The Weekend in Review
By sweeping the Detroit Tigers this weekend, the Chicago White Sox have started a new dance in the AL Central. It's called the Tighten Up. Without any help from Archie Bell and the Drells, the Pale Hose have closed the gap to 5 1/2 games. The Sox and Tigers meet up for a four-game series in Detroit next week and three more in Chicago next month.
The Tigers appear to have the scheduling advantage, with 25 of their remaining 45 games at home (including the final six). The White Sox will be on the road for 25 out of 46 games down the stretch (including the last half dozen).
The Minnesota Twins can still make some noise in the division, with nine games against the White Sox (including six of the next 12 plus the final weekend of the season) and four vs. the Tigers. Passing both teams--especially without Francisco Liriano--will be difficult but not impossible. Outside of these 13 contests, the key for the Twins may be a ten-game road trip in September that takes them to Cleveland, Boston, and Baltimore.
MIN and DET have the two best bullpens in the league. In the meantime, division rival CLE has gone from the best set of relievers in 2005 to arguably the worst in 2006. The Indians have the fewest saves in the majors (16) and all but one were recorded by Bob Wickman, who is no longer with the team.
While on the subject of AL Central bullpens, how about rookie reliever Pat Neshek of the Twins? Here is his pitching line from 2006:
G IP H R ER HR BB SO W L Sv K/9 K/BB WHIP ERA 13 19.2 6 2 2 2 3 29 1-0 0 13.27 9.67 0.46 0.92
Check out that strikeout-to-hit ratio. Neshek has whiffed nearly five batters for every hit allowed. At the risk of small sample sizes, let's review how he performed earlier this season in the minors when pitching for the Rochester Red Wings in the International League (AAA):
G IP H R ER HR BB SO W L Sv K/9 K/BB WHIP ERA 33 60.0 41 13 13 7 14 87 6-2 14 13.05 6.21 0.92 1.95
Still not convinced? OK, here is Neshek's cumulative MiLB totals prior to this year:
G IP H R ER HR BB SO W L Sv K/9 K/BB WHIP ERA 173 234.2 181 69 58 17 67 280 16-12 68 10.76 4.18 1.06 2.23
To learn more about Pat, feel free to visit his personal website.
With six straight wins, the Cleveland Indians have the longest current undefeated streak in baseball. The Tribe is 53-64 despite scoring 60 more runs than allowed. The team's Pythagorean record is the inverse of its actual mark.
Staked to an 11-0 lead in the top of the first, Jeremy Sowers went out and pitched six scoreless innings to win his fourth game of the year. The southpaw hurled back-to-back shutouts in late July and has allowed only five earned runs in his last 36 innings of work.
Andy Marte went 0-for-3 and is now 4-for-36 (.111) on the season and 12-for-90 (.133) with no home runs for his career. He won't turn 23 until October so it is premature to write him off at this point. However, it's not too early to wonder if he will ever become the impact player so many have predicted the past few years.
The Big OC took a bite out of the Big Apple again. By capturing two of the first three games of the series, the Angels improved to 4-2 against the Yankees this year and 53-50 since 1996. The Halos are the only team to have a winning record over New York during the Joe Torre era.
After three consecutive no decisions, Jered Weaver got back on track on Sunday. He beat the Yankees to go 8-0 on the season and 6-0 on the road. Jered struck out eight batters in six innings and recorded seven outs on the ground (including two double plays) and three in the air. The rookie right-hander K'd Alex Rodriguez twice and got him to hit into a DP to close out the sixth. After falling behind A-Rod 3-0 in the first, Weaver came back and whiffed him by mixing in an off-speed slider between two heaters.
Weaver handled Johnny Damon with ease as well, striking him out on a running fastball in the first and a nasty fastball that had the action of a two-seamer in the fifth. If there was a negative, it was the fact that Jered threw too many pitches--taking the count to 3 & 2 on eight of the first 11 hitters. But he battled all game and made the big pitches when the situation called for it. The only mistake that cost him was a sidearm fastball that Craig Wilson deposited over the left-field fence in the fifth. It was the first and only time in the game Jered imitated his brother Jeff with that lower arm angle.
Although Weaver hasn't thrown enough innings to be listed among the leaders, his 2.14 ERA is 0.05 better than Liriano's MLB-best mark. He also has a WHIP of less than 1.00 (0.97) and a BAA under .200 (.195).
Much to the pleasure of Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, Greg Maddux has pitched in August like he did in April. His performance Sunday night was nothing less than vintage Maddux. He held the Giants scoreless for eight innings, throwing only 68 pitches (including 50 for strikes). Yes, the four-time Cy Young Award winner averaged just 8 1/2 pitches per inning. He allowed two hits and no walks while retiring the last 22 batters in a row.
Maddux, unfortunately, didn't get the win as he left the ballgame after eight innings with the score 0-0. Opposing starter Jason Schmidt didn't pitch too poorly himself, shutting out the Dodgers for eight frames as well. Los Angeles has won all three of Maddux's starts and his pitching line as a Dodger now reads 20 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, and 9 SO. He has thrown only 221 pitches or just over 11 per inning.
Trivia Question: What was the name of Archie Bell's more famous brother?