This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: August 19-25, 2013
Baseball's Young Guns From Hiding, Ryan Braun Speaks
Yasiel Puig, Baseball's New Bad Boy? Trouble in La-La-at-Anaheim Land

Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jason Castro, Houston Astros

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
17 7 9 2 1 3 5 4 0 0 0

The 26-year-old catcher has emerged as one of the few offensive bright spots on an otherwise dreary Houston roster, and he really floored it on the power pedal this past week with an impressive display that included a pair of homers in Saturday’s 8-5 win over Toronto. Castro’s 17 deep flies on the year are the most by a Houston catcher since Joe Ferguson back in 1977, and his 33 doubles easily leads the Astros.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
29 6 11 4 0 1 6 5 0 1 1

The 20-year-old wunderkind hasn’t been the same since running into the Dodger Stadium wall at full speed back in May, but this past week showed signs of a return to pre-crash form. He singled, he doubled, he walked, he stole—Harper was doing all the collective things that make for an efficient force at the plate, and he finally served up some power on Sunday with his first homer in nearly three weeks. The Nationals’ season is a loss, but maybe Harper can salvage some good with a strong finish; this is a good start.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
25 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0

While it was an up week for the Tribe, it was a downer for Brantley, the undistinguished but (usually) very reliable cog in the Indians’ hitting machine. A RBI single in Saturday’s 7-2 win against Minnesota was his only bright moment at the plate; otherwise, he couldn’t aid the Indians’ winning week, leaving 16 men on base. Brantley’s trust value is such with the Indians that they’re confident he’ll snap out of it soon, and with a wild card spot within their sights, they’ll need him.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Corey Dickerson, Colorado Rockies

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

The 24-year-old rookie has put together some early sharp numbers for the Rockies, that is until things got awfully dull this past week. Dickerson managed a single on Monday but went hitless for the rest of the week, dropping his season average below the .300 mark. The best thing about playing for Colorado is that a road slump usually gets cured by mile-high Coors Field, which is where Dickerson and the Rockies return for this coming week.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 15.2 9 1 1 6 0 0 0 0 9

Act One (a 6-0 start) was pretty darn good. Act Two (2-6, a 5.72 ERA from late May through the All-Star Break), not so good. And now for Act Three, the Boston southpaw is looking to surge to a strong finish with two excellent outings this past week on the West Coast—one a near-shutout against a feeble Giants lineup, and the other a defining shutdown effort against the cruising Dodgers. Since the break, Lester is 4-1 in seven starts with a 2.31 ERA.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
2-0 13 8 2 1 3 0 1 0 0 16

The 21-year-old Cuban sensation became the Marlins’ stopper and saving grace this past week, earning credit for the team’s only two wins—and showed that he, not Yasiel Puig, may be the majors’ hottest Cuban émigré as he retired the Dodger rookie all three times he faced him during his 6-2 win over Los Angeles on Monday. Fernandez seems to be getting better every time he takes the mound, with a 5-0 record and 1.33 ERA over his last eight starts.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chia-Jen Lo, Houston Astros

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

The Astros’ Chia-Pet-project is feeling a little Lo after a series of bad outings coated tarnish on what otherwise could have been a good week for the majors’ worst team. The 27-year-old Taiwan native couldn’t hold a 4-4 tie in the ninth on Wednesday at Texas when he loaded the bases on a single and two walks before the Rangers scored the winner; then came Sunday, when he blew a 1-0 lead in the ninth to the Blue Jays, walking three more. Overall, Lo (2.61 ERA) hasn’t been that bad since his arrival in Houston, but he’s got to knock it off with the walks.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Edinson Volquez, San Diego Padres

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-0 0.2 5 6 5 2 0 1 0 0 0

A miserable season for the 30-year-old Dominican hit a low point at Petco Park this past Friday when he couldn’t make it out of the first inning against the Cubs—walking two, hitting one and serving up a home run among five hits before the Padres gave him first dibs on the showers. Volquez’s latest meltdown shot his season ERA up to 6.01—highest among all qualifying NL starters—and left Padre fans shaking their head and asking, “We gave up Mat Latos for him?”


