Red Sox offensive consistency, the great Jackie Robinson, and the late Bob Sheppard, among other topics, have made their way into this Sunday Morning’s Odds ‘n Ends:
- After avoiding a sweep in the first homestand of the season, the Red Sox have gone on to win three in a row, including two more Friday and Saturday from a tough Blue Jays team. Except for one game when they were shut out by Toronto in their first series match up, the Sox have scored four or more runs in every game this season and five runs or more in seven of their first 10 games. Lest that leaves us too euphoric, the Sox scored five or more runs in seven of their first 10 games of 2015, too. In fact, the 2015 club averaged 5.9 runs/game over their first ten compared with 5.3 runs/game this year. They key, of course, will be consistency. In 2015, Sox offense sputtered to just 3.2 runs/game in the 30 games following the first 10.
- Until Friday, the Tigers had scored four or more runs in every game of their new season. Those first eight games tied the club for the 10th longest such streak ever in the American League to start a season. It also edges the seven game record Detroit amassed to start the 2015 campaign. The Red Sox own the AL record for the most games with 4+ runs to start a season: 18 from April 7-28, 1978.
- This week we celebrated Jackie Robinson Day around baseball (and why not watch Ken Burns’ outstanding new documentary, while we’re on the topic). It was 71 years ago that Robinson signed a pro contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first step to breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947. In April 1945 the Red Sox evaluated Robinson and fellow Negro Leagers Sam Jethroe and Marvin Williams but had interest in none of them. Boston was the very last club to integrate.
- Red Sox fans of a certain age can conjure up the sound of Bob Sheppard’s voice pretty easily. For decades Sheppard was the iconic public address announcer for the Yankees. Today is the 65 anniversary of his first game there in 1951; it was the day Mickey Mantle debuted in his first Major League game. Incredibly, Sheppard was also the public address announcer of the New York Giants for 50 seasons. He retired from the Yankees in 2007 and died in 2010, but his voice lived on for a time. Derek Jeter asked Sheppard to record Jeter’s introduction and he used it every time he came to bat at Yankee Stadium. “That’s the voice I’d heard growing up,” Jeter told CBS New York, “and that’s the only voice I wanted to hear when I was announced at home.”
- Mookie Betts is now up to 12 strikeouts on the season, the most on the Red Sox. His 12 SO are the third most among all lead off hitters.
- Of the triad for baseball success, offense, fielding, and pitching, the Red Sox are excelling so far in two of three. The Sox entered this weekend batting .280 overall, the 3rd best mark in the AL after the Orioles (.294) and Tigers (.282). Boston’s defense was 2nd best in the AL with a .991 fielding percentage. But the club’s 5.13 ERA was the worst in the league and the 4th worst in baseball. The return of catcher Christian Vazquez bodes well for the pitching staff, however, and had already shown early dividends in Friday’s and Saturday’s games.
- The Braves lost nine straight games to start 2016 before finally collecting a win on Friday against the Marlins. It was their worst start since opening 0-10 in 1988. Atlanta started this season with its first winless homestand of five or more games since June 2006 when they lost six games to the Red Sox and Blue Jays.
- Instant replay delays are down to an average of one minute and fifty-four seconds through the first 124 MLB games of the year. Of the 72 reviews, 34 calls (47.2%) were overturned.
- Tigers catcher and one-time Red Sox Jarrod Saltalamacchia blasted his 100th career home run in grand style last Wednesday. His fourth career grand slam put Detroit ahead 5-2 (the Tigers would go on to beat the Pirates 7-3). Sox fans will recall his last grand slam, a tie breaking blast in the bottom of the seventh inning facing Yankees pitcher Preston Claiborne on September 13, 2013. Saltalamacchia, in his first season with the Tigers, became just the third player with that club since 1913 to have two four-RBI games over the first seven games of a season. For that distinction he joins Miguel Cabrera (in 2009) and Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann (in 1922 and 1929).