By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Though the Cleveland Indians were swept in their Wild Card series against the New York Yankees, their young Canadian slugger, Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.), enjoyed a breakout postseason in which he established some major league firsts. Among them, he became the first big leaguer to record a hit in their first five postseason at bats and the first Canadian to collect four extra-base hits in their first two playoff games. He also became the first Canuck to hit a postseason home run for the Indians and the first Canadian on an American League club to record four hits in a postseason game. The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum also became just the second big leaguer (equalling Chris Burke with the Houston Astros in 2005) to collect four extra-base hits in their first five postseason at bats. In all, Naylor went 5-for-7 (.714 batting average) with three doubles and a home run.
– Fellow Canuck Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) also made his playoff debut with the Indians. In Game 2 of the Wild Card Series, he closed out the top of the ninth by striking out Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks to hold the score at 10-9 for the Bombers. Unfortunately the Indians couldn’t rally in the bottom of the frame. An Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team grad, Quantrill was impressive down the stretch for the Indians after being acquired from the San Diego Padres, along with Naylor, at the August 31 trade deadline. In eight regular season appearances with the Indians, he posted a 1.84 ERA.
– Regina, Sask., native Stu Scheurwater is umpiring in the big league postseason for the first time this year. With three years of regular season action under his belt, he was behind the plate for the first game of the Cincinnati Reds/Atlanta Braves Wild Card series. The Braves eventually won 1-0 in 13 innings, but not before Scheurwater called a postseason record 37 strikeouts. The photo below from the Baseball Saskatchewan Twitter feed captures Scheurwater behind the plate with Canadian Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) batting during the game.
– It was four years ago today that Edwin Encarnacion belted a walk-off, three-run home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to propel the Toronto Blue Jays over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card game. Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson were on base in front of Encarnacion. You can re-watch the home run by clicking on the video below.
– Happy 66th Birthday to former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill Atkinson! Born in Chatham, Ont., Atkinson grew up in the same town as Fergie Jenkins. Signed as an amateur free agent by the Expos on October 4, 1971, the 5-foot-7 right-hander made his MLB debut with the club on September 18, 1976 and tossed three scoreless innings in relief. Armed with a curveball that Gary Carter once called the best he ever caught, Atkinson was one of the National League’s best rookie relievers in 1977 when he went 7-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 55 appearances. In all, Atkinson toed the rubber for parts of four seasons for the Expos and finished his career with an 11-4 record and a 3.42 ERA in 98 appearances.
– Twenty-eight years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) recorded his first major league save. Relieving left-handed starter Joe Hesketh in the sixth inning for the Boston Red Sox, Quantrill proceeded to toss four scoreless innings against the New York Yankees to secure an 8-2 win for his club at Fenway Park. Quantrill would allow just one hit and strike out two. It was his first of 21 big league saves.
– It was five years ago today that left-hander Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) pitched in his final big league game when he threw a scoreless ninth inning in relief for the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field in the club’s 12-3 loss to the Rays. The last big league hitter Francis faced was Mikie Mahtook who flew out to right field.
– Early last week, Yankees manager Aaron Boone offered a glimmer of hope that Canadian left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) might return to pitch in the postseason. Paxton, who has been sidelined since August 20 with a flexor strain in his throwing arm, played catch on Monday and Wednesday. If he does return, Boone says it won’t be in their upcoming Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays but later in the postseason. The North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum made just five starts this season, registering a 1-1 record and a 6.64 ERA. He had a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019. He’ll become a free agent at the end of the season.
– Nineteen years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tim Raines played in the Baltimore Orioles outfield alongside his son Tim Raines Jr. in a game against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Montreal Expos made this possible by dealing the elder Raines to the O’s the previous day. The younger Raines started in centre field and led off for the O’s and went 1-for-4 with a run and, to his father’s delight, had two stolen bases. The senior Raines batted sixth and went 0-for-4 but had an RBI ground out in the ninth in the Orioles’ 5-4 loss. In suiting up together, they became the second father/son duo to play in the same game for the same team, joining the Griffeys who played together with the Seattle Mariners multiple times in 1990 and 1991.
– This week’s trivia question: According to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame when Josh Naylor registered four hits in Game 1 of the Indians’ Wild Card series against the Yankees on Tuesday, he became the third Canadian to register four hits in a postseason game. Can you name one of the other two Canucks to have four hits in a playoff game? Hint: They both played for National League teams. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. Please note: I’m going to hold off awarding prizes until after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope you understand.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Aside from Jack Morris, five other pitchers have won 20 games in a season for the Blue Jays. Name two of them.) was any two of Pat Hentgen (1996), Roger Clemens (1997-98), David Wells (2000), Roy Halladay (2003, 2008) and J.A. Happ (2016).