Getaway Day: Time to sound the alarm in Wrigleyville?

By Matt Whitener  |  Last updated 5/14/17

Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist walks back to the dugout after striking out during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs on May 12, 2017 at the Busch Stadium. Jimmy Simmons/Icon Sportwire

We are already halfway through month two of the MLB campaign as a new week dawns on us, and this year on the diamond has continued to see some notable trends remain intact. The AL Central is toss up, the Yankees and Orioles continue to play their game of cat-and-mouse, and the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals continue to throw more dirt on the grave of their respective divisions.

Meanwhile, firmly in the ‘WTF?’ column is the continued stumbles of the Chicago Cubs, the rise of the Minnesota Twins and basically everything that goes on in the clubhouse of the New York Mets. Baseball is coming off of an interesting week of affairs as a whole, and here’s where every team sets as a new week dawns.

American League 

Baltimore Orioles  Things have gone by and large very well for the O’s on the year, but a brush with reality was bound to show up at some point – and reality showed up a bit them hard over the weekend, as the six-game winning streak they road into the week was stopped in its tracks when Baltimore dropped three in a row against the Nationals and lowly Royals. To compound things, worse came to worse regarding the health of closer Zach Britton as well, who will miss nearly two months with a forearm strain. 

Boston Red Sox The uneven nature of the Red Sox season continues, as they have not been able to string together more than two consecutive victories since mid-April. As a result, in a week where both the Yankees and Orioles lost three straight games, Boston has been incapable of gaining ground on them. However, during this year of inconsistency, Chris Sale has been able to deliver the goods (and the wins) for the Sox. With seven straight double digit strikeout games, he is one short of tying the all-time MLB record and with his 12 K outing on Saturday, he secured the record for most strikeouts with a new team over his first eight outings. 

Chicago White Sox Chicago’s surprisingly strong start finally stalled out this week, as the three-game losing streak that closed out last week carried into the new one with them. It reached a six-game peak before they finally put the skids on that slide by taking two of three from the Padres. With a 10-game road trip against the Angels, Mariners and Diamondbacks ahead, we could be preparing to see what type of resilience these Sox truly have. 

Cleveland Indians Another team experienced a skid this week, albeit a much smaller one, was the Indians. They fell into a three-game losing streak midweek versus the Blue Jays and Twins, which allowed the Minneapolis to hop over them into first place in the air tight AL Central. With Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez all coming off bad weeks that saw them check in either at or below the Mendoza line, it is no wonder that the Tribe has struggled of late. Yet, with Kipnis going deep twice on Sunday to break the club’s losing streak, perhaps a turnaround could be on deck for at least one part of the Indians’ vital trio.


Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez (28) celebrates after a solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the ninth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 13, 2017. Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers The Tigers spent the week alternating wins and losses and still struggling to define their place in a division that is ripe for the taking. The good news is that J.D. Martinez made his return this weekend after missing the first month and a half of the year with sprained foot that is still not completely healed. That did not stop him from launching a pair of home runs over the weekend and looking the part of being the run production factory he has been over the past few years. 

Houston Astros The owners of the best record in baseball have kept up their extraordinary pace for another week, as they have once again taken the fight to any and all levels of competition this year. This week’s victims ranged from the NL-worst Atlanta Braves, all the way to taking three out of four against the AL East-best Yankees over the weekend. Business does not look like it will slow up anytime soon, as they have an interleague date with the Miami Marlins ahead, followed by the struggling Cleveland Indians following that. They are in position to reach double digits between themselves and their closest runner-up in the AL West by next week. 

Kansas City Royals It has been a long time coming, but finally, the Royals have kicked into gear. They took three of four from the Rays to open the week, before pulling off the upset of the week in taking a weekend series from Orioles. Along the way, Eric Hosmer has come to life in a major way, hitting over .400 and raising his average for the year close to .300. The Royals are still far out of the race in the AL Central, but at least they’ve moved safely away from being the team that lost nine straight two weeks ago. 

