Hardball Weekly 5/18/09


On Pace For 64 Homers (That’d Be The Record, Right?)

The bad news for the Padres is that they are second-to-last in the National League in runs scored and batting average.  The good news is that division rival Arizona is last in both, and Rockies are equally inept.  The Padres had lost six straight going into their weekend series with the Reds, and came away with a sweep, thanks in part to some 16th innings heroics on Saturday.

Adrian Gonzalez homered in five straight games last week, and considering that his protection in the lineup is coming from Chase Headley, who is batting .246, you have to wonder how long it will be before the Major League home run lead is taken away from him, and when he will start running away with the walks-lead.

Manny Who?

The Mets come to Los Angeles looking to continue their hot streak, but they may have already saved the Dodgers’ season for them.  When Manny Ramirez first went out on his drug-suspension, the Dodgers scuffled; the Giants got hot, and it looked like San Francisco might sneak back up in the race.  They closed from 6.5 games back to 3 games back in the blink of an eye and you could feel the Dodgers imploding.

Then the Mets went in and won three straight in San Francisco, pushing the Dodgers’ lead back to 6 games and probably ending anyone’s hopes of running down the Dodgers in the West.  It isn’t that a 6 game lead is insurmountable in May; it is that the Dodgers were on the ropes, likely feeling that nothing they could do would be enough without Manny (they’re actually out-hitting and out-scoring their own numbers when he was playing).  Now they’ve won four straight, are back to .500 since Manny left, and after 1/5 of the suspension, they’re exactly where they were when they started…in front by a mile.

Now the question is whether they can slow the Mets down in Chavez Ravine this week.

Lackey Is Back, Sorta

John Lackey made his 2009 debut over the weekend, taking a no-decision, and sending his ERA to infinity after getting tossed two pitches into the game for throwing behind and then into the chest of the leadoff hitter.  It was a questionable ejection and might have cost the Angels the game given that they were essentially forced to have someone start a game on the spot.  Lackey is scheduled to throw anywhere from 3-100 pitches Monday night, going up against former Angel great, Jarrod Washburn in Seattle.

Lackey’s abridged start on Saturday was in Texas, where the Angels suffered a sweep at the hands of the Rangers, who have won seven in-a-row and suddenly have the 2nd best record in the league.  The Angels did take two-of-three from Boston earlier in the week, but the Texas sweep leaves them at .500 and in desperate need of pitching help (allowing over 5 runs per game this season).

Around the League

Unlikely leaders continue to shine in the American League, with Toronto and Texas holding firm in the East and West, and Kansas City only a game back in the Central.  The Royals are 2-7 in their last 9 however, and it appears the bloom may be off the rose.  The Phillies and Mets have both caught fire and are looking like they will be making the NL East a two-horse race.  The Mets are 11-3 in their last 14, and the Phillies are 5-2 in their last seven (though four wins came against the Nationals).  Hells Bells are ringing in Milwaukee where Trevor Hoffman has converted four saves in the Brewers’ 5-game winning streak.  The Yankees are also riding a 5-game streak, thanks to three consecutive walk-off wins at Yankee MausoleumStadium over the Twins last weekend.

The Lineup – 9 Things To Watch This Week

Dodgers vs. Mets at Dodger Stadium (Monday-Wednesday)

Angels vs. Mariners at Safeco Field (Monday-Thursday)

Dodgers vs. Angels at Dodger Stadium (Friday-Sunday)

Dodgers/Clayton Kershaw vs. Angels/John Lackey (Saturday)

Red Sox/Josh Beckett vs. Mets/Johan Santana (Friday)

Zack Greinke (7-1, .60 ERA) vs. Victor Martinez (.401 BA) (Thursday)

Adrian Gonzalez (most HR hit) vs. Rich Harden (8th most HR allowed) (Saturday)

Phillies’ Lineup (most runs in NL) vs. Yankee Stadium (Friday-Sunday)

Streaks: Rangers – 7 wins, Nationals – 4 losses