This section will just be a brief note on games I attend in person from the 2022, 2023 and – hopefully – 2024 seasons, with the most recent at the top.
The project’s Instagram account has a daily picture from games and other baseball-related ephemera.
- I began this season in Phoenix to watch group games in the World Baseball Classic. Scroll down this page for individual Game Notes, and there’s a recap of highlights from the whole amazing tournament here.
Daily wrap-ups across both leagues at MLB.com
And for the latest standings click here
Thursday, May 25: Washington Nationals vs San Diego Padres, Nationals Park, Washington DC.
There’s always a deeply respectful marking of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend in pre-game ceremonies in the nation’s capital.
This was the final home game before Monday, when the Nats will be out in Los Angeles. I’m always somewhat embarrassed to answer in the negative when the staff at the team store ask if I’m “serving or retired military” to get a discount on a scorecard – but moreso than ever this particular weekend, as we all express our gratitude for immeasurable sacrifice.
It also puts what we value in perspective when you’re riding the Green Line out to the game and you overhear young people talk enthusiastically about their service and postings in between discussing pitching matchups.
Which is probably why a story like this felt particularly jarring on a day like today.
As for the game itself, it was a frustrating one for the home team, who failed to build on a first-inning lead as the Padres – with DC’s prodigal son Juan Soto getting another standing ovation before his first at-bat – jumped out to a 5-1 advantage by the fifth and looked to be cruising to what would be just their first series win since the start of the month.
That was until a breakout seventh inning when the Nats rallied to score five runs on seven straight hits to lead 6-5. But then, with the Padres down to their last life, everyone’s favorite Game of Thrones character Rougned Odor sent a three-run blast into the Nats bullpen in right field, just below where I was sitting.
The Padres and their heavenly payroll have struggled, particularly with hitting, more than many people expected this season – in their last 11 games they’ve managed only three hits with runners on that have resulted in multiple runs; and Odor has all three of them. They needed a win like this to remind them what they should be capable of with the likes of Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr, Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado in their lineup. Maybe the birthday of Padre Pio had something to do with it…
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless.“
For the Nationals, as David Aldridge wrote in The Athletic, the post-Soto rebuild is “slow and (far from) steady.” He writes:
“It will never be normal to see Soto coming out of the third-base dugout at Nationals Park. If the sharp pain of his departure has lessened, the collective fans’ arm is still, figuratively, sore. What genuinely stings, of course, is that the 2019 team never really got a real chance to defend its championship.”
And with the Trade Deadline looming into view, the Nats appear to have taken a unique approach to their roster…
Thursday, May 18: Baltimore Orioles vs Los Angeles Angels; Camden Yards, Baltimore MD.
It was STEM Field Trip Day and the ballpark was packed with school groups from all over the city and their incredible energy. They danced, they did the Wave, they screamed on cue – in fact, the ‘Get Loud’ sign on the jumbotron was totally redundant. This was way better than going to the Aquarium.
And after doing some science experiments on the field before the first pitch, the kids got to witness a rollercoaster of a game as the Angels held on to beat the O’s 6-5 and split the four-game series.
Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout both hit their tenth homers of the season – Ohtani in the first and Trout in the third off Tyler Wells – as the Angels jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the O’s tied it up in the fifth on the back of an Anthony Santander blast. The lead then bounced back and forth, with Adley Rutschman hitting a two-run shot in the seventh to make it 5-4 O’s and setting up what looked like being a dramatic unlikely win after a pretty flat start.
But the O’s bullpen couldn’t make it stick and after Austin Voth hit Trout to load the bases in the eighth, Danny Coloumbe came in to give up an RBI to Ohtani, making it 6-5 Angels.
In the bottom of the ninth, a great throw by Hunter Renfroe got Adam Frazier at second, and despite a double by pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins, Angels’ closer Carlos Estevez intentionally walked Rutschman and struck out Ryan Mountcastle to wrap it up.
If any of the kids here today were seeing their first-ever ballgame, they could hardly have picked a better one, apart from the outcome.
Monday, May 15: Baltimore Orioles vs Los Angeles Angels; Camden Yards, Baltimore MD.
The Oh! Show came to town and it was every bit as effortlessly dominant as we’ve come to expect. The phenomenon that is Shohei Ohtani led the Angels to a 9-5 win over the Orioles, handing rookie Grayson Rodriguez his first major league loss.
On the mound, Ohtani pitched seven innings, giving up four hits for five runs; all of them via homers – two-run shots from Adam Frazier and Anthony Santander, and a solo by Cedric Mullins.
