Tag Archives: A’s

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The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez

Due to a rule change several years ago, a player only has 10 years on the writers’ ballot to be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame before having to wait to potentially get inducted by the veterans’ committee. Since this was LF Tim Raines’ final year on the ballot, it was a make-or-break election for him. With 86% of the 442 ballots cast — well over the 75% needed — Raines was finally elected in the Hall of Fame this year with 380 votes. Also voted in by the writers this week are 1B Jeff Bagwell — who led all candidates with 86.2% of the vote, with his 381 votes edging Raines by one — and C Ivan Rodriguez, who netted 76% (336 votes) in his first year of eligibility. P Trevor Hoffman and RF Vladimir Guerrero fell just short of election, with 74% and 71.7% respectively. With those numbers, both are virtual locks to be elected in 2018. For comparison, Bagwell garnered 71.6% of the vote last year before vaulting up nearly 15% this year and Raines had 69.8% in 2016.

Jeff Bagwell spent his entire 15-year MLB career with the Astros after being traded to Houston in 1990 (for veteran P Larry Andersen) as a minor-leaguer while he was in the Red Sox organization. He earned National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1991 with a .294 batting average, 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 156 games. That marked the lowest full-season home-run total of his career as his power numbers increased throughout his time in the league, peaking at a career-high 47 home runs in 2000. He was voted NL MVP in the strike-shortened 1994 season, when he hit a career-best .368 with 39 home runs and a career-high 116 RBI in 400 at-bats over 110 games. His 116 RBI and 104 runs scored both led the National League that season. He was named to the NL All-Star team in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1999. Although he continued to put up decent home-run totals, his batting average started to decrease starting in 2001 as he started dealing with an arthritic right shoulder that eventually ended his career following the 2005 season.

Bagwell wasn’t just a power hitter — he could also steal bases, entering the 30-30 club in ’97, when he swiped a career-high 31 bases, and ’99. With 43 and 42 home runs, respectively, those years he actually was in even more rarified air in the 40-30 club. When his career ended, he had a .297 average and set Astros records with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI in 2,150 regular-season games. He also had 202 steals and 1,401 walks by the time he called it a career. Before he hung up the cleats for good, though, he finally got to play in a World Series, playing in all four games of the Fall Classic when the White Sox swept the Astros.

Other honors Bagwell received during his career include a Gold Glove in ’94 and Silver Slugger awards in ’94, ’97 and ’99.

Tim Raines is most often associated with the Expos, with whom he spent the first 12 seasons of his career. He later spent five seasons with the White Sox, three with the Yankees and one in Oakland. After taking a year off in 2000, he returned in 2001, spending time with the Expos and Orioles (for four games) before joining the Marlins for his final season in 2002. He is known as a base-stealer, and for good reason; he is the most successful base-stealer — by percentage — in MLB history (min. 400 steals). He didn’t waste any time showing off his speed, notching 71 steals in his first full season of 1981, being caught just 11 times. He led the National League in steals for four straight seasons, from 1981-84, with a career-high 90 steals in 1983. He made the NL All-Star team in each of his first seven full seasons from 1981-87. His best offensive season came in 1986 when he led the NL with a .334 average and .413 OBP. The height of his power came the following year, when he swatted 18 home runs.

Raines earned a World Series ring in 1996, when he was part of the Yankees team that swept the Braves in the Fall Classic, the only time in his career that Raines made it to the World Series. He won a Silver Slugger award in 1986.

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is a rare catcher who excelled both at the plate and behind the plate. Rodriguez spent most of his 21-year career with the Rangers, also playing for the Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros and Nationals for various lengths of time. Of the 2,543 games he played in his career, 2,427 were as a catcher — the most games behind the plate of any player in major-league history. His 14 all-star selections (1992-2001, 2004-07) and 13 Gold Gloves (1992-2001, 2004, 2006-07) also are the most all-time for the position.

Rodriguez was voted American League MVP in 1999, the best offensive season of his career when he hit .332 with 35 home runs, drove in 113 RBI and stole 25 bases. His 199 hits fell just shy of the 200-hit milestone. Defensively that season, he threw out 55% of potential base-stealers — that number topped the majors, one of nine seasons in which he led the majors in caught-stealing percentage. His best season in that category came in 2001, when he threw out 60% of runners who tried to steal a base against him. Back to the offense, he finished his career with 2,844 hits, which is the most in history for a major-leaguer who played at least 50% of his games as a catcher. HIs career batting average is .296, with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI. He also stole 127 bases, which puts him near the top of the career list among catchers.

