This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: April 21-27, 2014
Who's Next to Reach 500 HRs? Flunking Simple Math in the Replay War Room
Who's the Most Popular Team in Your County? Sammy Sosa Gets Dissed


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
29 8 9 1 0 5 14 0 0 0 0

Do you think the Chicago White Sox are all smiles to sign the Cuban émigré for $68 million? A lot of their critics initially said that the big Abreu was a one-dimensional player, but so far that one dimension is worth all that money; this past week was his best yet, powering up and adding to a season total that’s the highest in terms of homers (ten) and RBIs (31) by any rookie in the month of April, ever. He currently leads all players in both categories.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
22 8 11 4 1 1 7 4 1 0 0

The 35-year-old had a fabulous week as he continues in his attempts to build goodwill within the majors a few years after being shamed for his amphetamine suspension. Things started beautifully with three hits (including his first homer of the year) and four RBIs in Monday’s 7-0 Phillies win at L.A., and he added two other three-hit performances later in the week. Whether Ruiz really has his Mojo back will depend on how long he can keep this up.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jordan Danks, Chicago White Sox

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
17 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0

While Abreu heated things up at the plate for the White Sox, Danks iced it back down. The 27-year-old Austin native got everyday playing time this past week as Chicago’s outfielding unit thinned out due to injury; if he was hoping to use the activity to lobby the team into keeping him in the starting lineup, he failed badly. Aside from all the zeroes above, he also was caught stealing once and struck out seven times.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia Phillies

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
21 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

While Ruiz heated things up at the plate for the Phillies, Galvis iced it back down. No, this isn’t déjà vu. Like the White Sox, the Phillies got the best and worst of it from their lineup this week as Galvis—like Ruiz, another past PED user—stank up the joint with a totally hitless week and eight strikeouts. Overall, he’s a putrid 1-for-30 on the year. We know what you’re thinking, Freddy, but resist, pal, resist.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Collin McHugh, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 15.1 5 1 1 3 0 0 0 0 19

Here’s genuine proof that you can’t predict anything in baseball. Take McHugh, a 26-year-old with a career 0-8 record and 8.94 ERA bouncing around the waiver wire during the offseason before the Astros give him a slot with Scott Feldman injured. And this is what happens. Naturally, of course. McHugh became born again (or just born) with two eye-opening efforts at Seattle on Tuesday and at home against the A’s on Sunday, when he finished a mere out shy of both a complete game and shutout.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 15 7 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 10

Not even a hyper-extended knee that forced him to leave his Tuesday outing against the Mets could keep the Cardinals ace from having an exemplary week; he rebounded to pitch eight shutout innings (allowing just three hits) on Sunday against the Pirates to become the majors’ first five-game winner on the year. Wainwright hasn’t allowed a run in 25 innings, one shy of a personal best.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Josh Fields, Houston Astros

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-2 2.1 7 8 8 1 0 1 0 0 5

The 28-year-old right-hander got the week off to a good start by striking out the side in one inning’s work on Monday and earning a save on Tuesday…then it all fell apart. He blew a 3-2 lead and surrendered a three-run walk-off homer to Seattle’s Kyle Seager on Wednesday, then couldn’t retire any one of five Oakland hitters (all of whom scored) in a disastrous ninth on Friday. Fields is part of manager Bo Porter’s musical chairs of closers in the Astros bullpen, but with crash-and-burns like this he’ll likely be the odd man out.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Robbie Erlin, San Diego Padres

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 5.1 13 8 8 2 0 0 0 0 3

In the young southpaw’s limited career to date, he’s definitely learned one thing: Stay away from the Nationals. Erlin took the mound on Friday at Washington and got hammered in his third straight loss—and his worst so far this season. In two career starts against the Nats, he’s allowed 17 runs on 19 hits over 9.1 innings. His next shot comes this week against the Giants, who’s he also never beaten (but for whom he’s never been beaten up by).