At the plate, Ohtani was a double away from hitting for the cycle, after walking in the first inning and going four for five, crushing a towering, 456-foot, three-run blast onto the terrace in the fourth to retake a lead the O’s couldn’t claw back. Staying in the game as DH, he became the first pitcher to both start a game and reach base five times since the Yankees’ Mel Stottlemyre did it in September 1964.
For Rodriguez, the much-anticipated pitching match-up wound up as a disappointing night for sure, giving up eight runs in three and a third innings. There were some – not many – boos as he exited, but as Dan Connolly writes at The Athletic, that comes in part from the heightened expectations surrounding this Orioles team, but “the club probably isn’t reaching those heights without Rodriguez.”
“… Fans shouldn’t be worried [about Rodriguez]. He possesses maturity well beyond his years to go with talent that’s undeniable.
“Now, it’s a matter of knowing how to pitch in the big leagues and making adjustments when his command is spotty. This is where he has to learn that consistency. Rodriguez has graduated from the minors, and now he’ll take his lumps at times on the biggest stage.”
They say there’s always someone having a worse night than you are, and in this case it was probably the guy who snagged the Ohtani homer – and threw it back. Apparently he “instantly regretted it.”
Sunday, May 14: Baltimore Orioles vs Pittsburgh Pirates; Camden Yards, Baltimore MD.
With the three-game series against the Pirates already won, the O’s fell 4-0 to another fine outing from a rejuvenated Mitch Keller, who struck out 13 over seven scoreless innings – a modern franchise first. Keller (who’s now 5-1) had thrown his first career shutout last week to help the Pirates snap a seven-game losing streak and was in command early, getting all the run support he’d need by the end of the third. This was only the Bucs’ second win in 13 games.
For the O’s, even Cedric Mullins, fresh off hitting for the cycle in Friday’s series opener, couldn’t click, while Kyle Stowers’ struggles at the plate continued, striking out four times today. Kyle Gibson (4-3) gave up four runs on seven hits. It was the third time Baltimore had been shut out this season – all three behind Gibson.
From what I’ve seen, the O’s have looked either good or really good in three or four games out of every five or six so far; they still have the second-best record in baseball (don’t forget they just took a series against the team with the best record) and are trying to work out some of the issues with consistency and personnel. Joey Ortiz made his home debut at short, striking out in the third in his first at-bat.
The Angels come into Camden for four games starting on Monday, when Shohei Ohtani is set to start against Grayson Rodriguez. See you there.
Tuesday, April 18; Washington Nationals vs Baltimore Orioles; Nationals Park, Washington DC.
Ron DeSantis and I were both in the Nation’s capital today, but it sounds like I had a better day than he did.
As Representatives from DeSantis’s home state used his DC fundraising event to declare their fealty to his potential presidential rival, Orioles pitcher Dean Kremer was locking down a 1-0 win in the first ‘Beltway Series’ game of the season between the often uneasy neighbours. The Nats’ bats went to sleep yet again, wasting another fine outing by Josiah Gray.
In the 25-year-old right-hander’s four starts this season, the Nationals have scored a combined total of *one* run. Tonight he pitched pretty well through six innings, exiting after issuing his fourth walk, with the Orioles leading by what would be the game’s only run on an Austin Hays RBI.
Kremer tied his career-best with 15 swinging strikes on his way to a fifth career scoreless start of at least six innings. But he had to pitch out of a shaky moment in the third after a fielding error at first base put a couple of Nats runners in scoring position with no outs. After that, Kremer went on to retire eleven straight through to the 7th inning.
Overall, a fine showing by the Orioles, who move to 10-7, while the Nationals’ struggles continue at 5-12.
One quick final thought, and it’s not just about here, but here is where I was.
I usually enjoy my visits to Nationals Park – it’s a nice park, never too crowded, has a good informative scoreboard if you’re keeping score and it’s accessible from Baltimore (although come on MARC, restore the 10pm train home). The game day staff are pleasant and helpful, and yes, on principle, baseball belongs in the nation’s capital. But you guys have to do something about prices.
I shouldn’t be paying more for a beer than for either the game ticket or the roundtrip train fare to get here.
Because the on-field product is poor, ticket sales are patchy at best – there were easily more Os fans here tonight – you resort to on-the-day gimmicks to try to boost the numbers. For instance, because today was Tax Day, you had a special $10.40 off some tickets on the day. Not really a big help to those of us who already bought our tickets (and even then, how do you justify $7 in “fees” on a $13 ticket? Just call it a $20 ticket and shut up).
