MLB General

The Full Count: Tigers stay on top

1. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood: The Tigers were about to lose the division lead they had worked so hard to obtain. They had lost two in a row in their pivotal series against the White Sox, but Kenny Rogers wasn’t about to let them get swept. Rogers allowed a Paul Konerko homerun in the first but shut down the White Sox the rest of the way, going seven innings and striking out 5. He improved his record to 8-3 on the year, as the Detroit offense gave him plenty of support. Placido Polanco and Marcus Thames each homered in the Tigers’ 6-2 victory, and Detroit stayed atop the division standings. Chicago will take on divisional foe Cleveland next, while Detroit plays an under-the-radar Blue Jays squad.

2. That’s crazy: The Kansas City Royals, as usual, are the worst team in baseball, but yesterday they defeated a divisional leader in the least likely way possible. Facing the Rangers, the Royals came back from an 11-4 deficit to win 16-12. The game marked the highest-scoring effort in the majors this season, and featured 12 combined runs by both teams in the 3rd inning. Both starters pitched awfully, as Texas’ Kameron Loe allowed 8 runs and KC’s first-time starter Kyle Snyder allowed 9. For the Royals, David DeJesus had 3 RBIs, 3 runs and a homer. Mark Teahen went 4-4, and Doug Meintkiewicz and Matt Stairs each had 3 RBIs. Everyone in the Royals lineup got a hit and a run, and all but one drove in a run. The Rangers might have won had they not stranded 17 baserunners over the course of the game. They still have control of the AL West by 3.5.

3. El Duque returns: Orlando Hernandez was a Diamondback this time a month ago, and on Thursday he gave the team some second thoughts about trading him. El Duque, now with the Mets, pitched a complete game and allowed just 1 run against his former squad. This was Hernandez’s first good start of the year, as even afterwards he still has a 4-5 record and a 5.48 ERA. Anyway, the Mets’ 7-1 win featured offense too, as Carlos Beltran hit his 15th homer of the year. Beltran, after vastly underperforming last year, is proving why the Mets signed him to that huge contract. He is on pace for 47 homers, 127 RBIs, and 31 steals. The Diamondbacks have now lost four games in a row, and they hold a narrow 1-game lead in the tough NL West.

4. Red tide: Watch out National League, as the Cincinnati Reds are on a tear. The club won their 8th game in a row after a 7-1 blasting of the Chicago Cubs. Reds ace Bronson Arroyo improved to 8-2 after allowing just 1 run in seven innings. Arroyo is a top candidate for the NL Cy Young this year, as so far he has a 2.31 ERA and 68 strikeouts. The Reds offense was led by Ryan Freel and Brandon Phillips homeruns, and the club took an outright lead in the Central. Meanwhile, the pitiful Cubs are only two games ahead of the Pirates.

5. The Sheff stops cookin’: What started out as bad news for the Yankees has gotten worse, as Gary Sheffield’s injury is actually more severe than expected. Sheffield, who tore a ligament in his wrist after an April 29 collision, will undergo surgery. He is not expected to return until September, which means the Yankees will be without him and Hideki Matsui for most of the regular season. Sheffield will be replaced by Melky Cabrera, who has hit .277 in limited action this year.

MLB General

The Full Count: Is it too early to talk playoffs?

1. One will miss out: Out of the following four teams, one will not make the playoffs in the AL: the Tigers, White Sox, Yankees, or Red Sox. Each of these teams has at least 31 wins, and all are significantly better than the AL West-leading Rangers. It’s very early to speculate, but our money will go to the Detroit Tigers as of now. They only have four wins against playoff-caliber teams, and three of those are against those Rangers. We’ll see how it plays out, but no matter what, one of these teams will be complaining by the year’s end.

3. Eye of the Tiger: After dropping three games in a row to the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers weren’t going to let another game just slip by. Trailing 6-5 heading into the ninth inning, the Tigers scored two runs off Yankees reliever Kyle Farnsworth to win the game. Why wasn’t Mariano Rivera in there, you might ask? He injured his back before the game putting on his cleats, making usual setup man Farnsworth the closer. Earlier in the game, Tigers starter Justin Verlander pitched his worst start of the year, allowing 6 runs in 5 innings, including a homerun to Jason Giambi. The Tigers are now up 2.5 on the White Sox in the AL Central. The Yankees fell a half game behind Boston, who had an off day.

3. Who’s #1?: Before last night’s start against the Cleveland Indians, there was no question about who the best starter in the AL was this year–Jose Contreras. He was 5-0 and had never allowed more than 4 runs in a start–until yesterday, when the Indians gouged him for 6 runs in 5 innings pitched. But that was just half of the Indians’ scoring in their crazy 12-8 victory. Though Cleveland trailed 8-7 heading into the seventh inning, Ronnie Belliard and Ben Broussard homeruns helped them get the win. Belliard had 4 RBIs on the night, while Broussard went 4-5 and Grady Sizemore drove in two. The White Sox lost despite three Jim Thome RBIs and two homers and five driven in by Jermaine Dye. (By the way, the answer to the question would be Mike Mussina, who has a 2.42 ERA and 7 wins.)

