1. Remember us?: It seemed as though Detroit had captured the AL Central division title. After all, they were leading at 10 games at one point while their main foe, the White Sox, weren’t looking too good. In fact, many thought Detroit’s main challenger would be the red-hot Minnesota Twins. Not anymore. The Sox just swept up Detroit like they were the last place team of years past. They won their 70th game by defeating the Tigers yesterday. Freddy Garcia picked up his 11th win while Bobby Jenks closed the door for the 33rd time. Now, as the Tigers have lost 5 straight, the White Sox are just 5.5 games back, their lowest deficit in about a month. Minnesota still looms 8 games back.
2. Sunday Night Duel: Last night’s Sunday Night Baseball featured one of the best pitching matchups of the season. The Giants’ Jason Schmidt took on the Dodgers’ Greg Maddux in a memorable affair. Neither pitcher allowed a run and both pitched 8 innings, though they got there in remarkably different ways. Schmidt threw 115 pitches and struck out 9. The high pitch count isn’t unusual for him; he has averaged 110 pitches per start this season. Maddux was much more efficient in achieving the same result. He threw in mere 68 in his outing, 50 for strikes. He allowed just 2 hits and no walk in his third straight gem start since being traded to LA. Both of these pitchers were so brilliant, but both walked away with no-decisions. The ninth inning didn’t decide anything either, as the shutout continued for both sides. But in the bottom of the 11th, the Dodgers’ little-known catcher Russell Martin stepped up to the plate, and ended the game with a solo shot. That gave the first-place Dodgers their 4th straight win and 15th of 16, while the Giants were sent home with their fourth-straight loss.
3. Watch out: The Cleveland Indians, the consensus most disappointing and most inconsistent team of the year, have won their 6th game in a row. They swept up the Kansas City Royals in four games, including a 13-0 demolition yesterday. The Tribe showed what their offense is capable of, putting up 11 runs in the first inning. KC starter Luke Hudson, who recorded only one out, was charged with all 11. His outing was easily the worst of the year by a starter, in fact in was the worst in over 100 years. Hudson became the first pitcher since 1897 to allow 11 runs in the first inning of a ballgame. The scoring that inning was capped off by a Travis Hafner grand slam, his 6th of the year. That ties a major-league record for most grand slams in a season. Hafner, who has the highest OPS in the American League, is on pace for 49 homers and 145 RBI.
4. How wild: The Cincinnati Reds, at least for now, are still in first place for the NL Wild Card. They escaped 7-5 yesterday over Philadelphia in an 11-inning game. Juan Castro and Ken Griffey drove in runs in the 11th to seal the deal. The Reds also got back-to-back-to-back homers in the 6th inning, including Adam Dunn’s 35th. They won despite another big-time effort from Ryan Howard, who hit his NL-best 41st homer and tied the game in the 9th with an RBI single. Still, the Reds won and are ahead of second-place San Diego by a half-game. The Phillies are just four games back.
5. What a year: Can you say 8-0? Jered Weaver can, because he has accomplished that record this year for the Angels. The only significant undefeated pitcher left in baseball, Weaver was on top of things yesterday as the Angels cruised to a 5-3 win over the Yankees. Weaver struck out 8 in six innings of work, and he has been a part of the Angels’ major league best class of rookies. Howie Kendrick is hitting .319 after a 3-5 effort yesterday. Catcher Mike Napoli has 12 homeruns on the year. Both, of course, are rookies. The Yankees, after losing their second consecutive game, now only lead the Red Sox by one game and have a worse record than the Wild Card leading White Sox.