This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: April 29-May 5, 2013
What's Wrong With the Blue Jays? Is Baseball Ready For Its First Gay Player?
Dirk Hayhurst's 15 Minutes of Conspiracy Fame April Oddities

Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
26 8 11 2 0 3 10 5 1 0 0

The man arguably considered to be baseball’s best current-day hitter is just making it look too easy. Cabrera was his usual stellar self this past week, saving his best for the Tigers’ Saturday slaughter (17-2) at Houston as he poked out a pair of homers and knocked in six on four hits. As of Sunday, last year’s triple crown winner is again leading the majors in two of those categories: Batting average (.385) and RBIs (36).


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee Brewers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
26 8 12 2 1 3 5 3 0 1 5

The once-top prospect never blossomed in Minnesota and has struggled to do the same in Milwaukee over the past three years—until this season, where he’s off to a hot start, with this week’s effort in particular calling more attention to what may very well be his belated arrival as a major league stud. Gomez’s three homers doubled his season output, and his NL-best .368 average is an eye opener for someone whose career mark was a stale .247 over his previous six big league campaigns.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
20 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0

Best team, Detroit—best hitter, Cabrera from Detroit. Worst team, Houston—worst hitter, naturally, someone from Houston. We hate to pick on the guy batting ninth for the worst team in baseball, but these are the pros and it had to be you, Marwin. Actually, with a .300 average entering the week, one wonders why the 24-year-old Venezuelan native had been batting at the bottom, but perhaps this underwhelming effort gave us some clues.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Luis Cruz, Los Angeles Dodgers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
15 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

The word around Los Angeles is that the struggling second-year third baseman has been given a new title: The King of Pop-Up. It just gets stunningly worse for Cruz, who was so tough on opponents after his arrival midway through 2012 but has completely lost it so far in 2013, with a .091 average, no extra base hits and one walk in 66 at-bats. This is already his second time around for this dishonor; a second time around at Triple-A Albuquerque may be around the corner.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jason Vargas, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 9 3 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 3

After a winless April, the solid middle-rotation lefty got May off to a sweet start with his fourth career shutout—and second straight complete game—by blanking the pesky Orioles on three hits at Anaheim this past Friday. If history means anything, expect continued success for the next four weeks; Vargas’ 9-4 career mark for May is his only winning record of any month over his eight-year career.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Kevin Slowey, Miami Marlins

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 15 6 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 15

In a year where reclamation projects are making positive news, you can add Slowey to the list. The right-handed Texan pitched eight exceptional frames on Tuesday against the Mets, celebrated his 29th birthday on Saturday, then was better at Philadelphia on Sunday, throwing seven innings of two-hit shutout ball for his first win after 15 starts and a 0-10 record dating all the way back to the end of 2010. Between Slowey and 20-year-old ace-in-the-making Jose Fernandez, the Marlins might be into something good with their rotation.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Garrett Richards, L.A. Angels of Anaheim

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-2 6.2 10 8 8 3 0 0 2 0 4

It didn’t matter if he started or relieved, the young, locally-bred righty just couldn’t cut it for an Angel team that overall continues to struggle. He got lit up by the A’s on Wednesday, then failed in overtime as he came out of the bullpen and served up the winning run to the Orioles on Saturday. Richards has now been charged with a loss in each of his last three appearances, spoiling what has been an otherwise good start to his 2013 campaign.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-2 6 13 17 17 6 0 2 0 0 7

It’s official: Something is really, really wrong with baseball’s most reliable ace of the last decade. Halladay had put together a string of three quality starts coming into this past week, but he absolutely fell apart in his two latest outings, the most troubling of which came on Sunday when he disintegrated against a feeble Miami offense. More iffy and fragile than in years past, it will be curious to see where Halladay goes from here; unfortunately, it may be the disabled list.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Detroit Tigers (6-1)

Yes, so the Tigers had it easy with the Twins at home and hapless Houston on the road—but when you’re considered an elite ballclub, it’s your job to win these games, and so the Tigers did just that, taking two of three from the Twins before sweeping the Astros with little trouble (outscoring Houston 37-8 over four games). It gets interesting this week, with a short two-game interleague get-together with Washington—a series many pundits target as a World Series preview.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
San Francisco Giants (6-0)

