Tuesday, June 28, 2005

« Weekend Babble: Vargas, Maddux, Bernie »

By Suss
TIGERS AT DIAMONDBACKS - The odds were stacked against Claudio Vargas Sunday afternoon. He was 1-4, facing a 9-4 Jeremy Bonderman, and neither Luis Gonzalez nor Troy Glaus -- the team's two top RBI leaders -- were behind him in his lineup. To boot, Carlos Guillen, hitting well above .300 prior to his injury, returned to the lineup.

Undaunted, Vargas pitched 6-2/3 innings, allowing three runs and striking out 8 as the D-Backs gave him plenty of run support in a 13-7 win. Bonderman didn't make it out of the third inning.

Vargas, who began a rocky start filling in for the injured Russ Ortiz and almost relegated to the bullpen, has now won his last two previous starts.

METS AT YANKEES - Friday night, in the top of the 2nd inning, the Mets scored three run in a historic fashion -- all sacrifice flies.

But a sac fly requires recording an out, right? Kinda. After a Ramon Castro sac fly, the "third" sac fly (the second in chronological order) happened with Bernie Williams dropped a routine fly ball hit by Jose Reyes which would have scored David Wright as a sacrifice as the second out. Instead, all runners were safe the inning continued with a Mike Cameron sac fly for the second out.

It is the first time a National League team hit three sacrifice flies in a game, and it also tied the NL record for sac flies in an entire game.

But Williams, whose blunder opened the door for the record, knows how it feels to hit three in an inning. Three American League teams have accomplished the rare feat, and the Yankees doing it twice in the year 2000, with Williams having one of those sac flies in a June 29, 2000 game against Detroit.

WHITE SOX AT CUBS - In a Chicago Cubs telecast a few years ago (details elude my frail mind), a broadcaster read aloud an e-mail from a listener: "What's more likely to happen: The Cubs winning the World Series or Mark Prior winning his 300th game ... for the Braves?"

The punch line was in reference to the ex-Cub Greg Maddux signing with the Atlanta Braves in 1993 after a 95 wins his first seven seasons in Chicago. Maddux went on to win 194 more games in Atlanta from '93-'03. He was on pace to eclipse the rare 300-win mark, something only 18 other pitchers before 2003 have ever done. (And with the increase of dependence of the bullpen, it is unlikely to reoccur for future starters.)

But Maddux returned with his former team in 2004 and ended up winning his 300th game in 2004.

And on Saturday he kept his winning ways, notching win No. 312 against the White Sox, passing legendary Mets/Reds hurler Tom Seaver on the all-time list. He is only 2 wins shy of tying Gaylord Perry, but is also 17 wins behind also-still-active Roger Clemens, who won No. 300 two years ago.

SPEAKING OF PRIOR: After that heart-stopping line drive that squarely caught Prior's pitching elbow May 27, putting his season and possibly career in jeopardy, he returned to the mound Sunday, allowing only one hit in six shutout innings against the best team in baseball: the White Sox.

People wondered if he would miss multiple months, let alone the season. And he didn't even miss an entire month (29 days).

Also, co-ace Kerry Wood is scheduled to start Wednesday after a shoulder injury. At 38-36 and reloaded with two stellar arms, the Cubs are still in the Wild Card chase, only 3 games back of current Wild Card leader Atlanta.

Some curse.