What's Next: Crew's hot streak; No. 42's tribute
Brewers eye 10th straight win in opener with Cards; Jackie to be honored Tuesday
Baseball's eyes will be affixed on Yankee Stadium as another week of the 2014 baseball season begins.
Tuesday, after all, is April 15, a very special day not only for baseball history but for society as we know it.
Yes, we must take care of our taxes, but we must also take time to remember and honor the man and legacy known as Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier on that date in 1947.
What's Next in Major League Baseball is another action-packed seven-day slate that will alter the standings, continue to define the narrative of the road to October, and let us pay our respects to a grand tradition of a life well-lived.
So after a nice nine-game appetizer today featuring a full plate of divisional battles, Tuesday will bring us to Jackie Robinson Day and one of the best tributes in all of sports: every ballplayer, coach and manager wearing Jackie's No. 42 during the games go on, just the way Robinson would have liked it.
Before we get to the fanfare of that day, however, there are a few streaks on the line, and they're worth paying attention tonight.
In a matchup of what may be the two best pitchers in the American League, Felix Hernandez, 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA, will face off with Rangers ace Yu Darvish, who has yet to give up a run in two starts this season.
The Brewers have won nine games in a row and figure to be feeling pretty good about themselves as they take to the Miller Park field to play the Cardinals in a National League Central divisional battle.
Matt Garza will pitch for Milwaukee against Cardinals righty Lance Lynn in a matchup of strikeout artists, and the Brew Crew will attempt to get the streak up to double digits.
"I think anytime you play good baseball and are doing things right, you seem to get more breaks," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "When we're not playing well, I know it goes the other way. You see it all the time. Everything is going good."
The same can be said for Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez in the batter's box, being that he has hit a home run in each of the last four games.
The drive for five will resume Tuesday when Los Angeles heads to San Francisco for a renewal of the Dodgers' fierce NL West rivalry with the Giants. There, the Dodgers will try to extend their win streak to four and keep or extend their lead in the division while ace Clayton Kershaw continues to recover from the shoulder injury that's kept him out of action since the first week.
The Dodgers were Robinson's team, so naturally members of that organization will suit up in the No. 42 jerseys with pride Tuesday.
So will the rest of the teams celebrating what Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon likened to a baseball "holiday," and nowhere more than in New York, where the Yankees-Cubs night game will serve as the main event for the day's festivities.
Jackie's widow, Rachel, and daughter, Sharon, will be on hand, as will Commissioner Bud Selig and members of the Steinbrenner family, and the team will unveil a plaque in Monument Park in honor of the late South African president Nelson Mandela before the game.
"It's a wonderful thing that they have Jackie Robinson Day," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who might miss the game because of right quadriceps tightness that kept him out of action against the Red Sox on Sunday.
"I've enjoyed getting to know his family over the years. I first met his wife that first year at the Baseball Writers' dinner in 1996. I've gotten to know her well, same thing with her daughter. We all look forward to having that game when we all get to wear that No. 42 and honor him."
Added Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, whose team will suit up in No. 42 on Tuesday in Cincinnati before a game against the Reds: "For myself, it's just great to be wearing a Major League uniform when we recognize someone who wore it so meaningfully. When you think about the things he had to overcome to pave the road for players like myself ... the appreciation of that never changes."
Throughout the rest of the week in baseball, teams will continue to weather the grind of a 162-game schedule, some healthier than others.
The Red Sox might be without second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by soreness in his left wrist and will undergo tests today.
They also might not have the services of closer Koji Uehara, who is improving from shoulder soreness but might not be ready to take over the ninth inning just yet.
Otherwise, it's a full week of divisional discovery, with rivalries such as Braves-Phillies, Rays-Orioles, Pirates-Reds, Nationals-Marlins, Mariners-Rangers, Cardinals-Brewers, A's-Angels, Dodgers-Giants and Rockies-Padres starting it off, and other permutations of these standings-altering matchups finishing it over the weekend.
In other words, Jackie would be proud, but not as proud as baseball is of Jackie.
"Obviously, Jackie is the reason I'm sitting here," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "A lot of other folks are in the position that they're sitting in [because of him]. I'll wear [No. 42] with pride. I think it's very significant. I think probably lost in all this is the struggles that he really went through.
"I thought what was really important was that he was tough enough to not fight back, and that really meant a lot."