To those for whom baseball is their only touchstone, William Bendix is known as the eponymous hero of The Babe Ruth Story, a not very good movie. Bendix also had a few good dramatic roles, particularly in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. But he became famous on the radio, and later on television, for his role as Chester A. Riley in the long-running series The Life of Riley. Now I’m old, but I’m not old enough to have remembered when radio programs were a thing. I’m not even old enough to have remembered the original broadcasts of The Life of Riley, which ran (with Bendix after an aborted attempt with Jackie Gleason) from 1953 to 1958, so I was two when it was cancelled. But The Life of Riley was a staple of afternoon rerun TV in my childhood, which featured a lot of other now-forgotten comedies like My Little Margie along with the more famous Lucy and The Honeymooners. For those who have literally no idea what I’m talking about, full episodes are available on YouTube, but prepare yourself for a somewhat more gentle comic experience than is typical today. But the basic idea is that Riley gets into trouble and then out of trouble. (I did a long search for the origin of the phrase, ‘the life of Riley,” meaning an easy life, and while I got an answer, it’s not all that interesting. But then, I suffer so that all of you might live The Life of Riley.)
Tonight began The Life of Riley 2019, as Austin Riley made his major league debut. While not having the advance eclat of Acuna, or Albies, or any of the pitching prospects, he’s the only very, very hot minor league hitter that we control (15 AAA homers entering the game.) His position is third, but that spot is a little crowded at the moment, so, left field it is. What will his future be? Gentle comedy? Silly parody as Austin Powers: International (League) Man of Mystery hits another one out of the park? (I wrote that sentence at 4:30. If Chip used it in the game tonight, I apologize.) Steve Austin was the Six Million Dollar Man, but for the moment, Mr. Riley has to make do with the MLB minimum: a little over $10,000 a week.
So tonight’s game had Soroka facing half of Fozzie Bear’s laugh. (I wrote that before I heard the organist play the Muppet Theme song when he came to the plate.) After a scare in the top of the 3rd when Goldschmidt hit into an inning-ending bases-loaded (2 BB and a HBP) double play, the home team mounted its first serious attempt when a hit by Acuna, a stolen base, and a busted caught stealing play (actually Acuna broke early on a 3-2 two out pitch) plated Ronaldinho. Wacha-wacha.
The start of the 4th was the dawn of Austin Powers. (Chip didn’t use it!) 438 feet, baby. Wacha-wacha.
It wouldn’t be a JonathanF report without some (constructive, always constructive) Chip criticism. Chip mentioned, by my count 5 times in this game, that Soroka is the only pitcher in MLB history to give up one run or fewer in 8 of his 10 first starts. What a bizarre stat that is. One reason that it’s less impressive than it sounds is that his starts average 5.5 innings. In most of baseball history, pitchers that effective would have pitched far more innings and, as a result, given up more runs. Second, 8 out of 10? Really? I love Mike Soroka, but the attempt to make his first ten starts historic is just silly. His Rogers Hornsby riff was stupid, too, but I’ve decided to limit myself to one slam a game.
But a big up to Francoeur, who let us know that it’s a lot easier to get to the major leagues than to stay there. How in the world would Jeffy know that?
Back to baseball. Soroka departed after 7 shutout innings, the first pitcher to throw 7 or more shutout innings in his 11th start since the last guy to do that. Maybe it was Bruce Hornsby. The good thing about getting 7 innings from the starter is that you only have to find two relievers who can pitch that evening. Today’s first Ouija Board choice was Winkler: after 7 straight balls, Winkler made them reshape the mound for the eighth one. Reconsult Ouija Board in a full-scale crisis. Hot hand Luke comes through with a DP and K of Ozuna. Nine pitches, so the Ouija Board is put away for the nonce.
The 8th inning proves, however, that it isn’t Riley: it’s the left fielder, with a two run line drive missile by Culberson (who subbed out Riley in one of the 8th inning pitching changes… but Chip wouldn’t let us know which one) that created a nice 4-run cushion for Jackson, who’s been sufficiently good that he doesn’t need a Reitsma Room analogy, which is good because the third Bourbon won’t let me think of one. An efficient 9th brought the proceedings to a conclusion.
Adam Wainwright and Julio tomorrow. The Kid stays in left.
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