Offense looks like old Nationals
After 61 games entering Father's Day weekend, the Nationals were right where they were last season: In 24th place in runs scored. That's not exactly what Washington is looking for from its lineup, but a combination of injuries and inconsistency has kept this group from matching the game's best pitching staff. Hard to imagine where they'd be if rookie Bryce Harper hadn't exceeded expectations at age 19. But will all this come back to haunt them later in the summer? Maybe. But catcher Wilson Ramos (ACL) isn't coming back, and Jayson Werth (broken wrist) might be out until August.
For every positive -- Ian Desmond has improved at the plate and Adam LaRoche has been productive after missing most of 2011 with a shoulder injury -- there has been a disappointment. Ryan Zimmerman is playing through nagging shoulder pain and has been a liability at the plate with a .636 OPS. Michael Morse is off to a slow start after finally returning this month from that strained lat muscle. Steve Lombardozzi looked like a legitimate leadoff batter, but his OPS has plummeted from .810 on May 21 to .693 on June 13 as the league has adjusted to him. This is putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers, who at least so far have been up to the challenge.
1 The emergence of R.A. Dickey » Maybe it's just a first-half fluke. But the Mets veteran knuckleballer isn't your usual junkball pitcher. He is 10-1 with a 2.20 ERA and has to be considered a Cy Young candidate now. The Nats saw it firsthand when Dickey held them to four hits in 71?3 innings on June 7. He then one-hit Tampa Bay on June 13. It's a knuckleball, yes. But Dickey can throw it as hard as 80 mph, and his control is excellent with 19 walks to 90 strikeouts. He hasn't allowed an earned run since May 22, 33 2?3 innings overall, and just one in 402?3 innings.
2 The disappearance of Tim Lincecum » San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti met this week to try and solve their otherwise solid team's biggest issue: The poor performance of two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. He was scheduled to take the mound again Saturday night against his hometown Mariners. Lincecum and team trainers say he's healthy, but in six of seven starts, he had allowed four runs or more. If the Giants want to hold onto one of the two National League wild-card spots they need to find out what's wrong.
Holding on »
June is the time when surprise teams start to fade. The grind of a long season gets to pitching staffs. Position players get hurt. The schedule becomes harder. Not many are thriving entering Father's Day weekend. Cleveland is just above .500 in the AL Central. The Mets were in second place in the NL East. Pittsburgh was flying until it met the Orioles and got swept. Baltimore is the lone surprise that's built a cushion at 11 games over .500 on Friday. Of course, in 2005 the Orioles were 41-27 and led the AL East on June 19 -- and finished last with 74 wins. There's still a long way to go.
1. Melky Cabrera » He entered play Saturday batting .365 and is playing for his fourth team in four years.
2. Chris Sale » The White Sox pitcher is adjusting nicely to his starter role with a 2.46 ERA.
3. Juan Pierre » Channeling his glory days, the Phillies outfielder has 58 hits in 45 games as a starter.
1. J.P. Arencibia » The Blue Jays catcher has a .259 on-base percentage.
2. Ervin Santana » The Angels righty had allowed 19 earned runs in last three outings entering Saturday.
3. Alexei Ramirez » The White Sox shortstop is good in the field but has a .212 on-base percentage in June.