Rodriguez played in two World Series — winning it in 2003, his only season with the Marlins when they beat the Yankees in six games, and making it there again in 2006 with the Tigers, who lost to the Cardinals in five games. In addition to his MVP and 13 Gold Glove awards, Pudge won seven Silver Slugger awards (1994-99, 2004).

Also being inducted this year, who were voted in by the Today’s Game Era committee, are former team executive John Schuerholz and former commissioner and Brewers owner Bud Selig.

Percentages for other notable players on this year’s ballot include: DH Edgar Martinez, 58.6%; P Roger Clemens, 54.1%; LF Barry Bonds, 53.8%; P Mike Mussina, 51.8%; P Curt Schilling, 45.0%; OF Manny Ramirez, 23.8%

Players set to appear on the ballot for the first time in 2017 include P Chris Carpenter, OF Johnny Damon, P Livan Hernandez, CF Andruw Jones, 3B Chipper Jones, P Brad Lidge, OF Hideki Matsui, P Jamie Moyer, 3B Scott Rolen, P Johan Santana, 1B/DH Jim Thome and SS Omar Vizquel.

The 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

a-rod

MLB Weekly: A-Rod and Teixiera announce retirements, Story’s season ends

In this week’s MLB Weekly, two notable Yankees announce their retirements, a home run-hitting rookie undergoes season-ending surgery and the Dodgers send a once-promising slugger to the minors.

Looking Back

This morning Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez and the team announced that the final game of his major league career will be this Friday, August 12 at Yankee Stadium against the Rays, the team’s next home game after today. He will be released from his player contract with the team but will sign a new contract to serve as a special advisor to the team, acting as a mentor to young players, through 2017. In his 22-year career, Rodriguez has hit 696 home runs but has not seen much playing time this season as he is hitting just .204 in 62 games this season. Earlier in the week, Yankees 1B Mark Teixiera announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Teixiera is a 14-year veteran who is hitting .199 this season, which has included some time on the disabled list. He is in the final year of his contract, while Rodriguez had a year remaining on his deal.

Rockies SS Trevor Story was expected to begin the season in the minors but a suspension to SS Jose Reyes changed those plans, as Story landed the starting gig by way of an impressive spring training. And he really took advantage of the opportunity, hitting 7 home runs in the first six games of his major-league career. He continued to hit home runs throughout the season, getting up to 27 by July 30, which ended up being his final game of his rookie campaign. Story tore the UCL in his left thumb in that game, an injury that required a surgery that is expected to keep him out for the remainder of the season — a loss that hurts the Rockies’ already-slim hopes of making the playoffs.

Like Story, Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig put up big offensive numbers in his rookie season back in 2013, hitting .319 with 19 home runs in 104 games. His production has dropped off each season since then, though, eventually bottoming-out this year with .260 average and just 7 home runs in 81 games. That lack of production, combined with reported issues in the locker room, led the Dodgers to demote Puig to Triple-A Oklahoma City this week. The team made the move after acquiring OF Josh Reddick from the A’s at the trade deadline, giving them less of a need to use Puig in the majors. The Dodgers reportedly tried to deal Puig to another team but came up short before Monday’s non-waiver deadline. It’s possible Puig could still be traded this month if he is able to clear waivers, but he’ll probably have to produce in the minors before another team would want to take a chance on him. If he’s still in the Dodgers organization at the end of the season, don’t be surprised if they try again to trade Puig this winter.

Elsewhere in MLB, there is a three-way battle going on for first place in the AL East, with the Orioles and Blue Jays tied atop the division and the Red Sox two games behind them. The same two-game margin separates first place and second place in the AL Central, with the Indians ahead of the Tigers, who have won nine of their last 10 games. The Rangers have a bit more of a cushion in the AL West, 6.5 games clear of the Astros. Baltimore/Toronto sit atop the American League Wild Card, with the Tigers in the second Wild Card spot, with the Red Sox just .5 game behind them. In the hunt are the Astros and Mariners, at four and five games back, respectively.

