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As a pitcher, I like to be I don't want to say perfect, but I want to know what the ball is going to do.
- Mariano Rivera

OK, Mariano, if you don't want to say it. I will. The man has been about as close to perfect as you could ask a pitcher to be.

Rivera's season got off to a shaky start. His first two appearances came against the Red Sox, and in both games he failed to hold a 3-2 lead. Jason Varitek hit a 9th inning homer to tie that first game, but the Yankees rallied to win in the bottom of the inning; the second time, his defense kicked the ball around, Rivera gave up 5 runs, 4 of them unearned, and took a loss.

Since then, he's been pretty sharp:

GP  W  L  SV  IPT  W  L   H  R ER   K  W HR  ERA
37  3  1  25  39.2 3  1  17  4  2  45  8  0  0.45
I mean, will you look at those numbers?

Varitek's home run that first week in April is the only one he's allowed all year. He's striking more hitters than at any time since he became the Yankees' closer. The batting line against him is .148, .210, .188 - that's an OPS of .398, people.

You're wondering how the hell did he lose a game pitching this way? Much the same way he lost his first game, against Boston. The Yankees made three errors in the tenth inning on May 6; Rivera allowed three runs, only one of them earned.

He gave up no more runs in May, none in June, and so far in July he's allowed one run. The Yankees had a two-run lead, and he closed it out for the save anyway.

What's really strange is that this incredible, incredible performance has taken place almost under the radar. The man who has already established himself as arguably the greatest relief pitcher who ever lived, on the most famous and notorious team of our time, is pitching the best ball of his amazing career. And no one really seems to be paying him much attention.

So will you look at those numbers? Unbelievable...

Moving on to mere mortals, Barry Zito gave up three runs last night. This was the most that Zito had allowed in more than a month, but seeing as how his team had already given him a 10-0 lead, it's possible that he was just taking his foot off the pedal. Zito's now 6-0, 1.25 in his last seven starts, and Oakland now leads the Wild Card chase. That was quick.

Did anyone see this coming at the end of May when they had a 17-32 record? Did Billy Beane think this was possible? And even if anyone thought they might get back into the hunt, who thought it could happen this fast? I mean, they were going to have to play .700 ball, right? What were the odds, seeing as how they couldn't even play .400 ball through the first two months...

Whatever it took. Since the end of May, they've played .740 ball - they've won 37 of 50. The Angels and the White Sox are the only teams in the AL with a better record.

The second hottest team in the AL would be the guys from Tampa Bay, who hung another loss on Curt Schilling last night. Schilling actually looked pretty good. Trot Nixon... not so much. Nixon, who might be the worst baserunner since Chet Lemon, managed to spike a Boston scoring chance in the top of the tenth inning. Nixon was on second base when he managed to get hit by John Olerud's ground ball single up the middle. How does that happen? In the bottom half of the inning, with two out and Cantu on first, Nixon tried to make a catch of Huff's deep liner and missed it, although Cantu could very well have scored no matter how he played it.

From the Flogging A Dead Horse Dept., here's a note from Friend of Batter's Box Aaron Gleeman

I realize this horse has been dead a while already and I have long since admitted total defeat, but:

2005 STATS             AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS     SALARY     
Shannon Stewart       .287     .337     .411     .748     $6,000,000
Bobby Kielty          .281     .376     .411     .787     $  875,000
Just saying.

OK, big showdown begins tonight - Washington goes to Atlanta to kick off a three game series. They have a four game series, at the end of August, also in Atlanta. The Braves come to Washington for three games in September. The two aces, Hernandez and Smoltz, kick things off tonight; tomorrow it's Loaiza and Hudson, and on Thursday it'll be Drese and Hampton.

The day's action:

AL
Texas (Rogers 11-4, 2.71) at Baltimore (Lopez 9-5, 4.37) 7:05
Minnesotia (Radke 6-9, 3.92) at New York (Johnson 10-6, 4.18) 7:05
Los Angeles (Byrd 9-6, 3.71) at Toronto (Chacin 9-5, 3.69) 7:07
Boston (Clement 10-3, 4.30) at Tampa Bay (Hendrickson 4-7, 6.82) 7:15
Chicago (Buehrle 11-3, 2.66) at Kansas City (Lima 3-8, 6.92) 8:10
Cleveland (Westbrook 7-12, 4.51) at Oakland (Blanton 5-8, 4.68) 10:05
Detroit (Johnson 6-8, 4.14) at Seattle (Pineiro 3-6, 5.72) 10:05

NL
Pittsburgh (Fogg 4-6, 4.92) at Florida (Moehler 6-6, 3.38) 7:05
Washington (Hernandez 12-4, 3.44) at Atlanta (Smoltz 11-5, 2.64) 7:35
Arizona (Webb 8-7, 4.03) at Milwaukee (Capuano 11-6, 3.80) 8:05
San Francisco (Lowry 6-10, 4.69) at Chicago (Maddux 8-7, 4.55) 8:05
Philadelphia (Lieber 9-9, 4.88) at Houston (Oswalt 13-8, 2.41) 8:05
New York (Ishii 3-8, 5.15) at Colorado (Francis 8-7, 5.57) 9:05
St.Louis (Mulder 11-5, 3.98) at San Diego (Williams 5-6, 4.57) 10:05
Cincinnati (Milton 4-10, 7.08) at Los Angeles (Perez 5-5, 4.56) 10:10

This Day In Baseball: 26 July 2005 | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Blue in SK - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 11:58 AM EDT (#123838) #
Probably the wrong place for this post, but not sure where else it belonged.

