My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Ladner, B.C., native and 2018 Tip O’Neill Award winner James Paxton is rounding into form at the right time for the New York Yankees. After going 6-0 with a 3.57 ERA in 35 1/3 innings in six starts in August, the Canadian lefty allowed just one hit and struck out 12 batters in seven innings on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers. His six wins in August represent the second time in his big league career that he has won that many games in a month. In July 2017, he went 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 39 1/3 innings for the Seattle Mariners. It’s also worth noting (as Sportsnet Stats pointed out) that Paxton’s 12 strikeouts on Tuesday represented the 16th time in his major league career that he has recorded double-digit strikeouts in a start. That ties him with 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and fellow southpaw Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) for the second most by a Canadian. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) had 47 starts in which he recorded 10 or more strikeouts.
· Speaking of Jenkins, he had three months during his big league career in which he registered six wins: July 1968, July 1971 and August 1974. Also, it was 47 years ago today, that Jenkins recorded his 20th win of the 1972 season for the Chicago Cubs when he tossed a complete game in a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. With that win, Jenkins secured the last of his six consecutive 20-win seasons. No major league pitcher has had that many consecutive 20-win seasons since.
· Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who scored his 1,000th career run on Friday night when he came in to score on Eugenio Suarez’s fifth inning home run in the Reds’ 7-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) is the only other Canadian to register 1,000 career major league runs.
· Thank you to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for sharing that Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) scored his 800th career major league run last Sunday when he homered in the third inning off Diamondbacks left-hander Alex Young in the Dodgers’ 4-3 win at Chase Field. With that run, Martin became just the fifth Canadian to have scored 800 major league runs. He joins the aforementioned Walker and Votto, as well as George Wood (Pownal, P.E.I.) and Tip O’Neill (Woodstock, Ont.), on that list.
· Victoria, B.C., native Nick Pivetta has been recalled by the Philadelphia Phillies after a brief demotion to triple-A. The hard-throwing right-hander will pitch out of the bullpen for the Phillies during the stretch run. It had been a rough couple of weeks for the 26-year-old Canadian before he was sent down on August 24. After struggling to a 5.80 ERA in 12 starts for the Phillies to begin the season, the 6-foot-5 right-hander was moved to the bullpen in mid-July. In his first eight relief appearances after his initial demotion, he had posted a 2.88 ERA and had 22 strikeouts in 17 innings. But in his last five appearances prior to being sent down, he allowed two or more runs four times. He has not allowed a run in three appearances since he was called up on September 4.
· Thirty-eight years ago today, the Montreal Expos fired manager Dick Williams and replaced him with Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jim Fanning. When Fanning took over as the field boss, he had drafted or helped develop the skills of 21 players on the roster. Fanning would lead the team to a 16-11 record down the stretch and to their first and only playoff berth in 1981, guiding the club to within one win of advancing to the World Series.
· If the Chicago Cubs make the post-season, the emergence of Canadian right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) as a go-to late inning reliever for manager Joe Maddon will be a key reason why. The converted catcher/outfielder and former Junior National Team member is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 26 innings for the Cubs this season, and with Craig Kimbrel placed on the injured list on Thursday, the hard-throwing 26-year-old could be used to close some games this month.
· Please take a moment to remember former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Jefferson who passed away eight years ago today from prostate cancer at the age of 62. In the Blue Jays’ inaugural season, Jefferson, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, logged 217 innings for the club, tossing eight complete games and posting a 4.31 ERA. He followed that up by pitching 211 2/3 innings in 1978. On May 23, 1978, Jefferson set a franchise record by pitching a 12-inning complete game against the Boston Red Sox. In all, Jefferson pitched in nine big league seasons from 1973 to 1981 with the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates and California Angels. After he hung up his spikes, Jefferson returned to his hometown of Midlothian, Va., where he drove a garbage truck.
· Just to illustrate how many more major league home runs are being hit these days than a century ago: 100 years ago today, Babe Ruth socked his 26th home run of the 1919 season to set a new major league record for most home runs in a season. This passed the previous mark that had been set by Buck Freeman with the Washington Senators in 1899.
· This week’s trivia question: Who was the first Toronto Blue Jays player to hit more than 26 home runs in a major league season for the club? The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1982 Donruss, Fleer and O-Pee-Chee Gary Carter cards.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the oldest living former Montreal Expos player?) was Roy Face. He pitched in 44 games for the Expos in 1969 and is now 91 years old.