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Royal Flush

By Phil Janowicz

Other than Ricardo Rodriguez, can anyone stop these Royals? The Royals roared through the Jake and are currently dominating the White Sox at Comis ... er ... US Cellular Field. The Royals have been able to survive the flu, rainouts, a series of ejections and warnings in Cleveland, and four crazy White Sox fans. As they look ahead to a stretch of games against Detroit, Minnesota, and then at Fenway, the Royals are ready to kick it up to high gear.

Since coming back from the flu, Mike Sweeney is hitting .444 with two runs, two home runs, and two RBIs including a game-winning two run shot off Billy Koch in the ninth on Tuesday, and Brent Mayne is hitting .444 with two runs, one home run, and two RBIs. Look out baseball, here come the new and improved Royals, now with pitching!

Elsewhere around the league, the Red Sox are finding a way to win despite a faulty committee in the pen. Johnny Damon has been just incredible the past week with an average of .304, six runs, four home runs, six RBIs, and two stolen bases. Kevin Millar has continued his hot hitting -- despite his mysterious loss of power -- the past week with an average of .450, five runs, and one RBI.

Tim Wakefield has pitched beautifully out of the bullpen, allowing some stability in the committee. The rest of the bullpen, however, is floundering. In order to contend this season the bullpen needs to be able to preserve the many leads this offense will give to them.

Top pitchers struggle

Is there some epidemic going around baseball that affects only the top pitchers? We’ve seen horrific pitching performances from Pedro, Maddux, Glavine, Johnson, Schilling, Mulder, Hudson, and Zito. These are the best pitchers in the game, and they’ve all had bad outings. Perhaps this is just coincidence, but I’m getting kinda freaked out by these bizarro pitchers. We see one Maddux and then we see a completely different one as of late, and I don’t know which one is which. (“I am Bizarro Maddux.” “I’m regular Maddux.”)

Johnson seems to have a hurt leg, and Pedro is complaining about a dead arm. I blame the Red Sox for making Pedro go 7 days rest between starts instead of instituting a regular pitching schedule, but who else would you put on the mound for your home opener? I’m glad they picked up his contract extension.

A look into the National League shows the Expos shining in San Juan. Twenty-two of the Expos’ home games this year are being played in Puerto Rico, and Jose Vidro couldn’t be happier. Vidro hit a game-winning home run off Armando Benitez (why is he still playing?) to send the Puerto Rican fans jumping. Hopefully, the Expos can perform like this in Montreal.

Also in the NL, the Cards are “Rolen” as he hit two home runs Wednesday against the Brew Crew. Matt Morris is getting back on track after Jeff Kent ruined his complete game win last week (technically, it was still a complete game) by hitting a two-run homer off him in the bottom of the ninth to give the Astros a 3-2 victory over the Redbirds. Pujols is also performing well hitting after Rolen, and these Cards will be flying high when Izzy returns, although later than expected.

First ever ‘Jano Awards’

I’ll institute some awards I’ll call them Jano awards, named after myself and my uncle Vic Janowicz, Heisman winner in 1950 for Ohio State, running back for the Washington Redskins, and catcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Here are this week’s Jano awards.

Hitting: Milton Bradley of the Cleveland Indians. He’s not just a game maker, he’s a play maker. Starting the season off on at least a thirteen game hit streak, in the last week he batted .467 with three runs, two home runs, four RBIs, and three outfield assists. Originally not wanting to be the leadoff man, he has filled the role beautifully and is unstoppable. No wonder Coco Crisp was sent to AAA. Honorable Mention: Rocco Baldelli of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Pitching: Runelvys Hernandez of the Kansas City Royals. When you got a job to do, you gotta do it well, and Hernandez has been doing so even while not well. In his last start at the Jake, he pitched seven innings, and gave up seven hits, two BBs, no runs, fanned four, and threw up thrice. He begged manager Tony Pena to let him start that game despite his flu and to let him pitch seven innings. He sparkled then and will continue to sparkle throughout the season. Honorable Mention: Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Seattle Mariners.

Utility: Eric Wedge, manager of the Cleveland Indians. Congratulations on your first career ejection. I’m sure there will be more to come. Honorable Mention: Danny Bautista of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Boner of the Week: White Sox fans. That was just ridiculous. I thought the Gamboa incident last September was bad enough, but the White Sox fans do it again. During Tuesday’s game in Chicago, four White Sox fans ran onto the field on different occasions to disrupt the game. Normally, this wouldn’t be that big a deal, but the fourth one attacked first base umpire Laz Diaz.

Some justice was served when the Royals beat the crap out of the guy, but that was completely uncalled for. If you’re looking for a major security risk, it’s behind first base in Chicago. Honorable Mention: Armando Benitez (he should win this award perpetually).