This week's edition of Diamond Digits wonders what's next after the game's premiere ace got lit up brighter than Time Square, looks at some epic stretches of futility and examines a losing team that is primed to play for -- and is succeeding at reaching -- individual goals.
Earned runs allowed in a three-inning start at Yankee Stadium on Sunday by Mets lefty Johan Santana, the worst outing of his illustrious career.
Santana, the active career ERA leader among those with at least 100 starts (3.12) is the latest elite hurler to get touched up for so many runs in so few innings. In fact nearly every top moundsman has experienced such a pounding, and what's important is that most of them bounce right back to form in their next outing. In the box to the right, check out how the rest of the top 10 in career ERA fared after getting rocked.
Hits in the last 32 at bats for Reds centerfielder and leadoff hitter Willy Taveras.
Since a seventh-inning single against Houston's Alberto Arias on May 27, Taveras has gone eight games without even reaching base via a walk, the fifth-longest such streak of futility this decade for non-pitchers. One more fruitless trip to the dish and Taveras will tie Brad Ausmus, Franklin Gutierrez, and Joe McEwing for second-longest drought at 33 plate appearances without reaching base, but there's still work to do to catch the decade leader, utilityman Andy Fox, who took 40 consecutive trips back to the dugout from May 5 to Sept. 30, 2004, a span of 28 games.
It was an historic weekend for the Astros as three different players achieved major milestones.
Shortstop Miguel Tejada became only the eighth player born in the Dominican Republic to reach 2,000 hits. He now trails leader Julio Franco by 584 hits. Two hitters after Tejada's big moment on Saturday, first baseman Lance Berkman became just the seventh switch hitter to reach 300 home runs with his sixth-inning clout off of Jon Garland. However, the top honors go to catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who moved into position to become the all-time leader in games played by a catcher on Sunday, his 2,225th career game behind the plate tying Bob Boone for second and moving him to within one contest of Carlton Fisk atop the entire list. Rodriguez, already the leader in games started in shin guards (2,147) is also the all-time leader in putouts (13,471) and total chances (14,727) while posting a .991 fielding percentage.
It's difficult for a pitcher to earn the honors here since position players have many more opportunities to succeed. However, this week's two-start performance from White Sox veteran righty Jose Contreras gets the nod. Fresh off a trip to the minors to straighten out his mechanics after posting an 8.19 ERA earlier this season, Contreras enjoyed back-to-back starts in which he went eight innings with no runs allowed against the powerful Tigers and Brewers. In those combined starts he surrendered but three hits and walked just three, while throwing over 100 pitches for the first time since last July 2.
Honorable Mention: Casey McGehee, Scott Rolen, Torii Hunter, Miguel Olivo, Jim Thome, Huston Street, Brad Bergesen, Jered Weaver.
While Taveras had an epically poor week, going 0-for-22, he's not considered a star. Another NL Central leadoff man, Alfonso Soriano of the reeling Cubs, is counted on heavily to be the engine of the Chicago offense, so when he's mired in a 3-for-25 stretch that produced not a single home run or RBI it impacts the entire team. He scored just two runs during a six-game stretch in which the Cubs went 2-6 and has gone nearly a month without a multi-hit game, the last coming on May 17.
Dishonorable Mention: J.J. Hardy, Ivan Rodriguez, Ramon Hernandez, Mike Cameron, Willie Harris, Ken Griffey Jr., Chris Young, Billy Buckner, Brett Anderson, Chad Gaudin.