by Jordan Adams - 05/09/2006
While the month of April brings showers, the following month has brought much more than flowers to some of MLB's early strugglers. After suffering a drought for the first month of the '06 season, three NL teams have soaked themselves with impressive winning streaks this week.
The San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks all cruised through their respective weekly schedules, finishing the week with a combined 20-1 record.
Arizona's loss on Sunday to Cincinnati ended a six-game winning streak this week, while Philadelphia and San Diego cruised past competition, each winning all seven of their games.
Each team's streak allowed a significant rise in their respective division standings. The Padres climbed out of the NL West cellar and now sit third in the middle of the pack. Philadelphia's success now has them in second place in the NL East, leapfrogging the Braves and 4.5 games behind the first place Mets. Last but not least, Arizona's 6-1 stint places them one game behind the first place Colorado Rockies and four games over .500.
Co-NL Teams of the Week
San Diego Padres/Philadelphia Phillies
While it is simple to take the easy route and give two teams the acknowledgement of team of the week, both these squads finished the week with 7-0 records. Very few teams have swept a weekly schedule thus far, so no team to accomplish this feat should be left unpraised.
San Diego's week started out away from Petco Park, having back-to-back two game series with the Giants and Dodgers. The Padre starters got it done in San Fran, as Jake Peavy and Woody Williams both won their starts. Their two wins in Los Angeles came via the bullpen, as both games went back and forth until the final out.
Their weekend series at home welcomed the struggling Cubs. Chicago failed to change its recent poor play and were swept. The Padres outscored the Cubbies 9-4 over the three game set. Overall San Diego's current eight-game winning streak has gotten them one game over .500 at 16-15.
The Philadelphia Phillies, which struggled miserably to score runs early this year, now seem to be clicking on all cylinders. Philly's week started in Florida with a two game match-up. In the first game the Phillies roughed up Marlins' ace Dontrelle Willis and next day's starter Jon Lieber won his first game of the year.
The rest of the week had Philadelphia back at home. Another two-game series started versus Atlanta before their weekend set welcoming San Francisco.
Philadelphia's success flip-flopped them and Atlanta in the division for second and third place. After taking both games against Atlanta in close fashion, their home sweep of the Giants easily capped their best week of the season, building momentum for the rest of May.
AL Team of the Week
New York Yankees
The Bronx Bombers' first week in May finally got them in first place in the AL East. Starting off quite poorly, the consistent play of Boston and Toronto didn't allow them any leeway in climbing the standings.
The hyped-up series with their rival Red Sox saw only one game enter the standings. Losing on Monday, 7-3, opened a chance for redemption the next day, but rain decided to have its way and postponed the game.
After losing their first game of the week, New York continued on the road and won its next five games.
Sweeps of both Tampa Bay and Texas allowed the Yankees to be percentage points ahead of Boston in their surprisingly deep division.
Third baseman Alex Rodriguez led the offense all week, hitting a home run and driving in eight runs.
NL Player of the Week
Chad Tracy | 3B | Arizona Diamondbacks
While his team finished the week with a 6-1 mark, Tracy put together his best week individually yet. With his performance, it is now the second consecutive week an NL West player has gotten my nod as Player of the Week.
With many young players making up Arizona's roster, Tracy does not get the attention that other top hitters do in much larger markets. However, Tracy's play continues to vault him up the list as one of the best young third baseman in the majors.
Chad led the way offensively for this team, posting three home runs and nine RBIs this week. Scoring five runs and hitting 7/28 landed him the recognition as this week's NL best.
AL Player of the Week
Travis Hafner | DH | Cleveland Indians
Quickly becoming one of the most dangerous power hitters in the AL, Travis Hafner leads one of the best offensive lineups in baseball. His Cleveland Indians have played consistently all year, and his role in the batting order is a key reason for their early success in '06.
Leading all players in RBIs this week, The Indians' big bat drove in 13 runs total, while clubbing four home runs. Hafner's long balls were hit in four consecutive games during these past weekdays.
Travis Hafner also kept his yearly batting average over .330, hitting 8/25 and scoring seven runs for the Tribe.
Upcoming Weekend Series to Watch
Detroit Tigers @ Cleveland Indians | May 12-14
Probable Pitching Match-ups
Friday - Jeremy Bonderman vs. Cliff Lee
Saturday - Mike Maroth vs. C.C. Sabathia
Sunday - Nate Robertson vs. Paul Byrd
Two of the up-and-coming teams in the AL get together for a three-game series starting Friday, May 12. Detroit heads into Jacobs Field to duel the Cleveland Indians.
This match-up of AL Central foes pits the AL's best team for ERA in Detroit against the number one offensive team in the Indians.
Cleveland offense leads the AL in hits, runs, batting average, home runs, doubles, total bases and RBI. Top to bottom they have players capable of hitting in almost any situation. Who knew they could keep this up after firing hitting coach and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray last year?
Opposing the lumber will be the AL's best rotation, statistically. The Tigers' team ERA sits atop the AL at 3.26. Detroit also is second in opposing teams' batting average, third in strikeouts per walk and first in walk/hits per inning (WHIP).
Coming into the week, both teams, despite their good play this year, have not caught the defending champion White Sox in the division. Detroit falls right behind Chicago, 2.5 games back, while Cleveland is 5.5 behind.
Great defenses usually can counter equal or better offenses. However, this is not the NBA or NFL. It is hard to keep a team's ERA as low as the Tigers have so far, so let's assume that it ascends just a notch over the course of this weekend.
Cleveland's offense, though not boasting such notable players as the Yankees or Red Sox, is just as capable if not better overall. Dissimilar to those aforementioned clubs, no egos or super-sized contracts get in the way of good play. There is no substitute for good, consistent hitting and that sports cliché will continue its claim this upcoming weekend.
Indians win 2-1
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's baseball picks service.