As we ready ourselves for the weekend series, let's take a look back on the series that were just completed and hand out some ruthlessly judgmental grades.
By way of reminder, we're administering just five grades, so many a team will go unmentioned. Also, we're not grading the season to date; rather, we're grading teams based on how they fared in the most recent weekday series -- i.e., those that wrapped up on Thursday ...
|A||Not only did the Tigers take three of four on the road from the Jays, who were coming off a 17-9 June, but ace Justin Verlander enjoyed perhaps his best start of the season. In the series finale on Thursday, Verlander struck out five and walked a pair in seven scoreless. As well, Verlander, averaged 95.2 mph with his four-seamer and touched 99. Is he back to vintage form? Moving forward, the Tigers have hope that he indeed is.|
|A||It's never easy to sweep a team like the Padres, who've been playing better of late, but Boston did finish the job against San Diego. The pitching staff was the star, as the Sox allowed a total of four runs in the three-game series. John Lackey continues to impress, and Jon Lester turned in his best start since May 10.|
|C-||It's not that the Royals are a bad team -- they're solidly mediocre. Rather, it's that the Indians blew a lead once on Wednesday and twice on Thursday. As a consequence of dropping two of three to an inferior team they put themselves 1 1/2-games behind the Tigers heading into a big four-game series in Cleveland.|
|D||They split a four-game set with the lowly Mets, and the D-backs remain a first-place team in name only. They avoid an F by winning a pair of games on the road and beating Matt Harvey. On the downside, the Arizona bullpen continues to be an absolute wreck. On Thursday, D-backs relievers managed to blow the save in the 13th and 14th innings. One of these days, Kirk Gibson is bound to realize that Heath Bell is no longer a major-league closer.|
|D||Tough go of it in Anaheim, as the Cardinals dropped two of three to the Angels. The crushing blow came Thursday night, as closer Edward Mujica allowed three runs to score in the ninth and thus gave the Angels a 6-5 win. It was his first blown save of the season. A Josh Hamilton two-run homer tied it up. I get that Mujica had been basically flawless up until this point, but Hamilton -- heating up of late but still saddled with serious platoon issues -- is exactly the kind of hitter against whom you want the platoon advantage. With Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist on the roster, manager Mike Matheny had the chance to seize that advantage. I don't blame Matheny for calling on Mujica. That, after all, is what every other manager would do. But when Hamilton was up as the tying run, it presented a great opportunity for some flexible thinking in an area -- late-inning deployment of relievers -- that sorely needs it.|