MLB General

The Full Count: Exceeding expectations

1. A Penny Earned: Brad Penny has exceeded everyone’s expectations this year in being one of the best pitchers in the majors. On Monday he had his most dominant start of the season against the Marlins. Penny had 14 strikeouts in 7 shutout innings. Amazingly, he only had 15 strikeouts the whole season up until this game. Now Penny is 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA, good for second in the majors behind John Maine. He has reeled off seven straight quality starts this season, and has yet to give up a homer. The Dodgers won 6-1, helped offensively by Jeff Kent and breakout catcher Russell
Martin. They have a one-game lead over San Diego in the NL West.

2. Best vs. Worst: The best team in the league played the worst one on Monday, and the result was basically what you would expect. The 22-10 Brewers shut down the 9-23 Nationals as Chris Capuano gave his best start this year. Capuano went 8 innings, had 9 strikeouts, and played a huge role in the 3-0 shutout of Washington. Capuano is now 5-0 and has a 16-inning scoreless streak. As the season goes on, Milwaukee is starting to look less and less like a fluke and more like this year’s Detroit Tigers.

3. Other unbeatens: Penny and Capuano are among a multitude of pitchers who have not lost this season. Most notably is 6-0 Josh Beckett, who has won the most games in the majors this year. CC Sabathia and major league ERA leader John Maine are 5-0. At 3-0 there’s resurgent Bartolo Colon of the Angels, who’s pitching better than he did in his Cy Young season. Also, Mike Maroth is 2-0 despite a 5.35 ERA, Jeremy Bonderman is 1-0 with five no-decisions, James Shields of Tampa is 3-0, Baltimore’s Adam Loewen is 2-0, and Milwaukee’s Claudio Vargas is 3-0. All those undefeated pitchers combined with the 24 who have an ERA under 3.00, and it’s no surprise that pitching has been dominant this season.

Player of the Day: Bengie Molina, Giants: 2-3, 2 HR, 5 RBIs in a 9-4 win over the Mets. Both of Molina’s homeruns and all of the Giants’ runs came in a 9-run fifth inning.

Stat of the Day: Roy Oswalt is 19-1 in his career against the Reds. He beat them on Monday to improve to 5-2. Only four other pitchers in major league history took 19 of 20 from the same team, according to Elias Sports.

MLB General

The Full Count: Return of the Big Unit not as good as hoped

Dude, those CANNOT be real

1. Bad Debut for the Unit: Randy Johnson going to Arizona was one of the biggest stories this offseason. But, in his first start of the season due to a back injury, Johnson was not himself. He went 5 innings, allowing 6 runs and an uncharacteristic 4 walks. Johnson did strike out 7, but he ended up losing his matchup with fellow 43-year-old David Wells. Wells allowed just one run less than Johnson, but the bullpen behind him surrendered nothing. The Padres’ offense was the real star in this game. Adrian Gonzalez went 3-3 with 3 runs and 3 RBIs, and hit a rare lefty homer off the southpaw Johnson. Khalil Greene‘s 4-5, 4-RBI performance further helped the Padres in their 10-5 win, which sent their record to 12-8. The slumping D-Backs, meanwhile, have lost five in a row.

2. From Awful to Dominant: As any Braves fan would tell you, the main reason their 14-year division title streak ended last year was their bullpen. Their relievers blew the most saves in baseball last year. But this year, Atlanta’s bullpen is probably one of the best in the National League. That was proven on Tuesday, when they made up for another bad start by Mark Redman with six shutout innings. Redman, whose 3-inning, 6-run start gave him a 10.12 ERA this season, could and should be demoted from the Braves’ rotation. But the bullpen only allowed three baserunners, and Bob Wickman continued his 0.00 ERA season. The Braves’ offense is heating up as well; seven different players had an RBI as they beat the Marlins 11-6. at 13-7, they are a half-game back from the Mets for division supremacy.

3. Underperformers: The Tigers and Angels are two teams with World Series potential this year, but neither is looking good right now. They played each other on Tuesday to end their two-game set, and the performance by both teams was sloppy. There were 5 combined errors, including one by Tigers closer Todd Jones that led to an Angels victory in the 10th inning. But the Angels shouldn’t be pleased with their play either; they gave up a 7-run lead with an unusually poor effort by their bullpen. Both teams are lucky to be within a game of their division leader, as the Tigers are 11-9 while the Angels are just 10-10. Expect those records to get a lot better as the year goes on.

Player of the Day: Vernon Wells, Blue Jays: 4-5, HR (4), 3 RBIs, 4 runs.

Stat of the Day: When David Wells and Randy Johnson faced each other, it was the first time in MLB history that opposing pitchers were each 43 years or older.

MLB General

The Full Count: Devil Rays do their best Bad News Bears

Crawford tagged out

1. This is Tampa Bay baseball: If you ever wanted to see an example of why the Devil Rays have always sucked, go back to their game last night. They get a good start from Casey Fossum of all people, they have a rally going and are tied 2-2 with the Twins, and then some stupid mistake occurs. This one was actually by their best player, Carl Crawford, who hit it to the outfield and motored toward third. However, his teammate got held up at third, and was then tagged out. But Crawford compounded his mistake by then heading back to second base, where he was tagged out for a double play. Tampa’s rally was killed, and then they lost in the ninth on a Justin Morneau solo homer. Is anyone actually surprised by this? But tune in Friday anyway for a fantastic pitching matchup: Santana vs. Kazmir.

2. Hammerin’ Hafner: The Indians’ Travis Hafner had a slow start to the season. However, it took him one game to regain his 2006 form. The Tribe was down 2-1 in the eighth inning when Hafner launched a deep three-run homerun, his first of the year. The homer came off the usually reliable Scot Shields of the Angels, who gave up his first runs of the year. 24-year-old starter Jeremy Sowers for the Indians had his second straight quality start, and Joe Borowski came on for his third save. Cleveland won their “home” series in Milwaukee and are 4-2 this season.

3. Three-way tie: I’ve already covered two wins by teams at the top of the AL Central. Why not go for a third? The Tigers won their third straight game yesterday in a pretty even contest with the Blue Jays. Detroit won with their usual formula: solid starting pitching (Mike Maroth had a quality start), overachieving hitting (Brandon Inge had 3 RBIs), and a great bullpen (Joel Zumaya had two shutout innings to close the game). The Tigers are now 6-3, tied with Minnesota and Cleveland for the AL Central lead. This team will be even better once Gary Sheffield actually does something. He snapped an 0-16 hitless streak yesterday and is just .125 on the year.

Player of the Day: Jason Bergmann, Nationals: 6 innings, one hit, no runs, 8 strikeouts in a surprising 2-0 win over Atlanta.

Stat of the Day: The starting pitchers in the Phillies-Mets game, Jamie Moyer (44) and Tom Glavine (41), are a combined 85 years of age. They are the oldest combined lefthanders ever to have faced each other and the second-oldest overall.