Three up, three down: Royals' moves working
Influx of pitching helping KC gain; injuries catching up to Yankees
Last season in July, the Royals began a revamping of the starting rotation, and it is starting to pay off. After a 4-19 stumble in May that saw Kansas City fall to last place in the American League Central, the Royals have resurrected their season. In winning 10 of their past 12 games, they climbed back into third place in the division, moving ahead of the White Sox and Twins. And it's the pitching staff that has carried the load, compiling a best-in-baseball 1.75 ERA during that stretch. A bullpen anchored by Greg Holland, who has converted all five save opportunities in those 12 games, has a 0.61 ERA over that span. The rotation is 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA. Jeremy Guthrie, who has suffered the lone loss, has a 3.26 ERA, the only ERA on the roster above 2.57 during the revival.
The aches and pains are starting to show up in the standings. The Yanks lost five of six last week, slipping into third place in the AL East for the first time since the opening week of the season. New York hit just .198, 29th among Major League teams, while posting a 4.63 ERA, third highest in the AL. The Yankees hit just two home runs. But then, their regression shouldn't be a surprise. They were beating the odds earlier in the season by surviving so long without their core players. Five projected starters have appeared in 17 or fewer games: catcher Francisco Cervelli (17), first baseman Mark Teixeira (15), center fielder Curtis Granderson (eight), shortstop Derek Jeter (none) and third baseman Alex Rodriguez (none).
The A's are on a roll, and it's Bartolo Colon who is pushing them forward. They have won 22 of their past 29 games, going from seven games back in the AL West to a three-game lead on Texas. While Grant Balfour has closed out the wins (11-for-11 in saves during that span), Colon has anchored an Oakland rotation that is 16-5 in that period. Colon has won all six of his starts and has compiled a 1.05 ERA. Not bad for a guy who turned 40 in the midst of the A's surge to the top of the AL West. Colon has thrown strikes, but he has not allowed a home run after giving up seven during his first eight starts of the season.
Texas didn't fade until the final days of 2012, watching Oakland overtake it for the AL West title on the final day of the season. This year, the troubles have come earlier for the Rangers, who were swept in a four-game weekend series by the Blue Jays, leaving Texas with its first six-game losing streak at home since April 2010. The Rangers have lost nine of their past 11 games and four series in a row, and they have gone from three games up on the A's when June began to three games back. More challenging than a 4.43 ERA during the 2-9 struggle, which ranks 13th in the AL, is an offense that has hit .222 over the past 11 games. That ranks just four points ahead of Minnesota's 30th-ranked average in that time. Texas has also scored just 27 runs, 27th among Major League teams. Five regulars hit .200 or lower in the 11 games -- first baseman Chris McGuiness (.200), right fielder Nelson Cruz (.194), left fielder David Murphy (.171), shortstop Elvis Andrus (.163) and center fielder Craig Gentry (.158).
They are celebrating a 6-0 homestand in San Diego, during which the Padres swept National League East-leading Atlanta and NL West-leading Arizona in three-game series, moving San Diego to within two games of the NL West lead. The Friars are now 30-19 in their past 49 games, during which time they are 21-7 at Petco Park. San Diego is above .500 after the opening week of a season for the first time since ending 2010 with a 90-72 record. But for all the good news, there are reasons for concern. Everth Cabrera, who has started every game at shortstop, suffered a left hamstring injury moments before Kyle Blanks' eighth-inning three-run homer in Sunday's 4-1 win over Arizona, while outfielder Carlos Quentin appears headed to the disabled list with a strained left shoulder. That could leave the Padres without five of their eight projected starting position players for their three-game series at San Francisco that opens on Monday night. Already on the disabled list are second baseman Jedd Gyorko (right groin strain), first baseman Yonder Alonso (fractured right hand) and center fielder Cameron Maybin (strained right knee).
On May 20, the Tribe was coming off a four-game sweep of Seattle that included three walk-off victories, and the club sat atop the AL Central with a 2 1/2-game lead and a 26-17 record. Cleveland proceeded to lose 17 of its next 25 games, and it's been a team effort. Nick Swisher (.167), Mark Reynolds (.188) and Drew Stubbs (.203) have hit a combined .187 in those 22 games, striking out 82 times in 230 at-bats. The pitching staff has a 5.05 ERA in the 22 games, highest in baseball during that stretch. The bullpen has blown four of six saves while compiling a 1-5 record and a 6.13 ERA. The Indians have played all 25 games against legitimate contenders, and they now get a chance to try and regroup. They have home series this week against the Royals and Twins, the first teams with losing records Cleveland has faced since the four games with Seattle.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.