Tag Archive | "Washington Nationals"

Home-field advantage could be vital for St. Louis Cardinals

Although the St. Louis Cardinals did not have full possession of first place in their own division heading into play Sunday, they were just three games away from having the best record in the National League, which could be a vital advantage come October.

Busch_Stadium Retired Numbers

The Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates had identical 86-62 records as of Sunday and both trailed the Atlanta Braves by three games for the best record in the league, which would guarantee them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, until the World Series, of course, because the American League won the All-Star Game in July.

But that nonsense aside, home-field advantage is a strong reward for having the best record. The term includes the word “advantage” for a reason. Part of what doomed the Cardinals in the 2012 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants was the same factor that helped St. Louis win the World Series the year before.

Those winning teams played games 6 and 7 at home where they felt more comfortable and could feed off of the energy from their fans and the home environment.

Now, home-field advantage certainly does not guarantee success. The Cardinals won every postseason series in 2006 despite never having home-field advantage, and they beat the Washington Nationals in the 2012 division series even though the final three games were in Washington, D.C.

But home-field advantage certainly does help, and it could help the Cardinals this year more than normal, especially with the glut of young pitchers on the roster and potential postseason starters in second-year pitchers Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, and rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

Along with a much better record against teams below the .500 mark, the Cardinals other lopsided record is their home and away splits.

St. Louis has played 20 games above .500 at Busch Stadium compared to four games above .500 on the road. Not surprisingly, their stats fall in line with those records.

The Cardinals hit for a .271 batting average at home compared to .260 on the road, but the bigger difference is how the pitching staff performs in away games. The Cardinals’ staff has a 3.29 earned-run average in home games but a 3.73 ERA on the road.

It would also be important for the Cardinals to finish with the best record in the National League because their potential postseason opponents have even more dramatic home and road splits.

The NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers pitch to a 3.13 ERA at home compared to 3.47 on the road, and the NL East-leading Braves have a National League-best 2.47 home ERA but a 3.70 ERA away from Turner Field.

The only aspect of the game that would benefit a road team is the Dodgers offense, which hits .258 at Dodger Stadium and a Major League Baseball-best .274 on the road.

The Cardinals also lost three of their four games at home to the Dodgers in early August, but that was also during a stretch when they lost 13 of 17 games that included a three-game sweep by the Braves in Atlanta.

Once the Cardinals got their season back together, they took three of four from the Braves in late August at Busch Stadium. They have also won six of nine games against the Pirates at home while losing seven of 10 in Pittsburgh. Against the third-place team in the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds, the Cardinals have also won six of nine home games and split the away games 5-5.

The Cardinals are nearly guaranteed a spot in the 2013 playoffs and have an excellent chance to win the NL Central with just one opponent with a winning record, the Washington Nationals, remaining.

But they also still have a chance to catch the Braves for the best record in the National League, and that accomplishment could make a large difference in which team represents the league in the World Series.

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St. Louis Cardinals will have little excuse not to win NL Central

The St. Louis Cardinals have played as tough of a schedule as any team in Major League Baseball this season. They spent the majority of the first half on the road and then came back from the All-Star Break to face 10 playoff-bound teams in their next 15 series.

CardsWin2012

After six games to open the second half against the lowly San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Philles, the Cardinals faced the Atlanta Braves twice, the Los Angeles Dodgers once, the Pittsburgh Pirates four times and the Cincinnati Reds three times, for a total of 33 out of 48 games.

The Cardinals have survived that difficult stretch, going 25-24 headed into Sunday’s game against the Pirates, and they will soon reap the benefits of completing facing all of those potential playoff teams as the schedule balances out through the rest of September.

St. Louis will have 19 games left in the 2013 season after they finish their final three-game set with the Pirates on Sunday, and they will face just one team with a winning record, the Washington Nationals, who visit Busch Stadium Sept. 23-25.

Otherwise, the Cardinals face the likes of the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners and Colorado Rockies through the end of the regular season. Those teams were a combined 63 games under the .500 mark headed into play Saturday.

So the Cardinals will have every opportunity to win the National League Central Division, especially since the Pirates face the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to begin this next week and still have six games against the Reds, which are the third contender in the NL Central.

Of course, a light schedule to finish the season is far from a guarantee of success. Sometimes the worst teams play well against playoff contenders late in the season as they bring up young players from the minor leagues and try to play the spoiler role.

The Cubs could be particularly troublesome, which is a problem considering they come to St. Louis for a three-game series to finish the season.

The Cardinals are 9-7 against the Cubs this season, but luckily those final three games will be played in St. Louis, where the Cardinals were 42-25 headed into play Saturday, compared to a 39-35 record on the road.

Along with the bevy of opponents with poor records, the schedule also helps the Cardinals in that 12 of the final 19 games are at Busch Stadium, and that could also give the Cardinals momentum headed into October.

The Cardinals are in a three-way battle for the division title with the Pirates and Reds, and they have held the first wild-card spot for much of the second half, but it is crucial they at least hang on to that position if they don’t win the division because they have played so much better at home.

One of the staples of the clubs managed by former manager Tony La Russa was their ability to play well on the road. The 2013 Cardinals still have a winning road record, but they have not played well away from St. Louis at all in the second half, going 9-15 since the All-Star Break, so home-field advantage could be particularly important for this ballclub.

They’ll have every opportunity to win that advantage given their remaining schedule, and they’ll have no one to blame but themselves if they have to open the postseason with a one-game wild-card playoff in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

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The Kansas City Royals aren’t ready for the playoffs yet

If there was any hope the Kansas City Royals would make the playoffs, they were damaged by a seven-game losing streak August 17-24. After sweeping the Friday August 16 doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, the Royals went on to lose two games to the Tigers, three games to the Chicago White Sox and two games to the Washington Nationals. The Royals fell back to .500 and hurt their chances to win a Wild Card spot, much less win the American League Central. But just as the Royals appeared to slip into below .500 oblivion, they won their next four games and as of August 28, they’re four game above .500.