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Texas Rangers (4-2)

Texas may have blown a few late-innings tires in their weekend series at Seattle, but they get praise here for sweeping three games to start the week at top divisional rival Oakland, an important statement given how hot the A’s had been and how unsure most around baseball have felt about the Rangers’ chances this year. Matt Harrison returned to the rotation and gave the Rangers feel-good momentum, but that bullpen needs to its job. Against the A’s, it did; against Seattle, it didn’t.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Atlanta Braves (5-1)

Another week, another round of brilliant starting pitching that has kept the Braves at the top of the NL East—and their rotation at the top of the charts with a phenomenal 1.57 ERA (and 0.98 WHIP) after 24 games. Atlanta’s only loss on the week came on Tuesday when Miami’s Jose Fernandez gave the Braves a taste of their own medicine with eight sensational innings. Memo to Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen: Take your time getting back to good health, the Braves are covered for now.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Toronto Blue Jays (2-4)

The Blue Jays came into the week with a winning mark and a six home games against AL rivals Baltimore and Boston, but even though R.A. Dickey was able to bookend the week with two nifty efforts to put Toronto in the win column, in between bore a ghastly series of pitching performances that all resulted in losses and shows why the Jays’ staff is among baseball’s worst. The low point came on Saturday when Brandon Morrow allowed four runs in 2.2 innings of work on eight walks and no hits.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (2-5)

When the pound-your-chest, we’re-rich Dodgers looked at the schedule back in March and saw the Phillies and Rockies at home for the week, they must have been thinking one thing: Cakewalk. Ah, money doesn’t buy you happiness—or wins. The latter was certainly were hard to come by as an uneven but mostly lackluster offense failed to get the Dodgers off the ground and over the hump. Now they go on the road against two more inferior opponents, Minnesota and Miami. Don’t phone these in, either.


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, April 21
In their annual Patriots Day morning game, the Boston Red Sox pay tribute to those fallen in the Boston Marathon bombing a year earlier—then fall behind the visiting Baltimore Orioles, 6-0, before mounting a comeback that ends just short in a 7-6 loss. Boston starter Clay Buchholz, who didn’t lose a game until September 21 last year, is now 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA.

The Houston Astros, skidding through another losing streak (this one at seven games) and on the road in Seattle against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, manage to persevere as they net six runs off King Felix—two earned—in a 7-2 win.

In his third game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, former Mets first baseman Ike Davis nails a third-inning grand slam to help lift the Pirates to a 6-5 win over Cincinnati at PNC Park. After a .208 start with New York, Davis is 5-for-13 with the Bucs.


Tuesday, April 22
Albert Pujols connects on his 500th career home run—and his second of the night—in the fifth inning of a 7-2 win for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Washington. The 34-year, 96-day-old Pujols knocks in five runs overall and becomes the third youngest player after Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx to reach 500.

Miami tops the Braves at Atlanta, 1-0, as Marlins ace Jose Fernandez outduels Alex Wood with eight shutout innings, 14 strikeouts and three hits allowed. The game features 28 strikeouts and no walks—the most K’s in a modern-era game without a pass. It’s also the majors’ 12th 1-0 game in April, setting another all-time record.

Colin McHugh, taking the mound for the Astros with a career 0-8 record and 8.94 ERA, completely confounds the Mariners at Seattle by throwing 6.2 shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out 12. Houston rolls to a 5-2 victory.

Jacoby Ellsbury receiving a mixed reaction from Boston fans in his first game back at Fenway Park since joining the New York Yankees, collects both a double and triple in the Yankees’ 9-3 win over the Red Sox. Masahiro Tanaka throws 7.1 innings to improve to 3-0 on the season.

A week after throwing a three-hit shutout against the Pirates, the Reds’ Johnny Cueto fares slightly worse in a second outing versus the Bucs at Pittsburgh; he gives up a run but again goes the distance on three hits as Cincinnati triumphs, 4-1.


Wednesday, April 23
The Chicago Cubs celebrate the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field as only they know how—by blowing a 5-2 ninth-inning lead and losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-5. Aaron Hill’s two-run triple—his fourth hit of the day—caps the five-run Arizona rally and breaks a 5-5 tie. It’s the first time since 2000 that the Cubs have blown that big a lead in the ninth at home.

