Baseball… Anyone?

How it all began

What comes into your mind when you hear the word baseball? For those of you who have been in a real baseball event would it lead you to think of a huge stadium, an open field, the heat of the sun, the cheer of crowds, the cracking of the bat as it hits the ball, or the shout of the umpire of what decision he has for the teams? For those of you who in anyway have not experienced being in a baseball game but have seen it through sports channels or heard it on the radio or viewed it online, you might also have the same perception of the game. For those who are not into baseball but may have had the chance to observe a game or two, it might be obvious that the spectator watches two teams playing against each other, there is a presence of a pitcher, a batter, an umpire or referee and the people guarding the bases. If that spectator figures out the way of scoring then he might have probably learned the basics of the sport.

In the context of an in depth look at the sport itself, only a few people, minus the avid baseball fans and players would even care to understand who thought about it, where it came from and where it is most popular at as a sport…

Baseball, which can be classified as a game of bat and ball and which is also sometimes identified as hard ball to differentiate it from a similar game known as softball (a more compact version of the game) can be traced back to accounts of being an evolved version of the game called rounders, which was said to have originated in Great Britain and Ireland dating back to as early as the 17th century. There are similar accounts about the existence of the game but the pioneering full documentation of baseball in North America was by Dr. Adam Ford in his modern description of the game that took place on June 4, 1838 in Beachville, Ontario. It was on June 19, 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey that the first game of baseball in U.S. history was officially recorded with the New York Nine defeating the Knickerbockers in a 23-1 four innings game.

Today, Baseball is recognized as the national sport of the United States. The sport also has spread its popularity, is being patronized and played in most of the American regions, the Caribbean and East Asia.

Barry Bond, Steroids and Major League Baseball

Copyright 2006 David Maillie

In the last 5 years the growing popularity and use of illegal substances (steroids) in major league baseball has created a public outcry and led to indictments, arrests and congressional hearings. Some have even put major league baseball on par with professional wrestling as it is now a drugged or ‘juiced’ game and old, lasting records by the greats like Ruth and Hank Aaron can easily be broken by lesser athletes on steroids and have become meaningless. Just look at Barry Bonds for an example.

Barry Bonds became depressed in the late 90’s as new athletes like McGwire and Jose Conseco were becoming more popular for belting homeruns. Bonds was a great athlete, but he was aging and just like his father was headed for retirement. Bonds and everyone else knew that Conseco and the others were taking steroids. It was inevitable that Bonds would start taking steroids as he was very jealous and had an insatiable appetite for being the leader – he could not stand being in second place to anyone and he saw the great results of McGwire and Conseco.

Barry Bonds started taking numerous types of steroids through his trainer Greg Anderson. His physique, career and baseball would never be the same. Bonds was better after the steroids than anytime in his career. The steroids had elevated his career and possibly made him the best player in baseball history as he has now hit 722 career home runs. Only a few of the greatest players in Baseball history have ever hit into this range. It is similar to what Tiger Woods has done in Golf and his chasing Jack Nicklaus with his 18 career major titles. The difference is that Tiger Woods is a real champion and doesn’t use drugs like steroids or cheat in any way. Kids can look up to him as a hero.

Tiger Woods worked and trained very hard – he is also human as he went through a lot dealing with the loss of his father. Tiger woods through his great game and ethics has elevated professional golf and its fan base to all time highs. Barry Bonds, on the other hand, has devastated major league baseball and its rich history. Records are not meant to be broken on a daily or monthly basis. Records are just that records of greatness, by actual heroes like Joe DiMaggio, Ruth, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Ty Cobb. They never used steroids and were great players both on and off the field.

What every professional athlete needs to understand is that our kids see them as idols, heroes and mentors. Its not about the money, its about the game. Ninety nine percent of professional athletes never become a great like Rod Carew, Michael Jordan, or Warren Moon, but they are all imprinted in our children. Everyone remembers the negatives like McEnroe and his emotional outbursts, Rae Caruth and O.J. Simpson whom have abused the legal system and their fame to commit murder, steroids, gambling and the expulsion of baseball legend Pete Rose. Don’t the leaders of these professional sports realize that they have tainted and in some respects ruined the future of sports like major league baseball.

