This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: September 1-7, 2014
Reasons Football Isn’t Better Than Baseball A Bad Week for Texas Managers
Four Phillies, One No-Hitter The American League Rules Interleague Play, Again


Best and Worst of the Week

BEST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
30 8 15 2 0 5 8 0 0 0 0

The thing about Miggy is that he can have all his limbs chopped off like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and he can still hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBIs. The two-time defending AL MVP showed why he’s so special this past week, breaking out of a power slump (he hadn’t homered in 26 games entering the week) with five bombs and six multi-hit games, all while limping along on a bad ankle. The Tigers would love to rest him up for October, but they need him almost everyday just so they can get there.


BEST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
25 8 14 3 0 2 8 3 0 0 0

Just when it started to look like the former MVP was receding into a lesser, maybe-All-Star, maybe-not kind-of player, he breaks out into vintage 2012 form. Posey hit over .500 on the week—in fact, he’s hit over .500 over the last three weeks—and his hot streak couldn’t come at a better time for a Giants team trying to sneak up on the Dodgers. Yes, this week’s numbers do include a hit from a game completed this past Monday at Denver that had started way back in May.


WORST HITTER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
21 1 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0

The 30-year-old Tampa native has never stood statistically out of a crowd; he’ll have good weeks and he’ll have bad weeks, like most common players. This was one of the bad weeks. He had some success early on, but then he registered an unworthy 0-for-8 on the weekend against Baltimore. Joyce’s overall numbers on the year haven’t been sparkling; his average is slightly up, but the power is off with just eight homers. The Rays will surely take note of that as he qualifies for Arbitration 3 this winter.


WORST HITTER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
BB
IB
HB
SB
15 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0

A D.C.-area Whole Foods market recently announced that it has come out with the “Buffalo Ramos Burger,” named after the Nationals’ part-time catcher and former kidnap victim from Venezuela. It includes buffalo meat (Ramos’ is nicknamed ‘Buffalo’) and a native salsa called guasacaca—and speaking of guasacaca, that’s how most people described his effort at the plate this past week, poking out just one hit while grounding into two double plays. It’s too bad the burger doesn’t have spinach in it, Ramos could use some to go Popeye with the bat again.


BEST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Miguel Gonzalez, baltimore Orioles

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 9 4 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 8

Complete-game shutouts are a rare thing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which makes the Mexican native’s gem against Cincinnati this past Wednesday all the more impressive. Gonzalez was on target, nailing 83 of his 117 pitches for strikes with a season-high eight K’s; the shutout was the first of his three-year career, and it was only the second blanking thrown by a single hurler at the Orioles’ park over the last four seasons. The playoff-bound O’s are banking on Gonzalez to keep this up into October.


BEST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Tyler Matzek, Colorado Rockies

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
1-0 9 3 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 6

Like Gonzalez above, Matzek fired a shutout in a place that’s highly difficult to throw one—at mile-high Coors Field. Of course, the degree of difficulty probably evened out for the 23-year-old lefty given that he was facing the San Diego Padres’ offense, far and away the majors’ worst—but still, he’s the first Colorado rookie ever to throw a shutout at Coors. And Matzek seems to be showing some long-term worth; he’s won his last three starts (two of them against the Giants) and hasn’t allowed a run in 21 innings.


WORST PITCHER, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Jared Burton, Minnesota Twins

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-2 2.2 3 4 4 3 1 0 0 0 1

The Twins told the 33-year-old reliever on Sunday that he’d be the closer if the Twins gave him the opportunity, which seemed like something a cruel joke considered he had pitched the previous two nights—and lost them both, unable to keep either game tied. It gave Burton three losses in eight days and raised his season ERA to a career-worst 4.71 mark. Oh, and so what happened on Sunday? Burton stayed in the bullpen while the Twins got walloped, 14-4.


WORST PITCHER, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs

W-L
IP
H
R
ER
BB
IB
HB
WP
BK
SO
0-1 6.1 15 11 11 4 0 0 0 0 3

The bleachers was a popular place to convene when the 27-year-old lefty took the mound this past week; of the 15 hits he gave up, five went over the fence with outings at St. Louis and (on Sunday, in a particularly awful start) at Wrigley against the Pirates. Wood deserved a much better record in 2013 when a sharp 3.11 ERA got him no better than a 9-12 mark; this year, his record is almost the same (8-12) but the ERA (5.15) reveals a much different story.


