Cain's feat one for record books
I’d like to open this Father’s Day weekend piece with a salute to fathers everywhere and a note of appreciation to the dads, grandfathers, brothers and all of those who have stepped into that role in our lives.
Take a moment to remember those bonding moments as children or young adults. I recall the juggling my father did to get to practices and games and the sacrifices made to coach our teams. I also need to apologize for the early outbursts that foreshadowed my development into a loudmouth and made coaching particularly challenging. Sorry, Dad.
I remember Sundays in the fall watching the Bears and the Cowboys or 49ers, as you were held hostage in the old television world for that national game. I remember those frequent trips to Comiskey Park, the old Chicago Stadium and listening to countless radio broadcasts that served to fuel my passion.
I’d go off into a 1,000-word apology to my friends through the years for my looping of Jethro Tull and Harry Chapin songs, but I’ll save that for another time.
Enjoy this weekend’s myriad sporting events and think of our fathers, those here and those we have lost. Watch the U.S. Open, The NBA Finals and the next round of interleague play in Major League Baseball (American League parks for many, so spot the home run-hitting Jim Thome, if you can, against Toronto).
Let’s step back between the white lines and spotlight the notable storylines in this edition of “The Week in Review.”
Newly-minted mega-millionaire Adam Jones continued his fantastic first half with a game-winning, two-run home run against the Phillies. Jones went 2-for-6 in the contest, the first of what would become a streak of three multi-hit games. The third game of that run, a win over Pittsburgh, included Jones’ eighteenth home run of the season. Jones hit 25 home runs last season.
Albert Pujols hit his ninth home run of the season with four RBI in the Angels’ 11-5 win over the Rockies. It was the fourth straight multi-hit game for Pujols, who eventually extended that streak to seven games. He then went 1-for-3 in the series finale against the Dodgers to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Following a slow start, Pujols now owns a .264 batting average with 26 extra-base hits entering the weekend series with the Diamondbacks.
Colorado slugger Carlos Gonzalez slammed his fifteenth home run of the season in a 2-for-5 effort against the Angels. Gonzalez then homered the following day and ultimately extended his hitting streak to five games heading into the weekend series with Detroit. Gonzalez owns a strong .322 batting average with 16 home runs, 14 doubles, 48 RBI and nine stolen bases.
Houston infielder Jed Lowrie homered for the third consecutive game, his twelfth of the year, to account for the Astros’ lone run in a 10-1 loss. Lowrie went 6-for-12 during that three-game period with five RBI to raise his batting average to .297. Unfortunately, he’s gone hitless in 15 consecutive at-bats to lower his batting average to .275.
Though he was hardly dominant, Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore won his second straight start while receiving monster run support against the Marlins. Moore allowed four earned runs on five hits and two walks over six innings while striking out nine batters. The 22-year-old lefty (he turns 23 on Monday) has generated a fantastic strikeout total this season (71 in 68 2/3 IP), but he’s been hurt by his high walk rate (4.3 per nine IP).
Another 23-year-old lefty is enjoying a charmed season in Chicago. Chris Sale won his fifth straight start by tossing eight shutout innings against the Astros. Sale allowed four hits and struck out seven batters while lowering his ERA to 2.05 (0.98 during this five-game winning streak). He’s struck out 4.2 batters per walk allowed this season.
St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse finally returned to the “Win” column after a month’s absence. Lohse pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings while allowing three hits and two walks against four strikeouts. He’s allowed one earned run in his past two starts over 13 2/3 innings.
Fantasy owners abused Albert Pujols for the first six weeks of the season because of his putrid power outing. The outcry hasn’t nearly been as fierce for fellow bank-busting free agent Prince Fielder of the Tigers. Fielder hit his tenth home run of the season in a 3-2 win over the Reds. He’s hit safely in nine of 10 games and owns a .314 batting average, but owners paid for power that has yet to materialize.
