It's ridiculous how this team keeps rolling out the studs. It's like some never-ending Chippendale review. Manager Bob Melvin cues the music, sends good-hitting pitcher Micah Owings to the plate as a pinch-hitter and -- ta da! -- a game-tying home run. The night before, in his Big Show debut, reliever Max Scherzer sets down all 13 hitters he faces, striking out seven and earning a spot in the rotation. It's uncanny.
Let's forget that Thursday evening beatdown by the A's, shall we? It's certainly not a debut that Nick Adenhart will remember fondly. The Angels have had a remarkable start, given the fact that their top two starters (John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar) are out and their DHs are having big-time troubles with the "H"ing part. Heroes? Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana are a combined 10-0, with a 2.27 ERA, in 12 starts
I still swallow hard assigning this team such a hallowed spot in the PRs, but the record ? 18-11, second best in the game -- kind of forces the issue. Are they really better than the two teams behind them, both in the real standings and in the PRs? Well, we'll find out when they play the Cubs this weekend at Busch Stadium and the Brewers in Milwaukee next weekend. After Sunday, the Cards play 14 of 20 on the road. If they're still seven over .500 after that, this will be legit.
They just proved they're no pushovers in winning two of three from the Cubs, and the thinking is, with Mike Cameron finally off his season-opening suspension, that they're about to take off. I'm not sure it's going to work just like that, but the Brewers should get better. Speaking of which, you know who's vastly underrated? Right fielder Corey Hart. He hasn't found his power stroke yet, and he doesn't walk enough. But he's good.
Two quick thoughts: After watching Kerry Wood close on Thursday -- if you want to call it that -- I'm saying Carlos Marmol should have the closer job by the All-Star break. At the latest. And, two, if I had the power to knock the Cubs down in SI.com's Ballpark Rankings, I would. In a second. You see those dippy Wrigley Field fans pelting Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun with garbage? No. 8 in Fan IQ, my eye.
Well, well, lookie here. The darlings of deep-thinking baseball analysts everywhere -- yes, there is such an animal -- are sitting on top of the American League East, four games over .500, the best they've ever been this late in the season. And it gets better, too. Staff ace Scott Kazmir is returning, making his season debut Sunday in Boston. It's time to face facts, folks. The Rays are pretty good. Are they good enough to keep this up, though?
This was a rough week, redeemed only by two straight walkoff wins over the Jays. The Sox are not hitting (just .205 with a .275 on-base percentage and three homers in their last eight games, in which they're 2-6). So they're not scoring (four runs in their last five games). They've lived by the walkoff (eight of their 17 wins have come in their last at-bat). But, man, they're killing us by doing it that way all the time.
On the plus side of the ledger, the Phillies rolled into May with a winning record for the first time since 2003. So the National League East leaders, for once, don't have to worry about playing catch-up. On the negative side -- we do fair and balanced here in the PRs -- the starters aren't exactly tearing it up. The Phils are especially worried about Brett Myers' so-called fastball, a red flag if ever there was one.
Reliever Joe Beimel threw one pitch Thursday -- an 87 mph fastball to Florida's Jeremy Hermida -- got him to pop up and earned a W. Just like that. It was the sixth straight win for the Dodgers, who have hit .317 in the streak with a .419 OBP. They've averaged almost eight runs a game, too. And the bullpen hasn't given up a run in 25 straight innings. I don't know what these guys did with the real Dodgers, but these guys will do.
I'm not sure what to make of the A's just yet, and I don't feel all that bad about it because I don't think anybody in the Bay Area does, either. And that includes Billy Beane. They just split a series with the Angels, scoring one run in their two losses and 29 (!) in their two wins. They're pitching well (3.21 ERA). That said, somebody pleaaaase take that glove away from Jack Cust before he hurts himself.
It's hard not to like the gregarious Nick Swisher, who calls himself "Dirty 30," (for his uniform number and his style of play). But the Sox didn't trade for Swisher so he would hit .194, as he has during Chicago's latest 3-5-1 stretch. Give the Sox props for leading the division. But they won't lead much longer playing like that.
I am a member of The Unconvinced when it comes to the O's. And skipper Dave Trembley has no use for us. "I don't like to keep hearing, 'You guys are a piece of crap. How come you're playing so well?'" Trembley told the Sun's Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. I don't blame you, Dave. Still, would you mind answering the question?