To see immediate evidence of this all one has to do is look at the dwindling number of visitors to the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown, NY. It used to be almost every young boys fantasy to see the outfit worn by Babe Ruth, the Ball that was signed by Reggie Jackson and his Yankee teammates, the stories of greatness and great hurdles and obstacles that were overcome by some of the legends. Rare baseball cards by players with strict standards like Honus Wagner whom had his cards pulled as he did not want to be associated with cigarettes and tobacco. The meaning of baseball’s rich history has greatly suffered and will continue until something drastic is done.

Athletes like Barry Bonds that cheat and use illegal performance enhancing drugs should be banned and immediately removed from baseball and other sports. They should receive punishment worse than Pete Rose and should be stripped of all records, titles, and history in the game. Let someone who worked hard, overcame adversity and great obstacles, and never cheated and had great ethics, standards and was a true hero be the one to determine their fate – someone like Hank Aaron. Hank Aaron set records, great records, the hard way and they are being tarnished by the likes of Barry Bonds and others. Hank Aaron, like Herschel Walker, overcame a very poor upbringing, racism, lack of resources, etc… and through sheer determination became one of the greatest athletes ever.

It is time to stop the commercialism and get back to the basics of these sports. We have forgotten what the game really means. There is a reason why in Brooklyn they still remember the Brooklyn Dodgers. Lets not let the great game of baseball be ruined by people like Barry Bonds – they must be removed from the game, their history completely wiped out and start anew. This is the only way to retain or rescue the image of professional baseball.

Baseball Betting: bet on Phillies & Dodgers to continue streak!

The good thing about wagering on sports this time of year is that with a plethora of activity, you may fine a soft line here or there if you probe hard enough. Two teams who are beginning to get healthy and make some noise are the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Philadelphia Phillies seek to push their winning streak to 10 games for the first time in nearly 15 years when they wrap up a three-game series against resurgent Tom Glavine and the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

With a 5-4 win in the middle game of the series on Tuesday, Philadelphia (18-14) has won nine in a row for the first time since a 13-game streak from July 30-Aug. 12, 1991.

The streak also has allowed the Phillies to move within two games of the Mets, who sit atop the NL East and are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak of 2006.

The City of Brotherly Love is beginning to embrace the Phil’s as both the 76ers and Flyers have been banished from their respective sports and the players are brimming with confidence. Having won 9 in a row and facing a pitcher (Glavine), you would think the Phil’s would be rock solid favorites, but the morning line has the game a pick-em!

The lefty’s last two outing have been superb however and there should be some Mets money to keep the odds attractive if you are a Cory Liddle fan. The right-hander will try to put together consecutive wins for the first time this season. Against Atlanta on Friday, he gave up three runs and five hits with a season-high three walks over six innings in a 6-3 victory that lifted the Phillies to .500 for the first time this year.

He’s had success against his former team, going 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in five outings, striking out 26 and walking just five.

Glavine (4-2, 1.94) will make the start for New York looking for his 280th career win, but also looking to beat the Phillies for the first time in 10 starts.
Since last defeating Philadelphia on Sept. 19, 2002, Glavine is 0-7 with a 5.82 ERA and opponents have hit .298 against him. He has dropped his last five starts versus them, allowing 24 runs and 35 hits in 29 innings.

Overall, Glavine is 24-16 with a 3.77 ERA in his career against Philadelphia.
At 40, Glavine is pitching recently like the two-time Cy Young Award winner he is. In wins April 29 over Atlanta and Thursday against Pittsburgh, the left-hander has given up just seven hits with 11 strikeouts and just three walks in 14 innings.

Take the Phillies to extend their streak!

In the other game you have two teams passing each other in the express elevator. The Dodgers are on their way to the penthouse, while Houston is freefalling to the outhouse. LA winner of 4 in a row is beginning to get production from their big name players Garciaparra, Drew and as always Jeff Kent.

