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Bryce Harper swats home runs -- and a 'clown question' from Canadian reporter

TORONTO -- I'm on the scene in Rogers Centre for today's Nationals-Blue Jays game featuring Stephen Strasburg on the mound. A very deadline-friendly 12:37 start has everyone here in a good mood. The Nats should be as well because they're on a 100-win pace and can go undefeated (6-0) on a two-city road trip with a win today for the first time since they were in Montreal in 1988.

But first, a word or two on last night. I put up a simple Bryce Harper tweet about a silly question from a television reporter and my feed blew up with retweets.

If you google "Bryce Harper clown question" you'll see how the Internet is completely blowing up today. Same for a Twitter search of those words.

So let's set the scene.

Harper has had back-to-back three-hit games here and last night he absolutely pummeled a Henderson Alvarez pitch into the ad backdrop covering the old Windows Restaurant in deep right-center field. One of the longest balls I've ever seen hit to that spot, conservatively listed at 438 feet. Check it out as it hits the "c" in "Blackberry"


So afterward, of course, we got his thoughts on the blast and it was a standard-issue interview for about two minutes. Then a Canadian television reporter tried to be cute, failed miserably and got absolutely toasted by the 19-year-old phenom. Watch:

(Full disclosure: Several inquiries on Twitter and yes, that's me jumping in to try to restore order and get a couple more questions in before the PR official cut the whole thing off).

Somehow, I'm thinking "that's a clown question, bro" is likely to be part of the lexicon around the Nats and maybe several other clubhouses.

Tshirt(CRAZY UPDATE: As of 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, "#thatsaclownquestionbro" is the No. 2 Trending Topic on Twitter. Holy cow. And NBC's Hardball Talk blog has the link to the inevitable T-shirt at left.)

And really now, who could blame Harper? Ridiculous question prompted a great catch-phrase answer that will likely have plenty of shelf life. Good for you, kid.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Den Dekker makes his Triple-A debut

Outfielder Matt den Dekker will make his Triple-A debut for the Buffalo Bisons tonight. The 24-year old was promoted to the Bisons today from Double-A Binghamton where he batted .340 in 58 gmaes with eight home runs and 29 runs batted in. At the time of his promotion, den Dekker led the Eastern League in batting average, runs (47), doubles (21) and stolen bases (134).

He will play centerfield for the Herd in tonight's series finale with Norfolk and bat in the leadoff spot.

Meanwhile Dustin Martin was transferred to Binghamton after hitting .257 in 28 games with Buffalo.

Garrett Olson gets the start on the mound for the Herd. The lefty is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and six strikeouts in 10 innings of work this month.

Tonight's Bisons lineup
Matt den Dekker --CF
Corey Wimberly -- DH
Fred Lewis -- LF
Josh Satin -- 1B
Valentino Pascucci -- RF
Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B
Rob Johnson -- C
Brad Emaus -- 2B
Sean Kazmar -- SS

-- Amy Moritz 

Familia gets his 13th start

Jeurys Familia gets his 13th start of the season tonight as the Buffalo Bisons host the Norfolk Tides in the third game of the series. Familia is 1-1 with a 2.31 earned run avarge in June. Over 11 2/3 innings of work he has 10 strikeouts. In his last six starts, he is 3-1 with 27 strikeouts in 28 1/2 innings.

Meanwhile Valentino Pascucci was scratched from the lineup. He was slotted to start in right field for the Bisons, but left the ballpark due to illness. Dustin Martin will take his spot in right.

Also in transaction news, outfielder Matt den Dekker will join the Bisons from Double-A Binghamton tomorrow.

Today's Herd lineup:

Corey Wimberly -- DH
Fred Lewis -- LF
Josh Satin -- 1B
Matt Tuiasosopo -- 3B
Raul Reyes -- CF
Rob Johnson -- C
Dustin Martin -- RF
Brad Emaus --2B
Sean Kazmar -- SS 

-- Amy Moritz

Earl of Bud, Joe D join All-Star lineup

Today marks one month to the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11 and the Bisons have announced that only 5,500 seats are left for the game, with all party areas and luxury suites sold out.

The Earl of Bud, the dancing machine atop the dugout who was beloved by fans during the 1980s and 1990s, was already set to return to town for his bobblehead night in August -- and the team announced today he will also come back to do his trademark Big Shoe dance during the All-Star Game.

