Yankees @ Orioles- First and fourth place in the AL East are separated by four games, as Baltimore looks to rebound from a sweep at the hands of the Rays. CC Sabathia takes the mound against former Yankee Freddy Garcia Monday on ESPN, and Tuesday’s game will be on MLB Network. New York OF Brett Gardner is feeling it on the base-paths now after four steals last week. He’ll be this series’ player to watch.
Athletics @ Rangers- Oakland is back over .500 after its sweep of Kansas City and will now look to gain ground against the AL West-leading Rangers. Yu Darvish pitches for Texas on Tuesday against Dan Straily. Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland have been tearing it up for the Rangers over the last week, and are the players to watch.
Diamondbacks @ Rockies- The two surprise clubs in the NL West are separated by one game, and first place in the division could be at stake. Sensational rookie Patrick Corbin goes for Arizona on Monday, while lefties Ian Kennedy and Jhoulys Chacin pitch on Tuesday. Carlos Gonzalez and Paul Goldschmidt were two of the top hitters in baseball last week, and are the players to watch.
Nationals @ Giants- Two of the NL’s most talented teams square off out west, with two tremendous pitching matchups on tap for the series. Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain pitch on Tuesday, with Gio Gonzalez and Madison Bumgarner going on Wednesday. Adam LaRoche belted four homers last week to go with 10 RBI’s, and is the hitter to watch.
Tigers @ Indians- Coming off his three-homer performance on Sunday, Miguel Cabrera and Detroit are now in second place in the AL Central thanks to Indians. Jason Kipnis and Cleveland have won 17 of 21 going into this crucial two-game series. Ace Justin Verlander takes on former ace Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday.
AL MVP- Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit- A .373 average with 42 RBI’s and the third best WAR in the AL will give Cabrera the early leg up on his second consecutive AL MVP.
NL MVP- Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati- Look past his six homers and 20 RBI’s and gravitate towards his .346 average and absurd .473 OBP. He’s second in the NL in WAR to two Brewers and led the Reds to a 26-17 record.
AL Cy Young- Yu Darvish, SP, Texas- The Japanese righty leads the AL in wins and strikeouts and is third in WHIP for the first place Rangers.
NL Cy Young- Matt Harvey, SP, NY Mets- Clayton Kershaw came close to topping the Mets sensation and has a better ERA, but Harvey has more wins, strikeouts per nine innings, a better walk ratio, a better xFIP and a higher WAR.
AL Rookie- Nick Tepesch/Justin Grimm, SP’s, Texas- No AL rookie has been impressive at all, but this duo has six combined wins and an ERA around four. They’ve been instrumental in helping an injury ravaged Rangers rotation.
NL Rookie- Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis- This top prospect has more than lived up to the hype, posting a 1.40 ERA in over 51 innings to help the first place Cardinals. He narrowly gets this award in a stacked rookie class with Arizona starter Patrick Corbin and Atlanta hitting phenomenon Evan Gattis.
AL Manager- Terry Francona, Cleveland- Tito has taken all the additions the Indians amassed during the offseason and transformed it into a legitimate playoff contender. Joe Girardi gets an honorable mention as well for the job he’s done with the Yankees.
NL Manager- Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh- The Pirates do nothing exceptionally well, but they’ve been just good enough and have won enough close games to be just 2 1/2 games out of the division and league lead.
Home runs hit over the right field fence at AT&T Park in San Francisco have a decent chance of creating a splash, landing in a body of water the Giants have affectionately called McCovey Cove. Kayakers can brave the cove to retrieve these home run balls, and many make the trip to the waters on Giants game days.
On Sunday night, the ESPN crew was in town for its game against the Giants, and the network decided to get creative as part of its ‘It’s Not Crazy, It’s Sports’ campaign. So they hired a professional kayaker to paddle around in ESPN branded gear to give out hot dogs to boaters during the game. Here are some pictures from that event courtesy of ESPN:
MVP Candidates From Unlikely Sources
According to FanGraphs, the MLB leader in WAR through the season’s first five weeks is Brewers outfielder…Carlos Gomez. What, you were expecting a different Brewers OF? Gomez is batting .368/.417/.642 (a higher OPS than Justin Upton) and the 12th best UZR in the game. Upton is second in the NL in WAR, which makes a whole lot more sense than Gomez.
