Donaldson leads the N.L. in batting average & a few other categories.
The Traverse City Panthers (16-6) find themselves in unfamiliar territory, they now have won 9 straight games, sweeping Seattle in six games -- to put it in perspective, Traverse City's longest winning streak in 2013 was 4 games (tied for worst with the Washington Filibusters). Only 6 teams last season won at least 9 straight last season, Boston had the league's longest at 15 games. T.C's chance of matching that is highly unlikely, since they have to host a 6-game series against tough division rival Holland this upcoming week (Holland owns a career 13-9 record over the Panthers). The team has vastly improved in the pitching department this last week, and now ranks 3rd in ERA (3.30), while the Panthers lead the league in strikeouts (237) -- an astounding 10.8 K's per game. They are 2nd in hitting & led by Josh Donaldson. Donaldson (1.016 OPS) has finally put some home runs on the board to go with his great stats for 2014, he now is batting .359 (leads league) with 3 HR's & 20 RBI. Ryan Raburn has been lethal off the bench (.323, 4, 10 in 31 AB's) with a 1.150 OPS. Julio Teheran continues to make opposing hitters look like fools, sporting a 4-1 record, 1.62 ERA, with 47 K's in 33.1 innings (opponents are batting only .161 against him).
The HollandHitchhikers (2nd place in N.L. East) meanwhile, split 3-3 with a tough Portland ball-club -- they trail Panthers by 3.5 games & get their chance to make some ground back; They are 5-1 on the road this season. Mike Minor keeps improving for Holland is now topping the rotation with a 2.77 ERA & perfect 3-0 record, while Jose Fernandez (3-1, 3.35) is 2nd in the National League with 49 strikeouts. Greg Holland has been a perfect 6-for-6 in the Saves department for Holland, with a 1-0 record, no runs (only 2 hits) allowed, with 10 K's in 8.1 innings; In fact the bullpen is rocking with a 1.82 ERA. Eric Hosmer and Evan Gattis are tied for the team lead with 16, while Gattis continues to lead the league in HR's (8) as a rookie. Bryce Harper has the power - 7 HR's (2nd) with 14 RBI & 20 runs scored... but lacks average at the moment (.197). The team still needs improvement in their rotation by Stephen Strasburg, Matt Moore & Zack Wheeler, if they want to win this division -- they are definitely a team in the mix, as the N.L. is starting to show some separation.
The Hannibal Cavemen (11-12) held off the powerful offense of San Diego, to pull off a tough 3-3 split, they also improved to 3-0 in extra-inning games with their 4-3 victory in Game 3. The team still ranks among the best in pitching (2nd in ERA - 3.24), but have a negative Run Differential of 7. The team finds itself in 3rd place at the moment, as their lineup is still struggling (.227) with the 2nd lowest scoring average (3.3) in the N.L. -- It does not help that the team is next to the bottom in fielding. Jon Lester leads the team with a 3-0 record & 2.01 ERA (30 K's in 31 innings) while Travis Wood keeps winning the bad luck award (going 1-3) despite a 3.00 ERA in 5 starts (2 CG). Gio Gonzalez (2-3) has slowed down of late, with a 3.34 ERA & 27 K's. Buster Posey has woke up & is now batting .271, with 4 HR's & 11 RBI -- which is a good sign; James Loney (.295) has been the only consistent bat in their lineup for the most part. Good news, Hannibal hosts struggling Urbana.
The Urbana Locomotives are at the bottom of their division, and are already 8.5 games out (T.C's streak didn't help matters), while they have a 2-5 record in one-run games. They are last in hitting (.216) and are only average 3.0 runs a game (with a -16 Run Differential); 53% of their opponents' runs came off them in the first four innings, this season -- leaving them in many situations of playing from behind. The team is 6th in ERA (3.49), while they can at least hang their hat on the defense that ranks 3rd behind Traverse City & Seattle. Their bullpen has been the stronger element of their staff (2.17 ERA), although playing mostly mop-up. David Price (25 career wins) & Cole Hamels continue to put up good numbers, while Hiroki Kuroda is only 1-4, with a 4.04 ERA -- a year after winning 21 games. The two starters (Jeff Samardzija & Ubaldo Jimenez) acquired from Chicago during the 2014 BoS Draft (to help with pitching depth) are a combined 1-6, 5.48 ERA. Urbana has not had much time to take any deep breaths, as they prepare for a road trip to inner-state Hannibal.
