My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• When Edwin Encarnacion drove in nine runs (with his three home runs) in the Blue Jays’ 15-1 win over the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre yesterday, he tied Roy Howell’s team record for most RBI in a game. Howell’s record-setting performance came in an unlikely Blue Jays’ 19-3 romp over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 10, 1977. In that contest, Howell registered five hits, including two home runs, two doubles and a single. Heading into that game, the intense third baseman had just four home runs and 27 RBI for the season. According to a Toronto Star report, the 19 runs the Blue Jays scored were the most an opponent had registered at Yankee Stadium since the Detroit Tigers tallied 19 on June 17, 1925. “I try to give all I got every game,” Howell told reporters after the game. “It was no different today. I didn’t feel any different at the plate. I was getting on top of the ball more than in recent games, but my swing was just about the same.”
• In 30 years of watching the Blue Jays, I’ve never seen three more dominating relief performances than those by Roberto Osuna in his last three appearances. In the three innings he pitched in those contests, the 20-year-old flamethrower struck out eight of the 10 batters he faced. For the month of August, he has recorded 10 saves, posted a 0.79 ERA and a 0.62 WHIP. What the Mexican right-hander needs now is a nickname. Would the late great Aurelio Lopez object to us calling Osuna Señor Smoke?
• It’s good to hear that New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau has started a rehab assignment in double-A after missing more than three months with a neck injury. The Colorado Rockies first baseman, who won the National League batting crown last season, spoke in detail with the Canadian Baseball Network’s Alexis Brudnicki about his injury, which many of us mistakenly assumed was a recurrence of the concussion issues that plagued him in 2010 and 2011.
• Here’s an interesting discovery I made this week: a 1990 Calgary Cannons baseball card that’s supposed to feature Edgar Martinez that actually pictures Tino Martinez (card photo below). This card is a great conversation piece, but it also illustrates the quality of players that once suited up in triple-A in Calgary. Edgar Martinez batted .353, .329, .363 and .345 in parts of four seasons with the Cannons (1985, 1987 to 1989) before becoming arguably the greatest designated hitter in big league history. Tino Martinez followed Edgar into the stampede city and batted .320 and .326 in 1990 and 1991 respectively, prior to becoming a key slugger on four New York Yankees’ World Series-winning teams.
• Speaking of baseball cards, remember that Josh Donaldson limited edition rookie card (just five were made) that I mentioned two weeks ago? The Thornhill, Ont.-based seller was initially asking $3,000 for it on eBay; he then upped the price to $5,000. Well, the seller has decided to list it for a lower starting price and the bidding for the card is up to $2,475. The auction ends at around 6:45 p.m. ET today. You can follow the auction here.
• Condolences go out to the family of 2009 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Jack Graney Award winner, Ian MacDonald, who passed away from heart failure on Wednesday at the age of 87. MacDonald, who started his journalism career in 1948, covered the Expos for the Montreal Gazette for close to three decades. A colorful and old school reporter, MacDonald wrote one of his best ledes after the Expos were defeated 11-8 by the Philadelphia Phillies in Jim Fanning’s managerial debut on September 9, 1981. “The rain ruined Jim Fanning’s debut as Expos manager. It stopped.” Hall of Fame writer Bob Elliott wrote a touching tribute to MacDonald, who was a mentor to him. You can read it here.
• Talk about baptism by fire. When I was reviewing the 1977 Toronto Star archives this week, I discovered that Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt’s first at bat with the club was a pinch-hit appearance against Nolan Ryan with two outs in bottom of the ninth inning on May 29, 1977. Ryan, then with the California Angels, threw three straight balls to Whitt to begin the at bat, but then fought back to strike Whitt out. The Blue Jays lost 3-2. In the same issue of the Toronto Star, there’s also an interesting column by Milt Dunnell about Ryan that reports that the hard-throwing righty had tossed 172 and 180 pitches respectively in his two starts prior to his complete-game win over the Blue Jays.
• This week’s trivia question: Kevin Pillar’s stellar defence should earn him a Gold Glove Award this season. If he does win one, he’d become the fifth Blue Jays to be recognized with this fielding honour. Can you name three of the other Blue Jays outfielders who won a Gold Glove Award while with the club? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide a correct answer will win 1984 Fleer and 1984 Topps Joe Morgan cards.