My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Fifty-one years ago today, two days after he was acquired by the Chicago Cubs from the Philadelphia Phillies, Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins relieved Cubs starter Bob Hendley in the third inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field and proceeded to toss 5-1/3 shutout innings to earn the win in his Cubs debut. Making his performance even more impressive was that Jenkins also clubbed his first major league home run – a solo shot off of future Hall of Famer Don Sutton in the bottom of the fifth inning. Jenkins also knocked in the Cubs’ second run with an RBI single in the seventh inning in the 2-0 victory.
· Happy 50th Birthday to Cap-Pele, N.B., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Rheal Cormier! After being selected in the sixth round of the 1988 MLB amateur draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, the Canadian lefty pitched in 16 major league seasons, the second-most by a Canadian hurler to Jenkins, who toed the rubber in 19. His 683 major league mound appearances represent the second-most by a Canadian to Port Hope, Ont., native Paul Quantrill (841). Cormier’s lengthy big league career included stops with the Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos, Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds between 1991 and 2007. His finest campaign came with the Phillies in 2003 when he finished 8-0 with a 1.70 ERA and permitted just 54 hits in 84 innings.
· The Detroit Tigers recalled Burnaby, B.C., native Jim Adduci on Saturday. The left-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman, who played with the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization for the past two seasons, was batting .349 in 12 games with the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens so far this season. He previously played 61 games in parts of two campaigns with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and 2014. Originally drafted in the 42nd round by the Miami Marlins in 2003, Adduci also toiled for six seasons in the Chicago Cubs organization from 2007 through 2012.
· While the Toronto Blue Jays offence continues to sputter, ex-Jay Eric Thames is on pace to club more than 70 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers this season. Thames socked his major league-leading eighth home run on Thursday. He did this in his 61st at bat this season. His home run pace is astonishing when you consider that it took (as Ryan Spaeder (@the aceofspaeder) pointed out on Twitter) Barry Bonds 63 at bats to hit his eighth home run in 2001 and Mark McGwire 71 at bats to belt his eighth in 1998. After the Blue Jays dealt Thames to the Seattle Mariners for Steve Delabar on July 30, 2012, Thames hit .220 in 40 contests before being swapped to the Baltimore Orioles the following year. The O’s waived Thames in September 2013. Following that campaign, he signed with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization where he put up Ruthian numbers, batting. 349 with 124 home runs over the next three seasons. These numbers convinced the Brewers to ink Thames to a three-year, $16-million deal on November 29, 2016.
· Want evidence that a pitcher’s ERA can be deceiving? Blue Jays left-handed reliever Aaron Loup sports a 1.93 ERA this season even though he has allowed eight hits and two walks in 4-1/3 innings and his 2.143 WHIP (Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched) is the highest on the team.
· It was 63 years ago today that Hank Aaron belted his first major league home run. It was a solo blast off of St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Vic Raschi in the sixth inning of the Milwaukee Braves’ 7-5 win at Busch Stadium. London, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Burgess was in the Cardinals dugout to witness this historic homer. Burgess, who would suit up for 17 contests for the Cardinals that season, pinch hit for Raschi in the bottom of the ninth inning and struck out.
· The next starting pitcher the Philadelphia Phillies are likely to recall will be Victoria, B.C., native Nick Pivetta. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander has won all three of his starts with the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs this season. In those starts, he has posted a 0.95 ERA and struck out 24 batters in 19 innings. Chosen in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft by the Washington Nationals, he was dealt to the Phillies for closer Jonathan Papelbon on July 28, 2015.
· Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton hadn’t allowed a run in his first three starts for the Seattle Mariners this season, prior to permitting five in 4-1/3 innings against the Oakland A’s on Thursday. Despite this rough outing, the hard-throwing, 6-foot-5 southpaw’s ERA still sits at 1.78 and he has struck out 30 batters in 25-1/3 innings this season. The Mariners are hoping for a breakout campaign from the 28-year-old lefty, whose previous four big league campaigns have been hampered by injuries.
· This week’s trivia question: Left-hander James Paxton already has 30 strikeouts in 25-1/3 innings this season. Who holds the record for most strikeouts in a season by a Canadian left-hander? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1983 Donruss Nolan Ryan card and a 1985 Fleer Ryne Sandberg card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Kelly Gruber was the first Blue Jay to hit for the cycle. Who is the only other Blue Jay to do so?) was Jeff Frye, who hit for the cycle in the Blue Jays’ 11-3 win over the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre on August 17, 2001.