Heard Bob Brenly jump on Kerry Wood on Thursday for an unwillingness to throw a fastball to the Dodgers' Juan Pierre. And, really, Brenly was right. Can't throw one to JP, who can you heat up? That said, Wood has done well (17 of 21 save chances) considering ... well, considering he's Kerry Wood. The Cubs, with a jerky rotation (no, not talking about you, Carlos Zambrano), will need him. They can't beat up the West (17-3) all year.
These days, Vladimir Guerrero looks like -- ancient reference coming -- Walter Brennan wearing a pair of concrete pants. For you kids out there, Vlad's like Shakira, minus her two most famous assets. The Angels sent Guerrero for an MRI because of a sore knee and because, in his last 11 games, he's hitting .186. Worse, he simply looks bad. Without their pitching, the Angels would be as hurtin' as Vlad is. The hips don't lie.
They are the Taj Mahal at home and a Holiday Inn Express on the road. But that's all the Red Sox have to be. At this rate (a stunning 24-5 record at Fenway Park), if the Sox simply go .500 on the road, they'll still win 108 games. After beating up the Rays in Boston -- and each other, in a brief dustup between Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis -- they are both kings of their castle and rulers of the American League East.
This is a good team. I keep repeating that because I find it hard to believe, too. But the Phils have assumed control of the National League East from the skidding Marlins. Cole Hamels was dirty good in a three-hit shutout of the Reds on Thursday. Even Brett Myers has turned a corner, giving up just seven hits in his last 15 1/3, with hitters going .135 against him. The Phils can hit, too. A big test: This weekend, in Atlanta.
All right, all right. When Albert Pujols is hitting a pinch-hit home run to win a game -- Thursday in the first game of a twinbill against the Nats, his first career pinch-hit job -- it may be time to admit that this team has something special going on. I'm not quite there yet -- though that was an impressive near-comeback in the second game -- but, after a third of the season, I'm now open to the possibility that the Cards are for real.
Nice fight in you, boys, though a tad cheap-shotty on your parts, Jonny Gomes and Carl Crawford. Not that Coco "Puff" Crisp didn't deserve it, after his dumb slide Wednesday and his dumber comments. The sad part is, in the end, y'all still need to win in Boston and, so far, you can't do it. The next round is in St. Pete, June 30-July 2. Gomes, Crawford and James Shields should be back from their suspensions by then.
I can now acknowledge, as I did partly with the Cards, the distinct possibility that this team not only might be legit as is, but that it could improve as the year progresses. Really, there's every reason to believe the A's will get better. They have a big hurdle this weekend in a three-game set against the Angels. Oakland is weak in the West (7-11). But they own the East and Central so far. And this team can score, too.
Lost in all the noise of the phenomenon about how Ozzie Guillen is a distraction (yes) and he may be hurting his team (though that's endlessly debatable). But he speaks the truth at times, and that is that the Sox, though they're in first, won't be staying there with Paul Konerko (.199), Nick Swisher (.204) and Jim Thome (.212) swinging as they are. That league-low .182 with runners in scoring position and two away? Ouch.
Fun with ciphering: If Chipper Jones gets 300 at-bats the rest of the year (giving him roughly 600 plate appearances), and all he does is hit his career average (.310), he'll still end up with a .355 average. That's pretty good. At .418 going into the weekend, Jones has been amazing to watch. And, after career homer No. 400 Thursday, 500 seems imminently reachable. Almost makes you forget the downer news about John Smoltz.
The surprising Marlins have stepped on their first real slick patch, falling out of first place in the NL East after a 2-7 stretch in which they hit just .241 (with a .294 on-base percentage) with a 6.43 ERA. They have lost back-to-back-to-back series on the road against their biggest rivals, the Mets, Phillies and Braves, dropping three of four in Atlanta. They'll still hit. But, outside of Scott Olsen, the pitching just isn't there.
Since falling five under .500 on May 9, the Jays have turned their fortunes around, going 15-8. That's the good news. The bad news is that they haven't picked up a single game on the Red Sox. There is simply no room for error for Toronto, which makes games like Thursday's (another blown save for B.J. Ryan) especially painful.
