Friday Night (High) Lights, or…Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad

I have mixed feelings whenever one of Venezuela’s star players comes to face my New York Mets. Somehow, I want the player to do well, so I can report it on the blog, and yet I still want the Fabulous Flushings of the National League East to win the game. Yesterday, Henderson “Shutout” Alvarez of Valencia came into New Shea Stadium with an incredible streak: in nine starts since May 22 he had an ERA of 1.07, he was 4-0, and was leading the senior circuit in groundout double plays. He had also beaten the Metropolitans twice in three tries this season, with an 0.84 ERA.

Naturally, the Mets crushed him. Ran him out of Queens on the proverbial rail.

Henderson was throwing his usual mid-90’s assortment of pitches, but man, he left two up over the plate which Lucas Duda and David Wright both parked in the second deck—two of the longest home runs in New Shea this season. (Naturally, Duda’s homer came seconds after the television displayed a stat showing Henderson had only given up 17 homers in the past two seasons, since yielding 29 for Toronto in 2012).

Adding insult to injury, pitching counterpart Zach Wheeler of New York rocked a double off the base of the left-field wall to score a surprised Ruben Tejada from first base. Amazingly, after only 77 pitches, “Shutout”was down 6-0, and the visiting Marlins were done.

Maybe it’s the weird Abe Lincoln beard-with-no-mustache (also displayed by Marcell Ozuna in CF). Maybe it’s his awful bunting technique (god-awful, in fact). Maybe he was just due for an off-night. But on a night when two other Venezuelan pitchers produced stellar outings, Shutout Henderson was in the showers early.

As we headed west, however, the news got better. Anibal Sanchez of Maracay, who began the season on the disabled list, is starting to mirror his great form of 2013 and scattered 8 hits across 7 innings against the VZ-heavy Royals lineup. Compatriots Omar Infante, Salvador Perez, and Alcides Escobar combined for 5 hits, but Sanchez won an important division game to go to 6-3 and bring his ERA down to 3.04. Fellow Maracay man Miguel Cabrera notched his 74th RBI, (the game-winner) while Ian Kinsler, who’s taking the place of injured Victor Martinez on the All-Star roster, got the other for Detroit in this important divisional showdown. V-Mart has a “strained lower right side” and with his history of knee injuries, he’ll sit until after the break. Royals’ All-Star receiver Salvador Perez got the run across for the home team with a first-inning single.

And in Oakland, they can’t find kryptonite to stop the King. Just as Anibal Sanchez owns the Royals, so does the King dominate Oakland. The A’s made a key trade this week to get pitching ace Jeff Samaradzija from the Cubs, and the rotations were set so that he faced another native son of Valencia, Felix Hernandez, in the Emerald City on Friday. Like the Detroit-KC matchup, this was playoff-fever baseball between two fierce divisional rivals.

A surprising first frame yielded two Oakland runs, including a Steven Vogt homer, but then Felix Abraham Hernandez got mad, and gave up nothing for the next seven innings before allowing Fernando Rodney to shut the door in the ninth. For the first time, Felix has 11 wins before the All-Star break; again, he could finally win 20 this season. Countryman Endy Chavez has goosed the Seattle lineup since coming up from the minors and had an RBI in the leadoff spot.

Now there’s a high likelihood of King Felix, having rested since Friday, starting the All-Star Game for the American League. You’d have to say it was well-deserved, should it happen.

Today’s quote of the day comes not from the King, but from ace Dominican reliever Fernando Rodney, who saved the game on a questionable called strikeout of the A’s Nick Punto.

“All my pitches are strikes,” said Rodney.

Self-belief is a powerful thing.



About vzbaseball

Writer, Musician, Baseball Fanatic. Lonely Planet, Fodor's, scouring the nation and globe for stories. Big fish, small pond.
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