I’ve missed a few weeks with MLBSoup.com under-going site changes, but I’m back and we’re ready to run at ramming speed. From Black Swan to Back to the Future, with a heavy dose of Cleveland, here is your week 7 recap:
10. The Cincinnati Reds
The Reds began the week with two 7-run victories over the Cubs. Things were looking great. They were alone in 1st place, and ready to host the Pirates. But then, it was as if a switch was flipped. They were throttled by the Pirates, and then traveled to Cleveland where they were swept as well.
The Reds are now 2.5 behind the Cardinals, and they have the Brewers breathing down their neck. This week, they travel to Philadelphia, where their resilience will be truly tested. Which swan will show up?
9. Travis Hafner
Hafner has been a big reason why the Indians have the best record in baseball. He’s hitting the cover off the ball, as his .345/.409/.958 slash line indicates. Unfortunately, he may have been swinging a bit too hard.
The Haf has pulled an oblique, and will miss roughly a month of baseball. His replacements, Shelley Duncan and Austin Kearns, don’t exactly offer much reason for hope, either.
8. Kevin Youkilis – 3B – Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox rode Youk’s blistering week to a 5-1 record, and they now sit just half a game out of 1st place.
Kevin Youkilis hit .500 with a .600 OBP, a Home Run, and 4 Doubles. He’s in the midst of a 10 game hit streak, and is a huge reason why the Red Sox are 14-6 this month. He has only played in 3 May games where he did not get a hit, and for the month, he has a slash line of .353/.444/1.062.
The best team in baseball is back, and Youkilis is leading the charge.
7. Marlon Byrd – OF – Chicago Cubs
Marlon Byrd was quietly having a career year. Although the Cubs were struggling, Byrd remained a bright spot in the lineup, hitting .308 with solid play in Center Field.
That all changed in an instant when Alfredo Aceves let one get away, and hit Byrd in the face. Byrd broke multiple bones, and is out for an unknown period of time. Even if his physical recovery is quick, who knows if he’ll ever be able to stand in the same against live pitching after a freak accident like that?
6. Michael Pineda – SP – Seattle Mariners
Michael Pineda threw two 7-inning shutouts this week, allowing a total of 5 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 16 over the two game stretch. He’s putting up Cy Young-type numbers, so far, and the only thing that might hold him back is that the deepest he’s gone into a game is 7 1/3 innings.
It’s not a matter of efficiency, though, as he’s thrown an even 15 pitches per inning. The Mariners are implementing a pretty strict 100-pitch count on Pineda. He threw 99 pitches in both outings this week, and he hasn’t been above 103 in a game this season.
5. Shane Victorino – OF – Philadelphia Phillies
Victorino hurt his Hamstring on Saturday, May 14th, but the Phillies remained optimistic about his return, and tried to avoid a DL stint. Unfortunately, he was placed on the DL 6 days later. Normally, Philadelphia could make the move retroactive to Sunday, the 15th. However, the Phillies used Victorino as a pinch hitter on Wednesday, forcing Victorino’s DL stint to last an extra 4 days. He was brought in to replace Cole Hamels and sacrifice the eventual game winning run over to 2nd, something that the pitcher probably could have done anyway.
Victorino is off to a great start, batting .284/.343/.843 with 6 Home Runs, and 8 Stolen Bases.
4. The Cleveland Indians
The Indians’ offensive explosion continued this week, as they were the highest scoring team in all of baseball. Although they were swept in two games at the White Sox, their 47 runs helped them coast by the Royals and the Reds.
The Indians have opened up such a big lead in the AL Central that it will be nearly impossible for Detroit or the White Sox to make up the ground until September. This pennant race could still be a nail biter, but Cleveland should have a comfortable lead for months.
3. Asdrubal Cabrera – SS – Cleveland Indians
Asdrubal Cabrera is going to make the All-Star team. He probably won’t be voted by the fans as long as Derek Jeter plays in the American League, and as long as his first name is Asdrubal, but he will definitely be a reserve. Cabrera is hitting .302 with 9 Home Runs, 6 Stolen Bases, 32 RBIs, and 32 Runs. As a matter of fact, he’s leading all shortstops in Runs, RBIs, and Home Runs.
On Sunday, Cabrera had his best game yet. He went 5/5, and as if that’s not enough, he knocked 2 dingers, had 5 RBIs, and stole a base. That’s just unfair.
Considering his career high for Home Runs is 6, he could very well be this year’s Jose Bautista.
2. James Shields – SP – Tampa Bay Rays
James Shields (pictured) might be the best pitcher in the game right now. He’s got a 2.00 ERA, and a WHIP under 1.00. This week, he followed his 7 inning, 3 run, 9 strikeout performance against the Yankees, with a complete game, 3-hit, 13 strikeout shutout of the Marlins. On the week, he had a K:BB ratio of 22:2.
The man has been solid, and he doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
1. Chicago Cubs Visit Fenway
Every week, I have an internal struggle while writing this article. There are always a couple of stories that get a ton of national attention, and I have to decide whether the story is getting attention due to an East-Coast-bias, or because it’s simply a big story.
The Cubs visiting Fenway Park for the first time since the 1918 World Series, is one of those stories. It dominated the weekend’s national baseball coverage by FOX and ESPN. Some cities were even blacked out from watching their own team in lieu of the Cubs/Red Sox game, a story in itself.
Until the Red Sox won the World Series last decade, these two franchises have essentially been mirror images of each other. Both have huge followings all over the country. Both have rivals who tend to win more than they do. Both have made the playoffs on a regular basis. Both have had curses preventing them from winning in said playoffs.
The fact that these two teams haven’t played in Fenway in nearly 90 years is actually pretty remarkable.
Was it overhyped? Of Course. Was it still a huge story? Definitely. And, that’s why I’m calling this one the top story of the week.
Oh, yeah, they also played 3three games! The Red Sox took 2 of 3 from the Cubs, outscoring Chicago 23-15. I’d go into more detail, but I’m sure you’re over it by now.
Come back next week for another breakdown of the top stories of the week.