Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Red-Hot "Frenchy" & 756

After the red-hot Jeff Francoeur had one of the best games in his career last night in the Braves 7-3 win over their AL East division rival New York Mets, I was all set to do a big write-up on him today... in spite of the goings-on at San Francisco last night, I'm still going to do that write up! "Frenchy" went 4-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, two runs and three RBI's as the Braves got to Mets starter Oliver Perez for six runs and 10 hits in five innings of work. With the win, the Braves pulled within 3 1/2 games of the Mets for the division lead. Francoeur has been nothing short of amazing lately (yes, that word is overused but applies here)... in his past 19 games, he's hitting .415 with 16 runs scored, 10 doubles, three home runs, 14 RBI's, a stolen base, and eight walks to go with only 11 strikeouts. For you sabermetricians out there, his on-base percentage over that time is .467 and his slugging percentage is .646, giving him an OPS of 1.114. The maturation of Jeff Francoeur as a more patient hitter continues... once a player who refused to take a walk, the former Parkview High School star athlete has now drawn 30 of them this year after only taking 23 ALL of last year. On the year, he's now at a .310 batting average with 13 homers and a team leading 139 hits and 75 RBI's. He's now on pace for 199 hits and 107 RBI's... needless to say, 200 hits out of a third year player would be a VERY impressive feat!

Prior to last night, the Washington Nationals' Mike Bacsik was probably best known as a journeyman pitcher (and also the son of a former major league pitcher of the same name) who was only in the Nationals rotation due to injuries to three of their starters - John Patterson, Jason Bergmann and Shawn Hill. Bacsik hadn't pitched in the majors since 2004, and he was doing very well for the Nats coming into last night's game. In his previous four starts, Bacsik had a 3-0 record with a sparkling 2.39 ERA. Last night in San Francisco, Bacsik gave up the much anticipated and 756th home run of Barry Bonds' career on a 3-2 count in the 5th inning. Bacsik now replaces the Dodgers' Al Downing as the answer to the trivia question of who gave up the record breaking home run. In 1974, Downing gave up Hank Aaron's 715th home run in an April game in Atlanta. Many of us were not even alive back then, others such as myself only have a very hazy recollection of Aaron breaking the Babe's record.

As for the historic homer, it was a no-doubter which went an estimated 435 feet into the deepest part of center field. Bonds was very reflective after greeting his family and Godfather Willie Mays. After enjoying the moment for a couple of minutes, the crowd was asked to turn their attention to the jumbotron in center field. At first, you could almost hear a collective gasp as the image of Henry Aaron came on the screen. The crowd then started cheering hysterically Aaron (in a taped piece) congratulated Bonds on the historic achievement. Bonds thanked a lot of people including his father (where he nearly lost it) and even the Washington Nationals team. Bonds took the field in the bottom of the 5th inning and was pulled for Dave Roberts in a double switch. Commissioner Bud Selig (who was not in attendance) called him and congratulated him on his achievement after he had been pulled. As for Bacsik, he may have been the star of the night. He was gracious enough to be interviewed before and after the game, saying if he gave up the homer, he could "play cards with Downing" and that he and Barry could maybe "hang out sometime." Bonds presented Bacsik with an autographed bat after they had hugged and embraced. Unless the allegations against Bonds are proven, Bacsik and he will be forever linked in baseball history.

As for the game, it still went on and very few people other than Nats fans will remember the result or it's significance. Bacsik went five innings, giving up five runs and nine hits including the historic ones. Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns and Brian Schneider would all hit home runs of their own and Chad Cordero would close out the game for his 24th save of the year as the Nationals won 8-6. With the win and a Florida Marlins loss, the Nationals for the first time since April are no longer alone in the basement of the NL East!!!


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