Recently designated starter Dontrelle Willis was traded to the struggling Diamondbacks for righty Billy Buckner, pending physicals, according to Ed Price. Willis was given opportunity after opportunity to succeed in Detroit but nothing worked out with his control after previously being a 20 game winner with the Marlins. Arizona has the worst team ERA in the game and getting Willis should be a low risk move.
-Joe Blanton doesn’t strike out many people and allows a lot of runs. So it was a perfect day, considering the Phillies’ dreadful luck, to trot him out on Memorial Day in Atlanta in a battle for first place where the steaming hot Braves took first place in the NL East in June for the first time in seven years with a 9-3 spanking of the Phils. Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus and Yunel Escobar combined for six hits and seven RBIs and Tommy Hanson was excellent. Atlanta is playing with a serious amount of confidence while the three runs Philadelphia scored is tied for their highest total in over a week. Charlie Manuel got tossed from the game and that didn’t even fire up his team. The Phils offense is MIA and they’re pitching isn’t good enough to get by with a stagnant O.
-Just when you think it can’t get worse for Arizona and Houston, it of course does. Rodrigo Lopez and the Diamondbacks were rolling into the 8th inning until Kelly Johnson committed two errors on the same play to have the game tied at four and the winning run scored in the 9th on a walkoff Esmerling Vasquez balk. Roy Oswalt was tossed in the 3rd inning after talking to himself a little too loud after allowing four runs and Houston got wasted by Washington 14-4 on a forgettable Memorial Day.
-Things are tightening in both the AL East and AL West. After Toronto bested Matt Garza and Tampa Bay 3-2 and the Yankees pounced on Cleveland 11-2, New York trails the Rays by 2.5 and the Blue Jays are just 3.5 games back of baseball’s best record. Trevor Cahill and Oakland bested Justin Verlander and Detroit 4-1 to go a game up on slumping Texas and the Angels are suddenly 2.5 games back after roasting the Royals 7-1 behind homers from Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli. Every Angel will have to step up in a big way now that Kendry Morales is gone for a while.
-While Tim Lincecum finally has mechanical problems, Ubaldo Jimenez cannot be stopped after hurling a complete game, four-hit shutout in a 4-0 Colorado win over the Giants. Jimenez now has 10 wins (the Rockies single season record is 17) and has thrown 26 consecutive scoreless innings. His fast ascension to the throne of baseball’s best pitcher has been astounding and mesmerizing and Jimenez continues to amaze at every opportunity. I bow at his greatness as long as it will last.
-San Diego’s offense was averaging four runs per game until the Mets rolled into town and the Padres hung 18 runs on the team with the NL’s worst road record. The Japanese combo of starter Hisanori Takahashi (excellent in starts against the Yankees and Phillies) and reliever Ryota Igarashi allowed 12 earned runs in 4 1/3 and Oliver Perez, the guy his teammates don’t want as a teammate, was forced into action. It was the third straight win for San Diego and the continuation of a season-long trend for New York. They’re a different team away from Citi Field and it will keep them hovering around .500 until they figure out what’s wrong.
-With Stephen Strasburg’s debut announced for June 8, the game quickly sold out on the Nationals’ Web site and the cheapest ticket on Stubhub is selling for $55 a ticket. Luckily I bought tickets for $23.50 apiece last week and will be attending the phenom’s debut. Seats in my section are going for $117 a pop and Strasburg’s first games as a big leaguer will be like this wherever he goes. It’s going to be awesome.
-Tim Lincecum is the first Giants pitcher ever, and the first major league pitcher since Dontrelle Willis in 2008, to walk at least five batters in four consecutive starts.
-Alex Rodriguez moved into third place all time with 20 grand slams, one behind Manny Ramirez and three shy of Lou Gehrig’s career record.
-Arizona lost to the Dodgers Monday on a walkoff balk, the first of its kind since 9/9/2008 when Colorado’s Taylor Buchholz balked in Atlanta’s Kelly Johnson.
-The Phillies have gone seven straight games without a home run, their longest streak since July 1999 when Rico Brogna broke their streak.
-The Atlanta Braves are in first place in the month of June for the first time since 2003.
-Ubaldo Jimenez’s second career shutout was the first where he allowed a hit. He has thrown 26 consecutive scoreless innings. He also had a streak of 25 1/3 scoreless earlier this season. His streak of consecutive starts allowing two earned runs or less is now at 11.
-The Mets as a team has allowed five grand slams.
-Bad offense? The Astros’ team OPS is lower than Robinson Cano’s slugging percentage.
Offensive Leaders (min 50 plate appearances)
Andre Ethier (.490 average, .537 OBP, .980 slugging, 1.517 OPS, .490 isolated power, .500 BABIP), Denard Span (41 hits), Kevin Youkilis (29 runs, 31 walks, 4.7 pitches per plate appearance), Fred Lewis (13 doubles), Jose Bautista (12 home runs, 70 total bases, 18 extra base hits), Vlad Guerrero (31 RBIs), Elvis Andrus (11 SB), Justin Morneau (29.7 runs created), Mark Reynolds (31 strikeouts), Joe Mauer (9 GDP).
Pitching Leaders (min 20 IP except reliever stats)
7 Players tied with 5 wins, Ubaldo Jimenez (0.97 ERA), Mat Latos (0.78 WHIP), Adam Wainwright (2.76 xFIP), Roy Halladay (46 innings, 3 complete games, 2 shutouts, 186 batters faced), Ricky Romero (48 strikeouts), Jonathan Broxton (12 saves), Hong-Chih Kuo (11 holds), Andy Pettitte (8 GIDP), Cliff Lee (1.53 FIP, .72 bb/9), Johnny Cueto (93% strand rate), Brad Penny (17:1 k/bb), Brandon Morrow (13.09 k/9), Tim Hudson (2.36 gb/fb), Dan Haren (54 hits allowed, 27 earned runs), Randy Wolf & Tim Lincecum (23 walks), Wandy Rodriguez (5 losses), Tyler Clippard (4 blown saves)