The Yankees’ Michael Pineda has a rough first inning at Boston (allowing two runs) but has an even rougher second—getting ejected when umpires discover a streak of pine tar on his neck. The Red Sox’ John Lackey, on the other hand, is masterful (and presumably clean) with eight strong innings including 11 strikeouts and no walks, leading Boston to a 5-1 win.

In a Coors Field Special, the San Francisco Giants outpace the Colorado Rockies in 11 innings, 12-10; the game features nine home runs, six by the Giants—including a pair of deep flies each from back-up catcher Hector Sanchez and outfielder Michael Morse, whose two shots bot go at least 450 feet. The 12 runs for the Giants is more than they had tallied in their previous six games combined.

Martin Perez deals his second straight shutout and cements a three-game sweep for Texas at divisional rival Oakland with a 3-0 win. Perez has now tossed 26 straight scoreless innings; the last pitcher to blank opponents back-to-back was the Phillies’ Cole Hamels in 2012.


Thursday, April 24
St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn loses for the first time ever in April after 12 career wins for the month, as the New York Mets take a 4-1 victory at Citi Field; former Boston ace Daisuke Matsuzaka takes the mound for New York in the ninth and earns his first career save..

The Washington Nationals have no one but themselves to blame for a 4-3, 12-inning loss to the visiting San Diego Padres. The Nats are a franchise game-worst 0-for-16 with runners in scoring position and leave 14 runners on base. The win is a costly one for the Padres, losing Chase Headley and Seth Smith to injuries.

The Yankees take the series finale at Fenway over the Red Sox, 14-5 in a game that features 19 runs, 18 hits—and 18 walks. The truly odd box score line belongs to the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, who goes 0-for-3 but scores four times, walking thrice and stealing two bases.

In an ugly game at Minute Maid Park before 19,987 (most of them hopefully no-shows), the Astros commit five errors and are beat up by the visiting A’s, 10-1. Unlike last week, when the two teams got together, Oakland’s Jed Lowrie does not bunt with an early big lead—but he’s still not forgiven by the Astros, as pitcher Paul Clemens plunks him in the back in the seventh inning and is immediately ejected. Josh Donaldson smacks a double and two homers for the A’s.


Friday, April 25
The Mets rally for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tip Miami, 4-3, handing Marlins closer Steve Cishek his first blown save after successfully converting 33 opportunities—the longest active run in the majors. Making the comeback all the more improbable is four hits off Cishek from left-handed batters after he had not allowed a single hit to one all year to date.

The Angels blast the Yankees at New York, 13-1, despite no on-base appearances for either of their two top hitters in the lineup, J.B. Shuck and Mike Trout. The rest of the batting order combines to go 16-for-33 with four doubles and four homers. That’s the first time since 1935 the no. 1 and 2 spots have failed to reach base in a major league game while scoring 13 or more runs.

The Astros self-destruct via the beanball again. Tied at 5-5 in the ninth, Oakland leadoff batter Brandon Moss is hit by a Chad Qualls pitch; seven runs later, Moss returns to the plate and is plunked again (this time by Josh Fields), making him only the second American Leaguer, after Brady Anderson in 1999, to be hit twice in one inning. The A’s easily hold on for a 12-5 win, but not before a moment of retribution in the bottom of the ninth when A’s pitcher Fernando Abad nails Jason Castro—leading to an angry rant by and ejection for Houston manager Bo Porter.


Saturday, April 26
Toronto starting pitcher Brandon Morrow gives up no hits in a short 2.2-inning stint against Boston but simply can’t find the strike zone—walking a career-high eight batters, four of whom score. After Morrow’s departure, Chad Jenkins gives up the Red Sox’ first hit—a grand slam to A.J. Pierzynski—and the Blue Jays lose, 7-6, despite outhitting the Red Sox by a 13-5 margin.

