The around (and about)
Mets 6, Braves 4: Strange game for John Maine, a quality start despite six walks in six innings. He and Mike Pelfrey are the dark spots when one considers the team’s ability to win the division. Maine has been all over the map and given Pelfrey’s strikeout-walk rates, he’s not pitching hurt so much as pitching dead… Carlos Beltran doesn’t get enough credit in general, but in some towns they’d be collecting funds to raise a statue to him given his .400/.500/.611 start. In New York you never hear a thing about it.
Nationals 9, Astros 4: In which the Nats avoid the humiliation of losing to Brian Moehler, which seemed a sure thing through five innings. Washington played something like it’s “A” lineup — Guzman, Johnson, Zimmerman, Dunn, Dukes, Kearns, Flores, Anderson Hernandez — and if you squint you can see a good offense in there, one that has been about league average this year and should continue to produce as the season goes on. Unfortunately, pitching remains a concept… Astros third basemen are hitting a combined .316/.391/.389, a product of the immortal platoon of Blum and Keppinger.
Brewers 7, Pirates 4: The Pirates sink to a game under .500, as the natural laws of the universe reassert themselves. Andy LaRoche, one of those plotlines we’ve been following, hit his first home run. Nyjer Morgan dropped his average under .300, and it will be interesting to see when or if the Pirates react as his offense continues to stagnate. J.J. Hardy: .167/.234/.286. Now that’s a slump. Note that Trevor Hoffman picked up his fourth save and has yet to allow a run in five innings, a nice (albeit small sample) turnaround from last year, when it seemed as if his declining fastball no longer sufficiently set off his magic changeup. He now leads Mariano Rivera 558 saves to 487. Given the looks of the active leader list, he and Rivera are going to be the only two pitchers with 500 saves for quite awhile. The closest, youngest pitcher is the Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez. If he finishes the year with 42 saves, he’ll have 250, placing him more than half a decade away even at an average of 40 saves a year. His mechanics argue that he won’t be around that long.
Twins 7, Tigers 2: In their last 10 games, the Tigers have hit .226/.290/.377, and yet they’ve split those games. The team ERA during that stretch is deceptive; it’s 3.74, which looks good, but the Tigers have played poor D, resulting in 14 unearned runs in that span. The club has allowed 5.2 runs per game. They’ve scored 42 runs and allowed 51, which is to say they’ve been very lucky to win as many games as they have. On the Twins’ side, Francisco Liriano, who a lot of writers were (inexplicably) touting for the Cy Young award in preseason polls, had his first truly strong start of the season. Maybe he rolls from here, maybe, Jake, it was just the Tigers.
Indians 9, Jays 7: Kerry Wood wouldn’t be my closer, but the Indians went Woodless last year and didn’t find any alternatives, hence the defrocked Cub being hired in the first place. Matt LaPorta picked the perfect time to get his first hit, a home run that ended a Brian Tallet shutout. Jays second line pitching — and it’s all second-line right now, but for the occasional Halliday for good behavior… I keep reading about how it is “baseball’s shame” that Cito Gaston was unwanted for so many years. Shame, shmame: Gaston developed an odd case of public hostility to his own best prospects, negating whatever clubhouse touch he had, and that’s all he had, because as a tactician he never pushed a button. He played one lineup every day and let them hit. His job stopped when he wrote out the lineup card, and he wrote out the lineup card on opening day. Sure, the Jays are doing well now, but it’s always dangerous to assume “after therefore because.” Maybe Gaston has changed, but more likely the Jays have — and it’s all transient anyway.
Orioles 8, Rays 4: Scott Kazmir, who I thought might break through this year (there’s my preseason poll confession, though I only ranked him third among my Cy Hopefuls) has been no fun at all, and the Rays toss a game to the Adam Eaton-led O’s that they really should have won. Not much else to say except that the Rays had better find the stick before Evan Longoria cools off-he’s not likely to hit .360 all year long.
Marlins 3, Reds 2: It took 14 for the Reds to make a fatal error. It must hurt to play 4.5 hours in front of the tired remnants of a crowd that (officially) was only 10,825 to begin with.
Cubs 4, Giants 2: Making a long story short, the Giants walks the ballpark and lose, Jonathan Sanchez failing to find the strike zone after a good start to the season. Note Pedro Sandoval, the Giants’ version of Robinson Cano (the third base/catcher version, that is). He’s hitting .322/.365/.500, and despite four walks, he can really do this, the usual Cano disclaimers about wavering batting averages notwithstanding. Perhaps Cano has been frightened into changing his ways, and we have to come up with a new set of disclaimers, something about not operating certain ballplayers near open flames.
Royals 3, White Sox 0: Another start, another Zack Greinke shutout, and one of the game’s best stories gets even better. If he could get the Cy Young award right now, I wouldn’t mind the rest of the season being called off. That sounds like hyperbole, but the guy has had to overcome a lot, and now that he’s doing so well it’s trying to worry about whether he’ll keep overcoming it. As a side note, the White Sox continue to sink, but we knew that was going to happen.
Phillies 6, Cardinals 1: Rick Ankiel is a lucky man to be walking today; if you saw the video, you’d think he had broken his neck the way it bent when he hit the wall. In baseball terms, the Cards are in good shape if he’s out for a little bit because of Colby Rasmus, but Ankiel is already out of the hospital and they may not need to do without for long. We could suggest that Rasmus could Wally Pipp Ankiel, but that would be in poor taste just now… Raul Ibanez at Philadelphia: .412/.492/.882, a big change from suppressive Safeco.
Angels 5, Athletics 2: Sometimes it seems as if the A’s last won a game under Connie Mack, but it’s only been two straight losses. Unfortunately they’ve both been in-division, so the impact is disproportionate. Notable, because I like him: Mike Napoli, designated hitter, went 4-for-4 (two doubles, two RBIs) to raise his rates to .364/.493/.673. There are 100 points of batting average there that are going to go away, but Napoli’s Posada-style attack means he’s a force at .260.
Rockies 9, Padres 6: Who will be the first Rockies Hall of Famer? You could make an argument for Larry Walker, who was an excellent player before and after, but Todd Helton seems more likely. Injuries have eroded his power game, but he now has his average up to .333 and will pass 2,000 hits in good style this year. Sure, like all Rockies he’s something of a park effect, but that doesn’t make him illegitimate; it would only disqualify him if every Rockies player hit like Helton, and we know they don’t. Seems to me that being able to exploit your environment is a real skill.
Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 2: Arizona is averaging 3.8 runs of offense per game, and that’s saying something considering their overly friendly ballpark. It seems unlikely to improve by terribly much… If the Dodgers’ outfielders keep up their present work, they’d be on the short list for greatest single-season outfield of all time. Ironic given that two-thirds of the crew had difficulty getting past Mr. Torre last spring.
Rangers 6, Mariners 5: I’m trying to think of something clever to say about Junior Griffey’s inflamed colon, but perhaps sympathy is the best gesture. I remember when Tony Gwynn missed time with kidney stones I thought, “Wuss.” Then I got kidney stones myself, repeatedly, and I’ve been mentally apologizing to Gwyn
n ever since. Anyway, Felix Hernandez only wishes he could blame a are off-day on his colon. The Rangers went a game over .500 with this win, and keep an eye on ’em — Derek Holland is in the Majors, Neftali Feliz will be along as soon as he puts things together at Triple-A, but even if Feliz stays down all year, the Rangers are going to win the AL West.