GreenJackets Gameday: Denny McLain in Augusta

Former big league pitcher Denny McLain will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and sign autographs at tonight's GreenJackets game.
Former big league pitcher Denny McLain will throw out the ceremonial first pitch and sign autographs at tonight's GreenJackets game.

Augusta GreenJackets (Giants) vs. Lakewood BlueClaws (Phillies)

WHEN: today, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Lake Olmstead Stadium: directions
WEATHER: Partly cloudy and 86 degrees at game time with a 20 percent chance of rain: forecast
PROMOTION: Baseball Bingo and Denny McLain Night.
TICKETS: Start at $7. Call the box office at (706) 922-WINS or visit GreenJacketsBaseball.com.
RADIO: ESPN Radio 1340 AM WYNF
IN-GAME UPDATES: On Twitter (@BillyByler) or receive text alerts on your phone.
STANDINGS: Augusta 25-25, 57-62 (4th SAL Southern); Lakewood 26-25, 52-68 (t4th SAL Northern)
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Augusta leads the season series and current series 2-0.
PROBABLE STARTERS: GreenJackets RHP Kyle Crick (5-6, 2.39) vs. BlueClaws RHP Gabriel Arias (4-6, 3.76).

 

Tonight's regularly schedule promotion (Baseball Bingo) often draws an older crowd of baseball fans to the ballpark. Those fans will remember a baseball star back in the 1960s named Denny McLain. He'll be at Lake Olmstead Stadium tonight.

 

After chatting with McLain on the phone Tuesday afternoon, I can't help but think he would have been proud of what happened Tuesday night at the GreenJackets game. McLain, the last pitcher to win 30+ games in a season, commented to me about how pitchers these days are protected far too much and kept on too short of a leash when it comes to innings and pitch counts. Well, GreenJackets manager Lipso Nava got the go ahead to keep starter Clayton Blackburn in the game even after a rain delay and the move paid off.

 

Blackburn, whose last pitch in a driving rain and swirling winds resulted in a two-out, two-RBI triple, was visibly frustrated by the circumstances surrounding the delay, but he was given a second chance and didn't give up another run, shutting out the BlueClaws through four more innings. He maintained his spot near the top of the league lead with a 2.63 ERA and stretched his league-leading strikeout total to 127.

 

McLain, who will be at tonight's game pitching his new book and reality TV show, said pitchers in his era threw every day. Teams rarely allow such rigorous work anymore at the minor league level. Even pitchers who have already made it to the big leagues are sometimes kept on a short leash. The Washington Nationals claim that they'll shut down pitcher Stephen Strasburg before the season's over just to save his arm for future use.

 

"It shocks the h--- out of me," McLain said. "In Washington that's a legitimate potential superstar. If I'm a season ticket holder and they shut him down, I want my money back."

 

McLain's opinions and entire life will be on display when his reality TV show debuts this winter. The name of the network carrying the show has not been released and filming will continue while McLain is in Augusta. He said the show will air beginning sometime in December and features his life as the owner of a small steel company in Detroit.

 

It's amazing how people react when there's a camera around," he said. "I've learned one thing. Every time I'm about to get around a camera, my wife tells me, 'Don't pick your nose.' I don't pick it. I just pinch it all the time, but that camera gets everything."

 

McLain also talked about two books he's worked on. One has already been released and deals with life in general and explains some moments in McLain's checkered past.

 

"It clears up some misunderstandings," he said.

 

His other book "31-6" chronicles the game-by-game details of McClain's magical season in 1968 that saw him post a 31-6 record. He said that book should be released sometime within the next month.

 

As for the GreenJackets, they have a chance to sweep tonight. I asked Nava if this recent surge of quality pitching, reliable hitting and consistent winning has prompted him to take another peak at the standings.

 

"I don't want to look at any of those numbers," he said. "We'll let our baseball decide if we're good enough to be in the playoffs."

 

The GreenJackets are currently six games out of first place with 20 games to play. Mathematically, it's possible. But certainly not probable. Keep in mind, last year's team was four games out of first place with 19 to play. They went on to clinch a playoff spot by erasing a 1.5-game deficit on the final day of the regular season.

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