Recent review: Crawford struggles

BY foxsports • April 18, 2011

There’s always a shiny, new sporting event to keep your head on a swivel.

Just as fans and fantasy owners began to settle into their baseball-watching routines, the opening salvo of the three-month march to the NBA Finals began. The bookend games were nothing short of fantastic, with the Bulls earning a hard-fought comeback win over the Pacers on Saturday. The Thunder then beat the Nuggets in controversial fashion (goaltending?) to close out a mind-boggling Sunday.

In the background, baseball chugged along. The Indians’ hot start continued unabated, and the Red Sox actually found the win column. That doesn’t keep me from starting this diamond review with a struggling superstar.

At The Plate

Carl Crawford’s introduction to Boston has not been the ticker-tape celebration that everyone anticipated. Entering Monday’s early game, Crawford had recorded just two hits in his previous 22 at-bats. Overall, the high-priced acquisition carried a pathetic .127 batting average (7-for-55) with one home run, two RBI, two stolen bases and 10 strikeouts. He’s been bounced around the lineup and has already been given a day off. Buy low.

Grady Sizemore returned to the lineup for the white-hot Cleveland Indians. Sizemore launched a home run in his second at-bat of the season and finished the game 2-for-4 with a double. It remains to be seen how much he’ll run (second half?), but his insertion in the leadoff role is encouraging.

Johnny Damon matched Manny Ramirez’s dismal production to start the campaign, but found his stroke following Ramirez’s abrupt departure. Damon has hit safely in nine consecutive games, a period in which he’s driven in 13 runs. He’s hit three home runs during this streak while batting .324 (12-for-37).

San Diego catcher Nick Hundley hit his third home run of the season in Sunday’s win over Houston. The 27-year-old former second-round pick carries a robust .348 (16-for-46) batting average with six extra-base hits and nine RBI into the new week.

Pittsburgh outfielder Jose Tabata slammed his third home run of the season against Cincinnati on Sunday. Tabata has been a terror on the basepaths, as expected, with eight steals, but he’s also added six extra-base hits. The 22-year-old outfielder has also walked 10 times in 68 plate appearances (.420 OBP).

The White Sox struggled through a weekend series against the Angels. Adam Dunn, he of the recent appendectomy, has generated two hits (batting .111 with one home run and two RBI) with 11 strikeouts in 18 at-bats since returning to the lineup.

On the other side of that matchup, Howie Kendrick hit his fifth home run of the season in Saturday’s game. Kendrick closed the series with a .306 batting average (19-for-62) with eight extra-base hits and seven RBI. He struck out 13 times in his 62 at-bats.

Finally, I feel the need to make the annual nod to the power heroics of Jonny Gomes. Gomes hit safely in seven of his past eight games with five home runs and 11 RBI. Gomes batted .323 (10-for-31) and drew five walks (15 on the season) during this period. He owns a fantastic .435 OBP.

On The Mound

Youngster Michael Pineda earned his second straight win for the Mariners, a strong six-inning effort against the Royals. Pineda allowed one earned run on three hits with four walks against five strikeouts. Overall, he’s fanned 16 batters while posting a strong 2.33 ERA in 19 1/3 innings.

Matt Capps has been installed as the new closer in Minnesota, while Joe Nathan retools his approach and works to build arm strength. Nathan failed to convert two straight save opportunities and reportedly approached Ron Gardenhire to exact the change. Capps earned his first save of the season on Sunday with a perfect inning of work. He saved 42 games (16 for Minnesota) last season.

Dan Haren earned his fourth win of the season on Sunday against the White Sox. He allowed two earned runs on seven hits and struck out six batters in 6 1/3 innings pitched. Haren has pitched to a scintillating 1.16 ERA with 27 strikeouts against two walks in five appearances (one win in relief). His WHIP rests at a dominant 0.65.

Matt Harrison defeated the Yankees on Friday for his third straight victory. He completed eight innings of one-run ball with three strikeouts against seven hits and three walks. Harrison has been absolutely terrific from the back-end of the Texas rotation, recording a brilliant 1.23 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP. He’s allowed four runs with three earned in his 22 innings pitched.

Aaron Harang has resuscitated his career in San Diego. He earned his third win against the Astros on Friday, allowing one earned run on three hits and a walk against eight strikeouts in six innings. Harang has pitched to a 1.50 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched. Most importantly, he’s yet to allow a home run this season. The change of venue is huge and could allow him to remain a solid back-end starter, particularly for his home starts.

The Indians rate as the "feel-good" story of April, and starting pitcher Fausto Carmona has helped to lead the charge following his dismal opening effort against the White Sox. In his past three starts, Carmona has pitched to a 1.25 ERA (0.78 WHIP) with 15 strikeouts against six walks.

Kyle Drabek earned a win in his first start of the year, and the Blue Jays have won each of his three starts. Drabek has pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA (1.93) with 17 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings pitched. Of course, his high-walk rate will eventually come back to bite him (5.3 per nine IP), but he’s made the big out pitch when needed thus far.

Trevor Cahill rebounded from a subpar effort against the White Sox with a fantastic eight-inning performance against the Tigers on Sunday. Cahill allowed one run on four hits (a solo home run) while striking out nine batters without a walk. He’s pitched to a 2.49 ERA overall with 27 strikeouts against seven walks. The leap in his strikeout rate (27 in 25 1/3 IP) puts Cahill on pace to outperform his SP3 draft slot.

Tony LaRussa was quick to reiterate that Ryan Franklin retains the closer role despite blowing his fourth save opportunity in five chances. Matt Kemp homered off Franklin for the second time in the series, blasting a two-run game-winning home run to center field. Franklin converted all but two of his opportunities last season.

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