In the National League, the Nationals and Cubs continue to hold significant leads in their divisions. The Nationals’ margin in the NL East is 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Marlins, while the Cubs — who still hold the best record in the majors — have a 10.5-game cushion over the Cardinals in the NL Central. Things are much tighter in the NL West, as the Giants’ lead over the Dodgers is down to two games as San Francisco has gone just 4-6 in the last 10 games. The Dodgers currently hold the first Wild Card in the NL, with the Marlins in control of the second Wild Card. In the hunt are the Cardinals, Mets, Pirates and Rockies — all within four games of landing one of the Wild Cards.

The Week Ahead

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues this week

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry continues this week at Fenway Park

There are a couple of rivalry series in the coming week. The first is a three-game set between the Red Sox and Yankees in Boston beginning Tuesday. The other sees the Cardinals visiting the Cubs for four starting Thursday. Other series to look out for include a short series between playoff contenders as the Nationals host the Indians Tuesday and Wednesday. Later in the week, the Astros look to stay alive in the Wild Card race when they visit the Blue Jays for a weekend series north of the border starting Friday. That same day, the Orioles host the Giants in another interleague series featuring teams that could be playing well into October.

Pitching performances to look for this week include the Giants-Marlins game on Monday, with SPs Johnny Cueto and Jose Fernandez — who both hold sub-3.00 ERAs for the season — scheduled to take to the mound. Diamondbacks SP Zack Greinke is scheduled to return from the disabled list Tuesday and get the start against the Mets and SP Steven Matz. Rays rookie SP Blake Snell looks to continue his stretch of good starts Wednesday when he gets the ball against Blue Jays SP J.A. Happ, who has already won a career-high 15 games on the season. Mets SP Bartolo Colon gets a home start on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks, the only major league team he has never gotten a win against in his 19-year career; SP Robbie Ray is slated to start for Arizona.

Clayton Kershaw

MLB Weekly: Kershaw hits the DL, top prospect Giolito debuts, pitchers land new homes

In this week’s MLB Weekly, one of the best pitchers in the majors has landed on the DL while other pitchers found new homes via trades.

Looking Back

Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw is among the best pitchers in the majors. This season, he has a MLB-best 1.79 ERA in 121 innings over 16 starts. He has struck out 145 batters while walking just 9. He is sidelined right now, though, after being placed on the disabled list on Friday with a herniated disc in his lower back. There is currently no timetable for his return, but he likely will be out until after the All-Star Game on July 12. Veteran SP Brandon McCarthy, who has been out since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2015 is expected to come off the DL to get the start for the Dodgers Sunday. The team also made a trade for another veteran starter this week to help out the rotation in Kershaw’s absence. The details of that trade can be found below.

Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg was also placed on the 15-day disabled list this week, but it was made retroactive to June 16, making him eligible to be activated and get the start on Sunday. SP Lucas Giolito, one of the top prospects in the minors, threw 4 innings of 1-hit ball in his MLB debut earlier this week while filling in for Strasburg. Giolito’s debut outing was cut short by a rain delay that forced his exit after just 45 pitches. It looked like he might get the start on Sunday, but manager Dusty Baker has announced Strasburg will get the call there. It is unknown what the team will do with Giolito, but he could be sent back down to Triple-A.

SP Bud Norris was the pitcher the Dodgers acquired in the aforementioned deal. Norris and minor-leaguer Dian Toscano came over from the Braves in exchange for a couple of minor-leaguers. Norris has been pitching well of late, including in his Dodgers debut on Friday when he threw 6 innings of shutout ball against the Rockies. He struck out 8 and walked 1 in the 5-0 win for his new team. His ERA was 5.71 on June 1, but he has since lowered it to 3.89 after his latest strong outing. The other notable trade this week sent veteran RP Fernando Rodney from the Padres to the Marlins. Rodney had 17 saves in 28 appearances for the Padres this season. He has posted an impressive 0.30 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 28.2 innings. At this time, Rodney is expected to serve as a setup man for closer A.J. Ramos and the Marlins who, unlike the Padres, are contending for a playoff spot.

