Saturday, May 26, 2007

Guerrero, Angels Down Bombers; Reynolds Hot D-Back; Bonds Under Pressure

Friday's Peak Performers and Fabulous Flops American League Vladimir Guerrero (right) singled and doubled twice in 5 at-bats, scored twice and drove in 2 runs as the LA Angels opened an important 3-game series in NY by whipping the Yankees, 10-6, maintaining their 4-game lead over Oakland in the AL West. The Angels' Orlando Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 15 games, chasing Yankee Derek Jeter, whose 19-game streak is currently the longest in the majors. Jeter singled and scored in 4 at-bats while teammate Alex Rodriguez cracked his major league best 19th home run - a 2nd-inning solo shot off starter Jered Weaver. It's all about Boston - Despite what Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner may think, or hope, the Boston Red Sox continue to pull away in the AL East. On Friday, Daisuke Matsuzaka became the third AL pitcher to reach 7 wins, joining teammate Josh Beckett and the Angels' John Lackey. Dice-K wasn't great, allowing 5 earned runs off 7 hits and 3 walks, but the Sox put a 10-spot on the board, beating the host Rangers, 10-6. Boston, now 32-15, is 10 1/2 games to the good on New York. Other AL Scores Oakland 3 Baltimore 2 - D. Haren (W, 5-2) 7 IP, 2 H, 1 ER Cleveland 7 Detroit 4 - Indians take 1/2-game lead on Tigers in AL Cent. Minnesota 4 Toronto 3 Seattle 10 Kansas City 2 - I. Suzuki, 18-gm. hit streak Chicago White Sox 5 Tampa Bay 4 National League Mark Reynolds (right) smacked a pair of homers, tripled, singled twice, drove in 4 runs and scored 4 times in a 5-5 performance as the Arizona Diamondbacks slammed the reeling Houston Astros, 13-3, Friday night. Reynolds, called up recently from AAA Tuscon to replace injured Chad Tracy, is batting .459 in his first 10 games in the majors. The second of a 4-game set at Arizona went pretty much the same way as the first, won by the D-Backs, 9-1 on Thursday. Friday's loss was the Astros' sixth straight. Arizona remains 2 back of the Dodgers in the NL West. Rookie 3rd baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff extended his hitting streak to 8 games with his first major league grand slam in the Padres' 8-4 win over visiting Milwaukee - the first of a 3-game weekend series in San Diego. Kouzmanoff added a double giving him 13 hits in his last 25 at-bats (.520). The Padres remain a game behind the Dodgers in the contentious NL West, while the Brewers - despite losing their last 3 and 10 of their last 14 - maintain a 6-game bulge on the Cubs in the NL Central. What's wrong with Barry? In the first inning of Friday night's 5-3 Colorado win at San Francisco, Rockies' starter Jason Hirsh got himself into a real jam. Randy Winn, the Giants' leadoff hitter, singled and Hirsh then issued walks to Rich Aurilia and Ryan Klesko, loading the bases. Up to the plate strode Barry Bonds, ten homers shy of the all-time record. Hirsh couldn't walk him, nor could he reasonably pitch on the edges. He had to give Barry something hittable. He did, and Bonds grounded into a routine 4-6-3 double play. Winn scored, but the at-bat pointed up the latest baseball banter about the suddenly struggling "King of Swing", who hasn't homered since May 8 - a span of 13 games in which Bonds has played (he sat out games on May 15 and 23, incidentally, both one-sided Giants' wins) - his longest dinger drought of the season. So, what's wrong with Bonds? Could it be a sore hamstring? Or maybe, as Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle suggests, Bonds is being too passive at the plate and umpires aren't giving him the benefit of the doubt on close pitches. That's a reasonable argument, along with the theory that there isn't a pitcher in the majors who wants to give up another Barry bomb, and they aren't giving him good pitches to hit. But even the best pitchers make mistakes, often when trying to nibble at the corners, and Barry hasn't bashed any of those muffs lately. Over his last 13 games, Barry is just 5-36 (.139) with no RBI and 7 whiffs, mostly on called third strikes. It could be injury or simply a bad slump, but maybe, as Bonds approaches 43 years of age, Father Time is finally slowing him down. All those years Barry wasn't using any performance-enhancing drugs may finally be taking their toll. Of course, there is the pressure of the situation.
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Roughly the same percentage of people who believe Barry used juice also don't want him to reach Aaron's record 755 home run mark - about 70% - but Barry wants it badly and, after all, he is human and is likely to be pressing. But the pressure will not wane. As he gets closer, it's going to get harder - if he gets closer. It's a shame - just 10 home runs from immortality, yet a world away in reality. Fickle fate and his own super-inflated ego may prove to be Barry Bonds' worst enemies. Other NL Scores NY Mets 6 Florida 2 Pittsburgh 10 Cincinnati 4, 10 innings - Pirates score 8 in top 10th Washington 5, St. Louis 4 - LP: A. Reyes (0-8); Cards 5-8 last 13 gms. Philadelphia 8, Atlanta 3 - Phils' Ryan Howard back from DL (1-4, 2 RBI) LA Dodgers 9, Chicago Cubs 8 - J. Kent HR (8), 4 RBI

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