On the other hand you have Astro’s slugger Lance Berkman in a terrible funk hitless in five at-bats and is 4-for-20 with no RBIs on the road trip. Only 14 of his 36 RBIs have come on the road. Tonight momentum is in the Dodger’s favorite.

Brett Tomko (3-1, 3.41 ERA) has been outstanding in his last three outings for Los Angeles, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in that stretch. He did not win his last outing despite allowing five hits over seven scoreless innings in a 3-0 loss to San Diego on Thursday.

“I tweaked a couple of things in the bullpen this week, and it worked. I felt more comfortable with my off-speed stuff,” Tomko said. “It would have been a lot nicer if we would have come out with the win.”

The veteran right-hander is 4-5 with a 4.90 ERA in 13 career starts against Houston.

Impressive Houston rookie Taylor Buchholz (2-1, 2.16) will oppose Tomko in his fifth career start. Buchholz is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA since joining the rotation on April 17.

The right-hander failed to record a decision his last time out after allowing three runs and six hits over seven innings in a 5-4 loss at Colorado last Friday.

You have to grab LA at -110!

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Baseball betting numbers that matter!

The good news for the LA Angels is that they are only four game back in the loss column in the wacky AL West. The bad news is that 2005 CY Young award winner Bartolo Colon is returning and has looked brutal in 2006.

In his third minor league rehabilitation start, Colon gave up six earned runs and nine hits against the Fresno Grizzlies. In three starts for the Angels this season, Colon is 0-2 with a 7.07 ERA and they are going to send down their best pitcher to accommodate him.

Jered Weaver, the Angels’ first-round draft pick in June 2004, reduced his ERA to 1.37 and became the second pitcher in franchise history to win his first four major league starts on Tuesday night. The other was Bo Belinsky, who won his first five starts in 1962 and finished his rookie season 10-11. Whether that’s enough to keep Weaver up in the bigs is another story. He has allowed just four earned runs, 16 hits and four walks in his 26 1-3 innings of work — and has received a total of 30 runs of support from his teammates.

The player who should be sent down is Weaver’s brother Jeff Weaver who is 3-9 with an embarrassing ERA of 6.15, but is earning $8.3 million.

The Angels are lucky to have Orlando Cabrera in the lineup as this guy has been incredible. Cabrera has reached base in 43 consecutive games without the benefit of a fielder’s choice, the longest current streak in baseball and longest in club history. He has hit safely in 27 of his last 31 contests and is 25-for-54 over his last 14 games, raising his average from .271 to .313.

When the LA Dodgers acquired Brad Penny a couple of years ago, much was expected of the hard throwing righthander, but some arm ailments affected him and he was just 7-9 in 2005. Already in 2006 he has equaled his 2005 total. Penny (7-1, 2.34 ERA) is 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA over seven starts since his lone loss of the season at Arizona on May 1. He also hasn’t allowed a home run in 10 outings since April 14.

The right-hander enters tonight’s start with a scoreless streak of 14 1-3 innings after a victory at Colorado on Friday. He surrendered five hits over 8 1-3 innings in a 3-0 win.

Padres catcher Mike Piazza, a former Dodger who is hitless in his last nine at-bats, is hitting .400 (12-for-30) with three homers and 12 RBIs in his career against Penny. Piazza is hitting just .188 at home this season.

The Colorado Rockies look to win three straight road games for the first time since April when they continue a four-game series against the Washington Nationals at RFK Stadium on Wednesday.

The Rockies (32-32) opened the season winning 10 of their first 13 road games, but have gone just 6-13 away from Denver since May 1. Still, Colorado is 16-16 on the road this season — a huge improvement over last season’s 27-54 mark.

Garrett Atkins had a double and scored two runs, and is batting .395 (17-for-43) with seven runs, five doubles and nine RBIs during a season-high 12-game hitting streak.

