Matthews: Look Out Babe, Here Comes Shohei Ohtani

posted by Bob Matthews -

LOOK OUT BAMBINO, HERE COMES SHOSHEI OHTANI

Shoshei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, the 23-year-old Japanese star, has been the most amazing story of his young baseball season.

He’s being touted as potentially the best combination pitcher-hitter in Major League Baseball since Babe Ruth almost 100 years ago. Needless to say, that’s saying something.

He retired the first 19 batters he faced in his home pitching debut Sunday, finally allowed a clean single to Marcus Semien and ended the threat with a two-out, two-men-on strikeout.

His pitching line through two games: 2-0 record; 2.08 earned-run-average; 13 innings pitched; 4 hits allowed; 3 runs; 3 earned runs; 2 walks; 18 strikeouts.

Between Ohtani’s two starts, he hit home runs in three consecutive games.

His batting line: .389 batting average (7-for-18); 3 HRs, 7 RBI; 1 walk; 4 strikeouts; .421 on-base percentage; .889 slugging percentage; 1.310 OPS.

Babe Ruth was sold by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees after the 1919 American League season and immediately became a full-time outfielder. His pitching days were over except for a few starts every now and then to pad attendance after the Yankees had clinched a few of their pennants (he was 5-0 in those four starts and one relief appearance despite giving up quite a few runs; the Yankees could hit a little bit).

Here were Ruth’s performance lines for 1918 -- the first season he saw semi-regular duty in the field --  and 1919:

1918

Pitching – 13-7 record; 2.22 ERA; 20 games; 19 starts; 12 complete games; 166 1/3 innings; 125 hits allowed; 49 walks; 40 strikeouts.

Hitting -- .300 batting average (98-for-317); 26 doubles; 11 triples; 11 HRs; 61 RBI; 58 walks; 58 strikeouts; led the AL in home runs, slugging percentage (.555) and OPS (.966). He appeared in a total of 95 games in 1918.

1919

Pitching – 9-5 record; 2.97 ERA; 17 games; 15 starts; 133 1/3 innings; 148 hits; 38 walks; 30 strikeouts.

Hitting -- .322 (139-for-432); 103 runs; 36 doubles; 12 triples; 29 HRs; 113 RBI; .456 on-base percentage; .657 slugging percentage; 1.114 OPS; led the AL in runs, home runs, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. He appeared in a total of 130 games in 1919.

Ruth’s career pitching line: 94-46 record; 2.22 ERA; 1,221 1/3 innings; 974 hits; 441 walks; 488 strikeouts; 163 games; 147 starts; 107 complete games; 17 shutouts.

He also appeared in the 1916 and 1918 World Series: 3-0 record; 0.87 ERA in three starts.

Babe Ruth was 24 in 1919. Shohei Ohtani will turn 24 on July 5.

SURPRISE, TIGER ISN’T THE FAVORITE TO WIN THE U.S. OPEN

Tiger Woods was the surprise favorite to win last week’s Masters. He finished tied for 32nd, 16 strokes behind champion Patrick Reed.

The most important thing for golf fans should be that Tiger finished. He played all 72 holes and emerged unscathed. He figures to continue to improve – but he probably won’t be favored in another major until he wins a tournament – any tournament.

He definitely won’t be favored to win the U.S. Open (June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club).

Here are the early odds courtesy of BovadaLV:

9-to-1 – Dustin Johnson/Rory McIllroy/Jordan Spieth

14-to-1 – Tiger Woods (still surprisingly low odds, all things considered – mainly that at his stage of his career, and maybe forevermore, there are many much younger and very talented players out there. They respect him but no longer fear him).

16-to-1 – Jason Day

18-to-1 – Hideki Matsuyama/Jon Rahm/Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler

22-to-1 – Justin Rose

25-to-1 – Sergio Garcia

28-to-1 – Adam Scott/Henrik Stenson/ defending champion Brooks Koepka (recovering from a partially torn tendon in his left wrist; last played in a tournament the week of January)

33-to-1 – Phil Mickelson

40-to-1 – Branden Grace/Tommy Fleetwood/new Masters champion Patrick Reed/Bubba Watson.

