Monday, May 18, 2009

AL East Roundup: Week 5

AL East Roundup: May 11th - 18th

Toronto Blue Jays - Blue Jays Daze

Any week that has Doc Halladay pitching twice is a week Jays fans look forward to for good reason. Doc didn't disappoint while setting the tone against the Yankees against AJ, his old team mate and newest Blue Jay nemesis. Doc pitched a complete game gem against a somewhat diminished Yankee lineup that was missing Jeter, Swisher, and Posada, but still took care of business. He only needed 103 pitches to complete his outing. While Doc's performance was to be expected, the fact that Burnett was booed every single time he threw a strike and jeered more than Arod surprised many of us. While it is true that Burnett became just another player chasing the money he supposedly deserves in New York, he deserves to be made aware that he sold out.

Back to the Jays week, I have to admit the Yankee pitching surprised me after the first game of the series. CC and Andy threw some very strong games supplemented by some stellar pen innings I had no idea the Yanks relievers could deliver. I expected the Jays hitters to have some struggles this season, but hoped they would come against other opponents. For the Jays, Richmond obviously looked shell shocked and definitely had no faith in his stuff for the first time this season. I'm not really sure why it happened, but I hope that he learns from the experience and works on his tenacity. His rough outing was followed by yet another surprising start by Tallet who held his own over 6 innings allowing only 2 runs. Either way, he wasn't beating CC and the Jays hitters took the 2 games off, leaving Richmond and Tallet to fend for themselves.

As the weekend series versus the White Sox started, the Jays has hungry hitters on the prowl and did they delivered enough to sweep the weekend. Friday's game had Bret Cecil throwing a great game to go along with 8 runs of support, resulting in Bret's second win in a row. Lind and Bautista delivered the two required RBIs in the 8th inning on Saturday in support of Robert Ray, who lasted 8 innings with no earned runs. Scott Downs got the save and seems to have a good hold on the role. And finally the Jays supported their Doc with another 8 run effort led by none other than Aaron Hill. I'd like to advertise for Aaron for very good reason. As we begin to vote for the All-Star game, I would suggest that Aaron's stats deserve to be compared to Utley's and Kinsler's to prove just how special he has been this season. I hope all voters will give him the thumbs up, he deserves it.

Week's Record: 4-2

Season Record: 26-14

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm - cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in AAA May 13th), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).

This Week: Mon CHICAGO; Tue-Thu @Boston; Fri-Sun @Atlanta

Boston Red Sox - Surviving Grady

A dismal week for the Boston Red Sox on the west coast. Not only did they drop two-out-of-three to the Angels and Mariners, but the Sox were forced to bench David Ortiz after a horrendous appearance on Thursday. Papi went 0-for-7 with three K's and left an astounding 12 runners on base. After the game, Ortiz told reporters "Papi stinks."

Things started out OK in LA. Afetr being shut down for seven innings by Jered Weaver, the Sox got to the Angel bullpen in the 8th and 9th innings, capped by a run-scoring double off the bat of Captain Tek. The next night, "The Big A" continued to be a personal house of horrors for Tim Wakefield. Wake is 0-6 with a 9.3 ERA in his last six starts there. Wednesday was no different: Wakefield couldn't get out of the 5th inning, giving up seven earned. The Angels' Matt Palmer went the distance in the 8-4 rout. Thursday was one of the worst games of the 2009 season for the Red Sox bats. Brad Penny turned in a decent start and the bullpen was phenomenal, going scoreless innings before Manny Delcarmen gave up the game-winner in the 12th. The Red Sox had countless opportunities to steal a win, putting seven runners on in the last four frames but scoring none.

The next stop was Seattle and a chance to make the road trip a success. The Mariners were struggling, winning just once in their last ten games. But Jon Lester fell victim once again to "the bad inning" syndrome. After cruising through five, Lester melted in the 6th, giving up four earned, two on Ichiro's second homer of the game. The bullpen was again the highlight, shutting down the M's, but the Sox couldn't plate the tying run. Josh Beckett returned to a more Beckett-like form on Saturday, going seven strong and giving up just two earned runs. Bay cranked his 11th homer on the way to a 5-3 win. Sunday's attempt to grab a .500 record on the road trip went awry in the bottom of the 9th when a Nick Green error led to the winning run.

The bullpen remains the one constant strength for the Red Sox. Beckett's strong outing was a silver lining to the week's cloudy pattern: the return of the ace is much-needed. As is the return of the Beard. Youk's bat in the line-up might have been enough grab a couple more wins on this trip. Next week the Sox will battle the Jays, needing a sweep to tie for the lead in the East. Then the first bite of the shit sandwich that is interleague play against the Mets. Finally, the Sox spend Memorial Day weekend in the Homerdome battling the Twins and the Hefty bag. Can the three-day mental health break be enough to get Papi's bat on track? It better be.

Week's record: 2-4

Season record: 22-16

Injuries: Kevin Youkilis (15-day DL retroactive to May 5, oblique strain)

This week: Tue - Thu TORONTO; Fri - Sun NEW YORK METS

New York Yankees - River Ave. Blues

After back-to-back sweeps at the hands of AL East opponents two weeks ago, the Yanks could have used a boost against the Jays last week. Unfortunately, the series began with Roy Halladay taking the mound for the birds. The Yanks hadn't beaten Halladay since Opening Day 2008, and Tuesday night would be no different. They mustered just one run off Doc, an A-Rod grounder through the hole that scored on of the scant runners they put in scoring position. This made the Yanks 3-7 over their previous 10.