Ryan Vogelsong won for the fifth time in seven games and lowered his season ERA to 2.26 with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Rangers. Vogelsong allowed three hits and three walks while striking out three batters. He’s allowed three or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 11 starts. Vogelsong’s strikeout rate doesn’t overwhelm you (6.2 per nine IP), but he’s gotten big outs.
Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano launched another home run, his twelfth of the year, in Chicago’s 11-3 loss to Minnesota. Soriano enters the weekend series against the Red Sox with a 10-game hitting streak intact. He owns a .280 batting average with 41 RBI.
Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett earned his fifth consecutive by pitching 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball against the Royals. Burnett allowed five hits and two walks while striking out six batters. During his winning streak, the 35-year-old righty has pitched to a stellar 2.05 ERA with 25 strikeouts against 10 walks (56 strikeouts against 20 walks overall).
Yovani Gallardo rebounded from a rough start against the Cubs with a “get right” game against the woeful San Diego lineup. Gallardo allowed two runs, one earned, on five hits and two walks in seven innings to earn his third win in four starts. He’s turned in quality starts in seven of his past eight trips to the hill.
The poster child for “Hard Luck” pitchers, Ryan Dempster, won for the second straight start in an 8-2 decision over the Twins. Dempster pitched eight shutout innings with four hits and a walk against six strikeouts. The Cubs normally haven’t hit in support of Dempster, which generated an inordinate number of no-decisions. Chicago has scored 26 runs for Dempster in his past three starts.
Powerhouse first basemen-right fielder Mark Trumbo homered twice and drove in six runs during the Angels’ 10-8 win over the Rockies. Trumbo owns a ridiculous .434 BABIP with 30 extra-base hits and 39 RBI.
Torii Hunter went 3-for-6 and hit his third home run in as many days with three RBI against the Rockies. Hunter pieced together a four-game streak of multi-hit performances and a seven-game hitting streak overall. He batted .451 (14-for-31) during his streak.
Tim Lincecum allowed five earned runs on nine hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings while absorbing his seventh loss of the season. Lincecum has allowed four or more earned runs in six of his past seven starts and carries a nice, round 6.00 ERA into this weekend’s start against the Mariners.
Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers has been a hard-luck hurler for much of the season. While he wasn’t brilliant, Billingsley received little support from his offense or his bullpen. He’s now won back-to-back starts after turning back the Mariners. He allowed one earned run, a solo home run, on two hits and three walks. Billingsley has allowed two earned runs in his past 14 innings pitched.
Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis hit his tenth home run of the season and drove in three runs in support of Ubaldo Jimenez. Kipnis went 3-for-4 in the contest and stole his fifteenth base of the year. This preseason “Ninja” selection has been a huge contributor to the Indians and fantasy lineups with a .279 batting average and 40 RBI.
Jimenez pitched well for the second straight start. He allowed a single earned run in seven innings pitched on five hits with seven strikeouts. The much-maligned former fantasy hero had turned in a strong one-run performance against the Tigers in his previous turn in the rotation. Jimenez has struck out 11 batters against a single walk in his past two starts, and has finally struck out more batters than walks allowed this season.
Josh Johnson of the Marlins turned in his seventh straight quality start and won for the fourth time in six starts. Johnson allowed one earned run on four hits and a walk in seven innings with seven strikeouts against the Red Sox. He was battered in back-to-back starts against the Diamondbacks and Padres before beginning his current run of success.
One of the biggest heroes of the 2012 season, Brandon Morrow, left his start against the Nationals with a strained left oblique that landed him on the disabled list. The Blue Jays have not put a timetable on his return, though he will likely miss significantly more than 15 days.
Can we start the “Mike Trout for MVP” bandwagon? OK, I’ll ask that again once we hit the start of September. Trout hit his sixth home run of the season with two RBI and two stolen bases in the Angels’ 3-2 win over the Dodgers. It was Trout’s fourth consecutive multi-hit game and boosted his batting average to .354 (he went 1-for-9 to close the series and lower his average to .341). Trout has generated 19 extra-base hits with 26 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 42 games.
Raul Ibanez has quietly put together a strong first half for the Yankees. The unheralded outfielder hit his tenth home run of the season and hit safely for the fifth game in six starts against the Braves. Ibanez has played in 51 games this season and generated 20 extra-base hits and 31 RBI.
Ivan Nova earned his eighth win of the season by pitching seven shutout innings against the Braves on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Nova has won four consecutive starts, a period during which he’s pitched to a 2.82 ERA. That’s a far cry from his 4.64 season ERA.
Toronto outfielder Colby Rasmus homered for the second straight game, his third in his past seven games. Rasmus has hit safely in eight of his past nine starts, producing a .341 (14-for-41) with eight RBI.
Adam LaRoche of the Nationals hit his eleventh home run of the year with two RBI in a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. LaRoche has helped keep the offense afloat while the Nationals await the healthy returns of their sluggers. He’s produced 27 extra-base hits (15 doubles) with 42 RBI.
Miami closer Heath Bell extended his scoreless streak to 6 2/3 (7 1/3 following a Wednesday appearance) and earned his thirteenth save of the season against the Red Sox. Bell’s overall numbers are still mind-boggling (5.92 ERA with 22 strikeouts against 16 walks), but he’s made strides of late.
Madison Bumgarner thrilled the home crowd with 7 2/3 spectacular innings of work against the Astros. Bumgarner allowed two runs, one earned, while scattering six hits and striking out 12 batters. He earned his third consecutive win and posted his third double-digit strikeout total in five starts.
Brian Roberts returned to the Baltimore lineup for the first time since May of 2011 when he sustained a concussion. Roberts went 3-for-4 with one RBI and a strikeout in his return to the field. He started all three games of the Orioles’ sweep of the Pirates, producing four hits in 14 at-bats.
Alex Rodriguez somewhat quietly tied a remarkable record with his 23rd career grand slam against the Braves (Lou Gehrig). It was Rodriguez’s tenth home run of the season and raised his RBI total to 29 (he drove in a run on Wednesday as well). He enters the weekend with a seven-game hitting streak, a period during which he’s driven in eight runs.
Seattle ace Felix Hernandez returned to the mound and flopped against the light-hitting San Diego offense. Hernandez allowed five earned runs on nine hits and three walks in six innings with three strikeouts.
Ryan Cook staked a claim to a larger share of the committee work in the Oakland bullpen with a shutout inning of work and his first save against the Rockies. Cook allowed one hit and one walk with two strikeouts. He possesses a killer fastball and has overpowered batters all season (nine hits in 28 innings pitched and just two earned runs). Cook earned his second save the next night.
Shawn Camp of the Cubs also earned his first save of the season by hurling a perfect inning against the Tigers. He returned to the mound the following day and allowed two earned runs for the second time in three appearances. The closer situation in Chicago is far from settled.
Bryce Harper went 3-for-4 with his seventh home run of the season in the second game of what would become a sweep of the Blue Jays. The 20-year-old super prospect enters the weekend with a .303 batting average, 20 extra-base hits, 19 RBI and four stolen bases in 41 games.
Ian Kennedy had won back-to-back starts coming into Tuesday’s tilt against the Rangers. The hard-hitting Texas lineup teed off on Kennedy for six earned runs on 10 hits and a walk and chased Kennedy in the sixth inning (he completed 5 2/3 innings). Kennedy has lost six of his past eight starts, though it should be noted that the Diamondbacks scored one run in five of those games.
Dee Gordon went 1-for-3 and stole three bases in a Dodgers win over the Angels. The light-hitting shortstop (one home run and a .231 batting average) has stolen 20 bases this season and owns a .279 OBP.
The Wednesday slate was dominated by huge pitching performances across Major League Baseball.
What else do I need to say? The Giants have been riding Matt Cain into contention in the NL West, and on Wednesday, the 27-year-old righty etched his name in the history books. Cain pitched a perfect game against the Astros and struck out 14 batters. He’s won seven consecutive starts and has struck out six batters per walk this season (2.18 ERA).
R.A. Dickey and the Mets appealed an early infield hit after the knuckle-baller mowed down the Rays. Dickey surrendered just a single hit while striking out 12 batters with zero walks to earn his tenth win of the year. He has struck out eight or more batters in six consecutive starts and hasn’t allowed a single earned run in his past four starts. Dickey owns a sub-1.00 WHIP (0.94) and a ridiculous 2.20 ERA.
Lance Lynn won a fantastic duel against Jake Peavy and the White Sox. Lynn pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings while allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 12 batters. Lynn won for the fourth time in five starts and lowered his season ERA to 2.42.
Peavy made a single mistake in this 1-0 defeat, a solo home run allowed to the resurgent Carlos Beltran. Peavy allowed four hits and two walks with six strikeouts in seven innings. He is enjoying a tremendous comeback season with a 2.91 ERA overall. Peavy was beaten up by the Indians and Tigers in two May starts. He owns a 1.85 ERA in his other 11 starts this season.
Stephen Strasburg allowed two earned in six innings pitched to earn his fifth straight victory and sixth in seven starts. The 23-year-old righty allowed five hits and a walk while striking out eight batters. Strasburg has struck out 11.7 batters per nine innings and five batters per walk in his 13 starts.
Chris Davis of the Orioles homered for the third time in four games, his twelfth of the season. The former top prospect in Texas has found a home in Baltimore, helping to pace the surprising Orioles with 23 extra-base hits and 31 RBI in 201 at-bats. Davis enters the weekend series with Atlanta with a seven-game hitting streak, a period during which he’s hit three home runs with three doubles and eight RBI.
Toronto slugger Jose Bautista hit his 19th home run of the season and drove in two runs against the Nationals. It was his sixth home run in 10 games, a period in which he drove in 14 runs. He’s batting .236 this season, but has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games.
Huston Street pitched a perfect inning to earn a save for the second straight night against the Mariners. That he was available for a second straight night is a good sign given Street’s recent return from injury. He has allowed one earned run in 3 2/3 innings spanning four appearances since returning from the disabled list.
Justin Verlander earned his first win in nearly one month by pitching eight innings of two-run ball against the Cubs. Verlander allowed five hits and struck out eight batters. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner possesses a 2.66 ERA with 4.5 strikeouts per walk issued.
Milwaukee closer John Axford struggled in his third straight outing and blew his second straight save opportunity against the Royals. Axford allowed two earned runs in two-thirds of an inning pitched on one hit and a walk with two strikeouts. He allowed seven earned runs in two innings during these three appearances.
Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss enjoyed hitting in Coors Field. The 28-year-old slugger doubled twice, homered and drove in three runs in the series finale. Moss went 6-for-13 in the series with two doubles, four home runs and eight RBI.
Reliever Tim Collins of the Royals won for the second straight night by pitching a scoreless inning against the Brewers. He walked one batter and struck out two hitters to secure the win. Collins has pitched to a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings (29 appearances) while striking out 46 batters against 11 walks.
The Orioles have battled for the AL East lead this season despite receiving zero support from Mark Reynolds. Perhaps Reynolds’ contribution to the Orioles’ mid-week sweep of the Pirates will jumpstart things? Reynolds went 4-for-5 on Thursday with two doubles, a home run and two RBI. He produced multiple hits in each game of the three-game set, including three doubles, two home runs and four RBI.
Last year’s “NBT” (Next Big Thing), Brandon Belt, discovered his power stroke in a three-game series against the Astros. Belt homered in each game of the series and drove in seven runs. He had not homered in his first 117 at-bats this season.
Finally, Harmon “Man-Crush” hero Adam Dunn hit his 22nd home run of the season for the White Sox against the Cardinals. He’s already doubled his 2011 season total.