August 6, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-The Cleveland Guardians have placed first baseman Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) on the 10-day injured list with an oblique strain. The move is retroactive to August 1. Naylor has not played since Monday. Mandy Bell, of MLB.com, reported that Naylor has been given a three-to-six week time table to recover from the injury. It’s a tough break for Naylor who was enjoying his best major league season. In 96 games with the Guardians in 2023, he is batting .306 (fifth in the American League) and has tied his career-best with 79 RBIs (tied for third in the American League). A former Ontario Blue Jay and Junior National Team member, the 26-year-old Naylor, who’s in his fifth major league season, had been particularly productive over the past two months. In 24 games in June, he had a .373/.393/.530 slash line and had two home runs and 18 RBIs. He followed that up with 31 hits – including five home runs – in July.
-Not surprisingly, second baseman Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) has been named the Minnesota Twins Player of the Month for the month of July. In 22 games in July, the Junior National Team alum posted a .369/.461/.723 slash line and had 24 hits – including six home runs. In total in 63 big league contests this season, the Canadian rookie leads the Twins in batting average (.295), on-base percentage (OBP) (.378), slugging percentage (.510) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (.888).
-Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) belted two home runs on Wednesday to give him 11 homers in his first 34 games this season. In 2022, he socked 11 homers in 91 games. Votto now has 353 major league round-trippers, which moves him into 94th place on the all-time list. Just above him on the list are Yogi Berra (358 home runs) and Joe DiMaggio (361 home runs). He is 30 back of Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) for the most big league home runs by a Canadian.
-Boston Red Sox left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) allowed four runs on nine hits in five innings to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday in the Sox 7-3 loss. That start ended the southpaw’s recent mastery of the Blue Jays. On June 30, Paxton tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays. And who can forget the no-hitter he tossed against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, while he was with the Mariners, on May 8, 2018. That made him the only Canadian to throw a major league no-hitter on Canadian soil. Paxton is now 6-4 with a 4.21 ERA in 12 starts against the Blue Jays in his 10-season major league career.
-Davis Schneider has five hits in his first two major league games with the Blue Jays. According to Sportsnet, the only other Blue Jays to have five hits in their first two career games are Danny Ainge (1979), Lloyd Moseby (1980) and Eric Hinske (2002). Schneider homered in his first major league at bat on Friday. On Saturday, he singled to left field, centre field and right field in the same game. He is 5-for-8 (.625 batting average).
-St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) has rediscovered his power stroke. He hit solo home runs in back-to-back games for the Cardinals on Tuesday and Wednesday and then another yesterday. That gives him five home runs on the season. O’Neill has registered a hit in 12 of 14 games since he was reinstated from the injured list by the Cardinals on July 20. Since his return, he has gone 15-for-49 (.306 batting average), with a .404 OBP, and has seven RBIs. The Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum had been sidelined with a lower back strain since May 5.
-Seattle Mariners reliever Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) continues to lead American League relievers with 55 appearances this season. And it was Brash the Mariners called on to pitch the ninth inning on Friday while they were clinging to a 9-7 lead against the Los Angeles Angels, their division rival and fellow Wild-Card contenders. Brash promptly struck out two Angels batters – including Shohei Ohtani – to preserve the victory and record his second save of the campaign. Armed with a devastating slider, he now has 80 strikeouts in just 47 2/3 innings. That’s good for an average of 15.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He also added two more wins in relief this week and is 7-3 with a 3.21 ERA on the season.
-Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) started and allowed just one run in five innings for the triple-A Gwinnett Stripers on his 26th birthday on Friday. He struck out eight batters but got a no-decision in the Stripers’ eventual 5-3 win over Indianapolis. Soroka is now 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA in 13 triple-A starts this season. He has also made six big league appearances (five starts) for the Braves this season and has gone 2-1 with a 5.52 ERA. Soroka is expected to be back with the big league club shortly. After initially tearing his right Achilles tendon on August 3, 2020, the Junior National Team alum then re-tore it the following June. He missed nearly two full seasons due to the injuries.
-On this date 10 years ago, left-hander Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) had one of the most impressive major league debuts ever by a Canadian pitcher. He started for the Minnesota Twins and allowed just four hits in 8 1/3 scoreless innings in the Twins’ 7-0 win over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Fellow Canadian Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) belted a two-run home run for the Twins in the first inning to support Albers. For an encore, Albers threw a two-hit shutout against Cleveland in his second big league start six days later.
-Twenty-four years ago today, Tony Gwynn recorded his 3,000th major league hit when he slashed a single into centre field in the first inning off Montreal Expos right-hander Dan Smith at Olympic Stadium. With this, he became the first player to register their 3,000th big league hit outside of the United States. Numbering just 13,540, the small but boisterous Montreal crowd rewarded the eight-time batting champ with a lengthy standing ovation, while Gwynn’s Padres teammates poured onto the field to congratulate him. “To get it my first time up was huge,” Gwynn told reporters after the game. “For me it’s a great day.’” But the Padres legend wasn’t finished there, he proceeded to notch three more hits to lead his club to a 12-10 win. Making his history-making single even more special was that it was Gwynn’s mother, Vendella’s 64th birthday, and she was on hand to celebrate along with Gwynn’s wife, Alicia, and his daughter, Anisha. Gwynn recorded his milestone hit in his 2,284th game, which made him at the time the third fastest to 3,000 hits, behind only Ty Cobb (2,135 games) and Nap Lajoie (2,224 games). The helmet, cleats, pants and bat from Gwynn’s 3,000th hit game reside in the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s collection. Gwynn finished his career with 3,141 major league hits.
-This week’s trivia question: Matt Brash has made 55 relief appearances for the Seattle Mariners this season. Who holds the record for most relief appearances by a Canadian in a major league season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) recorded 19 wins with the Minnesota Twins between 2011 and 2013. Who is the last left-handed Canadian pitcher to earn a win for the Twins?) was Andrew Albers.