OBSERVATIONS: Are they juicing the baseball again?

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, missing college basketball, but enjoying the start of the MLB season and pitchers struggling with the clock. Some even have resorted to the old quick pitch, but it usually draws a warning because the hitter is afforded the chance to get set in the box. Hey, none of this was a factor back when I played and the infield fly rule wasn’t even invented.

—JUICING ‘EM UP?: Banning defensive players from stationing themselves all over the field was designed to increase offense. And it’s working.

What else? How about home runs? And here comes the question: “Are baseballs juiced up again?

In only five or six games by each team so far, baseballs are flying over the walls like toilet paper off the shelves during the pandemic.

During the first five games, 20 home runs have whistled their way out of Fenway Park. The Los Angeles Dodgers have hit 13. The San Francisco Giants hit seven in one game, four in one inning.

Milwaukee’s Rowdy Tellez, Brian Anderson and Garrett Mitchell went back-to-back-to-back against New York Mets mega-hurler Max Scherzer, knocking him out of the game. The next inning, Anderson and Mitchell went back-to-back again.

Atlanta’s Austin Riley hit a home run in Busch Stadium III that nearly cleared the Gateway Arch, a 470-foot rip, longest in Busch history.

Baltimore and Tampa Bay have hit 11 each, while the New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds have hit 10. The Cincinnati homers have come from a gaggle of guys not known for power. And it isn’t just the cozy comforts of Great American Ball Park. Some of them would have been home runs on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

And how about the bigger bases, employed to encourage base-stealing? The Baltimore Orioles are taking advantage with 11 swiped bags. The Cleveland – – – – dians have eight.

The Reds? Not so much so far. Only one.

—ONE, TWO, THREE: Much is made of the Immaculate Inning. . .when a pitcher throws nine pitches, all strtikes, three strikeouts in one inning. An amazing accomplishment? You bet. I saw Rob Dibble do it and I saw Kevin Gausman do it for the Reds.

But my great friend, Jeff Gordon, asked a good question: “How about a three-pitch inning? Is that rare?”

Yes, it certainly is. Baseball Reference says since 2015 there have been twice as many Immaculate Innings as Three-Pitch Innings.

In September of 2020, Oakland pitcher Lou Trivino retired the Houston Astros on three pitches in the ninth inning. Adding to the rarity, all three pitches ended up in the center fielder’s glove.

Kyle Tucker flied to center on the first pitch. Carlos Correa flied to center on the second pitch. Aledmys Diaz flied to center on the third pitch.

Ask any pitcher and he’ll tell you he prefers a three-pitch inning over the nine-pitch immaculate inning. Less wear and tear.

—TWIN TOWERS: The San Francisco Giants have a set of idential twins in their bullpen, Taylor and Tyler Rogers. Teammates say they can’t tell them apart because they look alike, talk alike, walk alike, are inseparable, dress alike, have the same haircut, eat together and play catch together.

But wait? Shouldn’t it be easy. Tyler is 6-foot-5 and weighs 187. Taylor is 6-foot-3 and weighs 170. And it’s easy when they are on the mound. Taylor is a left-handed closer and Tyler is right-handed submarine set-up guy.

The Rogers brothers are the first twins to play on the same team since Jose and Ozzie Canseco in 1990 and only the fourth set of twins on the same team in MLB history.

The other sets were Joe and Red Shannon and Eddie and Johnny O’Brien. For the Shannons, it was one game. On the day Joe played his last game for the 1915 Boston Braves, Red made his debut.

The O’Brien twins played shortstop and second base for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the mid-1950s and both even pitched in the same game.

They were more famous though as matched set 5-foot-9 basketball guards at the University of Seattle. They helped Seattle score a rarity, an 84-81 victory over the Harlem Globetrotters.

Seattle beat NYU in Madison Square Garden, 102-101, with Eddie scoring 33 and Johnny 29.

—TALKING POINTS: The Boomer & Gio morning talk show on the CBS Sports Network is about, well, sports. Boomer is former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason. Esiason is great but I wonder if the shirts in his closet are arguing over which is the ugliest.

On this ‘sports’ show, these are some of the topics they discussed on one show this week: Potholes in Tribeca’s streets, crotchless leather pants, should men shave their buttocks and an interview with a guy who is taking his dog to every NHL arena.

Said Gio, “The dog probably could play wing on the New York Islanders third line.”

—SPLIT THE POT: Remember when I informed you that after the first week of March Madness I was in last place in the pool I entered and that I lit a cigar and torched my bracket?

Guess what? I picked enough upsets that I stormed back and when Connecticut won the championship, I tied for first place with former Franklin mayor and genuinely nice guy Denny Centers.

The winnings will not put us in a higher tax bracket, but we get bragger’s rights at The Liar’s Table at Mom’s Restaurant.

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