Tuesday, June 27, 2017

BatterieZ

As I sat down to begin writing this post, I had one thing in mind: to focus on an on-card auto of a pitcher the Seattle Mariners once acquired from the Cubs for $1. But as I began writing, it occurred to me that the team has a battery where both pitcher (again, Zych) and catcher (Mike Zunino) have last names that begin with the last letter of our alphabet. I had never heard of this occurring on any other team, so I decided to delve deeper into baseball history for other such battery mateZ. There have been only 91 players in the majors whose surnames begin with the letter 'Z', so the odds of it happening prior to Zych/Zunino are slim. Or so I thought.

When Tony Zych made his MLB Debut against the Oakland A's on September 4, 2015, he took his place in history, becoming the last man, alphabetically, in major league history. Prior to Zych's debut, Dutch Zwilling had the distinction of being the last name on the (alphabetical) roster of players to appear in the majors. While anything is possible, it's hard to imagine anyone knocking Zych off the bottom of the list. That alone might warrant picking up an autographed card of the right-handed reliever, but that wasn't the reason for my recent addition. No, the reason I picked up Zych's 2016 Topps Chrome is that it's Tony's lone major league card (thus far, anyway). No base Chrome- not even a base Topps card from its flagship product.




Zych battled arm problems last year, but had shown promise prior to that. His arsenal includes a fastball that hits the mid-90s and a very good slider, both of which allow him to miss a lot of bats.




And for the record, this particular battery first matched up on August 23, 2016, in the Mariners 5-1 loss to the Yankees. Zych pitched one inning, allowing 2 hits while striking out one.



Prior to the Mariners duo, the most recent pair of battery mateZ were Torono's (P) Victor Zambrano and (C) Gregg Zaun. This duo hooked up in their first game together on April 4, 2007 in Detroit, when Zambrano replaced Jermey Accardo in the bottom of the 7th. The former Mets pitcher would allow 1run on one hit and two walks that inning, and then give up a single and another walk to start the eighth before being pulled.

Mr. Zaun, who donned 9 different major league uniforms over a career that spanned 16 seasons, also caught for another Z pitcher during his career: Jeff Zimmerman, on the 1999 Texas Rangers. Zimmerman, making his MLB debut on April 13, at Seattle, came in to relieve Mike Morgan with 1-out in the bottom of the 7th inning and immediately struck out the first two batters he faced. When Zimmerman came back out for the bottom of the eighth, he had a new catcher behind the plate- Zaun, who replaced Ivan Rodriguez that inning.

Forty-two years earlier, on July 1, 1957, the first Z-mates appeared together in a major league game, pitcher George Zuverink and catcher Frank Zupo of the Baltimore Orioles. Zupo, making his major league debut that day, entered the game in the top of the 10th, replacing Joe Durham (who had pinch-hit for catcher Joe Ginsburg in the 9th inning), while Zuverink took over for pitcher Ken Lehman (also in the top of the tenth) with the score tied at two. The veteran pitcher got Yankee shortstop Gil McDougald to groundout to second before surrendering a game-deciding home run to Mickey Mantle.


Well, there's your lesson for the day. Now, go out and see if you can dig up some cardZ of theZe guyZ.


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