It’s already expensive enough to go to a ball game – and most times I’m by myself. I’ve got to the point where I usually buy the cheapest admission available, I only have one beer, I eat before I get to the park, and I rarely buy anything in the team store. It’s not like I don’t have some disposable income, I’d just rather go to more games than blow it on one.
Maybe if teams made it just a little less expensive for a night out, they’d get fans going back more often. But like everything else these days, you never see prices go down…
Sunday, April 16; Johns Hopkins vs Dickinson; Babb Field, Baltimore MD.
Some folks in charge of baseball these days might have a problem with doubleheaders because they feel like they might never end.
For the visiting Dickinson College team, the first inning of the first game today must have felt that way.
JHU almost batted around twice, scoring 14 runs on nine hits including a flurry of six homers – setting an NCAA D3 record for a single inning – before adding six more runs over the next two frames to lead 20-0.
The visitors pulled a couple back in the top of the fourth, but those were cancelled out by another five in the home half. The only shock from there on in was that neither team managed to get on the board in the final three innings, with JHU eventually taking it 26-8.
It was, as far as I can remember, the biggest margin of victory I’ve ever seen in any game.
Unlike the World Baseball Classic, there’s no mercy rule here; although probably the most painful thing of all was the fact that the second Dickinson pitcher in the first inning had to take his warm-up throws while JHU batter Alex Shane’s walk-up music “Woop Woop, That’s The Sound of Da Police” played on an endless loop.
Credit to the Dickinson coaches for huddling their guys at the end of the first and trying to get their heads together to go back out there. But there wasn’t much anyone could say by then.
The second Blue Jay victory of the day finished a more respectable 8-6 – which for the Red Devils probably felt like a moral victory – leaving first-place JHU with a record of 28-3 on the season.
Thursday, April 13; Baltimore Orioles vs Oakland A’s; Camden Yards, Baltimore MD.
When I lived in New York two decades ago, I used to go to every Sunday lunchtime game at either the “old” Yankee Stadium or Shea – whichever team was at home – then leave in time to get to the office for the start of the overnight newsdesk shift around 4.30pm. It took about the same time to get back downtown on the subway to 54th Street from both stadia; usually leaving straight after the seventh-inning stretch.
I missed a lot of walk-offs by leaving early. I also missed plenty of what turned out to be frustrating extra-innings games; but work is work.
Today was probably the first time I missed a walk-off because I had to leave early to pick up groceries on the way home. One of those things, but even apart from the dramatic final shot, this was a really good afternoon’s entertainment on an unseasonably warm day in Baltimore – and yet another of those games that the O’s will admit they should have put to bed much earlier.
Again it fell to hot hand Adley Rutschman to deal the coup de grace, hitting his first walk-off homer – his fourth bomb of the season and third in five games – to lift the O’s over the A’s 8-7 in the latest battle of the vowels.
And talking of Shea, Rutschman’s opposite number on the A’s, catcher Shea Langeliers is the only current major leaguer named after a now-defunct MLB stadium AND a Stephen King story.
As far as I know…
Best story of the day, though – even better than the walk-off – was the 100th birthday of a lifelong baseball fan who celebrated with family at the ballpark.
Friday, April 7; Baltimore Orioles vs New York Yankees; Camden Yards, Baltimore MD.
An excellent game to start the O’s home season, as the good guys edged the Yankees 7-6 in front of a sell-out crowd of 45,000-plus – the largest home-opener attendance since manager Brandon Hyde arrived in 2019.
Yesterday’s postponement had thrown plenty of fans’ plans into disarray – particularly those who might have been taking part in religious observances at the start of this holy weekend; while having Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in town at the arena just up Howard Street likely gave the BPD some traffic headaches.
As for the game itself, a solid pitching performance by Dean Kremer and the Os bullpen was bolstered by some clutch hitting and baserunning from the Orioles’ energetic new stars, even if the final score eventually wound up closer than it should have been.
It’s going to be fun to watch this young team this year. And this time we’re not talking about the Yankees. Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez could genuinely take the AL by storm. And with it being 40 years since the Orioles last won a World Series, expectations are already sky-high.
Wednesday, April 5; Cincinnati Reds vs Chicago Cubs; Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati OH.
The first rainout of this project, and unfortunately it would have been a good one, with Hunter Greene scheduled to go for the Reds against Marcus Stroman. The teams are going to make it up as a doubleheader on September 1.
Today was a getaway day for the Cubs, but because of the huge storm front moving through, not many folks were going anywhere. So… first world problems, I guess, as ballparks on the east coast try to deal with what parts of the midwest and south have been going through over the past couple of days.