After losing five straight last week, the Giants went cardiac and won five in a row with clutch power hitting and stingy relief pitching, bailing out a rotation that has scuffed and, until Matt Cain on Sunday against the Dodgers, hadn’t gotten credit for a victory in two weeks. With this latest festival of suspense filled with happy endings, the Giants have reasserted themselves by taking over first place in the NL West.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Houston Astros (1-6)

The Lastros got their week off to a neat little start when they dominated ex-Astro Andy Pettitte and the Yankees, 9-1—but then reality set back in and hit rock bottom on the weekend with back-to-back losses to the Tigers by an aggregate score of 26-2. After that, the Astros had one of those closed-door meetings for players to air out their honest feelings; hopefully it didn’t start with the words, “Losing is a disease,” because there appears to be no cure for this team.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Los Angeles Dodgers (1-5)

Okay, so the Dodgers might be lacking the Giants’ chemistry, but they’ve also been lacking something called health that Guggenheim’s billions can’t buy. Series losses to divisional upstarts (Rockies) and reigning champs (Giants) this past week were compounded by further losses to the disabled list and a virtual week off for star hitter Adrian Gonzalez, reeling with a sore neck. The Dodgers have lost 13 of their last 19 games, and are a mere half-game out of the NL West cellar.


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, April 29
In the majors’ longest game so far this season, the A’s outlast the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 19 innings at Oakland, 10-8, on Brandon Moss’ second home run on the night. The A’s trailed in the eighth inning, 7-2, before rebounding to send the game into overtime; they had to play a small bit of catch-up again in the 15th, re-knotting the score after the Angels had notched a tally in the top of the inning. Albert Pujols homers twice for the Angels in defeat; 16 pitchers combine to throw 598 pitches in a game that lasts six hours and 32 minutes, ending at 1:41 in the morning.

In another marathon out East, the Miami Marlins come from a run down in the 15th to plate two and defeat the New York Mets, 4-3. But it’s a costly win for the Marlins; star slugger Giancarlo Stanton, red hot over the previous weekend, strains his hamstring in the tenth inning and is expected to miss the next month. For the Mets, it’s their fifth straight loss.

Not even Wandy Rodriguez, undefeated over his last 11 starts, can give the Pittsburgh Pirates a rare lift in Milwaukee. The Brewers crank out five homers—three off of Rodriguez, who’s gone by the fourth inning—and add three triples to become the first team since the 1958 San Francisco Giants to collect as many round-trippers and three-baggers in one game to smash the Bucs, 10-4. With the loss, the Pirates are now 7-45 all-time at Miller Park.


Tuesday, April 30
Tim Hudson becomes the third active pitcher in the majors (after Andy Pettitte and Roy Halladay) to reach 200 career wins and helps his own cause with a fifth-inning homer as the Braves easily defeat Washington, 8-1, at Atlanta. Only Pedro Martinez (at 219-100) has fewer losses among all pitchers (retired or active) with 200 or more wins than Hudson, who’s lost only 105.

The Cleveland Indians pounds out seven home runs, one shy of a club record, off of Roy Halladay and two relievers in their 14-2 rout over the Philadelphia Phillies at Progressive Field. Ryan Raburn goes deep twice for the second straight day for the Tribe, who have now outscored opponents 33-5 through three straight wins.

Facing his old team for the first team, Kansas City’s James Shields throws seven solid innings and gets plenty of support from his new teammates as the Royals roll over the Tampa Bay Rays at Kauffman Stadium, 8-2.


Wednesday, May 1
After throwing a one-hit shutout in his previous start, Jordan Zimmermann stays hot—clamping down on the Braves with eight shutout innings while allowing just two hits in the Nationals’ 2-0 win at Atlanta.

The Pirates avoid a sweep at Milwaukee by rallying for four runs in the eighth inning and defeat the Brewers, 6-4. It’s only Pittsburgh’s eight win in their last 54 tries at Miller Park.


Thursday, May 2
In the Marlins’ 7-2 loss to the Phillies at Philadelphia, Juan Pierre becomes the 14th major leaguer in modern (post-1900) times to reach 600 career stolen bases. No active player has more steals; next on that list is Ichiro Suzuki, with 454.

Behind 5.1 innings of stout pitching from emergency starter Hector Santiago, the Chicago White Sox defeat the Rangers at Arlington, 3-1, and give the Rangers their first series loss of the season. Santiago, making his fifth career start, is filling in for Jake Peavy—scratched with back spasms.


