by Jordan Adams - 05/22/2006
As June approaches, the 2006 MLB season continues to heighten. While there is well over four months left of games, the division races have been exceptionally close. All three AL divisions, as well as the NL West, have its top two teams either tied or separated by only one game. The NL East and NL Central have its leaders ahead by 2.5 and 4 games, respectively.
Barry Bonds continues to dominate headlines, although this is the last week we will hear about him attempting to tie Babe Ruth's 714. Bonds is now tied for second on the all-time home run mark after his second inning home run on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics.
Albert Pujols has shown no signs of slowing up and may start to get some Triple Crown hype swirling his way. He currently has 22 home runs and 54 RBI, both tops in the majors. While he is only hitting .317, most consider him the best hitter in the game and know he is quite capable of leading the NL in batting over the course of a season.
NL Team of the Week
Los Angeles Dodgers
Playing in the most up-for-grabs division, Los Angeles turned in a successful week that has got them back to within one game of the NL West leading Colorado Rockies. All five teams are only separated by two games, so a single week's worth of games could turn this division completely upside down.
The Dodgers' week started off in Coors Field as they played the first place Rockies. Despite all three games being fairly low scoring, Los Angeles managed to take two of three on its way back to California. Still without the injured Eric Gagne, the Dodgers received saves from two of their relievers. Takashi Saito recorded his first save of the year, while veteran closer Danys Baez recorded his ninth.
Los Angeles' weekend series opened interleague play as they hosted the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Dodgers took all three games in convincing fashion, dismantling their California counterparts, 31-7, over the course of the three game set. The Dodgers' overall record sits at 24-20.
AL Team of the Week
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Often the joke of the AL now passed on to the Kansas City Royals, the D-Rays have been playing some good ball thus far in '06. A 5-1 week now has them only four games under .500 at 20-24.
Home for all its games this past week, Tampa Bay's first series saw them take two of three from the defending world champion White Sox. The Devil Rays offense scored 15 runs in its two wins versus Chi-town, both victories earned by the starting rotation.
After a victorious series during the weekday, Tampa Bay busted out the brooms and swept the Florida Marlins in a battle of the Sunshine State. Reliever Tyler Walker had an impressive week, registering three saves and a relief victory. Scott Kazmir won his second game of the week, forcing the Marlins to a goose egg on Sunday.
NL Player of the Week
Jason Bay | LF | Pittsburgh Pirates
Despite playing for an awful team, the Pirates' Jason Bay continues to mold himself into one of the better run producing hitters in the NL. This week Bay showed his offensive prowess, hitting three long balls and knocking in ten, while scoring five times. Hitting 8/24 on the week with a double also added to his impressive week, leading the Bucs' offense. His team split games on the week with a 3-3 record.
AL Player of the Week
Scott Kazmir | SP | Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Once thought as a high-end pitching prospect that never would develop, now those thoughts seem to be gone for good. Currently having one of the best individual years for a pitcher in '06, Kazmir is just one budding star in the Devil Rays organization that has already begun to blossom.
Kazmir's week was as good as a starting pitcher could ask for in today's game: Two starts and two gem-like outings for the 22-year-old Devil Ray ace. His two wins this week helped to improve his 2006 campaign to 7-2, tied for the major league lead in wins.
The first start came against a great White Sox lineup that seemed to be clueless when Kazmir took the mound. He pitched seven innings only allowing one run, while conceding five hits and striking out eight.
Kazmir's second start on Sunday was even better. He out dueled Marlins' ace Dontrelle Willis on the day, throwing eight shutout innings with eleven strikeouts, while only allowing four hits and a walk.
Upcoming Weekend Series to Watch
St. Louis Cardinals @ San Diego Padres | May 26-28
Probable Pitching Match-ups
Friday - Jeff Suppan vs. Clay Hensley
Saturday - Mark Mulder vs. Chan Ho Park
Sunday - Anthony Reyes vs. Jake Peavy
The first meeting in 2006 between the two will mark a rematch of their NL Wild Card series this past October. The Cardinals swept San Diego easily last postseason and seem in even better shape at this point in the 2006 season.
Heading into this week, these two teams are going in opposite directions. The Cardinals finally caught the surprise Cincinnati Reds and now lead the NL Central. San Diego, since their impressive week seven days ago, has dropped three straight and now occupy the NL West cellar.
While the Padres throw two of their better starting pitchers to the mound this upcoming weekend in Chan Ho Park and Jake Peavy, their offense will not be able to keep up with the lineup St. Louis will counter with.
Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen are arguably are the best 3-4-5 in baseball and their presence in the batting order can menace any arm on the mound. The Cardinals' arms are no slouch either. Mark Mulder has been a great addition since coming over from the A's. Reyes has been ever impressive since replacing injured Sidney Ponson.
Cardinals win 2-1
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Doc's MLB picks service.