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The Royals aren’t a bad team, but they’re not good enough to be a playoff team either. To sum it up, the team is like Luke Hochevar as a starter: They have spurts of brilliance, then they go on a momentum killing losing streak. If you count winning and losing streaks of four or more games, the Royals have three four-game winning streaks, one six-game winning streak and one nine-game winning streak. Conversely, the Royals have three four-game losing streaks, one eight -game losing streak and one seven-game losing streak. The team is 26-27 in winning and losing streaks of four or more games. And it’s a big reason why they’re just a few games above .500.

The Royals are 8.5 games back of Detroit and seven games back in the Wild Card. The only way the Royals will make the playoffs is to keep winning. And they haven’t showed enough consistency to do that. Yes, they just won four games in a row, but they can just as easily lose four games in a row. And there’s too many A.L. teams who are better than the Royals in the Wild Card race, like the Tampa Rays, the Oakland A’s, and the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals have an easy schedule, but time is running out. They can keep winning games, but if the teams ahead of them in the playoff hunt keep winning games, it won’t matter.

It’s frustrating, but the Royals are playing better than they have in years. And they’re playing well enough to finish above .500. But they’re not playing well enough to make the playoffs.

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Triple Play: Jayson Werth, Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro

In our latest installment of the Triple Play, we look at an outfielder who’s been worth every penny the past few weeks, a new Yankee who has made himself at home (again) and more, including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch and the Ichiro Hit Tracker. Let’s dive in:

JaysonWerth

Who’s Hot?

Jayson Werth, Washington Nationals

The 2013 season has mostly been a season gone wrong for the Nationals, but you can’t say that outfielder Jayson Werth hasn’t been pulling his weight – and then some. He has hit safely in 10 consecutive games and racked up 10 multi-hit games so far this month. He is hitting a scorching .500/.574/.692 (26-for-52) with an OPS of 1.266 and two homers, four doubles, 10 RBI, and three steals in 15 August games. Actually, the Werewolf has been raking since July, when he posted a batting line of .367/.450/.622 with seven home runs, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored. He has posted an OPS of .850 or better each month since returning from the disabled list in early June. For the season, Werth has compiled a slash line of .334/.407/.531, along with 17 HR, 53 RBI, 7 stolen bases and 61 runs scored. Despite his performance, Washington has been unable to gain any ground on the division-leading Atlanta Braves, as the Nationals have tumbled to 15½ games behind Atlanta and are scuffling to reach .500.

Who’s Not?

Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics

Colon, one of the best pitchers in the AL for most of the season, has hit a rough patch this month. It started out well enough, with him not facing any additional discipline due to his involvement in the Biogenesis issue. But his fortunes changed against Cincinnati on August 7, where he was knocked around for seven hits, three walks and five runs in 2 2/3 innings. It marked his shortest outing of the season and dropped the A’s into a first-place tie with Texas. His most recent start, against Houston on August 13, wasn’t much better, as the offensively-challenged Astros touched him up for seven hits and five runs in just four innings. Colon’s month got even worse this past Friday, though, as he injured his groin during a flat-ground workout session and was placed on the 15-day DL Saturday. A’s manager Bob Melvin tried to look on the bright side, saying that the time off might be good for the 40-year-old Colon. The A’s (and fantasy owners) certainly hope so, because losing Colon would be a blow for the collective hopes of each.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .254/.287/.467, 17 HR, 51 RBI, 10 SB, 103 OPS+

Player B: .329/.361/.658, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 3 SB, 173 OPS+

Player A is Alfonso Soriano while with the Cubs this season. Player B is Soriano after being traded to the New York Yankees. It’s clear that being dealt back to where he started his career – and a team trying to reach the postseason – has energized him. The Yankees were seeking production from a right-handed hitter; Soriano has delivered an excellent month’s worth in three weeks. During a four-game stretch last week, he tied a major-league record with 18 RBI in four games. While he obviously won’t continue to put up these video-game numbers, he is showing plenty of life remains in his bat.

Name that player

This pitcher has been the picture of durability in his career, starting at least 30 games each of the past eight years. In seven of those, he threw at least 200 innings and tallied no fewer than 12 wins. In 2009, he led his league in WHIP (1.003) and K/BB ratio (5.87-to-1). He has never finished higher than fifth in Cy Young balloting. Need more info?

This pitcher has been traded multiple times, often with some big names going the other way in the deal. He has bounced back and forth between leagues and had equal amounts of success in both. He made his first trip to the disabled list in 2012, but still made 30 starts. After not being re-signed by his previous team, he signed a one-year deal with a new team. This signing was somewhat of a surprise because most analysts thought they already had a fine pitching staff.

How about now? Know who it is?

This pitcher is in the midst of a career-worst season; he leads the league in home runs allowed and has the worst WHIP since his rookie season in 2003. Although he has pitched much better recently, it is probably too little, too late for his team. Did I mention some of the players for whom he was traded? They include Mark Mulder and Carlos Gonzalez. Finally, he recently cleared waivers, meaning he can be traded to any team in need of a starter. Got him yet? Sure you do: it’s Dan Haren.

Haren was pounded for six runs in his initial start of the season – including four home runs – and things hadn’t improved much until the past month. In his first 18 starts, opponents battered him to the tune of a .297 average and 5.79 ERA. However, starting with his July 27 start versus the New York Mets, Haren has been more like his old self, tossing four consecutive quality starts and a sparkling 1.29 ERA. Opposing batters have hit just .158 off him in those games (and only one solo home run). Haren has had a history of wearing down after the All-Star break, but in 2013, he appears to be improving instead of declining. Then again, after the first half of his season, it HAD to get better.

Given his recent success, it is somewhat surprising that he cleared waivers. His contract isn’t exorbitant – he’s owed somewhere around $2-3 million for the remainder of the season. There are teams in the playoff hunt who could use another solid starter (Baltimore, Cleveland, Arizona, Texas, St. Louis). If one of those teams is willing to take on the balance of the salary, one would think they could bolster their rotation without sacrificing a top prospect. Just something to ponder with the August 31 trade deadline less than two weeks away.

