|Between the Foul Poles: A Weekly Track around the Majors VII||| Print ||
Written by Robert Democh (Contact & Archive) on May 29, 2009
Interleague play becomes the Minnesota Twins, who completed a three-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday.Â Instead of relying on their outstanding pitching, the Twins did it with an explosive attack that featured a revamped lineup (Joe Mauer batting second and Justin Morneau third).Â The shake up resulted in an onslaught that pummeled Milwaukee pitching for 37 runs.
Nick Green is little known outside of New England but he has become an important catalyst in the Boston Red Sox lineup.Â The Sox are a remarkable 18-6 this season when Green is their starting shortstop.Â Much has been written about the trials of David Ortiz this season and many theories advanced to account for his struggles.Â There was renewed optimism when Ortiz blasted his first home run of the season last Thursday, a sense that perhaps the worst was over.Â There was to be no Hollywood ending, however.Â Since going yard, Big Papi was a pitiful 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts his next three games before being rested Monday.Â The Red Sox have shown unusual patience with their beloved designated hitter but canâ€™t abide his unproductiveness in the heart of the order much longer.Â Fortunately for Boston, third sacker Mike Lowell has picked up some of the offensive slack.Â Undergoing serious hip surgery in your mid-30â€™s can be a career limiting decision for a baseball player but thus far Lowell is receiving the last laugh.Â Through Sunday, he had missed but one game all season while contributing eight homers, 32 RBI and a .291 average.Â Â
Ichiro Suzuki is a marvel.Â When the Seattle Mariners signed him in 2001, little did they realize they were acquiring one of the most consistent and productive hitters in MLB history.Â Ichiro has amassed at least 200 hits, batted .300 or better and stolen 30 or more bases each of his eight ML seasons. Heâ€™s hitting a robust .352 in May (38-for-108) although he isnâ€™t running with his usual aplomb (just 7-for-10 in stolen base attempts).Â Expect the steals to come in bunches as the weather warms up.Â Suzuki and Russell Branyan are the only Seattle regulars that have provided anything resembling consistent offense.Â Since being removed as closer, Brandon Morrow has seen limited action.Â His replacement David Aardsma has pitched exceedingly well, going 6-for-6 in save opportunities with a 1.25 ERA and a stingy .147 BAA.Â The Mariners still believe Morrow is their closer of the future but he may have difficulty unseating Aardsma this season.Â
An accumulation of injuries and a suddenly limp offense are threatening to place the season in jeopardy for the Chicago Cubs.Â The club favored by many to capture the NL Central crown lost their eighth straight game on Monday, their worst stretch since May 2006.Â The offense is on hiatus, having plated just five runs in the past five games.Â For a team saddled with a $135 million payroll, that type of performance wonâ€™t be tolerated for long. Expect a front office or roster shakeup (perhaps both) if things donâ€™t improve.Â You know the frustration is rampant when pitcher Ted Lilly, who wasnâ€™t even playing, got ejected Monday by the home plate umpire for arguing balls and strikes.Â Conditions appear ripe for a vintage Lou Piniella explosion.Â
Chipper Jones has comfortably adapted to his role as elder statesman on the Atlanta Braves.Â Now in his 16th season with the team, Jones is universally respected and remains one of the most disciplined hitters in the NL -- when he plays.Â Jones recently missed time with a strained big toe and should reinsert his .319 batting average into the lineup shortly.Â Javier Vazquez has pitched much better than his 4-4 record would suggest.Â He has assembled an impressive 5:1 K:BB ratio and has yielded just six homers in 64 innings.Â Limited run support however has cost him at least two wins.Â The Braves were dealt a blow when versatile infielder/outfielder Omar Infante broke his hand.Â He was placed on the DL last Thursday and will be lost until early July.Â In April, team officials feared Brian McCann would require a repeat Lasik procedure when blurred vision sidelined him.Â Shattering the image of eyeglass wearers as timid souls, McCann has been on a tear since adopting them, hitting a blistering .431 with three homers and 11 RBI.Â
Life without Manny Ramirez hasnâ€™t been all that stressful for the Los Angeles Dodgers.Â Since Ramirez was suspended on May 7 for failing a drug test, the Dodgers have gone 11-7Â increasing their NL West lead to 8 Â½ games.Â Ramirez took the opportunity to work out at Dodger Stadium Monday (the team was playing in Colorado) hidden from the media glare.Â Although unable to rejoin the Dodgers until July 3, MLB rules permit him to complete a 10-game minor league rehab assignment prior to that.Â One Dodger who has had trouble breaking loose this year is catcher Russell Martin.Â Heâ€™s heating up, going 10-for-29 (.345) with seven RBI in the last six games.Â Jason Schmidt was struck in the head by a line drive Saturday during a Triple-A start and is currently day-to-day.
The Weekender: Here are some intriguing pairings this coming weekend (May 29-31).
Reds at Brewers:Â Â Â Â Â The surprising Reds are hanging around in the NL Central.
Marlins at MetsÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Key NL East contenders size up one anotherÂ Â Â Â
Red Sox at Blue Jays: Jays have yet to prove they can whip divisional foes.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Twins at Rays:Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Two of the ALâ€™s best starting rotations compare notes.