The Central divisions take center stage in this week's edition of Diamond Digits as we examine the Cardinals small-ball, big-run win, the active home run hitter on the hill, and a calming influence for the troubled Tribe bullpen.
Runs scored by the Cardinals in an shellacking of the Braves on Friday night. St. Louis pecked away for 26 hits, the most in the big leagues since the Rangers scored 30 runs on 29 hits against the Orioles at Camden Yards exactly one year earlier. But unlike that game when Texas blasted Orioles pitching for six home runs, not a single Cardinal went yard, marking the first time since 1954 that St. Louis scored as many as 18 runs in a game without the benefit of a home run. In fact since 1962 when the NL expanded to 10 teams, only twice before had an NL team scored 18 runs without hitting at least one home run. Oddly enough, both of the previous two times were by the Astros. In 1971 Cesar Cedeno, Bob Watson and Jimmy Wynn launched the Astros past the Giants (with a first baseman named Willie Mays) 18-4 in front of just 5,791 fans at Candlestick Park. Then on May 11, 1999 The Killer B's took advantage of five Pittsburgh errors and an inning of relief pitching by catcher Keith Osik, to out the Pirates 19-9 at the Astrodome.
Career home runs for Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano, the highest career total among active pitchers, following his solo shot off on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley. The home run broke a tie with Atlanta's Mike Hampton, long considered the majors best hitting pitcher, and was Zambrano's fourth of the year. Yet the Cubs, holders of the NL's best record, won for just the first time this season when Zambrano went deep. For the season Chicago is 1-3 when "El Toro" goes yard. His career record now stands at 10-3 with three no decisions in games in which touches up an opposing hurler.
Consecutive saves converted by Cleveland's new closer, Jensen Lewis, the longest unblemished streak for a Cleveland reliever this season. Lewis earned his first save just over two weeks ago and is already in the team lead having passed the released Joe Borowski and ineffective Masa Kobayashi who had six. Unfortunately for the Tribe, Lewis' emergence has been too little, too late during a season that saw Cleveland go from favorites to also-rans in the AL Central. While injuries are partly to blame, it's safe to put much of the fault at the feet of the bullpen who collectively posted major league worsts in ERA, (5.21), opposition slugging (.449) and opponents' batting average (.279). Thanks in part to a historic season for Cliff Lee (18-2), a strong showing by CC Sabathia prior to being traded to the Brewers and the newly acquired Anthony Reyes, Cleveland starters have the best ERA (4.01) in their division, placing fifth in the AL and ninth overall, but that's all been squandered due to late inning failures.
Mark DeRosa, Cubs OF/2B
Albert Pujols was named player of the week in the NL but DeRosa, the Cubs jack-of-all-trades, was deserving of this honor for his seven day tear. During the week DeRosa set new career highs in home runs (17) and RBIs (77) while gathering at least one hit in all six games he played including a four-game home run streak and five-game RBI streak. He led all major leaguers in total bases (23), was tied with the South Side's Nick Swisher in home runs (4) and slugged 1.000, third only to Pujols' 1.105 and Tampa Bay's comeback kid, Rocco Baldelli's 1.100.
Daniel Cabrera, Orioles, SP
After showing signs of progress early in the season with a sub-3.50 ERA and then again in his two previous starts against Texas and Cleveland, the hulking Cabrera reverted to his inconsistent and frustrating self. During his two home losses this week against the Red Sox and Yankees he was at his worst, throwing 187 pitches in just eight combined innings, allowing 13 earned runs, 18 hits, six walks and a hit batsman. He's now the AL leader in total walks allowed (fourth in walks per nine innings), second in stolen bases against and third in earned runs allowed. With a season ERA of 5.24 (following 5.55 last season) he's in danger of being the only starting pitcher in Baltimore Orioles history to post two different seasons with an ERA above 5.00.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter's first inning single on Friday night against Baltimore marked the 2,500th regular season hit of his illustrious big league career. His 2,493 hits as a shortstop are the third most in the modern era, trailing only Luis Aparicio (2,677) and Omar Vizquel (2,634). It's a bit closer when postseason hits are taken into account with Aparicio leading with 2,689, followed by Vizquel at 2,685 and then Jeter, the career postseason leader at the position, at 2,646. Jeter is also just 17 hits behind Babe Ruth for second alltime on the Yankees in hits. He and The Bambino are both looking up at Lou Gehrig who holds the Yankees record for career hits with 2,721.