|Two guys named A.J. stood out on Sunday. (Associated Press)|
The Pirates salvaged one in Cincy, and the Indians blew one in Detroit. Monday brings a huge A's-Angels clash in Oakland, and a Verlander-Yankees throwdown in Motown ...
A.J. Burnett, Pirates: With the win blowing out in a hitter's haven and facing an impossibly hot team, Burnett was a stopper on Sunday. In the series finale against the Reds, he allowed just two runs on three hits and at one point retired 18 straight. Burnett also came within one out of throwing his second consecutive complete game. He's now gone at least 7.0 innings in each of his last five starts.
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox: The Chicago catcher hit a clutch, pinch-hit, tie-breaking bomb against the Angels on Sunday (an eventual White Sox win), and Pierzynski has now homered in each of his last five games. In doing so, he's tied a franchise record. With a 2012 batting line of .289/.342/.547, Pierzynski is enjoying the best season of his career.
Nationals' pitchers at the plate: An underrated edge that the Nationals have enjoyed this season? How well their pitchers swing the bat. Coming into Sunday, Nat hurlers owned an OPS of .494 at the dish, which is far and away the best mark of any NL staff. Then Sunday's starter, Stephen Strasburg, went 1-for-2 with a pair of RBI.
Chris Perez, Indians: The outspoken Cleveland closer did not have his finest outing on Sunday. Perez inherited a three-run, ninth-inning lead over the Tigers and promptly allowed five runs on three hits and two walks to blow the save and lose the game. Perez's Indians have now lost nine straight and are all but out of playoff contention. The blowup raised Perez's 2012 ERA from 2.75 to 3.83.
Matt Harvey, Mets: Harvey's third major-league start was decidedly less impressive than his first two. Against the banjo-hitting Padres in run-suppressing Petco, Harvey allowed five runs on eight hits in 5.0 innings of work and struggled all day to command his breaking stuff.
Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers - Lucroy came into Sunday night's series finale in St. Louis batting an outstanding .331/.379/.563. However, in the course of the 3-0 loss to the Cardinals, Lucroy went 0-for-4 with two whiffs and five left on base.
Full Sunday scoreboard with box scores and recaps for all games
Another ace: Pity the Yanks, as they'll face two frontline aces in the span of three games. On Saturday, Seattle's Felix Hernandez tamed them, and on Monday they'll face Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Detroit. On the other hand, in 12 career starts against the Yankees, Verlander has an uncharacteristic ERA of 4.12. He'll be opposed by Ivan Nova. 7:05 pm ET
Sale watch: The White Sox's playoff hopes have much to do with whether young lefty Chris Sale can remain healthy and effective down the stretch. On Monday against the Royals, he'll take the mound on nine-day's rest after dealing with a "dead arm." Needless to say, how he fares will be telling. 8:10 pm ET
Test in the West: The Angels and A's are very much in the playoff mix, and on Monday they'll begin a critical three-game set in Oakland. Adding to the intrigue is Monday's pitching match-up: Jered Weaver, who's very much a contender for the AL Cy Young Award, opposes gifted youngster Jarrod Parker. 10:05 pm ET
Monday probables for all games
• The Onion vs. the Marlins: For the few uninitiated out there, know that the Onion is a satirical publication of frequent genius, and what they write is not to be taken seriously. With that caveat laid out, also know that they recently skewered the Marlins and Jeff Loria, the worst owner in baseball. In every joke, there is a bit of truth …
• K is for Kimbrel: What kind of a roll is Braves closer Craig Kimbrel on lately? One hell of a roll, as David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains.
• Winning: While I find the personal life and habits of Charlie Sheen plainly uninteresting, I do appreciate that he's a huge baseball fan in general and Reds fan in particular (dad Martin is a Dayton, Ohio native). It's also pretty cool that he decided to donate $50,000 to the Reds' Community Fund in celebration of the freshly shorn Marty Brennaman. [Cincinnati Enquirer]
• Scary stuff: Across the Pacific, Tsubasa Aizawa of the Hiroshima Carp recently suffered what may be a career-ending injury. A pitch from Shun Yamaguchi struck Aizawa just below the left eye. "I am very sorry for hitting him in the most dangerous of places," Yamaguchi said shortly afterward. "… Is Aizawa ok? The only thing I can do is pray for a quick recovery." [Yakyubaka.com]
• (Front) office politics: If you don't see the Cubs and Dodgers make a trade any time soon, there's a reason: Dodger brass is displeased with Cub brass for letting Ryan Dempster listen in on deadline trade talks. [Chicago Tribune]