Angels lock up their ace; Verlander, Tigers on verge of breaking away
Weaver, who started the All-Star Game, leads the AL with a 2.10 ERA, a season after leading the league in strikeouts with 233. The right-hander was the Angels' first-round pick in 2004 and would have been eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.
By signing him, the team locks up one of the best starters in the game without having to compete with other teams for his services. By comparison, Weaver will make just a few dollars more on this deal than the Yankees' A.J. Burnett is making on a free-agent contract signed three seasons ago and substantially less than Cliff Lee will make on the Phillies' lefty's five-year deal signed this past offseason. The durable Weaver, who hasn't missed a start since 2008, seems an excellent bet to retain his skills and stay healthy throughout this five-year contract.
The Rays are one of the few teams to give Verlander grief this season: his ERA of 9.00 against them this year is twice what it is against any other team, and he has fewer strikeouts against them, two, than against any other team he's seen this year.
Jackson's base-runner kill helped Jose Valverde escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam and convert his 37th consecutive save this season. The Tigers have fended off a series of challenges by the Indians, and after a trip to Tampa Bay get seven games against the Twins and Royals to stretch their lead before six more against the White Sox and Indians. That week may represent both teams' last shot to keep the Tigers from making September a coronation.
Only the NL West, where the Diamondbacks have lost five straight and the Giants lost two of three to the Astros, is in doubt every day. No doubt the low-tension pseudo-races in the AL and NL East divisions will be used as an excuse to force through a second wild-card, but the solution, as ever, isn't more playoff teams, but fewer ones. All a second wild card will do is make winning the worst division more valuable than winning the best one.
The Red Sox don't much care who's pitching: they're first in the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, second in runs and homers, and have three of the top four position players in the league as measured by Wins Above Replacement (Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez). The Sox are the best road team in baseball at 39-25.