In the next several days, you’ll see countless articles and hear sound bytes about first-half surprises and disappointments. The crystal balls have been broken out of storage to generate new predictions following a wild and wooly first half.
We’ll watch the All-Star Game replacement merry-go-round go into full effect to make some of those early-week “snub” debates moot. They didn’t hold a lot of weight, of course, but they were fun, right?
I still want to know why nobody questions the rule that allows a retired manager to participate in the game.
The final weekend of the first half includes several intriguing series, including Boston-New York, Pittsburgh-San Francisco and Toronto-Chicago (White Sox). The eyes of the baseball world will gravitate to Philadelphia and the return of Ryan Howard, who has yet to play this season. Can his return help to jumpstart this squad in the NL East?
The time for fine-tuning your fantasy lineup during the three-day break is nigh. I know that you’ll be poring through statistics for your late-August fantasy football drafts, but carve out a few minutes to fire off some trades or tweak your rotations.
Now, let’s celebrate the highs and lows of the week past in this installment of “The Week in Review.”
Pundits, bloggers and the Twitter-verse trumpeted the arrival of Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo on Tuesday, June 26. In his fourth game, Rizzo hit his first home run as a member of the Cubs and drove in two runs in a 3-2 win over the Astros. This performance marked the beginning of what has become a six-game hitting streak entering the weekend. Rizzo has homered three times during this period with five RBI.
Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez went 1-for-3, including his seventh home run of June, in a 5-4 win over the Phillies. Alvarez’s home run began an RBI barrage, where the 25-year-old former first-round selection drove in 13 runs over six games. His hitting streak ended Thursday with a 0-for-3 performance against the Astros.
Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton extended his hitting streak to four games and homered for the 18th time this season with two RBI against the Phillies. Stanton would hit another home run the next night and ultimately extended his hitting streak to six games before being sidelined because of a sore right knee. Stanton told The Miami Herald that he’ll test his knee Friday (he’s already been ruled out of the game) and may need to undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove bone or cartilage.
Stephen Strasburg left Saturday’s start against the Braves after completing only three innings in extreme heat. Strasburg allowed three earned runs on two hits and four walks with four strikeouts before departing. He absorbed his second straight loss and threw 67 pitches in his brief appearance. Strasburg next takes the mound against the awful Colorado Rockies squad on Friday night.
Comeback kid Johan Santana took advantage of a start against the struggling Los Angeles lineup. Santana pitched eight shutout innings, allowing three hits and two walks with three strikeouts to reduce his season ERA to 2.76. He won for the third time in four starts and owns a 2.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio heading into his next start (Friday against the Cubs).
Matt Latos of the Reds hurled his second straight complete game, a 2-1 win over the Giants. Latos allowed two hits and struck out seven batters to earn his seventh victory of the season. He’s allowed two earned runs in these starts, surrendering just two earned runs with 20 strikeouts against two walks.
Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched seven shutout innings against the White Sox to earn his fourth victory in five starts. Kuroda allowed three hits and walked one batter with 11 strikeouts. The 37-year-old righty has essentially matched his 2011 totals to date despite pitching in a decidedly more difficult ballpark with better division foes. Kuroda’s WHIP is just .01 higher than his efforts with the Dodgers. His ERA is 0.10 runs higher.
I can’t leave the Saturday games without giving a nod to Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal. The 23-year-old prospect homered from both sides of the plate in his first start and drove in three runs during the Padres’ 8-4 win over Colorado. Grandal homered twice in the Padres’ subsequent series against the Diamondbacks.
Phil Hughes helped the Yankees earn a series split against the White Sox with a strong eight-inning effort. Hughes allowed two earned runs on six hits with a walk and eight strikeouts to earn his ninth win of the season. He has won five of his past six starts, pitching to a 2.61 ERA during this period (1.45 in the five wins).
Gio Gonzalez was hardly dominant against the Braves, but the Washington starter worked through five innings to earn his 11th win. Gonzalez allowed four earned runs on five hits and four walks with four strikeouts. The 26-year-old lefty has logged decisions in 14 of his 16 starts while producing 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
The unlikely comeback of Kip Wells continued on Sunday against the Rockies. Wells pitched seven shutout innings against Colorado, scattering six hits and two walks in the 2-0 victory. It was Wells’ second appearance for the Padres this season. He hadn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2009 before his call-up by San Diego.
Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless inning for the Cubs to record his fourth straight save and sixth in seventh appearances. Marmol allowed a single hit and struck out two batters to preserve the Chicago victory. In his past nine appearances, Marmol has struck out 15 batters against five walks, a decided improvement from his earlier struggles. Might the Cubs be able to unload Marmol at the deadline?
Yadier Molina homered for the fourth time in six games during the Cardinals’ 5-4 win over the Pirates. Molina needs one home run to match his career high of 14 that was established last season.
Detroit prospect Drew Smyly, a 23-year-old lefty, won for the first time since May 25 in a five-inning appearance against the Rays. Smyly allowed three earned runs in five innings on three hits and one walk. The 2010 second-round selection has pitched to a 4.54 ERA in his 14 appearances this season.
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman extended his hitting streak to six games in a 2-for-4 performance against the Nationals. Freeman homered and drove in three runs in the Braves’ 8-4 loss. He hit his 11th home run on Thursday night against the Cubs.
All-Star Yu Darvish pitched well but received zero offensive support in a 3-1 loss to the A’s. Darvish allowed three earned runs on five hits and three walks in seven innings while striking out 11 batters. It was Darvish’s third double-digit strikeout effort in his past four starts. He’s fanned 10.26 batters per nine innings this season to offset his high walk rate (4.65 per nine IP).
James McDonald of the upstart Pirates won his third consecutive start, pitching seven innings of two-run ball in a blowout win over the Astros. McDonald overcame spotty control, limiting Houston to two earned runs on four hits and five walks. I am moderately concerned that his strikeout rate has dipped during the past month. That’s something to watch as the Pirates try to carry their hot streak into the second half.
Catcher Wilin Rosario has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise catastrophic campaign for the Colorado Rockies. Rosario homered for the 14th time this season and for the third consecutive game, a solo shot against Maikel Cleto. He ranks third among major league catchers in the home run category entering the weekend.
Los Angeles ace Jered Weaver pitched seven shutout innings against the Indians to earn his ninth victory. Weaver didn’t have his normal strikeout punch (two), but he effectively scattered five hits and three walks. He’s allowed a single earned run in 19 2/3 innings since returning from the injury scare against the Yankees.
Doug Fister of the Tigers was battered for six earned runs on eight hits and a walk and departed after four innings against the Twins. It was his second straight brutal start, having been tormented by the Rangers for nine runs, eight earned, on nine hits (three home runs) and a walk in his previous turn in the rotation.
Mike Moustakas led the 11-3 rout of the Blue Jays with a home run and five RBI. The 23-year-old Kansas City prospect hit his 14th home runs of the season and started what has become a four-game hitting streak. Moustakas has hit 34 extra-base hits in his 282 at-bats with 43 RBI and a .270 batting average.
Oakland outfielder Josh Reddick went 1-for-3 with a home run and two RBI against the Red Sox. Reddick’s home run was his 19th of the season, a total that ties him for 10th in the American League.
First-half hero Jason Hammel of the Orioles has struggled in back-to-back starts heading into the All-Star break. Hammel allowed four earned runs on seven hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings against the Mariners. He had been chased from his previous start against the Angels in the fourth inning after allowing eight earned runs on eight hits.
St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse scattered nine hits over 7 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs while logging his eighth win of the season (second straight). Lohse struck out five batters and lowered his ERA to 2.80. He had pitched to a 1.80 ERA in five June starts following a dismal May effort (5.08 ERA).
Outfielder Trevor Plouffe continued his power barrage for the Twins, slamming his fourth home run in five games and 19th of the season. Plouffe also drove in two runs for the fourth time in five games to raise his season total to 35. He’s hit safely in eight of his past nine games entering the weekend series against the Rangers.
