Sunday, March 11, 2018

Yankees, Astros, Cubs Leading Spring Divisions; Yandy Diaz Slams for Indians; Dustin Peterson Powers Braves

From the "better late than never" department, Downtown Magazine is pleased to once again begin coverage of Major League Baseball for 2018 with its longstanding Players of the Day feature on the Baseball On Deck blog.

With Spring Training in full bloom, the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees have been tearing it up in the pre-season, with the Yanks leading the Grapefruit League with a record of 11-4, one-half game to the good over the World Champion Houston Astros, at 11-5.

In Arizona's Cactus League, it's the Cubs, the 2016 champs, ruling the roost with a stunning 11-3 mark, 2 1/2 games better than the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers, both at 9-6. Chicago is undefeated at their Winter/Spring home in Mesa, Arizona, Sloan Park at 7-0. By contrast, the Yankees have been true bombers at opposing sites, compiling a 7-1 mark on their travels through the Sunshine State and a 4-3 record at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa.

Opening Day for the regular season is Thursday, March 29, marking the first time since 1968 that all teams have started on the same day. It's also the earliest season opener - excepting games overseas - for Major League Baseball.

So, let's get the party started...

Players of the Day for Saturday, March 10, 2018

Grapefruit League
Peterson: 2-4, HR, 3R, 4RBI

The Atlanta Braves got back over .500 (8-7) with great aplomb, hammering the Pittsburgh Pirates, 15-1, on just 10 hits at Pirate pitchers allowed five walks. Starring at the plate for Atlanta was hopeful 23-year-old outfielder, Dustin Peterson, who hit is first home run of Spring Training in the fourth - a two-run shot to left - and followed up with a two-out single in the ninth innings as the Braves tacked on seven runs.

Peterson is batting .294, but may get a crack at the majors this year after five seasons in the minors. He's currently not on the Braves' roster, but played AAA ball last season at Gwinnett, where he hit .248.

Even if Peterson doesn't make the opening day roster, there is likely to be plenty of opportunity for call-ups, as the Braves outfield of Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte, and Ronald Acuna doesn't appear to be very solid.

Cactus League

Diaz: 2-2, HR, 5 RBI
Yandy Diaz didn't get into the game for Cleveland until the seventh inning, but he made his appearance worthwhile, socking a grand slam in a pinch-hitting role for slugging Edwin Encarnacion, following that up with a run-scoring single in the eighth as the Indians and Padres dueled to an 8-8 tie (no extra innings in Spring games).

The round-tripper by Diaz put the Indians up, 6-4, but San Diego plated three in the bottom of the seventh. Diaz and the Indians got the lead back at 8-7 with a pair of runs in the eighth, but reliever Cameron Hill couldn't hold it together, surrendering a two-out solo homer to Travis jankowski, his second home run of the game. His first was a three-run shot in the seventh inning.

Diaz, who went 2-for-2 and tallied five RBI, upped his Spring batting average to .368 (7-for-19). Last season he hit .263 as a rookie, with no homers and 13 RBI in 156 at-bats. He should make the opening day roster for the Indians, as injuries - especially to outfielder Michael Brantley - may move Jose Ramirez to second base and Jason Kipnis to the outfield, opening a potential starting spot for Diaz.

No comments: