Recent review: Crawford stars

One of the great storylines coming out of the weekend involves two players on opposite ends of the performance spectrum.

Toronto’s Jose Bautista has terrorized opposing pitchers to the tune of a robust .350 batting average with 20 home runs and 36 RBI. John Danks of the White Sox has pitched to a bloated 5.25 ERA in 11 starts and has yet to secure his first win of the 2011 season.

Danks was shelled by the Blue Jays in his latest start, but ignited a little firestorm in the Twitter-verse when it was reported that he told Bautista to stop “acting like a clown.” Bautista was frustrated after popping up against Danks, tossed his bat and received some choice words from the hurler.

White Sox fans and disappointed fantasy owners are hoping that Danks’ fiery response in this game will jumpstart his season.

Jair Jurrjens continued his phenomenal start to the 2011 season with eight innings of one-run ball against Cincinnati on Sunday. Jurrjens earned his seventh win in nine starts and lowered his season ERA to 1.51. His strikeout rate is hardly overpowering (5.2 per nine IP), but it’s more than enough given his low walk rate of 1.5 per nine innings pitched.

Carl Crawford finally awoke from his season-long slumber with a pair of 4-for-4 performances against the Indians and Tigers. He finished the weekend with a .236 batting average. It’s not world-beating, but he was hitting below .200 just three weeks ago. Crawford has recorded 16 extra-base hits (four home runs) with 21 RBI and seven stolen bases overall.

Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson lowered his season ERA to 2.80 by tossing seven shutout innings against Cleveland on Sunday. Hellickson struck out six batters against three hits and two walks in this outing. He won four of his five May starts while pitching to a brilliant 1.36 ERA.

Michael Morse of the Nationals extended his modest seven-game hitting streak with a 1-for-3 performance on Sunday against the Padres. During this streak, Morse has batted .393 (11-for-28) with four home runs, two doubles and 10 RBI. He was one of the spring’s rising “surprise” options in the outfield, and he’s starting to provide returns to trusting fantasy owners.

 

Nolan Reimold returned to the Orioles last week and immediately brought some power into the heart of the lineup. Reimold went 4-for-4 on May 26 with two home runs and four RBI. He’s batting .368 (7-for-19) with four extra-base hits and seven RBI since his return to the lineup.

Cincinnati outfielder Drew Stubbs has recorded three multi-hit games in his past six starts, so perhaps he is set to rediscover his power stroke (his last home run came on May 11). In fact, Stubbs has driven in three runs since May 11 (all on May 28), a span covering 79 at-bats.

Fantasy owners and White Sox fans are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Adam Dunn’s bat. The perennial powerhouse has struggled to find his stroke. Dunn has recorded a single extra-base hit in his past 11 games, his fifth home run of the season. During this 11-game period, Dunn has batted .108 (4-for-37) with four RBI and 20 strikeouts.

The Dodgers were hopeful that young slugger Jerry Sands could help to jumpstart an inconsistent offense. Instead, the rookie continues to experience growing pains. Sands is currently mired in a 1-for-16 funk. He’s struck out eight times during this period. His lone hit during this period was a grand slam against Houston’s J.A. Happ.

Tampa Bay starter David Price shook off back-to-back rough outings to post seven strong innings against the Indians on Friday. Price struck out 12 batters against four hits and two walks to earn his sixth victory of the season. He’d allowed 10 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings in his previous two appearances.

Charlie Furbush, a strikeout machine for Triple-A Toledo, has overpowered opposing hitters in his first two appearances out of the Detroit bullpen. Furbush earned a win in his first appearance and has struck out nine batters in 8 2/3 innings pitched. He’s allowed four hits and three walks and has yet to cede a run.

Kyle Lohse earned his third straight win by tossing six innings of two-run ball against Colorado. Lohse has recorded quality starts in five consecutive starts to lower his season ERA to 2.13. His strikeout rate is low (5.3 per nine IP), but he’s made pitches when it counted. Can I begin my “Dave Duncan for the Hall” rant now?

 

The overall numbers are still frightening, but Ryan Dempster turned in a strong May. He recorded quality starts in five of his six starts during the month to finish with a 3.08 ERA. Dempster struck out 33 batters in his 38 innings pitched against nine walks. Most importantly, Dempster kept the ball in the ballpark. He allowed nine home runs in April, but only two in May.

To put the early-season brilliance of St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia in perspective, you need only see the effect of his one horrid start against the Rockies. The Rockies teed off on Garcia to the tune of 12 runs, 11 earned, in 3 1/3 innings to send his ERA soaring to 3.28. Garcia had registered a fantastic 1.93 ERA in his first 10 starts.

San Francisco’s Matt Cain has struggled markedly with his control in his past two starts. As a result, he’s pitched behind in counts and made a number of mistakes. In these two starts against Florida and Milwaukee, Cain allowed nine earned runs on 17 hits and four walks. He struck out 11 batters, but that offers little consolation to those watching his ERA rise (increased 0.60 runs as a result of those poor showings).

Cleveland outfielder Grady Sizemore was activated from the disabled list this weekend against Tampa Bay. Sizemore went 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the three-game series.

Fantasy Infirmary

San Francisco catcher Buster Posey underwent ankle surgery and will miss the rest of the season as a result of the horrific collision at home plate. Eli Whiteside (.176 in 34 at-bats with one home run and one RBI) takes over for Posey.

Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey was activated from the disabled list this weekend. The would-be closer’s return deepens the already-impressive Oakland bullpen. Bailey pitched a scoreless inning in his return to action on Sunday. Brian Fuentes recorded 11 saves in Bailey’s absence, and his criticism of manager Bob Geren has been well-documented. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Geren to flip the switch and re-insert Bailey to the closer role.

The Marlins have been impressive early in 2011 despite the continued struggles of superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez at the plate. Ramirez left Sunday’s game with a stiff lower back and was listed as day-to-day.

The Cubs activated catcher Geovany Soto from the disabled list over the weekend. He’d been sidelined because of a strained left groin. Cubs fans and fantasy owners are hoping that Soto’s bat returns with him. He was batting .226 with three home runs and 12 RBI at the time of his injury.

Chicago also called up DJ LeMahieu from Double-A Tennessee to replace the injured Jeff Baker on the roster. LeMahieu was batting at an impressive .358 clip (67-for-187) with 15 doubles, four home runs and 27 RBI at the time of his callup. LeMahieu logged time at second base, third base and shortstop during his minor-league career.

Finally, it only seems appropriate to provide an update on Pablo Sandoval during this “Kung Fu Panda 2” release weekend. The San Jose Mercury News reports that San Francisco corner infielder Pablo Sandoval may soon begin a minor-league rehabilitation stay. He underwent wrist surgery at the beginning of May and has begun hitting off of a tee. The team is hopeful that he’ll be able to rejoin the battered San Francisco lineup in mid-June.

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