Price is Right: David Price (6 6 1 1 1 7) outpitchesRoy Halladay to cap a three-game sweep of the Jays, but not before the Rays themselves are swept by the Rangers, costing them the top spot here. The Rays’ starting pitching simply hasn’t been up to snuff, and Price has been more problem than solution; while Matt Garza, James Shields, and Jeff Niemann are posting a combined Support-Neutral Winning Percentage of .546, with all three above .500, those who have filled the back two spots (Price, Kazmir, and Andy Sonnanstine) were at .400 going into Thursday’s start.
Running the Table: A 13-2 run carries the Yankees back into a first-place tie with the Red Sox. They sweep a three-game set from the Twins in Minnesota, thus winning the season series 7-0; they’ve also won 18 of their last 24 games against the Twins. Alas, the run is tempered by the loss of Chien-Ming Wang due to a shoulder strain. Not that he’d pitched well (9.64 ERA overall, 5.50 since returning from the DL, and still waiting for that first quality start), but his absence forces the Yanks to pull Alfredo Aceves into the rotation. Along with Phil Hughes, he’s become a key player in a bullpen that’s put up a 2.39 ERA and 3.3 K/BB ratio since the beginning of June; he’s 18th in the league in WXRL.
Knuckling Down: It’s a banner week for Tim Wakefield, who not only collects his league-leading 11th win but surpassesRoger Clemens for the most starts in franchise history. Oh, and at 42 he makes the All-Star team for the first time in his 17-year career, becoming the second-oldest player (after Satchel Paige) to be so honored. Wakefield’s racking up the wins thanks to 6.6 runs per game of offensive support (fourth in the league); while his ERA is just 4.31, he does rank among the league’s top 25 in SNLVAR.
A five-run eighth-inning outburst backs Joel Pineiro‘s second complete-game win in a four-start span (9 3 1 1 0 5) as the Cardinals take the rubber match of a tight three-game series with the second-place Brewers. Pineiro’s pitched better than his 7-9 record indicates; he’s 12th in the league with a 3.20 ERA thanks to the circuit’s lowest rate of HR/9 and the lowest walk rate as well.
Stewing: Ian Stewart bookends the week with homers off aof pair of excellent young pitchers, Max Scherzer and Tommy Hanson. Since Jim Tracy took over as manager, Stewart’s started 30 of 39 ballgames between second base and third, hitting .254/.313/.557 with nine homers. Tracy hasn’t completely neglected Garrett Atkins, whom Stewart supplanted at the hot corner. Under the new regime, Atkins is hitting .303/.365/.447 while starting 19 times at three positions, boosting his trade value.
I Hate LA (Even When It’s Anaheim): Andruw Jones homers four times, including thrice in one game, and drives in seven of the Rangers’ 16 runs across a pair of wins against the Angels, capping a 7-1 run which restores Texas’ AL West lead. Jones has nine homers in his last 14 starts across a 25-day span. Among hitters with at least 10 jacks, only Albert Pujols and Raul Ibañez have homered in a higher percentage of their plate appearances.
Phillin’ Groovy: Fresh off a sweep by the Braves, the Phils return home and step on the Mets‘ necks, winning three games by a combined score of 13-3, then dropping 22 runs on the Reds the next night. The pitching remains questionable, with question number one being, “What are they doing to acquire Roy Halladay?” Meanwhile, the offensive outburst pushes the team to the league lead in team EqA. Shane Victorino collects 10 hits and eight runs over that four-game span, part of a 14-for-32 binge that culminates with him winning the last spot on the All-Star squad. Also rolling: Jimmy Rollins (12-for-28 with five extra-base hits) and Jason Werth (homers in three straight games and four for the week).
Disasterpiece Theater: The Angels surrender first place in the AL West when they drop two of three to the Rangers, with John Lackey and Ervin Santana making back-to-back disasterstarts. Lackey’s carrying an un-Lackeylike 5.18 ERA, but that’s nothing compared to Santana, who’s at 7.81 after his fifth disaster start in six outings. More bad news: Kelvim Escobar is likely done for the year, and both Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero are hurting, with the latter possibly headed back to the DL amid a forgettable .290/.319/.415 showing.
Break Up the Jays: GM J.P. Ricciardi opens the door to offers for Roy Halladay, though the ace won’t be a free agent until after 2010. It’s a consequence of a ridiculously top-heavy payroll; they have $74.45 million (or 92 percent of this year’s Opening Day payroll) committed to just six players for next year, including B.J. Ryan, whom they punt with some $15 million remaining on his deal. The bigger problems are their five-year committments to Vernon Wells ($107 million) and Alex Rios ($59.7 million), hitting an interchangeably pallid .264/.313/.418 and .259/.314/.415, respectively.
Missing Unit: The Giants maintain their NL Wild Card lead, but their chances take a hit when they lose Randy Johnson to a shoulder strain sustained while swinging; that could cost the career .125 hitter six weeks on the DL. Though Johnson’s overall ERA is a beefy 4.81, he’d put up a 2.85 mark over his previous eight starts. Jonathan Sanchez, who’s been rocked for a 5.62 ERA during his 13 starts thanks to an unsightly walk rate (6.3 per nine), will fill his spot.
Danks Blanks: John DanksoutduelsZack Greinke, running his streak of scoreless innings to 19 1/3. He’s yielded just six runs over his last five starts while tossing at least seven innings each time, with a 1.51 ERA that’s been accompanied by similarly strong stretches from Jose Contreras (2.06) and Gavin Floyd (2.12). The rotation as a whole has put together a 2.89 ERA since Contreras’ June 8 return from the minors, and their 18-10 record is enough to push them into second in the AL Central.
