By Sam McPherson
There’s always excitement in Major League Baseball, and now that both the NBA and NHL postseasons have ended, it’s a summer with nothing but baseball ahead of us. Here’s what you may have missed last week.
A sign of things to come in Cleveland?
The Tribe swept the Chicago White Sox at home over the weekend, and it all got started with this walk-off home run from Carlos Santana on Friday night. The Cleveland baseball club looks like it could be ready to make a postseason run, similar to that of the city’s NBA champions, if the team’s pitching and hitting are any indication.
Thanks to Santana, the team now has a four-game winning streak and leads the American League Central Division as the only club with a positive run differential right now. Look for Cleveland to pull away from the defending-champion Kansas City Royals over the next week, and watch the Tribe come October: They’re dangerous, and the pressure to win a championship is off them now, thanks to LeBron James.
San Francisco is enjoying its #evenyear mojo … so far
The Giants have this thing going this decade where they win the World Series in even-numbered years. Of course, the team hasn’t finished in first place two consecutive years since 1937, so what they’re doing in the odd-numbered years is a long-time mystery. Right now, though, San Francisco is rolling through the easy part of its schedule: The Giants recently won eight straight games to open up a 5.5-game lead in the National League West over the Los Angeles Dodgers—a team they just beat twice in a row by one run each time. S.F. is 16-8 in one-run games and 30-14 this year against teams with losing records. However, the Giants are merely 14-13 against teams with winning records in 2016.
Texas isn’t perfect, but the Rangers are pretty good anyway
In the AL West, one team is running away with the division early: The Texas Rangers have a 9.5-game lead right now over the Seattle Mariners, having won seven straight games now. Last week in Oakland against the fading Athletics, veteran starter Colby Lewis flirted with perfection and a no-hit game against his former employers.
Lewis pitched in 26 games for the A’s back in 2007 before going to Japan to resurrect his career. On Thursday, he took a perfect game into the eighth inning before walking Yonder Alonso, and Lewis then lost the no-hit bid in ninth inning on this double by Max Muncy. No worries for Texas, though, as the Rangers won the game and are cruising in the division.
Can the Chicago Cubs threaten the all-time, run-differential record?
Way back in 1939, the New York Yankees outscored their opponents by 411 runs on their way to a fourth-straight World Series championship. Right now, the Chicago Cubs have a run differential of plus-170, which projects out to a 405-run advantage by the end of the season. It’s something rather historic that few people in baseball are talking about right now. Considering the only NL team within shouting distance of the Cubs in terms of run differential is almost 100 runs behind—the Washington Nationals are plus-74 right now—Chicago could find itself making some interesting statistical history by the end of the season. Last week, the Cubs outscored its opponents by nine runs, despite losing twice.
Toronto powers its way through another week, although the source is a surprise
In a four-game stretch last week, the Blue Jays averaged 11 runs per game while winning all four contests. Fans might expect this from a team with a lineup that includes 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson, slugger Jose Bautista, RBI machine Edwin Encarnacion and six-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. But … Michael Saunders?
The former Mariners outfielder hit 19 HRs in 2012 to establish a career high, but now he has 15 homers this season already. After two years of injuries, the 29-year-old Blue Jay is on his way to a career year, perhaps. That can only help Toronto as the team is three games behind in the AL East Division right now.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.