Interesting quote below from JP in The Star.


Ricciardi said yesterday that he has one potential deal on tap, but the makeup of the current 49-49 squad won't be dramatically overhauled.

"We have something going with someone, but we'll know more about it in midweek or so,'' said Ricciardi


I'm guessing, Justin Speier gets moved. He's getting expensive and the team seems to only use him in non-high leverage situations, perhaps making his numbers a little better than they appear. Plus, the Jays seem to have a plethora of minor league pitching types that could be plugged into that role.
alsiem - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 12:08 PM EDT (#123839) #
I see that Phil Nevin has also refused his trade to the Orioles. I think that's to our benefit as Ponson will remain on the books.
Named For Hank - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 12:26 PM EDT (#123840) #
Nixon, who might be the worst baserunner since Chet Lemon, managed to spike a Boston scoring chance in the top of the tenth inning. Nixon was on second base when he managed to get hit by John Olerud's ground ball single up the middle. How does that happen?

Mrs. Hank and I were watching the end of last night's game and saw the play about a dozen times on replays of various speed. It looked like Nixon was trying to be fancy -- I think he was trying to get the ball to go between his legs to mess up the fielder behind him. At the very least, he was attempting to screen it. Anyways, it sort of curved in on him and he got nailed. Had he taken one more step before freezing, the ball would have gone behind him without a problem.
Pepper Moffatt - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 12:30 PM EDT (#123842) #
The Pads have lost 7 in a row and now are just 3 games ahead of the DBacks for the NL West title. I think that division is now officially interesting. Like a trainwreck, perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.
jvictor - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 12:43 PM EDT (#123843) #
I think the reason Rivera is having such a great season is that the Yanks are losing more games. It has got to help that he dosn't have be in 3-4 games a week.
Pistol - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 12:43 PM EDT (#123844) #
"I'm guessing, Justin Speier gets moved. He's getting expensive ....Plus, the Jays seem to have a plethora of minor league pitching types that could be plugged into that role."

The Jays chose to give Speier a two year deal (when they could have just signed him for one) and he's certainly performed this year, even if his usage is less than I'd like, so I'd be surprised if it's him. Plus $2.25MM isn't that much money, especially for one year, on a team whose budget is jumping $20-$30MM next year.

Expecting one of the pitching prospects to be able to match Speier's success would be a lot, especially given the success (or lack thereof) of League and Gaudin so far (and to a lesser degree Downs and Whiteside).
Blue in SK - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 01:26 PM EDT (#123848) #
Pistol - If Justin is signed for next year, then I agree he's staying put. I thought he was finishing the second year of his current deal.

Although, I do still believe Speier can be replaced with internal alternatives; such as League, Gaudin, or Arnold (especially since the latter 2 are out of options).
Mike Green - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 01:29 PM EDT (#123849) #
Blue, Jason Arnold has struggled mightily in Syracuse this year in a relief role. Expecting him to succeed in the major leagues next year seems a little much.
BaseballNorth - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 02:33 PM EDT (#123856) #
Like a trainwreck, perhaps, but interesting nonetheless.

And like a trainwreck none of us are able to look away.

Personally I'd rather follow a "real" division race. I can't remember the last time that so many teams were legitimate contenders for both the AL and NL wild cards. I'd love to see few trades at the deadline and at least a 3 horse race for each card.
Lefty - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 03:03 PM EDT (#123858) #
The below extract from the LA Times.


The Angels will get a firsthand look beginning today at Toronto third baseman Shea Hillenbrand, who is batting .297 with 12 homers and 54 runs batted in and has been the subject of trade rumors involving the Angels, who could be looking to bolster their offense with a right-handed bat before Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline.

But with Toronto in the thick of the playoff race, ace Roy Halladay expected back from the disabled list soon and the team reportedly pursuing Florida pitcher A.J. Burnett, the Blue Jays appear to be in more of a buying than selling mode, and it's doubtful they would part with one of their most productive hitters for prospects.

Ron - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 03:41 PM EDT (#123859) #
Doc was a scheduled guest on Rome today. Did anybody tune in?
Mike T - Tuesday, July 26 2005 @ 05:10 PM EDT (#123864) #
Koskie activated, Gaudin sent down.
This Day In Baseball: 26 July 2005 | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.