The Week Ahead: Stuff the All-Star ballot box

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Do you think Chris Davis should start at first base for the AL in the
All-Star game? Would you like to see Manny Ramirez in the NL outfield?
Well you better get busy, because time is running out on your
ballot-stuffing opportunities.

The cutoff mark for voting for the July 14 game in St. Louis is Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. ET.
That gives you four full days to get Willie Bloomquist a spot in the AL
lineup. If it doesn’t happen, it’s all your fault, because you won’t
find an election this easy to influence outside of Iran.*

*This is not true: Everyone is allowed to vote 25 times, which
really only serves to inflate the total numbers. Now if only, say,
Pirates fans were allowed to vote 25 times, and everyone else only
once, then we would have a scandal. (pick a LaRoche brother, any
LaRoche brother!)

So log on to MLB.com and let your voice be heard. Rock the vote!

From a more serious angle, there are some interesting races in the final days of voting. (You can see the AL numbers here), and the NL numbers here.)

In the AL, you have the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira with a lead of less than
40,000 votes over the Red Sox’s Kevin Youkilis at first base. And
Texas’ Ian Kinsler with about a 60,000-vote lead on Boston’s Dustin
Pedroia at second base.

The NL appears to be more settled, with the closest race being
between Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano for the third outfield spot.

The aforementioned Ramirez, currently on suspension and starring for
the Inland Empire 66ers, is languishing in 6th place among NL
outfielders. Though he does have the most votes of any current member
of the California League. So he’s got that going for him, which is
nice.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

  • Rays at Blue Jays, June 29-July 1: The great Roy
    Halladay returns from the DL for Toronto on Monday. Both of these teams
    are solid, but neither one has been able to mount an attack on the Red
    Sox in the AL East. This series could give us an idea if it will happen
    at all.
  • Angels at Rangers, June 29-July 1: The
    Angels, riding a five-game winning streak, have finally take over first
    place in the AL West. Now Texas has a chance to take it back.
  • Brewers at Cubs, July 2-5:
    If ever there was a chance to throw the simmering Cubs’ clubhouse into
    a full-blown meltdown, the Brewers have it with this four-game series.
  • Mets at Phillies, July 3-5:
    For all their struggles and injuries the Mets still enter the week only
    two games behind their NL East rivals. Can they make up ground?
  • Mariners at Red Sox, July 3-5:
    The Mariners should have been preparing a fire sale. Yet here they are,
    entering the week just three games out of first place despite dealing
    with a host of injuries and a two-man offense (Ichiro and Russell
    Branyan). Will they still be there after this week?

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:08 p.m. ET: Mets at Brewers (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.: Giants at Cardinals (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Tigers at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Phillies (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Padres (FOX)
Sunday, 1 p.m.: All-Star selection show (TBS)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Brewers at Cubs (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Rays at Rangers (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.