What an amazing week of baseball! We just saw with nine teams sweeping the weekend, the highlight being the Amazing A’s sweeping the Yankees in a four-game set. It was the first time in Yankees history they have been swept in a four-game series while losing all four by one runs. The A’s were underdogs in all four of their games against the Yankees, including plus-170 in Sunday’s finale against C.C. Sabathia.
We had the Tigers taking over first place in the American League Central, the Reds and Pirates battling it out for the National League Central, matching identical wins and sweeps, and the Dodgers look like they’re back to being the same team from April and May with a healthy Matt Kemp in the lineup.
If you’ve been betting the Nationals lately, you have begun to hate their bullpen. Last week the Nats bullpen went through a four-game stretch where they allowed 17 runs, one of which was blowing a 9-0 lead against the Braves after five innings, and eventually losing 11-10 on Friday. In that game, Stephen Strasburg went 5 ½ innings and left with a 9-4 lead. Between being limited on his pitch count and the suddenly awful bullpen, the only way to bet the Nats with Strasburg is in the first five innings.
We had a few trades over the week, but none that really mattered unless you think Brett Myers to the White Sox is pivotal. The Cubs have an ace up their sleeve with Ryan Dempster and his league leading 2.11 ERA dangling to prospective buyers. Dempster would look real nice as any team’s second or third starter and could be the difference in making a real dent in this year’s postseason.
They Are Who We Thought They Were
The Tigers went into the All-Star break with some steam, winning five games in a row, but the four-day break didn’t slow them down as they’ve won eight of 10 since. The Oakland A’s have been getting most of the publicity because not much was expected of them, but the Tigers are now right where most expected them to be. Favored to win the division coming into 2012, the Tigers were in quick-sand from April through June. They didn’t just steal the division lead from the White Sox over the weekend in a three-game sweep, but they did it with Detroit style and an emphatic exclamation point.
Who Said Pitchers Can’t Hit
Last Saturday we saw a rare occurrence where opposing pitchers knocked one out of the park off against each other in the same inning. The Giants Matt Cain hit a home run off the Phillies Cole Hamels in the third inning. In the bottom half, Hamels returned the favor, the first time to happen since Fernando Valenzuela and Kevin Gross traded punches in 1990. For Cain, it was his sixth career home run. But for Hamels, it was his first bomb hit and first allowed by a pitcher.
Of all the teams with a winning record in July, no team is getting more bang for each hit than the A’s. They’re ranked 24th for the month with only 65 runs scored, but have hit 25 home runs over the same stretch while only hitting .249. The pitching has been great with an AL best 2.49 ERA and has resulted in MLB best 14-2 record for the month.
Testy Yankee Fans
I tweeted out something Saturday night in regards to the payroll differential between the Yankees ($197 mill) and A’s ($55 mill) as Oakland had won its third in a row over the Bronx Bombers. It didn’t take long for a few people out there in the twitter-verse to remind me that the Yankees will be playing in October while Oakland will be watching it on TV.
Maybe so, but Oakland had won 13 of 15 games and were playing one of the more exciting brands of baseball with their success accentuated even more because of their roster full of no-names while having the second lowest payroll in the game. The A’s run is exactly what makes baseball so great in the summer, especially considering they had lost nine straight at home to the mighty high-priced Yankees prior to Thursday‘s game.
Sure the Yankees are battle tested in October and are likely to be there again this year, but how about the stories in between such as the A’s and Pirates overcoming all obstacles to hang around with all the top names in today’s modern era of baseball. The build-up in these types of stories is what makes a 162-game season very tolerable and entertaining. It’s the type of inspirational underdog-overachieving story that Hollywood loves.
Wouldn’t it be great to see a movie about a low-budget team having their shining moments in a season against all odds?
The Pirates have gone 14-2 on Saturday’s this season, but if looking to cash in again this week it will cost you, and maybe too much. Erik Bedard takes the mound at Houston this Saturday against Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros have lost 19 of their last 21 games, including six in a row through Sunday. Because of that type of consistency, sports books have been tacking on an extra .25 to .30 cents to the Astros opponents, on top of what the pitcher rating suggests.