MLB’S first month ends; racing’s Triple Crown begins
Last weekend the month of April ended without any of its needed showers while May began with its usual flowers if one is referring to the Run for the Roses.
The first Saturday in May completed the first month of the major league baseball season in which many trends for the remaining five months of the 162-game schedule have already been set. It also marked the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown with the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
What we’ve discovered from the month of April is that our Houston Astros have to be the streakiest team in the major leagues. After starting the season with eight straight losses, they rebounded to win eight of the next 10 before going into another tailspin and being swept in two straight three-game series by Cincinnati and Atlanta.
The team yo-yoed from last place to a tie for third and only three games behind NL Central division leader St. Louis, back into the cellar as their seven-game home stand began Monday with the hard-hitting Arizona Diamondbacks. The Astros began the home stand 8-16 for a miserable .333 winning percentage.
And it doesn’t take a mental giant to figure out their No. 1 problem—hitting—or rather the lack of it. The batting averages of the Astros’ starting lineup against Atlanta Sunday read like the weights of players on a junior high football program. Houston averages 1.7 runs per game when they lose and 4.75 runs in their eight victories.
Fortunately the first month of the season wasn’t as hard on most of the other 29 major league teams. Although April ended on a losing note for Tampa Bay, the Rays got off to their best start ever with a 17-6 record. They lead the AL East Division, ahead of teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles.
Yankees’ second baseman Robinson Cano is leading the American League in three offensive categories—batting (.400), runs scored (21) and hits (34).
And on the other end of the spectrum, the Baltimore Orioles had the worst start in the majors with a 5-18 record in April. And to think that shortstop Miguel Tejada left the Astros for Baltimore because he wanted to play on a winning team.
The St. Louis Cardinals (16-8) had the best April in the National League with the San Diego Padres (the Houston Astros’ opponent this weekend) close behind with 15-8. The Washington Nationals finished April with a surprising 13-10 mark.
And for the second year in a row, the Kentucky Derby was run on a sloppy track. For some of the 20 entries, it marked the first time the young horses ran on something other than a fast track.
But for this year’s winner, Super Saver, a sloppy track was to his liking. Winning jockey Calvin Borel, who has chalked up three Derby wins in the last four years, said the sloppy condition was not a problem at Churchill Downs, which is his home track.
Borel began his illustrious career as a jockey at Delta Downs, right where this Korner, Tommy Melton and Murl Bishop watched the race simulcast from Churchill Downs Saturday afternoon.
He took Super Saver off lead in the early going of the 1 1/4-mile race and headed to the rail much like he did last year aboard 50-1 long-shot Mine That Bird and stayed there nearly the entire way.
When Borel asked his colt to turn it loose, Speed Saver responded and made a winner for the first time in 25 Derby starts for veteran trainer Todd Pletcher, who let out a whoop when his horse crossed the finish line.
Super Saver paid $18 to win, $8.80 to place and $6 to show. Ice Box, trained by Nick Zito took second by a nose over third place Paddy O’Prado.
The second leg of the Triple Crown is the Preakness Stakes which will be run May 15 at Pimlico in Baltimore. If Pletcher decides to run Speed Saver, it will be the favorite, even if the track is bone dry.
But don’t be surprised if a long shot grabs the second leg of the Triple Crown if the track at Pimlico happens to be fast. Then Pletcher and Borel will have to come up with a different plan.
KWICKIES…Two golfers at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange recorded aces last week. Larry Barfoot got a hole-in-one on the Par 3, 143-yard No. 12 hole. However George Toal used a three-wood and made a double-eagle on the Par 4, 275-yard No. 17 hole.
The Lamar baseball team ran into a buzz-saw last weekend in the form of our alma mater McNeese as the Cowboys swept the three-game series and put the Cardinals in jeopardy of not being eligible for the Southland Conference tournament at the end of the regular season. With the three losses last weekend, Lamar stands at 26-20 overall and 11-13 in SLC play, but still in eighth place, 11/2 games ahead of ninth place Sam Houston State. The top eight teams are eligible to participate in the SLC tournament.
Rory McIlroy, a 20-year-old from Northern Ireland, became the PGA Tour’s youngest winner since Tiger Woods Sunday at the Quail Hollow Championship and he did it in record-setting fashion. McIlroy was five-under par over the final five holes to set the course record at 10-under 62 to win the event by four shots. He finished at 15-under 273 and won $1.17 million. McIlroy turned 21 Tuesday while Woods, who missed the cut this week, was 20 years, 10 months when he won his fist PGA Tour event in Las Vegas in 1996.
JUST BETWEEN US…Orange County was well-represented in Beaumont’s first-ever Gusher Marathon that was run Saturday morning. Orange’s Joe Melanson, 54, was the winner of the 700 hopefuls who participated in the 13.1 mile Half Marathon with a time of 1:27:28.6 with 19-year-old Ryan Kelly of Bridge City second at 1:29:10.6. Orange’s Kenny Ruane, 68, came in twelfth with a time of 1:40:26.0 which won his age group of 65 and older. Crystal Fielder, 31, was the first Orangeite to finish the 26.2 mile Gusher Marathon. She finished seventh with a time of 2:44:59.6. More than 2,000 runners, mostly from Texas and Louisiana, entered the three events.