Washington will counter with Tony Armas (6-3, 3.48), who has won six of his last seven decisions. He allowed three runs and six hits in five innings in a 9-8, 12-inning win over Philadelphia on Friday, but did not receive a decision.

The Nationals have won in six of his last seven starts.

Armas is just 1-1 with a 4.80 ERA in six starts at RFK, and has pitched five or fewer innings in three of his last four home starts, posting a 7.13 ERA in those games.

The right-hander is 2-2 with a 7.39 ERA in seven starts against the Rockies, but went 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts against them last season.

We told you what to expect this year from over the hill Randy Johnson and he has failed to earn his salary in 2006. Johnson (7-5, 5.63 ERA) was hit hard again his last time out, allowing six runs and six hits over four innings of a 6-5 loss to Oakland on Friday. He gave up three more homers, a season high, to bring his total for the year to 15.

The Big Unit has surrendered 10 homers in his last 33 1-3 innings spanning six starts, doing nothing to dispel the notion that his dominance may be fading at age 42. Last year, he gave up a career-high 32 homers in his first season with New York.

Bob Acton

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Baseball betting: will the Cubs start winning or will Dusty get dusted?

The Chicago Cubs are on a mini two game winnings streak at the expense of the inept Washington Nationals and is this cause for optimism, or do we throw in the towel for the 98th year on the Cubs.

Yes the story has been told far too many times about the last Chicago Cub’s team to win the World Series in 1908 and most sportsbooks have them at 50-1 to win the October Classic, while their South Side neighbors the White Sox are 3-1 to repeat.

Yesterday things got so bad at Wrigley that a drunken female fan through a ball from the stands, that just missed taking the head off of slumping Jacques Jones.

The Cubbies now invite flame thrower Kerry Wood back to the nest on Thursday and considering that have been without Wood, Mark Prior, Wade Miller and Derrek Lee, for an extended period, 12-22 is not that bad.

Wood seemed to be realizing his potential when he made the All-Star team in 2003, finishing with a majors-best 266 strikeouts and a 14-11 record. But he went just 8-9 in 22 starts in 2004, spending nearly two months on the disabled list.

Last season he was 3-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 21 games. Wood made three trips to the DL, missing about three months, and even pitched out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, making 11 relief appearances, because of shoulder problems.

Wood’s rehab was pushed back after minor knee surgery in early March. He made two minor league rehab starts and threw 85 pitches in five innings for Triple-A Iowa on May 12.

The Cubs so have a starter hitting over .300 with Todd Walker the closest at .298 and Juan Pierre has been awful from the leadoff spot. His on base percentage of .276 is downright embarrassing and multi-million dollar a year players Jones and Aramis Ramirez have combined for just 34 RBI’s.

They travel across town this weekend and hopefully they learn a thing or two from the White Sox and maybe Dusty should takes some notes on how to manage by Ozzie Guillen!

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Baseball Bats Facts – Interesting Tidbits

The baseball bat is a simple concept but a pretty complicated object. Here are some baseball bats facts to enlighten you about its interesting history and design. The more you know about baseball bats, the more you will find yourself in love with this fascinating sport. It’s essential to get a grip on the bat’s most basic concepts before you make a buying decision. So, without further ado, here are some interesting baseball bats facts:

A baseball bat is essentially a smooth “rod” that the batter uses to hit the ball thrown by the pitcher, signaling the other players to run around the bases and ultimately try and score a homerun. The thickest part of the bat, the part that is supposed to hit the ball, is called the “barrel” and the best part of the “barrel” for hitting the ball is called the “sweet spot.” The barrel ultimately gets thinner and thinner until it forms into the handle. On metal bats, rubber may wind around the handle for good grip. The “knob” is at the very opposite end of the barrel’s tip and helps a batter to hang onto the bat so that it doesn’t fly away! Think about this before purchasing that cheap bat that no one else seems to care for.