San Francisco fans and fantasy owners were taunted by Tim Lincecum’s back-to-back strong efforts against the A’s and Dodgers. Alas, they were slapped with a dose of 2012 reality in his start against the Nationals. Lincecum allowed eight runs, seven earned, on nine hits and two walks and failed to complete the fourth inning. His season ERA rose nearly one-half of a run, back above the 6.00 threshold (6.08).
Milwaukee outfielder Corey Hart homered for the first time since June 20. He was one of the offensive stars in a strange 13-12 win over the Marlins. Hart went 3-for-5 with a double and his solo home run, his 37th RBI of the campaign. He’s on pace to match his previous career marks in the power categories, but his batting average is languishing 30 points below his 2010 and 2011 output.
I noted Roy Oswalt’s high hit rate in his first two starts, both wins, since joining the Rangers. He was unable to pitch around the hits in a dismal outing against the White Sox that included three home runs. Oswalt allowed 11 runs, nine earned, on 13 hits (for the second straight start) and a walk before departing in the fifth inning. In three starts, the 34-year-old righty has allowed 35 hits in 17 1/3 innings. His 16 strikeouts offer little consolation.
Chris Sale took full advantage of his extra day of rest and ridiculous run support from the Chicago lineup. Sale earned his 10th win of the season by completing 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball against the vaunted Texas lineup. He allowed five hits and one walk with four strikeouts. Sale reduced his season ERA to 2.19 while striking out nearly four batters per walk issued. He’ll next appear in Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
Jair Jurrjens was hardly dominant in his Tuesday start against the Cubs, but he did earn a victory and did not allow an earned run in his five innings pitched. Jurrjens allowed three runs, zero earned, on nine hits to earn his second win in three appearances since his recall. He’s pitched to a 1.47 ERA in three starts with six strikeouts against four walks during this run.
Los Angeles starter Dan Haren was battered for the fifth straight start, surrendering seven runs, six earned, on nine hits and a walk against the Indians. Haren was then promptly placed on the 15-day disabled list because of back stiffness. During this five-game period, Haren struggled to a brutal 8.67 ERA with an equally dismal 1.89 WHIP.
Heath Bell of the Marlins blew his fifth save opportunity of the season, surrendering a game-winning two-run home run to Aramis Ramirez. He had pitched three scoreless innings in his previous three appearances, and has since pitched two scoreless innings. Bell owns a bloated 6.00 ERA and has saved 18 games this season.
David Ortiz openly criticized the handling of his contract situation this week, and he punctuated his argument by launching his 22nd home run of the season and 400th of his career. The 36-year-old Boston slugger has already produced 46 extra-base hits with 55 RBI through 81 games. Rumors of his demise were premature.
Ervin Santana of the Angels failed to complete the second inning of his start against the Indians, leaving disgruntled Los Angeles fans scratching their heads once again. Santana allowed eight earned runs on six hits and three walks in raising his season ERA to 5.75. He’s allowed five or more earned runs in five of his past seven starts.
Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-3 with two home runs and three RBI in the Tigers’ 5-1 win over the Twins. Cabrera has logged five multi-hit games in his past eight starts to raise his batting average 21 points to .325. He added two RBI on Thursday to bring his season total to 70. The Tigers may be confusing and disappointing as a team, but Cabrera’s stats are certainly in line with expectations.
Detroit ace Justin Verlander pitched his second complete game in three starts. Verlander allowed one earned run (a solo home run) on four hits and a walk while striking out seven batters. He’s won four of his past five starts, pitching to a 2.31 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 39 innings pitched.
The long national nightmare ended on Independence Day. Cliff Lee ended a rough four-game stretch by pitching eight innings of two-run ball against the Mets. Lee scattered seven hits with one walk against nine strikeouts. His control remains fantastic, as Lee has struck out nearly five batters per walk issued. Alas, he’s allowed batters to hit .323 with runners on base and carries a 3.98 ERA into his next start.
Adam Jones went 1-for-4 in Baltimore’s 4-2 win over Seattle with his 20th home run of the season. Jones has produced 40 extra-base hits (18 doubles) with 44 RBI and a .293 batting average for the pesky Orioles. His production dipped in the month of June, and he’s off to a slow start in July. The 26-year-old outfielder batted 26 points lower than his May effort in 103 at-bats (61 points lower than his huge April output) with three home runs and seven RBI. He’s hit .190 (4-for-21) with one double, one home run and three RBI in five July games.