BEST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Kansas City Royals (5-1)

Here’s something that will give long-suffering Royals fans a kick: The standings are starting to show a parenthetical number next to Kansas City’s listing at the top of the AL Central. That is, of course, the magic number for the Royals to clinch the division—and it’s a sight that hasn’t been seen in nearly three decades, since K.C. last clinched a divisional title. The Royals’ pitching continued to stifle the opposition, giving up five total runs in a three-game sweep of Texas before shutting out the Yankees at New York twice in a weekend series win.


BEST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
St. Louis Cardinals (6-1)

The Cardinals have had this thing for September of late, most memorably recalled in their famous, improbable 2011 run to the postseason. Looks like they’re at it again, but this time they’re already in the driver’s seat, aiming next for home-field advantage. The Redbirds put substantial mileage between themselves and their nearest divisional competitors this past week, sweeping the Bucs at home before taking three of four from a sinking Brewers team in Milwaukee. St. Louis is 58-29 in September dating back to that championship season of 2011.


WORST TEAM, AMERICAN LEAGUE
Texas Rangers (1-6)

This was a week that probably won’t get priority in the Rangers’ 2014 yearbook, which wouldn’t sell many copies anyway. Texas set an unwanted record for the most players used in a year, followed by manager Ron Washington’s startling resignation. And of course, there were more losses, six for the week until they eked out a 1-0 Sunday win at a lonely Globe Life Park while the NFL Cowboys drew 90,000 next store. The Rangers will need to go 9-10 the rest of the way to avoid 100 defeats on the year.


WORST TEAM, NATIONAL LEAGUE
Milwaukee Brewers (1-6)

The wheels have all but fallen off the bus in Milwaukee, like one of those costumed sausages crashing to the ground. The Brewers desperately needed a good week to turn things around after a rotten road trip, but they got swept at Chicago by the Cubs and, back home at Miller Park, couldn’t take matters directly into their own hands by losing three of four to the first-place Cardinals. A few weeks ago, the Brewers were atop the NL Central. As of Sunday, they’re now in third place. Another week or two like this, and they may be below .500. Seriously.


Best and Worst of the Week

Monday, September 1
Cole Hamels walks five batters and hits another through six innings of work at Atlanta, but he allows no hits—and neither do three Phillies relievers as Philadelphia completes the 11th no-hitter thrown using multiple pitchers, 7-0. Hamels is removed with 108 pitches thrown.

A day after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox, Adam Dunn makes his debut for the Oakland A’s and bangs a two-run homer in his first at-bat, helping to ignite a five-run, first-inning outburst that sets the A’s toward a 6-1 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners, snapping a five-game losing skid.

For the first time since the season’s first week, the Milwaukee Brewers are out of first place in the NL Central. The Brewers bow to the Cubs at Chicago, 4-2, while in St. Louis the Cardinals overcome Pittsburgh 5-4 to take sole possession of the division lead. The Cubs’ victory is powered by rookie Jorge Soler, who doubles twice and sets a major league record for most consecutive games (five) with an extra-base hit to start a career.

The New York Mets commit six errors—leading to five unearned runs—helping the Marlins to take a 9-6 decision at Miami. Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera connects on his first career triple and homer, but is responsible for two of the Mets’ miscues.

The Washington Nationals defeat the Dodgers at Los Angeles, 6-4, behind the bat of Denard Span, who homers in consecutive at-bats—doubling his total through 126 previous games on the season.


Tuesday, September 2
Trailing 2-1 in the top of the ninth inning, the Detroit Tigers get a three-run shot from J.D. Martinez—his seventh homer hit in the ninth this year—to overcome the Indians at Cleveland, 4-2. The Tigers’ Kyle Lobstein and the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco become the first pair of starting pitchers in modern (post-1900) history to each pitch less than six innings and strike out ten or more batters in a game.

For the second straight night, the adage that no lead is safe at Coors Field is once again proven. A day after blowing a 7-2 lead and losing, the San Francisco Giants get even by scoring 11 unanswered runs to defeat the Colorado Rockies, 12-7. Buster Posey leads the Giants’ comeback carnage with two doubles, a homer and four RBIs.

A day after manager Bo Porter’s dismissal in Houston, interim skipper Tom Lawless wins his first game as the Astros topple the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Minute Maid Park, 8-3. Fueling the Astros’ charge at the plate is major league batting leader Jose Altuve, who for the second straight game—and fifth overall this season—collects four hits, including a homer and a double, to raise his batting average to .340; he also steals his 50th base.

