AL East Roundup – 5/25/09 trough 5/31/09

New York Yankees

For the first time in over two years, the Yankees reached the top of the AL East standings. It started as a tie with the Red Sox on Wednesday. They lost the lead when the Sox won on Thursday, but retook the lead over the weekend. The Yanks currently sit a half game up on the Red Sox. While the standings on May 31 count for absolutely nothing in the long run, it’s a relief for Yanks fans to see their team back atop the standings, rather than ending May in third place as they’ve done for the past few years.

The offense put up monstrous numbers every other game for the Yanks, as they scored 11 on Monday, nine on Wednesday, and 10 on Saturday. They mixed those with three-run showings on Tuesday and Friday, and a four-run affair in Sunday’s walk-off loss to the Indians. The pitching turned in a solid week as well, with the only poor showing coming on Tuesday in the team’s 7-3 loss in Texas. Joba Chamberlain had a sub-par start, and after the Yankees tied the game the bullpen blew it open. While the bullpen remains a concern, the continued quality starts from the rotation helps keep the relievers’ exposure limited.

Once again, Mark Teixeira was the offensive player of the week. He put up a .357/.400/.786 line in the last seven days (1.186 OPS), smacking three homers and three doubles in 28 at bats. Alex Rodriguez did his part, posting a .417/.517/.542 line on the week. Surprisingly, he hit no home runs, but he did have three doubles and five walks to go along with just one strikeout. It seems like his defense (-27.8 UZR/150) will be the last thing to come around following surgery to fix a torn hip labrum.

On the pitching end, it was a mixed bag. Phil Hughes had a stellar start on Monday in Texas but his struggles in the third inning of Sunday’s start in Cleveland tainted that start. CC Sabathia had just one start, in which he was more than good enough to give the Yanks a W. A.J. Burnett lasted just six innings in his start, though they were of the scoreless variety, and came with seven strikeouts. Chien-Ming Wang, however, tossed five scoreless innings in relief. These innings have given the Yanks a bit more confidence in him. If he can return to the rotation and go back to throwing seven, eight quality innings per start he could give the Yanks a big boost.

Week’s record: 4-2

Season record: 29-21

Injuries: Melky Cabrera (shoulder, day to day)

This week: Mon @Cleveland; Tue – Thu TEXAS; Fri – Sun TAMPA BAY
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AL East Roundup: 5/18 through 5/24

Boston Red SoxSurviving Grady

The Red Sox started the week three games out of first place, looking up at the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays had just won six out of their last eight games…then they came to Fenway. Tim Wakefield welcomed them with a dominating performance: eight innings giving up only five hits and one run – a homer to old pal Kevin Millar. Papelbon shut the door in the ninth, edging the Sox a game closer to the top. Wednesday night, the Beard of Wonder and Amazement returned to the line-up and had three of the Sox fifteen hits. Boston’s offense exploded, seemingly inspired by Big Papi’s first homer of the season. Jason Varitek had two dingers in the game (officially starting the “Captain is on the juice” talk), his second coming in the fifth – the first of four in that inning. Brad Penny pitched well, going six-and-two-thirds, before turning it over to the pen for mop-up. In the series finale, Jon Lester held the Jays down and the bats jumped on Toronto early, scoring three in the first. It would prove to be enough and the sweep was complete.

Friday night the abortion we call interleague play began as the Mets came to town. Johan Santana battled the Sox as Dice-K returned from the DL. The Dice-man was shaky, giving up four runs in just five innings. The floodgates were opened courtesy of Julio Lugo and his inability to turn a double play. The non-error led to two runs that never should have crossed the plate. Boston rallied in the bottom of the inning cutting the deficit to 4-3 but that was as close as they would come. Saturday night baseball in Fenway was outstanding…Josh Beckett was vintage, going eight strong and allowing just one unearned run. The stage was set for Papelbon in the ninth, but the ending didn’t go as written. Paps gave up an instant-replay-confirmed homer giving the Mets a 3-2 lead. Two stellar defensive plays in the bottom of the inning sealed the win. The Sox would take no chances in Sunday’s game, piling on 12 runs on 16 hits – including six doubles and a pair of three-run homers by Youk and Lowell.

