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Red-Hot Baseball Teams

   by Al McMordie - 06/18/2006

Every year there are surprises, both good and bad. Here's a look at some baseball teams that have been on a nice roll of late.

Marlins: So who are these Marlins? Not the team that won the World Series three years ago. Here are some of their top batters: Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham and Reggie Abercrombie. There is no Mantle or Maris in that lineup and only Cabrera is a guy you might recognize.

This is a great example of a good small market organization acquiring a glut of young talent and staying competitive, similar to Oakland in the American League. Ramirez is a talented three-tool shortstop with 5 triples, 19 stolen bases and dynamic glove at a key position. The team recently won 8 in a row. Dontrelle Willis and 22-year old Scott Olsen are a couple of talented young lefties who anchor the rotation.

They don't yet have the pitching staff depth to be contenders, but they are a young team on the rise. Of course, folks thought the same thing in back in 2003, and they shocked the world in October. The victory over Toronto this Sunday, 4-1, was the 18th in their past 24 games, a run of success no Marlins team ever has surpassed.

A's: It's deja-vu all over again! Every year, it seems, small market Oakland starts off cold, then gets red hot. They are doing it again, and it is no secret how: Pitching. Oakland's pitching ERA is second in the AL. Dan Haren, Barry Zito and Brad Halsey have held down opposing hitters for ace closer Huston Street. The patient offense wears down the opposition and draws walks (third in the AL behind NY and Boston).

Twins: This is one of the most interesting teams to be paying attention to. They acquired 2B Luis Castillo in the offseason and he has been solid (.284), and Torii Hunter's bat is beginning to get going. And they have outstanding building blocks in Joe Mauer (.380 average), Jason Kubel and Justin Morneau (16 HRs). On the mound, they have a deep bullpen and a potentially devastating trio in Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke. I say potentially because Santana is only 6-4 and Radke is 5-7 with a 5.83 ERA. But both have been pitching much better of late, and Liriano (6-1) is a remarkable find, a 22-year old lefty with lights-out stuff. Incredibly they acquired him from the Giants along with reliever Joe Nathan and current starter Boof Bonser for catcher A.J. Pierzynski!

Astros: The defending NL Champs flopped early but are beginning to find a groove. The offense is hitting and Andy Pettitte is beginning to get going after a tough start. The starting pitching has been strong and they are going to be forced to drop someone from the rotation with the return soon of Roger Clemens. How's that for a luxury? The rotation will be Roy Oswalt, Clemens, Wandy Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, and Dave Borkowski. They just won 9 of 11 games without Clemens! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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