In an 8-6 loss to the Mets, Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton extends his NL home run lead with his 35th blast while becoming the first major leaguer this year to surpass the 100-RBI mark. In Stanton’s first triple-digit RBI count in his five-year career.


Wednesday, September 3
It’s a crazy day at Los Angeles where the Nationals outlast the Dodgers in 14 innings, 8-5—and Adam LaRoche is in the middle of it all, even though he doesn’t even enter the game until the ninth. LaRoche’s two-run homer helps send the game into overtime; his two-run single in the 12th temporarily gives the Nats the lead (before the Dodgers tie it back up a half-inning later); and he beats out a potential double-play grounder that allows the ultimate game-winning run to score in the 14th. Only Harold Baines, in 1999, has knocked in five runs in a game after first appearing in the ninth.

In what may be a preview of the AL Wild Card game, the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez matches up with the A’s Jon Lester in Oakland with the former edging out the latter in a 2-1 Seattle win. Both pitchers throw for eight innings each, but Hernandez gets the edge on support as Kyle Seager and Corey Hart hit back-to-back homers in the seventh.

A scoreless battle at St. Louis ends in the bottom of the ninth when Peter Bourjos caps a two-out rally with a grounder up the middle to bring home Yadier Molina from second for a 1-0 Cardinals win over the Pirates. Life is good for the Cardinals, who’ve won five straight and opened up a three-game lead on second-place Milwaukee (eight straight losses) and the third-place Bucs (four straight defeats).

After notching just one run in their previous four games, the Braves break out the bats with a 7-4 victory over the Phillies. B.J. Upton’s two-run homer caps a three-run second, ending a 25-inning scoreless slump for the team.

Arizona’s 6-1 win at San Diego is noted for a one-inning relief appearance by Daniel Hudson, logging his first major league action after two years and two Tommy John surgeries. He retires the side in order in the eighth.


Thursday, September 4
The Baltimore Orioles blow a 6-0 lead but rebound for a 9-7 victory over Cincinnati at Oriole Park to sweep the Reds, ensuring their third straight winning season and giving the American League its 151st interleague victory of the year—ensuring the junior circuit’s 11th straight winning record against the NL. Nelson Cruz takes over the major league lead in home runs with his 37th shot.

Returning home after a devastating home trip, the Brewers cannot find solace at Miller Park, losing their ninth straight game; worse, it comes against St. Louis, the team that’s taken over the NL Central’s top spot. Michael Wacha makes his first appearance in nearly three months and, with the help of four relievers, holds off the Brewers, 3-2.

Detroit scores four times in the first inning, then is held in check by Cleveland pitching until the 11th—when the Tigers break out for seven more tallies to roll over the Indians, 11-4. Victor Martinez continues to enhance his AL MVP prospects with three walks and his 29th home run. Detroit is now a game back of Kansas City in the AL Central; the Indians are six back and fading in the AL wild card race.

The New York Yankees get ninth-inning homers from Mark Teixeira and Chase Headley to score a comeback victory over visiting Boston, 5-4; the loss goes to Red Sox closer Koji Uehera, who’s now blown his last three save opportunities and is being considered for an early-season shutdown. In defeat, David Ortiz belts two home runs.

The Texas Rangers (53-87) become the first team mathematically eliminated from the postseason after being drubbed by the Mariners at Arlington, 10-2. Robinson Cano knocks in a season-high four runs for Seattle.


Friday, September 5
The Brewers finally win. Behind a solid pitching effort from Mike Fiers and a steady, effective offense, Milwaukee upends the Cardinals at Miller Park 6-2 to end its season-long nine-game losing streak; just as importantly, the Brewers close the gap on the NL Central-leading Cardinals to three games.

A Chase Headley error in the third inning leads to the only run of the night at Yankee Stadium as Kansas City’s James Shields throws 8.1 scoreless innings and helps the Royals edge the Yankees, 1-0. The Royals’ lead in the AL Central increases to two games as

Detroit bows to the visiting Giants, 8-2. Jake Peavy earns the win for San Francisco, pitching six innings—three before a three-hour rain delay, and three after. The Giants remain two back of the Dodgers in the NL West.

Washington closer Rafael Soriano blows another save opportunity and, as a result, the Nationals find themselves in another wild extra-inning affair. Ninth-inning home runs by Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz and Ben Revere (only his second on the year) sends the game into overtime, and the Phillies prevail in the 11th with two unearned runs; the Nats’ rebuttal falls a run short in a 9-8 loss.


