by Jordan Adams - 05/01/2006
The last week of April brought about some very interesting storylines. First and foremost the Cincinnati Reds hold baseball's best record, coming into Sunday's game at 17-7. Despite having some very mediocre pitching to start the season, some diamonds in the rough have emerged. The likes of Brandon Phillips and Edwin Encarnacion have played tremendously in this first month and really sparked the offense.
With the talks swirling about Barry Bonds falling into his true hitting form, Albert Pujols could have had the best April in the history of baseball. Not only did he break Ken Griffey Jr.'s mark of 13 April home runs in 1997, but he also leads the majors with 32 RBIs coming into Sunday. His average being over .340 is another offensive stat that will make him April's player of the month.
NL Team of the Week
One week after the Houston Astros jumped to the top of their division, this week witnessed the surging Reds soaring to first place in the NL's Central division. The Reds won five of their six games this week and nine of their last ten.
Cincy's first series this week was in the nation's capital, sweeping the struggling Nationals. In the three game set the Reds outscored Washington 15-7, seeing their ace Bronson Arroyo improve his record to 4-0 with a shutout performance on Wednesday.
It was the play of their second year third baseman Edwin Encarnacion along with shortstop Felipe Lopez that ignited the bats. Encarnacion totaled six RBIs and two doubles, while Lopez was 5/14 with an RBI double.
The Reds' weekend series matched them against last week's hottest team, the Houston Astros. Cincinnati won two of the games, beating both Andy Pettitte and previously undefeated Roy Oswalt. Once again Encarncaion and the red hot Brandon Phillips continue to lead the offensive assault. Encarnacion hit a double, triple, and knocked in one while Phillips added a double and four RBIs.
AL Team of the Week
Although still trailing the defending champion White Sox in the standings, The Tigers came on strong this week, putting together their second best winning week of the season. They won four of their six games this week and eight of their last eleven.
Detroit went into Los Angeles and lost two of three to last year's AL West champs. They then returned home to absolutely dominate the Minnesota Twins in every facet of the game, sweeping them easily.
The Tigers were shutout in both losses to the Angels, so something had to give when they continued their week versus Minnesota. Call it making up for their past series or call it a lack of effort from the Twins, but someone should have called these games in the seventh inning and yelled mercy rule because Minnesota was playing like a team competing in the Little League World Series. Detroit outscored the Twins 33-1 over the weekend and that says it all.
Carlos Guillen led an explosive output with two doubles, two homers, four runs, and nine RBIs over the three games. Corner outfielders Marcus Thames and Magglio Ordonez added two long balls, four RBIs and one home run, three RBIs respectively.
Detroit's merciless sweep of the lowly Twins has them one game back of Chicago in the AL Central.
NL Player of the Week
Moises Alou | RF | San Francisco Giants
The most talked about hitter in the Bay area is everyone's favorite player Barry Bonds. While everyone wants to wants to focus on his alleged use of steroids, no one has recognized the season Moises Alou has put together hitting behind him. This week especially, Moises hit the ball extremely well and continued to put up the numbers that have his Giants one game out of the NL West's top spot.
Coming into Sunday's game, Alou put together an impressive five game hitting display. Launching three balls into the seats, alongside 12 RBIs should propel him to NL player of the week. Hitting 11/20 with a double and four runs illustrates to show the type of play Alou is bringing to the ballpark day in and day out. His play is a big reason why Bonds is beginning to see and hit the ball well.
AL Player of the Week
Ben Broussard | 1B | Cleveland Indians
The torrid hitting of Cleveland's other first baseman is one reason why the Indians boast one of the best offenses in the AL. This week he continued his hot streak, especially against Thursday night's Boston Red Sox starter and equally hot Josh Beckett. In the Indians' 15-3 mauling of Boston, Broussard drove in a career-high eight RBIs, including two home runs, the first being a grand slam.
This week he totaled twelve RBIs to go with his four deep shots and one double. He scored six times while going 9/14 at the plate, not including his opportunity in front of a national audience against Texas on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
Upcoming Weekend Series to Watch
Los Angeles Angels @ Toronto Blue Jays | May 5-8
Probable Pitching Match-ups
Friday - Ervin Santana vs. Gustavo Chacin
Saturday - Hector Carrasco vs. Ted Lilly
Sunday - John lackey vs. Casey Janssen
Monday - Jeff Weaver vs. Roy Halladay
The best match-up this upcoming weekend takes place in Canada with the Los Angeles Angels traveling into Toronto to take on the new look Blue Jays. This rare four-game weekend match-up concludes the next Monday with Toronto ace Roy Halladay taking the mound.
Neither team has had a very good month of April. After losing their weekend series to the New York Yankees, Toronto sits behind both the Bronx Bombers and the Bosox, although only by one game.
Los Angeles sits at 12-12 coming into Sunday's game with the White Sox. While they remain tied with the Texas Rangers for first, all four AL West teams are separated by only two games. The way these teams have beat up on each other thus far, any team could win this division but by a very close margin.
The inconsistencies of both teams do not point out a clear cut favorite. Certainly Monday's finale favors the Blue Jays at home with Roy Halladay on the mound, but the three preceding games feature weaker pitching match-ups that point to the bullpen and intangibles as keys for the series win.
The two teams will alternate wins throughout the four games. The Blue Jays coming away with Saturday's and Monday's games, while the Angels take the opener and Sunday's matinee.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's baseball picks service.