The D'backs had, for them, a bad week. Arizona split a series with the Phillies and, before that, dropped a weekend set against the Mets. (The Pirates would pop the champagne for a 3-4 week.) But as long as Brandon Webb (8-0, 2.09 ERA) keeps doing his thing, as long as Conor Jackson continues to drive in runs, as long as Chad Qualls (0.93 ERA) sets 'em up, there's no need to worry.
Opening Day starter Jered Weaver, supposedly the steadiest part of the Angels' rotation, has been beaten around to the tune of a 2-5 record and a 5.59 ERA. Know what? It just doesn't matter. Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana are still unbeaten (each 6-0), and John Lackey could come off the disabled list this week. The Angels stockpile talented pitchers (see: Nick Adenhart); the rest of baseball stacks up broken bats.
I've had my doubts about the Cardinals. I still do. But this much I know: You don't run on Rick Ankiel. For all the talk of the great outfield arms of the past, oh, decade or so -- Vladimir Guerrero, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Mondesi (remember him?), Gary Sheffield, Jeff Francoeur and many others -- none has thrown a seed 330 feet on a line, on the money, like Ankiel did on Tuesday against Colorado. You won't see a better throw.
You know why Boston fans love Kevin Youkilis? Besides the "Yooouk" and the bushy goatee, I mean? The guy can play defense anywhere. He's an on-base machine (currently over .400). And, this year, he's pounding the ball like never before (.313 average, .588 slugging).
Their early season woes now erased with the help of an eight-game winning streak, the Dodgers have shown that they're a contender for, at the least, a wild-card spot. Their series win over the Mets this week, despite the egg that Brad Penny laid on Wednesday, proves that much. A couple of unsungs: catcher Russell Martin (.400 in his past 17 games) and fill-in third baseman Blake DeWitt (.306, .385 OBP).
Sooner or later, I may be forced to throw my full support behind the A's. But I'm holding out until I have to finally make that call, once all those superdelegates make their commitments. Yeah, the A's are looking good. They just swept Baltimore (big deal) and now Rich Harden is coming back to an already stacked pitching staff. Still, I can't throw my vote their way just yet. That would be an admission I was ... I was ... not right.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins looks to be all healed from that bum ankle, probably making a return to the lineup this weekend in San Francisco. It's none too early for the Phils, who are 16-12 without Rollins as a starter but have relied way too heavily on left fielder Pat Burrell (.305, nine homers, 30 RBIs) and second baseman Chase Utley (.350, 13 homers, 27 RBIs). Those two guys could use some help. And Ryan Howard's not bringing it.
Lou Piniella's getting a little fidgety with the Cubs' poor play, which is a sure sign to grab the women and children and head for the hills. Bad defense on a 2-4 road trip through St. Louis and Cincinnati forced Piniella into tinkering with the lineup some, looking for someone to catch the ball. Look for Ronny Cedeno to get more playing time at second. And, really, what is Lou going to do with the enigma that is Alfonso Soriano?
Got a letter from the Rays the other day. Fined me $1 for accidentally slipping a "Devil Rays" mention into the PRs last week. Seems they're taking their new image -- branding, I think they call it -- a bit too seriously. The money they gather is going to their foundation, so ... Devil Rays, Devil Rays, Devil Rays, Devil Rays, Devil Rays, Devil Rays, Devil Rays, Devil Rays ... that should do it. The check's in the mail, guys.
Another team living right and enjoying the fruits of their lofty perch in the PRs, the Marlins have had a great five weeks from lefty Scott Olsen, a 15-game winner in '07. Seven starts into the season, Olsen is 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA, giving up only 32 hits in 48 2/3 innings. His strikeouts to walk numbers are a little scary (23-19), which doesn't bode well. But, hey, he's a member of the Marlins. They're golden right now.
The pitching staff continues to operate on a bad wing and a lot of wishful thinking, and some hitters seem to be regressing (it's been a rough start for Jeff Francoeur, Mark Teixeira and Kelly Johnson). But Chipper Jones (.419) has carried them to six straight wins. They're a league-best 14-4 at home; league-worst 4-11 away.
Moises Alou, 41, stole home the other day on the back end of a double steal and the daring move did not immediately send him into a hospital. From small miracles like this, big things are often accomplished. Or not. This is one strange team, still looking for someone -- a manager, a leadoff guy? -- to get them going.
