500 Home-Run Club
One of the big stories this week, although not as big as it used to be because of all those PED cheaters, was the Angels' Albert Pujols hitting home run No. 500 in his career. He did it Tuesday night in Washington, becoming the first player ever to hit No. 499 and No. 500 in the same game. Pujols is having a major bounce-back season after two disappointing ones with the Angels.
Could Pujols get to Hank Aaron's 755 mark? Yes, Barry Bonds holds the all-time record with 762 dingers but anyone who thinks that isn't tainted wasn't paying attention. It seems unlikely that Pujols, even if he does play another eight seasons, could get to Aaron's number. Let's say he finishes this season with 540, which would be a big year. Could he hit 30 a year over the next seven years to approach Aaron? Seems unlikely. I'm purposefully not mentioning Alex Rodriguez and his 654 home runs. It would be a major upset if he plays a big-league game again.
Whether the number 500 itself is tainted is a story for another day, but we may not see it in the majors for quite a while. The next-closest guy to that formerly magic number entering Saturday is the White Sox's Adam Dunn with 445. It's possible he gets there late next season or early 2016 if he finds a place to DH in the American League that long. Really the next-best candidate is Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, who entered Saturday with 367.
Tanaka (3-0, 2.15) has been simply terrific and is he is an early Cy Young candidate -- no Japanese player has ever won that award. It will be interesting to see how Tanaka fares the second time he sees teams, but he won't have to worry about that against the Halos, as they aren't even in the Grapefruit League as the Yankees are so none of these guys have seen him except for maybe in the World Baseball Classic. Tanaka has faced 82 batters over his 29.1 innings. He has allowed just 22 hits and two walks for a stellar WHIP of 0.82 that leads the American League. Tanaka's strikeout-to-walk ratio of 17.5 would shatter the MLB record of 11.0 set by Bret Saberhagen in 1994.
Batters are hitting a less-than-robust .081 with two strikes against him this season. Tanaka has a 31-game regular-season winning streak dating to August 2012 in Japan. This is the guy GM Brian Cashman referred to this spring as a "potential No. 3 starter."
Since the Angels are obligated to start someone opposite Tanaka we should mention him. It's right-hander Garrett Richards (2-0, 2.52), who has surprisingly been the team's best starter so far. He is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in three road starts this season. He has allowed just five hits in 18 innings away from Anaheim with an opponents' batting average of .086. Richards pitched against New York in Yankee Stadium last year, allowing two runs and seven hits over eight innings in a loss. Not many Yankees have much of a history against the 25-year-old. Kelly Johnson is 2-for-3 with two extra-base hits. Deter Jeter is 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
MLB Free Picks: Yankees -160 and +120 on the runline on MLB odds. Under 8 runs. The Angels are 2-6 in Richards' past six as a road dog. The under is 8-2 in his past 10 road starts. The Yanks are 10-2 in their past 12 as a favorite of between -151 and -200.