Back after a few days on the disabled list for… well, you don’t want to know, trust me. Missed the chance to post links to last week’s Hit Lists, so here they are, the National and American League editions. It’s a few days old, but here’s what I had to say about the AL East’s big three:
[#1 Rays] Get Used to It: Wade Davis outduels Zack Greinke with seven scoreless innings, lowering his ERA to 2.79 and enabling the Rays to split a four-game series with the Royals. As with the NL Hit List-topping Cardinals, the Rays have no fewer than four pitchers (Matt Garza, David Price and Jeff Niemann being the others) with ERAs under 3.00, with slacker James Shields bringing up the rear at 3.15. Amazingly, all five starters are under club control through at least 2012.
[#2 Yankees] The Funky 4 + 1: Javier Vazquez’s routine poundings are problematic enough to merit a skipped turn, but the rest of the rotation is picking up the slack, and then some. Led by Phil Hughes (1.44) and A.J. Burnett (1.99), the other four starters have a combined ERA of 2.14, and all four rank among the AL’s top 10 in SNLVAR, with Burnett, who’s riding a string of 18.1 innings without having allowed an earned run, ranking third. Nonetheless, the team gets a scare when Pettitte departs Wednesday’s start after five innings, with an MRI revealing mild elbow inflammation.
[#6 Red Sox] “Bomb Squad? They’re Early”: Swept by the lowly Orioles thanks to two late-inning comebacks and a pounding of Daisuke Matsuzaka in his 2010 debut, the Red Sox finish April under .500 for the first time since 1996. The situation has the Sox turning to gallows humor upon receiving an unfounded bomb threat at Fenway. While the lineup’s still having problems regarding Victor Martinez and David Ortiz, the rotation is showing signs of life, with Josh Beckett rebounding from a pair of poor starts, Jon Lester allowing just one run in his last three turns, and John Lackey stringing together five quality starts out of six, the latest at the expense of his former teammates.
Anyway, kind of old news after the Yanks went to Boston and took two of three. Phil Hughes continued to impress on Friday night, mowing down the Sox as the Yankees beat the snot out of soulpatch farmer Josh Beckett (Christ, what is it with the hideous facial hair of the Sox? The pubic goatees sported by Beckett, Manny Delcarmen and others are just absolutely godawful). Watching Hughes, I’m reminded of John Lydon’s description of the Sex Pistols’ modus operandi from The Filth and the Fury: “It was attack. Attack, attack, attack.” Saturday’s contest was a more disjointed affair, interrupted by rain but bound together by three Mark Teixeira homers, the last of which came off reserve outfielder Jonathan Van Every. Sunday night the Sox turned the tables in a blowout best forgotten, the kind of night that makes you wish that A.J. Burnett would simply wander back to the trailer park from whence he came. Still, two out of three ain’t bad; the only real down note for the weekend was that the Yanks got a scare out of Robinson Cano getting hit by Beckett on Friday, then were forced to send Nick Johnson to the DL on Saturday due to an inflamed tendon in his wrist.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers managed to overcome a start in which knuckleballing starter Charlie Haeger failed to retire a single hitter to take two out of three from the Rockies, with Clayton Kershaw outdueling Ubaldo Jimenez yesterday. The Rox were so stifled they couldn’t get a single ball out of the infield until Kershaw’s eighth and final inning. The more-or-less decrepit state of the Dodgers’ pitching will be the subject of my Tuesday BP “Hit and Run.” Unless I’m attacked by the zombie Ramon Ortiz, that is.
Oh, and of course, I can’t let the weekend’s notes pass without mentioning Dallas Braden’s perfect game, only the second bid for a no-hitter that I can recall actively rooting against in the ninth inning (Curt Schilling’s was the other). Braden, of course, made himself a story by calling out Alex Rodriguez for crossing “his” mound a few weeks back. And then continuing to talk, and talk, and talk some more about it — putting the lie to his claim that “we don’t do much talking in the 209″ (his heretofore obscure area code) — to the point that A’s GM Billy Beane had to give him the following message:
The big story about the perfecto was that it came on Mother’s Day, with Braden’s grandmother, who raised him after his mom died of cancer, in the stands to witness the feat. A nice touch, undone by the instantaneous news after the game ended (as reported by A’s beat reporter Susan Slusser) that granny continued to demonstrate the Braden family’s rabidly pathological obsession with Rodriguez: “Stick it, A-Rod.”
Seriously? Stay classy, 209.