Former Bills guard and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe DeLamielleure has been added to the lineup for the celebrity portion of the Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 9. He joins a previously announced lineup scheduled to include Jim Kelly, Fred Jackson, Russ Brandon, Rob Gronkowski and Nick Bakay.

In other Triple-A All-Star ticket news:

---There are about 7,000 tickets left for the Home Run Derby, which will showcase top Triple-A sluggers and the celebrities. The only party area option left is the All-You-Can-Eat Pavilion Party, where fans can get a two-hour buffet and a ticket to the Derby for only $30 (meal upgrade on existing Home Run Derby ticket is $20).

---The team will be selling 200 Buffalo News All-Star 4-packs, which feature four tickets in Sections 123, 125, 126 or 128 for the game, four hot dogs, four Coca-Cola drinks and 15% off at all Bisons gift shops on July 11. The price of $99 is a saving of $26. They are available at Bisons.com or by calling THE-HERD (843-4373).

---The team is launching ticket giveaways on its Facebook page at facebook.com/GoBisons. There will be two drawings a week and all fans that “like” the Bisons facebook page are eligible to win. Each Tuesday from June 12 to July 3, one follower will win two tickets to the All-Star Game and on the three Fridays from June 15-29, a follower will win two tickets to the Home Run Derby.

---There will also be activities on the stadium plaza during All-Star week, featuring the Coca-Cola Swelter Stopper truck and a 30-foot XBox vehicle giving XBox prize giveaways and the chance to play Kinect Sports Season Two and Dance Central 2.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Punchless Herd tries again against Tides

The Buffalo Bisons are suddenly looking for offense. They entered today's game against Norfolk fourth in the International League in batting (.260), fifth in runs (277) and third in home runs (57) but are in the midst of their worst three-game output of the season.

The Bisons have scored just four runs in the last three runs -- and only one in losing the last two. No question this is not the same lineup as it was when Bobby Scales and Vinny Rottino were at the top and Omar Quintanilla was at the bottom so now the team needs to readjust.

Won't be easy today with Baltimore lefty Zach Britton, an 11-game winner for the Orioles last year, down on rehab while still dealing with shoulder soreness from spring training. Britton earned the win giving up four runs in six innings on Tuesday at Rochester.

The Bisons, meanwhile, are starting Dylan Owen and he has a wee bit of redemption to seek after getting shelled for 13 earned runs in three innings of Tuesday's 21-3 loss at Columbus.

Pitcher Jenrry Mejia apparently made his final start for the Herd in Saturday's loss to Norfolk and is being transferred to the bullpen in anticipation of an imminent call to the big leagues. ESPNNY.com reported that  Saturday night and Bisons manager Wally Backman confirmed it on his pregame interview today with play-by-play man Ben Wagner.

Here's today's Buffalo lineup:

Corey Wimberly, dh
Brad Emaus, 2b
Fred Lewis, lf
Valentino Pascucci, rf
Matt Tuiasosopo, cf
Josh Satin, 1b
Rob Johson, c
Oswaldo Navarro, 3b
Sean Kazmar, ss
----
Dylan Owen, p

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Late-night history: Mariners no-hit Dodgers with six pitchers

While you slept late Friday night, Seattle starter Kevin Millwood had a no-hitter against the Dodgers at Safeco Field through six innings. But when he came out for the seventh, he felt a tightness in his groin muscle that prevented him from pushing off the rubber.

Millwood summoned manager Eric Wedge and was done for the night. But the no-hitter lived as relievers Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen then pitched the final three innings and made it stand up for a 1-0 victory.

It was the 10th combined no-hitter in history and tied the record for the most pitchers used, set by the Astros in 2003 at Yankee Stadium. At 22, catcher Jesus Montero became the youngest player to catch a no-no since 1971.

Pretty stunning all in all when you consider the Dodgers entered the game with the best record in baseball. Here's the final out:

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Pascucci takes over lead in Triple-A balloting

In what the International League office is calling the closest current race on the ballot, Valentino Pascucci of the Bisons has taken over the lead from Toledo slugger Brad Eldred in the race for the starting designated hitter here at the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11.

Pascucci enters tonight's game in Columbus with 12 homers and 40 RBIs while Eldred is leading the IL with 22 homers and 61 RBIs and is the MVP of the league to date. But homefield matters in balloting, as we've seen in the big leagues as well.

