My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- In a Toronto Blue Jays’ lineup in which the two-through-seven hitters are pulling in a combined $86.1 million this season, it was their eighth and ninth batters, Kevin Pillar and Ezequiel Carrera, who are making just over $1 million between them, who came through in the clutch in the club’s 4-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday. Pillar had three RBI and a crucial sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning, while Carrera came through with a sacrifice fly to plate Mississauga, Ont., native Dalton Pompey in the same frame. Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders, who’s regularly lifted for a defensive replacement, also made a crucial leaping catch on a Xander Bogaerts’ fly ball at the base of the Green Monster in the seventh inning. All of this lends further credence to the late Joaquin Andujar’s most famous quote, “There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, ‘You never know.’”
- Here’s an updated comparison of how ex-Blue Jays left-hander Dave Price and current Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ have fared since the July 31, 2015 trade deadine: Price: 45 starts, 299-1/3 innings pitched, 26-10 won/loss record, 3.60 ERA, 5.3 WAR; Happ: 43 starts, 258-1/3 innings pitched, 27-6 won/loss record, 2.86 ERA, 6.8 WAR. Price, who will start today for the Red Sox, is making $30 million this season, while Happ is receiving $12 million.
- Heading into the Cincinnati Reds’ final game of the season today, Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto is batting .411 with a .494 on-base percentage in 71 games since the All-Star break. Unless he goes 0-for-8 today, he’ll become the first player since Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 to hit over .400 in the second-half of a big league season. He’ll also become the second Canadian to accomplish this feat. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker hit .402 in the second-half of the 1998 campaign. Just six players have hit over .400 in the second-half of a big league season since the All-Star Game debuted in 1933. Along with Walker, George Brett (1980), Ted Williams (1941), Babe Phelps (1936) and Earl Averill (1936) have also achieved this.
- Forty-four years ago today, Montreal Expos right-hander Bill Stoneman tossed a no-hitter when he led the Expos to 7-0 win over the New York Mets in the first game of a doubleheader at Jarry Park. This marked the first time that a major league no-hitter had been thrown on Canadian soil. Stoneman scattered seven walks and struck out nine to pick up his 12th win of the season. This was the second no-hitter that Stoneman had thrown for the Expos. He also held the Phillies hitless at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia on April 17, 1969.
- Happy 84th Birthday to Maury Wills, the first player ever to walk to the plate for the Montreal Expos in a regular season game. The fleet-footed shortstop was selected 21st overall from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1968 expansion draft. Wills went 3-for-6 leading off for the Expos in their first game, an 11-10 win over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium on April 8, 1969. Wills proceeded to steal 15 bases in 47 contests with the Expos before he was traded back to his original team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, with Manny Mota for Ron Fairly and Paul Popovich on June 11, 1969. Many believe that Wills, who was a five-time all-star, two-time World Series champion and the National League MVP in 1962, deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.
- One reason the Blue Jays may not make a strong bid to re-sign veteran right-handers Joaquin Benoit or Jason Grilli, who will be free agents after this season, has been the emergence of right-hander Danny Barnes. While he’s been serviceable if not spectacular in his 12 major league appearances (3.95 ERA), Barnes’s minor league statistics this season rank among the greatest ever by a reliever. Between double-A and triple-A, the 28-year-old Princeton graduate allowed just 23 hits and six walks in 61-1/3 innings and posted a 0.88 ERA. Most impressive, however, was his 0.473 WHIP (Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched). You could double his WHIP and it would still be excellent.
- The first annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in St. Marys, Ont. on November 12 and 13. This event is being organized by SABR member and longtime Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer Andrew North. Among the highlights of the event will be a panel discussion about North America’s first recorded baseball game played in Beachville, Ont., on June 4, 1838. There will also be presentations about Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers Arthur “Foxy” Irwin, Tip O’Neill and Harry Simmons (whose remarkable personal collection of artifacts is housed at the museum). Attendees will also be given a tour of the Canadian ball shrine. The cost to attend is $50. For more information, follow this link.
- Some solid middle relief work from Calgary native Jim Henderson down the stretch helped the New York Mets clinch the first National League wild-card berth on Saturday. A long shot to make the Mets out of spring training after spending the entire 2015 season in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system, the 6-foot-5 right-hander has not allowed a run in seven September outings. In all, he has pitched in 43 games this season and has struck out 40 batters in 34 innings.
- John Axford, another Canadian reliever and Henderson’s former Brewers teammate, has also excelled in the season’s second-half. After posting a 5.09 ERA in 39 first-half appearances for the Oakland A’s, the Port Dover, Ont., native has a 2.76 ERA in 28 games since the All-Star break and his ERAs are 2.38 and 2.31 in August and September respectively.
- This week’s trivia question: John Axford has now pitched in 470 major league games. This is the sixth-most by a Canadian right-handed pitcher. Can you name three of the Canadian right-handers ahead of him on that list? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1972 O-Pee-Chee Joe Torre card and a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Mike Schmidt card.