These Sox only getting better

ON THE AL EAST

May 05, 2002|By JOE CHRISTENSEN

Mike Hargrove has his share of memories managing against the Boston Red Sox, going back to the three years his Cleveland Indians met Boston in the American League Division Series during the 1990s.

The Indians won two of those series before losing a five-game thriller in 1999.

If Hargrove was sick of facing them then, think how he feels this year after his Orioles played them nine times in the season's first 24 games. The Red Sox won six of those games and entered the weekend with baseball's best winning percentage, at .708.

Asked if this was the best Red Sox team he's seen as a manager, Hargrove said, "Offensively, yes. Maybe I've seen their bullpen a little stronger in the past, but overall, yeah."

Then Hargrove started going around the horn. He called Nomar Garciaparra one of the best all-around shortstops in the game. He mentioned how Shea Hillenbrand has settled in at third base and said, "Rey Sanchez has made a huge difference at second base."

He talked about center fielder Johnny Damon's range and then came to left fielder Manny Ramirez, an old favorite who played six-plus seasons for him in Cleveland.

There's never been any question about Ramirez's bat. He has nine homers and 31 RBIs for the season.

Garciaparra, whose 15-game hitting streak ended Friday night, was limited to just 21 games last season. Having him hitting in front of Ramirez makes this an imposing lineup.

"It's like, `Who do you want to pitch to, the batting champion or a guy that could be the MVP every year?' " Red Sox designated hitter Brian Daubach told the Boston Herald. "We never saw it last year."

Mussina's struggles

Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina looked like he was on his way to that elusive first Cy Young Award when he started 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA. But he has gone 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA in his past three starts, making it look like a struggle.

The Yankees won four of six games against the Athletics over the past two weeks, and both of the losses went to Mussina.

Sinking Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays matched a franchise record for April losses with 16 and sunk to new depths this week after getting swept by the Texas Rangers. The pitching has been atrocious, as the team's 6.69 ERA was the worst in any one month in franchise history.

The team's plummet to last place in the East has led to speculation that new general manager J.P. Ricciardi will fire manager Buck Martinez and eventually replace him with Oakland bench coach Ken Macha.

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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