Around the Major Leagues: 2013 Week 17

All the news from around the major leagues as the 2013 regular season moves into its final two months.

AL East

Toronto Blue Jays infielder Edwin Encarnacion was named the AL Player of the Week for the week ending on July 28th. Despite Toronto's poor record over the span, Encarnacion had a great week, going 13-for-25 (.520) with two home runs, eight RBI and five runs scored. Encarnacion is having a phenomenal season and is on pace to top 40 home runs and 100 RBI for the second straight year.

After a confusing last few months, the Alex Rodriguez saga seems over... for now. Major League Baseball told the New York Yankees that Alex Rodriguez will be suspended on Monday for his role with Biogenesis, the clinic which distributed banned performance-enhancing drugs to Rodriguez, Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and a host of other players. Rodriguez is said to be appealing the decision, which would allow him to play for the Yankees on Monday evening. Of the names being released in connection with the clinic, Rodriguez faces the most serious penalties: the possibility of either a lifetime ban or suspension until 2015. However, multiple players are set to face suspensions of 50 games or more as well. Those players facing suspension were notified on Sunday and given a deadline of 6 p.m. to decide whether or not they will appeal the decision.

With the media focusing on Alex Rodriguez's role in the Biogenesis suspensions, it has almost gone unnoticed how far out of playoff contention the Yankees have fallen. And for fans everywhere, that lessens the likelihood of Mariano Rivera pitching another playoff game. Even so, Rivera etched another milestone on Saturday when he recorded his first career save at Petco Park in San Diego, the 32nd different major-league venue in which he has earned a save. The only parks in which he has pitched without picking up a save are Milwaukee County Stadium (four games), RFK Stadium (two games), Miller Park (one game) and Tokyo Dome (one game).

Stephen Drew's single in the bottom of the 15th inning with the bases loaded gave the Red Sox a 5-4 victory over Seattle on Wednesday night. It was Drew's second walk-off hit of the season and Boston's first win in the 15th inning or later at Fenway Park since Shea Hillenbrand homered in the 18th inning to beat the Tigers back in 2001. There have now been 11 games that have been decided in the 15th inning or later in the major leagues this season, the most in one season since 2004 (11).

Deadspin posted a phenomenal piece on the death of Yankees catcher Thurman Munson that was originally printed in Esquire in 1999. Munson's untimely death in a plane crash on August 5, 1979 sent shockwaves across Major League Baseball. You can read the piece here.

AL Central

Resurgent Scott Kazmir, with a little help from the bullpen, held the Marlins to four hits in the Indians' 2-0 victory at Miami on Sunday. Cleveland leads the majors with 15 shutouts this season. The Indians haven't finished a season with the most shutouts in the majors since 1956, when they recorded 17. In his last five starts, Scott Kazmir is 4-1 with an ERA of 1.73 and a WHIP of 0.90. He's also struck out 26 batters over that span.

Detroit's Max Scherzer improved his record to 16-1 with his win over the White Sox on Saturday night. Scherzer is the eighth pitcher in major-league history to start a season 16-1 or 17-0. The most recent pitchers to do that are Roger Clemens in 2001 (16-1), Dave McNally in 1969 (16-1), Roy Face in 1959 (17-0) and Don Newcombe in 1955 (16-1).

AL West

Los Angeles outfielder J.B. Shuck made one of the craziest homerun-robbing catches you will ever see and one of the best catches in franchise history. Putting your body on the line to rob a hitter of extra bases seems to be a major trend in Los Angeles. Earlier this season, Peter Bourjos did something similar against the Orioles, probably in attempt to outshine his teammate Mike Trout, who made a spectacular catch against Baltimore last year. In reality, they are all just trying to emulate the great Jim Edmonds.

Ron Washington passed Bobby Valentine as the winningest manager in the history of the Senators/Rangers franchise when Texas took down Oakland 4-0 on Sunday on the road. Only three other active managers have the most victories for their current team: Joe Maddon (651 with the Rays), Charlie Manuel (777 wins with the Phillies), and Mike Scioscia (1,206 with the Angels).

