The Week Ahead: Hurlers aim for repeat performances
Miller, Wainwright, Cobb, Sale, Lincecum look for continued success in next start
This week brings us to the middle of May. This means the 2013 season is almost a quarter of the way over. This means the plot is thickening throughout Major League ballparks.
What will we see this week? Too much to talk about, but based on what we saw last week, a few things leap to the forefront, including some really good pitching that's coming right after some record-setting pitching.
Cardinals teammates Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright made some history last week by retiring 40 Rockies hitters in a row between Friday and Saturday, matching an all-time mark for most consecutive hitters retired by one team against another, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Miller threw a one-hitter, Wainwright a two-hitter, and one has to wonder what's coming this week, with Miller slated to go Wednesday and Wainwright on schedule to pitch Thursday, both against the Mets.
"When you follow Roger Clemens in the rotation like I have been, it makes you focus a little bit more," Wainwright said, referring to Miller. "These young guys are pushing me. And I appreciate it."
The White Sox appreciate their lefty ace, Chris Sale, who threw a one-hitter on Sunday and will follow it up this week.
And what about Alex Cobb? The Rays right-hander also made some history, striking out 13 Padres in his last outing in only 4 2/3 innings. It marked the first time in Major League history that a pitcher fanned 13 batters in an appearance lasting fewer than five innings.
"It was weird; obviously that's not my goal," Cobb said. "[I] never go into a game trying to strike everybody out. But I was trying to put balls over the plate and have them make weak contact, and they were swinging and missing.
"So, you know, the first and second strike, I'm just trying to have them put the ball into play. Once I get to that point, I'm trying to finish them off. I can't really explain why or how that happened; it was just one of those weird days."
This week, Cobb is set to face the Red Sox and early-season American League Cy Young Award contender Clay Buchholz on Thursday at home.
And for the struggling Dodgers, some good news might very well come in the form of Zack Greinke, who is ready to pitch a month after breaking his left collarbone.
"It won't be his decision," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It's not so much that he's ready to pitch here, it's that they're willing to take the risk of everything that could happen while he's pitching here. I think we would all like it to be here. But I'd also like him to be totally ready."
Speaking of ready, how about Curtis Granderson? The Yankees have been doing quite well without their dynamic outfielder, but Granderson has been rehabbing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is getting very close. Maybe close enough to come back this week, even, but he'll have to build up the stamina.
"Back-to-back nine-inning games are going to be big," Granderson said. "At-bat wise, we originally talked about 50 at-bats. Right now, I'm approaching 40. Those two things are going to be the big thing for me, then we should be really close. I'll have evaluations with the team after the series, and then we'll go from there."
So will the Red Sox in their first week without Joel Hanrahan. The reliever will undergo season-ending surgery next week to repair a damaged flexor tendon in his throwing arm. Boston will continue to use Junichi Tazawa as its closer for the time being, while Andrew Bailey recovers from a right biceps strain.
In healthier news, Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is on his way back after emergency appendectomy surgery on April 23 and could be with Atlanta soon. He enjoyed his best rehab game to date, racking up two hits for Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday. Heyward's return would be a welcome sight for Atlanta, which enters the week on a three-game losing streak but remains atop the National League East because Washington has lost two in a row.
Elsewhere, the resilient Yankees continue to confound, bringing a five-game winning streak into the week, and the Rangers continue to cruise in the AL West, having won four in a row entering Monday.
As for those defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants, well, they're not doing too shabby, either. They've won three in a row to open up a two-game lead in the NL West, and on Sunday, they got a terrific start from Tim Lincecum, which will not bode well for the rest of the NL if it continues. Lincecum pitched seven shutout innings against Atlanta, struck out seven and improved to 3-2 while lowering his season ERA to 4.07.
"I'm not jumping up in the air right now," Lincecum said. "... It's a work in progress. I'm still working to get better."
The next outing in that progression is scheduled for Saturday against the Rockies in Colorado.
It's just one of many intriguing developments in what should be a full week of baseball in the middle of May.