by Jordan Adams - 4/24/2006
The past seven days of baseball has been a great example of how tough it really is to dethrone and keep the defending champs down. The Chicago White Sox breezed through their weekly schedule and have been on a tear since starting the season 1-4. The world champions have won 12-of-13 and all six of their games this week, all being on the road.
While the Sox remained white hot, it was their counterparts from last year's World Series that have opened some eyes in the NL. The Houston Astros managed to establish their No. 1 spot in the NL Central with stellar play over the past two weeks.
This week has also shown that the Yankees have not found their swagger, the Mets are here to stay, and well, the NL West is still as pathetic a division as there is in baseball.
NL Team of the Week
With an impressive week the Astros improved their '06 record to 13-5, second only to the New York Mets. Having the benefit of playing at home all week, Houston took two of three when Milwaukee came to town and then swept a weekend series with the lowly Pirates. While ace Roy Oswalt won both his starts and improved to 4-0 thus far, rookie Taylor Buchholz captured his first career ML win with 8 2/3 innings of shut out ball, striking out five and walking none.
The run support in Houston was a weak point all last year, but the first couple of weeks have been no worry and their success continued into this week. Morgan Ensberg led the attack belting six home runs, driving in eleven and scoring nine runs. Leadoff man Craig Biggio added three dingers, four doubles and seven RBI, including a 4-4 effort on Sunday.
AL Team of the Week
Chicago White Sox
Knocked down in the first series, the defending champs bounced off the canvas quickly and now have control of their division. Establishing their pitching has been the key to their success. Many of their wins have come with the starters going deep into the game and the bullpen coming in to close it out. Overall, the Sox have won 12-of-13 and eight in a row, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.
The southsiders got wins from all six starters that took the mound this week, while the bats spoke loudly throughout the lineup. Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome paced the offense with a consistent effort. Dye went for one long ball, two doubles and drove in six. Thome added two more homers and seven RBI.
NL Player of the Week
Brandon Phillips | 2B | Cincinnati Reds
It might take a stats researcher some time to find a week where a single player had the kind of numbers this kid did this week. Phillips' numbers looked like they were straight out of a video game with the AI turned on the easy setting. The youngster who never found much playing time in Cleveland seems to have found a spot on Ohio's other squad. The second baseman hit three home runs, knocked in 17 RBI and scored six runs while going 14/31 for the week. To put this week into perspective, Phillips had only ten RBIs in his career before his outburst this week. After this week he might want to look into getting a bump in pay, seeing how ESPN.com lists each players' salaries and Phillips' is N/A. Isn't that something?
AL Player of the Week
Miguel Tejada | SS | Baltimore Orioles
While his team had something of a sub-par week against good competition, Baltimore's superstar showed why he is one of the best hitters in the game. The shortstop hit three homers, drove in ten, scored six runs, and went a blazing 15/28. Keeping his team above .500, the Orioles will need every bit of Tejada's hot bat if they are to stay out of the division cellar. Another impressive fact of Tejada's week was on Sunday when his team faced Randy Johnson and the Yankees. It is easy to see that they got dominated 7-1, but Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera only allowed 4 hits in their combined nine innings. Miguel Tejada had all four hits, while his teammates put up one giant goose egg.
Upcoming Weekend Series to Watch
New York Mets @ Atlanta Braves | April 21-23
Probable Pitching Match-ups
Friday - Pedro Martinez vs. John Smoltz
Saturday - Victor Zambrano vs. John Thompson
Sunday - Tom Glavine vs. Kyle Davies
The Mets will most likely be in first place when they head to Atlanta for a series with the Braves this upcoming weekend. Although New York has remained atop the NL after three weeks, the Braves still managed to show their rival who wears the daddy pants, taking two of three in Shea this past week. It's the Braves division until someone claims it and that will be a season-long process.
The first pitching match-up will be a gem, as Pedro Martinez will bring his unblemished record to face John Smoltz. The two have had numerous duels and this game should yield similar results.
The Mets have had a consistent offensive attack all year, but the hamstring injury to Carlos Beltran has slowed them down a little and his unwillingness to play injured and possibly feel the hometown boos makes the issue more than just physical.
The Braves counterpart at CF has put up MVP numbers so far and will continue to if he looks to help bring another division title back to Atlanta. Last year's NL home run champ Andruw Jones has eight long balls already this season, while driving 23 and batting one point under .300.
This series is big for the Mets if they are to prove they are the class of the NL East. They can win all they want and stay atop the division, but if they lose a second straight series to the Braves in as many weeks, they will give the Braves the mental edge thinking they can take the division whenever they want.
The first game goes to the Mets, as Pedro is pitching too well right now to be slowed down by anyone. Smoltz has been good, but Pedro and the Mets will get the win. However, the next two games will go the home team's way. There is no stud arm going for any team on Saturday or Sunday, but Thompson has been exceptional this year and Davies continues to make strides as a young player in this league.
Braves win series 2-1
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's MLB picks service.