David Sabino
Tuesday May 26th, 2009

The latest edition of Diamond Digits examines a milestone achieved last week that uncovers yet another sign of baseball's Steroid Era, one of the game's top closers getting touched up late and one of the National League's predicted also-rans riding an unprecedented winning streak back into contention.

Breaking from form, we'll lead off with the Milestone of the Week for the seven-day period of May 18 to May 24:

Career home runs for A's first baseman Jason Giambi after his blasts against Arizona's Dan Haren and Doug Slaten last weekend -- making Giambi the 44th man to reach 400 home runs in his career.

While he has never come out and admitted it publicly, Giambi was implicated in the BALCO scandal when his grand jury testimony allegedly leaked, linking him to widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in the big leagues. During the so-called Steroid Era, single-season statistical anomalies were widespread. Nowadays, as players like the 2000 AL MVP climb higher on major all-time lists, the impact of steroids becomes even more apparent with bloated career marks. When Giambi debuted in 1995, there were 25 players in the 400 Home Run Club and all except noted all-or-nothing slugger Dave Kingman had amassed 2,000 hits. Since then, 19 more sluggers have reached the lofty plateau and four more -- PED suspects Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Juan Gonzalez and now Giambi -- are there with fewer than 2,000 hits. With 158 hits to go, Giambi is no lock to make it, either; he hasn't surpassed more than 113 hits in any season since 2003 and has seen his career average drop from a high of .310 during 2002 to just .285 now.

Home runs allowed with two outs in the ninth inning by Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon over Memorial Day Weekend.

On Saturday night Papelbon had two outs with a one-run lead and a man on first base. But Mets catcher Omir Santos drove the first pitch he saw over the Green Monster, handing Papelbon his first blown save of the season and helping the Mets to a 3-2 win. Then on Monday All-Star catcher Joe Mauer faced Papelbon as a pinch hitter with two outs and a man on in the bottom of the ninth and promptly deposited a fastball over the right-centerfield fence. However, the Twins' rally fell one run short, and Papelbon earned his 12th save of the season. Until those two home runs Papelbon had been close to perfect, allowing just two earned runs and one homer in 18 appearances. Those two shots also represented the seventh and eighth two-out, ninth-inning home runs allowed in his career, spanning 222 games. By comparison, in his 870 appearances, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has allowed just 11 such dramatic blasts.

Number of wins in a homestand sweep for the Padres at PETCO Park.

In the 40-year history of the Padres franchise, no squad had ever swept a nine-game homestand, but Bud Black's '09 edition took three consecutive three-game series from the Reds, Giants and Cubs. San Diego's total home winning streak stretched to 10 games, dating back to a win over Arizona on May 7. The overall winning streak climbed to 10 on Monday with a victory at Arizona. That snapped an 11-game losing streak away from San Diego, setting up one of the oddest stats you can come upon. According to the good folks at the Elias Sports Bureau, the Pads were the first team to have concurrent double-digit streaks of home wins and road losses.

In the week leading up to his aforementioned two-run shot against Papelbon on Monday, Joe Mauer was on fire, batting .458 with four home runs, a .516 on-base percentage and 1.042 slugging percentage in 24 at-bats over seven games. During that span he led the majors in runs scored (12) and knocked in (13). The reigning AL batting champ raised his season average to .444. Also in just 81 at-bats he's only two home runs shy of his career-high of 13 set in 2006 over 521 at-bats.

Honorable mention: Mark Teixeira, Michael Cuddyer, Nelson Cruz, Miguel Tejada, Mark Reynolds, Bobby Abreu, Casey Blake, Josh Outman and Brandon McCarthy.

With hot-shot rookie third baseman Mat Gamel hanging around, Brewers third baseman Bill Hall couldn't have picked a worse time to go into a slump. Hall had just one hit, the only time he reached base in 22 trips to the plate, for an .045 batting average and on-base percentage. Hall struck out in half of those at-bats and tied David Ortiz for the major-league high for whiffs during the week. He is now batting .140 in May after a .300 April. (Though Hall did start this week with a game-winning hit on Monday.)

Dishonorable Mention: Chris Davis, David Ortiz, Bengie Molina, Ryan Theriot, Alfonso Soriano, Ricky Nolasco, Brad Lidge, Chris Ray and Renyel Pinto.

For more items like these and for fantasy tips check me out on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino.

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