August 2005

Around the horn: Aug. 21

Xsutjhna

? C.C. Sabathia and Jason Vargas (right) have a few things in common. They are both in their 20s, they both hail from California and they are both southpaws. They also tossed gems on Sunday, as their teams kept pace in the Wild Card races. Sabathia pitched the Indians past the going-nowhere-fast Orioles while Vargas and the Marlins routed the Dodgers.

? It was Vargas’ first career complete game and the Marlins’ Major League-leading 13th of the season. He is the first National League rookie to toss a complete game this season. Vargas also contributed a two-run single at the plate. Vargas (4-1, 2.43 ERA) gives the Marlins another formidable starter to go along with A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis. This could be the team to beat in the National League, considering…

? That the Cardinals will be without Scott Rolen for the rest of the season. Rolen undergo season-ending surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder.

? Even more bad news for the Cards. Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was unable to play on Sunday due to an infection in his left knee. He will not travel with the team to Pittsburgh on Monday.

And outfielder Reggie Sanders continues to recuperate from his fractured right leg, but has backed off on pinpointing his return date.

? Prior to the season, I predicted a Marlins-Red Sox World Series. I am sticking with that prediction.

? They’ve struggled mightily this season, but the Rays, Rockies and Royals had big weekends on the field. The Rays completed a three-game sweep with a 6-3 win over the Rangers. And the Rockies and Royals each won their series, beating the Cubs and A’s, respectively. The Rays are baseball’s hottest team, having won five straight games.

? All five teams in the American League Central — White Sox, Indians, Twins, Tigers and Royals — won on Sunday, while all four in the AL West — Angels, A’s, Rangers and Mariners — lost.

Amazing but scary

288_1

Kalen Pimentel tied a Little League World Series record for a regulation, six-inning game with 18 strikeouts to lead Rancho Bueno Vista of Vista, Calif., past Kentucky in the Little League World Series on Saturday.

Pimentel, who looks like he’s 15, pitches like a Major Leaguer, effectively threw both a fastball and curve. Pimentel was topping out at 75 mph, which is equivalent to 98 mph in The Show.

It’s an amazing story, but I am a bit concerned that Pimentel is already throwing a curve. It puts tremendous strain on a young player’s arm. I don’t want to see the kid blow out his arm at such a young age.

Big Enigma does it again

29 Randy Johnson is turning into a streak-buster.

After Mike Mussina and Shawn Chacon silenced the White Sox on Friday and Saturday, the Big Enigma allowed six runs for the third time in his last four starts. He’s accomplished that dubious feat six times this year.

Johnson had little trouble with the White Sox the first time through the lineup Sunday, allowing only a single through three innings.

But his world came crashing down in the fourth.

With one out in the inning, Tadahito Iguchi, Aaron Rowand and Paul Konerko belted three straight solo taters, giving the Pale Hose a 3-1 lead.

Johnson then gave up singles to Jermaine Dye and Juan Uribe, setting up Chris Widger’s three-run blast.

Game over. White Sox 6, Yankees 2. And for the second time in 12 days, Jose Contreras beat the Yankees.

I was absolutely stunned watching the game. My wife, the Yankee-hater, was laughing her butt off. And my brother, the other hater in my life, called from the movie theater when he saw the score on his cellphone. The Unit ruined my Sunday.

Johnson had ever allowed four homers in an inning. It’s only the second time he allowed that many in a game. Johnson is the third Yankee to serve up four long balls in a single frame, joining Scott Sanderson (1992) and Catfish Hunter (1977).

Then, to prove how enigmatic he is, the Unit did not allow a run in any other inning, taking the complete-game loss. He struck out eight without walking a batter, giving up just four hits in his other seven innings.

Johnson has given up an American League-leading 29 homers this year. Johnson gave up a combined 34 in 2003 and 2004. Only Eric Milton (35) has allowed more this season.

If the Yankees intend to make the playoffs instead of becoming the worst team money could buy in history, they need a dominant Randy Johnson. He needs to get his act together quickly.

If not, the Big Enigma will be back in the Arizona desert on Oct. 3, playing golf.