That's certainly the case for the Bisons. Pitcher Matt Harvey and shortstop Omar Quintanilla also lead in the balloting at their positions, while Matt Tuiasosopo is one of the top three outfielders and Fernando Cabrera is one of the top two relievers, which would also get them automatically selected.

Among other Bisons, injured Zach Lutz is second at third base, gone-to-New York Vinny Rottino is fourth and Fred Lewis sixth among outfielders, on-waivers Josh Satin is fourth at first base and catcher Lucas May is fourth at catcher, and pitcher Jeurys Familia is eighth.

Voting ends June 22 and the ballot can be found here.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Yankees answering the call, especially on mound

In last week's MLB Power Rankings, I challenged the Yankees to beat somebody other than the Royals and A's before I start taking them seriously. I guess I should consider the challenge met.

The Bombers are 10-3 in their last 13 games and 5-1 in a stretch that includes wins over the Angels, Tigers and two straight over the Rays. While the Yankees continue to lead MLB in home runs, what's really given them a boost is the long-awaited arrival of their starting pitching.

The team ERA in five June games is 2.01 as they have given up just two runs in the last three games. It was 3.97 in May and 4.33 in April. Ivan Nova was at 5.87 last month while Phil Hughes was at 4.66; Nova had a 5.18 in April. Nova, Hughes and Andy Pettitte have been dynamite the last three days.

Look at the last time through the rotation:

Fri at Detroit, Sabathia -- 7 IP, 8H, 3R/3ER, 2 BB, 5 SO
Sat at Detroit, Kuroda -- 7 IP, 7 H, 2R/2 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO
Sun at Detrot, Hughes -- 9 IP, 4 H, 1R/1ER, 3 BB, 8 SO
Tue vs. TBay, Pettitte -- 7.1 IP, 2H , 0R/0 ER, 2 BB, 10 SO
Wed vs. TBay, Nova -- 8 IP, 4 H, 1R/1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO
5-game totals -- 38.1 IP, 25 H, 7R/7 ER, 9 BB, 32 SO.... 4-0, 1 ND, 1.64 ERA

And wither Pettitte? He's 3-2, 2.78 in five starts -- with 32 strikeouts and seven walks in 35 2/3 innings. In retrospect, most of us present (myself included) were a little harsh on Pettitte when he made his Triple-A outing in Rochester last month. Maybe it was just one of those days for him even though he did have a 4.55 ERA in his six minor-league starts. Maybe he was just bored in the minors. No one expected this kind of impact from him.

And even though there's no Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano is 8 for 8 in saves since David Robertson was injured. The Yankees were a mess when I saw them in Toronto last month, getting no pitching and no clutch hitting. Things are quite a bit different now. 

I've gotten a lot of gripes lately about the Yankees' position in the power rankings. I'm betting those will be pretty much silenced come Sunday.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Around the horn: Orioles sign Jamie Moyer and he'll start for Norfolk here Saturday night

Jamie Moyer was designated for assignment last week by the Colorado Rockies but the 49-year-old still isn't ready to call it a career. He signed a minor-league deal Wednesday with the Baltimore Orioles, one of his eight former organizations, and will report to the Norfolk Tides.

Lo and behold, where will Moyer's first start be? Saturday night in Coca-Cola Field against the Bisons during the team's ultra-popular Star Wars Night.

It will be Moyer's first minor-league game since a 1997 rehab assignment for Tacoma in the Seattle chain and his first real minor-league assignment since going 6-0 in eight starts for Rochester in 1993. Check out Moyer's career record here. Moyer's 269 career wins are tops on the active list.

Moyer went 2-5 with a 5.70 ERA in 10 starts for the Rockies in his return to the big leagues after seemingly going into retirement following the 2010 season. His best year was a 21-7 mark for Seattle in 2003 but he was 16-7 as a 45-year-old for the Phillies when they won the World Series in 2008 and 12-10 for them the next season as they repeated as NL champions.

This year, Moyer set an MLB record by becoming the oldest man to win a game (April 17 against San Diego and May 16 against Arizona). He also became the oldest player with an RBI, as he collected a two-run single in that win. When he pitched May 21 at Miami, Marlins Park became the 50th MLB stadium in which he has appeared -- a record for any player since 1900.

You want Star Wars? In addition to Moyer, the Norfolk roster includes former big-league all-stars on rehab in infielder Miguel Tejada and Brian Roberts and a former Pittsburgh all-star outfielder Nate McLouth, just signed on a minor-league deal.