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Chicago White Sox (5-1)

Terrific pitching propelled the gone-but-not forgotten White Sox back into a winning mode this past week, looking good with a road series sweep at Kansas City before cooling off AL West-leading Texas with a weekend series win at home. Oddly, their only loss came when reliable ace Chris Sale took a shellacking from the Rangers (Sale returned the tough love on a dugout cooler). Once thought to be so bad that they looked ready to challenge the Astros for the league’s worst record, the White Sox have now won eight of nine.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
St. Louis Cardinals (5-2)

In the thick of the NL Central race—the only suspense left in the NL postseason picture—the Cardinals set themselves up nicely for a crucial stretch of the season with an early-week series win on the road at Milwaukee followed by three wins in a four-game set against a hobbled Atlanta squad at Busch Stadium to tie the Pirates for the division lead. Now it gets fun; the Cardinals take on nobody else but the Reds and Pirates over the next two weeks.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Toronto Blue Jays (1-6)

The Blue Jays looked weighed down from the immense expectations to the point that they’ve become dead and buried. Indeed, the team considered to be the prime contender in the AL derby back in spring training played as if they’re just ready to pack it in—getting swept in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium (where they’re 0-10 this season) before avoiding a weekend sweep at lowly Houston by rallying for two runs in the ninth to win on Sunday. How bad are the Jays? Only six teams have worse records.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Miami Marlins (2-5)

The Marlins finished off a disappointing ten-game homestand with series losses to the Dodgers and Rockies—and they would have been winless for the week if not for emerging drawing card Jose Fernandez, who pitched the Marlins to their only two victories of the week. The Fish have only won six of their past 21 games, continue to sport the league’s worst record and, at 49-80, need to go 14-19 the rest of the way to avoid their second-ever 100-loss campaign.


 

 

 

Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, August 19
The Texas Rangers put away the Houston Astros early at Arlington with an 11-run outburst in the third inning on their way to a 16-5 thrashing. The Astros have now allowed six or more runs in an inning 12 times this year; Seattle is next among major league teams with eight.

Miami pitching phenom Jose Fernandez finds the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers to be no problem, taming the NL West leaders for six innings and handing the Dodgers their second straight defeat in the Marlins’ 6-2 win at Marlins Park. It’s the first time in nearly two months that the Dodgers have lost back-to-back games.


Tuesday, August 20
Benched at the start of the game for a series of recent violations (cursing the media, showing up late), Yasiel Puig enters the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and cracks a tie-breaking home run to give the Dodgers a 6-4 win over the Marlins at Miami.

New York takes a day-night pair of games from Toronto at Yankee Stadium behind star second baseman Robinson Cano, who collects six hits on the day—four alone in the first game, including his 200th career home run. Reserve infielder Jayson Nix emerges as the Yankee hero in the second game, homering off Mark Buerhle to tie the game in the seventh and stroking a walk-off single in the ninth to give New York a 3-2 win after an 8-4 decision in the first game.

Paul Goldschmidt’s eighth-inning grand slam—his third of the year—lifts Arizona to a 5-2 win at Cincinnati. The slam makes Goldschmidt the National League’s first 100-RBI man on the season, and gives him a tie for the NL lead with 31 homers. Giving up the slam is Reds reliever J.J. Hoover, who had officially not been scored upon in his previous 23 appearances—yet he’s the only reliever to give up two grand slams in the majors this year.


Wednesday, August 21
Alfonso Soriano’s two-run, eighth-inning shot off of Toronto’s R.A. Dickey breaks a 2-2 tie and gives the Yankees a 4-2 win at New York; the historical significance of the game occurs when Ichiro Suzuki’s first-inning single gives him 4,000 hits for his professional career.

A month after coming to New York’s Citi Field and losing pitcher Tim Hudson for the season with a broken ankle, the Atlanta Braves return and watch again in horror as star outfielder Jason Heyward gets nailed by a Jonathon Niese pitch in the face, breaking his jaw. A happier ending awaits the Braves; they get the benefit of a questionable tenth-inning, two-out call at first base in advance of a three-run shot by Chris Johnson to give them a 4-1 lead; closer Craig Kimbrel closes out the win with his 40th save, making him the first major leaguer to record 40-plus in each of his first three seasons.


