We Dislike Ike...
Also heavily affected by the rains is the AL Central race. The Chicago White Sox had two straight days of baseball with the Detroit Tigers rained out at U.S. Cellular Field due to a persistent rainand just as that lousy weather finally moved on, in came the remnants of Ike on Sunday, causing the first game of a make-up doubleheader to be delayed over three hours. But at least they got them in, and the White Sox swept the Tigers, 4-2 and 11-7.
Hurricane Ike blew through this past weekendas did less dangerous but more stubbornly wet weather throughout the remainder of the country east of the Rockiesand wrecked havoc on the home stretch plans for a number of teams. Fearing Ike’s wrath, the red-hot Houston Astros were forced to cancel an entire weekend series with the first-place Chicago Cubs; with the end of the season nearing and downtime at an absolute premium, both teams had no choice but to quickly pick up the games at MLB’s favorite weather shelter, Milwaukee’s Miller Park. (It was in Milwaukee where, early last year, the Indians and Mariners had a series shifted after a springtime blizzard blanketed Cleveland.)
...Except Carlos Zambrano
The Astros were hoping to play the transplanted series against the Cubs near Dallas, at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and were less than thrilled when told to set up temporary shop at Milwaukee, located less than 100 miles from Chicago. Not only did the Astros arrive in town just hours before the start of the first game on Sunday night, but their “home” contest was played before a mostly pro-Cub crowd of 23,000all of whom were rewarded by Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter, the first thrown by a Cub pitcher since 1972.
With two weeks still left to play in the regular season, it had become a mere formality for Francisco Rodriguez to eclipse the all-time season saves record as he tied the mark on Wednesday and broke it on Saturday, eliminating Bobby Thigpen’s 57 in 1990 from the record book. The actual suspense is whether K-Rod can break 60 and beyond to make it tougher for the next guyand whether his accomplishments will be enough to wrestle away the AL Cy Young award from the likely favorite, Cleveland’s Cliff Lee.
One Powerful Infield
The Florida Marlins established a new major league record on Friday by becoming the first team to field four infielders with 25 or more home runs. The mark was ensured when Jorge Cantu hit his 25th home run in the Marlins’ 2-1 win over Washington, joining teammates Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Jacobs. With the other three players at or above 30 homers, a mild power burst by Cantu to finish the season may up the ante to 30 per infielder. Exposing the dark side of the homer-happy Marlins (who are third in the majors in that department), the four slugging infielders have also each struck out over 100 times (with Uggla’s 156 leading the way), neither player is likely to knock in over 100 runs, and unless Ramirez (.293 batting average) gets hot in the home stretch, neither will finish the season anywhere near the .300 mark.
Roy Oswalt went the distance and faced the minimum of 27 batters on Thursday at Houston against the Pirates, but it wasn’t a perfect game; Oswalt allowed three hits, and all three baserunners were erased on double plays. The Astro ace needed just 90 pitches and extended a run of consecutive scoreless innings to 32.1, a Houston franchise record.
"Meltdown" Bradley Rides Again
Milton Bradley was ejected from Saturday’s 7-1 loss at Oakland, leading to a fiery altercation between him and first base umpire Angel Campos. That was the bad news for Bradley; the good news was that neither Texas manager Ron Washington or first base coach Gary Pettis managed to restrain Bradley without causing a season-ending injury, unlike the moment almost a year ago when Bradley, playing for San Diego, tore an ACL in his knee after being spun to the ground by Padre manager Bud Black as Bradley reacted wildly to a profane taunting from umpire Mike Winters, who was suspended for the incident. The confrontation this time around revolved around a disputed call at first base that didn't go Bradley's way.
Wounded of the Week
We’re late enough into the year where the 15-day disabled list basically means you’re done for the season; in Billy Wagner’s case, make that the rest of the decade. The closer for the Mets, whose last appearance came on August 2, has chosen to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery to repair a messed-up left elbow and is expected to miss the entire 2009 campaign; when Wagner returns in 2010, three months shy of turning 39, he doesn’t believe it will be with the Mets.
Also done for the year is Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, but he went down a good soldier. In the 11th inning of Monday’s contest at Milwaukee, Phillips broke a finger attempting a buntbut stayed in and stroked a single to bring in what would be the game-winning run.
Finally, we have Pittsburgh starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, who broke his middle finger on his pitching handperhaps as some sort of morbid payback for the bobblehead figurine given away earlier in the year appearing to show Gorzelanny giving us the finger on his glove hand. Perhaps the Nostradamus in the Pirate marketing department presaged the reaction Gorzelanny would have to a season in which he would finish 6-9 with more walks than strikeouts and a wretched 6.66 ERA.
