AL East Roundup: 5/4/09 through 5/10/09
Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze
In terms of series, the Jays split the 2-game series with LAA and CLE, and each time they came up with at least one 10+ run game. The 3-game series against Oakland series was a won the Jays (2-1). There was nothing particularly different about this week for the Jays, as they put up 45 runs during the week for a 6.5 run per game average. This average was achieved despite the Jays meeting their match in Jered Weaver, and I'm sure other teams will pour over his outing to see how he was able to 3 hit this offense while allowing only 1 run in a complete game gem.
Throughout the week, the key to their offensive effectiveness continued to be hitting throughout the lineup. Each day or night it seemed that all except maybe 1 or 2 guys were getting their hits, and most of them with men on base. Lind, Overbay, and Hill had really strong weeks, while Snider went 2 for 4 four times this week to help out his average. Overall, the offense continued to clobber opposing pitching and was supplemented by very effective pitching.
The bullpen, however, had a horrible start to the week, with Camp, League, and Carlson allowing 3 runs a piece. Rookie Bret Cecil turned in two excellent outings and may have forced Cito to give him another look instead of calling up the now healthy Casey Janssen. He threw 6 innings with 1 ER and 6 Ks in his first outing against a very good CLE lineup, and followed it up with an 8 inning game with 5 hits allowed, no earned runs, 2 walks and 6 Ks.
Most notable for the Jays this week was how efficiently the starting pitching was able to pitch. Monday and Tuesday's outings by the pen must have really scared the starters into lasting longer into the games, because from then on they went over 7 innings with only 1 ER four times, with only Robert Ray lasting 6.1 innings. What did this mean for the suddenly unconfident pen? Well, from Wednesday to Sunday they pitched a total of 6.2 innings, with only 68 pitches thrown by 5 guys. So as we head into the following week, we have a fresh pen, extremely confident starting pitching, 3 more starters ready to return when needed (Romero, Purcey, and Janssen), and an offense that just seems to keep clicking.
Week's Record: 4-3
Season Record: 22-12
Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm - cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in Single A May 8th), BJ Ryan (Throwing in HiA Dunedin), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).
This Week: Tue-Thu NEW YORK; Fri-Sun CHICAGO
Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady
Despite a powerless Papi and the Beard of Mayhem on the bench, the Red Sox managed to grab five wins against the Yankees, Cleveland and Tampa. Monday night the Sox treated Phil Hughes like the new guy on the cell block, scoring in each of the first four innings in their first meeting in the new Yankee Stadium Jason Bay's two-run shot in the seventh would prove to be the margin of victory after a Yankee comeback. It was more of the same against Joba on Tuesday, with Bay crushing a three-run job in the first. Joba, true to form, would drill Bay later in the game but the Sox went on to a 7-3 win and a two-game sweep.
The Sox were unable to muster any offense against Carl Pavano, coming off a four-year, injury-plagued tour with the Yankees. Justin Masterson pitched OK until the wheels fell off in the seventh and the Sox went down without much of a fight 7-3. The next night was a bit different. The first 12 batters in the sixth inning not only reached base, they scored, capped by Jason Bay's three-run homer. The Sox went on to win a laugher 13-3 behind Tim Wakefield and the bats.
The weekend series against the Rays was a see-saw battle. The Sox sent "Big Game" James Shields to the dugout (where he promptly whipped out a can of whoop-ass on the water jug) on yet another Jason Bay three-run home run. The Rays would seek vengeance on Saturday, running away with a 14-5 blowout. In Sunday's finale, ESPN commentators bumbled their way through a dramatic Red Sox win. The Sox took a 4-3 lead in the eighth on back-to-back doubles by Papi and (who else?) Jason Bay. Papelbon put two runners on in the ninth before striking out Pena, Upton and Crawford to end it.
Week's record: 5-2
Season record: 20-12
Injuries: Kevin Youkilis (day to day, back), Dustin Pedroia (day to day, groin)
This week: Tue-Thu @Anaheim; Fri - Sun @Seattle
New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues
This was a week to forget in Yankeeland. With two two-game sets against division rivals Red Sox and Rays, the Yankees needed a few strong performances so they could manage a split. That they did not get. Phil Hughes had some issues on Monday and let the game get a bit out of hand. Then on Tuesday Joba Chamberlain allowed four runs in the first before deciding that he can take these guys. His 12 strikeouts energized the crowd, but they were not enough to overcome the Red Sox, who are now 5-0 against the Yankees this season.
The Rays followed the Sox into town, and while the games were a bit closer, the Yanks still came up short. Johnny Damon did all he could to give the Yanks a win, but in both games the team found a way to lose. The last game was the most painful, with the Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria going back to back off Mariano Rivera, the first time a duo had achieved the feat against Mo in his career. All the sudden, the Yankees who had managed two of three from the Angels were in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
CC Sabathia changed that Friday night, going all nine innings in a 4-0 victory over the Orioles. He did it in dramatic fashion, allowing the first two runners to reach in the ninth before striking out the side to seal the victory. Alex Rodriguez, on the first pitch he's seen since last September, hit a three-run shot in the first to give Sabathia all the support he'd need. The euphoric feeling wouldn't last long, though, as Phil Hughes melted down in the second inning of Saturday's game, giving the Orioles an insurmountable lead.
