Around the American League of MLB

Here we at the end of month three of the 2009 Major League Baseball season with about 75 games played and 87 to go. There’s been some movement, drift and milestones In the American League as the West is in flux, the Central is looking a tad odd and the East looks like it can change at any moment. Let’s take a quick look at each division.

AL East

Mariano Rivera did it! That’s right! He got his first major league RBI ever by walking with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning after coming in to relieve in the bottom of the eighth versus the NY Mets. That was a pad run that gave the Yanks a 4- 2 win over their cross-town rivals. The Yankees swept that series. Of course, the big news was that the self-effacing Rivera earned his 500th save. Only one other player, Trevor Hoffman (571), has more. Rivera is also less than 27 away from his 1,000th strikeout. Rivera, who has played with the Yankees his entire career, is in his 14th season. He’s appeared in 881 games, pitched 1054.1 innings, won 69 and lost 51. His lifetime ERA stands at 2.31. Class act all the way! Congratulations to one of the most accomplished closers the game has ever seen.

With that win, the Bronx Bombers fifth straight, the Yanks moved to within three games of the Red Sox. Boston was in Atlanta on Sunday, looking to sweep the Braves. Instead, they lost a close one 2- 1. The Red Sox biggest disappointment this year has to be the performance of Daisuke Matsuzaka who is 1- 5 with an ERA of 8.23. In eight starts, he has pitched 35 innings. He’s presently on the 15-day DL.

Watch out everyone, here come those pesky Rays from Tampa Bay. The Rays are hot, having won five in a row and seven of their last 10. They now boast the best RS/RA differential in the AL (plus-87).  They are first and second in all major American League offensive categories and third in opponent batting averages.

The Blue Jays, who are just six games behind the Sox, are still in it, but it’s hard to believe they’ll be there in the end. They have a big series versus the Rays that starts tonight. Baltimore is 12 out. Orioles’ fans must be wondering about how those other birds, the Ravens, will do this year.

AL Central

The Detroit Tigers are winning, going 8- 2 in their last 10. They have run off seven straight “Ws.” For Detroit, starters Justin Verlander (8- 3, 3.40 ERA) and Rick Porcello (8- 4, 3.55 ERA) have been putting in premium seasons. Closer Fernando Rodney has started to come around in the past week. Many thought that the Tigers would be cellar dwellers in 2009.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Cleveland Indians, who were thought to be a contender, now look like pretenders. The Tribe is a dozen games out of first.

The Kansas City Royals are also floundering at 9.5 games out. Starter Zack Greinke (10-3, 1.95 ERA) has shown amazing control, striking out 114 in 115.1 innings and walking just 18. Teams are hitting just .235 against him. No team in the AL has scored fewer runs than the Royals—300. That is simply a major deal breaker when it comes to securing a playoff berth.

Over the last 10 games, Minnesota and Chicago are both 6- 4. The Twins are four behind the Tigers and the White Sox are five back. Minnesota starting pitcher Kevin Slowey (10- 3, 4.41 ERA), who has had some stiffness in his shoulder lately, has been performing exceptionally well. Closer Joe Nathan (1.50 ERA, 19 SV, 37 SO) has been instrumental in keeping this team in the hunt. He’s walked just one batter in his last 15 appearances.

The Chicago White Sox are one game under .500. Ace Mark Buehrle (7- 2, 3.26 ERA) is having an excellent season, and as of late, closer Bobby Jenks (18 SV, 3.21 ERA) has been solid. In his last three games, he has an ERA of 0.00 and had notched a save and a win. The White Sox are not playing great baseball, but they are winning.

AL West

Here’s the skinny on the West. The Oakland As are last week’s lunch meat. They are at 31- 43 and 10.5 games out of first. There are three other clubs in the division and all three are in the hunt. The major turn around has been in the performance of the Los Angeles Angels who struggled at the start of the season. But they’ve spun off five straight wins and have gone 12- 3 over their last 15! They start a huge series with the Texas Rangers tonight.

The Rangers are a mere 1.5 games in back of the Angels. Texas has been struggling as of late. They are at home and this is gut check time for the Rangers. It wasn’t that long ago that the team from the Lone Star State was on top of the division. In the next two weeks, the Rangers play the Angels six times, the Mariners four and the Rays three. This is a major stretch for Texas.

Finally, the Seattle Mariners, who are three out of first, are certainly still in the mix. They travel to play the Yankees after taking two-of-three from the NL West’s first place Dodgers. They’ve won 9-of-12. After the Yanks, the Mariners play the Red Sox and then the Orioles. Closer David Aardsma (1.49 ERA, 16 SV, 46 SO) is having a great year and ace Felix Hernandez (8- 3, 2.54 ERA), who just threw a four-hitter versus the Dodgers, has been a tough competitor.

Wrapping it Up

With just a few weeks to go before the All-Star break, this is a major stretch in the race for division contenders. Of course, perspective is needed. It is a season composed of 162 games and even clubs 10 games out can come back. Of course, in order to do so, they need the talent, skill and depth to turn things around.

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