Elsewhere in MLB, despite faltering a bit this week and having lost three straight to the Mets, the Cubs still have one of the best records in the majors and a nine-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. In the AL Central, the Indians have opened up a six-game lead on the defending World Series champion Royals after a 14-game win streak, which was snapped on Saturday. The closest division race right now is in the AL East, in which the Orioles lead the Red Sox by four games. As we approach the halfway point of the season, the Wild Card races start to take shape a little more. The Red Sox and Royals currently hold the Wild Cards in the American League, with the Tigers, Astros and Blue Jays each .5-game out, while the Dodgers and Mets lead the National League Wild Card, with the Cardinals and Marlins within striking distance.

The Week Ahead

Royals at Blue Jays in a rematch of last season's ALCS

The Royals visit the Blue Jays in a rematch of last season’s American League Championship Series

As we enter the final week before the all-star break, we see a few series featuring teams fighting for playoff spots. Early in the week, the Orioles visit the Dodgers for a three-game series beginning Monday, the Royals head north of the border to take on the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday, and the Rangers and Red Sox do battle in Boston for a three-game series. Later in the week, the Mets host the Nationals for a four-game series starting Thursday that pits the top two teams in the NL East, as of now, against each other.

There aren’t many pitching matchups that stand out this week, but there are some pitching performances to look out for. Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman takes the mound Wednesday against the Royals’ Ian Kennedy, looking to have a second straight quality start in what has been a disappointing season to this point. Also Wednesday, Red Sox SP Steven Wright, who could be a candidate to start for the American League in the All-Star Game, looks to continue putting up the good numbers he has posted so far when he opposes Rangers SP Martin Perez.

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Angels SP Tim Linecum

MLB Weekly: Lincecum gets a win, Ichiro passes Rose?

In this week’s MLB WeeklyTim Lincecum makes his first start in nearly a year, Ichiro Suzuki gets a controversial hit and the Mets could be without captain David Wright for the rest of the season.

Looking Back

A few weeks ago, we told you about Lincecum signing a one-year contract with the Angels and told you he’d spend some time in the minors before getting up to the big leagues. After performing well in his three starts with Triple-A Salt Lake City, he got the start for the Angels on Saturday, marking his first start in a Major League Baseball game since June 27, 2015 — nearly a full calendar year. He put up good numbers in the 6-inning effort at the A’s. The 32-year-old veteran allowed 4 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 2 and walking 2 in his 6 innings of work. He got the win as the Angels won the game 7-1. The numbers look good, but it was against an A’s team that ranks near the bottom of the league in offense so you shouldn’t put too much into it. That being said, his next scheduled start is also against the A’s in Anaheim on Thursday. With the Angels not in playoff contention, if Lincecum can put together a string of good starts through July, he could be trade bait if a contending team is in the market for a veteran to add to the back of their rotation.

Ichiro got 2 hits in the Marlins’ 6-3 loss to the Padres on Wednesday, which gave him 2,979 hits in his major league career, a number that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. But when you add it to the 1,278 hits he got in his professional career in Japan, it gave him a total in the two countries of 4,257 — one more than MLB’s all-time hit king, Pete Rose. That has caused a discussion of whether to consider Ichiro as the new hit king. Some people say he is, but I’m in the camp that says his hits in Japan don’t count as part of his MLB total, so the 2,980 hits he now has is the number that matters when it comes to his major-league stats. That’s still an impressive number for the 42-year-old who is in his 16th season in the majors. Needing just 20 more hits, he will likely surpass the 3,000-hit mark (in the U.S.) sometime in the next few weeks, and he will likely land in the Hall of Fame after he retires. After hitting a career-worst .229 last season, Ichiro is enjoying a bounceback season, with his average sitting at .354 in 56 games.

Although he’s not having a great offensive season, Wright is still an important part of the Mets clubhouse — after all, he is the team’s captain — but they might have to do without him for the rest of the season. Wright underwent surgery on Thursday to repair a herniated disk in his neck and, although a recovery time is not yet known, it looks likely that he won’t be able to return this season.

