Barry Zito's stuffed animals, and other MLB news this week

    With the NBA and NHL playoffs and midterms I’m sure you all had lots of time to follow May baseball as well. No? Here’s a brief recap of the last two weeks to catch you up.

    Three up:

    1. Los Angeles: The Dodgers have won nine of their past ten games, the only blip a Sunday loss to the Rockies. The streak propelled the Dodgers from last in the N.L. West to second, although they remain three games behind Arizona. Meanwhile, in the American League the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim remain first in the A.L. West. Angels starters Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana are a combined 12-0.

    2. Mike Mussina: Mussina must have taken Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner’s advice that he should start pitching more like Jamie Moyer. Moose has won his last three starts. In each of those starts, he lasted five innings or more, gave up fewer than three runs and walked no more than one batter. The timing could not be better for currently third-place Yanks, who desperately needed a pitcher other than Chien-Ming Wang to step up.

    3. Cliff Lee: Indians ace is 5-0 with a microscopic 0.96 E.R.A. In 37.2 innings, Lee has yielded just 19 hits and two walks. Between April 13 and 30 Lee pitched 27 scoreless innings. One of those starts was a complete game, two-hit shutout against the Twins, the third-best offensive team in the American League. Remember when the Indians traded Bartolo Colon to the Montreal Expos for Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore? Yeah, that trade ended up working out pretty well for the Tribe.

    Three down:

    1. Barry Zito: Giants pitcher and former Cy-Young-Award-winner is demoted to the bullpen after starting out the year 0-6 with a 7.53 E.R.A. Before the 2007 season, Zito signed a 7-year, $126-million deal. At the time, that made him the highest paid starting pitcher in baseball. But hey, at least Zito, nicknamed “Captain Quirk,” is an interesting guy. He plays guitar, practices yoga and even collects stuffed animals. You can buy a lot of stuffed animals with $126 million.

    2. Elijah Dukes: Nationals outfielder spent 25 hours cleaning animal cages at a Tampa Bay zoo. No, Dukes was not trying some weird ritual in an attempt to heal a strained hamstring that has kept him out since Opening Day. Dukes channeled his inner Kratt Brothers to reduce his probation time after his September sentencing on charges of marijuana possession. In a related story, the Giants announced that they have found a new position for a certain lover of stuffed animals.

    3. Seattle Mariners: The M’s, who many picked to win the A.L. West, were swept this weekend at Yankee Stadium and are the losers of five straight and nine of their last 11 games. The problems can be pinned on some unlikely sources: Ichiro is batting just .279, and the usually lights-out closer J.J. Putz has converted just half of his save opportunities and has a 7.50 E.R.A. Ichiro and Putz should return to form soon. More worrisome is designated hitter Jose Vidro. Vidro, who last year hit .314, is batting just .192 this year. American League teams rarely succeed with such little production coming from the designated hitter.

    Series of the Week: Philadelphia vs. Arizona, May 5 to 8: The D-backs may have the best record in baseball, but they failed their first real test of the season by losing two of three to the Mets last weekend. Arizona can solidify themselves as the best in the National League when they face off against another N.L. contender, the Phillies, in a four game series.

    YouTube Clip of the Week:
    Who’s excited for NU Day at Wrigley?


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