Turning Two – June 30th

Nearly half of the baseball season is over with, and tomorrow the calendar flips over to July. There’s such excitement in all of the divisional races. Everyone is over .500 in the AL East, five and a half games is all that separates the first and fourth place teams in the AL East and Central, the Pirates remain in a pennant race, and the San Francisco Giants have overtaken the Dodgers, who were the consensus NL Champions from April.

Pain-kees

It was not a good week for the New York Yankees, who lost CC Sabathia for two weeks with a strained adductor muscle, and then lost Andy Pettitte for two months when a line drive struck and broke his fibula. Sabathia’s trip to the DL is mostly precautionary, and he has said that if it were September and the Yankees absolutely needed him, he would not be going to the disabled list. The loss of Pettitte, who has been the Yankees best pitcher since he returned from retirement in mid-May, does hurt the Yankees, who will have to rely on Freddy Garcia until Pettitte returns in September. This is not too different from 2010, when Pettitte was lost for six weeks in mid-July, came back in September, and then threw two sparkling games in the post-season.

However, the cause for alarm should be there. Adam Warren’s first major league start did not go so well last night, as he gave up 6 runs in 2 1/3 innings. While Freddy Garcia’s velocity has returned from when he relegated to the bullpen, let’s remember that there is a reason he was sent to the bullpen in the first place. Still, the Yankee bullpen remains a strong point, aside from Thursday night’s 9th inning loss (which only happened because of a blown double play). If Garcia and/or Warren are not the answers, then help will have to come from somewhere else, whether its via trade or finding someone else in the minors.

Dodging First Place

The darlings of baseball from the first month of the season are no longer leading their division. The Dodgers have scored just two runs in their past five games, including being shutout by the San Francisco Giants earlier this week in all three of their games. Last night, R.A. Dickey shut out Los Angeles for eight innings before the Mets bullpen finished it up. While many will say the loss of Matt Kemp for the past two months has been the reason for their struggles, it is not the only factor. Yes, the Dodgers offensive numbers for June were putrid. How bad? They are last in the league in every relevant offensive category, including the most important one, runs scored. They are also last place in home runs and batting average. But Kemp is only one player. Andre Ethier, who tweaked his oblique muscle this past week, did not have a good June at all. Yes, there was no Kemp alongside him in the order, but he did not have him in the lineup in May, when he batted .355, hit four home runs and drove in 20. In June, all of Ethier’s number’s took a hit. His batting average dropped to .218, he hit only 1 home run and drove in only 11. Even more disappointingly, his slugging percentage dropped from .550 in April and May combined to just .322 in June.

Meanwhile, In San Fran

It could not be more different. The team hit .270 in June, which was up 12 points from May. They were last in the league in home runs during the month of May, with 11 dingers. They improved, but only slightly, to 17. But Matt Cain’s June is what has been the biggest difference. With Tim Lincecum still trying to find himself this season, Cain was lights out in June and up until he had to face the Cincinnati Reds last night, he had not given up more than three runs in a start since May 22nd against Milwaukee. All in all, Cain was 4-1 in June, with a perfect game and an ERA of 2.11. Cain has been the ace of the staff, and if Lincecum can build on his seven shutout innings against the Dodgers from Wednesday and return to his old self, the Giants will force the Dodger to play catch up in July and August.

R.A+

R.A. Dickey’s dominance in June was nothing short of awe-inspiring. As much as Matt Cain dominated June, Dickey’s complete work might be even better. It’s worthy of an All-Star Game start, and if the rest of the season is a fraction as good as his June, it’s Cy Young Award worthy. Here are his stats: 5-0, 0.93 ERA, a WHIP of 0.60, two shutouts, three complete games, and back to back complete game one-hitters. He did not allow an earned run from May 22nd against Pittsburgh until the third inning of last Sunday’s game against the Yankees. The one unearned run, which came in the 9th inning of his one-hitter against the Rays, snapped a streak of 32.2 scoreless innings, breaking the Mets franchise record held formerly by Jerry Koosman. His earned run streak was extended to 44.2 innings. To bounce back, Dickey decided to start another scoreless inning streak by throwing eight shutout innings against the Dodgers last night. He is the leading reason for the Mets’ success, where they stand just a few games behind the Nationals for first place in the NL East. Now if only the Mets could get a bullpen to help him.

Youkilis Changes His Sox

Kevin Youkilis was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox this week, ending an incredibly successful era in Boston. With Youkilis, the Red Sox won two World Series, went to three American League Championship Series, and were a perennial threat to win the World Series. During last Sunday’s game, an uncertain time where the Fenway Faithful heard the rumors and did not know if it would be the last time they would see Youk as a Red Sox, the fans took time to appreciate him after he doubled in a run to help beat the Atlanta Braves. I will always believe that Youkilis should have won the 2008 MVP Award over Dustin Pedroia (though they both had great years), because Kevin Youkilis was the heart and soul of that team. Its understandable that the Red Sox needed to trade him with the surging rookie Will Middlebrooks making important contributions, but its sad to see Youkilis go.

Follow me on Twitter @JustinCirillo

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