Pitching was the story for Dusty Baker’s squad. Against Pittsburgh, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey threw back-to-back shutouts. Bronson Arroyo delivered a strong outing, and Mike Leake won his starts against both the Pirates & Cards. Cincinnati supported its pitching with an offense that drilled the ball in the gaps. They hit more doubles than their opponents by a 17-7 count, with Scott Rolen’s four leading the way. Big weeks from Jay Bruce, Jonny Gomes and Drew Stubbs further augmented the attack.
While the weekend series win over St. Louis at home was gratifying, it was the early part of the week where the Reds did their damage in the standings, thanks to the Cardinals’ complete disappearance against the Astros. St. Loo was swept three straight, with Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols being the only ones able to generate any offense. Lest you think this was a case of the Astros’ playing better of late, this series is the only one they’ve won in three weeks and they turned around and were promptly swept in Frisco over the weekend. There will be no panic on a Tony LaRussa team that still has the horses, but this week gave a burst of real life to a good baseball town on the Ohio River that needs a shot in the arm.
It was a good week in Hollywood too, as both the Dodgers and Angels picked up ground. Joe Torre’s club in particular played extremely good baseball, sweeping Arizona and San Diego on the road and moving to within two games of the lead in the NL West. Andre Ethier hit the gaps all week, James Loney and Russell Martin each popped a couple home runs and Manny Ramirez kept getting on base, drawing weeks and posting a .46 2 OBP clip for the week. Clayton Kershaw dominated on the mound. In his two starts he averaged 7.5 innings per start and gave up a grand total of one run. The bullpen was flawless. Hong Chih-Kuo was perfect in three setup innings, and Jonathan Broxton slammed the door four times without a run. It’s easy to see why Torre’s team went 6-0 in Week 6.
Across town, Mike Scoscia’s Angels swept Oakland and moved to within 2.5 games of frontrunning Texas. It was a rough week for the A’s, who ended it by losing five straight. On balance, this is still the division no one wants to step up and take. Texas is the only team over .500, and barely so at 20-18. The longer you keep Scoscia in the picture, the more likely it is he will find the answers to steal it
And in the AL Central, it was a nice week for Detroit, who warmed the hearts of all baseball fans who think the Yankees & Red Sox get too much attention. The Tigers went 5-2 against the Fox favorites. It might have been billed as the week of Johnny Damon’s revenge, as he took on his last two employers. But other than a big ballyhooed home run in the first Yankee game, Damon was silent, hitting just four singles the rest of the week. The twin powers of Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera carried the offense, and Eddie Bonine was an unsung hero out of the bullpen. In four appearances, he logged seven innings and gave up only two runs against a couple offenses that know how to hit. And at the bottom of the AL Central, Cleveland showed a little pride, in taking series from both Kansas City and Baltimore and moving up to a distant third place.
Finally, a couple notes on the Royals. I’ve made a couple references to them being the only team not having won a series yet this year. Not only did they win one, beating the Chicago White Sox, but as I was reviewing everything I found they won one in Detroit at the outset of Week 2. My apologies to Kansas City fans. And to Trey Hillman. I can only hope my drumbeat about his failure to win one didn’t cause his firing this week (please note the self-deprecating sarcasm in the remark). See you tomorrow afternoon to size up Week 7.