NLL EAST DIVISION RACE MUCH TOO CLOSE TO CALL

The Rochester Knighthawks have played terrific lacrosse since losing six straight games to drop to 2-6 with 10 games remaining in this National Lacrosse League regular season. They’re on a 6-1 roll to earn a tie for first place in the ridiculously tight five-team battle for three playoff berths:

Rochester 8-7 record (5-3 home, 3-4 road)...201 GF, 175 GA (+26)

Buffalo Bandits 8-7 record (4-3 home, 4-4 road)...199 GF, 193 GA (+6)

Georgia Swarm 8-7 record (5-3 home, 3-4 road)...183 GF, 184 GA (-1)

Toronto Rock 7-8 record (3-5 home, 4-3 road)...195 GF, 172 GA (+23)

New England Black Wolves 7-8 record (4-4 home, 3-4 road)...162 GF, 214 GA (--52).

In games Sunday, defending NLL champion Georgia beat visiting Toronto 11-10 and New England edged the Calgary Roughnecks 13-12 in overtime. Stephan Leblanc tied the game for the Wolves with 6.3 seconds left in regulation and Johnny Powless scored the winner in OT.

Calgary dropped to 6-9 in the West. The Roughnecks would be also-rans in the loaded East but they’ve clinched a playoff berth because fourth-place Vancouver is 2-13.

Sure – it isn’t fair to the five teams in the East, but what’s new? Same thing in the six-team International League North versus the other two divisions with four teams.

The five NLL East teams each have three games left. Here’s the schedule:

Friday – Rochester at Toronto

Saturday – New England at Colorado...Buffalo at Calgary...Georgia at Saskatchewan

Saturday, April 21 – New England at Rochester...Toronto at Buffalo

Saturday, April 28 – Rochester at Buffalo (16,000-plus if it means anything and it probably will)...Vancouver at Georgia...Toronto at Colorado

Sunday, April 29 – Georgia at New England.

BASEBALL HOTTIES AND NOTTIES

Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs hit a home run on the first pitch of this Major League Baseball season. Giancarlo Stanton hit two home runs in his debut with the New York Yankees.

Now they lead their leagues in striking out: Stanton since Opening Day (3-for-5 with 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 0 walks, 1 strikeout) is 4-for-37 with 1 HR, 3 RBI. 5 walks and 19 strikeouts. Happ since Opening Day (1-for-5 with 1 HR, 1 RBI, 0 walks and 3 strikeouts) is 4-for-23 with 0 HRs, 2 RBI, 2 walks and 14 strikeouts.

Bryce Harper is looking like the guy who some think will be baseball’s first $400-Million Man. His batting line for the Washington Nationals this season: .357 batting average (10-for-28), 6 HRs, 12 RBI, 28 total bases, 13 walks, 5 strikeouts, .535 on-base percentage; 1.000 slugging percentage; 1.535 OPS. He has a weakness (no doubles or triples).

Boston (7-1) and the Mets (6-1) are doing some mean pitching: Red Sox 2.19 ERA; 78 innings; 55 hits allowed; 26 walks; 79 strikeouts; .197 batting average against...Mets 2.14 ERA; 63 innings; 41 hits allowed; 22 walks; 82 strikeouts; .181 batting average against.

Is it premature to deduce that there are three horrible MLB teams that don’t figure to get any better this season: Tampa Bay, Miami and San Diego are a combined 6-22 and have been outscored 149-87.

Tim Tebow hit a home run in his first at-bat this season for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (AA Eastern League). He is since 0-for-6 with 3 strikeouts.

WRESTLEMANIA 34 HIGHLIGHTS

In case you missed Sunday night’s Wrestlemania 34 in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, here’s a quick recap of the highlights (as best I can tell after reading the reviews)

It was a very entertaining show overall.

Brock Lesner, who supposedly will be leaving WWE in favor of returning to UFC, surprisingly defeated a bloodied Roman Reigns. Most of the crowd loved the ending because they don’t like Reigns. They believe he has been forced-fed as a babyface by Vince McMahon and they love to root against him.

Ronda Rousey was much better than most expected as a performer and teamed with Kurt Angle to defeat Stephanie McMahon and Triple H.

The Undertaker defeated John Cena and the pro wrestling world appreciated that Cena agreed to lose to a 53-year-old relic who is falling apart.

Charlotte Flair ended Asuka’s long WWE undefeated streak in what was described as one of the greatest women’s matches ever.

Matt Hardy won the Andre The Giant Battle Royal.

Seth Rollins won the Intercontinental Championship over The Miz.

Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn via submission. Bryan and McMahon did convincing jobs of being beaten up.

Nia Jax defeated Alexa Bliss by pinfall for the Women’s Raw Championship.

AJ Styles defeated Shinsuke Nakamura via pinfall to retain the WWE Championship.

Braun Strowman and Nicolas (a 10-year-old kid “picked at random” from the crowd) defeated The Bar via pinfall.

The announced live attendance was 78,133.