As we've seen in at least on recent May, the Yankees then decided to go on a tear. They turned to Andy Pettitte, who has a history of stanching the Yanks' bleeding. That he did, though it wasn't the prettiest of starts. The difference was the offense, which was powered by Brett Gardner's first career home run. The Yanks recorded eight extra base hits in the game, chasing Jays starter Scott Richmond after just 1.2 IP. The next night, CC Sabathia was CC Sabathia, going eight innings and laying his own bridge to Mariano Rivera, who picked up his seventh save of the year and giving the Yanks a second straight series victory.

The weekend proved to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. After blowing several opportunities to close a 4-1 deficit against the Twins, Brett Gardner came through with his second career home run, this one an inside the parker that reignited the fans at Yankee Stadium Friday night. He then led off the bottom of the ninth, Yanks down 4-2, with a triple. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single to bring the Yanks within one. Then, with runners on second and third with two outs, Cito Gaston walked Robinson Cano to get to Melky Cabrera. With the crowd chanting "Mel-ky, Mel-ky," the center fielder lined a single to left center, plating the winning run.

After leading for most of Saturday's affair, the bullpen coughed up the lead late. But Mark Teixeira helped out, tying the game while registering his fourth hit of the day. This led to extra innings. With Teixeira on first after a walk to lead off the 11th, Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate. Lefty Craig Breslow tried to sneak a slider inside, but A-Rod turned on it and deposited it into the left field stands for a second-straight walk-off. Sunday was more a pitcher's duel, with both A.J. Burnett and Kevin Slowey holding their opponents scoreless through sixth. Burnett allowed two in the top of the seventh, and Slowey allowed two in the bottom half. The score remained tied until the bottom of the 10th, when Johnny Damon hit a walk-off homer to right, giving the Yanks three straight victories in dramatic fashion.

Week's record: 5-1

Season record: 20-17

Injuries: None new


Tampa Bay Rays

NOTE: Looks like the Rays blogger bailed. Thankfully, we have a new one lined up for next week. Hopefully we've got the early-season kinks out and this will proceed as normal starting next week.

The week for the Rays began and ended with blunders related to Andy Sonnanstine. The first blunder was the pitcher himself, as he allowed seven runs over two innings on Tuesday, putting his team in poor position against the Orioles. Worst of all, O's stater Mark Hendrickson allowed five runs of his own in the second inning. Sonnanstine, who had allowed one in the first, matched Hendrickson's frame, handing the Orioles the lead right back. A final run in the third would comprise all the scoring for the game, and the O's won 7-5.

On Sunday, Joe Maddon had a brain fart when filling out his lineup card, penciling in both Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria for third base. The intent was to DH Longoria, so when Zobrist took the field for the top of the first, Longoria and his DH spot were removed from the game. It's not an instance which arises often, but it put the Rays in a tough position, having to bat the pitcher third. Sonnanstine again didn't pitch particularly well, allowing five runs over 5.1 innings. He did aid his own cause, though, smacking an RBI double. The Rays overcame their handicap and took the game 7-5.

Sandwiched between the blunders was a 3-1 week which featured the Rays taking three of four from the reeling Indians. I wish I could go into greater detail, but I'd just be repeating the box scores. Thankfully, we'll have a real live Rays blogger next week to give us the proper insight. Until then, the results can do the talking.

Baltimore Orioles - Dempsey's Army

A week of treading water but we call that progress in Baltimore.

The Orioles gained splits in a two game set with the Rays and a four game series at Kansas City and with the injuries and the arms we were sending to the mound, we’ll take it.

Injury update: Luke Scott eventually had to go on the DL with an injury to his rotator cuff. Scott’s injury hurts in the short term but is giving a good opportunity to top prospect OF Nolan Reimold who was recalled from Norfolk. Reimold struggled in his first week but will be trotted out there everyday, at least until Scott gets healthy. (On a side note, since the departure of B.J. Surhoff, the Orioles were unable to find a left fielder who could even hit for league average for several years. It was pretty unforgivable. One of the reasons Baltimore fans love Scott is that he finally filled that need last season…but I digress.)

Adam Jones tweaked his hamstring legging out an infield hit and hasn’t played since Tuesday. Another big blow to the Oriole offense but helps to extend the Felix Pie experiment. Pie was terrible in April but has hit .286/.355/.536 in May, more than enough to buy him some time when everyone gets healthy.

Debuts: I’ve already talked about Reimold who hit .235/.235/.294 in his first week in the bigs. SP Rich Hill came off the DL to make his Oriole debut and go 5.2 IP, striking out 6 and scaterring 7 hits, giving up 2 earned and getting the win versus Kansas City. It speaks volumes about the Oriole pitching staff that Hill is a massive upgrade over many of our rotation candidates. Adam Eaton cannot be long for the rotation..we just need to find one more arm.

Living proof that hitting in between Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis alone will not improve your bat: Cesar Izturis. Izturis is hitting .190 in the 2 spot. Manager Dave Trembley seems to like his basestealing ability at the top of the order but Izturis is a really bad choice to bat second. Melvin Mora would be a better choice until Jones returns.

Week's Record: 3-3

Season Record: 16-22

Injuries: RP Dennis Sarfate (numbness in hand, 15-day DL, out until July), DH/LF Luke Scott (strained shoulder, 15-day DL), CF Adam Jones (day to day, strained hamstring)

This Week: Tue-Thur @New York; Fri-Sun @Washington

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