Three up, three down: Scherzer dealing a big year
Tigers right-hander improves record to 16-1, while Kimbrel and Price are hot, too
UP: Max Scherzer
Step aside, Miguel Cabrera. Max Scherzer is moving to center stage for the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers extended their current winning streak to eight games on Sunday, giving them 12 wins in 13 games, with Cabrera having played in only four of them, and they have taken a three-game lead on Cleveland in the American League Central. Scherzer ran his record to 16-1 with a weekend victory, the first pitcher to open a season 16-1 since Roger Clemens in 2001.
Scherzer, however, would seem to actually have an edge on Clemens. Not only does he have a lower ERA with his 16-1 start (2.85 compared to 3.46), but Clemens earned his 16th win in his 25th start, finishing the season 20-3. Scherzer earned No. 16 on Friday, 12 days earlier than Clemens did in 2001. What's more, he has as many as 10 starts remaining, while Clemens made only seven more starts. That means Scherzer could actually win as many as 26 games. No pitcher has won that many since Bob Welch of Oakland won 27 in 1990. John Smoltz won 24 with Atlanta in 1996 and Randy Johnson had 24 wins for Arizona in 2002.
Scherzer's record is not a matter of home-field advantage, either. He is 6-0 in 10 road starts, and has allowed a .174 batting average while compiling a 2.21 ERA outside Comerica Park. And to think, it was in December 2009 when then-Arizona general manager Josh Byrnes dealt Scherzer to Detroit in a three-team deal that brought the Diamondbacks Ian Kennedy, who was traded last week to San Diego (where Byrnes is now the GM) and Edwin Jackson, who was dealt to the White Sox in July 2010 for David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson.
DOWN: Charlie Manuel
He brought continued success to the Phillies, managing the team to five consecutive postseason appearances, the highlight being the second World Series championship in franchise history in 2008. But it's a what-have-you-done-lately world for big league managers, and given that Manuel is in the final year of his contract, he has been getting extra attention during the Phillies' fade.
Having lost 13 of 14 -- their worst 14-game stretch since a 1-18 slide in 1999 -- they go into the week 50-61, having gone from 6 1/2 games out of first place to 15 1/2 back in the past two weeks. The Phillies are feeling the pains of aging and injuries. Dominic Brown (24 home runs, 69 RBIs) is only player with more than 15 home runs or 43 RBIs, and there isn't a regular on the active roster hitting .275. It's been even worse in the past 14 games, during which Darin Ruf (.273) and John Mayberry (.255) are the only regulars hitting above .241, and the team has had a Major League-worst .198 average while scoring just 33 runs.
UP: Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel has been perfect since May 9, having converted 24 of 24 save opportunities while allowing one run in 30 innings over 30 appearances. The Braves open a series at Washington on Monday with a 12 1/2-game lead on the secon- place Nationals in the National League East and their second 10-game winning streak of the season. It's the Braves' biggest division lead since Sept. 2, 2003, and their bullpen has been critical to their success.
The seven current members of the Atlanta bullpen have a combined 1.87 ERA since May 8, including Kimbrel at 0.30 and left-handed specialist Luis Avilan at 0.52. In sandwiching three-game sweeps of St. Louis and Philadelphia around a four-game sweep of the Rockies, the Braves have seen their bullpen allow only two earned runs in its past 31 innings, while the offense has outscored the opposition, 66-25, including 14 runs scored by newly installed leadoff hitter Jason Heyward, who also has driven in 10 runs during the streak. The Braves scored five or more runs in an inning in a record five consecutive games, too.
DOWN: The Windy City
OK, the Cubs are struggling, but that was expected. They are undergoing a major rebuilding plan. But the White Sox? This is a team that was in the AL Central race until the final days last season. But not this season. Having extended their losing streak to 10 games on Sunday, they find themselves 8 1/2 games out of fourth place and 24 games behind the Tigers. The 10-game losing streak is the longest for the team since June 11-20, 1976 and equals the sixth-longest losing streak in franchise history. The Sox lost 13 in a row in 1924, 12 in a row in 1927 and 11 in a row in 1910, 1921 and 1956.
The problem has been the offense -- or a lack thereof. While Adam Dunn, of all people, has hit .342 during the past 10 games, the White Sox have scored only 18 runs, being held to two or fewer in eight of the games. Adding to the agony, the Sox have had only two save opportunities, both against Cleveland, during that time -- July 30 when Matt Lindstrom let a 4-3 lead in the eighth turn into a 7-4 loss, and July 31 when Addison Reed was unable to protect a 5-4 ninth-inning lead.
UP: David Price
End the debate. Price was hurting early, but he is healthy now. Price is 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA in seven starts since coming off the disabled list. He has issued one walk and struck out 40 in 57 1/3 innings and has been a key part of Tampa Bay's 25-6 surge, during which the Rays have climbed from fourth place in the AL East to just a game back of Boston. And don't overlook Chris Archer, who has gone 4-1 with a 1.84 ERA during the Rays' rise, and Matt Moore, who is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA. Not surprisingly, the Rays have an AL-best 2.50 ERA during the past 31 games. And they also are hitting .272, less than a percentage point behind Detroit, which leads the AL in hitting during that stretch. The Rays haven't lost a series during the 31 games, and are 11-3 against teams with winning records.
DOWN: Hanley Ramirez
OK, the Dodgers are hot. They extended their club-record road winning streak to 14 games with a 1-0 victory at over the Cubs on Sunday. All, however, is not well.
Outfielder Matt Kemp has been out since July 22. The hope is Yaisel Puig, who tweaked a wrist when he dove for a ball on Saturday and was out of the lineup on Sunday, will return as early as Monday night in St. Louis. The Dodgers are confident enough about Puig's health that outfielder Scott Van Slyke was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for starting pitcher Stephen Fife. And then there is Hanley Ramirez, who came out of Sunday's game with what was described as a jammed right shoulder, sustained when he fell into the stands catching a foul ball. Ramirez has been a catalyst in the Dodgers' resurgence. They are 37-17 since he came off the disabled list on June 4, and he has teamed with Puig to provide the push for a Dodgers team that has hit .272 since June 4 (second in the National League only to St. Louis' .279). Puig has hit .373 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs, appearing in 52 of the games, and Ramirez, who has played in 50 of them, has hit .356 with 10 home runs and a team-best 36 RBIs. Without Ramirez, the Dodgers on Sunday turned to Nick Punto, who has one home run and 14 RBIs in 213 at-bats.