Los Angeles Angels The good news in Anaheim is that Mike Trout made it back to the lineup over the weekend and made up for lost time, hitting a pair of home runs in his return. It was much needed relief for the club, as they opened the week dropping three of four against the A’s and Tigers before getting in gear on Friday night with Trout in the lineup. His return could reap even greater returns in the upcoming week, as the Angels have a peach of an opportunity ahead with a pair of series against the White Sox and Mets ahead.


Minnesota Twins pitcher Jose Berrios throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 13, 2017. Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins Much credit is due to the Twins, who will open the new week atop the AL Central after taking the fight to the Indians over the past week. The prospects on the horizon for the Twins look difficult, with the potent Colorado Rockies paying them a visit to open the week, but that is far from a reason to count out this club. They will send the surprising duo of Ervin Santana and Phil Hughes to the mound to open the week, who have a combined 10-2 record on the year. Following them to mound will be exciting rookie Jose Berrios, who held the Indians to two hits over 7.2 innings in his season debut. Having won all but one series thus far in the month, Minnesota is looking more the part of a young team to keep an eye on, rather than a flash in the pan waiting to burn out. 

New York Yankees The party that has been the start of the 2017 season for the Yankees finally hit a pothole this week. After bringing a six-game win streak into the week, the Reds and Astros combined to create a three-game skid for the Yanks, only the third time they have lost consecutive games on the year. The week’s premier showcase series against the Yanks and the Astros saw the two clubs battle it out, with the Bronx Bombers dropping three out of four to the 'Stros. It's hard for spirits to stay low off losses for long in the Bronx, though. After all, Sunday was a night that will be remembered forever, as the iconic #2 of Derek Jeter was retired, capping one of the great eras in prodigious franchise’s history. Meanwhile, one of the cornerstones in the potential of the new era of Yankee success, Aaron Judge, launched his MLB-best 14th home run earlier in the day. 

Oakland Athletics It was a thrilling week by the Bay, as the A’s pulled off three consecutive walk-off wins to get the week going. All in all, it was a string of encouraging outcomes where they could keep those tight games in their favor, however over the long run, continuing to put away such games can turn on a team as well, as the A’s know well know themselves: they were swept at the hands of the Rangers over the weekend, with those games being decided by a total of six runs. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Seattle Mariners Another week, another Mariner arm out of action. With Felix Hernandez and James Paxton already out, the club will have to make due without Hisashi Iwakuma as well, who will be on the DL until late June with a shoulder issue. Yet, while the rotation struggles to hold form (they let up six or more runs in four games last week), the offense has begun to take shape, and has been keyed by the return of Jean Segura. The first-year Mariner is leading the AL in hitting, and has eight multi-hit games since the start of the month.

Tampa Bay Rays The good news for the Rays is that their pitching staff is back at full strength and is performing like it, having limited opposing hitters to a .225 average against over the last week. That is the type of pitching that plays to win…. unless it is offset by a most inept offense. They struggled to keep up with the pace with the floundering Royals, dropping three of four to start the week. If the Rays can continue to pitch the way they have of late, they should be able to turn things around sooner than later and maybe make some gains on the Red Sox. But with the Toronto Blue Jays hot on their heels, avoiding the cellar in the AL East could become a far more complicated proposition soon. 

Texas Rangers Welcome back to the world, Texas Rangers. While it's tough claiming victories over the Padres and A’s as proof of the Rangers being a team is ready for the big time, a win is still a win and Texas is a team that was deathly in need of some momentum. They could continue to stack up more wins in the new week, as the struggling Phillies await, before a more suitable test against the Tigers next weekend. 

Toronto Blue Jays The Jays 3-12 start seems as if it was years ago now, as they have come running out of the gates in the new month, opening the new month with an 8-4 mark. They currently stand as winners of five in a row, after sweeping a four-game set against the Mariners. The run has come while the team is still short of three substantial everyday contributors, as Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin. A week ago, it looked as if the Jays would be definite sellers immediately. And while that outcome could still ahead, it at least looks to be one that GM Ross Atkins has to think about a little longer.

National League 

Arizona Diamondbacks Last week was a reality check for the D’Backs, who did not play particularly poorly, but are still down in the NL West, as the red-hot Dodgers moved past them in the standings. A dynamite race is shaping up between the Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks, who have the chance to make up lost ground against the very beatable Mets and Padres over the next week.


Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell dives, but is unable to reach a single by St. Louis Cardinals' Aledmys Diaz in the fourth inning on Sunday, May 14, 2017, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. Diaz was thrown out at second trying to extend the hit into a double.  Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images

Chicago Cubs Is it time to pull the fire alarm for the 2017 Cubs yet? Well, it may be closer to being a reality than fiction at this point. After dropping two of three to the Cardinals over the weekend, they have now lost their last three series and have not won consecutive games since April 4. They will now open the week in fourth place in the NL Central, with back-to-back series against their closest in-division competition in the Reds and Brewers. This could be a very telling week for the Cubs, and their World Series hangover.

Cincinnati Reds It is safe to say at this point that the Reds are one of two things. Either they are the absolute best wedding crashers waiting to be exposed in the game this year, or they are actually are the persistent, top-five NL offense they have been thus far. True, they did struggle against the Giants for most of the week, but they shrugged it off with a resounding Sunday victory and open the new week with a chance to make the most of catching a punch-drunk Cubs team that is still somehow behind them in the standings in May.

Colorado Rockies While the early receipts showed the Rockies to be the top team in the NL West by record, there was still a need to see them prove to be such against the known quantities in the league as well. And after week of taking a series from the Cubs and splitting with the surging Dodgers to remain in control of their division, it is time to give them their due as a legitimate player in the big picture this season. Whether they can continue to perform while being pursued will be their next big test. The Rockies enter a potential trap week, with the surging Twins and surprisingly solid Reds waiting ahead as they take to the road.

Los Angeles Dodgers Coming into the year, the expectations for some were for the Dodgers to carry the best record in all of the baseball. And finally, L.A. is giving Colorado ample reasons to break a sweat atop the NL West. They currently carry the lowest team ERA in all of baseball, led by Clayton Kershaw’s 2.43 mark. Meanwhile, they have also plated the third most runs in the NL, which has been fueled by the matches and gasoline explosion that Cody Bellinger’s career getting off to. The rookie has hit seven home runs in first 18 games.

Miami Marlins A win on Sunday over the Mets saved Miami from making it a full week in-between victories. With a deplorable pitching staff that is unable to allow a solid offense lead them to victory, the Marlins currently look very much to be who they are right now: a one-sided ball club that will be on the wrong side of a lot of slugfests this year. 

Milwaukee Brewers The Crew slowed down the Mets momentum over the weekend, as they finished up a home stand where they took five out of six on the week. In the process, they pulled into second place in the ever-changing charts of the NL Central, as they continued to define themselves as one of the top lineups in baseball. The Brewers scored seven or more runs in each victory on the week.


New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey sits in the dugout after giving up three runs in the sixth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on May 12, 2017. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

New York Mets The saga of Matt Harvey’s inability to arrive at work on time  – and the dubious facts behind the circumstances in which it occurred— dominated the headlines around the team more than its actual baseball did, and maybe that is a good thing. After opening the week with a pair of wins over the Giants, which was the club’s fourth straight series win, they spun out over the weekend, dropping a series against the Brewers. To compound things, they will now have to look to regain the momentum they were working up without the services of All-Star closer Jeurys Familia, who underwent surprising surgery for a blood clot that could signal the end of his season.

Philadelphia Phillies The new month has not been kind to the Phillies, who have scratched out only three wins since the calendar turned to May. This has been fueled by a total failure from the Phil’s starting staff, which has plummeted into the bottom three in the NL on the year. During this carnage however, the club showed that it still has its eyes firmly placed on the future, as manager Pete Mackanin to a two-year extension. Perhaps such a vote of confidence in the man in charge on the bench during this type of downturn can inspire some life in the clubhouse. 

Pittsburgh Pirates The worst news of the week emanated from the Pirates yet again, but this time it was of the most unfortunate of variety. Promising young hurler Jameson Tallion had to undergo emergency surgery on procedure for testicular cancer, which will leave him out of action for indeterminate amount of time. It was the latest in a string of unbelievable misfortune for a team that is spiraling out of control in number of directions. On the bright side, they brought a season-worst six game losing streak to an end on Saturday, which is much needed with a date with the Washington Nationals looming ahead in the new week. 

