The Week Ahead: Teams close out May play

The Week Ahead: Teams close out May play

The Week Ahead: Teams close out May play
It's hard to see Memorial Day as the beginning of the week, especially when we're luxuriating at ballgames or barbecues, honoring the heroes who have defended our freedom in somber ceremonies or at brassy parades and soaking in the remainder of a three-day weekend.

But it is a Monday, and that means it's time to take stock of what we've seen in the last week of Major League Baseball, and, more importantly, to get excited for what we might see in the coming week.

The May 28-June 3 slate brings us to the end of the month that, for many, also means the "real" season has begun. We've all heard the term "June swoon," and it's happened to many a quick-starting team, but there have been June boons, too. Just as quickly as teams can cool off (sorry Cubs, but that's just the way it is right now), they can fire up (we're looking at you, White Sox and Angels).

In other words, baseball is a game of adjustments, a game that seems to always work best when one isn't trying too hard, and a game of responses. The latter looks like the theme of the upcoming week.

Take the Orioles, for example, and their newly extended center fielder, Adam Jones. The All-Star is in the midst of a career year and his team is in the midst of a stunning resurgence. They lost Sunday, but they're still slugging it out at the top of the tough American League East, tied with the Tampa Bay Rays at 29-19 entering Monday's play.

With Jones, who signed for six years and $85.5 million, Baltimore is sending a message that it means business, and now it's up to Jones to live up to that deal.

"It's making me, not necessarily a life-long Oriole, but sure leading in that direction," Jones said in his Sunday press conference. "[The team's hot start] helped out a lot, but the big reason that helped me out is you see a lot of different guys in free agency go and switch teams. I think me here, I fit here in this city. I fit here on this team, I fit in at Camden Yards.

"I really don't see myself wearing another white uniform that doesn't have 'Orioles' across the chest."

The same sentiments fit for the guy who comes into the new week with one of the hottest bats in the bigs.

Paul Konerko has had serious opportunities to leave the team he has come to love, the White Sox, over the years. He has never done it. And now, at the age of 36, with his 400th career home run in a Chicago uniform freshly hit Sunday afternoon, he's better than ever.

Konerko enters Monday having batted .565 over the last 13 games, with 23 hits over his last 36 at-bats, five homers and 14 RBIs in the last 10 games.

"Everything he touches is finding pasture or finding the bleachers," veteran outfielder Johnny Damon said of Konerko on Sunday.

The same could be said for Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who all of a sudden, looks a lot like Albert Pujols, and, in turn, has helped the Angels look like the Angels everyone seemed to expect before the season started.

Pujols went 0-for-4 in Sunday's win in Seattle, his team's sixth consecutive victory and one that has them one game under the .500 mark for the first time since April 11. Still, the 0-for finally seems to be the anomaly.

Considering the big guy had homered in three straight games prior to Sunday, has six long balls in his last 12 games, and has driven in 22 runs this month, it's looking like things are clicking under the Big A.

We'll see how it plays out this week when Mike Scioscia's club kicks off a nine-game homestand against the Yankees, Rangers and Mariners.

"You see us moving forward with confidence," Scioscia said.

And speaking of moving forward, what about the little scrap between Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine? Will we continue to hear about this war of words as the Rays, now tied with Baltimore in first place in the AL East, head home to take on the hot White Sox and co-first-place Orioles this week?

And will the Red Sox make the most of four home games against Detroit and a three-game series in Toronto to try to improve upon the 23-24 record that had them in last place after Sunday's action?

Those won't be the only questions that have a chance of being answered this week.

We'll also have the opportunity to see if the Cubs can snap out of a losing streak that hit 12 games on Sunday, marking the club's longest such streak since 1997.

The streak has included six one-run losses, seven games in which the Cubs have scored two runs or fewer and four games in which they've given up three or fewer.

"We just have to play," Sunday's starter, Matt Garza, said. "We have great fans. They know the game. We can't play it for the fans right now. We have to play for every guy in here and every guy has to pull on the same side of the rope -- and that's where we're at right now."

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.