In the early days of baseball, younger players were most prevalent and the majority of bats were handmade, so sizes and shapes varied wildly. But as baseball became more of an official, regulated sport, so did the baseball bats. In 1859, rules were made about the diameter of the bat, and to this day every kind of league has their own individual rules. Therefore, be sure you are clear on your league’s rules on baseball bat measurements. Although all bats look very similar to each other, there are minuscule differences that are not obvious to the human eye. I hope these historic baseball bats facts were useful!

BaseBall Bats – America’s Favorite Sport

America’s National Pastime reached its Zenith of glory by 1860s. Alexander Joy Cartwright modernized the game in 1845 to almost its present form. However, the specifications to baseball bats kept changing with each innovation and need. The innovations changed bat materials to the present aluminum alloy from the classical wooden.

Although whole of baseball gear has undergone a complete makeover, nothing has changed as much and as fast as the bat. There are many different kinds of bats designed for Little Leagues, Senior Leagues, college, and pros. Each coalition has a congeal of parameters for keg diameter and loop dimensions. It can be unconditional overwhelming when you consider the variety of baseball bat brands, materials, styles, and qualities.

Bat Materials
Basically there are three categories but enough for new comers to get bowled over.
Wood: generally willow wood from Canada and Australia goes into making bats for their good grain and fibrous structure. Seasoned wood is used to make bats which can be evidenced by the long fibers of wider nature. One biggest advantage of wooden bats is customizability as regards to barrel and grip. Contrary to beliefs, heavier wooden bats produce greater impacts than lighter bats by virtue of the momentum. But these are not crack free and the sweet spots get reduced after endured usage.
Aluminum alloys: Get ready to spend about $200 on these. These are stronger yet lighter and help generate greater swing speeds. The general alloy used here is 7046; but special alloys like CU31/7050 with higher zirconium, magnesium and copper content gives higher strength and durability. Ask for more choices in this category. Construction depends on the selling price; so we have single/double layered bats in different alloys for higher impacts, rebounds etc. In addition, cryogenically treated bats give lesser vibration and increased distance.
Graphite/Titanium lined: Beauty of this option is the lightest weight bats. Thinner walled bats lined with titanium/graphite provide desired strength and help reduce the impact shock of hitting the ball away from the ‘sweet spot.’

Specifications
USA Baseball, the governing body, issues charts for bat selection which benefits fresher. The bat can be chosen either by age or by your height. The charts are available at every baseball club and over the internet.

For age between 5-7 years the bat length recommended is between 24″-26″ which reaches 34” level for ages above 17 years. The other chart starts for a height of 36-40” with 26” bat till 73”+ having recommended a length of 34”.

Bats are just part of the game and not the game within themselves. Remember the saying, ‘you can take the horse till the lake, but drinking water is his prerogative.’

Baseball and Steroids- The Controversy

There has been a lot of controversy about steroids in baseball. Does it enhance performance and what are the side effects. Are records today the result of steroids. And are athletes harming themselves.

First of all, we need to understand what is a steroid. And why do players use it. Anabolic steroids are a synthetic version of the male hormone testosterone. Testosterone in it’s normal state promotes and boosts muscle development and growth. When it is supplemented with steroids, you have an increase of muscle mass, reduction of body fat, and enhanced endurance. It is used by athletes to try to have the edge on the competition. It is believed that by using a steroid in baseball it will cause you to hit the ball further. And longer.

What are some of the side effects? They range from psychologically to physically. From a psychological standpoint, they can range from a feeling of well-being to depression. Mood swings. And even rage. Sometimes called ‘roid rage’. Other adverse psychological effects can include intense aggression and violence.

From a physical standpoint, you can have all kinds of changes. You will have increased muscle mass and increased endurance, but the side effects can include a plethora of problems. The worst being liver damage, and cancer. You can have acne, excessive hair growth or loss. Testicular atrophy (shrinking), etc.

What is the reward vs. risk? The reward being a quick avenue for increased muscle mass, increased performance, and increased endurance. A feeling of invincibility. The risk is permanent physical morbidity and psychotic episodes that include aggression, violence, and rapid mood swings. Also feelings of depression and suicide. Is the reward worth it? Absolutely not! Yet it is abused by athletes today for the quick gain of fortune and fame. It is believed that by using a steroid in baseball it will lead you down the path of fortune and fame.

