June 29, 2006


Crisp turns on the jets to beat the Mets: What started as a superb pitching duel between two aces wound up as a star turn by Coco Crisp -- first on the bases and then in the field. (STEVEN KRASNER, 6/30/06, Providence Journal)

Crisp's beautifully deadened leadoff bunt single in front of the plate, a first-pitch stolen base that came courtesy of a huge jump, a nicely executed sacrifice bunt by Alex Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis' sacrifice fly to left manufactured the run that snapped a 2-2 tie in N.L.-like fashion.

And Crisp's speed saved the game defensively, too. Crisp ran down David Wright's potential score-tying two-out gapper off Mike Timlin in the eighth, backhanding the ball a few inches off the ground with an all-out dive in left-center.

Or they can beat you with small ball and great defense.

Sox grab some perfection: Crisp ‘D’ keys 12th in a row (Michael Silverman, 6/30/06, Boston Herald)

Breaking every law of gravity in the books, Coco Crisp and his soaring catch in the eighth inning last night now stands as the signature moment for a suddenly invincible 2006 Red Sox team.

And just think, it was just one of a dozen or so beautifully large and unselfishly small moments of defense, offense and pitching in a 4-2 Red Sox victory over the Mets that should be downloaded into the hard drives of baseball history as one of the most picture-perfect baseball games any team could wish to play.

Not only did the Red Sox do everything right, their efforts meant their winning streak grew to 12 games (nine at home), their lead grew to four games over the idle Yankees in the AL East and they now share the MLB record for the most games (16) played in a row without an error. [...]

“That was one of the most exciting moments I have ever experienced on a baseball field,” veteran second baseman Mark Loretta said of the Crisp catch. “You should see the replay - every one of the infielders had raised their hands.”

Mariners sweep D-Backs (DAVID ANDRIESEN, 6/30/06, Seattle P-I)

At some point, a team crosses a line between just playing well and starting to put together something special.

Mariners manager Mike Hargrove thinks the road trip that ended Thursday night with a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Diamondbacks might just have carried his team over that line.

"Winning a game like this tells you a lot of things," Hargrove said. "The biggest thing it tells you is that these guys are starting to believe in themselves, and that's a big, big hurdle we have to get over."

It's something that has been building the past 10 days.

"It was there a little bit before, but probably (on this trip)," Hargrove said. "It really came to the front in L.A."

In Los Angeles, the Mariners took two of three from the Dodgers with late-game rallies. They went to San Diego and won two of three again. Thursday night they capped a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks with the most unlikely win of them all.

With Thursday's victory, the Mariners took over second place in the American League West and are a half-game ahead of Texas, which lost 2-1 to San Francisco. Seattle remains two games behind division leader Oakland, which got past San Diego 6-5 in 14 innings. [...]

Meche pitched well for the fifth straight start, allowing six hits and one earned run in seven innings. He finished June 3-0 in five starts with a 1.60 ERA.

Detroit is deep in pitching (Jason Beck, 6/29/06, MLB.com)
Chris Carpenter, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte came to town in the past week. All three were outpitched.

Johan Santana met the same fate last month. So did Cincinnati's Aaron Harang. Scott Kazmir was basically pitched to a draw two weeks ago. All of them have become evidence in the story of the 2006 Tigers, that Detroit is deep in pitching. [...]

The numbers are impressive on their own. As an entire pitching staff, the Tigers' 3.45 ERA is nearly a half-run lower than any other team in the big leagues and three-quarters of a run under the next-best in the American League. The Padres' are next lowest at 3.89. The Yankees are second-lowest in the AL at 4.18.

Whittle the numbers to starting pitchers only, and the difference is even more dramatic. The Tigers lead the Majors with a 3.39 ERA. The next-best team, the Giants, come in at 4.14. The A's are next-best in the AL at 4.31. They also boast the most wins, lowest WHIP ratio, lowest slugging percentage and second-lowest on-base percentage allowed of any Major League rotation.

For the past month, they've been even stingier than that. They've posted a 15-2 record and 2.55 ERA in 25 games since June 2, holding opponents under a .240 average. It has gone on so long that Leyland has openly wondered if his starters are trying to top each other as much as the opponent.

He might be right.

N.B. Of course, even the Royals are over .500 in Interleague play, All around, AL shows elders who is boss (Tracy Ringolsby, June 30, 2006, Rocky Mountain News)

The Senior Circuit is developing an inferiority complex.

Numbers don't lie.

The truth is, the American League has become the dominant league.

The American League has won 10 of the past 14 World Series, with Boston and Chicago sweeping St. Louis and Houston the past two years.

The American League has won the past eight All-Star Games that have not ended in a tie (which happened in Milwaukee in 2002).

And now this.

The AL has a 131-79 edge in interleague play this season. The most lopsided season in the nine previous years of interleague play was 2003, when the NL had a 137-115 edge.

NL May Be Out of Its League (Thomas Boswell, June 30, 2006, Washington Post)
Most of the big stories in baseball at the moment are really just different manifestations of one large trend. The American League is kicking the living daylights out of the National League like no league has ever dominated the other.

Baseball has never seen a slaughter like this. With interleague play mercifully ending on Sunday, the AL entered yesterday's games with a stupendous 127-75 advantage, the kind of .629 winning percentage that we associate with a 102-win champion. This season, a typical interleague game has been a travesty of a mismatch -- the equivalent of a World Series contender playing a cellar-dweller. Or -- and this is a painful thought for baseball -- a big league team playing a bush league bunch. Is the NL now the new Class AAA?

On the surface, we see teams that have suddenly gotten scalding hot as the summer arrives while other clubs seem to have simultaneously fallen apart. The stunning hot streaks of the Tigers, Twins, White Sox and Red Sox compete for our daily attention with the collapses of supposed contenders like the Braves and Phillies and the slump of the Cards. Close to home, the Nats are on the verge of folding like the Pirates and Cubs while the Orioles show signs of life. However, in every case, the truth serum of interleague play has brought each team's strengths or weaknesses into the spotlight.

What is at work, under the surface, is complete hegemony by the AL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 29, 2006 10:00 PM

Damon: .295 /.369 /.477
Crisp .293/.338/.408

Damon's ops, you'll notice, is exactly 100 pts higher.

Fielding-wise both are below average at an equal 97 Rate via BP. (Tho of course Crisp's 97 is way above his dreadful career rate as a cf of 90.

As for the Sawx d, yeah they're extraordinarily sure-handed, but their defensive efficiency on balls in play is only .703, good for only 12th in mlb (Yanks at .712 are 6th).

Enjoy this streak while you can. The Sawx have neither the defense nor the pitching to stick with the Yanks who are superior in both, and who match the Sawx hitting-wise, even spotting them their starting corner outfielders.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 30, 2006 2:25 PM

Yes, Coco is coming back from an injury. He'll pass him just as Gonzo passed Hanley. Of course Damon would never have gotten to that ball.

You Yankee fans are so of the moment you'd think you'd notice you're 4 back.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2006 3:20 PM

Our local rag, in its summary of the game, (probably from a wire service) said your boy Papelbon "pitched a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 26 chances, tying Dick Radatz's club record for rookies set in 1962".

Didn't keep track of saves back then, did they? If so I didn't notice.

Dick Radatz. There's a misty memory.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 30, 2006 6:43 PM