It's crunch time for teams looking to make a final playoff push. One bad series can end it for you ...
- The Nationals officially shut starter Stephen Strasburg down this weekend, a start earlier than previously suggested. After giving up five runs in three innings on Friday, and looking badly while doing so, Nationals manager Davey Johnson made the decision to pull the plug on Strasburg's season one start early, saying that he felt Strasburg was affected mentally by the impending shut down, and didn't have his head in the start. Therefore, he thought it best to just shut things down now. Strasburg, of course, has never been happy about the plan, and has even lost sleep about it, believing he's letting his teammates down. Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes that the Nationals will simply have to view the loss of Strasburg like any other challenge they've faced, including a number of injuries. He points out that, in the playoffs, no team uses more than four starters anyway, and the Nationals have four good ones besides Strasburg. Specious reasoning, perhaps, given Strasburg's unique talent, but the end of the season and the playoffs will certainly be all the more compelling to watch from an outsider's perspective because of the Strasburg shutdown. Formerly banished lefty starter John Lannan will take Strasburg's last four or so starts of the regular season. Cynical folks remain of the mind that Strasburg will be back for the playoffs, but it doesn't seem like the Nats are budging on this one.
- The Giants picked up a big win over the Dodgers last night, courtesy of a great Barry Zito start - a sentence that would have seemed impossible just a year ago. The 4-0 Giants win marked the fourth time the Giants have shut out the Dodgers this year, and they now hold a nearly insurmountable 5.5 game lead in the NL West.
- The win was made slightly more easy by virtue of a Clayton Kershaw scratch at the last minute. He had some hip discomfort and received a cortisone shot the day before, and the Dodgers didn't feel like he could go (even though the Cy Young winner disagreed).
- The Angels have won six in a row and 11 of 12 to pull within just one of the Orioles in the Wild Card race. It's pretty impressive given the Angels' start to the year, and the fact that, even as recently as last month, they looked cooked.
- FanGraphs analyzes Ubaldo Jimenez's rough season, following a rough go-around last year, and comes to a disturbing conclusion. It isn't bad luck; Ubaldo's stuff simply isn't as good as it once was. He isn't getting guys to swing at junk out of the zone, and he isn't missing bats in the zone. With Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, the key pieces in the Ubaldo deal from the last trade deadline, already working in the Rockies' rotation (with mixed results, given the Rockies' four-man rotation experiment), the deal could haunt the Indians for some time if Jimenez doesn't turn things around.
- You wanted to know who the best and worst base runners of the last decade were, didn't you? Well, fortunately, the sabermetrically-inclined John Dewan, writing for Bill James Online, shares his thoughts on the subject. His figures show that Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford, Jimmy Rollins, Juan Pierre, and Carlos Beltran have been the five best, while the worst have been Paul Konerko, Juan Rivera, Ramon Hernandez, AJ Pierzynski, and Yadier Molina.
- What an age we live in: BJ Upton lost his wallet, and it was found by a fan who used Twitter to contact the Rays' outfielder and set up a return. Perhaps you should be following Al, Josh, and me on Twitter in case we find your wallet or something.