Baseball Presents Alternating Hot Streaks At Midseason

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Offensive Fireworks Challenging Dominant Pitching

By John Ventola

Baseball is such an interesting game, particularly when one looks beyond the surface. The game presents unusual patterns. While the general observer will often just notice an outstanding catch or a tremendous home run, baseball purists are quick to recognize and make mention of the ebb and flow of player and team performances over a period of time.

Whether it is the approaching July 4th holiday, or batters were just getting tired of

bat and ball

The Bats Have Come To Life

carrying their bats back to dugouts across the big league landscape, hitters have enjoyed a recent surge after struggling and being dominated by pitching in the first half of the 2016 season.

Chicago is known as the Windy City, but the early year performances of White Sox lefthander Chris Sale and Cubs righty Jake Arrieta may contribute to the city’s description. Both pitchers started the season 9-0, the extra force created on the Southside and Wrigley by the flailing bats trying to catch up with the explosive stuff of Sale and Arrieta.

Yesterday, the 27-year-old Sale won his fourteenth game of the season to become only the fifth pitcher to reach 14 wins before the All-Star break since 2000, the first since 2010. However, Sale experienced his first bad outing of the year in the victory. He gave up four earned runs as the White Sox outscored Houston 7-6. Sale has fashioned a 14-2 record while striking out 118.

And Arrieta, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner? Well, the Cubbie finds himself making headlines while seeing his mound performances dropping off

pitcher

Sale, Arrieta, Have Bad Outings While Kershaw Goes On DL

dramatically in the past two weeks. He threw his second no-hitter in less than a year in April (his other came last August), but lost his third game of the year yesterday. The loss dropped his ledger to 12-3 as he also, like Sale, gave up four earned runs in just 5.1 innings. Arrieta has seen his earned run average (ERA) rise to 2.33 with his third consecutive poor performance.

The headlines? Arrieta posed naked—the shaved athlete has just his strategically placed glove and famous beard—and is on the cover of ESPN’s The Magazine Body Issue that is now hitting newsstands.

Elsewhere, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and the Washington Nationals duo of Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer have all been putting up zeros as strong pitching ruled the box scores.

Kershaw leads the major leagues with a paltry 1.79 ERA (he is 11-2), but the Dodgers lefthander went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to his last start this past Sunday after experiencing lower back pain following his last two starts. Kershaw leads the

Baseball

Teams With Two Strong Starters Have Moved Into Division Leads

majors in innings pitched (121) and strikeouts (145). Lester has supported Arrieta with a solid 2.03 ERA, and Bumgarner (nine wins) and Cueto (12 victories) have led San Francisco to a five-game NL West lead over the Dodgers.

Strasburg has won all ten of his decisions while Scherzer, who threw two no-hitters last season, has struck out 148 hitters this season while posting a 9-5 record. The righties have the Nationals in first place in the NL East.

Only thirty-three players have batting averages at .300 or above (16 in the American League and 17 in the National League) as teams hit the midway point of the season. It has not been a good year thus far for the Louisville Sluggers—-but the last week shows that the lumber slumber might be coming to an end.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Angels and the Minnesota Twins became the first teams to score at least 17 runs in a game on the same day since August 12, 2008. The Angels started their July Fourth celebration by riddling the Red Sox staff for 21 runs and 22 hits. The Angels tied a major league record with three players driving in five runs. Star Mike Trout was relatively quiet (2-for-5), but future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols (2-run homer, three-run double), first baseman C.J. Cron (6-for-6, 5 RBIs) and catcher Carlos Perez (5-for-6, 6 RBIs) led the Fenway Park onslaught (I won’t reach for the Boston Massacre tie-in).

Cron and Perez were an unbelievable 11-for-11 before Perez made an out late in the game. They became the first teammates with at least five hits and five RBIs in a game

batter

Teammates Cron And Perez Have History Making Career Days

in eighty years, and the first teammates in major league history to combine for at least 11 hits and 11 RBIs in a game.

In the game, the Angels matched their run production for their previous six games. Minnesota, meanwhile, kept a recent hitting surge going, pummeling American League West leader Texas, 17-5. On June 26th, the Twins hit six home runs in Yankees Stadium to highlight a 7-1 victory.

Are pitchers getting weary with the innings pitched, has the summer heat sucked some liveliness out of their arms? Could be a little of each. One thing for sure, a couple of familiar names are leading American League hitters while an off-season free agent has added another potent bat to aid young superstar Bryce Harper with Washington.

Houston Hit Machine Jose Altuve is again sparking the Astros’ offense with his .355 batting average, and 40-year-old David Ortiz seems to be putting himself in position to question himself about retiring after this season. Ortiz is second in the AL with a .338 batting average. He has 19 home runs and 64 RBIs. Friday Ortiz hit his 522nd career home run, passing Ted Williams, Willie McCovey and Frank Thomas and taking over 19th place on the all-time home run list.

Daniel Murphy leads the National League with a .352 batting average. The second baseman was signed to a three-year, 37.5-million-dollar free agent contract by Washington after playing for the New York Mets last season.

It will be interesting to not only follow the pennant races (can any other team go on a 14-game winning streak like the Cleveland Indians?) during the second half of the season, but to tune in and see if pitching, or hitting, will ultimately determine the pennant winners. The six divisions are pretty well packed (only the Cubs, 9-game lead over St. Louis, and Texas, 8.5-game lead over Houston, have more than six game leads at the midway point).

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