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Baseball Notebook: Rays, Bonds Trial News
Rays Slow Down Cubs In Three Game Sweep
If there was any doubt that the Tampa Bay Rays are for real this season, they put those doubts to rest, as they concluded a three game sweep of the Chicago Cubs (the team with the best winning percentage in the Majors) by defeating them 8-3 on Thursday. The win moved them to within a game and a half of the Boston Red Sox. Carl Crawford hit a grand slam in the seventh inning that keyed a seven run inning for the Rays. Evan Longoria drove in his 35th run of the season, which is good for third on the Rays, and only four behind the team leader B.J. Upton, who currently has 39. Upton has 34 more at-bats than Longoria.
The Rays host the Houston Astros today, who are 3-17 since the 27th of May, with Matt Garza (5-3) facing Roy Oswalt (5-7). All three pitchers the Rays face in this three game series have losing records.
Greg Anderson's Wife Being Investigated By IRS
The IRS is investigating the wife of Greg Anderson, the former trainer for Barry Bonds, and may be forcing Anderson into a corner he can't get out of. His wife, identified as Nicole Gestas, was given a target of an investigation letter four days after the release of Anderson from prison.
Anderson is the key to convicting Barry Bonds of perjury, and by putting his wife in jeopardy of a prison sentence, they may try to work a deal with Anderson so that if he talks, his wife might go free or face reduced charges.
With this latest development, Anderson may agree to talk to avoid seeing his wife affected if he does not talk. If Anderson testifies against Bonds, it is almost a certainty that Bonds would face time in prison. It remains to be seen what other evidence the federal government has against Bonds that could convict him but Anderson could remove any doubt that Bonds perjured himself with his testimony.
Around the Bases
Alex Rodriguez had 27 homers on this date last season, but a year later, he has only 14. Last season he hit his 14th homer on April 23rd. On this date last season he had 74 RBI's, but this year he has only 41 and 46 other players in the Majors have more RBI's than Rodriguez. He did miss some playing time while on disabled list this season, but it is doubtful he would have equaled the numbers of last season if healthy all season. He apparently has enough at-bats now to qualify for the AL lead in batting with mlb.com, listing him and Joe Mauer as the league leaders with .335 averages. His .629 slugging percentage this season is the third best of his career.
Mariano Rivera had an ERA of 3.15 last season, which was his worst ERA since his debut season of 1995, but his ERA of this season is his best ever at 0.79. A closer look at his statistics this season show exactly how effective he has been. In 34 innings, he has allowed only 3 earned runs and only 15 hits. He has struck out 39 and walked only 3 this season, and has yet to blow a save.
Any hopes Chipper Jones had of hitting .400 this season are fading fast, as he is hitting .394 after having only 5 hits in his last 27 at-bats, and is hitting only .321 this month. Yesterday was the first time since April 12th that he was hitting under .400. Jones has also lost his Major League lead in hits to Cristian Guzman, who has an even 100 hits.
Jermaine Dye hit a grand slam and drove in 6 runs in a 13-8 win by the Chicago White Sox over the Toronto Blue Jays. In his last 4 games, Dye has hit four homers and driven in 11 runs. Gavin Floyd (8-3) has won 6 of his last 7 decisions and has been consistent with ERA's of 3.16 in April, 3.27 in May, and 3.12 in June.
Emil Brown of the Oakland Athletics was among the AL RBI's leaders earlier in the season but hasn't had an RBI in his last 42 at-bats, and is hitting only .087 this month. His last RBI was on May 25th and that was almost a month ago. Since May 21st, he has had only 2 extra base hits and both of those came on May 29th. Last month, Brown struck out 15 times in 112 at-bats, but this month he has struck out 11 times in only 23 at-bats. His .276 on base percentage this season is even more alarming.
The A's need Frank Thomas to return to the lineup. He is currently leading the team in batting average (.319), OPS (.933), slugging percentage (.516, which is 62 points higher than second place Jack Cust at .454), and is tied with Cust in on-base percentage (.417). The impatient Blue Jays could have waited for Thomas to come out of his early season slump, but their loss is Oakland's gain. Thomas won't be returning anytime soon since he has been told to not participate in any baseball activities until July 1st, which probably means he won't play again till right before or right after the All Star game.
Zack Greinke (6-4) started off the season with a 3-0 record, but won his first game since May 18th yesterday. In April, he had an ERA of 1.25, but in May and June it has been 4.38 and 4.68, respectively. He may be back on track now with the last game he pitched. In his first two starts in June, he gave up 12 runs and 15 hits in 11 innings. In his last two starts, he has given up one run and 5 hits in 14 innings.
What a difference a year makes: Last year, Aaron Harang had a 16-6 record, but this year, with the 2008 season almost half over, he has a 3-10 record. Harang has only won twice in his last 14 starts.
Dave Bush (3-7) pitched 8 innings and allowed one run and two hits then the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen entered the game and almost clutched defeat from the jaws of victory. In the top of the ninth, they allowed the Blue Jays to score 6 runs and garner 5 hits as the Blue Jays lost the game 8-7 after the Brewers had an 8-0 lead after 5 innings. Russell Branyan hit his 10th homer in only 62 at-bats this season. He is hitting .365 against righthanders, but is 0-for-10 against lefthanders, so he and Bill Hall should continue their platoon at third base. In 163 at-bats with the Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres, and St. Louis Cardinals in 2007, Branyan hit 10 homers in 101 more at-bats than this season.
If the AL All-Star voting results remain as they are now, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will fill 7 of the 9 positions in the batting order with the only outsiders being Josh Hamilton and Ichiro Suzuki. David Ortiz is leading in votes for DH, but Hideki Matsui, second in voting, will almost certainly take his place on the All Star roster. I can't recall an All Star game with two teams taking up 7 of 9 spots in batting order.
In the NL voting, the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros will have 5 of the 9 spots in the NL batting order unless someone currently leading loses their lead. The NL infield voting should remain the same with Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, Miguel Tejada, and Chipper Jones leading the voting. However, Tejada is being challenged by Hanley Ramirez and could lose his lead.
The Cubs have the two top leading vote getters in the outfield in Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome, but it is unknown at this time if Soriano will be able to play but more than likely he will be replaced. Ken Griffey Jr. is third in the voting, and if Soriano is unable to play, Ryan Braun should get to be in the starting lineup. It would be a shame if Griffey gets the start ahead of Braun. Braun is leading NL outfielders in hits with 84 while Griffey only has 58. Braun leads Griffey in homers 20-7 and in RBI's 55-30 and in extra base hits by 41-21.