- Mother’s Day Walk-Off Grand Slams. Both Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Votto made their mother’s happy yesterday, hitting game-winning grand slams. Stanton leveled the baseball he hit, blasting a no-doubt homer to left-center field, off the catwalk, over 430 feet away. Very few players have the power to hit a ball where Stanton hit his blast, and it caps off an impressive week for the young slugger. Stanton has 2 homers, 4 doubles, 10 RBI and is batting .381 over the last 10 games. The Marlins are going as Stanton goes, and it’s no coincidence that his hot streak has led to a 10 win-2 loss stretch for the team. Votto’s grand slam was a bit more dramatic, coming with 2 outs and 2 strikes, the Reds trailing by a lone run. He got a good pitch to handle from Henry Rodriguez and stayed on the ball to drive it to deep centerfield for a homer. Votto single-handedly won the game for Cincinnati, going 4-5 with 3 homers, a double, 4 runs scored, and 6 RBI. He bumped his batting average up to .319, and already leads the NL in walks and doubles. If Votto can keep it up he stands a good chance of winning his 2nd MVP award.
- Atlanta’s balanced attack. The most impressive series victory of the entire season in the National League occurred over the weekend when the Braves completed their sweep of the previously red-hot St. Louis Cardinals with a 7-4 victory on Sunday. Atlanta also passed St. Louis as the top-scoring team in the National League, with a total of 189 runs scored, good for 2nd in baseball. The Braves have been getting good contributions throughout the lineup, with 6 of their 9 hitters checking in with an OPS+ above the league average of 97. Freddy Freeman is really beginning to blossom into an All-Star caliber 1st baseman, showing a great ability to get on base and hit for power His OPS+ of 130 ranks 2nd on the Braves and he leads the team in homeruns, 6, and RBIs, 28. Michael Bourne has been terrific since coming over from Houston at last year’s trade deadline, and is hitting .336 with 11 steals. Jason Heyward’s back problems look like a thing of the past and he is showing a new aggressiveness on the base paths, with 9 steals already, 2 shy of his career high. With Dan Uggla and Brian McCann starting to heat up, Chipper Jones bombing the ball like he did a decade earlier as well as a deep pitching staff, the Braves have all the pieces to win the NL East title this year, even with all the depth in the division.
- Shine on you crazy Diamond. Scott Diamond posted his 2nd consecutive start of 7 innings without allowing a run for the Twins on Sunday, providing the Twins some sorely needed quality innings. Minnesota has allowed the 2nd most runs in baseball this season, and despite only making 2 starts, an argument can be made that Diamond has been the team’s most effective pitcher. It’s not terribly difficult to be the best when your competition is between Carl Pavano of the 5.02 ERA in 43 innings, or Jeff Gray, the middle reliever. In Diamond’s 14 innings he has yet to allow a run, while walking just 1 batter, allowing 9 hits, and striking out 10. Diamond primarily throws a high-80s to low-90s fastball, mixing in a solid curve and change-up. Minnesota’s offense has also been terrible as well, ranking last in the American League, but at least they have found a little magic out of the former Rule-5 draft pick from the Atlanta Braves.
- Los Angeles Dodgers Schedule. Wanna know the biggest reason for the Dodgers hot start this season? Yes Matt Kemp is amazing but the Dodger’s creampuff schedule also might have something to do with it. Jonah Keri discussed their schedule earlier in the season, and things haven’t really gotten any more difficult. The Dodgers have played 25 games against teams below .500, most in the entire league. They are 17-8 in those games, feasting on the likes of San Diego 7 times, Colorado 6 times, and NL Central weaklings Houston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh 3 times apiece. The Dodgers are a solid 6-3 in games against teams above .500, but with Matt Kemp sustaining a potential hamstring injury, and the Cardinals coming to town this week, expect the Dodgers to drop off.
- 2nd base in Detroit. This position has been comically bad for the Tigers so far this season. Detroit has tried 4 different players at the position so far, a group made up of Ryan Rayburn, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth, and current Oakland A’s 3rd baseman Brandon Inge. The group’s combined numbers: a .155 batting average with 1 homer, 3 doubles, and 5 RBI. Rayburn has received the most playing time at the position, and has been the worst of the entire group, hitting .135 on the season with only 6 walks, 5 doubles, and no homers in 99 at-bats. Rayburn could find himself cut from the team if he continues to remain this ineffective at the plate. No team that expects to be competitive can have a black hole on their roster the size of the one currently in Detroit at 2nd. The Tigers plan of Verlander, Fielder, Cabrera, and not much else was a risky one, and they seem to be paying the price in the early going, particularly at 2nd base.
- Bryce Harper’s Hype. Yes he’s 19 and a very, very explosive ball player. But Harper is only hitting .231 right now in his first 60 plate appearances and looks to be overwhelmed at the plate. He also has a bit of temper problem, and gave himself 10 stitches after a temper tantrum in the dugout where Harper tried to hit his bat on the clubhouse wall, only to have it rebound back in his face. The kid is only 19 and doesn’t have a single homerun at the Major League level yet so maybe the hype about him being the next Mickey Mantle (MLB Network) or Ken Griffey Jr. (ESPN) needs to stop. Let’s have some perspective please people. Both of those players had long, very successful careers and put in the hard work to become Hall of Famers. Harper may get there some day, but for now he’s a .231 hitter, with great speed, who is a little unsure in the outfield, which is why he is late getting to the ball and needs to dive so much. Let’s actually make him do the work, and become even an average Major League hitter before anointing him as the greatest player in history.