The Blue Jays were swept by the Braves over the weekend, putting the Sox on top of the AL East by a half-game. The Red Sox start the week in Minnesota for four games, then head north-of-the-border to face the Jays next weekend.

Week’s record: 4-2

Season record: 26-18

Injuries: None

This week: Mon – Thu @Minnesota; Fri – Sun @Toronto
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AL East Roundup: 5/11/09 through 5/17/09

Toronto Blue JaysBlue Jays Daze

Any week that has Doc Halladay pitching twice is a week Jays fans look forward to for good reason. Doc didn’t disappoint while setting the tone against the Yankees against AJ, his old team mate and newest Blue Jay nemesis. Doc pitched a complete game gem against a somewhat diminished Yankee lineup that was missing Jeter, Swisher, and Posada, but still took care of business. He only needed 103 pitches to complete his outing. While Doc’s performance was to be expected, the fact that Burnett was booed every single time he threw a strike and jeered more than Arod surprised many of us. While it is true that Burnett became just another player chasing the money he supposedly deserves in New York, he deserves to be made aware that he sold out.

Back to the Jays week, I have to admit the Yankee pitching surprised me after the first game of the series. CC and Andy threw some very strong games supplemented by some stellar pen innings I had no idea the Yanks relievers could deliver. I expected the Jays hitters to have some struggles this season, but hoped they would come against other opponents. For the Jays, Richmond obviously looked shell shocked and definitely had no faith in his stuff for the first time this season. I’m not really sure why it happened, but I hope that he learns from the experience and works on his tenacity. His rough outing was followed by yet another surprising start by Tallet who held his own over 6 innings allowing only 2 runs. Either way, he wasn’t beating CC and the Jays hitters took the 2 games off, leaving Richmond and Tallet to fend for themselves.

As the weekend series versus the White Sox started, the Jays has hungry hitters on the prowl and did they delivered enough to sweep the weekend. Friday’s game had Bret Cecil throwing a great game to go along with 8 runs of support, resulting in Bret’s second win in a row. Lind and Bautista delivered the two required RBIs in the 8th inning on Saturday in support of Robert Ray, who lasted 8 innings with no earned runs. Scott Downs got the save and seems to have a good hold on the role. And finally the Jays supported their Doc with another 8 run effort led by none other than Aaron Hill. I’d like to advertise for Aaron for very good reason. As we begin to vote for the All-Star game, I would suggest that Aaron’s stats deserve to be compared to Utley’s and Kinsler’s to prove just how special he has been this season. I hope all voters will give him the thumbs up, he deserves it.

Week’s Record: 4-2

Season Record: 26-14

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm – cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in AAA May 13th), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).

This Week: Mon CHICAGO; Tue-Thu @Boston; Fri-Sun @Atlanta
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AL East Roundup: 5/4/09 through 5/10/09

Toronto Blue JaysBlue Jays Daze

In terms of series, the Jays split the 2-game series with LAA and CLE, and each time they came up with at least one 10+ run game. The 3-game series against Oakland series was a won the Jays (2-1). There was nothing particularly different about this week for the Jays, as they put up 45 runs during the week for a 6.5 run per game average. This average was achieved despite the Jays meeting their match in Jered Weaver, and I’m sure other teams will pour over his outing to see how he was able to 3 hit this offense while allowing only 1 run in a complete game gem.

Throughout the week, the key to their offensive effectiveness continued to be hitting throughout the lineup. Each day or night it seemed that all except maybe 1 or 2 guys were getting their hits, and most of them with men on base. Lind, Overbay, and Hill had really strong weeks, while Snider went 2 for 4 four times this week to help out his average. Overall, the offense continued to clobber opposing pitching and was supplemented by very effective pitching.