Saturday, September 6
Albert Pujols’ 2,500th career hit is a game-winner. The 34-year-old slugger breaks a 5-5 tie in the top of the ninth with a two-run double, capping a terrific night that includes three hits, his 25th homer of the year and 1,500th career run scored as the Angels triumph at Minnesota, 8-5.

The A’s keep pace with the Angels in the AL West after a desperate ninth-inning rally against Houston. Jed Lowrie—hitless in his last 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position—caps a three-run rally with a RBI single to defeat the visiting Astros, 4-3. The silver lining for Houston is Jose Altuve’s sixth-inning double that extends his hitting streak against the A’s to 22 games—the longest ever by an Astros player against a single team.

Baltimore gifts the Rays a 3-2 win at Tampa Bay when Yunel Escobar gets on base to open the ninth on a Ryan Flaherty error—and after reaching third on a sacrifice bunt and fly ball, scores on Nick Hundley’s passed ball. The Orioles had not lost a game on a walk-off passed ball since 1974; the Rays had never won one on such a play.


Sunday, September 7
It’s a huge day for Baltimore slugger Nelson Cruz, who homers twice, triples and knock in all seven runs in the Orioles 7-5, 11-inning win at Tampa Bay. His triple clears the bases in the ninth to send the game into overtime.

Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco comes within an out of a complete-game shutout but settles for a 2-0 victory at Progressive Field. The Indians’ Carlos Santana knocks in a run and walks for the 100th time this year.

The Astros will not lose 100 games for the fourth straight year. Houston gains revenge for a series of comeback defeats to the A’s, scoring twice in the ninth to overcome a 3-2 deficit and prevail at Oakland, 4-3. The win is the 63rd on the year for the Astros.

The Royals spoil Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium by shutting down New York, 2-0, behind combined four-hit ball from Yordana Ventura and three relievers. Jeter has a single and a walk in four appearances.

Adrian Gonzalez belts three-run homers in back-to-back innings, bringing the Dodgers from behind to triumph over the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks, 7-2. The six RBIs give Gonzalez 100 for the year; it’s his fifth straight season over 100 and his seventh for his career.

Miguel Cabrera has Gonzo beat. Cabrera also reaches the 100-RBI mark but does so for the 11th straight season, helping to lead the Tigers to a 6-1 victory over the Giants and avoid a weekend sweep. The loss sends San Francisco three games back of the Dodgers.

We'll Take Rawhide Over Leather
It’s that time of year where we sit in front of the TV and get the choice to switch from baseball to football and back again. It’s an experience that’s almost mind-bending, trying to reconcile the violent bashing of padded athletes and the deliberate, peaceful pace of a pastoral sport. We can get into the details that separate the mindset of these two sports, but we’ll let George Carlin take care of that instead.

But as we take in the football action, we can’t help but shake our heads at what has become of it. No, this is not going to be a hit piece on football as a sport. It is, instead, a hit piece of the business of football. We still love football—just not as much as we used to. And here’s the reasons, in the context of why baseball is still—in its purest form—the better sporting alternative these days from the fans’ point of view.

This is not your father’s football. The rules of football seem to change with the passing of the seasons. Don’t touch the receiver anymore. Don’t hit the quarterback below the knee. Watch how you use your head. Kick it off from the 30-yard line. No, wait—kick it off from the 35 instead. The NFL is trying to perfect a game that, really, was fairly perfect many decades ago. Meanwhile, baseball’s rulebook has remained virtually untouched for over 100 years. There’s a simple reason for that: It doesn’t need to be changed.

Football costs an arm and leg—both arms and legs, in fact. Just where do all of these football fans get the money to pay for season tickets? The average NFL ticket is over $100, and that doesn’t include the exuberant parking costs, concession costs and, in some stadiums, payment for the right to buy a season ticket—probably the biggest, most naked scam in pro sports today. At the ballpark, concessions may be on a par, but the parking is quite a bit cheaper and, most importantly, tickets can be had for as little as under $10.

Football is so unnecessarily long. People rightfully complain that baseball games have gotten long and it’s become a priority topic on MLB’s what-to-do list—but football’s worse. The average game is closing in on four hours—but what really makes a NFL game so tedious to watch is the endless stream of commercial breaks. Do you really need a break before and after a kickoff? At least baseball knows when to accordingly plan their ads so those watching on TV—and those in the ballpark, players and umpires included—aren’t sitting around twiddling their fingers waiting for the network guys to tell you when to play ball.