For a winning team a mere half-game out of first, the Mets sure smell like losers. Their latest stinker, a 13-1 loss to the Pirates, was followed by some uncalled-for sniping in the press, from closer Billy Wagner at starter Oliver Perez. Now, they head West to play the best team in the league (Arizona) and the hottest (L.A.). Duck!
In a bid to change the team's luck after two losses to the Dodgers, Fredi Gonzalez handed out razors to his relievers and ordered them to shave off their mustaches. Then the Marlins lost again. (The bullpen, in the L.A. series, had a 5.54 ERA.) Next step: Bring in Rollie Fingers to show the kids how to grow a real 'stache.
That was a touching homecoming, wasn't it? After all that talk of their hardships on the road, the Yanks came back to Yankee Stadium only to send Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Phil Hughes to the disabled list and to get swept by the finally surging Tigers. Really, how hard can room service at the Ritz be?
Cliff Lee (5-0, 0.96 ERA) is a great story, all right. His streak of 27 straight scoreless innings finally was busted up in the seventh Wednesday. And switch-hitting catcher Victor Martinez is off to a pretty decent start, hitting .356. Just think how good this team would be if DH Travis Hafner (.221, .314 OBP) got it together.
They're one game under .500. What can you say about that? What's more, they're only 1 1/2 games out of first. Since their 2-10 start, they are 12-5. They're hitting .290 in that stretch. They've averaged almost 6.9 runs a game since that start, and given up 4.4. What can you say? The rest of the division blew it. The Tigers are back.
Francisco Liriano's return to the minors looked an awful lot like his return to the bigs. He was shelled by Pawtucket five days after being shelled by the A's. The Twins, meanwhile, are hovering around .500, waiting for things to click, looking for some hitting. It's not happening. That blur they saw pass them was the Tigers.
You can smell the desperation from here. The M's cut $3 million outfielder Brad Wilkerson and called up a couple of hot-shot minor leaguers, catcher Jeff Clement and outfielder Wladimir Balentien, to try to stir their offense. But they're 4-8 in their last 12 games (.293 OBP). If the Mariners don't snap out of it, heads will roll.
John Smoltz, when he returns from the DL, will slide into the bullpen because that's what he's most comfortable doing with that bum shoulder, and John Smoltz knows what he's doing. And Bobby Cox will let him do it. Because he's Bobby Cox. And, let's face it, the Braves need pitching help anywhere they can get it.
All you need to know about the Astros and their current plight is that Shawn Chacon (0-0, 3.32 ERA in six starts) is pitching better than Roy Oswalt. Good for Chacon, maybe. Not good for the Astros or ace Oswalt.
Zack Greinke took his first loss Thursday, though he pitched well against the Rangers, and Brian Bannister is now 0-3 in his three starts, with an 8.59 ERA. If the Royals don't have pitching, they don't have much at all.
Whatever happened to Johnny Cueto? How quickly our attentions turn. The spring training sensation, after a 10-strikeout debut, is 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA. He lasted 1 2/3 in his last start. But Edinson Volquez still rocks. For now.
Two walkoff losses to Boston -- the second after the Jays cut down one potential winning run at the plate -- was par for the masochistic course. Stupid baserunning, a hard-luck star (Roy Halladay), a manager under fire ... the Jays are a mess.
Winners of four in a row and six of their last seven, the Nats still bring up the rear of a weak NL East. Nobody hits on this team. Remember Nick Johnson's hot start? Since a three-hit game on April 5, he's batting .172.
They now have the highest-paid bullpen in baseball (I wonder if Barry Zito will install a La-Z-Boy out there), and one of the cheapest rotations. Look out for lefty Jonathan Sanchez (2-1, 3.48). He's no Zito. That's good.
The pitchers have given up more walks than anyone. The lineup is hitting .215 with runners in scoring position. Tulo's quad injury is bad, but he was hitting .152. It's not as if the Rocks can really get much worse.
Jim Edmonds (.160) has been bumped down to seventh in the lineup. That lineup. It's like the photographer sticking you behind Fat Aunt Martha in the Ugly family portrait. Has Edmonds really sunk that low? Have the Padres?
John Grabow finally gave up a run last week, his first in 15 appearances, and as the Pirates' luck would have it, it cost them the game. It's going to be hard to say anything positive about the Bucs from here on out.
Since Ron Washington's job status was discussed by Texas' higher-ups, the Rangers have won two series in a row, against the Twins and Royals. They're still alarmingly sloppy. But they still have their manager.
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