The American League held an early-season barnburner over the weekend as the
teams battling for the leads in the East and Central divisions went

The series in New York got most of the attention, thanks in part to two of
the games showing up on national television. The Red Sox took two of three
from the Yankees, riding the arms of the Brothers Martinez to their wins,
and now have a one-game lead in the division. The Yankees scored just one
run in their two losses, and while they now have their middle infield back,
it doesn’t appear that the problems they have scoring runs are going to go
away anytime soon.

I like the Sox more every fifth day. Pedro Martinez has reached a
level of greatness that borders on the absurd. His shutout Sunday lowered
his ERA by a whopping…0.14? That’s just silly. And while he was stretched
out tonight, tossing a season-high 128 pitches, that type of workload is an
exception, not a rule. Additionally, Jimy Williams keeps him on a
five-game, rather than five-day, cycle, which will give Martinez an extra
day of rest before his next start.

Winning two of three over the weekend has no great significance. These two
teams have similar strengths and weaknesses, and the difference right now
is the Sox have the game’s best pitcher. This Yankee/Red Sox race could yet
be decided by which team can add the best hitter between now and July 31.

In Chicago, the White Sox passed the first real test of their season by
winning two of three against the Indians. Unlike the AL East showdown, in
which the games were fairly close, the Pale Hose and Tribe traded blowouts
on Saturday and Sunday, with the difference-maker Chicago’s wet 5-3 win in
the opener Friday.

You could win a fair number of bar bets by knowing that the team with the
second-most runs scored and third-fewest runs allowed in the AL is the
Chicago White Sox. While it’s hard to believe the team is really this
good–James Baldwin and Cal Eldred aren’t likely to continue
to pitch as well as they have–the Sox do have a strong bullpen and an
offense to support it. They also have a low payroll that should allow them
the flexibility of adding a starting pitcher or left-handed power hitter if
they can stay in the race through the All-Star break.

Just like the Yankees, the Indians have had their lack of depth exposed by
injuries. Their bullpen in front of Steve Karsay and Paul
has been a disappointment, and only Chuck Finley is giving
the Tribe more than six innings per start. Rushing Jaret Wright back
for Saturday’s start–in which he allowed seven runs in less than two
innings–is a sign that they might be panicking.

While we all thought 2001 would be the year the cracks showed through, the
aging, infirm Indians may push that timetable up a year.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at

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