Thursday, August 22
Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, who threw his first career complete game earlier in the month, is one out away from his second when he serves up a game-tying home run to the Cubs’ Donnie Murphy at Chicago—but the Nationals overcome the rally and win in 13 innings, 5-4.

Clayton Kershaw throws eight shutout innings for the second straight time and lowers his major league-leading ERA down to 1.72 as the Dodgers cruise past the Marlins, 6-0, in Miami. Since the All-Star Break, Kershaw is 5-1 in seven starts with a 1.02 ERA.

Joey Votto’s 100th walk—making him the first major leaguer to reach triple digits on the year—is a game-winner; ball four is a wild pitch by Arizona reliever Eury De La Rosa, bringing home Shin-Soo Choo with an eighth-inning run that provides the Reds with a 2-1 difference at Great American Ballpark. Choo had earlier scored the Reds’ first run after moving 180 feet on two other wild pitches from starting pitcher Trevor Cahill, who throws three of the Diamondbacks’ four wild pitches on the night.


Friday, August 23
The Rays cool off the Yankees in the first game of a weekend series at St. Petersburg behind four home runs and seven solid innings from starter Chris Archer. All four homers are hit off Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda, who had not allowed a longball in 57.2 innings—a streak which had been the majors’ longest active. The win puts Tampa Bay into a first-place tie in the AL East with Boston, who later loses out on the West Coast against the Dodgers, 2-0, and it ends the Yankees’ five-game win streak.

The Chicago Cubs score six runs in the top of the first at San Diego—but lose as the Padres answer back with eight unanswered runs for an 8-6 victory. Rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko bookends the Padres’ scoring with two home runs; the Cubs are the first team since Kansas City (in 2010) to lose despite scoring at least six runs in the first inning.

Speaking of the Royals, they build up their own 6-0 lead over Washington after two innings—and also lose, 11-10, at Kaufmann Stadium. Every member in the Nationals’ lineup scores at least one run, the first time that’s happened for the franchise since it moved from Montreal in 2005.


Saturday, August 24
In a rematch of All-Star Game starting pitchers, Detroit’s Max Scherzer throws six scoreless frames, strikes out 11 and helps the Tigers at the plate with a RBI double to outduel the Mets’ Matt Harvey and improve to 19-1 on the year with a 3-0 win at New York. Only two other pitchers have started a season at 19-1: Rube Marquard in 1912 and Roger Clemens in 2001.

In a game with many records set or matched—not all of them for the best—the Diamondbacks outlast the Phillies in 18 innings at Philadelphia, 12-7. After the Phillies tie it up at 7-7 in the eighth, neither team scores until the 18th when Arizona tallies five times—all with two outs—off not one but two position players-turned-pitchers (Casper Wells and John McDonald). Twenty total pitchers include a major league-tying 11 by the Phillies, who combine to throw 395 pitches with 18 walks, tying another mark; the 28 combined walks between the two teams sets an all-time NL record. Arizona’s Trevor Cahill, who had pitched seven innings just two days earlier, throws the final four to earn the win; the game lasts seven hours and six minutes, making it the majors’ first seven-hour-plus game since 1989.

The Rays overcome a 2-0 deficit and defeat the Yankees, 4-2, as Tampa Bay starter David Price improves to 6-1 in head-to-head showdowns against New York ace CC Sabathia. Evan Longoria breaks a 2-2 tie in the sixth with a RBI single, then homers in the eighth to provide insurance.


Sunday, August 25
Rushed onto the active roster as the Phillies had no one else available to start following their 18-inning loss to Arizona, Roy Halladay makes his first appearance since May 5 and racks up six agreeable innings to give Philadelphia a 9-5 win over the Diamondbacks. Arizona starter Patrick Corbin gives up a career-high nine runs (eight earned) in losing for just the fourth time this season.

The Chicago White Sox topple the Rangers at Chicago, 5-2, thanks to the Danks duo; pitcher John Danks allows two runs over six innings, and brother Jordan Danks supports him with two hits including his third homer of the season. Not since 1947 has a pitcher won while being benefitted by a home run from his brother.

