AP Photo/Chris Carlson
However, lost in all the hoopla of Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, John Smoltz, Big Papi and all the rest of the familiar cast of characters in this classic rivalry is the fact there's an equally intense series taking place on the left coast, with the top two teams in the AL West battling it out for divisional supremacy and possible playoff spots.
After a 3-2 victory on Saturday, the Angels now lead the Rangers by 4½ games. Jered Weaver was outstanding, striking out 11 Texas hitters and allowing only two runs over 7 1/3 innings to improve to 12-3 on the season. Vladimir Guerrero, back from a knee injury, hit his second home run in three games. Erick Aybar hit the eventual game-winning home run in the seventh inning and a made a great defensive play in the ninth to help Brian Fuentes earn save No. 31 on the season.
But don't count Texas out Kevin Millwood pitched well over six innings, allowing just two runs. Hank Blalock hit his 23rd home run, his third in three games, and Josh Hamilton went 2-for-4 and is now 7-for-his-last-15. They're putting up quite a bit more offense than the punchless Red Sox did against New York, and in case you haven't checked the standings lately, if Texas wins on Sunday and Boston loses again, the teams will be in a dead heat for the wild-card spot.
Plus, with Joe Saunders going on the disabled list with tightness in his shoulder, the Angels will be a man down in their rotation, and with a 10-game road trip looming after a three-game set with the playoff-contending Rays, we might just see the AL West race tighten up a bit over the next two weeks.
You might not be paying attention to the Angels today, but come September 14, you'd better be watching, as Los Angeles plays four games against the Yankees, three against the Red Sox and six against the Rangers. The Rangers also have a late-September set against the Rays the same weekend that the Yankees and Red Sox clash for the last time.
Five teams, three spots. Those teams from the East better be paying attention.
• As for that Yankees-Red Sox series, CC Sabathia continued the Red Sox's scoreless streak, pitching into the eighth inning with nothing but goose eggs on the scoreboard for the visitors, allowing only two hits on the day and striking out nine. Clay Buchholz pitched well for Boston, but with his team not scoring at all, the two runs he allowed were enough for him to get tagged with the loss.
• Meanwhile, former Red Sox pitcher Justin Masterson got his first start for the Indians on Saturday, throwing four innings of one-run ball before being pulled due to pitch count restrictions. He wouldn't have gotten the win anyway, but deserved a far better fate than having Tomo Ohka come in to relieve him, as 1/3 of an inning later, Cleveland's 5-1 lead was gone. Jim Thome doubled and homered for the White Sox as they rallied for an 8-5 win.
• Ian Snell was awful in his second start for the Mariners, walking six and allowing three runs in only an inning and a third. Chris Jakubauskas followed Snell, and gave up home runs to Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena, as the Rays trounced Seattle 10-4.
• Lou Piniella dropped Kosuke Fukudome to the fifth spot in the lineup, and what do you know? It worked. Fukudome went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs, Ryan Theriot went 3-for-5 from the leadoff spot and Milton Bradley went 2-for-4 in the two hole. The Cubs were able to beat up on Jason Marquis of the Rockies, handing him his eighth loss of the season 6-5.
• Albert Pujols drove in three runs against the Pirates with a bases-clearing double that improved his average with the bases loaded to .800 for the season. Pujols now has 100 RBIs on the year but don't lock up that RBI crown just yet. Prince Fielder went 3-for-6 on Saturday with three RBIs of his own to raise his 2009 total to 98. The Brewers might not catch the Cardinals, but Prince might well catch Albert.
• San Diego's Mat Latos continues to impress, with six innings of one-run, four-hit ball against the Mets. Latos struck out seven New York hitters and improved to 4-1 on the season with a 2.43 ERA. He's definitely a keeper, but be warned Latos has thrown 102 innings between the minors and the majors this season, and the Padres have said they want to cap him at around 110 to 120, so there might only be two or three more starts in him this season.
• Another young arm who shined on Saturday was Chris Tillman of the Orioles, who had a no-decision in Baltimore's 3-2 win over Toronto. Tillman allowed only two runs -- a two-run homer in the second inning to "man in limbo" Alex Rios -- over 6 2/3 innings and surrendered only four hits in the process. Unfortunately, not everything went right for the O's as Brian Roberts had to leave the game early with a right shin contusion. X-rays were negative, but expect Robert Andino to man second base for the next few games.
• Chris Coghlan not only hit a leadoff home run off Cole Hamels, but also drove in a run with a single in the eighth inning, extending his streak of consecutive games with two or more hits to seven. That run ties a franchise record with Juan Pierre and Miguel Cabrera.
• Kansas City has 43 wins. Zack Greinke has 26 percent of them. That kind of success rate on the Yankees or Dodgers would have Greinke pitching for his 18th win of the season in his next start. Consider that when you attempt to rank Greinke amongst today's starters. He allowed three runs over seven innings to Oakland on Saturday to improve to only 11-7 on the year. However, his 2.43 ERA still leads the American League. Mike Jacobs went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs for the Royals.
