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Saturday, June 1, 2013

MLB Weekly Walk-Off: Pittsburgh Dominance

Wild on Sports
MLB Weekly Walk-Off:
Pittsburgh Dominance
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Kyle Kargel

Many haven’t realized it yet, but one team is making a huge name for themselves, and they aren’t even a division leader. They’re winning games with their unstoppable bullpen and starting rotation that is led by Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett. The Pirates have the league’s best record since a week into April and have done it by playing small ball. The offense of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alverez have made the NL Central the best division in baseball with the Cardinals and the Reds still on fire. If the season were to end right now the NL Central would be sending three teams into the post season and it wouldn’t even be close. The closest teams are the Nationals who are still hovering around the .500 mark and the Giants who are still a few games over .500, but nowhere near the 13 games over .500 that the Pirates and Reds both are. The surprise struggle team of the past week has been the Royals who have just recently named former star George Brett their hitting coach to try and improve the hitting of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler. Fortunately for them the rest of the AL Central hasn’t been all that as of late as the Tigers only stand at five games over .500 after losing four straight. Also, if the Dodgers thought their season couldn’t get any worse, they were wrong. They placed all-star Matt Kemp on the DL with a strained hamstring which will put even more pressure on the already struggling Andre Ethier to produce for them. On a positive note, Hanley Ramirez has begun a rehab assignment. The Dodgers are looking for anyone to help get them near the .500 mark for the first time this season.

Studs of the Past Week

1. Domonic Brown OF Phi- It looks like the Phillies may have found their future after all. With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both still overcoming past injuries Brown has surged into the hearts of Phillies fans. Brown has hit seven homeruns since May 25 and he already has five more homeruns than he had the previous two seasons combined. Brown has been hitting in the five spot for the Phillies which can be a solid spot once everyone is back to their healthy form. Already with 15 homeruns, expect Brown to put 10-15 more over the fence before the end of the season, which could make him a top pick in next year’s draft.

2. Bartolo Colon SP Oak-
Colon must think he’s pitching in the late 90s the way he’s been throwing over the past week. Over his last 16 innings pitched he’s allowed zero runs, zero walks and only 14 hits. One of those was a complete game shutout which has lowered Colon’s ERA to 3.33. This is noble for a guy who was probably drafted in later rounds in most fantasy drafts. The stat that sets Colon apart from the rest is his 42:4 strike out to walk ratio on the season.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury OF Bos- After overtaking the league lead in steals with 21, Ellsbury looks to be all the way back from his injury plagued season from just a year ago. Ellsbury stole five bases last Thursday to go along with his three hits. In fact, Ellsbury was just hitting around the .240 mark a couple weeks ago, but has lifted that to a more respectable .268 now. With the Red Sox success so far, and Ellsbury leading off for them on a daily basis it’s possible to see Ellsbury reach the 50 SB plateau for the season. That is if he keeps his average around the .270 mark.

Duds of the Past Week

1. Bryce Harper OF Wash
- The injury bug has made its way to the Nationals, specifically Harper. Knee bursitis has kept Harper out of the lineup for most of the past week and might cost him a trip to the DL. Harper was on fire in Apr., but then cooled off in May after he was experiencing knee problems. He is still hitting near .280 so don’t count him all the way out, especially if he is smart and sits for the next two weeks nursing his injury.

2. Jason Heyward OF Atl- Once a prodigy of the Braves farm system, Heyward has fell off the map since coming off the DL a couple weeks ago. Heyward doesn’t have a hit in his last 15 at bats while his average has plummeted to .146. This may cause panic for those who drafted him high in fantasy drafts. Hopefully Heyward can pick up the pace and B.J. Upton can take notice. These two are getting juggled around the lineup on a daily basis to try and find a comfort zone, but this has been a failure for the Braves.

3. Cole Hamels SP Phi
- The last six decisions for Hamels haven’t been the best. Going 0-6 he has allowed two or more earned runs in each of those starts and has only pitched more than six innings one time. Specifically in the past week though Hamels has pitched 11 1/3 innings, allowing 18 hits and nine earned runs. After last year’s performance, many ranked Hamels as a top 15 starting pitcher for this year, but that has been far from the case. Hamels record currently stands at 1-9 and he has already surpassed last year’s loss total by three and it’s not even 60 games into the season yet. Hopefully Hamels can turn it around in a hurry or else it will be a 15-20 loss year for him.

Pickups for the Next Week

1. Jason Castro C Hou- How about a little love for the Astros for not having the worst record in the league. They’re on a four game winning streak and surprisingly enough, some of the credit goes to Castro. Catchers come at a premium and if yours is slumping Castro wouldn’t be a bad free agent pick up for your fantasy team.

2. Neil Walker 2B Pitt- Walker was a Tiger killer in the home and home they had with them slugging a go ahead homerun in the eleventh inning against them on May 28 and going nine for 18 against them overall and lifting his average from .240 to .273 over that span. If he can keep up what he’s done he can be a nice fill in at second base. Considering the Pirates are still on fire as a team, you know he will be accumulating some sort of stats somewhere in the box score.

3. Marcell Ozuna OF Mia- The Marlins are beyond terrible at this point and without slugger Giancarlo Stanton they’re looking for anyone to produce any sort of offense. Ozuna is on a 16 game winning streak, but you wouldn’t even realize that just because of how depleted the Marlins offense is. He’s batting .330 and he could be good for ten homeruns and 15 steals by seasons end. If he stays starting for the Marlins.

Key Match-ups in the Coming Week

Indians vs. Yankees- With the Yankees gaining almost their full team back and the Indians trying to stay afloat in the AL Central, these two are still trying to prove to their fans they’re for real. The Indians recently placed closer Chris Perez on the DL so that may hinder them as they move forward. The Yankees just activated Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis from the DL so it’ll be interesting how the Yanks manage their starters and their backups who have been playing superbly up until this point.

Pirates vs. Braves- The Pirates are surging and the Braves are still trying to find their identity while sitting atop the AL East. The Buccos will probably come down to earth during this series, but with the Braves trying to manage the slumping Heyward and B.J. Upton their heads may be somewhere else during this series.

Cubs vs. L.A. Angels- This is an interesting interleague matchup for a couple reasons. The Cubs are coming off an impressive interleague stint against cross town rival White Sox and surprisingly enough, these two almost have the exact same records. Sadly for the Cubs, they lost closer Kyuji Fujikawa to Tommy John Surgery so this might put a halt to any sort of run they may have had.


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