Friday, May 3
David Wright hits a game-tying, ninth-inning homer off Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel, and the Mets rally for two runs an inning later to earn a 7-5 victory over the Braves at Turner Field. John Buck, who hit 12 home runs all of last year for Miami, belts his tenth of the year for New York.

Five days after the death of his father, the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw goes back to work at San Francisco—and gets a no-decision despite seven innings of stellar work, as Buster Posey unknots a 1-1 tie in the ninth inning with the first walk-off homer of his career to give the Giants a 2-1 win. Posey knocks in the Giants’ only other run with a seventh-inning double off of Kershaw, who now has a 5-2 record and 0.73 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) at AT&T Park.


Saturday, May 4
Scott Kazmir allows two runs on five hits and a walk over six innings and receives early support from his offense to coast to his first win since September 19, 2010, as the Indians defeat Minnesota at home, 7-3. Kazmir missed much of the last two years with injuries and ineffectiveness as a result of them.

In a year so far full of defeat, the Astros suffer one of their worst punishments yet as the Detroit Tigers score in all but one inning and steamroll over Houston, 17-2. (The Tigers score so many runs, some wire services lose count and declare it an 18-2 win.) Miguel Cabrera leads the way for Detroit, going 4-for-4 with two homers, six RBIs and raising his season average to a major league-best .390.

Carlos Marmol, the Cub everyone loves to hate at Wrigley Field, has the ballpark buzzing in the worst way once more. Entering the game in the eighth inning with Chicago leading Cincinnati, 4-2, Marmol faces three batters—walking two and hitting the other—and they all score as the Reds eventually finish with a 6-4 win over Chicago.

Twenty-year-old pitching phenom Jose Fernandez, quickly emerging into one of the Marlins’ few bright spots, allows just a hit and walk through seven shutout innings while striking out nine in Miami’s 2-0 win at Philadelphia. It’s Fernandez’s first major league win in six tries, though given his lack of run support (2.5 runs per start), he had certainly deserved to earn that first victory sooner.


Sunday, May 5
The Texas Rangers overcome an early 3-0 Boston lead and win in the ninth inning, 4-3, on a poke single by Adrian Beltre that scores Elvis Andrus. The Red Sox had previously been undefeated in 14 games when scoring first. Texas starting pitcher Yu Darvish does not figure in the decision, but strikes out 14 for the second time this season and leads the majors with 72.

The Tigers’ Justin Verlander has a no-hitter broken up with one out in the seventh inning when the Astros’ Carlos Pena strokes a single; Verlander will finish the inning and the bullpen will take it the rest of the way as the Tigers breeze for the second straight day at Houston, 9-0.


Blue Jay Way Gone Astray
Remember way back when the Toronto Blue Jays were declared the team to beat after pillaging the Miami Marlins’ best talent, sucking away both the NL Cy Young Award winner and last year’s All-Star Game MVP, and topping the boards at the Vegas sportsbooks as they looked ready to take advantage of a vulnerable AL East?

How distant a memory that all seems.

One look at the standings and it’s hard to believe what all the wintertime fuss was about north of the border. As of this past Sunday, the Blue Jays have done nothing but laid an ugly duckling of an egg, saddled in the AL East cellar with an 11-21 record; only the derelict Marlins and Houston Astros have worse records in the majors.

So why isn’t Toronto at the Rogers Centre of the baseball universe? Here’s a breakdown of the Jays’ breakdown, key player by key player:

Jose Reyes. The kinetic shortstop had a terrific WBC tourney, a terrific spring training and a terrific first ten games of the regular season for the Jays—and then it all came crashing to a painful halt on April 12 when he suffered a major ankle sprain in Kansas City. Toronto was only 4-6 before the injury, but it would surely be much better off now if not for the absence of Reyes’ sparkplug ethic.

R.A. Dickey. Last year’s Cy winner for the New York Mets has shown little of the dominance that earned him the award, as he has struggled to a 2-5 start while enduring back and neck issues; not helping is the Jays’ pitiful run support (less than two runs per start).

Melky Cabrera. Funny, the man who was blazing at a .346 clip for San Francisco last year is hitting a full 100 points less for Toronto. Hmmm, wonder why that is? Oh, that’s right—the Biogenesis bills are no longer coming in the mail.

Josh Johnson. One of many ex-Marlin stars on the Jays has been burdened by a case of sore triceps and is currently on the disabled list after failing to win any of his first four starts with a 6.86 ERA.