Washington’s Tanner Roark throws his first career complete game and shutout, tossing a three-hitter to defeat the visiting Padres, 4-0. In 19 appearances (ten starts) since arriving on the big league scene last year, Roark is 9-1 with a 1.98 ERA.

The unknowns take center stage at Yankee Stadium in a 4-3 win over the Angels. Rookie catcher John Ryan Murphy knocks in three runs, two on his first career homer, and reliever Dellin Betances picks up his first-ever win after taking over for shaky starter Vidal Nuno.


Sunday, April 27
The Giants sweep Cleveland thanks to a ninth-inning, tie-breaking home run from Brandon Hicks to win, 4-1. The game is played in front of the 258th consecutive sellout at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, setting a National League record previous held by Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

The Diamondbacks are shut out at Phoenix by the Phillies, 2-0, to drop their official home record on the year to 2-13 (with two of those losses coming in Australia to the Dodgers). It’s the worst start by any major league team in their first 15 home games since the 1913 Yankees went winless in their first 17 outings in front of the home fans.

Toronto takes an easy 7-1 triumph over the Red Sox with a starting lineup that features six Dominican-born players—a major league record. Canadian-born Brett Lawrie goes deep for the Jays and now has a team-leading 20 RBIs—on just 17 hits.


Following on the Tails of Albert
Albert Pujols became baseball’s 26th player—and the tenth since 2000—to reach 500 career home runs when he achieved the milestone this past Tuesday at Detroit. The Angels slugger is second among active players, behind the barely active Alex Rodriguez, in career homers; there are five others currently behind him with 400 or more. But will any of them get to 500? Let’s take a look.

Adam Dunn (age 34; 445 career home runs). The big South Side bopper is young enough to easily reach the milestone—but that depends on whether he gets resigned after his current contract with the White Sox expires this year. Given he’s hit an even .200 in four years at Chicago, he may have to do a bit of begging to fetch that next deal and continue his pursuit of 500—or he may not; he has confessed that he’d easily give up the game if it wasn’t fun anymore.

Jason Giambi (age 43, 438 home runs). Playing on fumes at this point, Giambi seems happy enough with his current role as a full-time pinch-hitter for the Cleveland Indians, so his odds of reaching 500 are essentially nil.

David Ortiz (age 38, 436 home runs). Big Papi has showed signs of slowing but doesn’t appear to be leaking too much oil at this point; if he gets to 500, it likely won’t be until 2016 when he’s 40. So long as he stays healthy and loves the Red Sox and vice versa (vis-à-vis, he gets resigned in Boston), his chances are fair at worst.

Paul Konerko (age 38, 434 home runs). Dunn’s popular Chicago teammate has already said this will be his last year and has been sparingly used this season, so he’s not likely to expand much more on his current total.

Alfonso Soriano (age 38, 410 home runs). Seems hard to believe that the Dominican native is closing in on 40, so we’ll see if he has enough gas to make it to 500. He’ll get there if he can go on one of his patented power streaks and keep it going for an extended period of time.

Lurking under 400 and more likely to reach 500 sometime in the next decade is Miguel Cabrera (367 homers at age 31) and Prince Fielder (287 homers at age 30); a 50-50 proposition can be found in Adrian Beltre, who has 376 blasts less than a month after turning 35.

Quotas and Challenges and Errors, Oh My…
This Week in MLB Video Replay Gone Wrong
wounded of the weekIt’s embarrassing enough that MLB has to use replay to confirm what the count is—but it’s worse when even the review crew gets it wrong. The confusion began this past Monday at Tampa Bay when the Rays’
Yunel Escobar fouled off a 2-1 pitch on a check swing—or at least that’s what it appeared to those watching on TV. It certainly appeared that way to Minnesota pitcher Sam Deduno, who next fired a pitch right down the middle that Escobar took—and was perplexed when he didn’t get a strike three call. Assuming that home plate umpire Paul Schrieber believed that Escobar’s foul on the 2-1 actually went off catcher Kurt Suzuki’s glove and not Escobar’s bat, Deduno’s strike would have made it 3-2—but when the next pitch missed high, Escobar wasn’t given the walk.