The bullpen, however, had a horrible start to the week, with Camp, League, and Carlson allowing 3 runs a piece. Rookie Bret Cecil turned in two excellent outings and may have forced Cito to give him another look instead of calling up the now healthy Casey Janssen. He threw 6 innings with 1 ER and 6 Ks in his first outing against a very good CLE lineup, and followed it up with an 8 inning game with 5 hits allowed, no earned runs, 2 walks and 6 Ks.

Most notable for the Jays this week was how efficiently the starting pitching was able to pitch. Monday and Tuesday’s outings by the pen must have really scared the starters into lasting longer into the games, because from then on they went over 7 innings with only 1 ER four times, with only Robert Ray lasting 6.1 innings. What did this mean for the suddenly unconfident pen? Well, from Wednesday to Sunday they pitched a total of 6.2 innings, with only 68 pitches thrown by 5 guys. So as we head into the following week, we have a fresh pen, extremely confident starting pitching, 3 more starters ready to return when needed (Romero, Purcey, and Janssen), and an offense that just seems to keep clicking.

Week’s Record: 4-3

Season Record: 22-12

Injuries: Michael Barrett (Shoulder), Jesse Litsch (Right Forearm – cleared to resume throwing), Shaun Marcum (Elbow), Dustin McGowan (Labrum), Ricky Romero (Threw in Single A May 8th), BJ Ryan (Throwing in HiA Dunedin), Casey Janssen (made 3 starts in HiA Dunedin).

This Week: Tue-Thu NEW YORK; Fri-Sun CHICAGO
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AL East Roundup: 4/27/09 through 5/3/09

Toronto Blue JaysBlue Jays Daze

Note: Everyone welcome Mat, our new Jays contributor. And be sure to check out his new blog, Blue Jays Daze (linked above).

If Baseball was the board game “Clue”, the first half of the past week Jays murderers would have been described like this: it was the Butler, in Kauffman Stadium, with a big bad stick and a hell of a pitching staff! The Jays lost their first series of the season while losing 3 of 4 against the Royals. Billy Butler, the newest Jays killer, took his average from .193 to .262 over the last 2 games of the series while going 6 of 8 with 2 homers, 2 doubles, 5 RBI and 6 runs scored. The KC pitching staff helped him out with stellar performances from Bannister, Greinke, and Davies, although the Jays offense did become the only team able to score runs against Greinke this season. The Jays were also able to make a partial comeback Thursday, making the final 8-6 after being down 8-2 after the 5th inning. Other positives for the Jays include Scott Richmond’s strong start during an 8-1 victory on Tuesday (the one game Butler sat out), as well as strong performances from the bullpen, aside from RHP Bryan Bullington who has since been demoted to AAA. He will be joined by starter LHP Brian Burres who thankfully takes his ugly 14.21 ERA with him and should not be back with the Jays as long as better options exist.

The second half of the week was critical to the Jays ending their mini-slump, and was much kinder to the Jays offense and pitching. While Doc Halladay didn’t have one of his best starts on Friday, he did last 8 innings that allowed the pen some time to rest and the offense took the lead with 8 runs scored. Saturday’s extra innings 5-4 win was even more encouraging. It included Robert Ray’s first career start, which was solid, and was followed with the usual shut down performance of the Jays elite bullpen who shut out the Orioles over the last 5.1 innings of the game. The only run the O’s scored was unearned due to an Aaron Hill miscue, but he more than made up for it with a game tying HR in the same inning followed by a game winning single in the 11th. The opposite things occurred to Travis Snider this week, who made 3 key defensive plays but struggled at the plate and now sports a .229 average. The bullpen was effective as usual and deserves the praise it get. Carlson and Downs shut down the end of the week and the O’s on Sunday, which allowed Richmond’s great 7 inning performance to result in his 4th win of the season. Overall, the series against the Orioles was a much needed return to winning for the Jays who took 3 of 3 from their division rivals.

