My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) will make his final start of the season today. Through 28 starts, he is 13-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 169 2/3 innings. His start today likely rules him out of starting the opening game of the playoffs for the Braves. The Braves will play the winner of the National League Central division – either the St. Louis Cardinals or Milwaukee Brewers – in the first round of the playoffs that will begin on Thursday.
· New York Yankees fans held their collective breath on Friday after Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton exited his start after one inning with left glute tightness. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the Canadian southpaw was removed as a precautionary measure. Paxton, who had won 10 straight starts heading into Friday’s contest, is expected to be ready for the playoffs. He remains a strong candidate to start the Yankees’ post-season opener on Friday against the Minnesota Twins.
· Port Hope, Ont., native Cal Quantrill ended his big league rookie season on a high note, by allowing just one run on two hits in five innings in his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on September 21. The San Diego Padres announced on Tuesday that they were shutting the Canadian right-hander down for the rest of the season. In 23 appearances – including 18 starts – Quantrill posted a 6-8 record and a 5.16 ERA and fanned 89 batters in 103 innings.
· It’s the 15th anniversary of a day that most Canadian baseball fans would like to forget. On this date in 2004, the Montreal Expos played their final home at Olympic Stadium. The Expos lost 9-1 to the Miami Marlins in front of crowd of 31,395 emotional fans. Tony Batista scored the final run for the Expos in the fourth inning when he doubled and then crossed the plate on a single by Juan Rivera. The team relocated to Washington the following season.
· After managing the triple-A Memphis Redbirds to back-to-back Pacific Coast League titles, Windsor native Stubby Clapp is now headed to the National League playoffs as the first base coach with the Cardinals. It’s the Cardinals’ first trip to the post-season since 2015. Given his resume, Clapp should also be a prime candidate to fill one of the major league managerial jobs that are likely to open up in the off-season.
· Seven years ago today, Georgetown, Ont., native Shawn Hill hurled three shutout innings in relief for the Toronto Blue Jays to help his club to a 3-2 win over the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre. With that win, he became the first – and only – Canadian pitcher to record a win for both Canadian major league clubs. He registered a win for the Expos on July 4, 2004 when he limited the Blue Jays to one run in five innings in a 6-4 victory.
· Thanks to Scott Crawford of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for sharing that Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) is headed to the post-season for the 10th time in his 14-season major league career. Martin ranks first among Canadians in many all-time statistical playoff categories, including games, hits, doubles and at bats. But though this will be his 10th trip to the post-season, Martin has never been on a World Series-winning team.
· Thank you to friend and fellow Canadian baseball history buff, Michael Murray, for sharing this piece of trivia: When Anthony Alford clubbed his walk-off home run for the Blue Jays in their win over the Baltimore Orioles on Monday, he became the second Blue Jays player whose first career home run was a walk-off. Who was the first? The answer is Willie Canate on June 18, 1993. That was also Canate’s only major league home run.
· Happy 66th Birthday to former Expos OF/1B Warren Cromartie! He batted .280 and socked 60 home runs in 1,038 games in parts of nine seasons with the Expos. One of the stats that jumps out at me when at look at his Baseball Reference page is his 24 outfield assists in 1978. That tied him with fellow Expos outfielder Ellis Valentine for the league lead, and their fellow outfielder Andre Dawson had 17 assists to finish forth that season. It would be difficult to find an outfield in major league history that showcased three better arms.
· Ten years ago today, Blue Jays outfielder Adam Lind clubbed three home runs to lead the Blue Jays to an 8-7 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The three home runs were part of Lind’s best big league season that saw him bat .309 with 35 home runs and 114 RBIs in 151 games. This would be the only three-home run game of his career.
· Former Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame board member and longtime supporter of the museum David Morneau has organized “An Evening in Space,” an event that will feature colourful former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill Lee in conversation with Jack Graney Award winner Richard Griffin that will take place on October 9 in Kitchener, Ont. This should be an interesting night. I’ve already purchased my ticket. You can purchase tickets to the event here. Part of the proceeds from the tickets will go to the Sexual Assault Centre of Waterloo Region.
· If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 9th and 10th on your calendar. Longtime Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and co-founder of the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research Andrew North has announced that the fourth annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in London, Ont., on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by Andrew, will include a bus trip and tour to the newly renovated Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. For more information and for a complete list of the fascinating baseball presentations, you can click on this link. The registration fee is $70. To register, please email Andrew North at email@example.com.
· This week’s trivia question: On Wednesday, Rowdy Tellez homered twice and now has 21 home runs in his rookie season. There are three other Blue Jays who have hit 20 home runs in their rookie season. Name two of them. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1981 O-Pee-Chee Montreal Expos team set.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Name the only two Canadians to have notched 100 or more home runs and 100 or more stolen bases in their major league careers.) was Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.).