Rolling with the punches

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY BARRY SVRLUGA barry.svrluga@wash­post.com

We know how it feels. Ev­ery fan of ev­ery team, when each yanked ham­string pops up, feels as if it’s only them. “Why?” they cry. “Why us? Why again?” In­juries are a part of any ma­jor league sea­son, even a defin­ing part. And now that we’re 21/2 months into the year, we have a han­dle on which teams have been un­duly im­pacted by poor health. This is, of course, sub­jec­tive— rank­ings based not only on the sheer num­ber of in­juries but in­volv­ing the roles the hurt play­ers play, the lengths of their ab­sences— and guess­work. Yes, we know the Yan­kees have been with­out Ja­coby Ells­bury, missed Masahiro Tanaka and just lost An­drew Miller. Hey, Bal­ti­more, we’re well aware that Matt Wi­eters isn’t all the­way back, that J.J. Hardy missed so much time to start the sea­son, that Jonathan Schoop still isn’t back. And sure, Detroit, we know Vic­tor Martinez and Justin Ver­lan­der just got back. Re­mem­ber: Ev­ery team has its is­sues. But here are three that seem par­tic­u­larly bru­tal— and how they’ve han­dled them.

St. Louis Car­di­nals

Key in­juries: RHP Adam Wain­wright, above, likely out for sea­son with rup­tured Achilles’; 1B Matt Adams, out un­til at least Septem­ber with quad tear; LF Matt Hol­l­i­day, on 15-day dis­abled list with a quad strain; RHP Lance Lynn, on 15-day dis­abled list with fore­arm in­flam­ma­tion; RP Jor­dan Walden, likely out un­til the end of this month with a shoul­der is­sue.

In­jury man­age­ment rank­ing: 1

In­jury luck rank­ing: 27 (of the 30 MLB teams)

Wait. This is the team with the best record in base­ball? And it’s not close. The Car­di­nals are on pace to win 106 games and are al­ready 21 games above .500 when no other Na­tional League team is morethan 10 games over .500. But right­now, they’re play­ing with a frac­tion of the team they ex­pected to have. On open­ing night, Wain­wright threw six score­less in­nings, Hol­l­i­day hit third and went 2 for 4 with two RBI, Adams hit fifth and Walden pitched a score­less eighth — ex­actly how the Car­di­nals en­vi­sioned things work­ing out. Now they’re all out — and some are fac­ing ma­jor ques­tions.

St. Louis has plugged the holes in the ro­ta­tion be­cause Michael Wacha (9-2, 2.48 ERA) has pitched like an ace and Car­los Martinez (7-3, 2.80 ERA) has suc­cess­fully moved from the bullpen. Mark Reynolds is fill­ing in for Adams, but the test could be re­plac­ing the un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated Hol­l­i­day, who was hit­ting .303 with an .839 on-base-plus-slug­ging per­cent­age when he went down.

Texas Rangers

Key in­juries: RHP Yu Darvish, above, out for the sea­son af­ter Tommy John surgery; 3B Adrian Bel­tre, out with a cut on his left thumb; OF Josh Hamil­ton, on 15-day dis­abled list with a strained left ham­string; LHP Derek Hol­land, out un­til at least af­ter all-star break with strained shoul­der; 2B Jurick­son Pro­far, out for sea­son af­ter shoul­der surgery.

In­jury man­age­ment rank­ing: 2

In­jury luck rank­ing: 30 (based on Darvish alone) In a way, not much was ex­pected of Texas this year any­way. But when Darvish went down in March, all hope seemed lost. So it’s some­what amaz­ing that the Rangers en­ter the week­end in sec­ond place— ahead of the An­gels and Mariners— in the AL West. Bel­tre’s in­jury has merely opened the door for prized prospect Joey Gallo, who hit five homers in the first 50 at-bats of his ca­reer. The fact that Prince Fielder (.344 bat­ting av­er­age, .407 on-base per­cent­age, .525 slug­ging per­cent­age) is Prince Fielder again has spurred the of­fense, but the amaz­ing duct-tape job has been in the ro­ta­tion, where Nick Martinez (2.76 ERA), Wandy Ro­driguez (3.20 ERA) and Yo­vani Gallardo (3.16 ERA) have helped off­set the losses of Darvish and Hol­land.

Tampa Bay Rays

Key in­juries: 1B James Loney, above, out with frac­tured fin­ger; OF Desmond Jen­nings, out un­til at least Au­gust af­ter knee surgery; LHP Drew Smyly, out un­til at least late July with a shoul­der prob­lem; LHP Matt Moore re­cov­er­ing from Tommy John surgery, per­haps back in July; RHP Jake Odorizzi on 15-day dis­abled list with oblique tight­ness.

In­jury man­age­ment rank­ing: 3

In­jury luck rank­ing: 28

Given their pay­roll, the Rays had to be built on young start­ing pitch­ing. But with Smyly — the key piece in last year’s trade of David Price — on the shelf, this fig­ured to be a tough slog. But the Rays have the best ERA in the AL (3.35), and their ro­ta­tion’s ERA of 3.22 is sec­ond best in the league. Chris Archer (2.18 ERA) has led the way. But in typ­i­cal Tampa Bay fash­ion, con­tri­bu­tions are com­ing from ev­ery­where. No Rays reg­u­lar player has an OPS higher than .800 — and that’s from in­fielder Lo­gan Forsythe. Given their in­juries and over­all tal­ent level, what the Rays are do­ing to lead the (medi­ocre) AL East is as­ton­ish­ing.

MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EURO­PEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

MIKE CARLSON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

OTTO GREULE JR./GETTY IM­AGES

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