By Andrew Kahn
The first month of the season is in the books. Games are shorter, which isn’t a surprise given baseball’s new policies, but the Mets’ and Astros’ hot starts are. And the month couldn’t end without Mike Trout making a game-saving catch.
1. Orioles play in empty stadium
Due to unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, the first two games of the Orioles-White Sox series were postponed and Wednesday’s finale was played in an empty Camden Yards. It was the first game in major league history with zero fans in attendance. Reports from the game mentioned how strange the atmosphere was, as you might imagine. A stadium employee roamed the seats, picking up the foul balls. Players stuck to their habits, whether it be tossing a ball into the stands after the third out or pretending to sign autographs. Sounds that are normally drowned out by thousands of fans could be heard: a player calling off his teammates on a pop fly; the umpire yelling “strike;” a fastball popping the catcher’s mitt. Some fans stood outside the gate beyond the outfield and cheered the home team as they scored six runs in the first and won 8-2. They won’t have that opportunity this weekend. Baltimore’s scheduled home series against Tampa Bay has been moved to the Rays’ home field, where the Orioles will be the designated home team.
2. Washington’s comeback
The Washington Nationals, a popular choice to win the World Series before the season began, were 7-13 after losing six straight and trailed Atlanta 10-2 in the fourth inning on Tuesday. The Nats scored four in the fifth, three in the seventh, and three in the ninth to win 13-12. They scored 13 again the next night and handed the Mets their first home loss last night. Dan Uggla was the hero for Washington in the remarkable comeback. The former Brave, booed heavily by the Atlanta crowd for the way his time there ended, had three hits and five RBI, including a three-run homer in the ninth. Atlanta’s win probability was above 90 percent for most of the game, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and was at 97 percent after Washington’s first batter in the top of the ninth was retired.
3. Wainwright injured
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, running to first on a pop up on Saturday, tore his Achilles and will miss the rest of the season. Tim Cooney replaced him in the rotation, making his big league debut yesterday and allowing three runs and seven hits and lasting just 2 1/3 innings. Wainwright needed Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2011 season, and the Cardinals won the World Series. This injury sparked debate over whether the National League should adopt the designated hitter. While an argument can be made in favor of such a change, using Wainwright’s injury as a reason is foolish.
4. Hamilton returns to Texas
When the Texas Rangers failed to re-sign Josh Hamilton after the 2011 season, nobody could have predicted they’d get him back so soon, and for practically nothing. Hamilton, who was the 2010 MVP and hit 43 homers in his final season in Texas, was signed to a five-year, $125 million contract by the Angels before the 2013 season. He had a poor first year and was even worse last season, playing in 89 games and hitting .263 with 10 homers. He was 0 for 13 in the playoffs. After a recent drug relapse during a DL stint, the Angels were fed up. On Monday, they traded him to the Rangers, picking up most of the $80 million owed to him just to get rid of him.
5. Inside-the-park home run
James McCann didn’t have to barter with a fan to retrieve the ball from his first career home run. That’s because the ball never left the field. Detroit’s rookie catcher hit an inside-the-park home run on Wednesday, becoming the first Tiger to do so for his first career homer since 1956. The play came in the top of the sixth with a man on and tied the game at 7. Detroit eventually beat the Minnesota Twins 10-7. McCann socked a curveball to straightaway center that hit the wall and caromed off the center fielder’s cleat, shooting towards right. By the time it was tracked down and relayed home, McCann was easily safe.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about baseball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn