Posted on: June 5, 2011 10:54 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 12:40 pm
By Matt Snyder
Brian Duensing, Twins. Don't look now, but the Twins just swept the Royals in four games and are threatening to yield the league's worst record to the Astros. They're only one game back -- that is, if there were standings for all of the MLB. Sunday, Brian Duensing took center stage for the all-of-a-sudden hot Twins. He dazzled in eight innings, giving up only six hits and a walk. The Twins still trail the Indians by 12 1/2 games, but it's not near as bad as it was a week ago.
Chad Billingsley, Dodgers. He labored through five innings, allowing eight hits, three walks and four runs -- so why is he here? Billingsley starred at the dish for the Dodgers. He hit a solo home run in his first at-bat, took a bases-loaded walk his second time up and finished things off with an RBI double. That's quite a day for a guy who entered Sunday with a career .137 batting average and 15 RBI. He's now hitting .304 in 2011 with four extra-base hits, however, so he's definitely improved substantially with the stick.
Josh Wilson, Brewers. The journeyman entered Sunday with almost as many teams (seven) as career home runs (eight). His career .318 slugging percentage gives us some idea of his power prowess. Sunday afternoon, though, Wilson clubbed a home run to left-center field in the top of the 11th, which proved the ultimate difference in the Brewers' 6-5 extra-innings victory. The win was the third straight for the Brewers, who entered the series with a 9-19 road record. Wilson now has two homers in eight at-bats for the Brewers. Prior to joining them, he had just seven homers in 930 career plate appearances.
Top of 11th inning for Arizona. It took the Diamondbacks a three-run ninth inning to force extras against the Nationals, but the top of the 11th was disastrous and proved too much for the Snakes. A single and sac bunt started things rather innocently before a blown call at first base allowed Roger Bernadina on. Then the Nats decided to intentionally walk Jayson Werth and take on Rick Ankiel instead. But pitcher Joe Paterson walked Ankiel, too, forcing in the go-ahead run. For good measure, Paterson then coughed up a grand slam to Mike Morse -- who is one of the more underrated hitters in the league at this point. The umpire, the decision to intentionally load the bases and Paterson all count as "down" issues here.
Jordan Lyles, Astros. Wandy Rodriguez is due back June 13 and the Astros aren't going to a six-man rotation. When he returns, basically the only options are Lyles being demoted back to the minors or Aneury Rodriguez moving to the bullpen. Outings like Sunday won't help the 20-year-old Lyles' cause. He was up in the strike zone all day and lasted only four innings -- giving up five hits and four earned runs. He only walked one, but needed 96 pitches just to get through his four frames. He'll get one more shot to prove to the Astros -- and maybe even himself -- that he belongs in the bigs and doesn't need more minor-league seasoning.
Tim Hudson, Braves. He was torched by the Mets in Citi Field, coughing up seven hits and five earned runs in just four innings. It marked just the seventh time in Hudson's last 108 starts he didn't work into the fifth inning (thanks to Mark Bowman for the stat). The Braves have now lost four of six.
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Posted on: May 29, 2011 11:33 pm
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Welcome to first place, Arizona Diamondbacks.
Yep, you read that right, the Diamondbacks have ridden a six-game winning streak -- all on the road -- to the top of the National League West standing, moving past the Giants with their victory over the Astros and San Francisco's loss in Milwaukee.
"This is good right now, but we've got a long way to go," manager Kirk Gibson told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. "We've talked about playing good baseball. It's hard to sustain it."
But the Diamondbacks have in the last 16 days, going 14-2 since dropping five in a row earlier this month.
As for the short-term changes, Piecoro pretty much nailed it in this piece -- Josh Collmenter into the rotation, Armando Galarraga out. Juan Miranda in at first base, Russell Branyan out. And then he adds the improvement of starter Joe Saunders and second baseman Kelly Johnson.
More than just the last two-and-a-half weeks, the Diamondbacks have been much better than they were a year ago, when they were 65-97, the third-worst mark in the big leagues.
First off, a lot of credit has to go to Kirk Gibson, in his first full year as a manager. His team is playing like he did -- all out, all the time.
Secondly, the bullpen is night-and-day better, and the thanks there has to go to general manager Kevin Towers.
Last season the bullpen had a 5.74 ERA -- the worst mark in the National League since divisional play began.
This year it's 3.40 ERA. The teams four blown saves are tired for fourth-fewest in the big leagues.
Closer J.J. Putz is perfect in his 15 save attempts and has struck out 20 in 22 innings, allowing just four earned runs. He's been joined by left-hander Joe Paterson (one earned run in 22 games), Sam Demel (three earned runs in 21 appearances) and David Hernandez (five earned runs in 24 appearances). Esmerling Vasquez has been pretty good, going 0-1 with a 3.32 ERA.
Demel and Vazquez were in the team's bullpen last season, but Towers worked on remaking the team's bullpen in the offseason, signing Putz as a free agent and getting Hernandez in the trade that sent Mark Reynolds to Baltimore. Paterson is a rookie who was taken by Towers in the Rule 5 draft out of the Giants' system.
In the end, the Diamondbacks may not be able to hold onto this lead -- especially against the defending World Series champs and the powerful Rockies. But they could -- nobody thought Cleveland would still lead their division on Memorial Day, yet the Diamondbacks and Indians are, and that's pretty fun.For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.