jersey and body to get hitters thinking he was applying a foreign substance.

Giants teammate Orlando Cepeda said Perry had “a great sense of humor … a great personality and was my baseball brother.”

“In all my years in baseball, I never saw a right-handed hurler have such a presence on the field and in the clubhouse,” Cepeda added.

Seattle Mariners Chairman John Stanton said in a release that he spoke with Perry during his last visit to Seattle, saying Perry was, “delightful and still passionate in his opinions on the game, and especially on pitching.

Perry was ejected from a game just once for doctoring a baseball – when he was with Seattle in August 1982. In his final season with Kansas City, Perry and teammate Leon Roberts tried to hide George Brett’s infamous pine-tar bat in the clubhouse but was stopped by a guard. Perry was ejected for his role in that game, too.

After his career, Perry founded the baseball program at Limestone College in Gaffney and was its coach for the first three years.

Perry is survived by wife Deborah, and three of his four children in Allison, Amy and Beth. Perry’s son Jack had previously died.

Deborah Perry said in a statement to The AP that Gaylord Perry was “an esteemed public figure who inspired millions of fans and was a devoted husband, father, friend and mentor who changed the lives of countless people with his grace, patience and spirit.”

The Hall of Fame’s statement noted that Perry often returned for induction weekend “to be with his friends and fans.”

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, Deborah, and the entire Perry family,” Baseball Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.