A’s vs. Rangers:
After Sunday’s action, Oakland and Texas remained tied for the division lead. However, the Rangers may have the upper hand after sweeping the home-standing A’s in their recent three-game series.
Another element that could be holding Oakland back is a slumping bullpen, which has blown six saves in 11 chances. Jim Johnson, who originally had the title of closer, could reclaim that role with a recent string of scoreless appearances.
Yoenis Cespedes can provide a boost to the A’s offense by returning to the lineup after being bothered by a strained hamstring. Shin-Soo Choo’s sprained left ankle has been preventing the outfielder from spending significant time on the field for the Rangers (who are also without Josh Hamilton).
The pitching match-ups will have the greatest attention, beginning with Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray squaring off in Monday’s opener.
Rays vs. Red Sox:
Still sleepwalking through the first month of the 2014 season are the defending champs. The Red Sox offense can only muster the 22nd best batting average. Lefty Jon Lester has had more good starts than bad ones this year, but his overall record so far is 2-4.
The Rays appear just as dazed and confused, thanks in part to a myriad of injuries to their pitching rotation. The loss of Matt Moore and Alex Cobb has had its effects—as they are near the bottom of the rankings in terms of earned run average (ERA).
Equally disappointing recently has been the defense—one element of the game Tampa has emphasized over their recent run of success. The Rays committed four errors in Sunday’s 9-2 loss at the Chicago White Sox.
Brewers vs. Cardinals:
With each passing series, the Brewers appear to be less of a pretender. In winning seven of its past 10 contests, Milwaukee has gotten the jump on the NL Central lead. The only team that has given the Brewers real trouble as of late is the Cardinals.
Since Mike Matheny took over as manager of the Redbirds, they are an impressive 25-12 versus Milwaukee.
The Brewers, though, have won nine of their ten road contests in 2014—and this three-game set will be taking place at Busch Stadium. But they’ll have to overcome some injuries, as Ryan Braun has a right rib-cage strain while his bat struck Jean Segura during a practice swing in the dugout on Saturday.
Kyle Lohse vs. Lance Lynn:
Lynn was a winner in that first meeting with Milwaukee on April 14. In fact, it was darn near impossible for any opponent to beat Lance in first month of the season, as he had compiled a career record of 12-0 through April. That mark was unblemished until Thursday, when he allowed three runs in 6.1 innings in a loss against the New York Mets.
Lohse is more than capable of continuing Lynn’s frustration. He is tied for the National League lead with four victories—the latest coming last Wednesday when some early run support led to a 5-2 victory against San Diego.
Mark Buehrle vs. Yordano Ventura:
When taking a peek at the American League’s top pitchers in terms of ERA, you’ll see the expected names of Darvish, Shields and Verlander.
One hurler you probably hadn’t heard of prior to this year Yordano Ventura, who ranks sixth (1.80) after four starts and a 2-1 record. The 22-year-old right-handed rookie from the Dominican Republic spun a sterling effort against Baltimore, blowing away the Orioles with eight innings of shutout ball.
Buehrle is also among the top 10 in AL ERA with a 2.16. However, that number was once a lot smaller. The Red Sox were the ones who did the damage, rocking the veteran to the tune of 12 hits and seven runs (including a David Ortiz homer), failing to get out of the sixth.
One advantage Buehrle has on a counterpart 13 years younger when they face-off Thursday is the fact that the southpaw has yet to lose on the road so far this year, while Ventura has yet to win in Kansas City.
So next Thursday: Yordano Ventura (97.0 mph average fastball) v. Mark Buehrle (82.8 mph average fastball)
— Brandon Warne (@Brandon_Warne) April 26, 2014
Game of the Weekend
As a player, Robin Ventura was famous for the “Grand Slam Single.” As a manager, he has witnessed an extraordinary April by rookie Jose Abreu—who capped a record month with a walk-off grand slam of his own on Friday night against Tampa Bay.
It didn’t look promising from the outset, as White Sox starter Erik Johnson failed to make it out of the second inning. Down 4-1, Chicago would chip away and eventually knot the score after four frames. One of those runs came courtesy of a homer by Abreu, his eighth of the season.
It remained tied until the ninth inning, when Evan Longoria put the Rays up 6-4 with a two-run blast—a lead that would be short-lived.
Grant Balfour struggled to hold the Tampa advantage. A double, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases. Abreu stepped to the plate with one out—set to put another one on the board.
It was his ninth home run in April, which set a Major League rookie record for homers in the month—topping a mark previously held by Albert Pujols, Carlos Delgado, and Kent Hrbek. Not to be overlooked, Abreu also compiled six RBI—giving him a total of 27. That equals Pujols for the most in that category by a rookie in April. He would set the record on Sunday by driving in four more runs in a 9-2 White Sox win.
This Week in MLB History
On April 28, 1988, the Baltimore Orioles set an American League record with their 21st consecutive loss—all coming since the opening game of the season. The drought would end one night later.
On April 29, 1986, Roger Clemens sets a new single-game strikeout record by fanning 20 Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.
On May 1, 1991, a pair of Hall of Famers made history. First, Rickey Henderson steals his 939th base, breaking the all-time record once held by Lou Brock. That night, Nolan Ryan (at 44 years old) gets his seventh career no-hitter as he beats the Toronto Blue Jays.
On May 2, 1939, Lou Gehrig voluntarily takes himself out of the starting lineup prior to the Yankees’ game against Detroit—ending his consecutive games streak at 2,130.