Just a few things that I have been thinking about over the past few days. Feel free to comment.
-If I am the Tampa Rays this morning, I am very concerned about my division lead right now. The Rays have looked tentative and scared while the Sox have looked poised and confident, like defending champions should look. The Sox have gained 5 games in the past 8 days as the Rays continue to lose close games.
-The Rays have succeed this season because of their pitching, but they will need to get more out of their offense in order to bust out of this funk and finally allow the team to relax. Unfortunately, the Rays are still missing Crawford and Longoria and it looks like BJ Upton will miss a few games. Yikes.
-One good thing for the Rays: they have Scott Kazmir on the hill tomorrow night. Kazmir has dominated the Sox in his career (3.02 ERA vs. Boston) and the Rays will need a clutch outing from Kazmir tomorrow if they are to retain their lead.
-I know they have fallen on tough times right now, but I still don't want to see the Diamondbacks in the playoffs. They are front loaded on starting pitching, which always bodes well for the playoffs. Between Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, and the exciting Max Scherzer; the Diamondbacks are still scary even though they are struggling. Don't sleep on them yet.
-Speaking of Scherzer, if the Diamondbacks make the playoffs, I think he will make a big impact either in the rotation or in the bullpen. In a perfect world, I would put Scherzer in the bullpen for the playoffs simply because he has lights out stuff. He reminds of the 2002 version of Francisco Rodriguez.
-The Brewers might have Sheets and Sabathia, but they are not going to go anywhere without an effective Solomon Torres because that bullpen is dreadful. Shouse and Torres are the only guys with an ERA under 4.
-With that said, the Mets are going to need a superhuman performance out of Luis Ayala down the stretch if the Mets are to make any noise in September and in the playoffs. The rest of the bullpen has the potential to be OK if Ayala proves to be a worthy closer simply because the Mets pen is filled with quality specialists. I still think that Pedro would be a good option if/when Ayala struggles. With that said, Get well soon Billy.
-My CY YOUNG awards right now go to Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum for a simple reason: both guys are the best pitchers in their respective leagues even though they play on horrible teams. For some reason, dominance becomes even more evident when your surrounded by crud, and both of these guys have been fantastic. Could you imagine if these guys played on contenders? The media would talk about them non stop.
-And finally, Albert Pujols will join Billy Wagner under the knife as they both will undergo Tommy John Surgery. In Pujols's case, he will have it done at the end of the season. The greatness of Pujols is evident when you think about this: Pujols hit .360 this season with 32 HR with a busted elbow. How amazing is that? Doctors always claim that pitchers return from Tommy John throwing better than they did before the surgery, so it should be fun to see how Pujols reacts to Tommy John at the dish. Hmmm...how about .380 with 50 HR....keep dreaming Cardinal fans.