Tuesday, April 4; Cincinnati Reds vs Chicago Cubs; Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH.
Finally, the Cubs’ bats – which were already pretty ‘woke’ – managed to stick it out to get the win. A seventh-inning breakout sealed a 12-5 victory to even this three-game series with the decider at lunchtime tomorrow.
Hayden Wesneski had his first start of the season and was a little shaky early on, likely giving David Ross a flashback to last night, but in the end it didn’t matter as the Cubs scored 12 runs on 16 hits. Hoerner, Bellinger, Wisdom and Happ – who always hits well in the city where he went to college – all had three hits and Trey Mancini and Patrick Wisdom each drove in three runs.
And although the game was pretty much over by this point, Trey understandably wasn’t happy at this call…
Monday, April 3; Cincinnati Reds vs Chicago Cubs; Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH.
Tonight was one of those instances where you hope your team stays off social media.
The array of frustrated comments are never going to be kind and no amount of venting will change the result – plus you can’t really argue that the team can learn from perceived mistakes when these are professional players who should already be completely aware of what went right and what went wrong.
In particular it was Cubs’ manager David Ross who was savaged on Twitter for his handling of a couple of situations which led to the Reds squeezing out a 7-6 win in what was an entertaining – and, at 2:35, brisk – contest where the teams combined for 20 hits and left 15 men on base.
The first contentious issue was how long Ross persevered with starting pitcher Drew Smyly, who was struggling with his control; the other was why he left Patrick Wisdom in the game after he was hit by a pitch and was unable to swing, leading him to bunt with a runner in scoring position.
For the Reds, there was another Viking hat for Jason Vosler, who continued his run of good form filling in for the injured Joey Votto; following the latest obscure MLB rule that injured players have to be replaced on the roster by a player with the same initials.
Like yesterday against the Pirates, I was there with my friends Marc Bona and Chris Lamb, a Reds’ fan for fifty years, who said he couldn’t remember the last time he’d watched his team win back-to-back games. That may have been an exaggeration…
The Reds are now 3-1 through the season’s first four games. It took them 16 games to reach three wins in 2022, a season they finished with exactly 100 losses.
For this group, last season could turn out to be their Nadir. The only way is up.
Sunday, April 2; Cincinnati Reds vs Pittsburgh Pirates; Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH.
A tenacious and deserved 3-1 win for the Reds behind seven strong innings with a reasonable pitch count by Graham Ashcraft in his season debut. Reds reliever Alexis Diaz – whose walk-up music paid tribute to his injured brother Edwin – picked up his first save of the season.
The young first three of this year’s rotation – Hunter Greene, 23, Nick Lodolo, 25, and Ashcraft, also 25 – should give the Reds a pretty good foundation for moving forward; and with a couple of position players on the verge of breaking through, like Elly De La Cruz, Reds fans could finally have something to look forward to after a few frustrating seasons.
And, yeah, the whole Viking thing is fun too…
Thursday, March 30: It’s Opening Day!
Tuesday, March 28; Washington Nationals vs New York Yankees; Nationals Park, Washington DC.
This was an intriguing last Spring Training exhibition game between one of the clubs tipped for the post-season (but then when aren’t they?) and a team that won the World Series in 2019 but had the worst record in baseball last season. (They aren’t projected to be much better in this one.)
On the strength of today, though – despite one or two standout performances on either side – you’d seriously not know which team was which.
The Nationals ended up 3-0 winners powered by a solo homer in the second by Alex Call and four strong innings from Trevor Williams to take the win. The Yankees, for their part, had a decent outing from Nestor Cortes – despite being called for a ‘quick pitch’ clock violation and picking up the loss – but the star of the show was their new young shortstop Anthony Volpe, who singled his first time up in the third and looked impatient to steal at any opportunity, before showing off some excellent defensive glovework.
Volpe looks the real deal, for sure. But for the Yankees, local bragging rights may be at stake this year; with the Mets and their owner Steve Cohen – the “most beloved billionaire in Queens” – determined to make some waves ahead of an even bigger splash next season after possibly landing the best all-round player in baseball.
Aaron Boone started swapping out his entire line-up from the fourth inning onward, and it ended up being the sort of game where everyone looked like they were getting used to something – the Nats’ scoreboard operators included. With the stencil outline in place but not yet filled in for Opening Day against the Braves on Thursday, this was one of those games that was ultimately meaningless, but was better to win than not, particularly for the home team.
Abe won the Presidents’ race, but Nats fans will be happy to have seen an almost-President’s name on the mound, with Mackenzie Gore – one of the Padres’ top prospects who came over in the Juan Soto deal – making his home debut.
