The Week Ahead: King Felix ready for encore
Seattle ace will face Indians at Safeco in first start since throwing perfect game
How do you follow up on perfection?
For Felix Hernandez and the Seattle area, the question will be answered in front of what is likely to be a boisterous Safeco Field crowd on Tuesday night when Hernandez pitches for the first time since Wednesday's perfect game against the Rays.
For King Felix, it will be back to business for the man who recorded 27 straight outs in his last start, becoming only the 23rd Major Leaguer to pitch a perfecto, and who is 7-0 with a 1.56 ERA in his past 12 starts.
Hernandez, who will go up against another Hernandez (Roberto of the Indians, who used to be called Fausto Carmona), said he was looking forward to his next start, where he will see a lot more yellow than he's used to.
The first 34,000 fans entering the ballpark will receive a bright yellow "King of Perfection" T-shirt, an expansion of the "King's Court" -- the rooting section of about 800 fans that wears special shirts to his home starts.
"It'll be crazy," he said. "It'll be unbelievable. I really appreciate that."
And that isn't close to all that's happening in what should be an eventful week as we creep closer to September.
The San Francisco Giants, for example, will begin their first full week without the services of lef tfielder Melky Cabrera, the All-Star Game MVP and National League hits leader who was suspended for 50 games for a positive test for synthetic testosterone.
It came at a terrible time for the Giants, who are a half-game behind the Dodgers in the National League West, but their manager, Bruce Bochy, knows a thing or two about championships, having led San Francisco to a World Series title two years ago. He knows it takes a lot more than one player.
"It's important that you're resilient in this game," Bochy said. "With what's happened, I thought it was important that we played well, and the fellas did. You have to move on, and that's what the guys are doing."
Added staff ace Matt Cain: "What happened on Wednesday was tough on all of us, kind of a shock for all of us. But that's the thing about baseball -- you have to turn the page real fast and the guys did a good job of that."
The Houston Astros have turned a lot of pages this year, including a huge one late Saturday when they dismissed manager Brad Mills and two coaches. It's all part of general manager Jeff Luhnow's plan to rebuild, reshape and retool the organization into a winner.
On Monday, the 39-83 Astros will begin their first full week without Mills and with interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who over the course of 17 seasons had a sterling record as a skipper in the Minor Leagues.
"It made sense to make these changes sooner rather than later, not to have a lame-duck administration, to get some new blood in here and for the opportunity to get these guys in here and change the mix a little bit," Luhnow said.
Meanwhile, a few divisional battles continue to rage, with the Giants and Dodgers almost tied in the NL West and the White Sox leading the Tigers by 1 1/2 games in the American League Central. The Dodgers have a good chance to make a statement early this week, with the Giants visiting Chavez Ravine for three pivotal games beginning Monday. After that, San Francisco will go home to take on the hot Braves while the Dodgers host the Marlins.
The White Sox will be home to play the Yankees and Mariners, and the Tigers also will play at their home park, hosting the Blue Jays and Angels.
In the nation's capital, controversy continues to swirl regarding the Nationals' planned shutdown of Stephen Strasburg. There might be arguments as to whether it will happen after 160 innings or 180 innings or perhaps later than that, but the fact remains that Strasburg is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA and a 19-to-9 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 18 innings over three starts this month. He's at 139 1/3 innings for the season, and he scheduled to pitch Tuesday against the Braves, his team's closest pursuer in the NL East.
Shutdown or no shutdown, that's big-time.
And what about CC Sabathia? He's been on the disabled list but he's guaranteed that he'll be back on the mound for the Yankees on Friday in his old stomping grounds in Cleveland to pitch against the Indians.
The Red Sox have been embroiled in one drama after another, and if they're going to start an improbable rally to get into October for the first time in two years, they're going to have to start winning just about every game. Designated hitter David Ortiz could help in that regard, and the big guy's ailing Achilles has been feeling better, so he could be a go this week.
Then again, outfielder Carl Crawford might be gone for the season. He and team officials were to meet Monday to decide whether he would undergo Tommy John surgery on his elbow and will call it a year. It appeared likely that would be the outcome.
Out West, the Angels aren't ready to call it a year but their recent play says they need to get better in a hurry. Their losses on Saturday and Sunday were particularly painful examples of their recent woes. The Angels took an 8-0 lead on Tampa Bay in the early innings of Saturday's game only to succumb in the end, 10-8. On Sunday, they didn't get a good start from Zack Greinke and faltered. Even ace Jered Weaver has struggled lately. They'll need a huge week to get momentum back.
"There are some games in some stretches where you don't think you're ever going to win another game the rest of the season; there are some stretches where you don't think you're ever going to lose again," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I wholeheartedly believe ... that this team is going to turn it around and reach our goal."