In the majors’ latest marathon, the Cubs break a 0-0 deadlock in the top of the 13th at San Diego with two runs, but the Padres strike back when Ronny Cedeno triples in one run and scores himself on a wild pitch to knot the game back up; two innings later, Nick Hundley’s RBI single wins the game for the Padres, 3-2.


Who Are These Guys?
It seems like a day hasn’t gone by this season in which we hear of some young, untried pitcher zapping the strength out of opposing major league bats. In the past, if one of these guys succeeded once, they wouldn’t a second or third time even if they tried, tried again—and that’s because the scouting report would make the rounds, educating hitters around the league about these pitchers’ weaknesses as well as their strengths. But this year, the homework doesn’t seem to be paying off, as many of these pitchers have remained as resilient and sharp in their 20th start as they have their first.

The plethora of young pitching talent comes not a moment too soon. Look at baseball’s “old guard” on the mound. It ain’t doing too well. Roy Halladay is aging and fighting one injury after another. The fastballs of Tim Lincecum and Justin Verlander have slowed, rising up their ERAs. CC Sabathia now almost wins in spite of himself, with a potent lineup behind him helping to make his record look good.

Following is an alphabetical list of the ten most promising pitchers that represents the New Wave of future (and, in some cases, present) All-Star talent.

Andrew Albers, age 27, Minnesota. In his first two starts earlier this month, the Canadian right-hander baffled his opponents through 17.1 scoreless innings. His next two starts have been more mortal, so the jury may still be out on his late-season outlook, but it’s hard to pass on those earlier accomplishments.

Chris Archer, age 24, Tampa Bay. The sudden emergence of Archer—who was never considered a major prospect and was shipped off to the Rays a few years back in the deal that sent Matt Garza packing to the Chicago Cubs—has brought very happy faces to a Tampa Bay team already rich in starting pitching. Archer’s 7-5 record and 2.93 ERA includes two shutouts; opposing hitters are batting just .211 against him.

Tony Cingrani, age 24, Cincinnati. After a 1.15 ERA in six minor league starts, the southpaw was called to the Reds and split his time between the bullpen and the rotation before finally getting full-time starting duty; in 16 starts, no team has scored more than four runs on him, and only three other times have they scored three. His 6-3 record and 2.76 ERA include seven masterful innings of one-hit shutout ball (with 11 K’s) against the white-hot Dodgers on July 28. (Cingrani’s currently on the shelf with a lower back strain.)

Patrick Corbin, age 24, Arizona. Another lefty, and another one who got away from Arte Moreno, the Los Angeles of Anaheim owner who gave him up three years ago for Dan Haren as part of a larger trade. As late as last year, it didn’t seem like much of a big deal as Corbin struggled to a 4.54 ERA over 22 appearances, but he’s suddenly blossomed this year with a 13-4 record, 2.79 ERA and two complete games; he’s been especially sharp at home, not minding Chase Field’s hitting-friendly atmosphere with an 8-1 mark and 1.86 ERA in 14 starts.

Jarred Cosart, age 23, Houston. Cosart made a sensational entry when he shut the Rays down in St. Petersburg for eight shutout innings on July 12; he has continued to impress with a 1.60 ERA through seven starts—though he’s winless since his debut, a simple, hard fact of life when you play for the current-day Astros. Sidebar: It took 44 innings for someone to hit a home run off Cosart, the longest stretch by a pitcher to start a career since 1976.

Jose Fernandez, age 21, Miami. The Cuban right-hander first made headlines this winter when he accidentally drilled Marlin star hitter Giancarlo Stanton in the head during a training session; he’s made plenty of headlines since, almost all of them positive. Fernandez seems to be getting stronger with each start; he’s 8-2 with a 1.52 ERA in his last 15 outings, and he’s 7-0 with a 1.29 mark at home. The comparisons to Dwight Gooden can’t be dismissed.

Matt Harvey, age 24, New York Mets. The most celebrated hurler on the list (though Fernandez is catching up, and fast), Harvey shined brilliantly enough in the season’s first half to merit the starting assignment for the NL’s All-Star team, and remains the league leader in strikeouts while he’s only second in the majors to Clayton Kershaw with a 2.27 ERA. Harvey certainly warrants better than the 12-10 record the Mets have given him through his first 36 starts going back to his debut late last year.

