Week 15 of the 2013 Major League Baseball season certainly was an interesting one. The week began with the 84th All-Star Game festivities in New York. The American League defeated the National League 3-0, gaining home-field advantage in this year's World Series.
The season resumed on Friday with 15 three-game series across MLB. Here's a look at some of the big winners and losers of Week 15.
In the final All-Star Game of his illustrious career, Mariano Rivera entered in the bottom of the eighth inning with the American League up 3-0. Manager Jim Leyland wanted to ensure the Sandman got into the game, so he didn't wait until the ninth to bring him in.
Rivera, the all-time leader in saves, entered to a standing ovation from the New York crowd. The American League players remained in the dugout so Rivera could have the spotlight.
He pitched a perfect inning, requiring just 16 pitches to retire the side in order. After the American League held on to win the game, Rivera received the MVP trophy, as well as a brand-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Not too bad for an inning's work.
Rivera even received a standing ovation from the Boston faithful when he emerged from the bullpen during a game at Fenway Park on Saturday—a classy move for a classy ballplayer. Congratulations to the best reliever the game has ever seen.
The Toronto Blue Jays must feel like someone has kicked them in the groin. Despite rattling off 11 consecutive victories in mid-June, the team still holds last place in the AL East. After getting swept at home this weekend by the Tampa Bay Rays, the Jays are now seven games under .500 and are 13.5 games behind first-place Boston.
During their early-season struggles, the Jays had injuries as an excuse to hide behind. But they are healthy now; Jose Reyes and Brett Lawrie each missed considerable time with different ailments but are back in the lineup.
Even though they made some bold moves in the winter, the Jays seem destined for the cellar in the tough AL East division.
Big kudos to Houston Astros outfielder Brandon Barnes. Friday night, he went 5-for-5 at the plate and became the eighth Astro to hit for the cycle. Barnes hit a solo home run in his first at-bat, then he tripled, singled and finally legged out a double to finish the impressive cycle.
In the same game, Seattle Mariners rookie shortstop Brad Miller not only hit the first home run of his career, he also hit the second home run of his career.
It was a historic night in Houston Friday night as the Mariners took the first matchup of the three-game set by a score of 10-7.
Well, the good news for the New York Yankees is they finally got captain and shortstop Derek Jeter back off the disabled list. Jeter missed the first 91 games of the season after suffering a fractured ankle in last year's postseason, and New York activated him from the DL on July 11.
Jeter went 1-for-4 in that game and drove in a run. But in his third at-bat, Jeter felt tightness in his right quad muscle. After the game, he underwent an MRI that revealed a Grade 1 strain of the quad. On Friday, the Yankees placed Jeter back on the DL, retroactive to July 12.
So the Yankees got Jeter in the lineup for one day but have lost him again until at least July 27 (the earliest he can be activated).
To make matters worse for the Bronx Bombers, they just lost two out of three to the Red Sox at Fenway Park and now sit in fourth place in the AL East, trailing Boston by seven games.
When the Atlanta Braves defeated the Chicago White Sox on Friday, it looked as if Sox outfielder Alex Rios would be a loser this week.
With runners on first and third with one out in the fifth inning, Rios tapped a small chopper toward short and did not break out of the box right away.
Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons bobbled the ball, and a hustling Rios might have been able to beat the relay throw to first. Nevertheless, Rios did not hustle, which resulted in an inning-ending double play. Two innings later, manager Robin Ventura pulled his outfielder for a lack of hustle, and the Sox went on to lose to the Braves 6-4.
However, Rios redeemed himself on Saturday. Inserted back into the lineup, the right fielder went 3-for-5 with a grand slam and five RBI on the afternoon as the Sox defeated the Braves 10-6. Rios, who is a likely trade candidate, became a winner this week with his resurgent effort a day after his lackluster play got him yanked from the game.
Erik Bedard was in the midst of a special pitching performance. With the Houston Astros up 2-0 over the Mariners through five innings, the starter had not allowed a hit. But the left-hander got into some trouble in the top of the sixth.
After a couple of walks and a passed ball, the Mariners scored their first run on a sacrifice fly. Another passed ball allowed Seattle to tie the game at two, all without a hit.
In the top of the seventh, with the game still tied, Bedard surrendered a one-out walk, and he'd had enough, taking himself out of the game after 109 pitches and 6.1 innings of no-hit ball. Three batters later, Michael Saunders of the Mariners smacked a two-run double off reliever Jose Cisnero, giving Seattle a 4-2 lead, which they would maintain to secure the victory.
The Astros managed to lose this game 4-2 with their opponent collecting just one base hit. That's a bit of a head-scratcher.
On June 22, the Los Angeles Dodgers sat in last place in the NL West division, 9.5 games out of first place. They were 11 games under .500 at the time, and despite lofty expectations bestowed upon them at the dawn of the season, there was trouble in Tinseltown.
Fast-forward to the present day. Those troubled Dodgers now sit in second place, just a half-game behind the division-leading Diamondbacks, after completing a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals.
They also got Matt Kemp back from the disabled list on Sunday, and he immediately made his impact felt. He went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI. Sunday marked the first time all season that Kemp, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez were all in the Dodgers lineup at the same time.
Since June 22, the Dodgers own a 20-5 record.
CC Sabathia has been a workhorse for the Yankees since joining them in 2009. But lately, much like the rest of the team, the big left-hander has been faltering at times.
Most recently, Sabathia got lit up by the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. In five innings, he gave up seven earned runs on nine hits, needing 102 pitches to get through the outing. Fortunately for him, the Yankees were able to rally, leaving Sabathia with a no-decision for his troubles.
But the troubles have been growing. In Sabathia's last start before the All-Star break, he allowed eight runs (three earned) to the Twins in just four innings of work. This season, he has five starts in which he has permitted at least five earned runs (not including the start against the Twins).
The Yankees will need Sabathia to right the ship in order to claw their way back to the top of the AL East.