4. Simply offensive: Coming into last night’s game against the Braves, the Diamondbacks hadn’t scored in 24 innings, which resulted mainly from no runs in 13 innings on Wednesday. They finally got on the scoreboard in the eighth, with a two-run single. The Braves answered next inning with Andruw Jones’ 14th homerun of the year, but it wasn’t enough and the D-Backs prevailed 2-1. Arizona starter Juan Cruz had the best start of his career, pitching 7 shutout innings. The Braves’ Horacio Ramirez was charged with the loss, though both of his runs allowed were unearned. The D-Backs are still clinging to a slight division lead over the LA Dodgers.

5. The DL’s favorite team: The Dodgers, despite being second in the NL West, have probably had some of the worst luck of any MLB team this season. Jeff Kent was placed on the disabled list Thursday, becoming one of many Dodgers who have missed time this season. Shotrtstop Cesar Izturis hasn’t played this season, and neither has stud closer Eric Gagne (though he was taken off the DL yesterday). Nomar Garciaparra and Kenny Lofton are among the other Dodgers who have missed time this season. In other DL news, Tigers starter Mike Maroth will have elbow surgery, though there hasn’t been an announcement of how much time he will miss.

MLB General

Full Count for May 1 2006: What are the Tigers doing here?

  Who knew?

1. The Tigers, dominant?: The Detroit Tigers have been one of the worst teams in the majors for a while now. Their 43-119 record in 2003 was an absolute disaster to say the least. But in 2006, the Tigers have been one of the best teams in baseball. They have a 16-9 record, the second highest win total in the major leagues. And their dominance of the Minnesota Twins was hard to believe. In the Tigers’ three-game sweep of the Twins, the combined score was 33-1, one of the 5 highest margins in the past fifty years. They completed the sweep with a 6-0 victory on Sunday, in which Kenny Rogers (4-2) continued his quiet yet effective season. The other games in the series were won 9-0 and 18-1 by Detroit, who faces the Twins two more times in the next three weeks.

2. More than a blown save: We’ve seen a lot of horrendous bullpen play this year. Usual ace closers such as Brad Lidge, Francisco Cordero, and Eddie Guadardo have each blown multiple saves. But in the Dodgers’ 10-inning loss to the Padres, the bullpen had a memorably bad outing. Los Angeles was up 5-0 in the ninth with reliever Lance Carter in, but he was blasted for 3 runs without recording an out. Danys Baez, the usual closer, was put in next but allowed two runs to send the game to extras. Baez had been a reliable closer until this point for the Dodgers, as he had a 0.00 ERA coming into the game. But he blew the save, and in the 10th inning Mark Bellhorn recorded a game-winning single to end the game. The Dodgers would have swept the Padres had they won, but thanks to the relief pitching they fell to 12-13 on the year.

3. Shilling, a loser?: Coming into Sunday’s game against the Devil Rays, Curt Shilling had had a perfect season. He was 4-0, looking to become only the third Boston pitcher ever to win 5 games in April. But the Devil Rays brought out one of their best efforts of the season to defeat Shilling and the Sox 5-4. Shilling allowed 3 runs in 6 innings, far from awful but still his worse outing of the year. He was outplayed by Scott Kazmir, who struck out 10 and allowed 2 in 7 innings. With a 5-2 lead entering the 9th, Tampa was barely able to hold on to their lead as their bullpen almost blew it. The Rays are now 11-14, still last on the AL East but only three games of the Red Sox, who are still the division leaders.

4. Victory at last: The Atlanta Braves were glad to be winners again on Sunday, avoiding their second series sweep in a row (which would be their first such streak since 1985). They defeated the Mets 8-5, and Jeff Francoeur recorded 5 RBIs and a home run for the Braves. The Mets (16-8) have never swept the Braves at Turner Field since 1996. They are 22-52 all-time at the stadium. The Braves finished April 10-14, although they seem to always have a losing record in the first few months. The Mets look to end the Braves’ remarkable streak of 14 straight division titles.

5. Ridiculous on pace numbers from April: If the season continued exactly like it has:
1. Albert Pujols would finish the season with 91 homers and 207 RBIs.
2. Jonathan Papelbon would record 68 saves without allowing a run.
3. Pedro Martinez would have a 32-0 record.
4. Miguel Tejada would break the all-time batting average record with .422.
5. Barry Bonds would have a .547 on base percentage despite a .277 batting average.