Random Thoughts

  • Ichiro Hit Tracker: Future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, at age 39, is closing in on 4,000 hits in his professional career (including the 1,278 he tallied playing in Japan). Last week was a slow week for Ichiro, as he only batted .167 (4 for 24) with a walk, including a two-hit night Sunday against Boston. He sits at 3,997 hits with the Yankees hosting Toronto for four games starting Monday, followed by three-game visits to Tampa Bay and Baltimore. In a perfect world, Ichiro would be facing his old team (Seattle) as he notched hit number 4,000. Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t face the Mariners again this season.
  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Once Adam Wainwright started the 2013 season by pitching 37 innings before allowing his first walk of the season, we started a weekly tracker to keep track of how few free passes the Cardinals’ ace hands out this season. He has led the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio all season, and it hasn’t been close. Wainwright started twice in the past week. In the first game, he lasted seven innings, but walked a season-high three batters and allowed two solo home runs in a no-decision against the Pirates (a game St. Louis eventually won 4-3). Sunday at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Wainwright turned in one of his most dominant outings of the season, spinning seven innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts and only one walk. This season, Wainwright has walked just 25 hitters and still tops the majors with a 6.92-to-1 K/BB ratio and leads the NL with an average of 1.1 walks per nine innings. His next start comes this Friday when the Cardinals host the Braves.
  • While Pittsburgh fans have embraced the 2013 Pirates (witness the sellout crowd on national TV Saturday), many fans still fear another epic collapse like the past two seasons. Who can blame them? It has been 21 years since the Pirates last finished above .500, let alone reached the postseason. One day after being humiliated by the Diamondbacks at home 15-5, the Pirates lost a 16-inning marathon 4-2, trimming their division lead over the Cardinals to one game. However, this team has a different feel than the 2011-12 versions. We’ll find out if this is truly the case as the Pittsburgh heads west to face the Padres and Giants. This is a perfect opportunity for the Pirates to right the ship and stay in first place.
  • Speaking of teams that have not qualified for the postseason in a generation, the Kansas City Royals may be starting to cool off following that 17-3 run from July 23-August 12. After taking three of four from Boston, the Royals dropped two of three to Miami and three of five to division-leading Detroit. They remain well out of the playoff picture, but the fact that they are even discussing October baseball in Kansas City is progess, no?
  • Don’t look now, but Ubaldo Jimenez has quietly put together a respectable season for Cleveland (9-7, 4.00 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 123 Ks). While he clearly is not the ace the Indians thought they were getting when they dealt away top prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, it’s become clear that the Tribe got the better end of the deal. White was traded to Houston and hurt his arm, while Pomeranz has won only four games total with the Rockies and has spent most of 2013 in Triple-A. Jimenez still walks too many batters (less than a 2-to-1 K/BB ratio) and his prone to unraveling in tough situations, but he has become a serviceable starter for a Cleveland team on the fringe of the wild-card race.
  • So, Ryan Braun plans to “distance himself” from Alex Rodriguez in an effort to improve his own public image. Yeah, good luck with that, fella.
  • Thanks to Miguel Tejada for getting suspended for 105 games for testing positive for a banned substance for the third time. Because we haven’t had enough performance-enhancing drug news in baseball this month.
  • Random Statistic Guaranteed to Enrage Brian Kenny: After winning Sunday to push his record to 18-1, Detroit’s Max Scherzer became the fifth pitcher in baseball history to win 18 of his first 19 decisions in a season. The others are Roger Clemens (2001), Roy Face (1959), Don Newcombe (1955), and Rube Marquard (1912).
  • Good thing the Phillies fired Charlie Manuel a few days ago, or else they never would have been able to take advantage of Hanley Ramirez’s errors Sunday and rally for the win. Clearly, that was all due to the managerial change.
  • News: With the bases loaded against the Cardinals on Saturday, the Cubs’ Starlin Castro caught a fly ball in shallow left field and then sort of stood there. Meanwhile, it was only the second out of the inning and the Cards’ Jon Jay took advantage of Castro’s brainlock to race home to score. By the time Castro realized what was happening, Jay was halfway to the plate. Cubs manager Dale Sveum was not amused by this latest knucklehead move by his shortstop and yanked him from the game. Views: After the game, to his credit, Castro stood at his locker and owned his latest blunder, apologized and offered no excuses. Still, how much more can Sveum be expected to take? I envision him eventually having the same kind of meltdown that Tom Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan had that classic scene in A League of Their Own where Evelyn keeps missing the cut-off man.
  • This past Saturday, August 17, marked the 40-year anniversary of Willie Mays’ final home run – No. 660 – in his career. There are many players I wish I could have seen play in person; Mays is in the top five.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Atlanta Braves And Washington Nationals Get Heated

The biggest race of the year was not supposed to be the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals.  It was supposed to be the Washington Nationals and the Atlanta Braves.

BryceHarperYelling

The standings as of August 8th show the Braves with a very comfortable 14.5 game lead over the Nationals in the National League East.  Not much of a “race” going on in that division.  Judging by the tempers of the two teams, you really can’t tell.

The Braves are on a hot streak.  They have won 12 straight games and are showing no signs of slowing down.  The Nationals are five games below .500 and trying to get on track.  The teams came together for a three-game series that began on August 5th in Washington.

The story here begins on Monday night as the teams were tied going into the top of the 8th inning and Nationals’ starter Stephen Strasburg would leave the game to his bullpen.  Justin Upton led off that inning with an eight-pitch at bat against reliever Tyler Clippard.  Upton would win the at bat, and ultimately the game, with a monster home run down the left-field line.  According to TaterTrotTracker on Twitter, Upton then took 27.36 seconds to round the bases.

The following night, on Tuesday the Nationals would take an early lead off a Bryce Harper home run that may not have landed yet.  Estimated at over 430 feet, Harper proceeded to round the bases.  Again, according to TaterTrotTracker on Twitter, Harper would complete his circuit at the slowest rate of his young career, in 23.66 seconds.

The Braves were more irritated than the Nationals over the time it took a slugger to round the bases.  The Nationals were upset at Upton, but decided to simply continue to play the game the next day.  The Braves?  Well, they responded by plunking Harper in his next at bat.  Harper took exception, yelled at Braves pitcher Julio Teheran, benches cleared and everyone stood around yelling.  No punches were thrown.  No physical punches at least.