On Sunday Joba Chamberlain started out in a similar fashion to Tuesday, allowing three runs in the first. Again he settled down, keeping the Orioles scoreless for the next five innings, which put Johnny Damon in a position to win the game for the Yanks. Phil Coke and Mariano Rivera combined for the final nine outs, and the Yanks went home with their first series win in a week.
Week record: 2-5
Season record: 15-16
Injuries: Jorge Posada (15-day DL, hamstring); Jose Molina (15-day DL, hamstring)
This week: Tue-Thu @Toronto; Fri-Sun MINNESOTA
Tampa Bay Rays - Mike Axisa
NOTE: The regular Rays contributor bailed this week. Hopefully he comes back next week. Huge thanks to Mike for filling in.
The week started off with Scott Kazmir walking Brian Roberts and Adam Jones before giving up a three run homer to Nick Markakis in the top of the first inning of Monday's game, but luckily for the Rays that wasn't a sign of what the rest of the week had in store. They split the two game set with Baltimore thanks to the late inning heroics of (who else?) Evan Longoria on Tuesday, but more on him later. The defending AL Champs then rolled into the Bronx and swept their first series at the New Yankee Stadium. Andy Sonnanstine turned in his best start of the year before Carlos Pena hit the go-ahead homer in the tenth inning on Wednesday, then Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria secured the win on Thursday with back-to-back homers off Mariano Rivera in the 9th.
Tampa then headed north to Boston, dropping game one of the three game series because of a five-run sixth inning in which Jason Bay and JD Drew clubbed three-run and two-run homers, respectively. The Boys in Some Sorta Blue took the screws to John Lester on Saturday, hitting him up for eight runs in just four and a third innings on their way to a 14-5 romp. Noted Red Sox killer Matt Garza took the mound in the rubber game of the series on Sunday night, throwing seven innings of three-run ball before giving way to the bullpen. Brian Shouse allowed a leadoff double to The Artist Formerly Known As David Ortiz before Dan Wheeler gave up the go-ahead hit to Jason Bay. Jonathan Papelbon made it interesting in the ninth, but Tampa wasn't able to pull out another win.
Back to Longoria, who's smokin' hot bat was the story of the week. The Long Beach State Dirtbag hit .333-.375-.889 in the seven games, smacking four homers and driving in 14 runs. He leads all of baseball in doubles (15), RBI (44), SLG (.748), and WAR (2.9), and is second in OPS (1.158) and third in homers (11). Longoria also leads all third baseman with a 7.4 UZR, and has established himself as one of the five best players on the planet.
Week's record: 4-3
Season record: 15-8
Injuries: No new injuries, but backup catcher Shawn Riggins had his rehab assignment cut short and will have his barking right shoulder looked at by Dr. James Andrews this week
This week: Tues-Weds @Baltimore; Thurs-Sun CLEVELAND
Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army
After going 0-6 the previous week, the Orioles showed signs of life splitting a two-game set at Tampa, beating the Twins twice in their two game visit to Camden Yards and coming tantalizingly close to taking the Yankee series in Baltimore this weekend. Jeremy Guthrie pitched well enough to win on Friday but C.C. Sabathia kept the Oriole bats at bay. Koji Uehara left the game with a 3-1 lead on Sunday that the bullpen frittered away capped by a three-run homer to Johnny Damon.
Speaking of Uehara, he has now had five straight quality starts. Unfortunately, the Orioles haven't won a single one of those games. Uehara had been better than expected to this point but is becoming a hard luck loser far too often.
Veteran utility man and malcontent Ryan Freel came off the DL and was promptly shipped to the Cubs for AAA filler OF Joey Gathright. I imagine that Andy MacPhail was delighted to find any team who would assume even a portion of Freel's $4 million salary. Freel was redundant on this team and he was chirping to the press of unhappiness with his playing time. He had to go.
OF Luke Scott injured his shoulder diving back to first on a pickoff throw and looks to be headed to the DL, a significant blow to the Oriole offense. It does allow for the very interesting move of calling up top outfield prospect Nolan Reimold (.381/.479/.711, 8 HR at AAA Norfolk) and starting him everyday. It will also allow the Felix Pie experiment to continue and for the club to get a longer look at Lou Montanez. The three of them could rotate LF/DH duties with Reimold working everyday. Baltimore is going nowhere this year. We might as well see if Reimold's bat will translate to the majors, if Pie can hit his way out of a wet paper bag and if Montanez has any value as a fourth outfielder in the majors.
Looking back at Norfolk, C Matt Wieters has raised his average above .300 and is finally starting to stroke some extra base hits with 4 doubles in the last five games. SP Rich Hill made his third rehab start for Norfolk today lowering his ERA to 1.35 with 14 strikeout in 13.1 innings. Look for Hill to show up in Baltimore later this week.
Week's Record: 4-3
Season Record: 13-19
Injuries: RP Dennis Sarfate (numbness in hand, 15-day DL, out until July), Rich Hill (elbow, 15-day DL, out until mid-May)
This Week: Tue-Wed TAMPA; Thur-Sun @Kansas City