MLB notes: Nats, Dodgers NL titans

Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson has his team on top of the National League. Go figure....

Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson has his team on top of the National League. Go figure. (GETTY)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:10 PM ET

Didn’t see this one coming.

The battle of the National League titans is being waged this weekend in Los Angeles between the Washington Nationals and the Dodgers.

Fresh out of bankrupcy and into a brave new world of riches, the Dodgers have, on cue, awakened with the departure of Frank McCourt as owner. Maybe Earvin Johnson is still Magic.

And the Nationals, behind a pitching staff that came into Chavez Ravine Friday having allowed just four home runs (an average day for the Blue Jays pitching staff) all season, to go with an outrageous 2.20 team ERA, are loping along at the top of the NL East after years of mediocrity. In case there isn’t enough interest in this matchup, they’ll be bringing phenom Bryce Harper with them to make his major league debut on Saturday.

“I think you learn more about your ball club and the talent you’ve got by going up against the best, another club that’s playing the best,” Nats’ manager Davey Johnson said. “I’m looking forward to that.”

Washington’s pitching has been historic. They are the first team since 1900 with eight scoreless starts in the season’s first 19 games. Four of the team’s starters — Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler and Gio Gonzalez — have ERAs under 1.53. Four of their five losses have been by a single run.

YANKS CASHMAN SECOND-GUESSED

New York Yankee GM Brian Cashman is taking a lot of heat in Manhattan in the wake of the news that Michael Pineda is lost for the season and will undergo shoulder surgery.

Cashman engineered the deal that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle for Pineda and was widely heralded as a genius, at least until Pineda started having arm problems this spring.

“The deal we did I would do that 10 times out of 10,” Cashman told the New York Post. “Pitchers are risky. I knew that going in, but trying to find quality pitching is difficult. So my regret is (Pineda) went down, my regret is that we did not get his production, but I will not regret how we went about our business.

“I can’t run and hide from it. This was my decision. Whatever comes from that, comes from that. I know we were very detailed and thorough. We had a physical in this process with X-rays and an MRI. This guy was clean. This guy was healthy. This is something that happened on our watch.”

The depth that Cashman thought he had stockpiled has deteriorated. Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia have been ineffective. Pineda is gone, Joba Chamberlain is barely able to throw. CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda have been solid but, all told, Yankees starters are 7-7 with a hefty 5.73 ERA. The average ERA among MLB starters is 3.95.

Once considered a bit of insurance, Andy Pettitte’s successful return out of retirement is a crucial piece to the Yankee puzzle.

PERFECT PHIL HUMBLED

Phil Humber proved Thursday that perfection can be a fleeting thing.

Humber pitched the 21st perfect game in baseball history last Saturday as the White Sox beat the Mariners 4-0.

The Boston Sox brought him back to earth with a resounding thud on Thursday, pounding him for a career-high nine runs over five innings.

He also gave up eight hits, three home runs and six walks.

On Thursday, Humber threw 115 pitches in five innings. In his perfect game, he had thrown a total of 96 pitches in nine innings.

“This game will humble you,” Humber said. “It’s one of those things that will make you feel good one day and real bad the next. You have to take it as its own game. Saturday was one game and today was one game, so I will keep working and keep battling and maybe next time will be better.”

The nine runs off Humber were the most a pitcher had allowed in his first start after a perfect game. On May 14, 1968 the A’s Catfish Hunter gave up eight runs in Minnesota, and he had thrown his perfect game against the Twins six days earlier.

BUSH IN BIG TROUBLE

Matt Bush, briefly a Blue Jay in 2007, will find out Monday if his bid to get his bail reduced is successful. Bush is in jail in Port Charlotte, Fla., awaiting trial on seven charges related to a DUI hit and run in which a motorcyclist nearly died.

Bush was in the Tampa Bay Rays camp this spring until his arrest on March 22. He is being held on $1.015 million bail. During his hearing this week, the dead motorcyclist’s son delivered a victim impact statement.

“If being intoxicated constitutes leniency, then give me a bottle of tequila and let me run over Matt Bush with my SUV,” Tony Tufano, son of the victim, told the court. “Maybe then he will know what it is like to suffer the way my father is.

“The thought of Matt Bush getting out of jail makes my father and the rest of our family sick.”

CUBAN HAS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR POTENTIAL

When the Oakland A’s went fishing in international waters for Yoenis Cespedes, a lot of people thought Billy Beane had spent a little too much dough on the Cuban outfielder.

Sight unseen, save for some staged workouts and some international games from the past, Beane gave Cespedes four years and $36 million and then brought him directly to the big leagues. Less than a month into the season, you have to wonder where the A’s would be without him.

“He’s got the tools. He’s got all the tools,” says catcher Kurt Suzuki. “The more he gets comfortable here, the more you guys are going to see Céspedes just take off because his talent is unquestioned.”

Cespedes has an OBP of .367 and an OPS of .904. Among his 18 hits are a team-leading five home runs and 18 RBIs. Nobody else on the A’s has more than seven RBIs. He also leads the team in strikeouts (18) and SB (4). Unless this is some sort of mirage, and few think it is, Cespedes is already being touted as rookie of the year.

The A’s have promoted Michael Taylor who was a Blue Jay for as long as it took Alex Anthopoulos to make a phone call to Beane after the Roy Halladay trade and trade him for Brett Wallace.

Taylor has been raking in the minors, and the A’s need to give Cespedes help on an offence that is last in runs scored. Taylor was hitting .366 with two home runs with triple-A Sacramento and had a hit in nine of his previous 10 games.

 


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