Week’s Record: 4-3

Season Record: 18-9

Injuries: Nil

This Week: Mon – Wed CLEVELAND; Thur – Sun @Anaheim
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AL East Roundup: 4/20/09 through 4/26/09

Toronto Blue Jays

Note: Still no Jays blogger. Anyone know someone? Anyone want to just write the recap weekly? Better from a Jays fan than a Yanks one. Hit me: josephp at riveraveblues dot com.

The Jays continued to roll through the season’s third week, taking two out of three from each of their opponents. Their week started and ended with Roy Halladay, who had an uncharacteristic performance on Tuesday, surrendering five runs over eight innings. This is why we need a Jays blogger to take this. Halladay had allows three through six innings, and then another two in the seventh. He tossed just 104 pitches in those eight innings, and struck out nine with no walks. The start didn’t seem all that bad, but it’s still five runs and a loss in the box score. He came back to win on Sunday, but his line, other than the earned runs, doesn’t look as impressive: 7 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 118 pitches. So he used more pitches in fewer innings, struck out fewer, walked more, and allowed fewer runs. This baseball is an odd game.

Following the Halladay loss, the Jays took an 11-inning affair 8-7 on a Kevin Millar walk-off single. The Jays were actually up 7-4 heading into the top of the ninth, but B.J. Ryan hit a guy and issued a walk to lead off the frame, and it all came unraveled from there. An error and a Michael Young home run later and the game was headed to extras. Thursday was another good start for Kevin Millwood, though he did allow three home runs. The overall damage was limited to four runs over seven innings, and the Jays finished taking two of three from the Rangers.

In Chicago the Jays opened by simply massacring the Sox 14-0 on 21 hits. Lyle Overbay was the only starter to go hitless in the affair. The Sox turned the tables the next day, defeating Brian Burres and the Jays 10-2. Then finally, in the aforementioned Halladay start on Sunday, the Jays took the game 4-3 on a go-ahead single by Scott Rolen in the eighth. Few expected the Jays to play like this, but their offense has been clicking and the pitching staff has been doing the job, despite the flurry of injuries (McGowan, Marcum, Litsch, now Romero and Ryan).

Week’s record: 4-2

Season record: 14-6

Injuries: LHP B.J. Ryan (15-day DL, soreness between shoulder and back), LHP Ricky Romero (15-day DL, strained muscle on right side).

This week: Mon – Thu @Kansas City; Fri – Sun BALTIMORE
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AL East Roundup: 4/13/09 through 4/19/09

Toronto Blue Jays

None of the Jays replacements we’ve contacted have come through, so you’re going to have to deal with ol’ Joe’s recap of the Blue Jays week. It’s a shame none of their bloggers stepped up, because they’re off to a remarkable start. They sit atop the AL East which, while it likely won’t last long, has to be music to Jays fans’ ears. With all the talk about the Sox, Yanks, and Rays, it must be nice looking down at them.

The week started off rough, with Jesse Litsch getting roughed up for four runs over three innings on Monday. Worse, he’s now on the 15-day DL with a right forearm strain, never a good omen. He won’t even throw a baseball for two weeks, and his return is currently set at four to six weeks, but that might be optimistic. Still, they came back and won it for Litsch. Travis Snider went deep for the second time in the game and gave the Jays an 8-6 win. After taking three of four from Minnesota, the Jays stomped the A’s for two out of three over the weekend. It could have been a sweep, but Brandon League blew Friday’s game in the eighth, allowing three runs for an 8-5 A’s comeback.

Week’s record: 5-2

Season record: 10-4

Injuries: RHP Jesse Litsch (15-day DL, forearm strain)

This week: Tue – Thu TEXAS; Fri – Sun @Chicago
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