Evan Longoria and More American League Players Who Need to Have a Big Week
The Tampa Bay Rays have had Evan Longoria back for just about three weeks now, and things have been just dandy since his return. In their last 19 games, the Rays are 14-5.
That record would lead one to believe that Longoria is tearing the cover off the ball. Surely, the Rays wouldn't be winning so many games without a ton of help from their franchise third baseman, right?
In reality, Longo has been just OK since he was activated off the disabled list back on August 7. He's only hitting .242 with a .655 OPS. He was hitting .329 with a .994 OPS before he got hurt way back in May.
The question begging to be asked is this one: How much longer are the Rays going to be able to stay hot without increased production from Longoria?
Maybe not a whole lot longer. The Rays are embarking on a very tough road trip this week. To come out on top, they'll need as much help from Longo as they can get.
He's not the only American Leaguer who needs to show up this week. Here's a look at a handful of players who need to make the most of the next seven days.
Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Where would the Orioles be without Wei-Yin Chen?
Probably not some place very good (i.e. the moon or on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean). Their rotation has been a work in progress all season long, but Chen has been the one exception. He's been a rock.
Except lately. Chen has a 7.47 ERA and a .362 opponents' batting average in his last three starts, and that's with a solid outing against the Red Sox on August 14 mixed in. His other two recent outings saw him get knocked around like a birthday pinata.
As reported by the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles decided to give Chen a little extra rest after his last start in which he was tagged for five earned runs in five innings against the Detroit Tigers. He was scheduled to pitch this past Saturday, but he'll start on Monday night for the first time in a little over a week.
Waiting to face him will be the Chicago White Sox, who are riding a six-game winning streak. Overall, they've won nine of their last 12 games.
Not exactly easy duty as far as Chen is concerned, and things won't get any easier when he takes the mound on Saturday. That start will come against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, a venue where Chen has surprisingly yet to pitch in this season.
The Orioles need Chen's best this week. They've having a strong month of August, yet their margin of error in the AL wild card race is still razor-thin. With their pitching, nothing can be taken for granted.
Except with Chen, of course.
...Maybe, anyway. What we're going to find out this week is if he is still the one and only rock the O's have in their rotation for the time being.
Francisco Liriano, SP, Chicago White Sox
Francisco Liriano is Major League Baseball's answer to Weezer. He was great when he first burst onto the scene, but ever since, he's been just kinda "meh."
Presumably, the White Sox knew what they were getting into when they acquired Liriano. Fortunately for them, he's been decent enough since coming over from the Minnesota Twins in late July. Three of his five starts for the White Sox have been quality starts.
At the moment, Liriano is riding a modest two-game winning streak. The most recent win was earned against the Yankees in a game that looked like it was going to get away from Liriano on a couple different occasions. Somehow, he managed to limit the damage.
The White Sox are hoping for more of the same from Liriano this week. They're facing a tough seven-game road trip through Baltimore and Detroit, and Liriano will be making two starts.
The first will come on Monday night against the Orioles. He'll be opposed by Chen. Nothing Liriano can't handle.
The second start will be tougher. Liriano is slated to take the mound on Saturday night against Max Scherzer, who has been on fire in the month of August.
The White Sox can ill afford a poor start from Liriano on Saturday. Their lead over the Tigers in the AL Central is pretty slim at 2.5 games, and it wasn't all that long ago that the Tigers swept the White Sox in a three-game set at Comerica Park.
To avoid suffering that fate again, the White Sox are going to need Liriano to step up.
They'll need another one of their lefties to step up as well. More on him in a moment.
Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
On balance, Longo's return could be going worse. Given all the time he missed, a .242 batting average through 17 games really isn't all that bad.
It's a soft .242, though. Of the 15 hits Longo has collected since his return, only three have gone for extra bases (one double, two homers).
He didn't collect any extra-base hits last week, and he only collected one RBI and scored just one run.
It wasn't a great week for him, and it wasn't a great week for the Rays either. They went 3-3 in six games against Kansas City and Oakland.