Mark Buehrle. Also exiled from Florida, the veteran southpaw was asked to be nothing more than to be the reliable 200-inning, .500-percentage pitcher he’s been known to be of late. But a 1-2 record and 6.43 ERA in six starts is not what the Jays had in mind.

Emilio Bonafacio. The least heralded of the players shipped over from Miami, Bonafacio has badly failed to become the overlooked gamer in the Toronto lineup. He’s hitting just .171 and has yet to steal a base after nabbing 70 over the last two years.

Jose Bautista. The one existing Blue Jay star who was supposed to benefit from all the newfound support has shown power (seven homers in 23 games) but is hitting a paltry .207.

John Buck. Finally, someone from that Marlin- to-Toronto deal who's getting the job done—only he's doing it for the Mets, for whom the Jays traded Buck to get Dickey. Buck's ten homers and 29 RBIs are among the NL leaders.

The AL East. The rest of this division isn’t so broken after all. The Red Sox are rolling. The Orioles aren’t rolling over. The injury-shattered Yankees are staying strong thanks to rejects like Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. The Rays are struggling, but they’re hardly dead in the water like the Jays.

Jeffrey Loria. Sure, the Miami owner has a slightly worse record than the Jays—but would he rather be losing on a payroll of $35 million or $100 million? Somewhere in his office, he has to be grinning about the Jays’ state of affairs.

Behold, the Conspiracy Theorists
Much of the frustration that has evolved out of the Blue Jays’ losing slide filtered down to members of their broadcasting community, who have come to the conclusion that there’s something bigger at work beyond the team’s simple failure to succeed.

Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris, two former pitchers who at some point in their careers pitched in Toronto, both made cheating claims this past week aimed at Boston starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, who’s off to an electric start for the Red Sox and nullified the Jays at Toronto on Wednesday. Hayhurst, in particular, was adamant that Buchholz was doctoring the ball against the Jays, and Morris seconded the opinion.

All of this led to a critical rebuttal from former closer and current Red Sox studio hand Dennis Eckersley, who threw salt on the wound of Morris by saying, “Where’s Jack Morris been all these years, anyway? He finally gets a job up there in Toronto and he has to make statements like that and take away from what (Buchholz) has done?...The hitters didn’t complain, but Jack Morris is….I’m styling here, and you’re taking away from me, a guy that can’t even make it to the Hall of Fame yet, and he’s chirping over there—zip it.”

Buchholz wasn’t Hayhurst’s only target this past week. In defending his comments on Buchholz, Hayhurst name-dropped Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee into the conversation of pitchers who “break the law, folks.” Lee’s reaction: “Who’s Dirk Hayhurst?” (Answer: A former pitcher with zero career wins.)

The Not-so-straight Story
America and the sports world was abuzz this past week when pro basketball’s Jason Collins announced that he was gay. Within baseball, there were a number of positive responses from players who backed Collins for having the courage to come out of the closet while still active on the court, but here’s the ultimate irony: Those who saw it negatively are likely keeping their opinion to themselves, for fear that they might be “outed” as homophobic bigots.

There is something of a parallel to Jackie Robinson here. When Robinson led the way for African-Americans in the majors through the 1950s to become more accepted within the mainstream of the game, it transcended beyond the ballpark as ordinary Americans accepted that progress in the outside world, and it greatly benefited the civil rights’ movement. The gay lobby sees something similar with Collins, and its hope is to see more gay athletes from all sports—baseball included—publicly declare themselves, move on and erode the mainstream’s status quo mindset that “being gay” is a threat.

Some will argue that the parallel is skewed because Robinson didn’t have a choice to be black, but Collins has a choice to be gay. But the first major leaguer to publicly come out of the closet could likely understand what Robinson went through in his first few years with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Will a general manager in a conservative market be willing to sign him? Will he be tolerated by teammates from other nations whose cultures remain more hostile towards homosexuality? And will a public villain emerge to lambast all that the player stands for, as Phillie manager Ben Chapman did when he verbally assaulted Robinson with racist taunts in 1947, or as pitcher Bob Knepper did when he criticized female umpire Pam Postema during spring training 1988 for being a woman doing a man’s job?

The next year will be telling to see the impact of Collins’ courage and whether baseball—and America, in general—is ready to make peace with his stand.