That’s when the umpires huddled together and asked for a second opinion. The review team back in New York had a pitch-by-pitch look and, we assume, saw all six pitches—and yet, somehow, it also came back with 3-2. With the actual count now at 4-2 (or 3-3), Deduno next nailed Escobar with call strike three. Or strike four. You decide. MLB’s review process apparently can’t.

All of this exposes the problem when replay officials hide away in a room 1,000 miles away, give or take a thousand. Maybe they can feel self-assured that they’re on top of the situation after raiding the local Best Buy and adorning their war room with wall-to-wall monitors, but if they’re instead at the game and focusing on the action right in front of them as we suggest with our idea of expanded video replay, chances are this doesn’t happen.

Count by County
The New York Times put up a fantastic online infographic of the United States that shows, using colors and mouseover facts, which three major league teams are most popular by county. Check it out for yourself, but here’s some of the more interesting breakdowns we discovered, going from West Coast to East:

In California’s Santa Clara County, where the Oakland A’s would like to relocate, the San Francisco Giants are by far the more popular team—liked by 64% of residents as opposed to just 9% for the A’s. But here’s the embarrassing part: Even in Alameda County where the A’s currently play, their a distant second in popularity to the Giants.

The Giants also hold a slim majority throughout most of Hawaii, though the islands are a closer stone’s throw to Los Angeles than San Francisco.

In Las Vegas, where MLB won’t allow you to watch six “nearby” teams on mlb.tv, only one (the Dodgers) rank among the top three favorites. Residents there put the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox as the other two, probably because those teams aren’t blacked out.

The Yankees and Red Sox tend to be most popular in neutral areas of the country—places like Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and Alaska—where no major league team resides for hundreds if not thousands of miles.

In Fayette County, Texas—where the parents of TGG’s Eric Gouldsberry live—the Rangers and Houston Astros split a 30-30 share in popularity. Yes, Arlington is twice as far away as Houston—but then again, the Rangers are twice as good as the Astros.

The team with the widest swath of popularity may be the Minnesota Twins, who’s hold on the top spot from county to county stretches as far south as northern Nebraska and far west as eastern Montana.

No one in a one-team market has a shakier hold on the top spot in its own county than the Miami Marlins do in Dade County, Florida—holding a slim margin over the Yankees. There is essentially no regional support for Jeffrey Loria’s toy.

The same cannot be said for the Tampa Bay Rays, and that’s a huge sigh of relief for Rays management. Despite shamefully low attendance for a perennial playoff contender, residents within the Tampa-St. Petersburg area still claim to be loyal to the Rays, by healthy margins over the Yankees—who hold spring camp in Tampa.

In New York City, the counties of Queens and Nassau are 2-1 in favor of the Yankees over the Mets—and that’s as good as it gets for the Mets, who are a more distant second to their pinstriped neighbors elsewhere in Gotham and the extended region.

Hartford, Connecticut must make for some lively gatherings at the local sports bars when the Yankees and Red Sox knock heads. Both teams enjoy a favorable rating of 40%.

Sammy Who?
For Wrigley Field’s 100th birthday celebration this past week in Chicago, the Cubs brought out everything but the kitchen sink—and Sammy Sosa. The one-time feel-good slugger who put a smile on the 1998 home run chase but eventually became scorned through steroid accusations, corked bat usage and a severe falling out with his teammates was noticeably absent from the official on-field celebration this past Wednesday—and the Cubs were hardly coy in explaining why. Owner Tom Ricketts stated, “We can’t pretend that he didn’t exist, but it’s awkward,” while a team spokesman went further: “There are some things Sammy needs to look at and consider prior to having an engagement with the team.”

Some believe much of the existing tension between Sosa and the Cubs stems from his clubhouse attitude toward the end of his time in Chicago—highly underscored when teammates Kerry Wood and Mark Prior took a bat to a boom box Sosa had loudly played to the team’s chagrin at the end of the 2004 season (Sosa wasn’t there; he bailed on the team before the Cubs’ final game.)