Camden Yards

Aug. 12, 2005: The Jays roughed up the Orioles.

Camden Yards

Aug. 12, 2005: The warehouse at Camden Yards.

Camden Yards

Aug. 12, 2005: Reaching over the left-field wall.

Camden Yards

Aug. 12, 2005: Emily and I at Oriole Park.

Around the horn: Aug. 20

Tskixevx

? Royals win! Royals win!

The Royals ended baseball’s longest losing streak in 17 years Saturday, beating the A’s, 2-1, to snap a 19-game skid. Mike Wood pitched five effective innings, and four relievers combined to hurl four shutout innings.

Barry Zito pitched OK, allowing two runs over seven frames. Both runs came in the fourth. The loss cut the A’s Wild Card lead to one-half game over the Yankees and 1 1/2 over the Indians.

? Beware of the Tribe. After going eight shutout innings in his last outing, Cliff Lee gave up just one run over seven frames in the Indians’ 6-1 win over the stumbling and bumbling Orioles. Lee is 5-1 with a 4.81 ERA in his last 10 starts. Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez each hit two-run homers to fuel the Tribe offense.

? Pair of wild games on Saturday night. After squandering an early 8-0 lead, the Mets beat the Nationals, 9-8, on pinch-hitter Chris Woodward’s RBI single in the bottom of the 10th. And Magglio Ordonez doubled in the winning run with one out in the bottom of the 13th, leading the Tigers past the Blue Jays, 3-2.

Nym_line

? I still don’t understand while Willie Randolph pulled Pedro Martinez after six innings and 78 pitches. The Mets bullpen is a joke. The line says it all.

The Mets need to address the bullpen situation in the offseason. It’s the reason why the club is last in the NL East.

? For the first time in 25 years, two extra-inning grand slams were hit on the same day. Richie Sexson’s 10th-inning granny lifted Seattle past the Twins while Xavier Nady’s 13th-inning salami propelled the Padres over the Braves. Tony Armas Sr. (A’s) and Mike Jorgensen (Mets) last accomplished the feat on June 11, 1980.

? Mariners phenom Felix Hernandez recovered nicely from a somewhat rocky first inning, retiring 17 of the last 18 batters he faced. Hernandez held the Twins to two runs through eight. He struck out nine and walked one in a no decision.

? The Phillies are back on top in the NL Wild Card race after beating the Pirates, 6-1. Brett Myers pitched his second complete game this season.

Before Saturday’s loss to the Angels, manager Terry Francona announced that Curt Schilling will reclaim his spot atop the Red Sox rotation on Thursday at Kansas City.

Good move by the Sox, who lead the Yanks by just three games in the AL East. Mike Timlin, who has 119 saves, will inherit the closer role.

Picture of the day

Gnrr4tzm

I have no problem with increased security at our ballparks. We live in uncertain times, and it’s nice to have vigilant people working the gates.

But this is a bit much. It was “Take Your Dog to the Park Day” at Shea Stadium on Saturday night. For the first time, Met fans could bring their dogs to a game in Queens.

Well, here’s Diesel, a rotweiller, from Wantagh, N.Y., as he is wanded by security before entering Shea Stadium with his owners.

Was it really necessary to wand the dog down? I don’t think so. Maybe the dog looked “suspicious.” Who knows.

Yanks trying to prove me wrong

Everytime I think the Yankees are dead in the water, they rebound with a big win.

Make that big wins.

Ptwle88r

After blowing two games against the Rays, the Yanks have taken two straight from the American League’s best team, the White Sox. The Yanks have outscored the Pale Hose, 8-1, in the two victories on the South Side. And Mike Mussina and Shawn Chacon tossed back-to-back gems.

Chacon might be the Yankees’ second-best pitcher right now, behind Mussina and in front of the Big Enigma, Randy Johnson.  Chacon is 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA in five starts with the Yanks, and New York is 4-1 in those starts.

The Red Sox lost Saturday, leaving the Yankees just three games back in the AL East. New York trails the A’s by a game in the Wild Card race. That will change, however, pending the A’s-Royals game on Saturday night.