- New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner was named American League Player of the Week for the week ending on June 9th. Gardner has played all 63 games for the Yankees this season and put on a clinic against Cleveland and Seattle, batting .520 (13-for-25) with a .556 on-base percentage, five doubles, one home run, six RBIs and five runs scored. He now has a hit in 15 of his last 17 games. For the season, Gardner is hitting .284 with six homers, 27 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
- Even though Chris Davis has received most of the media attention in Baltimore, it might be Manny Machado who is having the more impressive season. Machado, a 20-year-old native of Miami, Fla., is hitting .324/.357/.492 this season with five home runs, 36 RBIs, and 44 runs scored. He has already hit 31 doubles in 69 games for the Orioles. The only other players in history younger than 21 years old who got to 30 doubles in fewer than 90 team games were Alex Rodriguez (86 games for the Mariners in 1996) and Ted Williams (81 games for the Red Sox in 1939). Machado is on pace for around 55 doubles, putting him within reach of teammate Brian Roberts’ single-season franchise record 59 doubles in 2009.
- After many people thought Edwin Encarnacion’s power numbers from 2012 were simply a flash in the pan, the 30-year-old infielder is set to replicate them in 2013. He is currently on pace for 40 home runs and 30 doubles while watching his batting average climb 30 points since May 1st. He now sports a healthy looking .266/.348/.517 batting line to go along with 18 home runs and 55 RBIs. Encarnacion has certainly been taking advantage of having runners on base this season, batting .349 with runners in scoring position and batting .405 (17-for-42) in at-bats with two-or-more runners on base. Whether or not he keeps this going all season long remains to be seen, but the fact is that when he’s hitting well, he’s one of the league’s best power hitters.
- The Royals and Rays were part of some interesting baseball history on Thursday night, when a scoreless game through five innings turned into an offensive clinic. Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson was cruising through the Kansas City lineup until the Royals lit him up for eight runs in the sixth inning. According to Elias, it was only the fifth major-league game in the last 30 seasons in which a team scored eight or more runs in the sixth inning or later to break a previously scoreless game. Last July 21, the Cardinals set the major-league record in that regard, scoring 12 runs in the bottom of the seventh en route to a 12-0 victory over the Cubs.
- The intentional walk has long been seen as the ultimate sign of respect towards a powerful hitter. However it’s equally as embarrassing for the hitter on deck... and Prince Fielder is taking it personally. Minnesota starter Scott Diamond intentionally walked the always-dangerous Miguel Cabrera on Friday night in the sixth inning of a scoreless game, bringing Fielder to the plate. Fielder promptly launched a two-run double which started a four-run rally, resulting in a 4-0 victory for the Tigers over the Twins. Fielder is batting .471 (16-for-34) this season with 24 RBIs in his plate appearances immediately following a walk to Cabrera.
- Chris Sale must be frustrated. The young southpaw hurled a complete game on Friday night, striking out 14 batters and allowing no earned runs... and yet he was charged with the loss. As ridiculous as that sounds, Sale’s masterful performance went to waste as a pair of errors by Alexei Ramirez turned into a couple of runs for the Astros during their half of the fifth inning, giving them a 2-1 victory over Chicago. Since the major leagues began compiling earned runs off of pitchers around 100 years ago, only two other pitchers have had games in which they struck out 14 batters, allowed no earned runs, and were tagged with a loss... the first occurred in 1913 and the other in 1968. Despite his record (5-5), Sale should hold his head high as he boasts a 2.43 ERA and 0.90 WHIP on the season with 86 strikeouts and 19 walks. Nothing to be ashamed of there.
- In their first year as an American League team, the Houston Astros are unsurprisingly in the basement of their division. Silver linings are few and far between when your record is 26-44, but Houston finished off the week strong with a three-game sweep of the White Sox. Before that, on Wednesday night, the Astros scored six runs in the top of the ninth off of Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who blew his fourth save of the season, eventually winning the game 6-1. It was the most runs Houston scored in a game after being held without a run through the first eight innings since 1988.
- Seattle Mariners backup catcher Henry Blanco may not be putting up very good numbers this season, but he definitely showed off his ‘old-man strength’ against Oakland. In the sixth inning of a scoreless game on Saturday, the 41-year-old clubbed a grand slam that would give the Mariners a 4-0 victory. According to Elias, Blanco joins just Cap Anson and Craig Biggio as the only other players in baseball history with a grand slam at age 40 or older after never hitting one in their 30's.