It’s also believed that Sosa’s alleged PED usage—proven only through his leaked positive test in 2003—and his avoidance of the issue has also strained relations.

Will Sosa and the Cubs kiss and make up? It won’t be easy for Sammy. He was above the clubhouse and the organization with his trio of 60-plus homer seasons, but that leverage is now gone. Sosa may have to admit some things, apologize for others; the pain is already being felt based on his reaction to being left out of the Wrigley fiesta, stating: “I should have been there…It has been ten years since I played my last game with the Cubs. That’s a lot of time to not have had a conversation about this.”

Welcome to the Hard Luck Club
On the day Wrigley turned 100, Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija became the first pitcher in—you guessed it—100 years to go winless in his first five starts despite throwing at least seven innings and allowing no more than two earned runs in each of those outings.

A Pine in the Neck
Perhaps Michael Pineda read all the media and manager chatter of how nobody cared whether pitchers used foreign substances—and figured nobody would care if he used it again. The Yankee pitcher was caught red-palmed a few weeks earlier by TV cameras, using pine tar on his hand against Boston; that time, he washed away the pine tar before the Red Sox caught on to it. He wasn’t so lucky this past Wednesday when he faced off against the Red Sox at Boston.

After giving up a pair of runs in a shaky first inning, Pineda retook the mound in the second and, midway through, looked puzzled as time was called and the umpires, at the behest of Red Sox manager John Farrell, went out and checked Pineda’s palm. Then his back. And then his neck. When home plate umpire Gerry Davis put his finger on a smudge on the right side of Pineda’s neck and came up with pine tar, he immediately ejected the pitcher. Yankees manager Joe Girardi looked perturbed but did not argue; rules, after all, our rules.

Pineda was suspended ten days for being caught, officially; unofficially, he got caught the first time around against the Red Sox but, because the umpires didn’t know, he never got penalized.

Pineda’s latest touch of the tar once again led to discussion on whether such substances should be legalized, since a number of people within baseball believe it’s not being used as a means to cheat but rather to help get a better grip on a cold night. Others disagree—former star pitcher Dwight Gooden certainly believes you can get extra movement on a pitch using pine tar—but until the rules change, they’d best keep their foreign substances to themselves.

Rubbing it In
A day after Pineda’s dismissal, Meghan Duggan of the U.S. Olympic woman’s hockey team threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Thursday’s Red Sox-Yankees game—and rubbed the side of her neck before her toss, generating a mix of cheers and laughs from the Fenway Park crowd.

So Long, Connie
Shortly after he turned 100 in 2011, former pitcher Connie Marrero gave a short but sweet interview with TGG’s Ed Attanasio via phone from his homeland in Cuba, where he chose to remain even after Fidel Castro took control. “I was born here and I will die here,” he said.

Alas, this past week, Marrero made good on his latter promise, passing away just two days shy of his 103rd birthday on April 25; he was the oldest living ex-major leaguer, having pitched in the twilight of his career for the Washington Senators from 1950-54. He put together a 39-40 record with a 3.67 ERA during those years—not bad for a team known for being a constant loser—and made for conversation with his fantastic curve, a pitching delivery considered one the game’s most violent and his love of cigars (naturally—he’s from Cuba).

According to SABR member Peter Bjarkman, Marrero is one of only 16 major leaguers who lived past the age of 100.

Righting the Wrong
Baseball applied some common sense to the “transfer” rule that had been botched before the season with some strange interpretations. Increased criticism had come down on MLB after umpires saw what appeared to be sure outs and ruled them as dropped balls when fielders lost control of the ball even after they had secured it in their glove for as many as a few seconds. Realizing how embarrassing this had become, MLB and the players’ union got together this week and agreed to relax the interpretation so that, now, umpires can call it out if it looks obvious that the fielder has control of the ball in his glove.