Jeff Locke, age 25, Pittsburgh. The southpaw from New Hampshire has struggled for the last month (0-1 with a 7.77 ERA over his last five starts), but overall he still fields some of the best numbers in baseball, with a 9-4 record and 3.01 ERA that’s certainly been key to the Pirates’ first-place success. He’ll need to regroup to help keep the Bucs on track going into October.

Shelby Miller, age 22, St. Louis. The tall Texan’s tease of late last year (1.32 ERA in six appearances) was no mirage, as he’s impressed anew this season with a 12-8 record and 2.90 ERA, providing much-needed rock in a rotation crumbled with injuries to Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. He’s evolved into a worthy complement—if not equal—to Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright.

Brett Oberholtzer, age 24, Houston. Like his teammate Cosart above, Oberholtzer has given the Astros a badly needed jolt in the rotation. After three shaky relief appearances, the Delaware lefty has taken the mound for four starts and produced quality starts in each—including back-to-back lines of seven shutout innings.

Bashful, Isn't He?
Legend has it that when the New York Yankees’ Jake Powell got suspended in 1938 for blurting out on a pregame radio interview that he spent his winter as a policeman “cracking niggers over the head,” he went from bar to bar in Harlem one night to offer people drinks. Now that’s contrition.

Ryan Braun isn’t so bold. Making his first public statements since being handed down a season-ending suspension for his Biogenesis steroid use, the Milwaukee slugger released a well-crafted, somewhat heartfelt ten-paragraph statement apologizing to baseball, his teammates and the man he once tried to vilify for collecting his tainted blood sample and daring to say he tested positive.

While some accepted Braun’s apology, others said it wasn’t enough. We agree, but not so much for what he didn’t say—he pretty much said what he needed to—but how he went about saying it. Remember how publicly defiant he was back in Spring Training 2012, facing the media and boasting about the “truth” of his innocence, all while reportedly getting star players around the game to accept his concoction that Dino Laurenzi Jr., the man with the blood sample who infamously missed the FedEx deadline, was anti-Semitic? He wasn’t hiding then, but now is he. Somewhere in the shadows of his shame, Braun shunned the spotlight, the tough questions and Oprah and decided to release this faceless statement through his reps.

Maybe this is the beginning of the Ryan Braun Contrition Tour, easing into the details of what he did and why. Then maybe we can get a well-deserved iteration of the real “truth.” Or, maybe Braun can borrow from Jake Powell and make the rounds at the local brew pubs in Phoenix, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks—the team burned by a steroid-fueled Braun in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs.

A Puig of His Own?
It what has become a dry year for MVP candidates in the National League, it has been discussed that serious attention for the honor be given to rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, whose arrival in Los Angeles has all but coincided with the Dodgers’ stunning midseason turnaround from dysfunctional last-place underachievers to World Series favorites.

The 22-year-old Cuban émigré has been nothing short of sensational, hitting .342 with 12 homers and 51 runs scored in 73 games while making dazzling plays on defense. His rookie rawness has shown through on occasion with numerous on-field lapses—but worse, Puig’s attitude has evolved to the point that he seems bent on becoming baseball’s next Bad Boy with his showboating at the plate and, this past week, a report that while walking through the clubhouse spotted reporters and shouted out, unprovoked, “F**k the media!”

The Dodgers finally had enough—sort of, anyway—when they docked Puig with a fine and a place on the bench for Tuesday’s game at Miami after showing up to the ballpark late. Perhaps he couldn’t compel himself to hurry by speeding in a reckless manner; the police already nailed him for that earlier in the year while he was playing in the minors.

If Puig’s ego was bruised by the benching, he recovered quickly when, in the eighth inning, they allowed him to pinch-hit—and smoked a solo homer, breaking a 4-4 tie in what would become a 6-4 Dodger win. Humility must have never felt so good.

Puig may feel like he’s on top of the world, but someone needs to tell him that he’s not the Beatles—yet. He is a rookie, and that will be something both his teammates and (especially) other ballplayers will remind him as the postseason nears. But here’s our advice for Puig: If you want to be baseball’s Bad Boy, be careful not to include the media as part of your wrath.

