The traditional midpoint of the baseball season is finally upon us. All-Star Break is next week and most teams get a few days rest, except of course the stars chosen by the fans and managers to take part in the mid-season classic. There will be two or three games for most teams after the All-Star game, but this writer is going to take the week off too and return in a fortnight with the latest MLB shenanigans. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and instead take a look at what happened this past week.
In the AL East, it’s still pretty much Boston and New York continuing to make the pace. The Red Sox may have lost their first series in a month to the Mariners last weekend, but followed that up by taking two out of three against Oakland and currently leading Kansas City 2-1 in a four game series. The Yankees aren’t letting up though, taking three games out of four at home to the Blue Jays, before venturing out to the Midwest and getting the better of the Minnesota Twins with a series sweep in Minneapolis. It’s 7-0 Yankees vs Twins this year, so you can bet which team is glad to see the back of the other this season. The Rays are still only 5.5 games back and continue to play well. Though they were swept by the Rangers, they bounced back by sweeping the Blue Jays and are currently entertaining Oakland at Tropicana Field, with the series tied at one apiece. Toronto had a thoroughly forgettable week, and news that the team would ‘entertain’ offers for star pitcher Roy Halladay did little to appease fans of a franchise that has been struggling of late after their promising start.
Over in the NL East, Philadelphia have found themselves opening up a four game advantage over their closest rivals. As well as activating Raul Ibanez from the DL, and seeing Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino joining Ibanez in the NL All-Star line-up, the Phillies completed an epic 22-1 victory over the Reds midweek, the biggest losing margin the Cincinnati franchise has seen its 140-year history. Meanwhile, the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves continue to take advantage of the struggling New York Mets, who now find themselves 6.5 games back off the pace. The Marlins made some history themselves on Thursday, with a record-setting 10-run eighth inning against the Diamondbacks. The Mets’ fall from grace has already been widely discussed, but more disturbing is their lack of offensive bite, with the team managing just two victories since last Sunday, and being shut out three times.
The AL Central still sees Detroit in first place. The Tigers lost their weekend series to the Twins, but rebounded with a series victory over the Royals. The White Sox behind them may have slowed down a little, but still continue to play well, splitting a series with the Royals last weekend, but winning two of three against Cleveland midweek. This weekend, the White Sox are facing arch-rivals the Twins. Minnesota had another forgettable series against the Yankees, but still remain in contention, four games off the pace. The Royals, hoping to improve their chances, acquired shortstop Yuniesky Bettencourt from Seattle on Friday, while the Cleveland Indians learned that their coaching staff will be safe for the season, despite the team’s continuing struggles.
As ever, the race remains tight in the NL Central. While Pittsburgh have begun to struggle lately, and find themselves nine games out of first place, the other five teams in the division are differentiated by a mere 4.5 games. St. Louis had a good week, with series victories over Cincinnati and Milwaukee, and the Houston Astros had a mostly successful week. After losing two of three in San Francisco, the Astros bounced back to beat the Pirates, and have already taken two out of four games from the Nationals. The Cubs’ season continues to be up and down, placing catcher Geovany Soto on the DL this week, and also losing two games out of three against the Braves midweek. With a double-header against the Cardinals today, the Cubs will be looking to gain some momentum, or they might find themselves slipping further off the pace.
Out in the AL West, it’s still all Texas and all Angels. The Rangers swept the Rays last weekend and got the better of the Angels in their three game divisional series midweek. Many may have expected the Rangers to sink after their quick start, but as the season progresses, they’re continuing to look the part. The Angels themselves won their weekend series over the Orioles last weekend and are currently getting the better of the Yankees. They were, however, disappointed to have to put Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter on the DL, but for a squad that has been hit so hard with both injuries and tragedy this season, they are still faring remarkably well. Seattle continues to keep in touch with the two teams ahead, but Oakland are now 12 games off the pace, losing a series to the Indians, while succumbing to the mighty Red Sox midweek, despite rookie pitcher Brett Anderson’s two-hit complete game on the day an emotional Nomar Garciaparra was welcomed back by the Fenway faithful, even though he’s now sporting the gold and green of the A’s.
Same old story in the NL West, with the Dodgers still out front with their MLB-best 55-32 record. But the story of the week was San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who completed the 2009 season’s first no-hitter on Friday night. As if the no-hitter itself wasn’t enough of an achievement, Sanchez was just a single error away from a perfect game, and it was still a remarkable feat for a pitcher who’d only been included in the line-up again due to Randy Johnson’s injury. Previously, Sanchez had been relegated to bullpen duty because he’d been struggling to keep up the form his fellow Giants’ starters have already demonstrated. San Francisco is still six games out of first place, and the Rockies are nine games back, but both still have winning records and top the NL wild-card standings at this early stage. The Diamondbacks and Padres are pretty much finding themselves well out of contention, but at least Arizona put together a five-game winning streak, which included a sweep of fellow division strugglers, the San Diego Padres.
Well, that wraps up another eventful week in the MLB. Back in a couple of weeks with more news from the Majors.