St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright won for the second time in three starts, a 4-1 decision over the Rockies. Wainwright allowed a single earned run on eight hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. He’s allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his past 10 starts to reduce his ERA by 1.5 runs. Wainwright’s high hit rate (110 in 102 2/3 innings) leaves him open to occasional disasters, as evidenced by his previous turn against the Pirates, but he’s certainly rebounded nicely from a terrible first month of the season.
Washington fans and fantasy owners have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Ryan Zimmerman’s bat. He’s started to heat up in his past 10 games and slammed his fourth home run in nine games in a 9-4 win over San Francisco. Zimmerman went 2-for-5 in the game and drove in three runs. The 27-year-old former first-round selection has hit safely in eight of his past 10 games, producing five doubles, four home runs and 15 RBI. During this period, Zimmerman has batted .326 (15-for-46).
Jose Quintana earned no decisions in back-to-back gems against the Dodgers and Brewers before eking out a victory during a sub-par performance against the Yankees (six earned runs in six innings). The 23-year-old White Sox rookie shook off that rough start by tossing eight innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 victory over the Rangers. Quintana allowed two hits and a walk while striking out eight batters. He owns a 4-1 record with a 2.04 ERA in 10 appearances heading into the All-Star break.
Kevin Youkilis homered for the second time in three games and went 1-for-3 in Chicago’s 2-1 win over the Rangers. Youkilis has batted .308 (12-for-39) with a double, two home runs and 10 RBI since joining the White Sox. He’s driven in at least one run in four consecutive games.
Detroit slugger Prince Fielder went 1-for-3 with his 13th home run of the season and three RBI in a 7-3 win over the Twins. Fielder has hit safely in eight of the past 10 games, batting .263 (10-for-36) with two doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI. He owns a .298 batting average with 58 RBI.
David Wright singled off of Jonathan Papelbon to drive in the winning run in the Mets’ 6-5 win over the Phillies. Wright went 3-for-5 in this game with a home run, his 11th, and four RBI. He’s hit safely in eight of the past 10 games, producing two doubles, three home runs and 18 RBI.
Knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey struggled for the second time in three starts, surrendering five earned runs on 11 hits and a walk against the Phillies. Dickey had allowed five earned runs in an earlier start against the Yankees before rebounding with eight shutout innings against the Dodgers. He did strike out seven batters, his ninth performance with at least seven strikeouts in his past 10 starts.
Lance Lynn of the Cardinals earned his 11th win of the season and stopped a three-game slide with six shutout innings against the Rockies. Lynn allowed four hits and two walks against seven strikeouts. He had allowed 17 earned runs in his previous three starts, a period spanning 15 1/3 innings.
Carlos Beltran went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI in support of Lynn against the Rockies. He has driven in at least one run in eight of his past 10 games, batting .278 (10-for-36) with 12 RBI during this period.
J.P. Arencibia joined the Toronto home run parade with two home runs and three RBI in the Blue Jays’ 9-6 loss to Kansas City. Arencibia has homered four times in his past 10 games and 13 times overall. He offers nothing in the batting average department (.226) and strikes out a ton, but he has produced strong power numbers in the loaded Toronto lineup. The 26-year-old catcher has produced 24 extra-base hits and 41 RBI this season.
Miami starter Mark Buehrle earned his third consecutive win by pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Brewers. Buehrle allowed six hits against eight strikeouts and lowered his season ERA to 3.25. In his past three starts, the 33-year-old lefty has allowed two earned runs in 21 2/3 innings (0.83 ERA) with 22 strikeouts against three walks.
Finally, Jonny Venters of the Braves was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of an elbow injury. Venters appeared in 164 games during the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and had already made 40 appearances for Atlanta this season. The 27-year-old lefty has struggled mightily this season, surrendering 11.4 hits per nine innings (41 in 32 1/3 innings) and 17 walks. His strikeout rate remained dominant (12 per nine IP), but he’s left the ball up in the zone and paid the price (six home runs and 1.79 WHIP).