Cease Fire!
The war of words between Alex Rodriguez’s camp and the rest of the baseball world struck a fever pitch early this past week—before Rodriguez finally wised up and put the kibosh on his lawyers, telling them to stop ratcheting up the drama and allow him to concentrate on playing baseball.

The week began with Boston pitcher Ryan Dempster—who plunked Rodriguez during a Sunday night game at Fenway Park—earning a five-game suspension from baseball. The irony of Dempster getting stiffed for taking out his anger on another he felt should already be suspended was hardly lost on the Boston sports talk circuit, as you might imagine.

Then came the bonehead moment of the week when Rodriguez’s new so-called shark of a lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, went on the Today show and stated that he wanted to put everything out in the open regarding Rodriguez’s PED use but was restricted from doing so by MLB rules. It was then that MLB, in a prescient and ingenious maneuver, handed Tacopina a letter via Today host Matt Lauer offering to lift the confidentiality rules so he can talk. Tacopina held his ground but was clearly flustered by the moment.

It was after the Today show fiasco that Rodriguez sent a memo to his camp: Shut up.

Is the Fruit Juiced?
The owner of a grocery store in Brooklyn has been feeling the heat from his patrons and has decided to change the name of his store, which is currently called A-Rod Grocery.

The Unhappiest Place in Anaheim
We know that the environment in the Angels’ clubhouse can’t be all too rosy given that the team’s massive show of disappointment over the last two years, but a CBS Sports report this past week shed light on just how ugly the clubhouse got during the 2012 campaign in La-La-at-Anaheim Land.

In the midst of an ugly series against Tampa Bay last August, veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins sensed the tension and called a team meeting—but from the start, the Angels Anonymous encounter (“Yes, I am an Angel”) was a disaster, as any existing serenity quickly devolved and turned into a near flat-out fight between star players Albert Pujols and (now ex-Angel) Torii Hunter; ace pitchers Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson also endured loud criticisms of their eye-rolling on the field whenever their defense let them down.

The story also painted a miserable picture of the current Angels from a front-office perspective, labeling Arte Moreno as a Jeffrey Loria-style cheapskate who runs a bare-bones staff—something of a surprise given the free-spending habits Moreno applies when it comes to bringing in star players (Pujols, Wilson, Josh Hamilton, et al). That the Angels—World Series favorites in many circles before Opening Day—have flatlined for two straight seasons will probably spend the end for Mike Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, or so the rumor mill suggests.

Sadly, Boredom Kills
In news that shook both sides of the world, a college baseball player from Australia named Christopher Lane was out for a morning jog when he was gunned down by three youths in a passing car in Duncan, Oklahoma—simply because they were bored. You know what? The executioner is a little bored himself and needs something to do as well.

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid
Max Stassi had no idea it was going to be this tough at the major league level. Called up by the Houston Astros this past week, the 22-year old singled for his first major league hit in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s game at Texas and next reached second when a throw to force him went wild past the glove of Elvis Andrus. But Stassi thought that Andrus held on and was out, and began walking away to the dugout—and that’s when the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler, who successfully backed up Andrus, rushed over to tag him out.

A night later, Stassi earned his first RBI in the most painful of ways. On a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded, Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers nailed Stassi on the left side of his face, forcing in a run and forcing Stassi to the special seven-day disabled list for concussive effects.

When he returns, someone will hopefully not remind him that these things happen in threes.

Vin Uninterrupted
Vin Scully made it official that he’ll be returning to the booth in 2014 for his 65th year as voice of the Dodgers. “I really still enjoy it immensely,” he said this past week. “My health is good, thank God. So why not? And my wife said, ‘Why not?’ as well.”

Scully, who will be 86 next year, also admitted that his life would be empty without the Dodger gig that he’s been doing since Jackie Robinson was in his prime at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. He confessed: “Just the thought of walking away from it to retirement—and looking out the window or something?”

Wake Us Up When it Gets Important
The Yankees won all ten of their home games against Toronto this year—but just as impressive, they came from behind in eight of those victories. It’s all part of a longer streak of 13 straight home wins against the Blue Jays, the longest by the Yankees since taking 14 in a row over Kansas City at the (old) Stadium from 2002-06.