Elsewhere in MLB, all three division leaders in the National League have big leads, with the Nationals leading the East by 6.5 games over the Mets, the Cubs ahead of the Cardinals by a seemingly insurmountable 11.5 games in the Central, and the Giants 7 games clear of the Dodgers in the West. It’ll be hard for any of those second-place teams to overcome those deficits so they’ll likely be fighting for the league’s two Wild Card spots, with the Pirates likely in that mix as well despite a 33-35 record entering Sunday. Things are closer in the American League, with the Orioles leading the East with a 1-game lead over the Red Sox and the Indians holding just a 0.5-game cushion in the Central, with the defending World Series champion Royals on their heels. The Rangers have a bigger lead in the West, 7.5 games ahead of the Mariners.

The Week Ahead

Citi Field World Series rematch, Royals at Mets

Citi Field hosts a World Series rematch this week when the Mets host the Royals

Featured series this week include a World Series rematch with a 2-game series between the Royals and Mets at Citi Field. On the West Coast, there’s a battle between potential playoff teams in the National League as the Nationals visit the Dodgers from Monday through Wednesday. Later in the week, two of the division leaders in the American League meet starting Friday when the Red Sox visit the Rangers in what should be a series with a quite a bit of offense. There will also be an interleague battle featuring second-place teams facing large deficits in their divisions when the Cardinals-Mariners series gets underway Friday in Seattle. And the Dodgers face another potential playoff foe as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates for an extended weekend series Friday through Monday.

This week’s pitching performances are highlighted by a West Coast duel on Monday when Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg is slated to oppose Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw in what should be a strong pitcher’s duel. Indians SP Corey Kluber will look to bounce back from an 8-run outing his last time out on Tuesday when he goes against young Rays SP Blake Snell. Yankees SP CC Sabathia, who is having a surprisingly good season, takes the mound against Rockies SP Jon Gray Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Royals SP Yordano Ventura is scheduled to return from his suspension Friday to for a home start against the Astros and SP Dallas Keuchel, who is coming off one of his better starts in what has been a disappointing season for the reigning AL Cy Young winner.

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Bartolo Colon hits his first career home run

MLB Weekly: Bartolo does the “impossible”, Yankees lose 2 to injuries

In this week’s MLB Weekly, we recap a historic at-bat for a veteran pitcher and take a look at two injured veterans for the struggling Yankees.

Looking Back

What should have been a run-of-the-mill at-bat for Mets SP Bartolo Colon on Saturday afternoon turned into a historic hit and social-media phenomenon. The 42-year-old former Cy Young winner, whose hitting style has become a bit of a running joke on social media in recent years, recorded his first hit of the season — a two-run home run to left field in the top of the 2nd inning off of Padres SP James Shields. The home run put Colon in the record books, becoming the oldest player in Major League Baseball history to hit his first career home run. Hall of Famer Randy Johnson previously held the record, hitting his first long ball in 2003 at the age of 40; Colon will turn 43 later this month. Colon also becomes the second-oldest Met to homer, behind former infielder Julio Franco, who homered as a member of the Mets at the age of 48. Mets broadcaster couldn’t believe it, stating that “the impossible has happened” by Colon hitting his first home run in his 226th career at-bat. Colon’s career batting average now stands at .092.

There’s not as much fun to be had for the other New York team these days, as the Yankees remain in last place in the AL East, with an 11-17 record entering Sunday night’s series finale against the Red Sox. This week, DH Alex Rodriguez and SP CC Sabathia both went on the DL. Rodriguez suffered a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s game and Sabathia injured his game in Wednesday’s game. Both players are hopeful to be able to come off of the DL when they are eligible after 15 days. For the team, things appear to be on the upswing; they have won the first two games of the three-game series with the Red Sox but remain six games under .500.

The league announced this week that the two-game series between the Pirates and Marlins that was scheduled to be played in San Juan, Puerto Rico on May 30 and 31 has been moved to Miami due to concerns with the Zika virus in Puerto Rico.

Elsewhere in MLB, the Cubs continue to roll, winning a series with the Nationals, as they maintain a sizable lead in the NL Central. The Mariners have surged into first place in the NL West, despite a loss to the Astros Sunday, after starting the season 2-6. And the White Sox are still on top of the AL Central with a 22-10 record, trying to keep up with the other Chicago team.