The knockout blow came from Twitter.  The Braves official account called out Harper for his “antics” (again, despite Harper rounding the bases faster than Upton) by tweeting “Clown move bro”.  The Nationals account would respond, asking if the Braves were referring to “giving up the home run” or “drilling the 20-year old” in his next at bat.  The Nationals have since deleted their tweet, though the Braves clever parting shot remains online currently.

Funny that Harper can hit a monster home run in his home park in the third inning and the Braves will take offense to it enough to publicly call the young man out, yet Upton can smash a game-winning shot on the road, circle the bases even slower, and no retaliation occurs.

Who’s the clown here?

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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The Race For Last Place

Prospects and draft picks are becoming things of focus around Major League Baseball over the last few years.  That mentality can turn the world, or at least the standings, upside down.

HoustonAstrosError

Our friends over at MLBTradeRumors.com have introduced their next, great innovative tool for your use – Reverse Standings.

The reverse standings, which are updated automatically each morning, serve as a projection of the 2014 amateur draft order.  - from MLBTR founder Tim Dierkes

With this season’s hopes squarely out of reach, many teams take the time to evaluate their talent, bring young players to the big club to see how they fare, and to make subtle changes that will go into effect the following season.  The front office turns their attention to scouting and the following year’s draft, learning where they will pick and who they believe will be available.

The formula is simple, the worst team in baseball from the previous season picks first.  The draft proceeds up the ladder until the best team from the previous season picks last.  Draft picks are not eligible to be traded, so it holds a very simple result – finish dead last and you get first pick.

Should the season end today, the Houston Astros have that pick.  Not very surprising given the current state of the franchise.  Noteworthy, however, is that they also had the first pick in the last two drafts.  They are one of only two teams to secure the first pick in consecutive drafts, the Washington Nationals did it as well in 2009 and 2010.  The Nationals used those picks to secure Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, showing that a few good drafts can change the direction of a franchise quickly.  Should they hold on and “win” the first pick for next year, the Astros will become the first team in history to do so for three consecutive seasons.  The last two seasons, they have used the first overall pick to choose Carlos Correa and Mark Appel.

The Astros will also join “elite” company, becoming only the third team in the history of the draft to pick first in five drafts, joining the San Diego Padres and New York Mets with that distinction.  Of the 22 franchises that have picked first since the draft was instituted in 1965, none have more than five picks.  Currently, the Astros have chosen first four times, tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners at that level.

Congrats, Houston, you are well on your way to being the best at being the worst.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can talk baseball with him on Twitter or read more of his St. Louis Cardinals analysis on Yahoo!.

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Triple Play: Jay Bruce, Dan Haren, Pittsburgh Pirates

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we look at a Red-hot outfielder, a National disaster of a starter, and more (including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch). Off we go:

JayBruce

Who’s Hot?

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds

Sorry for the pun up above. But take a look at that the Reds’ right fielder has done over the past two weeks and you’ll understand: a .322/.349/.796 slash line, eight home runs, 14 RBI, and 10 runs scored. What’s more, Bruce had a stretch where seven straight hits sailed out of the park. Red hot, indeed. For the season, he has 18 homers (tied for 4th in the NL) and 54 RBI (5th). The 26-year-old is on track to belt 38 homers, knock in 115 and score 95 runs, which would all represent career highs. Isn’t amazing what happens when Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips are on base in front of you regularly? Each season of his career, Bruce’s home run total has gone up, and that’s on pace to continue in 2013. The .279 average and lack of stolen bases prevent Bruce from approaching Carlos Gonzalez-territory in the fantasy baseball world, but you won’t find a Reds fan complaining right now. With Ryan Ludwick’s injury, the team needed Bruce to step up and he has responded in a big way.

Who’s Not?

Dan Haren, Washington Nationals

How far has Haren fallen? While with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011, Haren started 34 games and led the American League with a 5.82 K-to-BB ratio while winning 16 games. In 2013, Haren has started 16 games for the Nats and leads the NL in hits allowed (105), earned runs allowed (56) and homers allowed (19). What exactly has happened? Haren has offered no excuses for his ghastly performance, but after his most recent start Saturday, manager Davey Johnson said that his big righty has been dealing with stiffness in his pitching shoulder. Washington GM Mike Rizzo confirmed as much Sunday, saying a trip to the disabled list is imminent. Whether a shoulder injury actually exists is anyone’s guess, but the DL trip should serve as a welcome break to fantasy owners and Nationals fans alike.

Playing the Name Game

Name this team: .239/.306/.384, 283 runs scored, 72 HR, 50 SB, 3.20 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 61 HR allowed, 591 strikeouts.

This team ranks 11th in the National League in most batting statistics, but they are tops in ERA, fewest hits allowed and third in home runs allowed. As this team continues to rise and improve in a virtually unnoticed way, I am reminded of the old American Express commercial from the original Major League movie: “Hi, do you know us? We’re a professional baseball team. But, since we haven’t won a pennant in over (20) years, nobody recognizes us, even in our own hometown.”

Right now, their top starter is on the disabled list, their best position player hasn’t really gotten going yet and their most prolific slugger is hitting below .240. Recognize this team yet? They play in one of the most beautiful parks in all of baseball, where their fans are desperate for a winning season, which last happened when their pre-steroid slugger still played there. Got it now? Yes, it’s the Pittsburgh Pirates, who sit one game back of St. Louis in the NL Central.

The team hasn’t had a winning season since 1992, when Barry Bonds was last seen noodle-arming a throw home that failed to retire the slow-footed Sid Bream in Game 7 of the NLCS. It’s been a long dry spell for Pirates fans. The past two seasons, Pittsburgh flirted with first place in July, only to falter badly down the stretch. This current Pirates team is a fascinating bunch. Their ace, A.J. Burnett, is out with a torn calf muscle in his right leg, but was leading the NL in strikeouts before the injury. Andrew McCutchen, their All-Star center fielder, is currently hitting .288/.357/.453 with only eight homers – a far cry from the 18 he bashed in the first half of 2012. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is red hot right now (three homers, seven RBI over the weekend against the Angels), but struggles mightily to make consistent contact. When he does, though, the results are mighty impressive. Despite a .234/.301/.498 batting line, he leads the team in home runs and RBI. If the 26-year-old Alvarez could drag his average up to the .275 range, he would be a threat to launch 50 home runs a season.

