Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-7-23

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Monday, July 23, 2007

Top of the 1st
Good – You’re not going to hear more good news than the fact that Jon Lester is pitching for the Red Sox tonight. It doesn’t matter what team you root for, we all were rooting for Lester in his recovery from anaplastic large-cell lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with last summer. Pitching in Triple A this season, Lester, who was 4-5 with a 3.89 ERA in 14 starts overall for the PawSox, and walked 31 batters in 71 2/3 innings, while striking out 51. He has issued 10 walks in his last three starts spanning 19 innings.

Bad – Okay, perhaps the Red Sox 6-5 homestand can’t be viewed as bas but if it were not for taking the final series 3-1 from the hapless White Sox, there would be no other way to view it. Newbie Drew continues to struggle and the Sox will be without David Ortiz for a brief time with a jammed shoulder. “Bad” maybe too strong but Boston has not been playing well.

Ugly – Jon Lester is taking the spot of Julian Tavarez who has gone 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA in his last five starts, failing to last six innings in each. He allowed six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 woeful innings in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to Kansas City. His transference to the bullpen means the end of Joel Piniera’s time with the BoSox. Pinata was designated for assignment.

Good – The Chicago Cubs are proving to be a good team which shows what a good manager and $300 million will do. Despite being shut down by the Diamondbacks on Saturday and Sunday, the Cubbies completed a 7-3 homestand that has them very much in contention. The back-to-back losses for the Cubs were their first since June 20-21 in Texas. In between, they won six of seven series. They did this despite Alfonso Soriano getting just one hit in his last 11 at-bats and ended the homestand hitting .214. Sunday’s crowd pushed the Cubs over the 2 million mark for the 19th straight season and put them on pace to finish over 3 million for the fourth straight season. It has been a season-long struggle, but the Cubs are finally over .500 at home (27-24).

Bad – The Chicago White Sox are a miserable baseball club and watching them is simply torturous. They dropped three of four to their crimson counterparts this weekend but more significant is that following yesterday’s 8-5 loss, in which in each of the last two innings they had the bases loaded and played as if this was a distraction, the White Sox fell into a tie for last place in the American League Central with the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox have not been in last place this late in the year since the final day of the 1989 season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They have gone from first to worst in a season and a half. The ChiSox start a five-game set at home tonight against the Tigers that should put the final nail in their coffin.
Tonight: Andrew Miller (5-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. Mark Buehrle (7-5, 2.91).
Tuesday, Game 1: 1:05 p.m., Jeremy Bonderman (10-1, 3.53) vs. TBA (0-1, 1.59).
Tuesday, Game 2: TBA vs. Javier Vazquez (7-5, 3.73).
Wednesday: Kenny Rogers (3-2, 3.77) vs. Jose Contreras (5-12, 5.78).
Thursday: Verlander (11-3, 3.40) vs. John Danks (6-7, 4.88).

Ugly – This has been an ugly season for the Mets’ Jose Valentin. Valentin had finally worked his way back from a torn ACL, then he dealt with a hand contusion. But he was in the starting lineup Friday night, which is when suffered a fractured right tibia, fouling a ball off his shin and sending him to the DL perhaps for the rest of the season. The injury could prompt GM Omar Minaya to trade for a second baseman. Houston’s Mark Loretta, the White Sox’s Tadahito Iguchi and Washington’s Ronnie Belliard are among those being made available.

Good – “Good” doesn’t even begin to describe the season that J.J. Putz of the Mariners is having. Think about this, if you add up the hits (19) and walks (7) Putz has allowed this season, it doesn’t equal the 29 saves he has earned thus far. In 46.1 innings he has allowed just 4 runs.

Bad – The Oakland A’s are now 2-8 since the All-Star break. They lost yesterday to Baltimore, 2-0. The A’s have been shut out eight times, tied with Chicago and Minnesota for the AL lead. At the start of June they won 11 of 13 to go from one game below .500 (26-27) to eight over (37-29). Since then, the A’s have gone 9-23 to fall to 46-52, 111/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West. They sure could use some magic Beanes.

Ugly – Felix Hernandez meltdown in yesterday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays was simply ugly. I’m listening to this great matchup between King Felix and Doc Halliday when the 21-year-old pitcher failed to get a strikeout call from umpire Chad Fairchild with the bases loaded in a scoreless game. On the next pitch, Hernandez gave up a two-run single to Alex Rios on a ball grounded through the left side of the infield. On the pitch after that, Troy Glaus hit a slider over the left-field wall for three more runs and a 5-0 lead that eventuated in an 8-0 Toronto victory. “You can’t do things like that, you can’t lose your focus,” said Hernandez, who’d thrown a dugout tantrum his previous start after yielding a critical three-run homer to the Orioles. “You have to stay in the game. That’s the wrong thing I did. I lost my focus. That’s what happened in that inning.”
If the Mariners are going to win the AL West, Hernandez has to grow up…fast.

Good – Shelley Duncan, made his major league debut Friday for the Yankees and by the time the weekend was over he was evoking memories of Shane Spencer. Duncan became the first Yankee in at least 40 years to hit three home runs in his first four games. David Shelley Duncan is almost 28. His father Dave, a former catcher, is the pitching coach for the world champion Cardinals and brother Chris plays leftfield for the Cardinals. Shelley played 6