The Week Ahead

Chase Utley slides into Ruben Tejada

Dodgers 2B Chase Utley with a controversial slide into Mets SS Ruben Tejada during the 2015 postseason

Taking a look at series to watch for this week, the Rangers host the White Sox for three games beginning Monday in a battle of teams at or near the top of their divisions. The same can be said for the Dodgers and Mets, who play in Los Angeles Monday through Thursday in a rematch of last season’s NLDS. Later in the week, the Angels try to make up ground in the AL West when they head to Seattle for a series with the Mariners. The Rangers host the  underperforming Blue Jays, who need to start winning to try to get back into the race in the AL East, beginning Friday. And the Pirates, who currently sit in second place in the NL Central, visit the division-leading Cubs starting Friday as they try to close the gap between the teams in the standings.

Looking at pitching matchups scheduled for this week, Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg puts his perfect 6-0 record on the line Monday against Tigers SP Anibal Sanchez, and Yankees SP Ivan Nova takes Sabathia’s spot in the rotation while CC is on the DL; Nova faces Royals SP Chris Young at Yankee Stadium. Mets SP Jacob DeGrom tries to pick up his first career win at Dodger Stadium Tuesday as he opposes Dodgers SP Alex Wood. There are a couple notable pitching matchups projected for Wednesday, with former teammates facing off in D.C. with Tigers SP Jordan Zimmermann, who has a 1.40 ERA this season, going up against Nationals SP Max Scherzer and Mets SP Noah Syndergaard getting the start against Dodgers SP Kenta Maeda.

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Marlins 2B Dee Gordon

MLB Weekly: Batting champ suspended, playoff teams struggling

In this week’s MLB Weekly, we take a look at a lengthy suspension for a reigning batting champion and a couple of last year’s playoff teams who are struggling this year.

Looking Back

Marlins 2B Dee Gordon set career highs last season in batting average (.333), hits (205) and steals (58) on his way to winning the National League batting title. He was hitting just .266 in the 21 games he played this season when the league announced this week that Gordon has been suspended without pay for 80 games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. He tested positive during spring training for two banned substances, exogenous testosterone and clostebol. Although the failed tests came during March, he had been playing during the appeal process, which he dropped on Friday when he accepted the suspension despite claiming he did not “knowingly” take prohibited substances. The 28-year-old, who is the son of former major league closer Tom Gordon, parlayed last year’s successful season into a five-year, $50 million contract with the Marlins this offseason.

The Astros and Yankees played each other in one of the Wild Card games in last year’s playoffs, but if the first month of the season is any indication neither team will make a repeat trip to the postseason. Entering Sunday, only the Braves had a worse record than the Astros, whose 7-17 mark was tied with the Twins for the second-worst record in the majors. The Yankees aren’t faring much better, with a record of 8-14, putting them in last place in the AL East. Both teams’ struggles involve pitching, as they hold the two worst staff ERAs in the American League. They rank a little better in batting average, and the Astros, who still haven’t won two games in a row, are tied for the third-most home runs in the AL.

Looking at teams who are doing well, Chicago continues to be the center of the baseball world this spring, with the Cubs and White Sox both holding the best records in their respective leagues entering Sunday’s action. The Cubs got a scare during the week when 3B Kris Bryant appeared to injure his ankle, but the MRI came back negative and he returned to action today. Their pitching continues to shine, with the second-best ERA in the National League, led by SP Jake Arrieta. The White Sox have the AL’s best ERA (2.72), buoyed by sub-2.00 ERAs from SPs Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and, surprisingly, Mat Latos. In the bullpen, closer David Robertson is throwing well, with a 0.87 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10.1 innings; he is also 8-for-9 in save opportunities.

Elsewhere in MLB, the Phillies continue to surprise people with a 15-10 record, which is good for just third place in the NL East behind the Nationals and Mets. It remains to be seen if they’ll be able to keep up that pace throughout the season, but as long as their pitching continues to perform at the level it has been, with the fifth-best ERA (3.79) in the National League, they will have a chance to remain in the thick of things in the division, sitting 2.5 games back in the division entering Sunday.

The Week Ahead

Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen

Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen batting against the Cubs

Taking a look at series to watch for this week, the White Sox and Red Sox do battle Tuesday through Thursday in Chicago in a series featuring teams competing for the top spot in their divisions. The Rangers visit the Blue Jays for four games starting Friday in a rematch of one of the American League Divisional Series from the 2015 postseason. The Cubs travel to Pittsburgh for a three-game set with the Pirates Monday through Wednesday in a key NL Central series. Later in the week, the Yankees host the Red Sox in a weekend series that could help the Yankees climb back up toward contending in the division. And the top two teams in the National League have a four-game set Thursday through Sunday, when Bryce Harper and the Nationals travel to Wrigley Field to take on the Cubs.