The keys to the Pirates’ success this season have been huge contributions from unexpected players. Left fielder Starling Marte leads the team with 22 stolen bases. Rookie lefty Jeff Locke is 6-1 with a 2.01 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and the lowest H/9 ratio among the team’s starters. Veteran Francisco Liriano has been every bit as good, going 6-3 with a 2.30 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and the lowest HR/9 ratio in the rotation. Closer Jason Grilli has been among the best in all of baseball, saving 26 games with an eye-popping 15 strikeouts per nine innings. Best of all, prized rookie Gerrit Cole has been worthy of the hype, averaging over six innings in each of his three starts (all wins) while walking just one batter. Set-up man Mark Melancon (acquired in the Joel Hanrahan deal with Boston) has been every bit as dominant, sporting a 0.99 ERA/0.88 WHIP.

What should be frightening for the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals (and the rest of the NL) is that lineup anchors McCutchen and Neil Walker have yet to get going offensively compared to 2012. McCutchen is just too good to keep hitting below .300. Walker isn’t the same kind of force, but he’s much better than he has shown. With Burnett, his injury may prove a blessing in disguise; if he can return from the calf injury rested, it may prevent the fatigue that slowed him down the stretch in 2012. The 2013 Pirates are 16 games above .500, largely on the strength of their starting pitching and dominant bullpen. If they can combine improved hitting with that pitching, they will not fade the same way they have the past two seasons – and the rest of the National League had better beware.

Incidentally, the Pirates and Cardinals still have 14 games against one another this season. It is shaping up to be an exciting season in Pittsburgh.

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: Adam Wainwright pitched 37 consecutive innings before issuing his first walk of the season. All season long, we are keeping track of how few free passes are handed out by the Cardinals’ ace. Sunday night, he walked one batter (while striking out six) in a 2-1 loss to Texas. That gives him 10 walks on the season (versus 106 strikeouts), leaving him with a better than 10-to-1 K/BB ratio, which is still the best in the NL (as is his 0.8 BB/9 ratio). Sunday’s game was a struggle, though, as Wainwright went to a 3-ball count several times against the Rangers. He has now dropped two straight decisions, leaving him with a 10-5/2.31/ 1.01 pitching line for the season. He will look to bounce back at Oakland this Saturday.
  • Considering how the Rangers had been scuffling coming into the series in St. Louis (their first trip back since the 2011 World Series), their sweep was particularly impressive. Still, I don’t think that Texas truly considers it “revenge.” It’s a little like losing a winning Powerball ticket and having to replace it with a lottery scratcher. Nice, but just not quite the same.
  • Wil Myers’ stats after one week: .280/.440/.720, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 runs. Yasiel Puig really set the bar too high for everyone else.
  • In related news, Jeff Francoeur is still playing right field in Kansas City, where he sports a rally-killing .143 batting average this month.
  • The Angels get a rare quality start from Joe Blanton (7 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 6 K), only to watch the bullpen allow seven runs in the final two innings. It’s been That Kind of Season for baseball in Los Angeles.
  • Speaking of which, Matt Kemp with 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his first rehab game with Triple-A Albuquerque. Yikes.
  • I have read twice in the past week that Toronto might trade Josh Johnson at the trade deadline. This makes no sense at all. The Blue Jays have won 11 straight and are on the verge of getting Jose Reyes back into their lineup. With no clear front-runner in the AL East (sorry, not buying Boston yet), why would they deal away one of their top starters? Oh, right. It’s coming up on the Silly Season – you know, that time of year when baseball writers start throwing as much stuff against the wall as they can think of, just to see if any of it sticks.
  • During their 11-game streak, the Blue Jays have swept three consecutive series for the first time in 15 years.
  • With each stellar start, I’m becoming more convinced that Matt Harvey should start for the NL at the All-Star Game at Citi Field. It might be the biggest highlight of the Mets’ season.
  • In the AL, Max Scherzer is looking like the guy. First time in Tigers’ history that a starter has gone 11-0 to start the season. Detroit has had some pretty darn good pitchers in its history. Think the Diamondbacks might like a do-over on that trade?
  • The Rockies have made some smart moves recently, namely jettisoning Jon Garland/Jeff Francis from the rotation in favor of Tyler Chatwood/Roy Oswalt, and dumping all-around liability Eric Young Jr. Here’s another they should make post haste: 1) promote Drew Pomeranz into the rotation and move Juan Nicasio to the bullpen, where he could serve as a late-inning weapon. Pomeranz is 8-1 with a 1.35 WHIP down at Triple-A Colorado Springs, with 96 punchouts in 85 innings and only 33 walks. He appears to be ready for his second try at the majors. Beyond closer Rex Brothers, Colorado’s bullpen is a mess. They desperately miss Rafael Betancourt (although he hopes to return within a week), and ballyhooed off-season acquisition Wilton Lopez has been abominable since day one. Nicasio and Brothers could form a strong bridge to Betancourt and allow the Rockies to avoid falling further behind in the NL West.
  • I’m still shaking my head at the Mariners’ box score from Sunday – Jeremy Bonderman and Oliver Perez both pitching well. Is this 2013 or 2006?

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Triple Play: Domonic Brown, Justin Upton, Wainwright Walk Watch

Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. This week, we turn our focus to an outfielder finally meeting expectations, a one-time red-hot slugger who has cooled WAY off, and more – including our weekly Wainwright Walk Watch. Off we go:

ChrisDavis

Who’s Hot?

Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies finally are finding out what Brown can do for them. In what is becoming a dismal slog of a season in Philadelphia, Brown has been the brightest spot. After a scorching two-week stretch, during which he hit .400/.423/1.060, Brown has taken over the NL home-run lead with 16 (along with 40 RBI). Many fantasy analysts are saying “it’s about time,” but it’s easy to forget that Brown is just 25. During auditions in the 2010-12 season, Brown was never given much of a chance to get comfortable, never compiling more than 212 plate appearances in a season. Here, in early June, Brown has already exceeded that total and has entrenched himself as an everyday player for the Phillies. I do wonder, though, if the power binge is sustainable. Brown became the first player to hit at least 10 homers and draw zero walks in a calendar month. That tells me that the plate discipline isn’t quite there yet. Pitchers will adjust to Brown’s power stroke, and then he will need to adjust to them. Also, Brown has stolen only four bases so far this season. For a player with above-average speed, as Brown possesses, that number needs to improve. However, fantasy owners shouldn’t complain too much yet. This month-long surge has allowed Brown to meet or exceed most season projections for Brown that I have seen. It’s always a welcome surprise for fantasy owners when a late-round pick like Brown can offer them more than they expect. It will be interesting to see how much more he can deliver this season for Phillies fans and fantasy owners.

Who’s Not?

Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

It’s always hilarious to read baseball articles making “bold” proclamations – in April. I recall one such article, in which Atlanta’s front office was lauded for fleecing the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Justin Upton trade. The article mocked Arizona for trading away a superstar player for what amounted to spare parts. I didn’t agree with that article at the time – and I still don’t. Arizona traded from a position of strength – outfield talent – to shore up areas that were weak (infield, pitching). For the season’s first month, it may have looked like a monumental blunder – Upton smashed 12 home runs and won the NL Player of the Month award, but look now. Upton launched just two long balls in May and has fallen into a ghastly slump. Including his three-hit day Sunday against Washington, Upton has hit only .175 over his past 10 games with no homers, one lone RBI and two steals. He may still be on pace to hit 40+ home runs, but the projected RBI total is now below 90. Stolen bases? Forget them. He’s on pace to pilfer just 12 bases. Are those the numbers of a mega-star outfielder? Arizona obviously didn’t think so. Atlanta fans may have thought they were the beneficiaries of a modern-day Brock-for-Broglio trade, but the numbers say otherwise. Fantasy owners may want to send out some feelers to see what they could get for the junior Upton brother, but don’t sell low. He’s not as good as he was in April, but he’s also not as bad as he was in May.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: ..305/.361/.527, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 38 runs, 0 SB
Player B: .319/.392/.529, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 31 runs, 2 SB

Player A is Evan Longoria of the Rays. Player B is Oakland’s Josh Donaldson. As you can see, their stats are very similar. Longoria, of course, was a high draft pick in fantasy leagues, despite a lengthy injury history. Donaldson was, um, not a high draft pick, due to a history of not being a very effective player. Look at them now. Longoria is on pace for 30 HRs, 100 RBI, close to 100 runs scored – all numbers of an elite fantasy third baseman. Donaldson is on a similar pace in those three categories. Is this to say that Donaldson is Longoria’s equal as a player? Well, no. Longoria has established a track record as one of the best third baseman in either league. Donaldson, however, is in his age 27 season – when many a player enjoys his breakout season (incidentally, so is Longoria). Is it within the realm of possibility that the Donaldson we are seeing now is for real? Sure. It’s also within the realm of possibility (and much more likely) that Donaldson is on an extended hot streak, with a big regression coming. One positive on which to focus is that his walk rate is up, while his strikeout rate is down. That’s a sign of an evolving hitter, one who is providing his fantasy owners with more bang for the buck than Longoria. That is not to say Longoria has been a disappointment. On the contrary, given good health, Longoria could challenge his career-high numbers set in 2009. But fantasy owners paid for Longoria, whether it was with an early draft choice or big bucks at their fantasy auctions. Donaldson has been a revelation for fantasy owners thus far in 2013. The only question is if he will continue to be.

Player A: 17 saves, 31 strikeouts, 2.01 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 12.5 K/9 ratio
Player B: 22 saves, 41 strikeouts, 1.05 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 14.4 K/9 ratio

Player A is Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel. Player B is Jason Grilli of the Pirates. This is Exhibit A for why you should not use high draft picks or use big auction dollars on closers in fantasy baseball. Kimbrel was the clear-cut top closer (especially in NL-only leagues) coming into the 2013 season. Grilli was handed the closer’s job in Pittsburgh after Joel Hanrahan was traded to Boston. Prior to that, Grilli had a grand total of five saves in his career. So far this season, he is 22-for-22 in save chances, with 41 strikeouts in 25 2/3 dominating innings. Kimbrel, who has saved 17 games for the Braves, was the first closer off the board in two of my fantasy leagues; Grilli wasn’t drafted in my mixed league and was a late-round $1 pickup in the other (not by me, unfortunately). Now, is Grilli going to continue to be this untouchable for the entire season? Probably not. Relievers in their mid-30s don’t generally become shutdown closers. But you shouldn’t dismiss Grilli as a fluke, either. His WHIP and K/9 ratios have been excellent since joining the Pirates in 2011. Kimbrel should continue to excel as a closer, but that’s to be expected by his owners, who paid market value for his services. Grilli was a golden ticket plucked off the scrap heap. Once again, this is why it has become conventional wisdom to say “never pay for saves.”

