My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Happy 22nd Birthday to Calgary, Alta., native Mike Soroka who had another strong start this week for the Atlanta Braves. On Wednesday, he limited the Washington Nationals to one run on three hits in seven innings to lower his ERA to 2.37 this season. He also owns a 10-2 record and has 94 strikeouts in 114 innings. He has become not only a strong candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, but also for the NL Cy Young Award.
· This pretty much sums up Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins’ week: the two pitchers he trades to the Houston Astros (Aaron Sanchez (six innings) and Joe Biagini (one inning)) combine to toss a no-hitter in their first appearance with their new club. Meanwhile, Derek Fisher, the toolsy outfielder Atkins acquired for Sanchez and Biagini, takes a routine fly ball off the face and is forced to leave the Blue Jays’ game in the first inning on Saturday.
· For the record, with their acquisitions of Sanchez and Biagini, the Astros now have six players on their active 25-man roster that are former Blue Jays or were drafted by the Blue Jays. Sanchez and Biagini join relievers Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna on the pitching staff, while Jake Marisnick is a key reserve outfielder and Aledmys Diaz has served as a utility infielder.
· With the Blue Jays swapping both Marcus Stroman and Sanchez prior to the trade deadline, the club is left with a starting rotation of Trent Thornton, Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley and Jacob Waguespack who have a combined 15 major league victories. To put that into perspective, Sanchez has joined an Astros team whose ace, Justin Verlander has 14 wins this season alone.
· If I’m Ross Atkins, and my club is desperate for starting pitching for the rest of this season, I’m on the phone right now with the independent Can-Am League’s Ottawa Champions to see how much they want for Gatineau, Que., native Phillippe Aumont. The 6-foot-7 right-hander just tossed a two-hit shutout against Nicaragua for the Canadian Senior National Team on Saturday to propel the Canuck squad into the gold medal game against Puerto Rico today. Aumont also hurled six scoreless innings in Canada’s Pan Am opener over Argentina on Monday. The 30-year-old righty also owns a 2.00 ERA and has struck out 108 batters in 85 2/3 innings for the Champions this season and broke a Can-Am League record when he struck out 18 batters in one game against the Rockland Boulders on July 16. FYI: Canada will play Puerto Rico for their third consecutive Pan Am Games gold medal today at 7 p.m. ET.
· The San Diego Padres recalled outfielder/first baseman Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) from triple-A on Thursday and the left-handed hitting Canuck wasted little time having an impact with the big league club. On Friday, he socked a two-run double in the top of the sixth inning off Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Dustin May to help lead the Padres to a 5-2 win. Naylor is batting .230 with three home runs and 18 RBIs in 44 games for the Padres this season. The 2015 first-rounder has also hit .314 with 10 home runs in 54 games in triple-A with the El Paso Chihuahuas.
· Thirty years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Toronto Blue Jays legend Dave Stieb had retired the first 26 New York Yankees batters during his start at SkyDome. Wth the Blue Jays leading 2-0 with two out in the ninth, Stieb seemed to be on the brink of throwing the first perfect game in Blue Jays’ history (Click on the video below). But then he hung a breaking ball to Roberto Kelly and the Yankees outfielder belted it into left field for a double. Steve Sax then followed that up with a single to make the score 2-1, but Stieb settled down to get the final out for the win. In that contest, Stieb had 11 strikeouts and did not walk a batter. It was the third time in two seasons he’d have a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the ninth inning.
· Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon, who has Canadian parents, will have season-ending elbow surgery. The 27-year-old, who pitched for Canada at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, will undergo a procedure to fix an elbow flexor tendon (It is not Tommy John surgery). He will be sidelined for seven to nine months. Prior to the injury, Taillon had posted a 4.10 ERA in seven starts for the Pirates this season. Last season, his third with the Pirates, he emerged as the club’s ace, going 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 191 innings in 32 starts.
· It was 36 years ago today that Dave Winfield accidentally killed a seagull at Exhibition Stadium. As anyone who attended games at Exhibition Stadium can remember, the seagulls were abundant at the facility, and when Winfield was playing catch with the Blue Jays ball boy during the fifth inning, he threw the ball and (according to Winfield) accidentally hit a seagull that was near the first base line. The seagull died when Winfield’s one-bounce throw hit it in the neck. A Blue Jays bat boy was forced to carry the deceased bird off the field in a towel in front of a boisterous Toronto crowd. After the game, Winfield was taken to police headquarters and charged with “unnecessarily suffering of an animal.” The charge was dropped the next day when the senior crown attorney said they wouldn’t be able to prove that Winfield had “intent” to kill the bird.
· Somehow I missed this, but, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, when Montreal native Russell Martin played an inning at third base for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Miami Marlins on July 21, the Canadian became the first Dodger to play third base, catcher and pitch for the club in the same season. Martin would start at third base a week later and he has actually made two pitching appearances, without allowing a hit or a run, for the Dodgers in 2019. In 58 games with the club this season, he’s batting .218 but possesses a healthy .346 on-base percentage and has hit three home runs.
· It seems fitting that Roger Clemens and John Farrell share a birthday and were born on this date 57 years ago. Both came to the Blue Jays with much fan fare, with fans expecting great things from them and both eventually orchestrated their exits from the club for “dream jobs” in other cities. To Clemens’ credit, he did deliver two Cy Young Award-winning seasons with the Blue Jays before being dealt to the Yankees.
· This week’s trivia question: Prior to Russell Martin, who was the last Canadian to play third base in a regular season game for the Los Angeles Dodgers? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Super Veteran Jim Palmer card, a 1984 Donruss Andy Van Slyke rookie card, a 1986 Sportflics Paul Molitor card and a 1990 Score Frank Thomas rookie card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Aside from Dennis Martinez, two other Montreal Expos pitchers tossed no-hitters with the club. Can you name them?) was Bill Stoneman and Charlie Lea.