Several MLB Contenders Make Statements



by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

We had planned to use this day to take a brief break from our college football previews so we could take stock of the first big weekend of baseball after the All-Star Break.

We were sure a few teams would come out firing on all cylinders. We didn't expect THIS many contenders to have such big weekends!

*St. Louis won FOUR STRAIGHT from the Los Angeles Dodgers, as the Cards wanted to make sure Cincinnati knew they weren't going anywhere.

*Texas won three of four on the road at Boston, living up to the hype they've been getting from media sources the past few weeks.

*Minnesota won three of four vs. Chicago in a critical AL Central showdown. A dramatic ninth inning rally on Sunday afternoon won the series.

*San Francisco won three of four vs. the NY Mets, as a rest break may have been exactly what the tiring Giants needed to freshen up.

*San Diego swept Arizona. Sure, that's a last place team. But, the Padres wanted to emphasize that fading out of the NL West race is the last thing on their minds!

*The New York Yankees took two of three from Tampa Bay, in a battle of the best two teams in baseball. Both offenses brought their A-games this weekend, meaning both pitching staffs were in a bit of trouble. It was a painful series win for the Yanks as Andy Pettitte suffered a groin strain and A.J. Burnett sliced up his hands in a temper tantrum.

We'll crunch some of the key boxscore numbers from Sunday, starting with the Yankees win over the Rays in the toughest division in baseball...then we'll take the rest of the day in rotation order...

Total Bases + Walks: Tampa Bay 24, Yankees 23
Starting Pitchers: Price 5 IP, 7 ER, Pettitte, 2.1 IP, 3 ER
Vegas Odds: NY Yankees -135, total of 8.5
NOTEBOOK: Pettitte left the game in the third inning with a groin strain, and he had labored to that point anyway...suggesting something wasn't right coming into the game. The Yanks bats backed him up with a big performance against All-Star Price. That's a series win for New York (two out of three), and now a three-game lead in the AL East. BIG SERIES! Big result for the home team. New York is still the best team in baseball by a handful of games, and they've still played a few more road games than home games (as we've been documenting for you since early in the season).

In other American League action...

Total Bases + Walks: Detroit 10, Cleveland 23
Starting Pitchers: Oliver 3.3 IP, 5 ER, Gomez, 7 IP, 0 ER
Vegas Odds: Detroit -130, total of 9.5
NOTEBOOK: An utterly DISASTROUS start to the second half for the Tigers, who dropped all three games to the lowly Indians. This brings up an issue we've discussed a few times. Detroit is lousy on the road! They fall to 16-29 away from home this year, which is down among the dregs of the league. In this division, it may be possible to take the pennant with a lousy road record given that 85-90 victories may be all it takes to finish on top. Still, that's putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on your home performances. Oliver has been a huge negative as a starter. Detroit just doesn't have many workable options in terms of filling out a full rotation. Nice first start for Gomez. Always remember to keep an eye out on no-name pitchers who can get some outs on these dog teams. They'll offer value against inflated prices. Detroit is still a game and a half out of first place Chicago, but is now tied with surging Minnesota for second.

Total Bases + Walks: Toronto 24, Baltimore 14
Starting Pitchers: Marcum 5 IP, 1 ER, Matusz, 1,2 IP, 6 ER
Vegas Odds: Toronto -135, total of 9
NOTEBOOK: The only good thing for Toronto about playing in the AL East is that they'll get some tank jobs from the Orioles. Here it looked like a tank weekend, with the Orioles only breaking through for five runs combined over three games. Two irrelevant teams at this point. Nice to see Toronto back in the mood to play.

Total Bases + Walks: Texas 15, Boston 16
Starting Pitchers: Wilson 6.2 IP, 1 ER, Lester, 8 IP, 3 ER
Vegas Odds: Boston -155, total of 8.5
NOTEBOOK: Talk about a statement series. After a stunning home sweep at the hands of Baltimore (surely mathematically impossible on a computer!), the Rangers take three of four on the road at Fenway to open the season. This rotation was solid before Cliff Lee joined on, so you can pencil in an AL West crown barring injuries in our view. Unless the Angels acquire a superstar pitcher or something. Boston's injuries continue to take their toll. They've dropped eight of 11, and haven't had the look of a playoff team for awhile. You can't win a killer division with backups! Note that Wilson's ERA is down to 3.23 for the year for Texas. That's amazing considering the park he has to pitch his home games in. The media really needs to stop talking about all the Texas bats!

