By Sam McPherson
As the final week of April gets going, the landscape in Major League Baseball is both changing and firming up. Trends are close to becoming patterns, and the MLB hierarchy is taking shape. Here’s what you may have missed last week in baseball.
The Washington Nationals have a perfect week
After a slow start to the season which saw them sitting at 6-5 and in second place, the Washington Nationals ripped off seven straight wins to vault to the top of the MLB Power Rankings last week. What is most impressive is that the last six wins were all on the road, and the victories came against National League East Division rivals.
This big grand slam by Daniel Murphy ensured the Nats’ week of perfection, and after the seven straight, Washington had a three-game lead in the NL East, a division the team has won three times since 2012. It looks like the Nationals could be well on their way to another postseason berth.
St. Louis is back in form after a six-win week, too
Since 2000, the St. Louis Cardinals have been the model NL franchise, making the postseason a whopping 12 times in this century while claiming four pennants and two World Series titles. No other team in the Senior Circuit can match the consistency of those 12 playoff appearances. But after missing October last year, the Cards got off to a bad start this year, with just three wins in the first two weeks of the season. Now, six wins in seven games later, the St. Louis squad is charging back into the NL Central Division race. With a ten-game homestand ahead of them, the Cardinals are sure to push themselves even higher in the standings over the next two weeks.
Madison Bumgarner will miss at least two months after an off-the-field accident on a dirt bike
Everyone knows that the San Francisco Giants rely on starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner for their success. This year, though, the All-Star lefty is winless, and MadBum won’t be earning any victories on the mound soon since he hurt himself in Colorado on Thursday.
The Giants have the worst record in the National League, and without Bumgarner, things could get a lot worse in San Francisco by the time the dog days of summer roll around. The Giants haven’t won the NL West Division since 2012, and they already are seven games behind in the race right now. When does football season start?
It’s not just about Trout for the Los Angeles Angels outfield
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball; everyone knows this. In his first five full seasons, Trout has finished either first or second in the American League MVP voting, which is relatively unprecedented in the modern era of MLB. However, he does have some help in the outfield, in the form of a fellow Angel, as this highlight-reel catch from last week’s action demonstrates.
Kole Calhoun may not get all the press that Trout does, but he’s turned into quite the ballplayer himself over the last few seasons. Calhoun won his own Gold Glove in 2015, and over the last three seasons, he’s averaged 20 home runs and 72 RBI at the plate. Angels in the outfield, indeed.
Starling Marte suspended for 80 games
This just isn’t turning out to be a good year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team has been forced to play without starting third baseman Jung Ho Kang due to some legal problems back in South Korea, and now the Pirates have lost All-Star outfielder and two-time Gold Glove winner Starling Marte to a performance-enhancing drug suspension.
The Pittsburgh organization had solved a big problem by moving Marte to center field this year, and now it seems the team is going to have to scramble for the next three months to fill that gap once again. In addition, the team lost utility player and backup outfielder Adam Frazier to an injury over the weekend, making things even worse.