----Elsewhere, the Bisons lost Chris Schwinden to waivers last week and might lose Josh Satin next. Satin was designated for assignment by the Mets on Wednesday to allow Jason Bay and Pedro Beato to rejoin the roster. Schwinden was claimed by Toronto, waived again and claimed Wednesday by Cleveland. He'll be sent to Columbus -- where the Bisons are, no less.

---In MLB draft issues, the Mets spent their 37th round pick on Texas high school catcher Benny Distefano. Yep, son of the beloved former Bisons outfielder and current Class A St. Lucie hitting coach of the same name. In the 35th round, the Padres took Niagara University outfielder Wynton Bernard -- a San Diego native.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Paging through the books on Bisons' blowout loss

Rough night for the Bisons in the series opener Tuesday in Columbus. There's an understatement. The Herd gave up 17 runs in the first four innings and got blitzed, 21-3, in one of the worst losses of its modern era. Here's a quick rundown of some of the records broken or approached:

---Clippers third baseman Jared Goedert went 4 for 4 with a pair of three-run home runs, scored four times and his nine RBIs were the most ever against Buffalo. The previous record of seven was set several times, the last by Columbus Luis Valbuena in a game in Coca-Cola Field in 2010.

---Clippers leadoff man Ezequiel Carrera scored five runs, the first time anyone has done that against Buffalo in the modern era.

---With the Mets short in the bullpen and Chris Young called up from Buffalo to start in Washington rather than make one more start with the Herd, the Bisons turned to spot man Dylan Owen. He had a 1.62 ERA as a starter this season but that's now 6.04 after he gave up 13 runs (all earned!) on 11 hits and walked five in just three-plus innings. 

Owen was mercifully pulled during the eight-run fourth that put Columbus in front, 17-3. There is no listing for the most runs against by a pitcher in the Buffalo media guide but I'm fairly certain this would be the mark.

---The 21 runs by Columbus fell one shy of the most against the Herd, set in a 22-6 loss to Oklahoma City in 1987 in War Memorial Stadium, but the figure is the most against Buffalo on the road. It's the fourth time in the modern era the Bisons have been rung up for 20+.

---The 18-run margin of defeat is one shy of the franchise mark, set in a 20-1 loss at Oklahoma City in 1993.

---Bisons pitchers had allowed just 20 total runs in the nine games prior to Tuesday's contest. The last Buffalo pitcher was catcher Jean Luc Blaquiere, who gave up three runs in the eighth. He's the first position player to throw for the Herd since infielder Trent Durrington got the win in the 15-14 victory over Pawtucket that saw Buffalo rally for nine runs in the bottom of the ninth.

The crazy part for Columbus? The game was the opener of a homestand for the two-time defending Triple-A national champions -- on the heels of a 12-game road trip to New York. The Clippers went 3-1 in Syracuse, scoring 31 runs in the four games. Then they combined to go 2-6 in Buffalo and Rochester -- getting just nine runs in the eight games.

That includes just two runs in four games at woebegone Rochester. Guess the Clippers were waaaay overdue.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Rockies tab UB catcher Murphy in third round

University at Buffalo baseball coach Ron Torgalski told Bucky Gleason in a column last month that Bulls catcher Tom Murphy figured to be a top-5 pick in MLB's First-Year Player Draft, which would be quite a coup for a UB player.

Turns out Torgalski was dead on. Murphy was taken in the third round today, 105th overall, by the Colorado Rockies.  He's expected to sign and head to a Rockies Rookie-League team in Arizona.

That makes him the top UB choice since 1983, when the Reds drafted UB pitcher Peter Grimm with the 56th pick ahead of two prominent BYU players (the Mets took pitcher Rick Aguilera at No. 58 that year and the Angels got a steal with Wally Joyner at 67).

Here's the video from the centerpiece of Gleason's column: Murphy's Fenway Park home run off LSU's Kevin Gausman in a New England Collegiate League All-Star Game.

And here's a quick video profile of Murphy from MLB.com. 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Mets SS Tejada joins Herd on rehab

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has joined the Bisons on an injury rehabilitation assignment and will play in tonight's game at Toledo. Tejada, 22, was batting .305 in 27 games with the Mets when he went on the disabled list May 7 with a right quad strain.

