Baseball storylines that have nothing to do with Biogenesis
While the Biogenesis suspensions consume nearly all of the oxygen in the baseball universe, most of us are yearning to talk about actual baseball happenings between the foul lines. Here are a handful of stories not related to the PED scandal that are flying under the radar.
• With a four-game sweep of the Cubs in Chicago -- the last two of which came via shutouts -- the Dodgers have won a franchise record 14 straight road games, three shy of the NL record set by the New York Giants back in 1916. They haven't lost on the road since July 6 in San Francisco, and have now won 31 out of their last 38 games dating back to July 21, a stretch that's lifted them from last in the NL West at 9 1/2 games out to first, 5 1/2 games up.
Unfortunately, Los Angeles' wins in Chicago came at a price, one that raises serious concerns about its ability to keep the good times rolling. Yasiel Puig bruised his left thumb while making a diving catch in Saturday's 3-0 win; he sat out Sunday but at last note was expected to be able to play on Monday. More seriously, Hanley Ramirez jammed his right shoulder while tumbling into the stands in pursuit of a foul ball during Sunday's 1-0 win. He left the game immediately afterward and underwent an MRI, the results of which the Dodgers haven't announced. A stay on the disabled list is hardly out of the question. The two players have been on fire when they've been available, with Puig hitting .376/.429/.600 with 11 homers in 53 games and Ramirez hitting .361/.411/.644 with 11 homers in 54 games.
• Indians lefty Scott Kazmir continued his unlikely comeback, combining with three relievers on a four-hit shutout of the Marlins on Sunday. After making just one major league appearance in the previous two seasons, Kazmir has made 20 starts for Cleveland totaling 111 innings, with a respectable ERA (3.89) and strikeout rate (8.1). Over his last nine starts, he's put up a 1.93 ERA in 56 innings while allowing just two homers. The Indians have shut out opponents a major league-high 15 times and have won 10 out of 11 to climb into the second AL wild-card slot.
• Speaking of those other streaking teams highlighted in this space last week, the Royals had their nine-game winning streak halted by the Mets on Friday night but took the remaining two games of the series; they've now won 11 of 12 to climb to 56-52, and while they're still 7 1/2 games out of first in the AL Central, they're only 4 1/2 back in the wild-card race. Meanwhile, the Tigers have stretched their five-game winning streak to eight with a three-game sweep of the White Sox over the weekend and have now won 12 out of 13, effectively neutralizing the streaks of the Indians and Royals. Detroit did so even with Miguel Cabrera limited to just one plate appearance by continued problems with his hip flexor.
• In the National League, the Braves swept three from the Phillies in Philadelphia, thus running their winning streak to 10 straight -- matching their streak from April 5-16 -- and padding their NL East lead to an MLB-high 12 1/2 games.
• Speaking of the disabled list, Derek Jeter might be headed back there after an MRI taken on Saturday revealed a Grade I calf strain. He's played just four games since returning from his latest DL stint for a quad strain, and just five all season. It's entirely possible that he could be sent to the DL in the same move the Yankees use to activate He Who Has Appealed His Suspension.• With so many prominent players getting hurt, let's not forget a prominent one who is now healthy: On Wednesday, Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ will make his first major league start since May 7, when a line drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings fractured his skull, and the ensuing fall caused a sprain of his right knee. He made three rehab starts for Toronto's Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo and is lined up to face the Mariners in Seattle.