As the month of May comes to an end and we pass the one-third post of the 2014 campaign, many Venezuelan stars are still shining bright in the MLB firmament.
Noteworthy this past week: Felix Hernandez continued to rule the pitching roost, tossing another great game and coming within an out of a complete-game shutout. The King is now 7-1 and past a rough patch earlier in the month.
Eduardo Escobar of the Twins continued his hot hitting. Someone recently told me that I should temper my expectations of E-squared (that’s MY nickname for him) because one-third of a rookie season is a SSS—small sample size (55 games). But he keeps on hitting, including a 2-for-4 in the big ballyard in the Bronx today, and he turned two double plays in the field. He’s at .328, and can play the game.
His surprise counterpart and fellow “old” rookie at third for the pinstriped side, Yangervis Solarte, has seen his average dip down the past week or two, but he smashed another home run today, went 3 for 4, and is one of the more consistent bats in the Yankee lineup. He’s at .299, more than anyone could have expected from someone who never played a major league game until this season.
Victor Martinez leads the American League in batting at .347. I hate how MLB now refuses to even sort the stats by league on their website; constant interleague play has robbed us of the differences between the “senior circuit” and the “junior circuit.” It would be nice if two teams, strange to each other, completely, met in the World Series.
But, back to V-Mart. He almost makes me like the Designated Hitter position. He’s a hitting machine, but nearly forgotten in another transcendent performance by Miguel Cabrera, who’s zoomed up to 48 RBI (leading the American League) and a .328 average himself after a slow April. He’s In most months, his performance would have earned him player of the month for May—except for that Encarnacion dude who hit 18 dingers in Toronto!
In the nation’s capital, Jose Lobaton donned the tools of ignorance for the home team and hit a home run in the Nats 10-2 pasting of Texas. On the Rangers side, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor formed the middle infield tandem–Andrus at short and Odor at second–and each had a hit. Odor has become a semi-regular in the Texas lineup because projected starter Jurickson Barthelomeus Profar of Curacao is likely out for the season with a shoulder injury. Rougned, from Maracaibo on the Colombia border, is sharing time with countryman and fellow rookie Luis Sardinas, a pencil-thin switch hitter (6’1”, 150 lbs) from the other side of Venezuela. Upata, in the far east of the country, is 741 kms from Caracas; in fact closer to Trinidad and Tobago or Guyana than it is to the capital.
This makes another team with Venezuelans paired up in the middle infield to turn double plays—in Houston, it happens on occasion when Marwyn Gonzalez gets a turn at short with 2B Jose Altuve, and in Kansas City Alcides Escobar and Omar Infante have been playing alongside each other most of the season. Altuve leads the American League in stolen bases with 20 as May turns to June; the mighty mite from Maracay (like Miguel Cabrera and Anibel Sanchez) is hitting .318 in his third full MLB season. A typical game for him came on Thursday, when he had 3 hits and 3 stolen bases. His manager, Bo Porter, said he’s playing the best baseball of his young career, and attributed it to Jose’s offseason work ethic, among other things, where the little guy shed 10 pounds off his 5 6” frame.
Speaking of filling in admirably—like Odor and Gonzalez—journeyman pitcher Yusmeiro Petit (Maracaibo) made a wonderful substitute start for the Giants on Saturday, his second straight outing since Matt Cain injured himself making a sandwich on Tuesday (seriously). Petit only gave up two hits but one was St. Loo phenom Oscar Tarvarez’ first MLB homer, so YP took the 2-0 loss. Yusmeiro is a classic journeyman who’s been up and down with Arizona, Florida and even played the 2011 season with the Guerreros de Oaxaca in the Mexican League. Ole!
In KC, regulars Infante and Valenciano Salvador Perez got a day off on Saturday, Infante because he just came off the DL with a back injury and the games were on turf; Perez for the day-game-after-a-night game phenomenon. Even at age 24, you need your rest as a catcher.
In Atlanta, Luis Avilan continued to return to higher reliability in relief; in a typically modern game, he was one of SIX Atlanta relievers to help finish Ervin Santana’s victory over Miami. That’s right, Santana pitched six innings, and it took six other guys to finish the last three. I don’t like it, but that’s 2014 baseball.