While the biggest news of this interleague week was the turnover in managers, there was some good news, especially for the Cubs who contribute a duo of dazzling digits to this week's edition.
Wins this year at Wrigley Field for Cubs starter Ryan Dempster. By holding the White Sox to one earned run over eight innings on Sunday, Dempster, last season's closer, improved his record at Wrigley Field this season to a perfect 9-0. No other pitcher has as many wins at their home park and the next-best with an unblemished home record are Oakland's Justin Duchscherer and Minnesota's Livan Hernandez, both of whom are 6-0. While Dempster's record is awesome at home, he's not the league leader in any other home category. The major league home ERA leader is San Diego's Jake Peavy who's just 3-2 at Petco, but with a 1.26 ERA. Scott Kazmir is the hardest to hit at home, allowing just a .153 average at the Juice Box, going 4-1, while C.C. Sabathia's 64 Ks on the Lake top everybody even though he's just 4-4.
Consecutive home games won within the Friendly Confines by those same Cubs, the most for the storied franchise since Billy Herman, Phil Cavaretta, Gabby Hartnett and the gang won 14 straight from June 4 to July 10, 1936. The Cubs are 32-8 at Wrigley Field, on pace for the second-biggest home advantage in a single season since the advent of air travel. The only team to finish a season in the expansion era with a better home winning percentage was the mighty 1961 Yankees who won 80.2 percent (65-16) of their games in the Bronx. The Cubs are currently winning on the North Side at an 80.0% clip.
This week three managers: Willie Randolph of the Mets, John McLaren of the Mariners and John Gibbons of the Blue Jays all got their pink slips after leading their teams. All were predicted to be postseason contenders, if not favorites, but showed nothing but disappointing results. But the real question is: Will the change make a difference to these seemingly underachieving teams? Since the start of the 2000 season there have been 25 in-season managerial changes, where the successor managed at least 10 games. Of them, the poster child is Trader Jack McKeon who took over a 16-22 Marlins squad in 2003, won 60.5% of the remaining games and led the Fish to a World Series championship. The only other replacement to make the postseason was Houston's Phil Garner who's team was 22 games over .500 and cruised to the wild card out of the NL Central in 2004. However those are by far the exception. In fact just five of the 25 managerial changes resulted in the new guy managing a winning percentage over .500. That compares to eight of those same 25 who couldn't even manage their teams to a .400 winning percentage. Here's one more factor to consider: Unlike most "interim" managers, the three who just took over, Jerry Manuel, Jim Riggleman and Cito Gaston, all have managed teams to the postseason, and in Gaston's case, two World Series titles. Stay tuned.
Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees
Just when his team needed him most as an ace with the foot injury to ace Chien-Ming Wang, Pettitte stepped up, tossing 13 shutout innings in wins over the Padres and Reds. The lefty allowed nine hits, three walks, and one hit batsman while averaging one strikeout per inning. Pettitte is now riding a personal five game winning streak and with three members of New York's original 2008 rotation disabled, is instrumental in the Yankees' pursuit of their 14th straight postseason appearance.
Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox
Proving that baseball is a game of averages, Varitek, the first ever Diamond Digits best player of the week, is now saddled with the dubious distinction of having the worst stats for last week. The Red Sox captain went hitless in 19 at bats, reached base just twice on walks and saw his batting average drop from .254 to .230.
Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez is on fire. The veteran right-hander set a big league record on Sunday for the quickest pitcher ever to 30-saves in a season. Not only was June 22 the earliest date on the calendar for anyone to pick up their 30th save, it came in the Angels 76th game of the year, also the quickest to the 30 mark. Should K-Rod remain on this pace, he'll chalk up 65 saves for the year, easily shattering the current mark of 57 set in 1990 by Bobby Thigpen of the White Sox.
Brian Buscher, 3B, Twins
It was a big week for Buscher, called up to take regular reps at third base in place of struggling veteran Mike Lamb. Buscher batted .389 in 18 at bats and was productive in doing so, driving in a major league rookie high eight runs for the week (spread out over four games in which he drove in two runs each). This is Buscher's second season manning third in Minnesota, after spending parts of July, August and all of September in Minneapolis last year when he hit .244 with a pair of bombs and 10 RBIs. He's not a power hitter by any means (32 home runs in more than 1,500 minor league at bats) but sprays the ball around enough to give the Twins offensive production they've lacked at third base since the departure of Corie Koskie in 2004.