The Red Sox take over the top spot in the Power Rankings, and who's to argue? A storybook no-hitter by Jon Lester. Another win from the unbeaten Daisuke Matsuzaka (8-0, 2.40). A seven-game winning streak. A .300 team batting average during the run, with a 3.29 ERA. They have the best record in baseball and the best record at home (21-5). A warning: They've played just 15 games against teams .500 or better (7-8).
"It seems like when you go over Vlad's hitting zones [in the scouting report] all of the boxes are red," Toronto starter Shaun Marcum said Wednesday, " There are no blue boxes. Every box is a hot zone." Yeah, bad-ball hitting Vladimir Guerrero can get you -- he cranked two homers off Marcum -- but he hit only .190 last week and is way off his career numbers. If Vlad ever gets really red, everybody better watch out.
Jim Edmonds isn't hitting any better in Chicago -- 2-for-15 so far ? than he did in San Diego, but he did make a nifty over-the-shoulder catch on Tal?s Hill in Houston the other day. And he is hitting better than Felix Pie is down in the minors, where he?s 3-for-27 so far. So the Cubs will probably stick with him as long as they keep their lead in the National League Central (one game over the Cards) and Edmonds doesn't blow out a pinkie or something.
The second-place Rays just finished a road trip 3-3, which is certainly fine and all, but there's no resting now. Twenty-five of the Rays' next 31 games -- a full month's worth, plus -- are against teams that currently have winning records. And the other six games are all against Texas, an up-and-comer that is only one game below .500 going into this weekend. What the Rays really need are some games against the old Devil Rays.
The Cards had a successful, if disturbingly bloody (see Padres) week. All credit to Tony La Russa and his guys who, after sinking earlier in the month, continue to grind away. They're doing it, remember, without longtime closer Jason Isringhausen, rehabbing from a partially self-induced smacking around. Since Izzy's last appearance on May 15, the Cards are 0-for-1 in save chances (Kyle McClellan blew it). But they're OK.
Pat Burrell hit one of those cheapie Crawford Box home runs in Houston on Thursday, a pinch-hit job that pushed Philly to a win. But Burrell has cooled off; since May 9, he's hitting just .179, with two homers in 18 games. It's good for the Phillies, then, that Ryan Howard is finally starting to get his swing together. Last week, he had four homers, hit .321 and boasted an OPS of 1.227. Still striking out a lot. But he's connecting some, too.
Fun stat of the day about the Big Puma (we're talking Lance Berkman here): He can hit it anywhere. In a box, with a fox, in a house ... well, you get it. But since manager Cecil Cooper dropped him from third to fourth in the order, between Miguel Tejada and Carlos Lee, Berkman is batting .436, with a sick .514 OBP and a 1.360 OPS. The Astros, not at all coincidentally, are 21-11 since then. Sam-I-Am's got nothing on Berkman.
I caught a little grief for calling the Braves lucky when, given their big edge in runs scored and their problems in one-run games, you could argue they've been anything but. Still, with the injuries they've had in the bullpen, and to John Smoltz, it's impressive this team is where it is, a season-best five over. Thank the sizzling Mark Teixeira (.462, 1.133 in his last seven) and Brian McCann (.458, 1.230) for the boost.
I may be a little late to this piling on -- I was snakebit, what can I say? -- but the Diamondbacks, honestly, have some proving to do. The rotation's great, granted. The bullpen is spiffy. Those young hitters are otherworldly. Fine. But unless our little reptiles start to show a little spine outside their lame division -- they're 20-5 against the West, 8-14 against everyone else -- we're going to take a break in this lovefest.
Eight wins in a row -- maybe the most surprising string of wins this year for any team -- has pushed the ChiSox into the PR's Top Ten and into a 3 1/2 game lead in the AL Central. We've touted him before, but let's give some more PR love to Carlos Quentin, who has found a new home, some much-needed playing time and a .996 OPS (second in the AL only to Texas' Milton Bradley) with the ChiSox.
Oh, I get it. It was the knee! All along, it was Andruw Jones' sore knee. That's what was making him bite on all that down-and-away stuff. We should've known. Dodgers' fans should be relieved to have that finally cleared up. And they should be happy with Matt Kemp, too, who is hitting .356 in relief of Jones in center field.
It's hard to figure how the Marlins can lose back-to-back series against the Reds and Royals, then turn around and beat the No. 1 pitcher in the game (Brandon Webb) and sweep a former No. 1 in the PRs (Webb's D'backs). That's just part of the mystery and intrigue of this dirt-cheap team, the most unlikely division leader in baseball.