Bring the kids at your own peril. Have you ever taken Jack and Jill to a Philadelphia Eagles game? Or an Oakland Raiders game? Maybe you have…once. There’s no doubt football fans are animated. They can also be obnoxious, drunk, sloppy (raise your hands if you’ve left a NFL game with beer stains on your back) and violent if you’re not careful. (Some NFL stadiums have their own jail cells, for goodness sakes.) This is not to say baseball is clean of these elements, but you’re far more likely to have an enjoyable family experience at the ballpark.

Football is more about me, not us. Football players experience inflated egos because they experience the glory of big-time crowds as early as high school. For baseball players, the journey to greatness takes them through prep and college games that attract tens or hundreds—not tens of thousands—and more minor league backwaters than they care to remember. Along the way, they find teammates who relate, and the concept of team becomes a purer, more humbling experience.

Football’s bail bondsmen are busier—much busier. The average NFL rap sheet dwarfs that of MLB. Yes, there is the occasional tale of a drunk driving arrest or pot bust to be found in baseball, but those events are few and far between the constant news that pops up of football players beating their wives, hit-and-running, carrying firearms into nightclubs, and even murder. Maybe they should be placing metal detectors at the locker room entrance as well as the front gate.

Football’s commissioner is worse. Say what you want about Bud Selig, but he looks shrewd compared to his NFL counterpart in Roger Goodell, who always seems a step behind the pulse, bungles every discipline ruling and, unlike Selig, was never really a man of his sport. Goodell also makes Selig look underpaid; he reportedly earned over $40 million in 2013, double Selig’s salary.

Screw the pageantry, play the game. World Series TV ratings may be miniscule compared to the Super Bowl, but at least the Fall Classic is still all about the game. For the Super Bowl, it seems to have become more about what commercials are funniest and what controversy will come from the halftime show. The football action has become almost secondary.

The Texas Two Step-Down
It wasn’t easy being a major league manager in the Lone Star State this past week. Bo Porter was fired by the Houston Astros on Monday and, on Friday, came a stunning announcement that Texas manager Ron Washington was resigning to deal with a “personal matter.”

Washington’s comments immediately brought up back-of-mind assumptions that he may have suffered a substance abuse relapse, five years after admitting he had gone on a brief cocaine binge. But through the Rangers, Washington made it clear that his resignation was not drug-related. Still, his sudden departure shook up a team and organization already reeling from a rotten, injury-riddled campaign that looks headed for 100 losses, all of that on the heels of a messy divorce between Rangers management and former exec/fan favorite Nolan Ryan. The details behind Washington’s exit may very well be revealed in the coming days or weeks, but he’s already stated he’s not done with baseball, texting to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, “I’ll be back! Need some time.”

The situation was much different in Houston, where Porter’s dismissal seemed to serve as a confirmation that the second-year skipper had been clashing with the Astros’ front office and general manager Jeff Luhnow in particular. CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa spread the blame to most everyone but, if he singled anyone out, it was Luhnow, writing: “Rather than attempt to find a solution, he fired Porter and will find someone else to be his ‘yes man’ in the dugout. That’s fine, he’s allowed to do that as the GM as long as ownership gives him that authority, but it only reinforces the notion that the Astros see players and coaches as numbers and assets, not people. The human element has been lost and that's not how the real world works.”

Chances Are, He’s a Ranger
To underscore just how injury-scarred the Rangers have been, pitcher Derek Holland became the 60th player used by the team this season when he made his season debut this past Tuesday against Kansas City. That figure, which grew to 63 with additional players called up later in the week, set a major league record previously held by three teams: The 2002 Cleveland Indians and the 2002 and 2008 San Diego Padres.

No-Hitter by Committee
The season’s fourth no-hitter, thrown this past Monday at Atlanta, was unique in that it took four Philadelphia Phillies pitchers to do it: Starter Cole Hamels and relievers Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon. It was the 11th no-hitter thrown by multiple pitchers, and the first one since 2012 when six Seattle hurlers combined to hold the Los Angeles Dodgers hitless.

Hamels walked five batters, hit another and had to be removed because of a growing pitch count that reached 108 after six innings; there was no way he was going to go the distance so long as he remained the only Phillie who seemed to know how to replicate an ace—and more to the point, be paid like one. The three Phillies relievers that followed were far more economical and on target—combining to throw 39 pitches and striking out five Braves hitters.

Just Because You Can’t Hit Doesn't Mean You Can’t Run
Although the Braves were no-hit, outfielder Jason Heyward still managed to steal three bases after being walked twice. The only other player to steal even two bases in a game in which his team was no-hit was the Chicago Cubs’ Frank Chance during a 1903 no-no thrown by another Phillie, Chick Fraser.

