Three up, three down: Garza raring to go for Texas
New Rangers pitcher among players, teams on the rise in the Majors
UP: Matt Garza
The Texas Rangers are looking to avoid having their postseason hopes slip away, and acquiring Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs a week ago was a major statement in that regard. The Rangers are now only six games behind Oakland in the American League West, but they are 1 1/2 games out of the final Wild Card spot, trailing Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Garza certainly made a strong first impression, working 7 1/3 innings in his Rangers debut, allowing one unearned run on five hits against the Yankees last week. Now he gets to go head-to-head with Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Monday night. Garza opened the season on the disabled list but had healthy results once he joined the Cubs' active roster. He's only had two winning records in his seven previous big league seasons and came into this year with a composite record of 57-61. However, he is 7-1 this season, including going 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA in 11 starts with the Cubs before joining the Rangers.
Philadelphia opened the post All-Star portion of the schedule with a 13-8 victory against the Mets, climbing into second in the National League East and going above .500 for the first time this season. Now look at the Phils. They have lost eight in a row since and have been outscored 52-14 in the process. The Phillies are a season-worst 11 games out of first place and are seven games below .500 for the first time this season; they are just 1 1/2 ahead of the fourth-place Mets. Philadelphia has given up 10 or more runs in three of its last five games, which the Phils did in only eight of their first 100 games. The rotation has a 7.13 ERA in the losing streak. Then on Saturday, they scratched Cliff Lee, their most consistent starter -- and rumored to be offered in a trade to a contender -- because of a stiff neck. How bad are things? The bullpen hasn't even had a save opportunity to blow.
Atlanta is taking advantage of the struggles of the rest of the NL East. The only team in the division with a winning record, the Braves are 8-7 since July 10 but have increased their division lead from five games to 8 1/2 games over Washington. Atlanta has been in first place for 119 days this season. It swept St. Louis during the weekend, and the Braves have an enviable schedule the rest of the season. Only seven of their final 57 games are against a team with a winning record -- St. Louis (four games) and Cleveland (three).
Dan Uggla is the only everyday player who has celebrated a 30th birthday. But the Braves are beginning to have some problems with their rotation. Alex Wood, their second-round 2012 Draft choice out of the University of Georgia, has moved into the rotation in place of injured Paul Malhom. And on Monday night, Brandon Beachy comes off the DL after missing 13 months with Tommy John surgery. Beachy will take the place of Tim Hudson, who had won his last four starts but suffered a broken right ankle that required season-ending surgery last week. Any wonder why the Braves have surfaced as a bidder for White Sox starter Jake Peavy?
Down: CC Sabathia
The Yankees did acquire Alfonso Soriano to fill a growing offensive void -- and welcomed back shortstop Derek Jeter, who homered on the first pitch he was thrown on Sunday. But more than anything, they need a No. 1 in the rotation. That's the job Sabathia has filled so capably, but he is in the midst of a miserable stretch. The Yankees have lost his last four starts -- Sabathia is 0-3 -- and he has allowed 25 runs (20 earned) in 23 innings. He has given up 33 hits, including five home runs, and walked nine. Sabathia has failed to get past the fifth inning in each of his last three starts, something that happened only twice in his first 19.
UP: Rays' rotation
All right, Tampa Bay has had solid pitching all season. The Rays do rank sixth in the AL with a 3.75 ERA and second with a rotation ERA of 3.78. In the last 24 games, however, their rotation has simply dominated, helping the Rays win 20 of 24 games. This has allowed Tampa Bay to rally from fourth place to just a half-game behind Boston after Sunday's games. The bullpen also has begun to settle in. Relievers have converted 10 of 11 saves in the last 24 games after failing in 11 of the first 30 save opportunities of the season. After blowing five of his first 21 chances this year, Fernando Rodney is 9-for-9 during the streak. In that same span, Chris Archer, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson are each 4-0, and David Price is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA.
OK, Colorado rallied to pull out a 6-5 win against Milwaukee on Sunday, but it also went only 5-5 in a 10-game homestand against the Brewers, Mets and Marlins. Miami not only won three out of four against the Rockies, but held Colorado to just eight runs -- five runs fewer than the previous lowest production in a four-game series at home in Rockies history. The Mets, Marlins and Brewers own three of the four worst records in the NL. They are teams the Rockies knew they needed to dominate during that homestand if they wanted to make noise in the NL West.
Monday, the Rockies embark on a three-city trip that takes them to Atlanta for four games, and three-game visits to Pittsburgh and New York to play the Mets. Then they return to Colorado for six games against Pittsburgh and San Diego before heading back east for games at Baltimore, Philadelphia and Miami. Adding to the concerns is the nagging injury to Carlos Gonzalez's right middle finger knuckle that flared up again last week, and Gonzalez -- who pulled out of the All-Star Home Run Derby because of the injury -- missed all three weekend games against Milwaukee.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.