Friday, March 17: Chicago Cubs vs Los Angeles Dodgers; Sloan Park, Mesa, AZ
A beautiful St Patrick’s Day in the land of actual snakes, and the Cubs’ split-squad couldn’t manage a win between them, with the traveling half tying the White Sox 4-4 at Camelback Ranch.
The Dodgers arrived at Sloan Park without Mookie Betts, who’s still on WBC duty, but they did have Great Britain’s man of the moment Trayce Thompson, fresh off his homer against Team USA. And it was Hayden Wesneski’s walk to Thompson that kick-started the Dodgers’ avalanche in the fourth inning.
Up until that point, Wesneski had looked pretty solid and an Ian Happ double had given the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third. But the Dodgers – including beloved former Cub Jason Hayward – batted around in the fourth and left the shellshocked Cubs looking up at an 8-1 deficit.
To their credit they tried to battle back behind a sprinkling of big hits from Cody Bellinger, Matt Mervis and Jacob Wetzel – and Dansby Swanson notched a rare double – but the Dodgers held on to win 9-7.
Long-time Cub fan Joe Mantegna was on first-pitch duties – interesting trivia tidbit I never knew: Mantegna sang the seventh-inning stretch on the day of Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game.
And of course, with it being St Patrick’s Day, Clark the Cub found some green stuff to wear, to the general bemusement of onlookers.
Thursday, March 16: Chicago Cubs vs Arizona Diamondbacks; Sloan Park, Mesa, AZ
It still feels odd to me to see Madison Bumgarner in any other uniform than the Giants. But thanks to last night’s rainout it’s always good to see the three-time World Series winner pitching at all, even if I had to look up a few of the players lining up with him today for the Diamondbacks. Maybe he did too.
In his second Spring start, Madbum – who turns 34 this year – put up three scoreless innings to help the Dbacks to a 3-1 win (although he returned to the game after reliever Zach McAllister got him out of a second-inning jam – the first time I’ve ever seen that quirky Spring Training rule in operation).
When I was last at Sloan Park a week or so ago, Drew Smyly – incidentally the same age as Bumgarner – became the first Cubs pitcher to go four innings this Spring. Today he became the first to go five and looked pretty solid, giving up two runs on three hits, with four Ks. The Cubs’ only run came on a homer by Cody Bellinger, in what will probably be close to the opening day line-up two weeks from now.
On a beautiful day for a ballgame it was another 16,000-plus sell-out, and you never know who you might run into over by the nacho stand…
I started this season in Phoenix, watching qualifying games in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, including the USA and – making their WBC debut – Great Britain.
Follow highlights from the tournament here and read my Conversation with baseball writer Danny Knobler here.
Wednesday, March 15: USA vs Colombia; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
The final game of this week’s pool play and as the heavens opened with an intense southwestern thunderstorm outside, even with Chase Field’s famous retractable roof closed, there was something of a pool developing inside.
Strange as it might sound, the stadium is now the fourth-oldest in the National League and after issues with the roof throughout last season, the Diamondbacks’ ownership is weighing its options for when the current lease runs out in 2027.
Going into tonight’s last qualifying game, the USA knew a win would take them to the qualifying stages; but they also knew that even if Colombia came out on top, prompting a three-team tiebreaker for the second spot, Mark DeRosa’s team had an advantage in run differential.
In the end, such mathematical projections were academic after Mike Trout powered the USA to a 3-2 comeback win in a tight contest. Like most of the US team’s games this week, it wasn’t pretty, and a similar standard of play in a win-or-go-home situation might not be enough, but Team USA will play Venezuela in the quarter-final in Miami on Saturday, guaranteeing the WBC and Fox Sports at least one more reasonably-rated broadcast opportunity. (The highest-rated game not involving the US so far was Colombia-Mexico on Saturday afternoon, which drew just 758,000 US viewers).
Tonight’s outcome also had positive implications for Great Britain, who by virtue of Colombia’s loss, gain an automatic spot in the next tournament, set for 2026. Colombia will now have to qualify.
Wednesday, March 15: Mexico vs Canada; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
Apart from rooting for the Great Britain team to do well (mission accomplished) my favourite team to watch during this past week has been Mexico.
Their fans bring a great party attitude to the park, but are also deeply serious about baseball; while their roster is full of entertaining, determined and outstandingly skilful players – there is, literally, always something exciting happening every time they’re up to bat.
They showed just how good they are in brushing aside Team USA on Sunday and put on a show again today, beating Canada 10-3 in what was effectively a play-in game for a place in the quarter-finals that start in Miami on Friday.