Finishing this week’s roll call of the reeling are season shutdowns for beleaguered former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter, Detroit flamethrower Joel Zumaya and Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre, who’s been allowed by the Mariners to finish early to repair thumb and shoulder woes even though he’s been red hot over the past few weeks.
Luck of the Coin
Though a winner-take-all matchup would provide for plenty of excitement, the downsideor the “nadir,” as Bob Costas once termed itoccurs if either of these divisional races produces a tie with two teams who are assured postseason play via the wild card; an extra game would therefore not be necessary, with the only drama remaining who gets better home field advantage by avoiding wild card status (and that’s only if season head-to-head competition between the two teams, which in this case would determine a divisional champ, hasn’t been clinched for either team). This would be a particularly shame in the NL Central, where Milwaukee ends the season with a three-game series at Miller Park against the Chicago Cubs.
The Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers each gained the edge in their respective divisional races on Friday when coin flips determined who would host a potential tiebreaking playoff to determine divisional champions. For instance, if the Red Sox and Tampa Bay tied for first in the AL East after 162 games, a 163rd game between the two to unlock the knot would take place in Boston.
Home Sweet Home
In case people don’t think home field advantage for a one-game playoff makes much of a difference, consider this: As of Sunday, every team in the majors has a better record at home than on the road.
By a Nose on the Road, at Last
Over the last 13 months, the Atlanta Braves had participated in 29 road games decided by a single runand lost them all. That streak, the longest such in major league history, finally came to an end on Saturday when the Braves came from behind to trip up the Mets at New York, 3-2.
A Bad Day For the Iron Horse
Nearly seven decades after playing his last game, Lou Gehrig lost a sole hold on two records this past Sunday. In the Yankees’ 8-4 win over Tampa Bay, shortstop Derek Jeter collected his 1,269th career hit at Yankee Stadium, tying Gehrig for the most at the 85-year old facility that will host only seven more games before bowing to the new Stadium next season. Earlier in the same game, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez tied the AL markheld by Gehrigfor the most consecutive seasons scoring 100 runs when he reached the century mark on a first-inning grand slam; the four RBIs also gave A-Rod 100, giving him 11 straight years with triple-digit results in that category, two shy of the major league record co-owned by Jimmie Foxx…and Gehrig. Back to Jeter: He recently surpassed Babe Ruth for second on the all-time Yankee hit list. Who’s first? You guessed it. Gehrig, with 2,721189 ahead of Jeter.
Shea it Ain't So
The Atlanta Braves made their final appearance at New York’s Shea Stadium this week, and nobody on the Braves will miss it more than veteran third baseman Chipper Jones, who’s spent much of his time at Shea torturing the Mets and their fans. Although Jones’ .308 average, 19 homers and 54 RBIs in 87 games at Shea is somewhat par for the course relative to his output at other ballparks, he said he felt more comfortable hitting there than at any other ballpark on the roadand his fondness for the facility reached a stratospheric level of worship when he named his second of four kids Shea. As a FYI, Jones’ best damage has been done at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, where he’s batted .416 in 27 career gamesbut imagine naming your kid Minute Maid Jones.
Although the Oakland A’s have sunk like the Titanic in the season’s second half, they can’t pin the blame on relievers Brad Ziegler and Joey Devinewho have combined for a 0.57 ERA over 94.2 innings with just 57 hits and 35 walks allowed in 2008. Ziegler, who earlier smashed a major league record for the most consecutive scoreless innings to start a career, has now taken over the closer role in Oakland from Huston Street; Devine hasn’t allowed an earned run himself since May 20, a span of 20.1 innings and 21 appearances.
Not Your Father's Coors Field Result
On Sunday, for the first time in the 14-year history of Denver's oxygen-challenged Coors Field, a game went scoreless into extra innings. The Colorado Rockies emerged with a 1-0 win in the tenth over the Los Angeles Dodgers when Troy Tulowitzki singled home Matt Holliday.
This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Baltimore’s Aubrey Huff, who earlier this year ran one batting streak up to 19 games, has another of 14 going to end this past week for the longest active hitting streak in the majors. Huff, enjoying a campaign similar to his breakout performance of 2003 (when he hit .311 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs for Tampa Bay), is hitting .411 during this latest streak.
He Said What?
Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker on good-hitting pitcher Micah Owings, the “player to be named later” in the trade that sent Adam Dunn from the Reds to Arizonaand the player who tormented his former D-Back mates by doubling in the winning run for the Reds on Saturday barely a day after switching uniforms: “Anybody knows he can hit. If anybody knows he can hit, they know he can hit.” Yeah, Dusty, but can he hit?
Now Playing on TGG
Check out Ed Attanasio’s entertaining chat with one-game-wonder Stefan Wever in TGG's latest installment of the They Were There section. Also new this week, in our Opinion section, is Eric Gouldsberry's look at baseball's infatuation with bronze statues.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.