August 16, 2008
It's a casual Friday, let's bullet the blue sky:
• The Orioles had a cheesy campaign to get Melvin Mora on the All-Star team back in June, and I know I wasn't the only person mocking it. But a funny thing has happened to Mora since the break - he's hitting like a star. He put up a tasty 4-2-3-4 line at Detroit Friday, with a homer, and catch what he's done over his last 26 games: .404/.432/.706, seven homers, 37 RBIs. (Also note how he follows the ball all the way into the mitt; Tom Emanski would be proud.) The pesky Orioles are very quietly third in the AL in runs scored, so don't be afraid to audit their lineup if you need a pick-me-up. Even guys like Ramon Hernandez and Kevin Millar can help you in deeper mixed league.
• Francisco Liriano might be a reinvented pitcher these days, but so far, so good. Liriano focused on his fastball and change Friday and kept the Mariners frustrated, recording 14 ground-ball outs over seven superb innings (two hits, two unearned runs, two walks, five strikeouts). He's won all three of his turns since the Twins decided that maybe, just maybe, Liriano could help them more than Livan Hernandez. (And yes, I expect the Nats to kick Livan around Saturday.)
• Cliff Lee took another step towards the AL Cy Young Friday, going the route against Anaheim for his 17th win (8 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K). Lee's always around the plate, as you know; 80 of his 117 pitches went for strikes and he's getting a lot of leeway from the umps these days. Unheralded Ben Francisco paced the offense, collecting two hits for the sixth time in eight starts.
• Jamie Moyer outdueled Greg Maddux in a Friday night gem, 1-0. Turn the radar guns off and just appreciate two of the masters of our generation. This game probably could have been finished in two hours or less, but Charlie Manuel and Bud Black managed the last two innings like it was the seventh game of the World Series. Brad Lidge continues to be a no-BS closer - perfect ninth, two strikeouts.
• Mike Pelfrey's game is pitching to contact and getting ground balls, and that's exactly what he did at Pittsburgh Friday (7 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K). Pelfrey recorded 14 grass-killing outs during his stint, and remarkably, his small lead wasn't blown by the New York bullpen. Aaron Heilman retired three of the four batters he faced and picked up save No. 3.
• For a guy carting around a .229 average, Daryle Ward enjoyed his go-ahead homer in the ninth inning at Miami. You strike your pose, big fella. Kevin Gregg is still dialing it up into the 93-94 range, but his fastball sure looks straight a lot of the time. Kerry Wood finally got a save chance on the other side (his first in a month) and converted, an effectively-wild appearance (one walk, one plunked batter, another near miss). The hearty contingent of Chicago fans in the South Florida crowd certainly enjoyed it (Cubs fans are everywhere, just accept it). Josh Johnson had a win lined up until Gregg's blown save; Johnson punched out eight over six respectable innings (5 H, 3 R, 3 BB).
• You can't figure out the Matt Garza matrix, so don't even try. He was brilliant Friday at Texas, shutting out the best offense in the majors on just two hits (along with nine strikeouts). It was the fifth time this year Garza has allowed no runs in a start, and in four of those appearances, he was rebounding from a terrible turn. I suppose it's like being a defensive back in football; you need a short memory in this game.
• I'll stop with the daily Ty Wigginton updates, but you need to do your part - pick the guy up. Now. The Y! ownership count is still embarrassingly low on Wigginton, friends. He's adding a fourth position of eligibility, he's set near the top of the order, and he's hitting a ton these days. Wiggy went 3-for-4 with a homer Friday, which makes him 20-for-47 with five homers this month. What else do you need to see? Sure, Wigginton has that "weekend beer league" look to him, but that's just part of the charm.
• Willy Taveras didn't even start Friday's game, yet he finished with two hits and two stolen bases. Say what you want about his bat, but he's money on the bases (55-for-61).
• Jacoby Ellsbury (tailbone) was slated to start Friday (and
bat leadoff), but the Jays and Red Sox were washed out by rain. They'll play a
twi-niter on Sept. 13, but because it's on a football weekend,
some most of us won't
• You watch Matt Cain on the right 10 nights a year and you wonder why he's not a superstar. Friday in Atlanta was one of those nights (7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K). Jair Jurrjens was the tough-luck loser on the other side, allowing just two runs and striking out a season-high nine.
• Injury Lap: Troy Percival (knee) went on the DL as expected Friday, slated to miss 2-4 weeks. He's got cartilage damage, but it's not a tear. Joe Maddon did not name a dedicated replacement . . . Ryan Braun (ribs) took batting practice Friday but didn't appear in the game at LA . . . Jerry Hairston (hamstring) got back in the mix Friday, but took the collar . . . Jason Bartlett (finger) started again Friday and had a couple of hits . . . The Rockies are hoping Yorvit Torrealba (knee) will be able to play some this weekend . . . Aaron Hill (concussion) won't play again this year, if you were holding out hope . . . Alexi Casilla (thumb) might be ready for a rehab assignment next week . . . Cristian Guzman (thumb) sat Friday and will miss a few more games . . . Derek Jeter's foot is fine. He returned Friday with three hits and a stolen base . . . Chris Carpenter (shoulder) and Tom Glavine (elbow) b both returned to the DL, as expected . . . Todd Jones is back, and the AL hitters missed him (five runs in less than an inning).
• Huston Street pitched a scoreless inning for the third straight game, retiring three of the four White Sox he faced. That kept the game tied into the ninth, and the Athletics took it on Kurt Suzuki's walk-off homer. Street surely will get Saturday off, but he's threatening to complicate the ninth inning again in Oakland.
• Speed Round: Chris Snyder has five homers over his last 62 at-bats, and his walk/strikeout ratio suggests an average spike. He's never going to win a batting title, but I fully expect him to raise that .249 mark . . . Kosuke Fukudome was given a rest Friday, will return Saturday. He's on a short leash, however, Lou Piniella made that clear a few days ago . . . I had low expectations on Casey Blake in Chavez Ravine, but so far, so good (.303, four homers through 20 games) . . . I'm surprised some contender didn't pitch hard for Randy Winn (four hits, two runs, two RBIs). He's not a star, but he's more than useful . . . B.J. Upton was benched Friday for failing to run out a double-play grounder, and Maddon plans to sit Upton on Saturday as well.
• The leash keeps getting longer with Chris Perez. He recorded save No. 4 Friday, striking out two of the three men he faced. Other dominant handshakes came from Brian Fuentes (struck out the side on 13 pitches) and Jonathan Broxton (four outs, two strikeouts). Joakim Soria wasn't as sharp, but he survived a hairy ninth in New York (four baserunners, no runs). Justin Christian's pick-off was particularly costly to the Yanks.
• "Out of Control" remix, 99 cents, earlier this week. My hearing may never recover.