In a lot of ways, Carlos Gomezis the Twins. Young, exciting at times and boneheaded at others. The Twins are a nice surprise and Gomez (17 steals, three triples), part of the Johan Santana trade, is a big part of it. Unfortunately, so are Gomez's 60 strikeouts (just eight walks) and .306 OBP. He'll get better. So will the Twins.
With the worst record of any divisional leader, in a division in which every team has played below .500 since the beginning of May, the former No. 1s are now in deep, deep trouble. Sinking to a new Power Rankings low, the Snakes have won two in a row only once since May 16, and those were against the Nats. How low can they go?
Give 'em credit. (At least a little.) The spastic Brewers have won six straight with sweeps of Houston and Arizona. The Crew does its home work (19-10). But now, the Brewers leave Milwaukee for Colorado and Houston. They won't be for real until they can win on some road trips like this one. Even then, I'm not so sure.
The previously crumbling Mets -- that's what the tabloids told us -- have now suddenly taken three series in a row, including winning three of four against the Dodgers. With their heads again above .500 and with the Padres and D'backs up (albeit on opposite coasts), this would be a perfect time to make a move. Won't be that easy, will it?
It was strange watching Jason Giambi jump into a riot of celebrating teammates at home plate after his walk-off job on Thursday. When was the last time that happened to Giambi in New York? One other quick question, Yankees' fans: Are you worried about Chien-Ming Wang (8.75 ERA in his last four starts)? I would be.
The Astros have cooled off, going 2-8 in their last 10, mostly on a nine-game road swing through St. Louis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. First baseman Lance Berkman has cooled off, too. At least a little. In the Astros' last 10 games, he's hitting a measly .368. In the first 21 games of May, he hit .500 with a 1.508 OPS.
You could make an argument -- and it would be an argument, for sure -- that Milton Bradley is having a better year than Sports Illustrated cover boy Josh Hamilton. This is for certain, though: With Bradley's league-leading .337 average, his 13 homers, 41 RBIs and a 1.076 OPS, those two guys make one dangerous 3-4 punch.
The O's just won their first series since the middle of May by taking two of three in Minnesota. Since May 18, they are just 6-10, and they're facing a six-game road trip through Toronto and Boston. Is this the beginning of the end for the upstart Orioles? Haven't we wondered that at least once already this season?
I'm not sure, really, how the Pirates pulled to within two games of .500. They are the Pirates, remember. This is a good thing only if the Bucs can keep it up another month or so and use it to their advantage. Don't think about competing. Not this year. Instead, trade Jason Bay and Xavier Nady and whoever else. Sell high.
A miserable 2-5 week ended with the bases loaded against Kerry Wood and the Cubs. And, before that, Matt Kemp got into a fight for no discernible reason, admitted it was dumb and still appealed his suspension. Sheesh.
The Tribe scores! Twenty-eight runs in two wins at the Texas shooting range. "This is pinball. It's not major league baseball," Cleveland announcer Mike Hegan told the Plain Dealer. Pinball. Shooting range. You get the idea.
They have a lineup that gives little support to the team's rotation, which makes the hitters in cahoots with the team's bullpen: Neither does much to back up the starting pitching. Still, they're in this thing. How weak is the West?
Before a breakout performance in the second game of a doubleheader on Thursday, the Nationals had spent the previous four games scraping out a total of two runs. I'm no mathematician, but that's not good.
The Padres won Thursday on a walk-off plunking. The Mets' Scott Schoeneweis hit Paul McAnulty with the bases loaded in the ninth. San Diego wins, 2-1. Fireworks. Players pounding each other. The crowd cheering. Padres baseball!
The Kitty-Cats, now a season-low 11 under, haven't won a series over a team not named "Seattle" in more than a month. The hitting is still abysmal. "Everybody we face can't be Sandy Koufax," Jim Leyland cried.
Remember Gil Meche? The guy with the ridiculous contract that surprised everyone in '07 with a year that was almost good enough to justify that contract? Well, this year he's 3-8 with a 5.42 ERA. Justify that.
The Rockhounds had nice games from Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook (8-3, 3.16) last week. Yorvit Torrealba handled mad bull Matt Kemp all right in that bizarre fight. Outside of that, if you can't say anything nice about a team ...
Don't say anything at all. Or you end up sounding like [bleeping] John McLaren.
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