The competition isn't about to let up. The Rays are about to tackle a three-game series in Texas against a hot Rangers team. The Rays will be sending two of their best to the mound in David Price and James Shields, but you can rest assured that they're going to need to swing the bats better than they have been in order to take the series.
That's your cue, Longo.
He'll have to save some bullets for the weekend, however. After taking on the Rangers in Texas, the Rays will travel to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays.
They're a good team for Longo to get going against if he fails to heat up against Texas. Blue Jays starting pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 this month.
If Longo is still struggling to get on track after this week is over, there might be some squirming going on in Tampa Bay.
Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox
Every now and then, you see a pitcher pitch like he just feels like punishing the opposition.
That was Chris Sale the last time he took the mound. In 7.2 innings, he owned the Yankees to the tune of 13 strikeouts and just three hits allowed, ultimately earning his 15th win.
And here we (we meaning "I") were thinking that Sale might be slowing down a little bit with so many innings on his left arm. It seems we ("I" again) were wrong.
Let it be written in stone: Sale is a beast.
Like Liriano, Sale is going to make two starts in Chicago's road trip this week. The first is one that he should be able to handle without too much trouble, as surely, he can master a hit-or-miss Orioles offense with Chris Tillman as his opposition on Tuesday night.
His second start of the week will be considerably more difficult. He'll be going up against a Tigers offense that tagged him for five earned runs the last time he faced it, and the man on the mound for the Tigers will be none other than Justin Verlander.
Sale has yet to come up against Verlander as a starter, so it's not going to be a shock if he comes out throwing the ball like he did against the Yankees. Sale will be looking to add yet another statement victory to what is already an impressive collection of statement victories he's accumulated this year.
Then again, Verlander is not one to be upstaged. The pieces are thus in place for quite the showdown.
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
Yeah, a little heavy on the Orioles and White Sox this week. Won't happen again (at least until the next time it happens).
At any rate, Matt Wieters is as frustrating as they come. He was so good early on in the season and then so not good for about three months. The talent was still there, but the production wasn't.
Wieters seemed to have things figured out again earlier this month. Through his first eight games in August, Wieters was hitting .364/.400/.727 with three home runs and nine RBI. He looked like a completely different player compared to where he was in May, June and July.
It turns out it was all a big tease. In his last 12 games, Wieters has hit .122/.208/.220 with just one homer and seven RBI. He's coming off a week in which he collected just one hit in 18 at-bats with seven strikeouts. It didn't help that he hurt his shoulder at one point.
According to FanGraphs, Wieters posted a -0.4 WAR last week, lowest of any player in the American League.
It's going to be an all-hands-on-deck kind of week for the Orioles this week. They're going to need their bats to produce in order to handle the White Sox, and they'll certainly need their bats to produce in order to handle the Yankees.
It was Wieters who said just a couple days ago (via MASNSports.com) that it's time for the O's to make a run. This is true, but it's also time for him to start pulling his weight again.
A Few More
Alfredo Aceves, RP, Boston Red Sox
Aceves was lit up for five earned runs in a single inning the last time he took the mound, and then he went and got himself suspended. The Red Sox are out of it, but it suffices to say that Aceves has a little redeeming to do this week.
Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland A's
Anderson looked very sharp in his return to the mound last week, allowing just one run in seven innings against the Twins. The A's will gladly take more of that in his two starts against the Indians and Red Sox this week.
Curtis Granderson, CF, New York Yankees
Granderson has been mired in a slump ever since the All-Star break, but he managed to go deep for the first time in over a week on Sunday. Maybe that will get him going.
Derek Holland, SP, Texas Rangers
Holland was pretty sharp the last time he took the mound, allowing three earned runs in seven innings against the Orioles. He'll need to be even sharper on Monday night when he goes up against David Price, and he has another start lined up against the Indians on Sunday.
Austin Jackson, CF, Detroit Tigers
A-Jax has a mere .740 OPS since the All-Star break and a .717 OPS in August. He's still helping the Tigers win games, but he just hasn't been the same kind of difference-maker he was in the first half of the season.
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