Mexico’s Cuban-born outfielder Randy Arozarena has proven to be one of WBC’s biggest assets this week, in terms of his interaction with fans and all-round on-field performances. He understands the value to the tournament of marrying the idea of a spring training feel with a genuine competitiveness.
For a concept like WBC to succeed and become embedded in the minds of fans (and indeed, players) along the lines of a ‘World Cup’, as MLB hopes, there has to be something at stake, but at the same time it has to be a fiesta. With Mexico and Arozarena this week, it has definitely been that.
Tuesday, March 14: Great Britain vs Mexico; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
For a brief, insane moment it looked like Great Britain could be on the verge of exceeding the heights of their outstanding achievement in beating Colombia yesterday. Could they take one more step towards baseball glory?
Against the Phillies’ former All-Star pitcher Taijuan Walker (8 Ks and four scoreless innings) and an impressive Mexican team it looked like it might be a mountain too high to climb, but when the sixth inning began with Mexico leading just 1-0, Chavez Young ripped a double to put the lead-off man in scoring position, and anything might be possible.
The heavy underdogs in Pool C had – underdoggedly – refused to lie down since the second inning when Mexico’s backup catcher Alexis Wilson – himself the subject of a classic baseball cinderella story – had driven in the game’s opening run.
But despite two quick outs that threatened to leave Young stranded, he stole third (tying the WBC steals record) with Harry Ford at the plate. When Ford worked a walk to put men at the corners, Mexico’s manager Benji Gil went to his bullpen, bringing in JoJo Romero to pitch to BJ Murray, who lashed Romero’s first pitch to Mexico shortstop Alan Trejo and beat out Trejo’s throw at first, scoring Young. Cue mayhem!
In the bottom of the frame, relief pitcher Donovan Benoit steadied Britain’s ship and the team’s irrepressible confidence, built on a never-say-die collective attitude, was turning the underdog into a bulldog.
Alas, though, the next inning was destined to be Alexis Wilson’s moment. After fouling a Tahnaj Thomas pitch off against the umpire’s mask leaving him shaken, Wilson stunned the rest of Chase Field by lining a shot into left, scoring Alan Trejo from second. Daniel Cooper came on to pitch and struck out Randy Arozarena before Alex Verdugo rolled one to first and GB were out of the inning with the game thankfully still close.
When Arozarena pulled in pinch-hitter Alex Crosby’s pop fly to end the game, Britain’s dream was over, but Mexico knew they’d been in a scrap. It certainly felt like they were pushed harder than they had been by the USA the other night.
Mexico now go into their last – equally crucial – Pool C game on Thursday against Canada on a huge wave of confidence. The winner automatically advances to the quarter-finals and if the unpredictable USA beats Colombia in the late game, they’ll be the other qualifier.
Mexico are a really good, MLB-calibre team, and even though – no matter what happens – many fans will remember their emotional victory over the USA, this win tonight showed just how resilient they are when circumstances are in flux.
It was, in truth, a remarkable performance from Drew Spencer and his Great Britain team, but then, their whole tournament has been. They may be eliminated, but no-can say they didn’t deserve to be here. They’ll be back. (And if team USA beats Colombia tomorrow, GB will automatically qualify for the next tournament).
Tuesday, March 14: Canada vs Colombia; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
The Arizona qualifying pool is going to go down to the final day tomorrow after Canada’s decisive 5-0 win over Colombia behind a superb pitching performance by Noah Skirrow in his WBC debut.
Canada may have been in too much of a Rush to get on the board. Freddie Freeman’s walk-up music in the first inning was ‘Sprit of Radio’. In the third, it was ‘Tom Sawyer’. If he had come up next time to the intro to ‘2112’ it would have been a clock violation…
Freeman left the game after the fourth inning with what was described as a “hamstring concern” and looks set to miss tomorrow’s crucial game against Mexico.
Best sign was the two Canadian dudes who held up a board with “Our Beer is Stronger, Eh?”
Monday, March 13: USA vs Canada; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ.
A crazy, chaotic first couple of innings as US fans finally got the breakout slugfest they were expecting, while Canada became just the third team in WBC history to win by the mercy rule one day and lose by the same rule the next. It was a tough night for Canada’s 19-year-old starter Mitch Bratt. As Joe Posnanski writes, the kid had no chance.
With pool play moving into its final stages and qualification still up for grabs, strategies will revolve around teams’ use of their pitching staffs, given the rules on pitch counts. The mercy rule is designed to protect pitchers’ arms, so sometimes taking the loss and moving on can work out to a team’s advantage.