Hold That Tiger: Despite some Fourth of July fireworks from Magglio Ordoñez, the Tigers find themselves amid a skid in which they’ve lost seven out of 12 while seeing their AL Central lead shrink to 2½ games. Manager Jim Leyland now plans to platoon Ordonez with Clete Thomas; the Tigers need to throw the brakes on the 35-year-old ex-sluggger before he gets the remaining 166 PA which will trigger an $18 million option. He’s hitting a respectable .299/.357/.468 against lefties, but just .243/.319/.292 against righties. Suck on that, Boras.
Potential Pipp? Kelly Johnson hits the DL due to wrist tendonitis and an anemic .214/.286/.359 line that’s produced an EqA 61 points below his PECOTA projection, one of the season’s biggest shortfalls. Luckily, replacement Martin Prado is riding a .455/.508/.673 hot streak over his last 15 games and hitting .324/.388/.506 overall via limited engagements at all three infield positions due to various starter owies.
Yo Melvin! Ryan Brauncalls out the Brewers’ starting pitchers after the team drops three of four to the Cubs in an effort to spur GM Doug Melvin to swing a deal. The slugger’s got a point; the rotation is 13th in the league in both ERA (4.95) and SNLVAR (6.1) and could really use the Doctor. A modicum of help does arrive in the form of Manny Parra, who tosses seven scoreless innings in his return from the minors, but alas, the bullpen melts down before they net the win.
Lost Weekend, the Sequel: A week after their scoring just three runs in a three-game weekend sweep by the Yankees, the Mets suffer the same fate against the Phillies, falling below .500. The futility extends into their series against the Dodgers, where they’re outscored 23-7, though they do claim one game via a shaky return from Oliver Perez, who walks seven in five innings to push his 2009 walk rate above one per inning. The Mets are just 12-23 since June began, and they’re not getting their missing stars back any time soon.
Wandy is Dandy: Wandy Rodriguez tosses a five-hit shutout (9 5 0 0 1 11) against the Pirates, the fourth time in six starts he’s allowed one run or less; he’s 10th in the league in SNLVAR, while Roy Oswalt is 19th. Oswalt’s allowed exactly one run in three straight starts and five of his last seven, putting up a 2.82 ERA in that span, though the competition (Colorado, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Minnesota, Kansas City, San Diego, San Francisco) hasn’t exactly been a collection of offensive juggernauts.
Wet Noodles: Losers of eight out of 11, the Pirates’ bats have gone limp. They’re hitting just .223/.277/.328 during this skid, and scoring just 2.9 runs per game; they’ve been held to one run or less in five of 11 games. Particularly schlumpy during this slump is Adam LaRoche (.205/.225/.282 with a 13/1 K/BB), with Jack Wilson no prize pig either (.162/.238/.270).
Thirty Below: It’s a bad couple of days for the Reds as they’re outscored 32-2 across back-to-back games, including a 22-1 pounding by the Phillies. Johnny Cueto can’t get out of the first inning (2/3 5 9 9 3 1), and while his 3.45 ERA testifies to plenty of good work to offset the bad, he’s been lit for 19 runs across his last 17 1/3 innings. Mopping up the 22-run bloodbath is backup shortstop Paul Janish, who’s now allowed 11 runs in two innings of work this year.
Tough Choices: Despite halting a 4-12 slide by winning three straight games, the Royals continue to invite ridicule to be the guest of honor at their banquet. The acquisition of Ryan Freel forces them to choose between Luis Hernandez (.204/.235 /.204) and Tony Peña Jr. (.089/.128/.111) as the backup shortstop behind-wait for it-Willie Bloomquist, who’s hitting a comparatively A-Rod-esque .278/.329/.378 following a five-game, 10-hit outburst which includes his first multi-extra-base-hit game in nearly five years. Which, y’know, totally justifies Bloomquist’s two-year deal right there.
Wedgie: GM Mark Shapiro tells the buzzards to buzz off, declaring that Eric Wedge will finish the year as the Indians’ manager. Wedge has been the Tribe’s skipper since 2003, and while his overall record stands at 529-527, he’s finished above .500 just twice, and his teams have fallen a cumulative 27 games shy of their Pythagorean projections, including five shortfalls of at least four games.
Brett Anderson spins a two-hit shutout in Fenway Park, providing the A’s with one of their few highlights for the week. The highlights haven’t been so common for Anderson either; he’s put up a 4.86 ERA while making just five quality starts out of 15, and his Support-Neutral Winning Percentage is fifth among those who’ve started more than once for the A’s.
The Advance Guard: Back-to-back quality starts from David Hernandez help the Orioles break even for the third week in a row. Hernandez has put up a 3.94 ERA through five starts, and is one of three rookie Oriole starters with Support-Neutral Winning Percentages above .500. There’s more on the way, but the top pitching prospects won’t arrive until next year. Speaking of top prospects, Matt Wieters is hitting .315/.375/.479 over the past month.
Don’t Look So Surprised: With seven losses in eight games and 24 in their past 34, the Padres slide into the NL West cellar for the first time all year. Their staff has yielded a 5.13 ERA during that span-admittedly, while lacking Jake Peavy and Chris Young for most of it-while surrendering 1.4 HR/9, a tough thing to do when you’re playing half your games in Petco Park, where just 0.8 per nine have been hit this year. Not helping is the fact that the offense is scoring just 3.5 runs per game during that period while being outhomered 49-23.