Random Thoughts

  • Wainwright Walk Watch: all season long, we are looking at how many free passes the Cardinals’ ace is NOT issuing to opposing hitters. After his most recent gem of a start, a complete-game manhandling of the San Francisco Giants in which he allowed one run and struck out 10, here are Wainwright’s stats: 84 strikeouts, 6 walks, 2.33 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8-3 record, three complete games in 12 starts. The 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is so far beyond ridiculous I can’t even quantify it. He’s on pace to walk 18 batters this season (or, as many batters as Jason Marquis walks in three starts).
  • The American League version of Wainwright is Oakland’s Bartolo Colon. Through 11 starts, Colon has walked only four batters in 11 starts (70 1/3 innings), albeit in about three fewer games than Wainwright. The thing is with the 40-year-old Colon: you just don’t know how much more he has in the tank. Can he hold up, or will he blow?
  • Follow-up to last week’s column: after the Rockies’ painful-to-watch loss to the Giants in extra innings on May 25, on Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park home run, I noted that Colorado has had a long history of letting such gut-wrenching losses affect them for days. That loss was no exception. The Rockies promptly lost the next game to the Giants (thereby losing the series), then followed that up by dropping three of four to the Quadruple-A Astros. They did manage to take two-of-three from the last-place Dodgers, but lost closer Rafael Betancourt to the disabled list.
  • Some baseball fans and analysts were pretty rough on the Nationals for their extra-TLC approach with Stephen Strasburg last season. Seems to me they should really be on their case this season for their bungled handling of Bryce Harper. After his collision with the Dodger Stadium outfield wall in mid-May, Harper should immediately have gone on the DL to allow his knee to heal. Instead, the offense-starved Nationals kept running him out there in hopes that he could spark the offense. Finally, Harper was placed on the DL last Saturday and we discover that he also was injured in another outfield-wall crash (in April against the Braves). If you’re going to coddle a prized pitcher with innings limits, shouldn’t you also take some precautions with a prized outfielder who is blossoming at age 20?
  • Garrett Jones of the Pirates becomes the second player (and the first in 11 years) to launch a home run into the Allegheny River on the fly. Distance measurement was an estimated 463 feet. Yowza.
  • Speaking of yowza, Chris Davis is on pace for 55 home runs, 150 RBI and 120 runs scored this season.
  • Who am I? I am the only regular active starter in the majors who has more walks than strikeouts. Despite this being only the second season in which I have made more than 6 appearances, I am developing a reputation as a me-first guy on a team that should have no “me” guys whatsoever (as reported by Ken Rosenthal). Who am I? I am Lucas Harrell of the Astros.
  • A day after Shelby Miller and Wainwright absolutely dominated the Giants and swept a doubleheader by a combined score of 15-1, the Cardinals are shut down by 62-year-old Chad Gaudin, who hadn’t started a game since 2009, when he played for the Yankees. Baseball is a really strange game sometimes.
  • As further evidence of this deep observation, I offer you the New York Mets. From the penthouse of a four-game, home-and-home sweep of the Yankees to the outhouse of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins. Gotta be tough to be a Mets fan these days.
  • Josh Hamilton is getting lots nominations for “worst free-agent signing” award. Here’s another candidate: Edwin Jackson. Since signing his $52 million-dollar deal with the rebuilding Cubs, E-Jax has put together a 1-8 record with a 6.29 ERA. The Cubs could have paid someone the major-league minimum salary to do that. I’d be willing to wager that thought has crossed Theo Epstein’s mind a time or two.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Triple Play: Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, CC Sabathia

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Triple Play. This week, we are discussing Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout (but not arguing about which one is better), CC Sabathia, D-backs rookie sensation Patrick Corbin and more. Off we go:

MiguelCabrera

Who’s Hot?

Is there anyone else we can put here besides Miguel Cabrera? We should just rename this section after Miggy. When Albert Pujols was at his best, Cabrera’s brilliance was a little underrated. No longer. The Tigers’ third baseman is in a class by himself as the most feared hitter in baseball. Entering Monday’s game against Pittsburgh (in which he went hitless and struck out three times), Cabrera had gone hitless twice in his previous 34 games. In the past week, Cabrera smashed another three home runs, drove in 10, scored seven runs and hit .364/.481/.818. He’s on pace for 47 home runs, 192 RBI (which would break Hack Wilson’s all-time record of 190), 138 runs scored, and a .384 batting average. Two months into the season, Cabrera leads all of baseball with a 3.1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement player) rating. In fact, Cabrera is on track to improve in all fantasy categories except steals, where he is a non-factor anyway. Some analysts are already asking whether Cabrera can repeat as the Triple Crown winner, even though two-thirds of the season remains. That’s a topic for another day. For now, all Tigers fans and fantasy owners can do is marvel at the greatness. The torch has been passed. Pujols used to be the game’s greatest hitter. Now it’s Miguel Cabrera’s turn.

Who’s Not?

Lately, CC Sabathia is about as cold as it gets. He has had a history of starting a season slowly, but usually as Memorial Day hits, he eases into a groove. Not this month. Sabathia is winless in his past five starts, and he hasn’t been fooling opposing hitters at all. He has allowed 79 hits in 72 2/3 innings, including 11 home runs. Sabathia told MLB.com that he was hurting the team after his May 26th start against Tampa Bay. Looking closer, he’s right: his ERA and WHIP ratios would be the worst he has posted since 2004, while his H/9 and HR/9 ratios are the worst of his career. But it’s not all bad news. He continues to average over six innings per start, which has him still on pace for 200 strikeouts and 13 wins. But for fantasy owners to see a fair return on their investment, he needs to improve on the ERA and WHIP categories. You really have to ride out this slump, though. Trading Sabathia now would be selling low and you will have a Grade A case of seller’s remorse if he follows his career path and pitches better as the weather gets warmer. If he is still pitching this inconsistently at the All-Star break, it truly will be time to worry.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: .385/.460/.677, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 41 runs, 1 SB
Player B: .302/.379/.564, 10 HR, 36 RBI, 39 runs, 12 SB

Player A is Miguel Cabrera. Player B is Mike Trout, who should not be forgotten when discussing players who are red hot. Entering Memorial Day, this is “all” Trout had done this month: eight home runs, four doubles, three triples, while driving in 20 runs, scoring 24 and stealing eight bases. Is it a coincidence that the Angels have won eight straight? I think not. Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Torii Hunter might make most of the cash, but Trout is the player that makes the Angels go. In his transcendent 2012 season, Trout hit 30 home runs and stole 49 bases. He is currently on pace to hit 32 bombs with 38 steals. The biggest difference is that Trout is on pace to drive in 33 more runs than 2012, which would actually make him a more valuable player for fantasy owners. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had a fascinating note about Trout in his most recent column: at age 21, Trout has gotten a hit on 35% of curveballs at which he has swung, making him the best curveball hitter in the game. Tons of young hitters can punish fastballs and remain mystified for years by Uncle Charlie. Yet, in his second season, Trout has leaped that hurdle. Think about what he’ll be able to do by, say, age 25.