Check For Vowels Before Airing
A NBC News report on gay athletes initially claimed that Oakland general manager Billy Beane had come out of the closet. Turns out that the network mistakenly mixed up Beane’s sexual preference with that of Billy Bean, who played during Beane’s brief playing career in the late 1980s and came out as gay after he retired.

If It’s April, He’s Perfect
Philadelphia closer Jonathan Papelbon ended another April without a blown loss, keeping intact his career perfection for that month; in nine major league seasons, Papelbon has been given 55 save opportunities in April—and successfully converted them all. The fewest blown saves he’s accumulated in any other full month for his career is six.

Choo on This
In April, Shin-Soo Choo became the first player to be hit ten times in one month since Craig Biggio, the all-time leader, was plunked in double-digits back in August 1997. The Cincinnati outfielder’s career watermark for one full season is 17 in 2009, meaning he’s off to a fast and painful start towards toppling that record this season.

This is Not Your Father’s Rockies Bullpen
Colorado is impressing on a number of fronts to start the year, especially from its bullpen; on a seven-game road trip ended this past week, Rockie relievers threw 24.2 innings and allowed just three runs—each of them unearned.

We Get the Bucks, They Get the Wins
The Phillies are 9-3 when John Lannan, Kyle Kendrick and Jonathan Pettibone (combined salary of $7.5 million) start; they’re 5-14 when Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels (combined salary of $65.5 million) take the hill.

This Week’s Cue That Everyone’s Striking Out
The Detroit Tigers struck out at least ten times in seven straight games, the longest such streak in American League history
.

We Knew We’d Finally Get to You
Denard Span’s ninth-inning single on Thursday against the Braves’ Jordan Walden was the first hit by a Washington player off an Atlanta reliever all year; the Nationals had gone hitless in their previous 45 at-bats dating back to last year against the Braves’ bullpen.

I Like the New Stadium Better Now
Oakland’s
Josh Reddick was 0-for-33 when playing at new Yankee Stadium when he doubled in the A’s 5-4 Sunday win over New York.

Start Him at Home—Always
Seattle pitcher
Joe Saunders is 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA in three starts at Safeco Field this season; on the road, he's 0-4 with an ERA of 12.53 in four starts.

Paging Irwin Allen
It happens about once every year: A swarm of bees were looking for a good place to camp and found one at a major league ballpark. Here’s a few screen grabs of what caused a 15-minute delay at Anaheim before Thursday’s game between the Angels and Baltimore.

Pregame Tragedy
Reuben Porras, a TV cameraman working for the MLB Network, suffered a fatal heart attack in the bowels of Atlanta’s Turner Field this past Wednesday despite frantic efforts by training employees of the visiting Washington Nationals, who revived him and kept him alive until he made it to the hospital. The 61-year-old Porras was setting up a media workroom when he collapsed.

League vs. League
By winning four out of five games this past week, the American League took the lead on the season series against the National League, having won 17 of the first 31 interleague games thus far. This is all familiar territory for the AL, which hasn’t finished below .500 against the NL since 2003.

This Week’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
What a long, strange hitting streak it’s been for Boston’s
David Ortiz, who’s not halfway to Joltin’ Joe’s legendary run of 56 games but has easily surpassed it in terms of time elapsed. The big slugger’s current streak of 25 games—the longest active run in the majors—began last July 2, was put on hold two weeks later when Ortiz’s heel acted up, got a brief boost on August 24 when Ortiz gave it a one-day go before succumbing to the season with the injury, then continued it on April 20 when he finally and fully recovered enough to return to action. It’s Ortiz’s longest hitting streak (by games) of his career, and he’s hitting a whopping .432 with six homers and 24 RBIs during the ride.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekIt was déjà vu all over again for Hanley Ramirez, who returned to San Francisco’s AT&T Park for the first time since injuring his thumb in the WBC final in March. On the same infield, he suffered a severely pulled hamstring for the Los Angeles Dodgers midway through their Friday contest against the Giants and was placed back on the disabled list—just a mere four games after his return from the hand injury.

There was plenty of other hammy whammy around the majors this past week, as Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, Los Angeles of Anaheim’s Peter Bourjos and Oakland’s Coco Crisp all went down to hamstring injuries. Other parts of the body that led to shelf life in the MLB Medical Ward included the triceps of Toronto pitcher Josh Johnson, the oblique of the Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain, the back of the Yankees’ Kevin Youkilis, the ribs of Los Angeles pitcher Ted Lilly and the ankle of Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson.


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