If The Season Ended Today: Beckett Takes AL’s Ace Honors


Jul 13, 2009

Just when you thought a no-hitter couldn’t get any sweeter, San Francisco’s Jonathan Sanchez
threw one in front of his father, Sigfredo, who flew in from Puerto
Rico to watch his son pitch in the major leagues for the first time.

Despite having his dad in the stands, Sanchez wasn’t flowing with
confidence as he took the AT&T Park mound on July 10 against the
Padres. The 26-year-old lefty was making his first start in three weeks
after being demoted to the bullpen.

“I didn’t think I was going to be out there very long,” Sanchez admitted to MLB.com.

But Sanchez went the distance, striking out 11 and walking none. He
allowed one base runner to reach via error, but that wasn’t until the
eighth inning.

The Giants hadn’t had a no-hitter since John “The Count” Montefusco threw one on Sept. 29, 1976, and there hadn’t been a Giants no-hitter in San Francisco since Ed Halicki
did so on Aug. 24, 1975, against the Mets. Sanchez’s no-hitter was just
the fifth by a San Francisco Giant. Had Sanchez have spun it without
the one-out fielding error in the eighth inning by third baseman Juan Uribe, it would have been the first perfect game in Giants history.

“It’s [part of] the game,” Sanchez said. “It can happen. That’s in the past, you have to keep pitching and forget about that.”

The proud papa of the Giants’ southpaw took to the streets of San
Fran bright and early the next morning in search of newspapers with his
boy’s name plastered on the front page. While he easily found some
clips, he had more trouble finding his way home — he got lost finding
the hotel and didn’t return for two hours.

Before making history, Sanchez actually was the subject of trade
rumors. He entered the no-no contest with a 2-8 record and 5.30 ERA and
was winless in June. If Sanchez gets traded now, he’d be only the third
pitcher since 1900 to throw a no-hitter and then end up on a different
MLB team that same season. Cliff Chambers threw a no-hitter on May 6, 1951, for the Pirates and was traded to the Cardinals on June 15. Hall of Famer Rube Marquard tossed a no-hitter for the Giants on April 15, 1915, and was selected off waivers by the Brooklyn Robins on Aug. 31.

Playoff picture
AL East: Boston Red Sox (54-34)
AL Central: Detroit Tigers (48-39)
AL West: LA Angels of Anaheim (49-37)
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees (51-37)

Breakdown: The Red Sox had the Yankees nipping at
their heels heading into the weekend, but after the Angels swept the
Bronx Bombers and the Sox took three of four from the Royals, Boston’s
AL East lead is three games. The Halos end the first half on a roll,
winning seven of their last 10 contests. In the Central, there has been
a stalemate atop the division as the top three teams have each gone
.500 in their last 10 games.

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies (48-38)
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals (49-42)
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers (56-32)
NL Wild Card: San Francisco Giants (49-39)

Breakdown: There is no hotter team in baseball than
the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies. The NL East’s top team
has won nine of its last 10 games, and closer Brad Lidge’s knee appears to be completely healed for the second half. In the nine games since Manny Ramirez
has returned to the Dodgers’ lineup, L.A. has gone 6-3 and scored 62
runs. Ramirez has 11 hits, three homers and nine RBIs in that time

League leaders
Batting average
American League: Joe Mauer, Twins, .373
National League: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, .349

Breakdown: Many thought Joe Mauer could
reach the .400 mark at the All-Star break, but the Twins’ catcher
stumbled in the last weekend of action, getting just one hit in 12
at-bats. Mauer’s .373 mark is his lowest of the season.

Hanley Ramirez enters the break riding a five-game
hitting streak that included a 3-for-5 game on Sunday. The Marlins’
shortstop hasn’t had consecutive hitless games since May 20 when he
went 0-for-9 in a doubleheader against Arizona and has notched 61 hits
in his last 49 games.

Home runs
American League: Carlos Pena, Rays, 24
National League: Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 32

Breakdown: Carlos Pena still leads the AL in long
balls but has hit just two since since June 27. Pena’s last five homers
were each solo shots, and eight of his last nine home runs also came
with none on base.

Albert Pujols is in a league of his own, tearing up
pitchers for 32 homers in the first half. The St. Louis slugger
launched just one homer last week, but is miles ahead of any
competition, including Mark Reynolds and Adrian Gonzalez, who both share second place in the NL with 24.

American League: Jason Bay, Red Sox, 72
National League: Albert Pujols, Cardinals, 87

Breakdown: Jason Bay plated two teammates last week
but has just three RBIs in July. The Red Sox’ left fielder won’t get
much rest during the break since he’ll be making his first AL All-Star

Nothing can derail Pujols – not even a 10-game road swing to close
the first half. The Cards’ first baseman drove in 10 runners on the
trip, including five in his final five games. On July 3, Pujols raked
in five teammates, but that total isn’t his best on the season. He
drove in six on June 21 and seven on April 11.

