It's the dog days of summer, which means players do whatever they can to stay refreshed and motivated. After last Sunday's game, Angel Pagan zipped on home to Puerto Rico to surprise his family, which he says reinvigorated him and put an extra hop in his step. The last time I tried to do that, coming home early from work as a nice bonus for my family, my wife locked the door as she saw me coming up the steps and then called the cops claiming an intruder was trying to get in the house. Nick Swisher got his second wind by sticking it to his arch nemesis, Ozzie Guillen, and former Met Nelson Figueroa took the mound with revenge in mind against the Mets. Meanwhile this week, A.J. Burnett and Mark Sanchez were in a battle to see who's the new Oliver Perez. R.A. Dickey is the best Met hitter with the bases loaded. Jon Niese uncharacteristically allowed seven runs in his start. Phil Hughes got roughed up. CC Sabathia now leads the majors in wins. Maligned Luis Castillo hit a walk-off blooper. Joe Girardi returned home to Chicago and didn't rule out making it his permanent home next year. Jose Reyes is injured. Calvin Pace is injured. Mark Teixeira is injured. The are injured. Jason Bay has been cleared to start working out. Andy Pettitte is progressing, with a light at the end of the tunnel in sight. The Yankees re-evaluated their rotation, and announced that Sabathia will make every start for the team the rest of the season. The Jets lost. The Giants lost. The Yankees went 3-3. The Mets went 3-3. And somewhere in all that is the Player of the Week.
Marcus Thames: Who would have thought the best former Tiger on the Yankees would be Thames and not Curtis Granderson? When Thames wasn't launching moon shots all over Chicago and Canada, he was helping old ladies cross the street, saving puppies from burning buildings and taking in orphans. Ok, I'm just trying to make him more colorful than he actually is, but he might as well have done all that with the week he had. He was brought to the Bronx to hit lefties, and hit lefties is what he's doing (.976 OPS, though he has a .906 OPS against righties, so he can hit those guys, too). His unbelievable week included a whopping five home runs (in five games), eight RBIs, six runs scored, a double, two walks and a .470 average. He would get a "Holy cow!" from former Sox announcer Harry Caray and former Yankee broadcaster Phil Rizzuto - if it were 1977 and they were both still alive.
Runners Up & Other Notables
Ivan Nova/Eduardo Nunez: The young Yankees duo accomplished many "firsts" this week: Nunez blasted his first major league home run and stole his first base, while Nova made his first (and second) major league start, notched his first win, brushed back his first Jose Bautista and got caught up in his first B-12 controversy (B-12 is, of course, code for "Rafael Palmeiro"). He denies all allegations, though. He lasted just five-plus innings in his two starts, but pitched well in both games. Besides his first homer, Nunez batted .315 and drove in six runs for the week.
Mike Pelfrey/R.A. Dickey: On Friday, Pelfrey threw eight shutout innings against Houston, making it four good starts in a row for him now. He had a lot of help from his defense and some balls were hit hard, but that's all part of being a successful pitcher, putting up a line of zeros whether you have your best stuff or not. His confidence has returned and he's sticking with his bread-and-butter four-seamer, so has he turned things around for good? We'll see, I guess (how's that for a prediction?). In his last four starts, he's 3-1, with a 1.20 ERA, and he's tied his career high with 13 wins. Dickey picked up two wins this week, and finally qualifies for the ERA title, ranking seventh in the NL (2.56). Yesterday, he recorded his ninth win of the year, and for seven strong innings had his knuckleball floating to the plate looking like a meandering, tipsy butterfly after having downed a couple of scotch and sodas at happy hour. And for good measure, he banged out two hits, including a bases-loaded single. At least somebody on the Mets can hit with the sacks full.
Nick Swisher: Ozzie Guillen doesn't like Swisher, and Swisher doesn't care for the White Sox manager. And it's easy to see why, since they're complete opposites. The Yankee right fielder is a laid-back, life-of-the-party type, while Guillen has the shortest temper and the filthiest mouth on either side of the Mississippi. Swisher missed Wednesday's game with a minor ailment, but vowed there was no way he'd be out of the lineup for the series against his former team. And he exacted his revenge by blasting two dingers, driving in five runs and racking up five hits in the three-game set.
Josh Thole/Jorge Posada/Francisco Cervelli: With Rod Barajas sent packing to LA, Thole is now the Mets No. 1 catcher. And this week we got a pretty good glimpse of who he is. He hit .411, with bloops and bleeders, and has shown excellent patience and plate discipline. He also smashed a home run, which will probably be a rarity for him in the years to come. His defense has improved immensely as the season has progressed, and on Wednesday he made a few impressive plays at the plate - even tagging a runner here and there, unlike Posada, who inexplicably seems to get away with not bothering to tag runners sliding into home but still getting the out call. I guess if you're a Yankee you can get away with that. As for Thole, an OBP in the high .300s, solid defense and a smart approach to hitting? I'll sign up for that. Posada himself had a good week at the plate, with a home run, five RBIs, a .350 average and a four-hit game. And his caddy, Cervelli, notched a four-hit game himself yesterday in Chicago.
David Wright: Here he goes again on one of his patented hot streaks. He even hit a home run in the ninth inning on Wednesday, which has pretty much been his worst inning to hit in this year (.237 average, .316 slugging, but lifetime .283/.431). Of course his cold streaks and lack of late-game production this year stand out like a sore thumb because, outside of Angel Pagan, nobody in the lineup is doing much of anything. The weight of the world (or at least Queens) rests on Wright's shoulders, and he obviously knows it, feels the strain and tries to do too much. So he takes much criticism even though he's actually having a great season. If everybody around him were hitting, he would just be viewed as great, not someone who is great but with flaws. For the week, he hit .318, with two home runs, five RBIs, a triple and seven runs scored.
LaDainian Tomlinson: This week's Jets preseason representative is their new running back. Tomlinson was one of the few bright spots for Gang Green's struggling offense. He gained 86 yards on only 11 carries, for an impressive 7.8 average. His longest run went for 43 yards, and he caught one pass for nine yards. Seeing preseason action is a rarity in his career but it looks like it's a good thing for him this year, as he's playing like he has something to prove. But Lawrence Taylor's ongoing troubled life notwithstanding, I just can't refer to Tomlinson as LT. It's just not right. There's only one LT around here. It would be like calling Gary Carter Mr. October because he hit a couple of home runs in the '86 World Series.
Brandon Jacobs: Well, I guess I have to pick somebody from Saturday night's game, so we'll make it a week for running backs. Back in action after missing the second preseason game with a neck injury, Jacobs gained 41 yards on just six carries, including a 29-yard ramble, and all behind a patchwork offensive line that looks, well, patchwork.
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