Around the Major Leagues: 2013 Week 18

Shane Victorino: AL Player of the Week

All the news from around the major leagues as the 2013 August moves into its final three weeks.

AL East

Boston outfielder Shane Victorino was named AL Player of the Week for the period ending on August 4th. Victorino went 12-for-30 (.400) during the week with seven runs scored. He also hit two home runs and drove in six baserunners.

It has been a really rough week for Mariano Rivera. The future Hall of Famer entered Sunday's game against Detroit with a 4-2 lead, but blew the save by allowing solo home runs to Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez (though the Yankees would eventually go on to win the game by a score of 5-4). It marked the third consecutive blown save for Rivera, the first time that has occurred in his career. It was only the third time he allowed two home runs in an inning as a relief pitcher, following July 18, 1998 against the Blue Jays and May 7, 2009 against the Rays. Cabrera also went deep against Rivera on Friday night, making him the first player ever to homer in consecutive at bats against the Yankees' closer.

It wasn't all bad for the Yanks, however. Alex Rodriguez hit his first home run of the season in the second inning off Justin Verlander in the victory. That snapped a streak of 247 consecutive at bats without a homer by Yankees' third basemen. That span was the longest such streak by the team from that position since going 269 consecutive at bats without a long ball during the 1996 season. Despite the home run, Rodriguez still felt his fair share of hearty boos from the home crowd.

AL Central

Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-5 with a home run in the Tigers' 9-3 victory over the Yankees. It was the ninth time this season that Cabrera had at least three hits and one homer in a game, the highest total in the majors. And his lifetime total of 76 such games ties Albert Pujols for the most in MLB since 2003, Cabrera's rookie season.

Even though he's not having one of the best seasons of his career, Alex Gordon has shown signs of brilliance atop the Kansas City lineup. And he always seems to get up when the Red Sox are in town. Gordon went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs in the Royals' 4-3 win over Boston on Sunday, lifting his career batting average to .359 against the Red Sox. That is the highest average against Boston among the 103 active players with at least 100 at-bats against them.

AL West

Oakland outfielder (and beard enthusiast ...) Josh Reddick, who hit three home runs this past Friday night, hit two more in the Athletics' 5-4 loss at Toronto on Saturday. In a span of less than 24 hours, Reddick equaled the number of home runs he had hit over his previous 85 games dating back to last season. The only other players to homer five times over two games after needing that many games to reach his previous five home runs were Ty Cobb (five in his previous 205 games before five home runs in two games in May 1925), Tony Lazzeri (five in last 90 before May 1936), and Carl Yastrzemski (five in 89 games, May 1976).

Felix Hernandez pitched eight shutout innings to lead the Mariners to a 2-0 win over the Brewers on Sunday. It is the 25th time that Hernandez has pitched at least eight innings without allowing a run since he entered the big leagues in 2005. That is the most such games for any major-league pitcher since the start of the 2005 season, just ahead of Cliff Lee (23) and CC Sabathia (22). Hernandez, who is now 27 years old, is having one of the best seasons of his still-young career with a league-best 2.39 ERA and 169 strikeouts. He also leads the league in innings pitched. Unfortunately, with the way Max Scherzer is throwing the ball for Detroit, it looks like King Felix is going to finish second in the Cy Young Award race.

NL East

Top Mets prospect Wilmer Flores, who went 2-for-4 with three RBI in the Mets' 4-1 win at Arizona on Saturday, has driven in eight runs in the five games he's played in the major leagues. Only three other active players recorded at least eight RBI in their first five games in the majors: Yasiel Puig (10), Will Middlebrooks (9) and Josh Phegley (8). The odd thing about Flores' RBI total is that he only has four hits in 19 at-bats, with only one extra base hit (a double). Since runs batted in became an official statistic in 1920, he is the first player to drive in as many as eight runs in his first five major-league games while recording no more than six hits and no home runs.

Atlanta's 14-game winning streak came to an end with a 1-0 loss to the Marlins on Saturday and, according to Elias, it was the longest winning streak in major-league history that ended with a 1-0 loss.

Stephen Strasburg pitched a four-hit shutout and struck out 10 Philadelphia batters in the Nationals' 6-0 victory on Sunday. Strasburg is only the second Nationals' pitcher to strike out 10 or more batters in a shutout since the team moved to Washington in 2005. The other pitcher to do that was John Patterson, who had 13 Ks in a four-hit shutout over the Dodgers on August 4th, 2005. It was also the first shutout of Strasburg's career - but surely not his last.

NL Central

Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano was named NL Player of the Week for the week ending on August 4th. Liriano, who has had a resurgent and healthy 2013, had two wins last week, posting a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings pitched with 14 strikeouts.

It is no secret that Allen Craig has become Mr. Dependable for the Cardinals over the past two seasons and Sunday's performance is evidence... Craig went 3-for-3 with two walks in the Cardinals' 8-4 win over the Cubs, marking the fourth time that he has reached base in each trip to the plate in a game with at least four plate appearances this season. That distinction ties him with Josh Donaldson, Carlos Gonzalez and Mike Trout for the second highest total in the majors behind Miguel Cabrera (6).

Cincinnati slugger Todd Frazier is finally out of his slump, but the damage has been done. Frazier ended an 0-for-31 slump with a first-inning single, going 2-for-4 with three runs scored in the Reds' win over the Padres on Friday night. Frazier's batting average has slowly dropped about 25 points in the last month and he hasn't hit a home run since July 1st. His 0-for-31 hitless streak matched Adam Dunn for the second-longest for any non-pitcher this season. Marlins outfielder Justin Ruggiano holds the top spot in that category and is hitless in his last 38 at-bats.

Maybe I cursed Liriano by heaping praise on him in last week's update... or maybe he just came back down to earth. Either way, the Pittsburgh starter was shelled coming off his Player of the Week nod. Liriano allowed 10 runs in only 2 1/3 innings pitched for the Pirates in their loss to the Rockies on the road. Liriano is the sixth Pirates pitcher since 1975 to allow 10 or more runs in less than three innings pitched. He had allowed only 10 runs in his previous eight starts combined.

NL West

This week was bittersweet for Arizona power hitter Paul Goldschmidt. He hit a home run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday, sending the Diamondbacks to a victory over the Mets. It was the second walkoff home run of the season for Goldschmidt, who is second in that category this season behind Boston's Jonny Gomes. Despite some heroism on Friday, he was the goat on Sunday afternoon. Goldschmidt committed an error that allowed three runs to score in the first inning in the Diamondbacks' 9-5 loss to the Mets. You can't win them all, I suppose... literally.

On Thursday of last week, Dodgers' catcher A.J. Ellis hit a three-run homer to snap a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning and helped lead Los Angeles to a 5-1 win on the road against St. Louis. Ellis has hit six home runs this season and they've all come on the road. The only other major-leaguers with six or more homers this season, all in road games, are Justin Ruggiano (12), Jesus Guzman (7) and Chris Iannetta (6).

The Dodgers are enjoying life in the fast lane these days. They are on a five-game winning streak and are 17-3 in their last 20 games. Los Angeles is cruising through the second half so far, looking to be a serious contender come October.



John Lopiano can be reached at johnlopiano@gmail.com. Follow John on Twitter: @johnlopiano.

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