Player A: 3-5, 2.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 71 strikeouts
Player B: 8-0, 1.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 56 strikeouts

Player A is Stephen Strasburg. Player B is Diamondbacks’ starter Patrick Corbin. Obviously, Strasburg has pitched very well for Washington, but fantasy owners have been disappointed because the wins haven’t been there (thanks to poor run support and defensive lapses) and they used a high-draft pick or big auction dollars on the Nationals’ ace. Corbin, on the other hand, probably wasn’t drafted in your league unless it is a deep NL-only league. At 23, he is a year younger than Strasburg. He also has been the ace of Arizona’s staff so far in 2013. The secret to his success isn’t difficult: he has allowed only three home runs so far, and opponents are hitting .206 off him. He was particularly impressive on May 20, spinning a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Rockies at Coors Field. He whiffed 10 Rockies that night, and they looked like a Double-A squad flailing away at Randy Johnson in his prime. He is not an overpowering pitcher, so he will not be able to sustain this level of dominance. Hey, just being realistic here. But the kid can flat-out deal. If you did take a flier on him late in your draft, or snapped him up off the waiver wire, then congratulations; your pitching staff is probably doing pretty well. The big question now is: do you keep him and bank on him to continue to be as good as Strasburg, or do you sell high to fill another hole on your team?

Random Thoughts

• Just when you think the Rockies might be turning a corner, they suffer a loss like Angel Pagan’s walkoff inside-the-park-home-run this past Saturday. The Rockies have a long history of letting painful losses like this affect them for days and it may be happening again: they dropped the finale of the series against the Giants on Sunday, then lost to the woeful Astros Monday night.
Carlos Gonzalez is doing all he can to prevent a tailspin, though. In the past two weeks, CarGo has tallied 6 homers, 13 RBI, 4 steals, 14 runs scored and a .333/.411/.784 batting line.
• Speaking of tailspins, remember that day – April 26, to be exact – when Yuniesky Betancourt batted cleanup while on a hot hitting streak? Yeah, no one else does either. In news that is sure to be reassuring to baseball fans everywhere (except maybe those who are stuck with Yuni on their fantasy teams), Betancourt has returned to his normal terrible self, wet-noodling his way to a .178 average in May.
• Brewers fans had to know going into 2013 that this would be a rebuilding season, but they couldn’t have expected them to be THIS bad. Without that nine-game winning streak, they would be in Astros/Marlins territory.
Cliff Lee 2012, meet Cole Hamels 2013. Cole, Cliff. You two have a lot in common.
• Just when the Yankees were welcoming Curtis Granderson back into the lineup, he gets injured again and they are forced to recall Brennan Boesch from Triple-A. In related news, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman had to return his Mercedes to the dealership for additional repairs and received a Dodge Neon as a loaner vehicle.
• Wainwright Walk Watch: the Cardinals’ ace pitched 37 innings before walking his first batter and he has walked fewer batters than any other starter in major league baseball. Going into this week (in which he will start twice), he has a 69-6 K-to-BB ratio (11.50), which is far and away the best of any starter in either league.
• At the rate they’re losing starters to injury, the Cardinals may start wanting him to start 3-4 times a week. Rookie John Gast is the latest to visit the trainer’s office. They don’t want to rush prized pitching prospect Michael Wacha, but they may not have a choice.
• At this rate, the Rangers will be printing playoff tickets at the All-Star break. Starter Colby Lewis is on a rehab assignment,
• From the “Apropos of nothing, but still interesting” file: Joe Mauer has broken up three no-hitters in the 9th inning in his career. Could somebody ask Jack Morris if that is considered “hitting to the score?”
• Finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, a sincere thank-you to our men and women who serve our country in the armed forces or as first responders. Freedom is not free and we are able to devote our time and passion for baseball as a result of their actions and sacrifice. I am thankful for each and every one of them.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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I-70 Series Starts Soon

TiqIQ2

Beginning on Memorial Day, the St. Louis Cardinals-Kansas City Royals rivalry will be rekindled in the 2013 season with a four-game home-and-home series. The first two games of the series will be played in Kansas City on Monday and Tuesdaywhile the final two games of the series will be played down the road in St. Louis. This unique four-game set is similar to the Battle of the Beltway, which will feature the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals playing a home-and-home.

Entering the weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals had the best record in Major League Baseball and led the N.L. Central. Their pitching staff, which has allowed the fewest runs in the majors, and a potent offense, which has scored the third most runs in the National League, primarily drives this. One of the most pleasant surprises for the Cards has been the performance of Shelby Miller who boasts a 5-3 record with a 1.74 ERA. Entering this year, Miller had only started one game and pitched thirteen career innings, yet has been able to vex opposing hitters so far in 2013.

In the other dugout, the Kansas City Royals will look to continue on their surprising start and shorten the gap in the A.L. Central behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians. Despite dropping four of the last five series, the Royals remain in third place in the division. For the most part the team has struggled to score runs, but has been led by a strong pitching staff. Alex Gordon has been one of the sole bright spots on offense and leads the team in average, home runs, RBI’s, and runs. Pitchers Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, and James Shields headline a staff, which has allowed the second-fewest runs in the American League. Despite boasting a 2-5 record, Shields has a minuscule .96 WHIP to go along with a 2.47 ERA on the year and has been primarily hindered by a lack of run support.

 The first two games of the series in Kansas City currently carry an average price well above the average price for Royals tickets this year ($54). Monday’s Memorial Day afternoon start has tickets going for an average of $80 with a get-in price of $16. This $80 average is 48% above the home season average. Game two’s tickets are currently being sold at an average of $70 with the least expensive tickets costing $15. The prices for these two games are 14% less than the games played in Kansas City between these two teams last year, but are 34% more expensive than 2010, and 38% more expensive than in 2011.

The final two games of the series in St. Louis are going for $42 and $45 respectively. This season, the average price for Cardinals tickets is $68 and the prices for these two games between the teams will be 38% and 34% below that average. Tickets are still readily available for the two games and can be acquired for a low price of $6 for Wednesday and $8 for Thursday. These prices reflect a continued downward trend for tickets in St. Louis between the Cardinals and Royals as the prices are 24% less expensive than 2011 and 16% less expensive from just one year ago.

The battle for the Midwest will feature two teams heading in two different directions. The Cardinals will be seeking to stretch out their divisional lead and improve upon the best record in Major League Baseball while the Royals will be trying to turn around a recent slide which put a damper upon one of the most surprising starts in the majors.

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