- You might not have guessed that Miami Marlins starter Jose Fernandez was a rookie given the way he took the hill against one of the top offenses in baseball on Friday night. Fernandez is just 20 years old, however he looked like a seasoned veteran, striking out 10 St. Louis batters while only allowing two earned runs. Miami went on to win the game 5-4. Fernandez became the third-youngest major-league pitcher over the past 25 years to put up a double-digit strikeout game, just behind Felix Hernandez (2005) and Rick Ankiel (2000). The Cuban native now has a 3.11 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 77 strikeouts.
- Coors Field has long been a vacation spot of sorts for National League hitters and for Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman, they only wish they could have stayed a bit longer. The two Nationals infielders enjoyed a healthy series out in Denver, where the major-league average for hitters in 1,487 games there hovers around the .300 mark. Zimmerman torched a two-run home run in the third inning and an RBI double in the eighth inning while Desmond went 4-for-4 in 5-4 Washington road victory over the Rockies. Desmond now claims a .390 career batting average at Coors Field (23-for-59) while Zimmerman raised his average to .368 (43-for-117). No other team in baseball has two active players with more than 20 career hits and such high career batting averages at Coors.
- It was a major week for Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright, who reached two distinct milestones against the Mets on Thursday. He became the first 10-game winner in the majors this season, holding the Mets scoreless over seven innings while striking out six batters and leading St. Louis to a 2-1 victory. In that same game, Wainwright threw his 1000th career strikeout when he caught David Wright looking in the first inning. Wainwright joins Bob Gibson (3,117), Dizzy Dean (1,095), Chris Carpenter (1,085) and Bob Forsch (1,079) as the only other pitchers in St. Louis Cardinals franchise history with at least 1000 strikeouts. As long as he stays healthy, there is no reason to doubt that Wainwright will finish his career second all time when all is said and done.
- The Brewers are still in the basement of their division without any real chance of a playoff run, but that should not deter fans from being optimistic. Milwaukee has found steady bats in the second and third spots in the lineup thanks to Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez. The 23-year-old Segura burst on to the scene this season right out of the gate and hasn’t slowed down, with a batting line of .330/.364/.526 to go along with some pop (10 home runs, 30 RBIs) and some speed (40 runs scored, 19 stole bases). While he has fit in nicely in the two hole, Carlos Gomez is enjoying the benefits of hitting right behind him. Gomez, once a major piece in the trade that sent Johan Santana to the Mets in 2007, is finally hitting his stride as an everyday outfielder. He is hitting .317/.356/.587 with 12 home runs, 37 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases. Factor in underrated outfielder Norichika Aoki at the top of the lineup and a healthy Ryan Braun at the heart of it and Milwaukee could be set to wreak havoc on pitching staffs for several years to come.
- Pittsburgh fans have had plenty to cheer about this season, so why not add another reason? Gerrit Cole, the Pirates’ first overall pick in the 2011 draft, pitched the first two games of his major-league career this week and did not disappoint. In his debut, Cole earned the win against San Francisco, the defending World Series champs, and then earned his second win five days later against the Dodgers. In his first plate appearance as a hitter, Cole drove in two RBIs, making him one of only four starting pitchers since 1920 to earn a win and bring home at least two RBIs in a major league debut, joining George Caster (1934), Jim Turner (1937) and Jason Jennings (2001).
- Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was named National League Player of the Week ending on June 9th. Last week, we talked about the legend of Puig, who hit four home runs and knocked in 10 base runners in his first five games, and he earned a player of the week nod as a result. His hot bat continued to sizzle this past week as he went 10-for-19 against Arizona and Pittsburgh and recorded the first stolen base of his career. Few players have garnered this much buzz in the first 13 games of their career, but Puig is enjoying it and so are the Los Angeles fans. The outfielder even has a metal band named after him already.
- The Padres are flying a bit under the radar thus far this season and much of that has to do with how competitive their division is. Despite the fact that nobody is talking about them, they have a couple of starting pitchers who should be turning heads. 33-year-old Eric Stults is on pace to shatter every career statistic he has. With an ERA of 3.28 and a 1.07 WHIP, Stults is just nine innings away from matching his career high in innings pitched... and we haven’t even gotten to the All Star break yet. On Saturday, Stults became the first San Diego left-hander to throw a complete game in which he allowed two-or-fewer hits since Sterling Hitchcock held the Angels to a two-hitter, 15 years ago. And what about starter Jason Marquis? The Staten Island, N.Y. native started the season a bit slow, but is 7-0 with a 3.05 ERA in his last nine outings since April 28th. The only other pitcher with at least seven wins and no losses since that date is Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, who is 7-0 with a 2.60 ERA over that same span.
John Lopiano can be reached at email@example.com. Follow John on Twitter: @johnlopiano.
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