Baseball card of the day: 2010 Topps Pro Debut Victor Black

Vic-Black Vic-Black-B

While I was sorting a box of baseball cards this weekend, I ran across a familiar face… Mets reliever Vic Black.

Black wasa originally selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates with a supplemental pick at the end of the first round of the 2009 draft. He began his professional career with the State College Spikes in the New York-Penn League that year, so he’s one of a handful of players Topps chose for their inaugural “Pro Debut” minor league set who was actually making his pro debut.

Late in 2013, the Mets acquired Black and second baseman Dilson Herrera from the Pirates in exchange for Marlon Byrd and John Buck.

We have a World Series!

Salvador Perez's 2014 Donruss baseball card

Salvador Perez’s 2014 Donruss baseball card

The Kansas City Royals look a lot better when they’re hitting against Jake Peavy than they do against Madison Bumgarner. (Then again, I bet you could say that about most teams.)

When Gregor Blanco led off Wednesday night’s game with a home run off of Royals rookie phenom Yordano Ventura, I started to have visions of the Giants sweeping the series. Blanco just isn’t supposed to hit home runs, especially off a guy who’s been clocked at 100 mph.

Unlike Tuesday night, Kansas City didn’t wait until the seventh inning to put some runs on the board. They answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the first and took their first lead of the series in the second inning. But give Peavy credit – he limited the damage in those two innings and retired 10 consecutive Giants heading into the sixth inning.

That’s when the Royals broke the game open, forcing Bruce Bochy to tie a World Series record by using five different pitchers to record three outs. (We also learned that Hunter Strickland is a hot head and shouldn’t be used except in mop-up situations.)

The Giants had their chances, but couldn’t cash in. Ventura allowed eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, but the Giants stranded five of their baserunners and saw another erased via a bad baserunning play.

And once Ventura was out, the Giants could do nothing against Kansas City’s vaunted bullpen trio of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

I still think that forcing a split on the road gives the Giants an advantage as they head home for Game 3 on Friday, but the Royals are in a much better spot than they would have been down 0-2. I hope this weekend’s games are as exciting as Game 2.

Baseball bloggers say Kershaw, Kluber are MLB’s top pitchers

Signed 2008 Topps Stadium Club Clayton Kershaw baseball card from my collection

Signed Clayton Kershaw 2008 Topps Stadium Club baseball card from my collection

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance today announced the winners of its annual Walter Johnson Award, which recognizes the top pitchers in each league.

Clayton Kershaw was the unanimous selection for the National League award, taking the honor for the third time in the last four years.

In the American League, Cleveland’s Corey Kluber edged out Seattle’s Felix Hernandez for the award. Kluber received 80 points, including eight first place ballots, to Hernandez’s 74 points (with six first place ballots).

For more details, including all the voting totals and awards history, check out the press release on the Baseball Bloggers Alliance website.

Baseball card of the day: 2014 Gypsy Queen Wilmer Flores autograph

Wilmer-Flores Wilmer-Flores-B

Wilmer Flores may or may not be the Mets’ Opening Day shortstop in 2015, but he showed flashes of promise at the end of this season.

Although Flores had been a hyped prospect for a number of years, I didn’t have any luck getting his autograph at the ballpark when he was playing in Double-A and I wasn’t particularly interested in paying for his Bowman and Donruss certified autographs before his major league debut.

Fortunately for me, this Topps and Panini both chose to included Flores on the autograph checklist for a number of products this year. I was able to get this one from 2014 Gypsy Queen Baseball for $2.50 shipped from an eBay seller – a bargain for me, but a disappointment to anyone who pulled a copy out of their $125 hobby box.

The autograph appears on the card, not a sticker, which is a positive. I’m also a fan of the tobacco card era-inspired design, but I know that Gypsy Queen Baseball’s charms are wearing thin for a number of collectors.

By my latest count, Wilmer Flores’ autographed baseball card is the 889th Mets player’s in my collection, representing over 90 percent of the team’s all-time roster. I’d like to reach 900 by Opening Day, but I don’t know how realistic that is.

World Series Game 1: Bumgarner bests “Big Game James”

Madison Bumgarner's 2010 Topps baseball card

Madison Bumgarner’s 2010 Topps baseball card

The first game of the World Series didn’t exactly follow the script. The battle of aces never materialized.

James Shields was completely ineffective, yielding five runs on seven hits in three plus innings. Waiting 10 days between games probably didn’t help Shields, but he has rarely looked like an ace come playoff time.

When the Giants scored three runs in the top of the first inning, that sucked a lot of energy out of the crowd. Even though the Royals have been masters of late-inning magic this month, it seemed like a longshot that they’d be able to best Madison Bumgarner after giving him a lead.

The Royals had their chances. Nori Aoki and Eric Hosmer managed some hard-hit outs in the bottom of the first. And in the third, Kansas City put runners on second and third with no one out. Unlike “Big Game James,” Bumgarner was able to shut down his opponent.

The Royals didn’t score until the seventh inning when Salvador Perez hit a two-out solo home run. By that point, Shields and Danny Duffy had combined to allow the Giants to score seven runs.

Maybe it was a moral victory – it was the first run Bumgarner had allowed in a World Series game, snapping a streak of 21 scoreless innings. Only Hall of Famer Christie Mathewson had a longer World Series scoreless streak at the start of his career. It was also the first run Bumgarner allowed in a major league record 32 2/3 playoff road innings.

Maybe the close, competitive series that most of us were expecting will materialize later tonight. On Tuesday, the Royals looked overmatched.