BOB LILLEY’S RIVERHOUNDS ARE OFF TO A GREAT START

Former Rochester Rhinos coach Bob Lilley’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds are off to a quick start this United Soccer League season. That’s no surprise. He’s a great coach. And they’re doing it with stingy defense. That’s also no surprise.

The Riverhounds improved to 1-0-2 Saturday with a 4-0 home romp over Toronto FC.

Pittsburgh’s first two games were scoreless draws – at Nashville SC before 18,922 fans and at home against Penn FC.

Former Rhinos goalie Dan Lynd had two of the shutouts for Pittsburgh and former Rhinos midfielder Christiano Francois had a goal against Toronto FC.

The Riverhounds next play Saturday at home against the Ottawa Fury.

A SAD NOSTALGIC LACROSSE NOTE

The Dallas (formerly Rochester) Rattlers will play their Major League Lacrosse home opener Sunday April 29 against the Denver Outlaws. They’ll start the season with road games at Chesapeake April 21 and Charlotte April 27.

The Rattlers will play their home games at the 12,000-seat indoor facility of the NFL Dallas Cowboys.

R.I.P. WINSTON HATT 

When it comes to interscholastic athletics, the Webster High School Class of 1961 was extra special.

The football and basketball teams were undefeated. The basketball team won the Section V Class AA championship. The track team also was undefeated. The three teams were a combined 43-0.

I was a high school freshman at Brighton that school year. The Barons had very good football, basketball and track teams. But Webster was something else. The Ridgemen were awesome.

The most heralded athlete in that memorable Webster class was the legendary Jim Cripps. He was a bruising fullback who caught a lot of passes between running over people and starring on defense and was a fierce rebounder and inside scorer. Harvey Cain was the quarterback. Winston Hatt was the halfback.

Cripps, Cain and Hatt were the mainstays in basketball, too, with John Ladewig, Tom Witmer and Jay Smith. Cripps, All-County in baseball as a sophomore, was All-County as a senior in football, basketball and track.

Win Hatt went on to become a long-time physical education teacher at Gates-Chili and East Rochester (1973 through 2001). His cross-country teams won 14 boys and 5 girls county championships. He’s in the Section V Hall of Fame and ER Wall of Fame.

After he retired from teaching, Win’s family moved to Mansfield, Texas. He died March 26 at age 75.

This guy from Brighton wants to say goodbye to an athlete I admired and respected from afar. I’m sure a lot of people in Webster will remember Jim Cripps and Winston Hatt and their buddies on those spectacular teams.

(Marine Major Jim Cripps died in 1982 in the South Sea when on a training mission; he had been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam).

ON THIS DATE...

April 9

1945 (73 years ago), the NHL required players to wear long stockings...1959 (59 years ago), the Boston Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0 for their eighth straight NBA championship...1962 (56 years ago), Arnold Palmer won the 26th Masters...1985 (33 years ago), pitcher Tom Seaver of the Chicago White Sox made his 15th Opening Day start...1992 (16 years ago), a record 18 golfers fired in the 60s in a first round of the Masters...1993 (25 years ago), the Colorado Rockies in their first home game beat the Montreal Expos 11-4...1997 (21 years ago), Major League Soccer announced expansion franchises in Chicago and Miami...12 years ago (2006), Phil Mickelson won the 70th Masters.

April 10

1916 (102 years ago), the Professional Golfers Association of America was founded in New York City...1949 (69 years ago), Sam Snead won the 13th Masters...1953 (65 years ago), the Minneapolis Lakers beat the New York Knicks 4-1 in the NBA Finals...1977 (41 years ago), Tom Watson won the 41st Masters...2005 (13 years ago), Tiger Woods won the 69th Masters.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY...

April 9

Tyler Lydon (22)...Allen Crabbe (26)...Ryan Kelly (27)...Ryan Williams (28)...David Roberstson (33)...Hal Morris (53)...Helen Alfredsson (53)...Hal Morris (53)...Rick Tocchet (54)...Kyle Macy (61). Kristen Stewart (28) and Dennis Quaid (64) are invited to the birthday party.

April 10

Nerlen Noels (24)...Lamont Holt (24)...Eric Ebron (25)...Robert Woods (26)...Kareem Jackson (30)...Corey Kluber (32)...Dion Phaneuf (33)...Andre Ethier (36)...Kasey Kahne (38)...Neil Smith (52)...Kirk Lowdermilk (55)...Cathy Turner (56)...Steve Tasker (56)...Terry Teagle (58)...Jeff Weston (62)...Ken Griffey Sr. (68)...Mel Blount (70)...John Madden (82).

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