The Mets finished a disappointing road trip, going down to Puerto Rico and losing two out of three to the Marlins, and then splitting a four-game series with Washington. Meanwhile the Yankees were in town for a six-game homestand, hosting 1977 expansion brothers Seattle and Toronto (and fared about as well as the Mets did, going 3-3).
For the record, the Mariners finished in sixth place, a half-game ahead of Oakland, in their debut season, and boasted future Yankee Rupert Jones as the Face of the Franchise. Former Yankees Mike Kekich and Doc Medich pitched for them, and 1982 Yankee Dave Collins was also along for the ride. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, finished with the worst record in baseball. They sported former Yankees Otto Velez and Jim Mason on their roster, along with future Bomber Rick Cerone. But more importantly, Pete Vuckovich, who was of course Clu Haywood in Major League, pitched in 53 games for the Jays. He recorded the first save and shutout in Toronto history and went on to win the Cy Young with Milwaukee in 1982. But he finished his career with zero home runs in 208 at-bats. None of that really has anything to do with the Player of the Week -- who is Brett Gardner, by the way -- but I just wanted an excuse to mention Clu Haywood -- and also Mike Kekich in a context that didn't include his pal, Fritz Peterson.
Brett Gardner: The winner could have easily been David Wright for the second week in a row, but that's kind of boring so we decided to go in another direction (and I could have chosen Joey Chestnut, too; eating 53 hot dogs is pretty darn impressive). Gardner only got four hits this week (plus two walks), he only batted .285, but in honor of the Fourth of July weekend, fireworks, explosions and whatnot, Gardner pulls out the victory. Anybody who hits a grand slam one day (the first of his career) and then an inside-the-park job the next (granted, it was a bit of a gift from the blinding sun) deserves a little recognition. That's two homers and six RBI for the week (in only four games played), and throw in an outstanding catch this weekend to top it all off, and Gardner it is. He had an RBI-to-hit ratio of six-to-four beating Wright's three-to-14. Plus my daughter has a friend named Brett in her kindergarten class, so she insisted on Gardner even though she owns a David Wright T-shirt.
David Wright: Six multi-hit games in seven games played this week? A .437 batting average? Just another week for the torrid Wright, who scored seven runs, stole two bases and drove in three. He still whiffs a lot, but he's doing everything else right -- hitting to all fields, driving the ball, not flailing at pitches way out of the strike zone. He's also fielding his position impressively. And he was deservedly voted into the All-Star Game as a starter.
CC Sabathia: The Yankees nominal ace is beginning to actually look like a real live ace again. He defeated Seattle on Thursday by going eight innings for the third game in a row, and only allowed one earned run. He's in the midst of a six-game winning streak, and has only let in 10 earned runs in those starts. For the year he stands at 10-3, with a 3.33 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. He's starting to round into All-Star material and with his recent hot streak was chosen for the team.
Jon Niese: The young lefty threw seven innings on Friday, only allowed one run while striking out eight with zero walks (and chimed in offensively with an RBI double). For the season, he's 6-2, with a 3.62 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. In his six starts since coming off the DL, he's 5-0 with a 2.46 ERA. Not bad for a 23-year-old with 22 career starts.
Mark Teixeira: The struggling first baseman hit .428 this week, banging out nine hits, six of them doubles, and drove in five. He raised his average from .229 to .243. Maybe there's hope for him yet.
Josh Thole: The just-called-up catcher follows in the footsteps of Mets legends Felix Millan and Rusty Staub by choking up on the bat. He hit a pinch-hit single on Monday, then had an RBI pinch-hit on Tuesday and another one on Wednesday. And in his only start on Saturday, he went two for three with two RBI and didn't have any problems catching R.A. Dickey's knuckleball.
Tough-Luck Losers: A.J. Burnett finally pitches a good game, Johan Santana finally pitches a good game and Dickey bounces back form his one bad outing of the year and what do they get? Nothing, thanks to Frankie Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain and the other usual suspects of the two New York bullpens.
Notable Endings and Odds and Ends: Marcus Thames had a walk-off hit Sunday, and Alex Rodriguez thought he had a walk-off hit on Thursday, and he was also under the impression that the previous two days were Friday and Saturday. Hey, when you're that rich you don't have to know the days of the week and innings -- you people to handle those types of mundane things. Before destroying Saturday's game, K-Rod was about to blow Friday's game as well when Ruben Tejada swooped in and made that savvy pickoff play to end the game. Tejada may not be tearing it up at the plate, but take your time, Luis Castillo. The aging second baseman may be sure-handed but he's liable to break a hip anytime he's hobbling around the field. Alex Cora belted a two-out bases-loaded triple on Friday (and then hit another three-bagger on Saturday). And Nick Swisher smashed two home runs on Tuesday, giving John Sterling the opportunity to call him The Swisheroo. Isn't Sterling a little like Judge Smails in Caddyshack with his Billy Baroo ("Come on, Billy, Billy, Billy")? Would it be surprising to hear Sterling mutter, "Come on Swishy, Swishy, Swishy" at some point when Swisher comes up to the plate?
All-Stars: Wright, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano were voted in as starters for next week's All-Star Game in Anaheim. A-Rod, Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera and Jose Reyes will also jet out to California as reserves. Mike Pelfrey and Andy Pettitte were probably the best and most consistent New York starting pitchers this year, and neither made the team in the original selections. Pettitte got the nod to replace Boston's Clay Buchholz. (Hey, the Yankees have a $200-million payroll -- they better have at least six All-Stars). And Swisher's on the ballot for the final spot for good measure.