I'm not ready to forgive Peter Angelos for years of meddling, but I'm almost ready to give him credit for not interfering this year. The new O's are OK, thanks to centerpieces like Daniel Cabrera. He has 14 Ks and one walk in his last three starts (3-0, 2.35 ERA), and he's tied for the AL lead in quality outings. Hands off, Pete.
The early season mojo seems to be fading fast for the overachieving A's, who now have lost four straight series, the last to the almost-as-green Rays. The A's are now dangerously close to going sub-.500. In fact, with the mojo-laden Red Sox up next, if the A's finish this weekend with their heads above the line, they'll have done well.
Somebody asked me this week which team, among the surprise starters, is likely to be in a playoff race in September. You can never count out the Cards. But given their division and their history, it's hard to discount this team, too. The Twins are .500ish, and neither Delmon Young or Joe Mauer has hit a homer. Longshot, but a shot.
A winless week (0-6) sends the Tribe tumbling down the PRs. It's the old bugaboo; you score a lousy 13 runs in six games, it's going to be hard to win, no matter how good the pitching is. The Indians went from a half-game up in the Central to 4 1/2 behind. Who's to blame? Let's pick on Grady Sizemore, 3-for-his-last-23.
Shaun Marcum, a 26-year-old righty, still doesn't have 50 big-league starts to his name, but he's quickly becoming one of those guys you need to keep an eye on. His 2.80 ERA is sixth in the AL, and his 0.87 WHIP trails only Cleveland's Cliff Lee. Why isn't this guy more touted? Oh, yeah. Forgot where he played for a second.
Ooooh, it's ugly. When you call the boss to say you're sorry, and the boss won't return your call ... well, Willie Randolph, it's time to brush up the ol' resume. The Mets' skipper bought some time with a weekend win in the Subway Series, but his sloppy team was swept in four by the Braves. It's just a matter of time now.
As comeback stories go, it's hard to top Josh Hamilton's. His metamorphosis from down-and-out druggie to one of the top talents in baseball is positively inspirational. Better yet for Texas fans, he's taking them along for the ride. His All-Star numbers (.335, 12 homers, 53 RBIs, all tops in the AL) have sparked the Rangers' revival.
Pain in closer Eric Gagne's shoulder flared up late this week, and the word now is that it's tendinitis in his rotator cuff, which will sideline him a couple days, at least, and could knock him out for a couple of weeks if the team decides to put him on the DL. In super-tense Milwaukee, this is not devastating news.
A promising week fizzled with a four-game sweep at the hands of the new No. 1, including that slap-in-the-grill no-hitter on Monday by Boston's Jon Lester. K.C. still has four games left on this road trip, too. It can get worse.
A-Rod is back and hitting home runs, and the Yankees pulled off a nice walkoff win Thursday, their first of the year. Still, the intrigue is with the new Joba Plan. A bigger question: Who's gonna take Chamberlain's place in the 'pen?
"We're still right there. If we can piece things together, it will be interesting to see what happens," Bucs? manager John Russell said after a win over the Brewers on Thursday. My question: Exactly where is right there?
"Whatever they want to do, I'll do it," Dontrelle Willis said after his demotion to the bullpen. Shouldn't that be how every team player thinks? Especially a team player who is getting $29 million over the next three years?
After six straight wins at home, the Reds have started a West Coast roadie 0-4, making them a baseball-worst 7-18 away from home. Chavez Ravine is a nightmare for them: they've lost nine straight games to the Dodgers there.
The Post asked GM Jim Bowden about hitting coach Lenny Harris' job security, considering the Nats are among the worst in the league with bats in their hands. Bowden, predictably, backed his guy. They lost the next game, 12-2.
The Giants are pretty self-explanatory. They hang with the poorer teams (winning two one-run games in Colorado last week) and get smacked around by the better ones (they're 10-18 against teams .500 or better).
Last year, the Rocks never fell more than nine games under .500. They've already been 12 under this year, and they go into the weekend 11 down. "It's tough sledding right now," manager Clint Hurdle says. Didn't he say that a few weeks ago?
Is there a more painful team to watch? OK. Maybe one. But the M's are excruciating. I mean, they were just swept by the Tigers! And none of the games were close. The worst record in the AL on the road. Awful.
Another brutal week, this one low-lighted by injuries to starter Chris Young and catcher Josh Bard, both KO'd by St. Louis' Albert Pujols in the same inning. The Padres were going to shake things up anyway. Pujols simply pushed them along.
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