You would expect Miguel Cabrera to lead the AL in WAR, but you wouldn’t expect youngsters Carlos Santana of Cleveland and Manny Machado of Baltimore to be neck-and-neck with the 2012 Triple Crown winner. Santana’s OPS is a whopping 81 points higher than Cabrera’s, while Machado’s 6.9 UZR is second in the major leagues to Boston’s Shane Victorino.
Thoughts & Theories
-As Yahoo’s Jeff Passan points out, Angels slugger Josh Hamilton is beyond struggling. His batting average through 31 games last season? .402. This season? .208. Last season? 18 homers and 41 RBI’s. This season? 2 homers and 8 RBI’s. I haven’t done the research to back this claim up, but that seems like one of the largest drop-offs in history. Is Hamilton feeling more pressure? Overly satisfied with his new contract?
-Meanwhile, the Angels (11-20) and Blue Jays (11-21) are two of my projected playoff teams that are struggling mightily. Anaheim can attribute its struggles to Hamilton’s poor play and pretty pedestrian starting pitching with Jered Weaver on the shelf. The Angels’ starters have the second worst ERA in the American League. The worst? None other than the Blue Jays, which has gotten a disastrous start from R.A. Dickey, and an injury to Josh Johnson. Couple that with an unfortunate injury to Jose Reyes and these are basically the same middling Jays from last season.
-On the other side of the ledger, the Texas Rangers are using its pitching to grab baseball’s best record, tied with St. Louis and Boston. Yu Darvish struck out 14 in its Sunday win over the Red Sox to complete a three-game sweep. Darvish is one of the reasons why Texas has the best staff ERA in the game, with a 3.09 ERA.
This Week’s Series To Watch
Braves @ Reds- Cincinnati just swept the Cubs to get back into playoff position, just in time to take on NL East leading Atlanta. Monday night’s game will be on ESPN and Kris Medlan and Homer Bailey will pitch on Tuesday.
Royals @ Orioles- These two perennial doormats are now boasting young, burgeoning talent and winning records. Former Baltimore ace Jeremy Guthrie goes against Miguel Gonzalez on Thursday.
Tigers @ Nationals- Detroit is back in first place after a four-game winning streak, while Washington is just two games over .500 after being touted as the preseason favorites to take the NL pennant. Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmerman take the hill on Tuesday, in the first game of two in DC.
Yankees @ Rockies- Both teams are relative surprises and playoff contenders in their respective leagues as they begin a three-game set in Denver. Lefties CC Sabathia and Jeff Francis close out the series on Thursday.
NEW YORK– By Joseph Wasserman
As the Celtics forced a Game Six on Wednesday, after having been down three games to none to the Knicks, everyone inevitably drew a parallel between this series and the 2004 ALCS between the Yankees and Red Sox.
There is a big difference: The ’04 Yanks were good. To make an ALCS appearance is far more impressive than a first round NBA playoff appearance. That is not to give those Bombers a pass for their historic meltdown, but let’s point out the obvious. For a Yankee fan, nothing will ever compare to 2004—merely thinking about it makes me nauseous. But the fact is, what seems to be happening to these Knickerbockers is far more pathetic. It’s really not even that close.
With all due respect to the Celtics, and their cagey, veteran play, they are not on the level of the 2004 Red Sox. That was simply a phenomenal team, and that ALCS was without question a matchup of baseball’s two finest ball clubs—no one else could have touched either of them.
Now, the Knicks may very well pull out a W on Friday night, and avoid catastrophe. But it’s doubtful that this team—one that has been so streaky all year long—will find a way out of this most recent tailspin. Going into Boston is never easy, and it certainly won’t help a team with a penchant for getting rattled when the going gets rough. When it comes to picking up technical fouls, or suspensions in the case of J.R. Smith, the Knicks are a very skilled basketball team.
As for making shots, it’s a different story. Yes, Mike Woodson’s club has used the three-ball well at times, and has shot their way to some success this season, but as the saying goes, “you live by the three, you die by the three.” And right now, New York is on life support.
Another thing: Carmelo Anthony is a loser. He will simply never win at this level of play, not as long as he plays the selfish brand of ball he does. He can have scoring titles, but world titles will always be far beyond his reach. Since Anthony is the centerpiece of Jim Dolan’s sorry franchise, the Knicks will have to wait a while before any serious talk of reaching the “promised land.”
So please, stop with the Yankees comparisons. The only thing these Knicks have in common with the Bronx Bombers of ’04 is the “New York” on their uniforms.