By Sam McPherson
Labor Day Weekend was a hot one, not only in the Sacramento area but also in baseball locales like Cleveland and Phoenix. We’re not just talking about the weather, either, as it got mighty cold in Detroit, Kansas City and Los Angeles last week. Here’s what went down last week in Major League Baseball.
They’re going streaking in Arizona and Cleveland, folks
In Ohio, they’re celebrating 12 straight wins for the Cleveland Indians, while in the Southwest desert, it’s now 11 straight for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both teams are securing postseason bids readily, thanks to the win streaks. Cleveland leads the American League Central by ten games, while the D’backs have a 6.5-game lead in the race for the top wild-card spot in the National League.
Of course, Cleveland lost the World Series in Game 7 at home last year, a heart-wrenching experience. The Tribe looks strong right now, as it is making a run at the top record in the AL this season. Meanwhile, Arizona has made the playoffs just twice since the 2002 season, so it’s been a long, dry spell in the Phoenix desert.
“Dodger Blue” takes on a whole new meaning
Just a few weeks ago, we were in awe at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ability to win baseball games at a dizzying pace. Now, the team has crashed a bit from that über-high place. L.A. is just 1-9 over its last ten games, although the Dodgers still have a 12.5-game lead over the Diamondbacks in the National League West.
After posting a 60-19 record in May, June and July combined, the Dodgers finished “just” 17-10 in August. It’s probably a good thing for the team, though, as the current record holders for most regular-season wins in MLB, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL all failed to win the championship at the end of the year.
The end of an era in Detroit
In February, longtime Tigers owner Mike Ilitch passed away, and this season has been a tough one for the Motown baseball franchise. Detroit is not in postseason contention, and as a result, the team started shedding salary in July through trades. On August 31, the Tigers traded away both outfielder Justin Upton and pitcher Justin Verlander.
Verlander had been the face of the franchise more than a decade: He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2006 when the Tigers won the American League pennant, and he was both the AL MVP and the Cy Young Award winner in 2011. In 2012, Verlander once again led Detroit to the AL pennant. He was a six-time All-Star selection, and the Tigers fans will miss him dearly.
The Royals get flushed several times in a row
Kansas City’s offense went 45 innings last week without scoring a run, which is a pretty crazy stretch of futility. Between the second inning on August 24 against Colorado and the third inning on August 29 against Tampa Bay, the Royals batters couldn’t score a run.
Overall, K.C. is 25th in runs scored this season among the 30 MLB teams. The team’s .257 batting average is actually 14th in the majors, however, so this could be considered just one of those random anomalies that sometimes spring up at the wrong time. The Royals are 2.5 games out of the final American League playoff slot right now, and this offensive slump really didn’t help matters.
Giancarlo Stanton HR update
Through 137 games so far, the Miami Marlins outfielder has 53 home runs, which puts him on a pace for between 62 and 63 home runs this season. Stanton hit 26 HRs in the first half of the season, and he now has 27 HRs since the All-Star break. August was his best month, as he hit an MLB record-tying 18 long balls.
The Marlins basically are out of playoff contention, and with 14 games left against teams well under .500 this year, Stanton could abuse some pitching staffs down the stretch. The question is what will happen in the other 11 games Miami plays against teams still fighting for a postseason spot. Let’s hope they don’t walk Stanton intentionally … too much.