Stephen Strasburg, recovering from Tommy John surgery, flashed electric stuff as he hit 99 mph in a rehab start this week.
Baseball's Bits and Pieces is a recap of the week's of highlights throughout the world of professional baseball. Each week, we relive the exciting and the outlandish, the impressive and the odd, game-changing plays, or anything else that might be of note around Major League Baseball.
C.C. Sabathia was on the losing end of a start against the Tampa Bay Rays, in which he allowed a career high five homers. Each homer was hit by a different player (Casey Kotchman, Johnny Damon, Elliot Johnson, Evan Longoria and Dan Johnson). Stranger than Sabathia's forgettable day, all the homers were solo shots, as the New York Yankees lost 5-1.
Speaking of solo home runs, Pablo Sandoval's first inning round tripper in the San Francisco Giants 2-1 loss to the Florida Marlins yesterday was a record tying-shot. It marked the 20th consecutive San Francisco homer with no one on base, tying the 1914 Philadelphia Phillies for the longest stretch of solo homers.
The biggest homer of the week was not a solo shot like Sandoval's. In fact, it didn't even come off a big leaguer's bat. 18-year-old Bryce Harper added to his own lore a bit when he stepped to the plate with one man on, two outs, and his Harrisburg Senators trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth. He unloaded a ball that kept going upward, disappearing behind the hitter's backdrop beyond the 400-foot center field fence. The ball finally came down 480 feet away from home plate, giving Harrisburg a walk-off win.
That wasn't even the best news Washington Nationals fans got yesterday, as future ace Stephen Strasburg took another step towards his comeback from Tommy John surgery, pitching three innings in the Potomac Nationals 1-0 win over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. He struck out five while allowing two hits (one to a guy named Strausborger). Perhaps the most important number of the night was 99, which was the velocity he topped out at during his outing.
While one hard-throwing righty is fighting his way back, another is considering never throwing a pitch again. Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano, who is often causing some sort of negative stir, was back at it after getting hit hard and being subsequently ejected from a game this week. He threatened retirement, and even packed up his locker and vanished from the clubhouse. The Cubs responded by putting him on the restricted list, effectively suspending him for the next month.
Also, in the world of suspensions, Jered Weaver seemed to fall out of rhythm after serving his six-gamer for intentionally throwing at a Detroit Tigers hitter two weeks ago. Weaver surrendered eight runs in four and two-thirds innings, in his first start back from his ban, marking the first start in 23 this year that the Angel's pitcher allowed more than four runs in a game. Ironically, his antics against the Tigers effectively made Justin Verlander the clear-cut front-runner for the American League Cy Young award.
Further irony surrounding the top two arms in the American League this year is that while Weaver's worst start came at the hands of the Blue Jays, so did Verlander's best start. Back on May 8, the Tigers ace tossed a shutout against them, showing impeccable control as he walked just one batter. Oh yeah, he didn't give up a hit that day either.
Weaver wasn't the only one to fall behind in the Cy Young race this week. Josh Beckett has almost zero chance of going by Verlander, even with an ERA among the best in baseball, and he has teammate John Lackey to blame. Lackey has been, well, less than stellar all season as he's currently sporting an ERA of 6.13. Despite giving up a touchdown a game, Lackey's 11 wins put him two ahead of Beckett. There is no way a guy on a first place team who can't win as many games as someone with an ERA over six comes away with a new pitching trophy for his awards case.
Since we're on the subject of the Cy Young, those five solo shots Sabathia allowed pushed him out of the race, as well, as he's allowed 13 runs over his last two starts to the Yankees biggest division rivals in the Rays and Boston Red Sox. His ERA is a half point off Verlander's pace now.
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