Three up, three down: Dodgers riding high
Beckett pitches 24th no-hitter in franchise history; Cards, Blue Jays rolling
Right-hander Josh Beckett provided a lift to what has been a challenging season for the Dodgers, pitching the 24th no-hitter in franchise history on Sunday. Can the Dodgers build off the emotions of that game in Philadelphia -- much like they had their season ignited last June by the return of Hanley Ramirez to the lineup? Time will tell.
Only 18 of the 103 World Series championship teams have had a complete-game no-hitter the same year they won a title, which includes the 1951 New York Yankees -- who had Allie Reynolds throw two during that season -- and the 1916 Boston Red Sox -- who had Dutch Leonard and Rube Foster both throw regular-season no-hitters.
The Dodgers won four of six games last week, but they are in third place in the National League West, 5 1/2 games back of the first-place Giants. Beckett won twice in the week, allowing four runs in five innings of a 9-4 win against the New York Mets on Tuesday. The Dodgers had won just twice in the seven previous starts by Beckett, who underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last year. A three-time All-Star, Beckett was 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA in eight starts a year ago before being sidelined. Beckett, however, did pitch for World Series champions in Florida (2003) and Boston (2007).
DOWN: Red Sox
The Red Sox's losing streak ran to 10 games on Sunday at Tampa Bay, the 13th losing streak of 10 or more games in franchise history, and the first since they lost 11 in a row from June 8-19, 1994. Andrew Miller is feeling the pain of the losing streak. He has been on the mound for three walk-off losses in the 10 games, including back-to-back setbacks at Tampa Bay on Friday and Saturday.
The Red Sox lost a franchise record 20 games from May 1-24, 1906. They have had a losing streak of 10 or more games twice in a season two times. In 1930, they lost 14 in a row from May 17-31, and 11 in a row from July 25-Aug. 2. And in 1927, they lost 15 in a row, June 21-July 4, and 10 in a row from Aug. 12-24. In seasons during which the Red Sox have lost at least 10 in a row, they have avoided a losing record only twice: 1976 (83-79) and 1944 (77-77).
Red Sox pitchers have a combined 4.69 ERA in the 10-game stretch, which ranks 28th among Major League teams. The offense has been even less productive, ranking last in the Majors in average (.212), runs (2.6 per game) and OPS (.575). David Ortiz is hitting .118 and hasn't driven in a run, while Dustin Pedroia has one RBI with a .195 average. Xander Bogaerts (.368) and Jonny Gomes (.304) have each hit two home runs and driven in six runs.
The Cardinals have made their presence felt in the NL Central. In winning nine of their last 11 games, St. Louis has moved from 5 1/2 games to 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers. That success will get a test at Busch Stadium this week, as the Cardinals host the Yankees for three games and then NL West-leading San Francisco for a four-game series. The Cards are 14-7 at home this season, having won seven of their last eight.
St. Louis has a best-in-the-Majors .291 batting average during its resurgence, which began May 13. The offense has nonetheless had issues pushing runs across. Tied with Seattle for a Major League-low three home runs since May 13, the Cards have scored only 48 runs in the 11 games, 14th in the bigs. Allen Craig (.318, seven RBIs) and Matt Adams (.385, six RBIs) have been the most productive bats.
The pitching staff, however, has dominated. Cardinals hurlers lead the Majors with a 2.25 ERA, and the rotation is 7-1 with a 2.20 ERA -- including two wins by Adam Wainwright, who has allowed two runs and 15 baserunners in 23 innings during the stretch.
Detroit still leads the American League Central by 5 1/2 games, but a team that opened the season 27-12 finally hit some hard times last week. The Tigers were swept in a three-game series at Cleveland and lost three of four at home to Texas. And now they embark on seven-game road trip to Oakland (four games) and Seattle (three games) beginning Monday.
The Tigers' proud rotation was pounded during the rough stretch, with the starters going a combined 1-4 with an 8.77 ERA. The bullpen, meanwhile, had a 5.27 ERA, 29th in baseball. Detroit had one save opportunity and didn't convert it.
Max Scherzer had a no-decision in his lone start, and it wasn't pretty. He gave up seven runs in seven innings of what became an 11-10 loss at Cleveland on Wednesday, and his ERA went from 1.83 to 2.59. Justin Verlander didn't escape his two starts, losing both while allowing 14 runs (11 earned) in 11 1/3 innings to see his ERA jump from 3.15 to 4.04.
UP: Blue Jays
Two games under .500 and in fourth place in the AL East on the morning of May 12, the Jays woke up Monday morning sitting atop the division, two games in front of the second-place Yankees. Toronto has won 11 of 13 games during the surge thanks in large part to a rotation that has averaged 6 2/3 innings per game.
J.A. Happ and Drew Hutchison have been the bonuses, combining to go 5-0 in five starts. Happ (3-0) has a 2.50 ERA and Hutchinson has a 0.61 ERA in his two starts. Toronto starters rank second in the Majors with a 2.61 ERA during that stretch, trailing only Oakland. While the bullpen ERA of 5.13 is the second worst in the big leagues, that number was inflated when Blue Jays relievers allowed 10 runs in five innings of a 15-4 loss at Cleveland on May 14. They have a 2.54 ERA in the 12 other games of the stretch and have converted eight of nine saves.
The offense can strike quickly. The Jays have hit a best-in-baseball 20 home runs since May 12, scoring 59 runs, tied for fourth. Edwin Encarnacion has hit eight home runs while knocking in 13. Jose Bautista (.304, three home runs) and Melky Cabrera (.243, two home runs) have driven in nine runs each.
The Nationals have slipped from a half-game out of first place in the NL East on May 3 to third place and 3 1/2 back of the Braves. They are 8-13 over that stretch and are coming off a 2-5 week. They do, however, open a nine-game homestand on Monday, with three-game visits from Miami, Texas and Philadelphia.
The Nationals have not won a series against a team with a winning record since they took two of three from the Dodgers from May 5-7. Doug Fister (2-1, 3.42 ERA) is the only starter with a winning record in the 21-game stretch. The rest of the rotation is a combined 3-10 with a 4.60 ERA.
With Bryce Harper on the disabled list since April 28, the offense continues to look for an impact bat. Denard Span (.297), Ian Desmond (.256) and Jayson Werth (.250) are the only regulars hitting better than .210 during the last 21 games. Danny Espinosa has particularly struggled, hitting .127 with 33 strikeouts in 71 at-bats this month.