Total Bases + Walks: Oakland 23, Kansas City 14
Starting Pitchers: Mazzaro 7.2 IP, 1 ER, Bannister, 6.1 IP, 5 ER
Vegas Odds: Pick-em, total of 9.5
NOTEBOOK: We and many others had stuck a fork in Oakland several days ago. But, they've come out strong with a three-game sweep at Kansas City. The Royals were getting good press for playing near .500 ball since the manager change. Everything seemed to revert to form in this series. Oakland is back in synch and the Royals are lousy again. Oakland is still seven games behind the Rangers though, and has no shot at the Wildcard unless they go on a historic tear. Kansas City has lost six in a row.

Total Bases + Walks: CWS 19, Minnesota 27
Starting Pitchers: Garcia 6 IP, 3 ER, Blackburn, 5 IP, 5 ER
Vegas Odds: Pick-em, total of 9.5
NOTEBOOK: Chicago carried a 6-3 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning, with relief ace Bobby Jenks on the mound. Two walks were followed by a single. Bang, bang...ballgame! Hawk Harrelson said 'You've got to be bleeping me,' as he watched the Twins score the winning run on an errant throw. Another big series in the AL, as Minnesota climbs back into the Central mix by taking three out of four. Chicago reminded everyone why they're far from a sure thing in this division. Champions slam the door when they have to. It will be interesting to see how the Chisox respond to this punch in the gut...and to hear what Harrelson says if they don't!

SEATTLE 2, LA ANGELS 1 (in 10 innings)
Total Bases + Walks: Seattle 11, LAA 13
Starting Pitchers: Vargas 7.2 IP, 1 ER, Santana, 7 IP, 1 ER
Vegas Odds: LA Angels -150, total of 8.5
NOTEBOOK: The Mariners didn't exactly come out breathing fire after dropping the first three games in this series. Vargas was on top of his game though, so we were tied at one heading to extras. Seattle scratched across a run to win the finale, on a day where all they had offensively was singles and walks. The Angles have to be happy with three of four, but they're still 4.5 games behind the Rangers in the AL West because Texas had such a big weekend in Boston. The schedule gave the Halo's a chance to cut the lead...and Texas was just too good to let it happen. Let's keep an eye on Seattle. They've basically been as bad as Baltimore for several weeks now, and the roster seems to just be going through the motions.

The Cards and Phillies are on ESPN tonight and Jim Hurley's Network is already tuned into the winner! Click here to win this Monday Moneymaker, plus two bonus games!


Sunday in the National League

Total Bases + Walks: Washington 10, Florida 13
Starting Pitchers: Stammen 6 IP, 1 ER, Sanabia, 5.1 IP, 0 ER
Vegas Odds: Florida -145, total of 9
NOTEBOOK: You've probably read about the surplus of 1-0 games this year. Yes, scoring is down because steroids have been cleaned up. But, a lot of teams just blow off get-away games now, particularly if they're lousy to begin with. Stammen/Sanabia shouldn't be a 1-0 pitcher's duel! Both offenses kind of went through the motions on a hot Florida afternoon (the day after a late night in a party city). MLB shouldn't even charge admission for something like this. It's not even exhibition caliber.

Total Bases + Walks: Colorado 11, Cincinnati 10
Starting Pitchers: Cook 7 IP, 0 ER, Wood, 6 IP, 1 ER
Vegas Odds: Colorado -140, total of 8.5
NOTEBOOK: At least this was a real pitcher's duel! You have guys capable of throwing very well squaring off in a game with playoff intensity. Cincinnati knows they have to keep winning to stay with St. Louis. Colorado didn't want to take a goose-egg for the series. Wood's been in good form for the Reds. Tough loss for him here. The Reds fall a half game out of first place because St. Louis rallied soon after this game ended to beat the Dodgers. Colorado's part of the group in the NL West waiting for the Padres to hit a wall.