San Diego Padres It was a rough week for the Padres, who dropped five of seven to the Rangers and White Sox, and existed essentially as a slump buster. The best news surrounding the organization on the week did not come from the big league club, rather from the ranks of the minors, as Double A pitcher Kyle Lloyd threw a 94 pitch no-hitter on Saturday. He could stand as an inspiration for the hurlers at the Major League level, as they have their work cut out for them over the next week, with dates against the heavy lumber swinging Brewers and Diamondbacks are ahead.


San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey celebrates with team mates at home plate after hitting a walk off home run during the seventeenth inning of the game against the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park on May 12, 2017. Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco Giants Nine innings of Giants baseball has been painful enough to watch at times this year, so the 17 that they played on Friday night against the Reds should be considered a borderline inhumane activity. To that point, Buster Posey should be up for good Samaritan award for the walk off home run he hit to bring the most recent MLB marathon to an end. There is still substantial ground to make up, but perhaps Posey’s moment can prove to be turnaround point for the Giants, who won more games at the end of last week than they had won in the entirety of the month before it. 

St. Louis Cardinals Spirits are high in St. Louis, as the Cardinals keep finding a way to pull favorable outcomes. Despite having a lineup ravaged by injury, they're the first NL Central team to reach 20 victories – led by a pair outfielders, Tommy Pham and Mags Sierra, that were playing in Triple and Single A a week ago. They have won eight of their last nine, as they open the new week taking two of three from their hated rivals in Chicago and holding a 1.5 game lead in the NL Central. 

Washington Nationals Bryce Harper had maybe the best day ever on Saturday. He started the day by signing a $21 million deal for 2018, the biggest single-season arbitration avoiding deal in history. Then he washed it down by hitting a walk-off homer against the Phillies for the second time in the young season. The Nats keep on rolling and have opened up a canyon between themselves and the pack in the underwhelming NL East.

Matt Whitener is St. Louis-based writer, radio host and 12-6 curveball enthusiast. He has been covering Major League Baseball since 2010, and dabbles in WWE, NBA and other odd jobs as well. Follow Matt on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
QUIZ: Name the last player for every MLB team to hit 40+ home runs in a season

Can you name the last player for every MLB team to hit 40+ home runs in a season? Some teams may have more than one recent 40+ hitter in a single season.

Clue: Number of home runs-Team-Year

Note: Kansas City does not have a player in franchise history with 40+ home runs in a single season; 36 is the franchise record. But hey, they are the reigning World Champs. Also: Miami's most recent 40+ HR hitter was in the franchise's Florida Marlins iteration.

Score:
0/32
Time:
8:00
44-ARI-2009
Mark Reynolds
51-ATL-2005
Andruw Jones
47-BAL-2016
Mark Trumbo
54-BOS-2006
David Ortiz
46-CHC-2005
Derrek Lee
41-CHW-2012
Adam Dunn
40-CIN-2007
Adam Dunn
42-CLE-2006
Travis Hafner
42-COL-2015
Nolan Arenado
40-COL-2015
Carlos Gonzalez
43-DET-2013
Miguel Cabrera
45-HOU-2006
Lance Berkman
41-LAA-2015
Mike Trout
40-LAA-2015
Albert Pujols
48-LAD-2004
Adrian Beltre
42-MIA-1996
Gary Sheffield
41-MIL-2012
Ryan Braun
42-MIN-2016
Brian Dozier
41-NYM-2006
Carlos Beltran
43-NYY-2012
Curtis Granderson
42-OAK-2016
Khris Davis
45-PHI-2009
Ryan Howard
44-PIT-1973
Willie Stargell
40-SD-2009
Adrian Gonzalez
45-SF-2004
Barry Bonds
43-SEA-2016
Nelson Cruz
42-STL-2010
Albert Pujols
46-TB-2007
Carlos Pena
43-TEX-2012
Josh Hamilton
42-TOR-2016
Edwin Encarnacion
40-TOR-2015
Jose Bautista
42-WAS-2015
Bryce Harper
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