Yu Darvish, in his 50th career start, struck out 14 batters on Thursday night in a win over the Diamondbacks. That gave Darvish 407 career strikeouts, the second-highest total for any pitcher since 1900 in his first 50 major-league starts. Dwight Gooden, who registered 418 strikeouts over his first 50 starts, holds that record. This was the third time this year that Darvish had 14 strikeouts and no walks in a game, tying the single-season major-league record since 1900, held by Roger Clemens (1997, Blue Jays) and Randy Johnson (2001, Diamondbacks).

NL East

Miami Marlins pitchers Jose Fernandez and Steve Cishek were named the co-NL Players of the Week for the week ending on July 28th. Cishek, the Miami closer, converted five saves in five opportunities during the week and struck out five batters. Fernandez, at just 21 years old, added two more stellar starting performances to his young resume, while making both Colorado and Pittsburgh look silly. He went 2-0 during the week with a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings pitched. Fernandez struck out 21 batters while only walking two.

The Braves recorded only five hits in their 12-inning victory over the Phillies on Saturday. According to Elias, that's the fewest hits the Braves have had in a win in a game that went 12 or more innings since May 26, 1959 when the Milwaukee Braves beat the Pirates by a score of 1-0 in 13 innings. Harvey Haddix, the Pittsburgh starter in that game, had pitched what might have been the greatest game ever and lost. Haddix had a perfect game through 12 innings before losing the game on a Joe Adcock hit in the 13th inning.

Speaking of the Braves and their hits, how about the season Chris Johnson is having? Johnson leads the National League with a .346 batting average, but there is more to the story than just his average. Saber-minded writers have been patiently waiting for Johnson to regress, given the fact that his BAPIP (batting average on balls in play) of .427 is the highest we've seen in more than 100 years and his ISO (isolated power) of .135 is shockingly low given such a high batting average.

To put it into much simpler terms... Chris Johnson is racking up a lot an abnormal amount of singles. Johnson has 117 hits, but only seven home runs and 24 doubles. It's pretty obvious that he will regress at some point, but just when will that be? And how much of this is due to luck? Jeff Sullivan over at FanGraphs wrote a phenomenal piece about Johnson's unique season a few days ago here.

NL Central

Of all the MLB storylines this season, Francisco Liriano's return to proper form has to be at the top of the list... and yet no one seems to be talking about it. On Saturday, he improved to 12-4 with a 2.02 earned-run average in 16 starts for the Pirates, holding the hard-hitting Colorado Rockies to just two hits and no earned runs over seven innings. Liriano is only the third Pirates pitcher since 1912 to win 12 or more games with an ERA under 2.25 in his first 16 starts of a season. Rip Sewell did it in 1943 (12-2, 2.22 ERA) and Dock Ellis in 1971 (12-3, 2.24). The Pirates have been a major surprise this season and with a healthy and dominant Liriano in the rotation, opposing offenses could be in trouble come playoff time.

Want to learn a little bit about offensive efficiency? Talk to Milwaukee infielder Jeff Bianchi. Bianchi's two-run single capped a five-run rally in the sixth inning, providing the game-winning run in the Brewers' 8-5 victory over Washington. Bianchi has only 13 RBI-hits in his two seasons in the majors, but four of them were game-winners, including a game-winning RBI in the ninth inning against the Cubs last Tuesday.

NL West

Ian Kennedy earned his first victory since June 1st as the Padres defeated the Yankees by a score of 6-3 on Sunday. Kennedy, who pitched for the Yankees from 2007 to 2009, snapped a streak of 10 starts without a win in his debut for San Diego. According to Elias, other recent pitchers to win a team debut immediately after at least 10 straight winless starts were Doug Fister for the Tigers in 2011 and Bartolo Colon for the A's in 2012.

After floating around the basement of the NL West for a bit, the Dodgers seemed to have finally hit their stride and they are making it known that they should be a team to fear. Los Angeles won its 14th consecutive road game on Sunday and completed a four-game sweep of the Cubs with their first 1-0 victory at Wrigley Field since 1992. It was only the fourth time that the Dodgers swept a series of four or more games at Wrigley. They previously did so in 1918, 1954, and 1988. With things finally clicking, could the Dodgers be an outside contender to win the World Series?

In your weekly Yasiel Puig update... but seriously, the guy is a highlight reel magnet. Check out this non-catch he almost came up with at Wrigley Field. It wasn't an out, but you have to give him an "A" for effort.

John Lopiano can be reached at Follow John on Twitter: @johnlopiano.

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