There has been a lot of controversy whether Mark McGwire or Barry Bonds or Gary Sheffield and others have used a steroid in baseball. There is the infamous BALCO incident where there are accusations that Barry’s long time friend Greg Anderson was supplying Barry with an untrackable steroid, sometimes called “the cream” or “the clear”. Which raised a lot of questions in the baseball world. Did they use a steroid in baseball and is there proof it enhanced their game? We can draw several conclusions from this.

First off, is there any proof that a steroid in baseball has enhanced the record book with unfair records. At this time, no. We have to remember a couple of things before trying to point fingers, etc. Barry Bonds went on to have an unbelievable season setting a single season record of home runs that will probably never be surpassed in my mind. This happened from a guy that usually averaged around 35 homers a season. Can you explain the sudden jump in home runs? Probably not. But you can make the assumption that he has matured to the top of his game and that he had a dream season.

Now, let’s look at Roger Maris. When Roger went on to hit 61 home runs from a guy that usually never hit that many. Did everyone in the world suddenly start saying there must be a steroid in baseball that he is using? Or he must be doing something to enhance his game. No they did not. They assumed that he just had a magical season that only comes around ever so often. Can we draw the same conclusions about Barry, and about Mark? Yes, we can. Could it be that they had magical seasons? Absolutely.

Until the evidence comes out, we don’t know what any athlete is doing. What I do know as a former major leaguer is how difficult it is to perform at such a high level day in and day out. In my mind, whether they are doing steroids or not, you still have to hit the ball over the fence. You still have to make solid contact consistently. You still have to have great fundamentals. I think what has happened on the baseball field has been remarkable and we are lucky to be able to witness such great athletes perform daily.

Steroids in my mind take away from the game. Even though they provide a quick explosion of muscle mass and endurance, over the long run, they will harm you. They will cause psychotic events, and physical damage that will last a life time. The bottom line is simple. Play the game the way it is meant to be played. Play with honor and pride and dignity. And above all, leave steroids out of it.Using a steroid in baseball is simply not worth it.

Baseball Betting: number’s don’t lie!

When betting major league baseball it is very wise to pay attention to the numbers, as teams and players seem to own certain pitchers or clubs, but also struggled mightily against others. We warned you at the start of the year about Johnson for the Yankees.

Randy Johnson is 5-2 through seven starts. But that’s not as good as it looks.

Facing a Tampa lineup missing Jorge Cantu, Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo, Johnson gave up five runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings Thursday night, letting the Devil Rays stay in the game until the Yankees finally broke it open for a 10-5 victory.

Such games have become routine. In his previous start, against Toronto on Saturday, Johnson allowed six runs on six hits in five innings. The Yankees bailed him out by scoring 17 runs.

That method may work now. It won’t in October.

“Right now he’s not as good as he’s going to be,” manager Joe Torre said of Johnson, 42. “Let’s put it this way: We don’t have any concerns. … This is just normal pitching stuff.”

Johnson has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings, bumping his ERA to 5.02. But he is 5-2 because the Yankees have averaged just over nine runs over his seven starts.

The divorce of long time mates Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox and former pitching coach Lee Mazzone, has made life miserable for both of their teams. The Braves avoided dropping to 10 games behind in the National League East when they broke a four-game losing streak Sunday by beating the New York Mets 13-3. Still, the nine-game deficit beginning the day was the Braves’ largest since Aug. 11, 1993.

That was the third year of their unprecedented string of 14 division crowns (there was no champion in the strike-shortened 1994 season). The streak remains alive but appears in jeopardy with the Mets’ emergence.

Baltimore starter Bruce Chen gave homers to Kevin Mench and Mark Teixeira in his last start against Texas and Chen was battered for 11 hits and eight runs (seven earned) in four innings as he fell to 0-4. RHP Jim Brower, who ended the week ahead of all relievers with the most earned runs allowed at 14, the most walks with 11 and most hits allowed with 17. Their new pitching coach is Mazzone.

