Is Williams Pérez the next Big Sexy?
There are three weeks to go in the MLB season. With ten playoff positions in the offing, there’s plenty to play for, and a number of Venezuelans are in the mix.
In the AL West, Félix Abraham Hernández kept the Mariners 3.5 back of a playoff spot with 6 shutout innings of the A’s, one of his favorite victims (23-8 lifetime, 12-3 in Oakland). He had been terrific since returning from injury in July, but then the Rangers hammered him for 6 earned runs in consecutive starts. An odd year for The King, who’s walked a lot of batters and missed a lot of time with a leg injury. Yet he’s 11-5, no small feat.
In the AL East, Hernandez’ fellow Valenciano, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, felt the playoff heat at Fenway on Saturday in a first-place showdown with the Jays. Eduardo lost, but only surrendered 2 earned runs across 6 innings as the Sox dropped the game 3-2. Since his June demotion to Pawtucket Eduardo has given up more than 3 earned runs only once in 10 starts, and shaved a solid 4 runs off his ERA.
In the American League Central, Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco continues to flash brilliance on the mound for the front-running Tribe. After missing all of May, the Cookie is at 11-7 and has struck out 11 or more in three starts since returning. In hindsight, the hamstring tweak may see Carlos fresh for the playoffs, an imposing thought for Cleveland’s rivals. He’s won both September starts as Cleveland opened up a 6-game-lead on Detroit.
The Tigers’ best chance is at a Wild Card, and Miguel Cabrera is back on target after missing 40-plus games in 2015: .312, 31 homers and 87 RBI. Right behind him in the lineup at .293/24/76 is 37-year-old Victor Martinez of Ciudad Bolívar
. Aníbal Sánchez’s baffling 7-13 season had a positive up-tick in two September starts (3 earned runs total), while Francisco Rodriguez’s renaissance continues at Comerica, with 40 saves and counting.
In the National League East, the Braves aren’t playing for a title, but in their last season at Turner Field, a number of them are playing for jobs. Llanero Big Williams Perez, who’s been out with a rotator cuff injury for three months, takes the mound against the Mets today. Williams, of Portuguesa, looks like a young Bartolo Colon, and Atlanta is hoping that he pitches like Big Sexy, too. Braves’ CF Ender Inciarte of Maracaibo is, to me, one of MLB’s most promising young players, with a rifle of a throwing arm, nice speed on the basepaths, and a near-.300 average in two full seasons.
The Mets’ Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera, playing a variety of infield spots for the injury-wracked New Yorkers, have helped keep them in the Wild Card hunt with 16 and 19 HRs, respectively.
In Houston, baseball’s smallest player, Jose Altuve, who is 5’6″ and was born on 5-6-90, has somehow dropped all the way to .339, hitting a rough two-week .164 patch. Meanwhile, Marwin González of Puerto Ordaz has played every position for the Astros except RF and C, and acquitted himself well, matching his career-high HRs with 12, as well as a .255 average for the man who wears many gloves.
Texas has opened up a big lead on second-place Houston. Martín Pérez of Guanare is on a temporary upswing, winning his last two starts to even his record at 10-10. But the lefty has had a wildly inconsistent campaign while equaling his career-high in victories. One reasons for the Rangers’ surge is 2B Rougned Odor’s breakout season (30 HRs) and the steady play of Elvis Andrus, “Roogie’s” double-play partner at SS.