Hey, I'm Just Along for the Ride
Embattled Toronto TV analyst Dirk Hayhurst has been involved in his share of controversy with the Blue Jays this season—but his round of trending was, this time, not of his own making. In New York earlier this past week for the Jays’ four-game series with the Yankees, Hayhurst was riding in a cab when it struck another car—and the cabbie decided to race off. Hayhurst, stuck in the back of the cab, sent out eight tweets as he described a blow-by-blow of the whole sequence, including an altercation between the cabbie and the driver of the other car (which Hayhurst caught on video).

Shave This
An online razor company offered former San Francisco closer Brian Wilson, attempting a comeback with the Dodgers following Tommy John surgery, $1 million to shave off his iconic beard. Wilson said no, stating through his agent that his beard is going with him “to the grave.”

Keep Looking, It’s There Somewhere
On Friday at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, Texas’
Ian Kinsler ran around the bases for an inside-the-park home run when White Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo couldn’t spot the ball sitting under the padding down the left-field line. Chicago manager Robin Ventura argued that a ground-rule double should have been granted when Viciedo briefly motioned that he couldn’t find the ball, but he got ejected for his troubles.

You Just Can't Keep Him Off Base
How good has
Miguel Cabrera been this year? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Detroit slugger has put together four streaks of 27 straight games reaching base; only four other American Leaguers have had a similar streak, and just once. Additionally, Cabrera has reached base in 95.9% of the games he’s played in, which if that holds will put him tied for third on the all-time list for a player in a season, behind Frank Thomas (97.2% in 1996) and Ted Williams (96.1% in 1949).

Disrespecting the DH
Tuesday’s game between Baltimore and Tampa Bay featured two designated hitters (the Rays’ Kelly Johnson and the Orioles’ Brian Roberts) both hitting ninth in the lineup. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s only the fourth time both DH’s batted last since the position was established in 1973.

Is This Reviewable?
Chicago White Sox bench coach Mark Parent was ejected before Sunday's game against the Rangers as lineup cards were being handed to the umpires. No word on what led to the ouster.

League vs. League
The American League won a close week and slightly extended its lead over the National League in interleague competition for 2013, sporting a 141-128 record against the senior circuit as of Sunday. Only two interleague series take place this coming week, both hosted by NL cities (Atlanta and Milwaukee), so the NL will have to preach patience if it hopes to win bragging rights over the AL for the first time since 2003.

This Week’s Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Houston rookie
Robbie Grossman, something of a changed baseball player since being recalled from the minors at the end of July, ends this past week with the majors’ longest active hitting streak at 12 games. (Joltin’ Joe yawns.) Grossman is hitting.358 during his run, not much higher than the .352 figure he owns since returning to the Astros on July 28.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekA very busy week in the MLB emergency room could have a big impact on teams jockeying for postseason position. The NL Central, with three teams fighting for the best seeding (they’re all likely to make the playoffs), was not spared by the injury bug; Pittsburgh lost leadoff spark Starling Marte to a hand contusion, St. Louis lost pitcher Jake Westbrook to a lower back sprain, and Cincinnati lost two pitchers in rookie starter Tony Cingrani (lower back sprain) and reliever Jonathan Broxton (a season-ending arm injury). Out west, the Oakland A’s—trying to catch up to the front-running Rangers—lost catcher Derek Norris for at least 15 days with a broken toe.

The Atlanta Braves have all but wrapped up the NL East, but that hasn’t alleviated their concerns over a growing disabled list they hope to pare down before October. This past week saw the addition to the shelf of Jason Heyward (broken jaw) and Brandon Beachy (elbow); Heyward should be back in time for the playoffs, but Beachy’s status is more wary, especially with his name grouped in the same sentence as that of Dr. James Andrews.

Among the teams on the outs, injured players include Los Angeles of Anaheim star slugger Albert Pujols (torn foot muscle, shut down for the season); San Francisco pitchers Matt Cain (arm contusion) and Chad Gaudin (carpel tunnel); Toronto slugger Jose Bautista (hip bruise); Colorado closer Rafael Betancourt (elbow, out perhaps for the year); and reliever J.J. Putz for the fading Diamondbacks, with his second DL trip—this time with a dislocated pinky.


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