The Boston Red Sox team slugging percentage of .409 entering April 28, is ranked 22nd in baseball. The Red Sox finished in the top two in slugging each of the past three seasons. Few teams succeed while digging themselves holes, and the 2006 Red Sox have proved no exception to that trend. For that reason, the fact that Boston had been outscored by its opponents by a 25-13 margin in first innings prior to Wednesday raised something of a red flag.

The Sox own just a 5-9 mark when their opponents score first, something that has now happened in exactly half of the team’s games. It is a pattern that the team is eager to reverse.

With Thursday’s 7-4 win, the Sox now have an 11-3 record when they score first. If the recent awakening of the Boston bats (20 runs during the first three games of a homestand) points to more such nights, then the team might be able to breathe a bit easier.

RHP Bobby Jenks of the Chicago White Sox continued silencing the critics who jumped on him in spring training, saving his ninth game in nine opportunities Thursday. His velocity on his fastball is still on the rise, but the impressive thing with Jenks has been his other pitches, especially his curveball. The Sox swept the two-game series against the Mariners and in doing so won their 10th consecutive home game, tying a franchise record. They have won 19 of 23 overall, becoming the first team in the majors to reach 20 wins.

Since getting swept in the 2000 American League Division Series against the Mariners, the Sox are now 8-17 at Safeco Field.

The Indians’ inconsistent pitching staff cost the team another game Thursday, as Cleveland lost 12-4 at Oakland. Starter Jason Johnson (2-2) lasted just two innings and gave up seven runs.

Johnson had a 1.83 ERA after his first three starts, but his ERA in the last three starts is 9.64. That’s the kind of inconsistency that has plagued the Indians in the first five weeks of the season.

Equally distressing to the Indians is that Johnson has averaged less than five innings per start in his last three starts. Not pitching deep into games has been a problem for Indians starting pitchers since the beginning of the season, and the two innings Johnson pitched Thursday was a reminder of that shortcoming. Because of the starters’ inability to consistently pitch six or seven innings, the bullpen has been overworked. The result has been that the pitching overall has been wildly inconsistent.

That lack of consistency has sabotaged a terrific start to the season offensively. The Indians are at or near the top of the league in most offensive categories, but yet they are just one game over .500 (15-14).

The Indians failed to hit a double Thursday, snapping a streak in which they had at least one double in 43 consecutive games, dating to last year.

RHP Jason Johnson’s career record against Oakland fell to 1-8 after he was roughed up Thursday.

RHP Jake Westbrook, who will start Friday night in Seattle, has a 9.17 career ERA in eight appearances, six starts, against the Mariners.
C Victor Martinez has reached base in 43 consecutive games, dating to last year. That’s the longest such streak in the majors since Jim Edmonds reached in 47 straight games from June to August 2004.

DH Travis Hafner has homered in his last four games. In his last four games, Hafner is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with four home runs and 13 RBIs.

When RHP Carlos Silva surrendered a two-out, fourth-inning walk to former teammate 1B Doug Mientkiewicz on Thursday night, it snapped a streak by Twins pitchers of more than 3 1/2 games without allowing a walk. The first walk of the homestand (four games in) ended a 33-inning streak that spanned 133 plate appearances.

The Twins’ 1-0 loss to the Royals on Thursday night was their first 1-0 loss since the same team handed them one at Kansas City last Aug. 31 — beating the Twins with a run in the bottom of the ninth inning after the Twins failed to score despite 13 hits and a walk.

The Twins have been shut out four times already this season, including three times in their past seven games. This after they thought they improved the lowest-scoring lineup in the AL in 2005 — which didn’t get shut out until May 9 last year and was shut out only four times until Aug. 26. The 2005 Twins were shut out 10 times all season.

CF Tori Hunter’s infield single in the fifth inning Thursday was the 34th of the season for the Twins, who entered the day tied with Baltimore for the major league lead.

Bob Acton

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