Denard Span, Twins
Span went 5-for-5, improving his career average against the Tigers to .444 (40-for-90) and leading the charge as Minnesota rocked Justin Verlander in an 11-0 victory. Span scored three times and drove in a run to give Carl Pavano all the support he would need to beat Detroit for the fourth time this season.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
Kershaw matched his opponent, Kenshin Kawakami, zero for zero over seven innings on Saturday in a game that saw no scoring until the 10th inning. As good as Kawakami was, allowing only four hits and striking out four, Kershaw was even better, allowing only two hits and whiffing 10 Braves batters, lowering his ERA to 2.73 on the year.
You think A-Rod was slumping? Alex Cora's first-inning home run was the only run the Mets would score on Saturday, but it did end a personal 415 at-bat stretch without a round-tripper. The only active players with a longer power outage are Mike Redmond (420), Cora's fellow Met Luis Castillo (452) and the anemic Reggie Willits (644) who has yet to hit his first major league home run.
• The day following his being an emergency scratch from his scheduled start against the Rockies, Carlos Zambrano has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with back spasms. The move is retroactive to August 1, so the Cubs are hopeful he'll be able to return late next week, assuming the results of an MRI don't reveal anything more serious.
• Meanwhile, during their game, Aramis Ramirez had to leave with soreness in the same shoulder that sent him to the sidelines for two months earlier this year. If it is something serious, at least the Cubs will have found a place to put Jake Fox.
• Boston's Jed Lowrie flew to Phoenix to visit the doctor who performed the surgery on his left wrist earlier this season. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list after experiencing numbness and tingling in his fingers.
• Florida recalled Sean West from Double-A Jacksonville on Saturday to take a start against the Phillies. It could have gone better, but then again, could have been a whole lot worse than the three runs (two earned) he allowed over four innings. Pitcher Luis Ayala was sent to Triple-A New Orleans to make room on the roster for West.
• Speaking of "worse", Clayton Mortensen of Oakland was called up from Triple-A Sacramento to start on Saturday, a move necessitated by the reshuffling of the A's rotation after Dallas Braden was placed on the disabled list with an infected rash on his foot. Mortensen lasted only four innings against Kansas City, allowing eight runs on eight hits, although he did strike out five of the first eight batters he faced, so there is potential there.
• Poor Scott Elbert. On Friday, Joe Torre announced that Elbert would be making the start on Sunday for the Dodgers, but apparently changed his mind sometime during Saturday's game. Elbert was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque, and Eric Stults will be recalled to face the Braves. With Ronald Belisario being activated from the 15-day disabled list, the Dodgers still have to make one more roster move before the start of play.
Stephania Bell: Love that you come to the chat! Danger, always, in predictions, but here's what I will say. Sounds like the D-backs think this is on the mild side of oblique strains, one that would take around 10-14 days to recover from. Given that time frame, made most sense to put him on DL. Also, given that this was an aggravation of something that was already present, it made sense to keep him quiet for a bit. Now, Geovany Soto supposedly had a very mild oblique strain and he was extended well beyond the 15 days (hence the danger in prediction), but all things considered, I would plan on Upton returning this year, just might take an extra 7-10 days.
-- Full chat transcript
James Quintong: I don't see any early shutdown of Hanson just yet, but the Padres look like they're going to be very careful with Latos to the point that you may only see him sparingly in the final month.
-- Full chat transcript
Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
Christopher Harris, 11 a.m. ET
Matthew Berry, 3 p.m. ET
• In his second minor league rehab start, Gil Meche allowed only one run on three hits over five innings for Triple-A Omaha. He's been on the disabled list since July 12, but it looks like he's just about ready to rejoin the Kansas City rotation.
• Mets reliever Billy Wagner might just be able to pitch in the big leagues this season, after all. Wagner threw the fourth scoreless inning of his rehab at Class-A Port St. Lucie on Saturday, striking out one hitter in a 15-pitch frame. If the Mets can't find any takers on the trade market, they might very well decide to use him themselves in September.
• The Angels' John Lackey has logged quality starts in seven of his past eight outings, the lone exception coming in his matchup versus the Rangers. Texas hits .346 off Lackey, so you'll want to keep him plugged to your bench this time around, too.
• Jose Contreras of the White Sox has been roughed up his past four starts, but the last gem he pitched -- the last two gems, in fact, since he faced Cleveland in consecutive starts -- was versus those very Indians, a team he has a 1.88 ERA against this season.
• With a .218 average and a .297 slugging percentage versus Roy Halladay, it's safe to say Baltimore's Nick Markakis has been just another victim. He only has one extra-base hit -- a homer, at least -- in 37 career at-bats, striking out four times.