Total Bases + Walks: Houston 3, Pittsburgh 29
Starting Pitchers: Oswalt 4 IP, 2 ER, Maholm, 9 IP, 0 ER
Vegas Odds: Houston -135, total of 7
NOTEBOOK: Houston had a plane to catch, which about the only way Maholm can throw a three-hitter on a warm day with great visibility. Oswalt struggled early, then suffered an ankle strain. That might slow down trade talks for a week or so. Pittsburgh moves to .500 on the year at home with a 21-21 record. That's pretty amazing since the team is 11-38 on the road! Do they send imposters to all the other cities?

Total Bases + Walks: Milwaukee 29, Atlanta 23
Starting Pitchers: Parra 5.1 IP, 10 ER, Lowe, 5.1 IP, 3 ER
Vegas Odds: Atlanta -180, total of 9
NOTEBOOK: You don't typically see a losing team win 'offensive bases' by that much. Atlanta clustered its action early off Parra. Milwaukee spread things out and wasted some opportunities. Milwaukee did show some heart taking two of the first three in this series. Atlanta righted the ship to earn a split and maintain a semi-comfortable lead in the NL East. It's worth noting that the Braves weren't able to start the second half hot despite being favorites in all four games. It's a young team that wasn't saving its best gear for now.

Total Bases + Walks: Dodgers 17, St. Louis 18
Starting Pitchers: Padilla 6 IP, 0 ER, Suppan, 6 IP, 1 ER
Vegas Odds: LA Dodgers -135, total of 9
NOTEBOOK: The Dodgers carried a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning, and IMPLODED! What a disaster after dropping the first three games in the series. This was basically a side-by-side version of the White Sox/Twins game you read about earlier...except the scoring happened over two innings instead of one. Broxton and Jenks failed to deliver when their teams needed them most. We've been touting the Dodgers as a team to watch ever since Interleague play ended. This lost weekend in St. Louis certainly gives us pause. If you can't hold your own against the top teams, then you're not a top team. There's just not much margin for error in the NL West right now. St. Louis slides past Cincinnati with the victory. Note that the Cards host Philadelphia starting tonight (Monday Night Baseball on ESPN!). Cincinnati may catch a breather with Washington coming to town in that neck-and-neck NL Central race. The Dodgers go home for the Giants in what's shaping up as a VERY important series.

NY METS 4, SAN FRANCISCO 3 (in 10 innings)
Total Bases + Walks: NY Mets 17, San Francisco 19
Starting Pitchers: Santana 8 IP, 1 ER, Sanchez, 7 IP, 2 ER
Vegas Odds: Pick-em, total of 6.5
NOTEBOOK: We had more than the normal of 'upsets' today in terms of the offensive basis. The Mets managed to blow a two-run lead in the bottom of the 9th inning, but rallied in the 10th to avoid a four-game sweep. Like Detroit, the Mets are winning at home but struggling to get much done on the road. This one may have been a season-saver, at least for the time being. San Francisco falls back out of second place by half a game because Colorado won. What great races in the National League! Good pitchers duel here, with Santana and Sanchez looking sharp.

Total Bases + Walks: Arizona 19, San Diego 26
Starting Pitchers: Jackson 6.1 IP, 4 ER, Correia, 6 IP, 3 ER
Vegas Odds: San Diego -135, total of 7.5
NOTEBOOK: San Diego's not going anywhere. They keep telling us that with their performances. Nobody will believe them! Put the oddsmakers at the top of the list. It's not often you see a team with a 20-game lead in the standings laying a small price at home. Even with the struggling Correia, the Padres keep finding ways to win. A road trip to Atlanta will provide an interesting test this week. San Diego's been passing those so far.

That wraps up today's baseball update. We'll finish off our college football previews the next three days with the Big 12 South, Big 12 North, and Pac 10. The mid majors will follow right in the heels. We'll squeeze in some baseball when we can.

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