Your Turn, American League
The last eight no-hitters have all taken place at National League parks. The last no-no thrown on AL grounds came in August 2012 when Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Seattle.

League vs. League, Epilogue
The American League clinched its 11th straight season of interleague dominance this past week after the Baltimore Orioles swept away the Cincinnati Reds for the AL’s 151st win against NL competition. For the record, the NL last won the interleague wars back in 2003 when it went 137-115 against the AL; but it’s been all AL since, winning 1,552 games against the NL while losing 1,296.

During these 11 years, the AL has won eight of 11 All-Star Games, but has a 5-5 split in World Series play, with this year’s Fall Classic waiting to break the tie.

The AL largely has its Eastern Division to thanks for this year’s victory; as of Sunday, none of the five teams from the East has a losing record against the NL this year and is a combined 54-40. The AL West, meanwhile, is only 43-48—and their sub-.500 standing is largely due to the Houston Astros’ 4-13 record against the NL.

Two-Bagging Backstop
Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy set a major league season record for catchers with his 48th double this past Saturday. That breaks the old mark previously held by Ivan Rodriguez in 1996.

Just Sayin’
With two hits and three RBIs in Minnesota’s 11-4 Wednesday romp of the Chicago White Sox, the Twins’ Kennys Vargas reached 43 hits and 31 RBIs through his first 32 games. Only two players have done better to start a career, and you may have heard of them: Joe DiMaggio in 1936 and Albert Pujols in 2001.

How Do You Like Me Now?
Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro, once looking burned out and released from Tampa Bay a few years back, has hit four homers against the Rays this season; he’s hit no more than one against any other ballclub.

Give Me the Nationals Anytime
A.J. Burnett is 3-8 for the Phillies since the start of July. All three of his wins have come against Washington.

Pot-Pourri
San Diego shortstop
Everth Cabrera, suspended last year for his involvement in Biogenesis, has apparently found a new drug of choice. He was arrested this past week for driving under the influence of marijuana.

What’s really curious is why Cabrera, currently on the disabled list, was driving high on a remote stretch of highway well east of San Diego, ten miles from the Mexican border. In fact, it was the Border Patrol that cuffed Cabrera while he was passing through a checkpoint in Dulzura—a place that Padres fans don’t have fond memories of; it’s the town where former San Diego pitcher Eric Show died of a drug overdose in 1994.

That’s Why They Used to Call it the Thunderdome
Despite the safety of being indoors, Toronto’s Melky Cabrera was nevertheless spooked when a thunderclap from an outside storm shook Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg while he was at-bat this past Wednesday. Maybe he was bracing for impact thinking that the roof was about to collapse on him.

No Breaking Through the Shields
When James Shields becomes a free agent this winter, the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira is hoping he signs far, far away with a National League team—or with the Yankees. Teixeira struck out in all three at-bats against Shields in Friday’s 1-0 loss to Kansas City, and in 51 career at-bats against the big Royals right-hander has only six hits—all singles—with 18 strikeouts. The .118 average is the worst of any active hitter with 50-plus at-bats against an active pitcher.

This Week's Challenger to Joe DiMaggio
Not so surprisingly,
Jose Altuve—the major league leader in batting average—ends this past week with the longest active hitting streak at a career-high 14 games. It’s just another bright spot in a season full of many for the 24-year-old second baseman.

Wounded of the Week
wounded of the weekMaybe it’s time to start padding the players during batting practice. The Toronto Blue Jays might certainly think it’s a good idea. Pitcher R.A. Dickey got hit in the head by a batted ball on Wednesday before a game at Tampa Bay, but he was declared fit and cognizant enough to not miss a pitching turn. The news was less fortunate for reliever Chad Jenkins, who a day later broke his hand while shagging flies; he’s done for the year.

Also from the strange side of the injurious life this past week was the short saga of Kansas City pitcher Danny Duffy, who entered Saturday’s game against the Yankees with the AL’s third lowest ERA at 2.42, threw one pitch and left—complaining of shoulder soreness. At upload time, the verdict on Duffy’s near-future availability remains a mystery, but Royals fans aren’t feeling too good about this one.

The season also came to a premature end this past week for Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera (broken finger), Cincinnati pitcher Homer Bailey (elbow surgery) and, maybe, veteran Chicago White Sox slugger Paul Konerko, who broke his finger but vowed that he’ll be back before the end of this, his final season, stating: “I’ll finish on the field.”


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