In fact, so much has been going on in the past two weeks that if this was late September, there would be headlines about dramatic crashes and out-of-nowhere rises. Remember those, fans of the Red Sox, Braves, Rays and Cardinals?
But it's only early June, so nobody notices as much, even though the recent landscape-shifting developments have been quite significant. So without further ado, from the it's-a-marathon-not-a-sprint dept., we bring you:
Things sure looked good for the first-place Tribe on May 24. After finishing off a three-game sweep of the confounding Tigers, Manny Acta's team peaked at 26-18, and enjoyed a 3 1/2-game lead over Chicago and a six-game margin over Detroit.
Derek Lowe was 6-1 with a 2.15 ERA, Jason Kipnis was emerging as a breakout player, the disabled list was all but empty and the only thing to complain about (and Chris Perez did so) was the tepid attendance at Progressive Field.
Then came the beginnings of a swoon reminiscent of the 2011 Indians. Outscored 16-35 in a three-game sweep by the White Sox, five losses in six games, Lowe lit up for 10 hits and eight earned runs in 2.1 innings, Carlos Santana placed on the seven-day concussion list, Jack Hannahan placed on the 15-day disabled list and the inevitable Travis Hafner injury, this one requiring knee surgery that will sideline him for at least a month. Mercy.
Which brings us to Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's favorite team riding an eight-game winning streak that has vaulted them to atop the division heading into June. Here are the top five reasons why (besides Paulie Konerko, of course):
Sure, there are questions about staying power. Can Peavy stay healthy? Will Sale's dominance continue, and will his innings be restricted later this season, as his season high is 71 innings? Also, the other three rotation members have 5-plus ERAs, and the bullpen is very young.
But run differential says the White Sox can hang around. Through May, they are at +37 while the rest of the division is in the red: Cleveland -24, Detroit -8, Kansas City -19, Minnesota -74.
Buck Showalter's Orioles topped out at 27-14 on May 17, when the distance between them and the last-place Red Sox was 6 1/2 games. But the only good news since was about them locking up streaking Adam Jones with a long-term deal.
The O's ended the month by losing five in a row and eight of 10, and first place could become a memory this weekend, when they will play a series at Tropicana Field. With series after that in Boston and against Philadelphia — and the top-to-bottom spread in the AL East down to just 2 1/2 games entering June — the Orioles could be at the bottom of the division before you know it.
Jake Arrieta's inconsistencies continue, and an alarming home/road split is emerging: Home — 0-4, 6.43; Road — 2-1, 2.77. And while every pitcher benefits by getting away from Coors Field, let's face it, Jason Hammel pitched his way out of the rotation in Colorado, and is 40-47-4.84 in his career, so his 6-2-3.06 line isn't likely to hold.
So, slumps like the one Matt Wieters is enduring are going to be more costly, and Jim Johnson will have fewer ninth-inning leads to protect. Also, the Orioles' +8 run differential is the worst in the division.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox finished May on a 14-5 run, the bullpen has turned into a strength, they're scoring more than enough runs despite a staggering string of position-player injuries and they're back right where they should be.
All together now April doomsayers, say, 'Oops'. As terrible as it got in an 8-15 first month, the recent eight-of-nine run put the Angels back at .500 through 52 games, making a 90-win season a 64-46 finish away. And while nobody's doubting that the Rangers are going anywhere but back to the postseason, the current deficit isn't overwhelming.
Jered Weaver's back injury is an obvious concern, but this team successfully has been remade on the fly. The OF-1B-DH logjam is a thing of the past with Bobby Abreu's departure and Vernon Wells' thumb surgery that likely has ended his days as a regular in the Angels outfield.
Mike Trout was in Salt Lake City and Mark Trumbo mostly was on the bench through mid-April. Now both are lineup mainstays, and in case you haven't noticed, Albert Pujols raised his average from .197 on May 14 to .243 through May, while hitting seven homers and driving in 16 runs.
The back end of the bullpen also been reconstructed, with Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri (nice pickup from the Padres by former reliever Jerry Dipoto) sharing closing duties and Jordan Walden setting up.
Nobody won more games in May than the Marlins (21-8), and they're on the verge of moving into first place after sweeping the now-first-place Nationals.
From the rubble of an 8-14 April that included Ozzie Guillen's suspension, Heath Bell's struggles and inconsistency everywhere, the focus has shifted to Giancarlo Stanton's beast-mode month (12 HRs, 30 RBI) and a stable five-man rotation that hasn't missed a start.
There also is hope down the road attached to the returns of top-of-the-order igniter Emilio Bonafacio (likely before the All-Star break) and setup man Juan Oviedo (nee Leo Nunez), who's serving an eight-week suspension.
Meanwhile, the Braves have fallen hard and suddenly — from a 25-15 peak on May 18 to losing eight in a row and nine of 10 — and are just one of a pack of four NL East title/wild card contenders now (Nobody's buying long-term on the Mets and their -24 run differential with a 28-23 record, are they?)
Mike Minor's rotation spot is in jeopardy, as Kris Medlen was sent back to Triple-A to be stretched out and return as a starter. You also have to wonder how much Chipper Jones (currently on the DL) will be able to contribute the rest of the way, and the Braves are much better with him than without him. At least Freddie Freeman is back and Michael Bourn has turned up the power of late.
The Braves also face the NL East's toughest interleague schedule — maybe of all 30 teams, for that matter — including two series with the Yankees.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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