The Zack With the Knack
Los Angeles pitcher Zack Greinke set a modern record this past week when he allowed two earned runs or less in his 17th straight start. The old mark of 16 was held by the New York Giants’ Ferdie Schupp from 1916-17.

Wherever I Go, I Make it Grand
Ike Davis, all but run out of New York last week, hit a grand slam in his third game for his new team, the Pittsburgh Pirates; it was his second homer of the year, and they’re both grand slams. Davis becomes only the second player ever to hit slams for two different teams in the same month; Don Lenhardt did it for Boston and Detroit in June 1952.

Putting Wood to Ball
Travis Wood’s home run against Arizona this past Monday gave him seven career blasts—with at least one in each of his first five seasons. The last pitcher to do that was Florida’s Dontrelle Willis, from 2003-07. Wood’s deep fly helped his Chicago Cubs to a 5-1 win.

This Week’s Sign That Everyone is Striking Out
The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins combined to strike out 78 times during their three-game series at Turner Field this past week to set a modern-era (since 1900) record. The Marlins went down on strikes 41 times, including 16 in the series finale on Thursday—the second time already this season that they’ve whiffed at least 16 in a nine-inning game.

This Week’s Sign That Maybe Not Everyone Isn’t Striking Out
On Saturday at Chicago, Tampa Bay’s Cesar Ramos became the first pitcher this year to earn a win and not strike out an opposing batter, throwing five shutout innings in a 4-0 win over the White Sox. Two Tampa Bay relievers combined for two strikeouts to finish the game.

This Week’s Sign That Nobody is Walking
Until he walked Cleveland’s Carlos Santana with a first-inning walk on Friday, Giants pitcher Tim Hudson had faced 115 batters to start the season without issuing a walk. That’s the longest any hurler has gone to begin a campaign without allowing a pass since 1944.

He Said What?
“Fifty-thousand empty seats. What a ceremony.” —Brewers legend Robin Yount, speaking at the unveiling of a second Bob Uecker sculpture at Miller Park—this one of the former player-turned-long-time broadcaster sitting in the cheap seats, an ode to his famous self-putdown in the Miller Lite beer commercials of the 1970s.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Colorado third baseman
Nolan Arenado is better known for his stellar glovework, but he’s almost a third of the way to making history at the plate if he can keep knocking the hits out on a daily basis as he ends the week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 17 games. This is the longest hitting streak for the second-year Arenado.

League vs. League
Thanks to the Giants’ three-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians to end the week, the National League is showing signs of pulling away from the American League early on in the interleague wars as the NL now holds a 19-15 record against its AL rivals.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekIt was an interesting week to say the least on the MLB injury front as many name players off to starts both good and bad were forced to the disabled list. Among the wounded are Baltimore’s Chris Davis (strained oblique) after what’s been a powerless start (two home runs in 22 games after belting 51 last year); Texas third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff (back), who’s charged well ahead in the Comeback Player of the Year race; Arizona outfielder Mark Trumbo (fractured foot), whose early home run binge has been one of the Diamondbacks’ few positives; Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale (arm strain), off to a 3-0, 2.30 ERA start; reigning NL batting champ Michael Cuddyer (hamstring), who’s off to another solid start for Colorado; and Washington outfielder Bryce Harper (thumb), who’s over-aggressive play is starting to suggest that any chance of putting in 162 games a season will be a difficult challenge.

Also hitting the shelf this week are Pittsburgh pitchers Wandy Rodriguez (knee) and Jason Grilli (strained oblique), Chicago outfielder Justin Ruggiano (hamstring), and the ever-fragile Josh Johnson, whose comeback attempt with San Diego has ended barely after it began when he was told to undergo his second Tommy John surgery.

Finally, the most painful moment of the week didn't involve anyone going to the DL, but it looked bad when Milwaukee's Jean Segura accidentally got in the range of teammate Ryan Braun's winding bat at the top of the Brewers dugout during Saturday's game against the Cubs. Segura suffered a laceration which required stitches but no concussion or fractures.


The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.


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