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Grading the weekend series: Angels pass with flying colors

By Mike Axisa | Baseball Writer

J.B. Shuck (right) and Mark Trumbo contributed to the Angels' weekend success. (USATSI)
J.B. Shuck (right) and Mark Trumbo contributed to the Angels' weekend success. (USATSI)

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At this time next week, the 2013 season with be one-third complete. The end of the first trimester, to stick with the academia theme. The contenders are kind of, sort of starting to separate themselves from the pretenders, and we saw quite a bit of that this weekend.

There are a lot of teams streaking right now, with five clubs riding winning streaks of at least three games while five are riding three-or-more-game losing streaks. That's a third of the league that either swept or got swept this weekend. Two big-market teams earn the two highest grades this weekend while three small market clubs bring up the rear. On to the weekend grades.

TeamGradeAnalysis
AThe Angels (specifically Mike Trout) occupied the top spot on Thursday, and they stay there after sweeping the Royals this weekend. Baseball's hottest team outscored Kansas City 23-8 in the four-game set -- yes, I'm making an executive decision to include a four-get series here -- and has won eight straight overall. The underrated hero of the weekend? Outfielder and nine-hole hitter J.B. Shuck, who went 7-for-13 (.538) in the four games. The Halos dug themselves a big hole early in the season, but they've started to climb out of it just a bit. Luckily for them, there are still 112 games left to be played.
B

Another four-game series, but don't blame me. Blame the schedule. Former manager Terry Francona returned to Boston for the first time as an opponent since his ugly divorce from the team following the 2011 season, but the Red Sox were not distracted. They took three of four games this weekend, including Sunday's thanks to a dramatic four-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning. Manager John Farrell's bullpen deserves special recognition after allowing one run in their final 10 innings of the series. The Sawx hit a rough patch earlier this month, but they rebounded with authority against Francona's Indians.

C+Break up the Pirates! The Pittsburgh Nine took two of three from the Brewers this weekend in Milwaukee, a place they have traditionally struggled. The Bucs came into the series with seven wins in their previous 53 games (!) at Miller Park, dating all the way back to 2007. Starting pitchers A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez held the Brew Crew to five runs in 18 innings during the three games. At 31-19, the Pirates are tied with the Reds for the second-best record in the NL Central, 1.5 games back of the Cardinals.
DThe AL East race is as tight as expected, and the Rays had a chance to gain some ground on the division-leading Yankees this weekend. Instead, they lost two of three at home, their first Tropicana Field series loss to New York since April 2010. Not only that, but they actually held a two-run lead with the two strikes, two outs and the bases empty in one of the losses. Fernando Rodney imploded and his team eventually lost in extra innings. Tampa made up for it a bit by pounding CC Sabathia on Sunday, but they dropped to five back in the division with the series loss. They had a chance to gain some serious ground, but instead dropped the ball.
F

The Marlins are an afterthought at this point, both nationally and locally based on 2013 attendance figures. Still, their futility deserves to be highlighted. Miami lost all three games to the White Sox this weekend, scoring a total of six runs in the three games. They've scored an unbelievable 132 runs -- 32 fewer than the next lowest scoring team -- in 50 games, putting them on pace for 428 runs across a full 162-game season. Three years ago the Mariners set a record for a fewest runs scored in the DH era with 513, a record the Marlins will smash this year barring divine intervention. Jeff Loria's club gets off easy with an "F," really.

 
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