Who the heck is Zack Greinke?
He's the best pitcher in the major leagues right now, that's who. After four years of so-so performance with the Royals -- plus one year he missed nearly all of, 2006 -- he has emerged as an ace, with a 6-0 record, an unbelievable .040 ERA, and 54 strikeouts, tied with Johan Santana for the #1 spot. He has pitched three complete games already, whereas none of the other Top 50 pitchers has pitched more than one complete game! (Who needs a bullpen?) Greinke was voted April player of the month, made the cover of Sports Illustrated, and some analysts are comparing him to hall-of-famers such as Walter Johnson and Fernando Valenzuela. See MLB.com. Greinke seemed to come out of nowhere, leading the Kansas City Royals to an improbable first place in the AL Central. They have won six games in a row, and begin a weekend series against the Angels in Anaheim tonight. It's still early in the season, but the Royals' initial success is evidently not just a fluke after all.
Which reminds me, I've got to get crackin' on figuring out all the changes they've made to Kauffman Stadium this past year; apparently, it has boosted fan enthusiasm and the team's success. All sorts of good pictures at baseball-fever.com. Overall, the upgrades are very good, but I agree with critics who say the outfield seating sections are too crowded. They should have left a significant portion of natural bare grass slope as a picnic area.
Best Nats game ever!?
I was surprised the WUSA-TV9 sports anchor Bret Haver didn't make a bigger deal out of last night's Dodgers-Nationals game in Los Angeles. Rookie ace pitcher Jordan Zimmermann (two n's) got shellacked in the first inning, as a grand slam by Matt Kemp was the centerpiece of a six-run rally by the home team. (Who needs Manny Ramirez?) An ordinary pitcher would have lost heart after that, getting replaced early on, but not Zimmermann. Instead, he hung in there and pitched five scoreless innings, only allowing more hits. True, a great defensive play by Cristian Guzman shut down a potential second rally, but it was Zimmermann's composure and competitive spirit that led the way as the Nationals regained their senses. Backup left fielder Josh Willingham started the counterattack with a home run in the sixth inning. Adam Dunn batted in two runs in the seventh inning, and in the eighth inning the whole team joined in a six-run rampage to take the lead, after which the Dodgers came alive with a dramatic rally of their own in the bottom of the inning. Relief pitcher Joe Beimel barely held on as the Dodgers came within one run of tying it, and the Nats scored an insurance run in the ninth. Final score: D.C. 11, L.A. 9. See MLB.com.
That kind of competitive team effort is exactly what the Nationals needed to pull out of the doldrums and live up to their potential. They have one of the strongest batting lineups in the league: Guzman, Johnson, Zimmerman (one n), Dunn, and Flores. And as for the other Z-man, he hit safely yet again, which makes it 25 consecutive games...
Save Yankee Stadium?
Or Gate 2 of it, at least. It may be too late in the game to make a difference, but there's a movement to save Gate 2 of old Yankee Stadium as a symbolic token of the original structure, serving as an entrance to Heritage Park. See savetheyankeegate2.com, via the River Avenue Blues blog; hat tip to Rod Nelson of SABR.
R.I.P. Dom DiMaggio
The lesser-known little brother of Joe DiMaggio, Dominic, passed away at the age of 92. He was the center fielder for the Boston Red Sox, and batted a very respectable .298 over the course of his ten-year career, with 87 home runs. See MLB.com; hat tip to Bruce Orser.