Monday March 13: Great Britain vs Colombia; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ.
Picking themselves up after a demoralising mercy rule loss to Canada yesterday, the Great Britain team turned the page to produce nothing less than their greatest-ever baseball victory, coming back from a three-run first inning deficit to beat Colombia 7-5.
And their former colonists are celebrating along with them, since the result puts the USA’s progress to the quarter-finals back in their own hands.
Catcher Harry Ford went 2-4 with a solo home run, but it was an all-round team performance that showed bravery, self-belief and pride from exciting young players like Chavez Young and Jaden Rudd.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this win. I spent some time a couple of nights ago with the folks behind the scenes at the British Baseball Federation and genuinely couldn’t be happier for them. After likely surprising themselves against the USA, it must have been deflating to fall to Canada the way they did; but I’m sure they feel that to perform the way they did in tonight’s game has made everything about their first WBC experience more than worthwhile.
Sunday March 12: USA vs Mexico; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
Team USA’s unconvincing victory over Great Britain yesterday spilled over into another lacklustre performance in a raucous, sold-out game against Mexico, themselves smarting from their late disappointment against Colombia.
But on Sunday Mexico dominated from start to finish and their 11-5 win was thoroughly deserved. It delighted their passionate fans – in what was, after all, a home game for them – just as much as it led inevitably to US fans questioning their team’s mentality to go all the way.
Saturday March 11: Great Britain vs USA; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
The heavily-favoured US team, behind pitcher Adam Wainwright and laden with major league stars, took their opening game 6-2 against Great Britain, but that wasn’t the whole, predictable, story. The Brits gave a good showing of themselves in the early innings after jumping out to a 1-0 lead on a round-tripper by Trayce Thompson of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The shot may not have been heard around the world, but it at least temporarily silenced a crowd that had come expecting a slugfest on the other side of the scorecard. The crowd had also come to perform themselves, with a gathering of costumed minutemen, bald-bewigged Ben Franklins and almost as many tricorn hats as $49 USA baseball caps.
For a nation that professes to revere its flag, the number of people wearing it as items of clothing of various degrees of appropriateness might have made Betsy Ross blush. But then again, she was married in a tavern so she probably would have got the vibe. There were many, many banners and shirts bearing 1776-related slogans and anytime a British incursion threatened, there was a healthy, deep-throated booing, before breaking into the inevitable mindless catchall of “USA USA!” (My own favourite t-shirt, though, was of a muscular Bald Eagle wearing RayBans with the slogan “Too Cool For British Rule”…)
This was always going to be a one-sided contest. Kind of like having a Single-A team play in the All-Star Game – you just hope it doesn’t turn into a Home Run Derby.
But it was unrestrained American power in the form of a typical Schwarbomb that sealed the plucky Brits’ fate and allowed the crowd to go home believing they’re the world’s greatest superpower, at least for one more night. It was a far from convincing show by what should have been an imperious Team USA, and that could come back to haunt them.
Saturday March 11: Colombia vs Mexico; Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
The Arizona leg of the WBC got under way with what turned out to be a really exciting game between Colombia and Mexico after a cagey start. With their fans heavily outnumbered in the Chase Field crowd of more than 28,000, Colombia grabbed a 5-4 victory in the tenth inning following a go-ahead run scored on a Mexican fielding error, then a fine performance by pitcher Guillermo Zuniga to close it out.
Mexico has now lost its opening game in all five WBC tournaments, but its fans will still be hyped for tomorrow’s game against the US.
Hearing people all around you talking baseball and reacting to the action on the field in a language you can’t understand is both refreshing and humbling. It shows the true global nature of the game – and helps remind us of our own shortcomings. On the big screen, the WBC event “hosts” – an unnaturally energetic couple – screamed at us (in English) to show how excited we were as the TV feed went live. There really was no need. This crowd was definitely in the mood.
Friday March 10: Chicago Cubs vs Chicago White Sox; Sloan Park, Mesa, AZ.
A final-inning rally came up short as the Cubs snapped a nine-game winning streak to fall 4-3 in this year’s first meeting of the crosstown rivals in Mesa on Friday.
Drew Smyly became the first Cubs pitcher this spring to go four innings in what was a pretty tight game before the Sox jumped out to a 4-1 lead by the top of the ninth. While the Cubs had 11 hits, none went for extra bases, but there’s enough to be optimistic about for the rest of the spring on the day that a roster trim sent several prospects to the minors, including Brennen Davis and the highly-regarded Pete Crow-Armstrong. They’ll be back.
One thing I’ve always loved about Spring Training has been watching kids enjoy the casual proximity to star players and how they respond. Something as simple as tossing some BP balls to a group of kids and seeing the scamble for them will never get old.
Just as the games don’t really count, Spring Training should be about not worrying about anything and enjoying the experience.
That’s why it was more than a little jarring to see a guy wearing a t-shirt with an image of an AR-15 bearing the words “Come And Take It”. It was the only deliberately provocative and overtly political thing I saw all day, and of course it’s his right to wear whatever he wants – at least as far as society deems it’s not inciting, insulting or otherwise dangerous to the public peace. So I guess society has some work to do.
Now this is an altogether more wholesome choice of attire…
Something I haven’t really written much about yet on the project is how I’ve wanted to test out public transit systems in the cities I visit and see how practical they are for getting to ballparks that aren’t always in the centre of downtown. It’s one of the marks of a civilized community to offer a real alternative to automobile use.
While going completely car-free in a place as spread out as this isn’t really possible, so far the Valley Metro system that serves the greater Phoenix area seems to be a pretty good model for how it can work – there seems to have been well thought-out investment in stops and rolling stock for a reliable integrated bus and light rail service. What it needs, though, is some better directional signage. It would be good to know the closest stop to the ballpark for anyone arriving on foot, and that should be marked on the route infographics, not left to the rider to figure out based on guessing from a map that’s not to scale. Today I went two stops past where I should have gotten off, and it took me 40 minutes to walk back.
But that’s a relatively small thing. Apart from the score, today was nothing but great, and genuinely felt like coming out of hibernation…
And there’s always the Sonoran Nachos…
Click here to read my Game Notes from the 2022 season
Now we’ve had a couple of days and a bunch of games to evaluate the pitch clock, it looks like for a while it’s going to be just as contentious as anything about baseball. There are definite echoes of VAR in soccer, where a well-intentioned technology can end up leaving viewers frustrated and with more, not less, to argue about. It seems that the clock is here to stay, but that doesn’t mean its practical implementation won’t be tweaked – just as the players are learning to deal with it.
Joe Posnanski sums it up pretty well in a piece for Esquire magazine, when he writes:
“There is, inside the hearts of baseball fans, an alarm bell that goes off every time someone tries to change the game. True, the alarm is not inside all baseball fans, but it’s there for many of us, and it rings “Nooooooo!” whenever even the most subtle of changes to baseball is proposed. I don’t know that this happens for any other game…”
You can get a sense of some typical fan reaction from the responses on this Jeff Passan thread, but the debate seems set to continue, at least for a while.
It’s been a long winter…
First day of Spring Training, first pitch clock violation.
(Update: The idea of possibly giving up a strike on a time technicality seemingly didn’t affect Machado’s marketability. He subsequently signed an 11-year, $350m contract extension with the Padres).
As intended, the pitch clock has certainly speeded up the mechanics of at-bats on both sides of the mound and will take some getting used to by everyone involved – including fans and broadcasters – as will the other rule changes coming into force this season aimed at shortening game times.
When the pitch clock was trialled in the Minor Leagues last year, it reduced the duration of a nine-inning game by 25 minutes to an average of 2hrs 38m. Yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game was 2 hrs 29 m. The other game played, between the Rangers and the Royals, was 2hrs 33m. ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweeted that, while it’s a small sample so far, “it’s hard to understate how drastically the pitch clock is going to change baseball.”
But filmmaker and historian Cam Miller spoke for many when he tweeted: “Baseball has no clock. Time only exists outside the ballpark. We didn’t keep time in 1869. We didn’t keep time in 1969. We didn’t keep time in 1999, or 2009. We shouldn’t keep time now. Don’t change the game, change how you approach the game.” He went on: “The game has changed because people “in charge” have changed it. Baseball players are still baseball players. They didn’t change the game… Fans are still fans…they didn’t change the game. It was perfect. It was human. Not everything has to be warp speed.”
As Pitchers and Catchers start to report, I’m getting excited by the idea of starting the new season out in Phoenix, Arizona, to watch the games in Pool C of the World Baseball Classic at Chase Field. I’ll be counting down to the first pitch between Colombia and Mexico at noon on Sat March 11, and writing about it here.
(And hopefully I can catch a couple of Cubs spring training games in Mesa while I’m there.)
And this blast from the recent past makes me sad and happy at the same time…
I went to 26 games this season, in five states – Maryland, South Carolina, New York and the crucial election states of Ohio and Pennsylvania – as well as the District of Columbia.
Click here to read my Game Notes from 2022.
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