by Josh Nagel - 05/29/2008
It felt like a week for sweeps, as the Philadelphia Phillies pummeled the pitching-deprived Colorado Rockies in a three-game mauling with scores that resembled rec-league softball tilts. The Chicago Cubs swept the punchless Los Angeles Dodgers in a different fashion, mustering just two or three runs per game, which proved more than enough to take each contest. The San Francisco Giants are one win away from a surprising sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and ditto for the Minnesota Twins, who can wrap up a sweep with one more win over the reeling Kansas City Royals.
Here is a look at some MLB trends through May 28:
American League East
Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays have given their doubters little fodder to suggest that their astounding start is a fluke, while giving their backers many happy trips to the cage. In winning five of six home games from the Rangers and Orioles, the Rays gave up more than four runs just once, proof that one of hottest rotations in the majors has no intention of slowing down. However, prices have been adjusted to reflect the value of the goods. In their last six, the price on the Rays has dropped below -145 just once … and that was the game they lost 12-6 with Andy Sonnanstine on the mound to Vicente Padilla and the Rangers.
Baltimore Orioles - The Orioles reversed a five-game slide by taking two of three from the Yankees, which accomplished, if nothing else, keeping them ahead of the Yankees for last place in the division by one game. Although its lineup can sometimes look potent, it has been inconsistent; Baltimore has scored four runs or fewer in seven of its last 10.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins - The AL Central's version of the Oakland A's, dumping high-priced stars in favor of a low-payroll, homegrown club, the Twins have been kind to their backers of late. In winning four of their last five - all as a prohibitive underdog - the Twins cleared 563 units, which includes a deduction for their one loss in that span.
Kansas City Royals - The Royals officially are the first feel-good story of the season to go south. They have done so with flair, losing 10-straight and scoring more than three runs just twice in that span. Their 3.62 runs per game is the second-worst in the majors.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels -- The Angels took two of three at Chicago and Toronto (cashing as a dog in three of those four), and followed that by doing the same at home against Detroit. Who would have thought that their starting staff would be led by Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, who are a combined 15-4 with an ERA of less than three? If the Angels can get a little more of a boost from their 21st-ranked offense, there's no reason to believe they won't pull away from the rest of this division.
Seattle Mariners - The sterling back-to-back performances by Miguel Batista and Erik Bedard, in shutting down the Red Sox 4-3 and 1-0 respectively, make you wonder what has gone wrong with the Mariners. The wins put an end to a seven-game skid in which the Seattle staff gave up an average of eight runs per game. It's hard to say which has been the bigger underachiever; the pitching staff (4.81 ERA, 28th) or the lineup (4.02 runs per game, 25th).
National League East
Philadelphia Phillies - A visit from the Rockies, who offered batting-practice quality pitching, seemed to be just what the Phillies needed to get their bats going heading into a three-game visit from first-place Florida. Philadelphia has scored 48 runs in its last four, which included a 15-6 win over the Astros and a 20-5 thumping of the Rockies. The recent surge has put them up 343 units for the season after a slow start. Their 5.33 runs per game ranks second in MLB.
New York Mets - Willie Randolph has kept his job - for now, at least - but this is still an underachieving team mired in turmoil. Despite finding a way to squeak out two of three from the Marlins, you'd have to think there is some value in going against them because the lines won't be adjusted enough to reflect the clubhouse adversity engulfing the Mets. Unfortunately, a four-game visit from the reeling Dodgers might not be the best time to put this strategy to work, unless you are counting on the Dodgers winning 1-0.
National League Central
St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals, who have won seven of 10, have benefited from an overachieving, patchwork rotation featuring the likes of former closer Braden Looper (6-4, 5.05 ERA) and Adam Wainwright (5-2, 2.86). Now, if the lineup can get help from the likes of the slumping Troy Glaus to help out Albert Puljos and improve the league's 15th-ranked offense, St. Louis could continue to fill up the wallets of its backers.
Houston Astros - Roy Oswalt has won four of his last five decisions, a much-needed lift for the under-the-radar Astros, who could quietly contend for the division if their ace produces in the manner in which he is capable. In the meantime, young players like Hunter Pence are making quite an impression in helping Houston to average 4.85 runs per game, seventh-best in the majors.
National League West
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers have real problems; their bullpen can't be trusted and their offense can't score a run unless it comes on a bases-loaded walk. You have to question Joe Torre's decision to yank red-hot Derek Lowe, a historically strong finisher who was working on a four-hit shutout of the Cubs when he was yanked after seven innings. Takashi Saito and Chan Ho Park proceeded to blow the save and the game for the Dodgers, who have scored more than four runs just twice in their last 10 (4-6). Predictably, this has led to the under taking home the cash in eight-straight games.
San Francisco Giants - The Giants have one of the league's most anemic lineups (3.86 runs per game, 26th) but be aware of some values on their starting pitching in favorable matchups. In particular, Tim Lincecum (7-1, 2.33 ERA) has been practically untouchable, and yet he was spotted the larger-than-life price of +140 against Dan Haren and the Diamondbacks. He shut them down over seven-plus innings for a 6-3 win. More was expected from no-decision master Matt Cain (2-3, 4.43) but don't be surprised if he emerges as a solid value as well.