In many ways, the Portland Microbrewers (14-8) are still the team to beat in the National League. They have the rotation & they are the defending National League Champions. They also have the best player in the game in Mike Trout, who really hasn't got rolling yet (then again, he started slow last season as well); Trout has improved to .262, with 3 HR & 11 RBI, drawing 13 walks, with 3 steals; He also is currently on a 12-game hitting-streak. The team has three starting pitchers under 3,00 ERA in Cliff Lee (2.17), Anibal Sanchez (2.60) & Hisashi Iwakuma (2.95). Juan Uribe (.364, 4, 8) and Brad Miller (.333, 2, 9) have batted well in limited play, while the team hopes that Carlos Gonzalez's bat (.204 BA) heats up to go along with his 6 HR's & 13 RBI. Portland visits the Rainiers, their northwestern division rival, next.
The San Diego Heroes (13-10) keep getting it done with its power -- to the point that they should add "Super" to Heroes, they have 39 HR's in 23 games, good enough to be on pace for 275 HR's! They have 3 players (Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis & Nelson Cruz) with 6 HR's each (that's a pace for 42 HR's -- imagine three players on one club with that many homers?!) They have a .799 OPS & got done with a 3-3 split against Hannibal's tough starting pitching. Their pitching was somewhat of a surprise in the first 3 weeks, this past week, some of their starters are coming back down to Earth -- while their bullpen (2.35 ERA) continues to go strong, led by Kenley Jansen's 5 Saves. Tyson Ross continues to have a good year, 2-0, 2.63 ERA, with 37 K's in 27.1 innings -- along with A.J. Griffin's 4-0 start, featuring an ERA of 2.80 & 30 K's in 35.1 IP. The Heroes currently look like Portland's biggest threat in the west, they host the 10-13 Kings next.
The King Road Kings hope that Chris Sale can rebound from a rough start & join Clayton Kershaw for the best one-two left-handed punch in baseball -- meanwhile, it's been a different sort of 1-2 combo for the Kings in Kershaw & Ervin Santana; Both pitchers have a ERA below 2.00 (Kershaw 1.93, Santana 1.98 - 4 starts each). Both have a shutout this season, while Kershaw has recorded a Save. Daniel Murphy has been the King of Kings on offense, batting .293, with 2 HR & 13 RBI, to go along with his team-leading 9 doubles & 15 runs. Michael Cuddyer (.282, 3, 14) is batting good as well. The team is still waiting on Josh Hamilton to lift that .182 batting average, he does have 3 HR & 13 RBI though; Chase Headley & Billy Butler have been getting on base (drawing plenty of walks), but could hit for better also. The Kings will have their work cut out for them as they face San Diego's powerful lineup, who has no problem scoring runs -- while the Kings enter the series at a -8 Run Differential, which does not spell out to be a successful series.
The Seattle Rainiers ran into a red-hot team in Traverse City & their red-hot pitcher Julio Teheran (2 wins, 19 K's in 14 innings, 3 runs & 10 hits allowed); They also lost a 16-inning 1-0 game, against a tough Matt Harvey (14 K's in 9.2 IP) -- a game that Max Scherzer was absolutely on, allowing only 3 hits in 9 innings, with 10 K's. Scherzer has been showing signs of turning it around, as he is now 1-2, with a 3.72 ERA, while leading the National League with 50 strikeouts. The team still has the worst pitching in the league (4.72 ERA), which they need Justin Masterson, Jason Vargas & Kyle Kendrick to step it up. Wil Myers (.368 BA/.905 OPS in 38 AB's), Mike Carp (.289, 3, 12) & Brett Gardner (.270 BA, 20 H & 4 steals) have been the team's bright spots in the lineup, while Evan Longoria (who had a great season in MLB) has been disappointing so far, with his .202 batting average. The Rainiers have been outscored by 35 runs so far, and it doesn't get easier with Portland coming into town.
*** This concludes the N.L. Highlights for Week 4 ***