David Sabino
Tuesday May 27th, 2008

The week that was saw a no hitter, a never-ending contest and one of the game's legendary relievers add to his already Hall of Fame quality dossier. Those and more in this post-Memorial Day edition of Diamond Digits.


Innings that the Reds and Padres battled for on Sunday in San Diego, a contest in which Reds manager Dusty Baker used 24 of the 25 players he had available. The game ended when the Padres' Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer to centerfield off then-NL ERA-leader Edinson Volquez. The game lasted so long that the allotted satellite window on DirectTV ended during Gonzalez's at bat, causing viewers around the country to wonder what happened. While there were lots of statistical highlights (the first major league win for Josh Banks after he pitched six shutout innings) and lowlights (Cincinnati's Corey Patterson went 0-for-8 lowering his batting average from .213 to .201), perhaps the most impressive was achieved by Reds pitcher Aaron Harang, who struck out nine in four innings of relief. In the expansion era, only two other relievers struck out as many as nine batters in as few as four relief innings while allowing no runs. The others were Colorado's Bruce Ruffin who had nine K's in four innings in a win against the Astros in 1993 and Texas' Jim Kern who did the same against the Orioles in 1979. Both pitchers, unlike Harang, earned saves in their teams' win.


Consecutive appearances at Yankee Stadium without surrendering an earned run by Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, covering 18 innings pitched and dating to August 18 of last year. Over that span he's the only pitcher to throw at least 10 innings at home without allowing a single earned run. The return of Alex Rodriguez from the DL put the Yankees back on the winning track this week, which should enable Rivera to return to the spotlight he well deserves. His 0.45 ERA is the lowest in the AL and second only to Philly's Brad Lidge among all pitchers who have thrown 20 innings or more. Rivera is also the only pitcher with that many innings to not yet walk a batter this year.


Home runs hit last week by the Blue Jays who are now tied with the Giants for 26th in the majors with just 34 home runs thus far this season. Of the three they did hit, two came from newly acquired Brad Wilkerson who was sent to the junk heap by the nearly equally anemic Mariners. Making matters even worse, A's DH Frank Thomas, whom Toronto released last month, out homered the entire Blue Jay roster for the week, four to three.

Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox

By blanking the Royals 7-0 at Fenway Park last Monday night Boston hurler Jon Lester, who last year survived a battle with cancer, became the first Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter since Mel Parnell blanked the White Sox on April 14, 1956. He lost his next time out to the Athletics, but Lester ended the week 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and .140 opponents batting average and with all he's overcome in the last 12 months, he deserves the nod.

Justin Upton, RF, Diamondbacks

In what's likely just a hiccup in a solid rookie season (.281 average, 6 home runs, 22 RBI), Upton had horrendous numbers this week, going hitless in 20 at bats, while striking out 14 times. For bad measure he's committed two errors in his last three games.

In Lester's no-no, Jason Varitek, entered the record book by catching a big league record four complete game no-hitters. Varitek previously called no-hitters for Derek Lowe, Hideo Nomo and Clay Buchholz and had been tied with 14 other backstops with three regular season and postseason caught each.

Alexi Casilla, Twins

With nearly the entire middle infield depth chart on the disabled list, the Twins have turned to budding star Casilla to fill a void at second base. Casilla, who played 65 games for the Twins in '06 and '07, hit safely in six of his seven games last week, adding his first two career home runs and 10 RBIs. The power numbers are merely a fluke (he hit just seven in five minor league seasons), he's a solid fielder and excellent baserunner, having swiped 74 bags the last two full seasons.

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