American League: Josh Beckett, Red Sox; Tim Wakefield, Red Sox, 11
National League: Jason Marquis, Rockies, 11

Breakdown: A pair of Red Sox lead the AL in wins. Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield
might be miles apart in approach, but both are heading to the All-Star
Game as 11-game winners. Beckett picked up his 11th on Sunday thanks to
a complete-game shutout of the Royals. Wakefield notched his 11th win
on Wednesday when he topped the A’s 5-4 at Fenway.

Jason Marquis missed out on becoming baseball’s
first 12-game winner Saturday against the Braves, when he was touched
up for three earned runs on seven hits over six innings. The 11-6 loss
snapped a two-game winning streak in which he didn’t allow a run to
score in 17 innings.

American League: Zack Greinke, Royals, 2.12
National League: Dan Haren, Diamondbacks, 2.01

Breakdown: Zack Greinke’s ERA rose for the second
straight week as the Royals’ ace lost his second straight start,
allowing three runs over six innings in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers on
Wednesday. Greinke has not lasted more than 6 1/3 innings in any of his
last three starts, and in two starts this month, Greinke has allowed
five earned runs. He didn’t allow his fifth earned run of the season
until his ninth start.

Dan Haren remains red-hot in the desert, dipping
his major league-best ERA to 2.01. Haren went the distance in his last
outing, pitching nine shutout innings against the Marlins while
allowing just four hits and one walk and striking out 10. It was
Haren’s third complete game of the season, all of which have come at

American League: Brian Fuentes, Angels, 26
National League: Francisco Rodriguez, Mets; Heath Bell, Padres; Brian Wilson, Giants, 23

Breakdown: Brian Fuentes continues
his perfection with four saves to open July. The Angels’ closer went
9-for-9 in save opportunities in June and capped off the first half
with a perfect ninth against the Yankees to finish the sweep.

With just one save this month, Heath Bell is starting to see some
company in the NL saves department. Joining Bell is San Francisco’s
Brian Wilson, who notched three straight saves despite allowing two
earned runs. The Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez is also among the league
leaders, grabbing his 23rd save in the final game of the first half.
Despite allowing a run in the ninth, K-Rod retired the Reds on Sunday
night in Flushing.

American League: Justin Morneau, Twins, .311 BA, 21 homers, 70 RBIs, 59 runs, 104 hits
National League: Albert Pujols, .332 BA, 32 HRs, 87 RBIs, 73 runs

Breakdown: Justin Morneau continues to thrive. The
first baseman, who went 2-for-5 in the Twins’ win over the White Sox on
Sunday, has kept his average above .300 since April 28 and trails Jason
Bay for the most RBIs in the AL by just two.

No need for a second half of the season in the National League,
voters. Prince Albert has wrapped up the NL MVP in just 90 games.
Pujols leads the world in homers, RBIs, runs, OPS, OBP and slugging —
and is just .018 points shy of owning the best batting average in the

Cy Young
American League: Josh Beckett, 11-3, 3.35 ERA, 121 IP, 110 K’s
National League: Tim Lincecum, 10-2, 2.33 ERA, 127 2/3 IP, 149

Breakdown: After opening the season with two rough
months, Josh Beckett has stormed back onto the scene to steal the AL Cy
Young. Beckett has won four straight, picking up to complete-game
shutouts in that span.

Thanks to capturing wins in each of his last four starts, Tim Lincecum
is the front-runner to take home the NL Cy Young. Lincecum leads the
league in strikeouts with 149 and has allowed just eight hits in his
last three starts combined and has been given the nod as the All-Star
Game’s starter for the NL squad.

Rookie of the Year
American League: Matt Palmer, Angels, 7-1, 4.80 ERA
National League: Colby Rasmus, Cardinals, .278, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 46 runs

Breakdown: Palmer has been moved to the Angels’
bullpen, but the righty has been a very important piece of their
arsenal. In his last five appearances, Palmer has allowed just five
hits and two earned runs and hasn’t given up a homer since June 22.

Rasmus has emerged as an everyday player for Tony La Russa’s Cards.
Rasmus thrives in center field but can play any outfield spot. At the
dish, the 22-year-old has showed a lot of pop, belting 11 homers and 34
RBIs in his first 82 games as a major leaguer. The 28th overall pick in
2005 is hitting .298 at the friendly confines of Busch Stadium, but
Rasmus has been raking on the road, where he’s belted seven of his 11
homers and driven in 21 of his 34 RBIs.

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