Recent review: Granderson stars

BY foxsports • May 23, 2011

Cleveland's incredible roll to start the 2011 season continued with a weekend sweep of Cincinnati.

The star of Sunday’s game was Asdrubal Cabrera, who posted a fantastic 5-for-5 effort with two home runs, five RBI and a stolen base. He’s hit safely in nine of his past 10 games, producing a robust .375 batting average (15-for-40) with four home runs, nine RBI and three thefts.

Tampa Bay starter James Shields hurled a three-hit shutout against the Marlins on Sunday to earn his third win in his past four starts. Shields struck out a season-high 13 strikeouts (he struck out 12 against the Angels at the end of April) and allowed just one walk. He’s pitched to a superb 2.00 ERA overall with nearly five strikeouts per walk (73-to-15).

Defending AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez won his fifth game of the season by pitching eight innings of one-run ball to complete the weekend sweep of the Padres. Hernandez allowed one earned run on six hits with 13 strikeouts (zero walks) to reduce his season ERA to 3.01. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of his 11 starts.

I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge that youngster Michael Pineda earned his sixth win of the season in that series. Pineda pitched seven shutout innings, surrendering two hits and a walk against nine strikeouts. He’s surrendered just five hits and a walk against 16 strikeouts in his past two starts. Overall, Pineda has pitched to a 2.16 ERA with a sub-1.00 WHIP (0.94) on the strength of his ridiculous strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.4 strikeouts per walk issued).

Shortstop Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox has suddenly discovered his stroke. Ramirez ripped four hits, including two doubles and a home run with five RBI in the series finale against the Dodgers. He’s recorded three multi-hit games in his past four starts to raise his season batting average 25 points to .288. During this mini-run, Ramirez has hit five doubles.

The Brewers are still waiting for Yovani Gallardo and Zach Greinke to find some semblance of consistency. Shaun Marcum has been, by far, their most effective pitcher to date. Marcum earned his third consecutive win by allowing one earned run in eight innings against the Rockies. He’s allowed just two earned runs with 12 strikeouts against three walks in his past 15 innings pitched. Overall, Marcum has earned a 6-1 record with a 2.37 ERA on 4.1 strikeouts per walk.

His walk rate still frightens you, but it appears that Ubaldo Jimenez is starting to emerge from his early-season funk. Jimenez lost his fourth game of the season (he’s yet to win a game) to the Brewers on Sunday, but he allowed only two earned runs on two hits and five walks in eight innings pitched. In fact, Jimenez has turned in three quality starts in his past four turns. He’s pitched to a 2.45 ERA in those starts. Again, Jimenez continues to struggle with his control, but we’ll take any positivity at this juncture.

Albert Pujols’ early-season struggles continued this weekend against the Royals. Pujols batted .333 (4-for-12) with a double and an RBI, but the perennial NL MVP candidate has yet to find his stroke. He last homered on April 23 against Cincinnati, a drought of 103 at-bats. During this period, Pujols has hit only four doubles with eight RBI.

Los Angeles outfielder Andre Ethier made headlines earlier this season for his 30-game hitting streak. After its interruption, Ethier posted a short five-game hitting streak before sinking into an extended funk. He’s now part of the chaos that is the Los Angeles sports scene after making an obscene gesture to a reporter. Ethier’s frustration has clearly boiled over, as he’s generated just one hit in his past 30 at-bats.

Lost in the hysteria surrounding the degenerating play of its veteran corps, the Yankees have received fantastic power production out of Curtis Granderson. “The Grandy Man” produced just two hits against the Mets in the weekend series, but both found the Yankee Stadium seats. Granderson has hit four home runs in his past eight games to raise his season total to 16. He hit 24 in his introduction to New York in 2010.

Russell Martin of the Yankees extended his hitting streak to six games on Sunday with a home run and two RBI. He’s batted .409 (9-for-22) during this streak. Martin’s home run on Sunday was his eighth of the year, surpassing his full-season efforts of 2009 and 2010 (seven and five, respectively).

Vladimir Guerrero extended his hitting streak to eight games with a home run and two RBI in the series finale against the Nationals. Guerrero batted .444 (16-for-36) in this period with six RBI to raise his season batting average to .309. His home run was his first since April 28.

Juan Miranda of the Diamondbacks is receiving regular at-bats following the release of Russell Branyan. Miranda has hit safely in five consecutive games, batting .500 (9-for-18) with three doubles, a home run and five RBI during this period. Miranda was hit by a pitch on the wrist in Sunday’s game. X-rays were negative, but his availability for Tuesday’s doubleheader against Colorado is in question.

Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard needs help. The big bopper finds himself mired in a terrible funk entering the new week. Howard has produced three hits in his past 31 at-bats with one home run, one RBI and 11 strikeouts. Domonic Brown and Howard’s tag-team partner, Chase Utley, return from the disabled list. Will that be enough to jumpstart Howard’s bat?

Fantasy Infirmary

As mentioned above, the cavalry is coming! Utley will make his season debut on Monday night after missing the Phillies’ first 46 games because of a knee injury. He’s not likely to start running right away, but fantasy owners would be thrilled to receive a power jolt.

The dynamic duo returns to action in Texas on Monday against Chicago. Josh Hamilton returns from his fractured right arm, while Nelson Cruz has recovered from a quadriceps injury. Both hit well in their minor-league rehabilitation stints. Concerned fantasy owners are already wondering when the next setbacks to these oft-injured stars will occur.

Josh Johnson told The Miami Herald that the shoulder issue that sent him to the 15-day disabled list has been impacting him throughout 2011. You wouldn’t know it from his 1.64 ERA, although he did leave Saturday’s start after five innings.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal returned to the lineup for Sunday’s finale against Chicago after missing one month because of a thumb injury. Furcal went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in his return.

Former fantasy superhero Travis Hafner was placed on the disabled list because of a strained rib cage. The oft-injured slugger will be replaced by some combination of Shelley Duncan and Austin Kearns. Neither represents a fantasy play unless you’re in a deep, deep AL-only league.

Fantasy owners anticipated a breakout season from second-year slugger Jason Heyward in Atlanta. Alas, Heyward’s production has been slowed by an inflamed rotator cuff that finally sent him to the disabled list this weekend. Wilkin Ramirez was recalled from Triple-A to take his roster slot. Ramirez was batting .248 (29-for-117) with six doubles, three triples and seven home runs with 16 RBI and six stolen bases at the time of his recall.

Starter Tim Hudson struggled in his last start against the Angels and returned to Atlanta for tests on his ailing back. Hudson will be skipped in his next turn in the rotation before taking the mound on Memorial Day, per The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

St. Louis outfielder Matt Holliday left Sunday’s game with a strained left quadriceps, an injury that forced Tony LaRussa to put him into the DH role against the Royals this weekend. Holliday produced two hits in his previous 22 at-bats (.090) prior to being lifted. It appears likely that Holliday will miss several games because of the injury. Jon Jay, who has hit safely in eight of nine appearances (.364, 12-for-33), will continue to play left field in his absence.

Finally, the Cubs had a frightening moment over the weekend when Marlon Byrd was hit by an Alfredo Aceves pitch. Byrd sustained multiple facial fractures and will miss an extended period of time. He is scheduled to see a series of physicians this week. Reed Johnson, who has batted .370 in limited play (20 hits in 54 at-bats) will take over every day at-bats in Byrd’s absence.