The Windup (cont.)
Player of the Week
Dustin Pedroia smacked a single in the first inning Sunday against the White Sox for his ninth-straight hit, stretching a streak of reaching base to 11 in a row. It was his last hit in an extraordinary week that included two consecutive 4-for-4 nights, a .500 batting average (13-for-26), nine runs scored, a homer and a pair of doubles. Pedroia was so hot that, by the weekend, Boston manager Terry Francona moved his second baseman -- who, by the way, has moved into the lead in the AL batting race, at .326 and some change -- into the cleanup spot for the first time in his career.
Team of the Week
The seemingly unstoppable Cubs had a seven-game winning streak ended Saturday by the Phillies -- and then lost to the Phils again on Sunday -- handing the TotW honors to the team on their tail, the indomitable Brewers. There was a time I thought that there was no way the Brewers would make it to the postseason. Now, 4 1/2 back of the Cubs with a nice 5 1/2 game lead on the Phillies for the wild card, it appears as if there's no way they'll miss October. (It'll be their first trip to the postseason since 1982.) Give credit to CC Sabathia, of course (more on him below), but also recognize that Mike Cameron is killing the ball since the break (a 1.017 OPS, with 10 homers and 29 RBIs) and Ryan Braun continues to add to an MVP-type year (1.102 OPS, 11 homers, 29 RBIs since the All-Star break). What's more, the Crew can pitch. We know the rotation will eat up innings. But the bullpen has a 3.19 ERA in the since the break, best in the league.
Lines of the Week
Geovany Soto, CHC at PIT, Aug. 26
3-for-5, 3 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 7 BI
His three hits came against three different pitchers, and his home run was a solo shot. The Cubs' catcher is the front-runner for the NL Rookie of the Year.
Alex Rodriguez, NYY vs. BOS, Aug. 26
0-for-5, 2 K, 2 GDP, 7 LOB
A painful start to a rough week for A-Rod (.208, one homer, three RBIs) and the Yanks (they went 2-4 and are seven games behind Boston for the wild card).
Quotes of the Week
"Until I see that last day when we've won the division, I'm not going to be relaxed. Hopefully things can be different. I don't think this team is giving you any hints of showing what happened last year. It's a different group."
-- The Mets' Pedro Martinez, on avoiding last year's collapse
"A lot of people talk about Manny leaving. I wish Pedroia was leaving."
-- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen
Series to Watch
Fans in the Midwest probably have a different idea, but the best rivalry in the NL has become Phillies-Mets, and they play three final games Friday through Sunday at Shea Stadium. Philly, a game behind the Mets in the NL East as the week begins, is only 5-10 this year against New York. For the Phillies to be successful this weekend, they'll need a little more from Pat Burrell, who is hitting only .218 with a single homer against the Mets this year.
Hit or error? Look, even the great CC Sabathia -- and, man, this guy is made of steel, isn't he? -- will tell you that he should have made the play on Sunday that cost him, at least for the time being, a no-hitter. If you didn't see the play in question, on a check swing by Pittsburgh's Andy LaRoche, run this back a few times. The official scorer called it a hit. I say it's an error. If CC picks it up, he nails him. By a foot, by three, I don't know. "Would have been a close play at first," an official scorer buddy of mine said by e-mail on Sunday night. "But the ball was not difficult to field, and a good throw beats him." That said, it is a judgment call, and it is debatable, so you have to stick with the original call and not give into the pressures of an appeal by Milwaukee manager Ned Yost, who wants to see his guy given a no-hitter. Bummer for CC. But he knows who to blame.
Torii Hunter has absolutely no regard for his body -- or his mug -- which is just one of the reasons he's such a fun center fielder to watch. Check out his faceplant on the wall Friday night in stealing a home run from Texas' Marlon Byrd.
It's September, which means callups, crowded dugouts, rested starters and a scorecard just to identify all these new players. One familiar face to keep an eye on is Dontrelle Willis, who will make his way back up to the big club in Detroit after a season spent mostly in the minors. The former Florida ace, demoted after a horrible start to work on his delivery, ended up in Class AAA Toledo, where he had a 4.45 ERA in six starts. Is the funky left-hander ever going to be able to throw, effectively, on the big-league level again? The Tigers are trying to find out. I'm hoping he nails his return. The major leagues are better with the D-Train running.
For the heck of it, one more outstanding play from an outfielder. This one is from Minnesota's Denard Span, who ended the game Wednesday by pegging a throw from right that nailed Seattle's Tug Hulett at the plate for the final out of the eighth inning, preserving a one-run win that snapped a four-game losing streak for the Twins.
The Rays have not lost a series since the All-Star break. They are 12-0-1. They finished the month of August 21-8. Yeah, September is going to be tough. I think they can handle it.
Jeff Kent went through knee surgery Sunday to repair torn cartilage, and it's very possible -- probable, maybe, as Tony Jackson of the L.A. Daily News points out -- that the 40-year-old second baseman has played his last game. The Dodgers are leaving open the possibility that he could return this year. But things don't look good, even for next year. Kent has 376 career homers as a second baseman, more than anyone ever, which makes him a near-lock for the Hall of Fame. He's rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in his career. But the NL's MVP in 2000 could swing some lumber.
I'm for putting Carlos Villanueva and Albert Pujols in a very small room and letting them decide who respects the game the most.
Bad news: The Pirates have lost 10 in a row. The Braves went 9-20 in August and are 4-10 against the Nationals this year. The Royals stumbled to a 7-20 record in August. The Marlins didn't win two in a row all of last month. And the Rockies are 10 games under .500 and still think they're in it.
Phillies-Mets is the series of the week, but let's not forget the weekend set-to between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in L.A. The Dodgers had lost eight straight before winning two in a row against the D'backs this weekend. L.A. opens the week 2 1/2 games behind Arizona in the NL West. The D'backs lead the season series, 8-7.
Are the Cardinals dead? They began last weekend 3 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the wild-card run. After the Astros swept St. Louis -- and the Brewers swept Pittsburgh -- the Cardinals are now 6 1/2 back. It's been a remarkable year for the Cards. It's getting close to over.
Francona can think the news is "awesome" about Josh Beckett's sore elbow all he wants. But if I'm a Red Sox fan -- and no, I'm not -- I'm nervous until I see a 93 mph fastball again.
The Twins would be in first place right now if Oakland had a little less foul territory to negotiate, Joe Nathan didn't get all jumpy with a throw Saturday to third base and third baseman Brendan Harris remembered he could use a backhand.
The Yankees start out on a 10-day road trip this week that winds through four cities, ending with the Angels in L.A., and if you think this is the last chance for the Bombers ... well, that means you think they're still in it. Which, given the standings, makes you a world-class optimist.
Lastly, for your debating pleasure: Has Brandon Webb (0-2, 13.50 ERA in his last two starts) opened the Cy Young door for Tim Lincecum? Or maybe even that Sabathia guy?