The Windup (cont.)
Player of the Week
A lot has gone wrong this season in Cleveland. A lot. But Cliff Lee has not been the reason why. In two starts last week, an eight-inning gem against the Blue Jays and a complete game against the Angels, the lefty gave up just two runs in 17 innings (a 1.06 ERA) in winning both times. Lee's getting a lot of pressure from Toronto's Roy Halladay, but with another week or two like this, Lee -- 17-2, 2.43 overall and the league-leader in both wins and ERA -- is going to be tough to beat out for the American League Cy Young award.
Team of the Week
A bit more than a week and a half ago, the Mets were floundering, sitting three games behind the Phillies while nursing both a beat-up bullpen and their fading hopes for a chance at the postseason. But thanks to some strong starting pitching, the Mets have ripped off nine wins in their last 11 games, turning that three-game deficit into a two-game lead in the NL East. The Mets' rotation was 7-1 in those 11 games, with a 2.50 ERA, with both Johan Santana and Oliver Perez winning two games apiece. Sure, the Mets -- winners of six straight -- have benefited from a soft part of their schedule (the Marlins were their toughest opponent in that stretch). And, yes, they still have big problems. Closer Billy Wagner is hurt. Damion Easley (.195 in August) is killing them. But they're in it again. And the way the Phillies are playing (see Line Drives, below), the Mets look like they'll be in it for the long haul.
Lines of the Week
David Ortiz, BOS vs. TEX, Aug. 12
3-for-4, 4 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB
In a wild 19-17 win over the Rangers, Big Papi had two three-run homers -- in the first inning.
Mark Kotsay, ATL vs. CHC, Aug. 14
5-for-5, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR
The Braves' centerfielder hit for the cycle, then added a single in the ninth off Kerry Wood.
Matt Garza, TB at TEX, Aug. 15
9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 9 K, 2 BB
The 7-0 Rays win was Garza's second complete-game shutout in his last four starts.
Melvin Mora, BAL at DET, Aug. 17
5-for-6, 4 R, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 2 HR
Mora was 18-for-32 (.563) last week, with three homers among his eight extra-base hits. He also had 13 RBIs.
Quotes of the Week
"Manny was only hitting .300 in Boston with 20 home runs. And he's doing way better than that here -- so I'm helping Manny."
-- The Dodgers' Jeff Kent, to the L.A. Times' T.J. Simers, explaining how Manny Ramirez is not helping his game
"He can be a catalyst for us during the playoffs. And I want him to understand that. But we have to work through some moments and issues right now to get to that point."
-- Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon on the hustle-challenged B.J. Upton
Series of the Week
The Rays' lead in the AL East is up to 4 1/2 games, but you get the feeling that they may need every one of those games just this week to stay on top. And maybe a couple more. First, the world-beating Angels (39-23 on the road) travel to Tampa Bay for a three-game series starting Monday. Then, beginning Friday, the Rays go to Chicago to play the White Sox. The Rays troubles away from hom (30-31) have been well-documented, though they haven't lost a series on the road in the second half and are actually the AL's second-best road team. And the White Sox have next-to no problems at home (42-19). If the Rays lead the division by anything close to 4 1/2 games next Sunday, I'll be impressed.
The flailing Phils won two games last week, both of them over the punchless Padres, by scores of 1-0 and 2-1. That says everything about the Phils' months-long ineptitude, but just to underline: Since June 13, right after putting up 20 runs against the Cardinals, the Phils are hitting just .235 with a criminal .313 on-base percentage and an equally miserable .404 slugging percentage. They're averaging just a little more than four runs a game in those 55 games (25-30), when they were averaging 5.4 runs before it. I'll even point out the two worst offenders. Since June 13, Jimmy Rollins (.257, .327 OBP, three homers) and Chase Utley (.242, .321 OBP, eight homers) just aren't pulling their weight. This month, the Phillies are hitting .202. No wonder Rollins is getting a little testy (see mailbag, below) and the fans a little uneasy.
Where would the Phillies be without Brad Lidge, who saved Cole Hamels' 2-1 win over the Padres on Sunday night and is now 30-for-30 in save tries this season?
Milwaukee's Gabe Kapler, filling in for Ryan Braun in left field Saturday against the Dodgers, absolutely rips off Russell Martin on this over-the-wall catch at Dodger Stadium, much to Dave Bush's delight. A game-saver, as it turns out.
What's the hurry on instant replay? I'm all for it, but what do you say we give it more than a month or so before we actually institute it for something as important as the playoffs? Just asking ...
On the Worldwide Leader on Sunday, Steve Phillips wondered aloud whether Josh Beckett -- who lasted only 2 1/3 innings Sunday against the Jays, giving up eight hits and eight runs -- was hurt. Phillips noted some decreased velocity from Boston's ace and some hanging curve balls. It may be a reach on Phillips' part. In Beckett's two previous starts (both wins), he threw 6 2/3 innings and eight innings and struck out 15 in the two games. But if Phillips is right, if Beckett is hurt, if the big righty is not going to be reliable down the stretch ... well, I have another question.
With the way the White Sox and Twins are playing in the AL Central, will the Red Sox and Yankees both miss the postseason? The Sox lead the wild-card standing by a mere half-game as the week begins.
Yeah, that'll solve all the problems of the All-Star Game. Two more pitchers, just to make sure we never run out. Arrrrrrrrgh.
It might have seemed a little harsh on Joe Maddon's part, waiting until B.J. Upton took his place in the outfield Friday before pulling him out of the game for not hustling. But I'm sure it got the skipper's point across. The Rays have enough to deal with right now, with the injuries to Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Troy Percival. They don't need the immature non-actions of a 23-year-old kid. Upton -- who Maddon also benched for Saturday's game -- evidently got the message. He started Sunday and homered in a win over the Rangers.
The Astros' eight-game winning streak was broken Friday by Arizona. It was the quietest and most meaningless eight-game winning streak of the season.
By the end of the week, we all should know whether Tom Glavine's achy elbow is going to spell the end of what his Hall of Fame career. He might try again next season, he says, if his left elbow doesn't need Tommy John surgery. But if it does, Glavine says that will be it. It'd be a sad way to go out for a guy who never even sniffed the disabled list until this season.
The Marlins drew more than 39,000 fans to Dolphin Stadium on Saturday, the biggest crowd they've had all season. The Cubs were in town. Only the Red Sox fill up visiting stadiums better than the Cubs. And the Cubs are responding, too. They've won nine of their last 10 on the road.