Last week, Lance Berkman had 16 hits in the Astros' six games, including eight in a row at one point. He hit .667 with a 1.922 OPS, and Houston went 5-1, finally climbing over .500 and back into the thick of the National League Central. You forget, sometimes, amidst the down-home good-naturedness; this guy is a star.
It's amazing, when you think about it, that the Yankees are anywhere close to .500. Their young pitching has collapsed. Jason Giambi (.163) and Robinson Cano (.172) are having a terrible go of it. Jorge Posada is out with an injury, as is Alex Rodriguez. You know, $200 million doesn't buy what it used to.
Talk about living right. The Twins swept through the Jekyll-ish Tigers, then did a turnabout of their own by nearly getting no-hit and dropping a series to the White Sox. The AL Central is one screwy division, all right, and Minnesota begins this weekend on top. So what's that tell you about the Twins? Huh?
All pitch and no pop makes the Jays one dull team. Though nobody has broken into double-digit runs against the Jays this season -- impressive -- the Jays have managed it just twice, and not since April 15. They're the AL equivalent of the Padres. And if you've seen the Padres play, you know that's no compliment.
Still looking for Pronk (.209) ... is Grady Sizemore overrated? ... Lefty Cliff Lee (0.81 ERA over six starts, almost 20-1 strikeout-walk ratio) is better than Fausto Carmona was last year ... Is it really Progressive Field if the Indians are 8-11 there? ... Did I mention how screwy the AL Central is? ... When did the PRs turn into a Larry King column?
I was going to get into the blow-up doll controversy here, and mention how such a stupid, sophomoric gag is a direct reflection on their sometimes-wild manager, Ozzie Guillen, and how Ozzie is someday going to get himself into a pack of trouble that Kenny Williams can't get him out of, but ... I don't know. I'm exhausted.
Losers of six straight, and now under .500, the Brewers are looking terrible. Yovani Gallardo's injury sapped the strength from the rotation. Fans are calling for closer Eric Gagne's head. And the realization is setting in that the team's double-play combination of the future, Rickie Weeks and J.J. Hardy, isn't all that. At all.
Manager Dave Trembley was hacked off last week that everyone was asking, somewhat incredulously, how the high-flying Orioles were managing to win all of those ballgames. The good news is, after a 2-5 week that included being swept by the A's at home, he won't have to worry about those questions anymore.
You win some, you lose more. That's the Royals, both on and off the field. They seem to have hit with reliever Ron Mahay, among others. But Jose Guillen (.185, .217 OBP, 30 strikeouts to five walks)? That's one big whiff.
You can shake up the lineup all you want, Jim Leyland. Put Gary Sheffield in left. Move around your infielders. Cut the deadwood. But that pitching staff, remember, has given up more runs than anyone in either league. Shake that.
In their past eight losses, the Mariners have scored 10 runs. In their past three -- all at the hands of the woeful Rangers -- they have scored one. In their past two -- none. They keep scoring like that, the fans are gonna run them.
The word around town is that both Xavier Nady and Jason Bay have been asked about by other teams. (That from the Post-Gazette.) Both are playing well. Both could be traded. And that'd probably be best for everybody.
There's a lot wrong with the Nationals. Certainly more than we have the space, or the inclination, to get into this far down in the PRs. But one guy you can't blame is lefty starter Odalis Perez (0-3, 3.43), who has been better than those numbers indicate.
A recent USA Today piece gave new legs to the notion that Ken Griffey may end his career back where it started, in Seattle. The way the Mariners are going, the struggling one-time Kid (.244, .317 on-base) will fit right in.
Bad Barry Zito is back and wowing them again. Or, at least he's back. After 10 days in the bullpen, the Curve King made a triumphant return to the rotation. Meaning he lasted more than three innings and gave up fewer than 10 runs.
"The game," manager Clint Hurdle was saying the other day, "is hard for us right now." The worst part of the Rockies' terrible start is that it makes their magical September last year look more like a fluke every day.
Maybe the Padres have some sort of mystical, religious aversion to pentagons. How else can you explain -- I mean, other than that they have a lot of bad players -- that this team seems utterly afraid of crossing home plate?
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