Tejada played in 119 combined games with the Bisons in 2010 and 2011. He hit .280 with a home run and 16 RBIs in 65 games during 2010, and .246 with three homers and 21 RBIs in 54 games last year.

The current plan calls for Tejada to play five innings apiece today in Toledo, where the Bisons lost the first two games of the series but pulled out a win Sunday night on Matt Tuiasosopo's grand slam. Tejeada would then play five innings again Tuesday in the series opener in Columbus, seven innings against the Clippers on Wednesday and a full game there Thursday.

If all goes well, Tejada would be back with the Mets for Friday's game against the Yankees. Ostensibly, that could mean the return of potential Triple-A all-star Omar Quintanilla to the Bisons by this weekend.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

 

No-No-Han! After 8,020 games, Santana finally gives the Mets their first no-hitter

DNewsI didn't see all of Johan Santana's no-hitter last night (props to my 12-year-old for the heads up in the sixth inning), but I saw the important parts. The parts baseball fans won't soon forget. Mets fans have waited since the team was born in 1962, have waited through 8,019 regular-season games before No. 8,020 was the first.

A Met has a no-hitter and not an ex-Met with another team. A real, live Met. In Queens, no less. Twitter nearly broke and the Web site NoNoHitters.com announced it can finally become obsolete.

New York Post columnist and St. Bonaventure grad Mike Vaccaro penned his usually brilliant column here,  Of course, there's one tiny detail my longtime friend left out: He was home in Jersey when the game started, hopped in his car at the end of the sixth inning. Scroll down in his Twitter feed to see his entries from when he left at 8:29 to when he arrived at 9:17. Classic stuff.  Folks in the New York media always fretted missing that first Mets no-hitter. They need not worry anymore.

PostThe whole thing was a terrific memory for the Mets-Bisons relationship too. Mets manager and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Collins will forever be remembered for his gut-wrenching call to leave Santana in, and for his emotional postgame presser where he broke down a couple of times hoping Santana will be all right in the coming days. Read Vaccaro on that part of the discussion  and also give a look to the thoughts of Ian O'Connor of ESPNNY.com

There was the fabulous catch in left by Mike Baxter, the Whitestone kid whose place in his hometown team's history now belongs with names like Tommie Agee, Ron Swoboda and Endy Chavez on the pantheon of great plays in the outfield. Baxter, remember, hit a home run in his first swing with the Bisons last July on a night when he was completely wide-eyed about wearing any uniform Mets-related.

There's catcher Josh Thole, who will forever go down as the man who called the game, caught the final strike, gave Santana the first hug and even had some of his gear authenticated by the Hall of Fame. And did it all one day after catching Chris Young's rehab start for the Bisons in Coca-Cola Field. 

How about all the outs? Here they are from MLB.com. Great stuff. 

How about a scoreboard salute? This is what the board at Citi Field looked like after the final out, as pictured in the Post.

Scoreboard-nypost

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Mets have Schwinden on waivers to clear roster space

The Mets are finding out that 40-man roster spots are pretty scarce these days, so the precious space is going to go the players who perform in Buffalo and New York. Those that don't are going to be left on the outside and might end up in another organization.

Such is the case today for pitcher Chris Schwinden, who has been taken off the 40-man and placed on waivers so the Mets could create a spot for the callup of red-hot Bisons reliever Elvin Ramirez. You would think a young pitcher like Schwinden would be of interest to other teams looking for some depth.

Schwinden was 8-8 with the Bisons last year and was the winner of the Warren Spahn Award as the team's most valuable pitcher. He's 3-4, 2.59 with Buffalo this year while suffering from a chronic case of no run support. With the Mets, however, he failed to capitalize on a chance in the rotation and is 0-1 with a 12.46 ERA. 

The assumption here is the Mets don't want to lose Schwinden but they need 40-man spots so somebody has to go and maybe he sneaks through waivers and returns to the Herd. Manny Acosta was designated for assignment and has accepted a trip to Buffalo.

Josh Thole is re-joining the Mets today and Rob Johnson will be coming to Buffalo with Mike Nickeas staying in New York (both had minor-league options). In the next couple of weeks, the Mets will have to create 40-man slots for rehabbing Bisons reliever Pedro Beato and Chris Young, who started yesterday and is now expected to make two more starts with the Herd.  You wonder what that means for current Bisons on the 40-man like Josh Satin or the injured Zach Lutz. 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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