Some scheduled pitching matchups of note this week include the Cubs-Pirates series finale, with Cubs SP Jon Lester, who has a 1.83 ERA, taking on Pirates SP Juan Nicasio, who has had a good season so far. SP Stephen Strasburg puts his perfect 4-0 record on the line Wednesday against the reigning World Series-champion Royals. As things stand now, there is a nice pitching matchup in Toronto on Friday, with 3-1 Dodgers SP Kenta Maeda and 4-0 Blue Jays SP Marcus Stroman slated to take the mound.

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The Nationals celebrate a win

MLB Weekly: Chicago teams winning, Harper and the Nats stay hot

With another week in the books, it’s time to take a look back at the last seven days and see what lies ahead for next week in MLB Weekly. As we head into May next weekend, the Cubs and Nationals are tied for the most wins in baseball, with 14 apiece, while the White Sox are surprising many, just a game behind with 13.

Looking Back

The Nationals continued their hot start, going 5-2 last week, largely behind the bat of OF Bryce Harper, who hit 3 home runs this week, including as a pinch-hitter today after getting the day off to rest. That game eventually went to 16 innings, with the Nats winning on a walk-off home run by OF Chris Heisey. The Cubs also went 5-2 in a week that included SP Jake Arrieta throwing his second no-hitter in the last two seasons, a game in which the Cubs beat the Reds 16-0 on Thursday.

The Cubs aren’t the only team winning in the Windy City. The White Sox, who were 76-86 last season, are off to a 13-6 record, leading the defending World Series champion Royals in the AL Central. SP Chris Sale is having his typically good season on the mound, 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 26 strikeouts. He’s not the only pitcher on the team who is 4-0, though; SP Mat Latos, after winning today, has the same record and an even lower ERA — 0.74. As the season continues, we’ll see if Latos is for real. The ERA will likely go up, but if he can keep it below 3.00, he’ll make a strong 1-2 combo with Sale.

The Orioles are still leading the AL East at 11-6. It’s the offense continuing to do the damage for the Orioles, led by 1B Chris Davis, OF Mark Trumbo and 3B Manny Machado; Davis and Trumbo each have 6 home runs so far, while Machado has 5 and a .380 batting average, while Trumbo is hitting .373.

The Astros continue to be the most disappointing team in the majors thus far, with just six wins entering Sunday night’s game against the Red Sox. The Astros still have not won back-to-back games, with much of their lack of success due to the pitching staff, which has an AL-worst 4.94 ERA. Even reigning AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel is just 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA. No one else in the starting rotation has a sub-4.00 ERA. The Astros had a chance to make up ground in the AL West this week, playing a three-game series at Texas, but the Rangers swept that series. The Rangers then got swept by the White Sox this weekend, allowing the A’s to tie Texas for the division lead at 10-9.

The Week Ahead

The series to keep an eye on early in the week is the White Sox visiting the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday. It’s a battle between the AL Central leaders and the team many picked to win the AL East. At 10-10, the Blue Jays are in second in the East, 2.5 games behind the Orioles, who have played three fewer games than Toronto. After Toronto, the White Sox travel to Baltimore for a four-game set against the Orioles. With seven games against Toronto and Baltimore, the White Sox could face their biggest test of the season thus far. If they do well, it could mean their hot start is for real. If they falter, it could be a sign they are pretenders more than contenders the rest of the way.

There are some pitching performances to pay attention to on Monday, with Orioles SP Kevin Gausman coming off the DL to make his first start of the season and Diamondbacks SP Zack Greinke, who has a disappointing 5.25 ERA, looking to get on the right track in a tough matchup with the Cardinals. Tuesday could see a good pitching matchup in D.C., with SP Vincent Velasquez, who has had a couple of impressive starts early this season, going for the Phillies against SP Max Scherzer and the hot Nationals. Wednesday, Arrieta tries to complete “the Vander Meer” with back-to-back no-hitters; he faces the Brewers at home.

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