Facing his former team for the first time, Houston starter J.A. Happ outdueled Phillies ace Roy Halladay Wednesday night, starting the game with four no-hit innings and allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings for the win, the Astros' third straight against the Phillies. Ever since starting the year 9-21, the Astros are 48-48 and, with young pitchers, like Happ, Bud Norris and Felipe Paulino, have a few building blocks in the rotation to go along with 31-year-old No. 1 starter Wandy Rodriguez.
Onetime Brewers owner and current baseball commissioner Bud Selig was honored at the unveiling of his new statue outside Miller Park, which joins similar monuments for Robin Yount and Hank Aaron. Those two were among the Hall of Famers in attendance at Selig's ceremony, where hyperbole was doled out in huge helpings. "Bud Selig is my hero," Aaron said.
Promises of performance are difficult enough to keep when made for one's self but even harder when someone else places the burden on you. But on Wednesday Royals manager Ned Yost guaranteed that Willie Bloomquist would have two hits as the No. 3 hitter, and though it took until the 12th inning, but Bloomquist's second hit was a game-winning home run. "Just the fact that I got to hit third today ranks pretty high up there [in career highlights]," Bloomquist said. "That was kind of cool. I've never done that before." In 731 career games, that was Bloomquist's first start as the No. 3 hitter.
With Lou Piniella's surprise announcement Sunday that he was retiring after that game to be with his ailing mother, the Cubs needed an interim manager to start work immediately and third-base coach Mike Quade was the perfect guy for that job. He already knows the players and, as a local guy from Evanston, will enjoy the thrill of managing the Cubs even if it's just through the rest of the season. This way the Cubs can let him audition for the fulltime job while not tipping their hand as to whom they want on the bench next season.
Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann are supposed to be the Nationals' Nos. 1 and 2 starters for the foreseeable future, but the two haven't yet been able to spend any time together in the rotation. Just as Zimmermann, who went 3-5 with a 4.63 ERA in his rookie season last year, recovered from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg was placed on the D.L. for the second time this year. So when Zimmermann makes his first major league start of 2010, he'll be doing so in Strasburg's place rather than on the next day, as Washington no doubt envisioned it.
Mariners ace Felix Hernandez got Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz to whiff on a sixth-inning curveball Wednesday night, the 1,000th career strikeout of Hernandez's career. He became the fourth-youngest pitcher to notch the milestone, trailing only Bob Feller, Bert Blyleven and Doc Gooden. Fifth on the list is Hall of Famer Walter Johnson.
As far as first career home runs go, hitting it off Rangers ace Cliff Lee is certainly a memorable way to do, and that's what promising Orioles third base prospect Josh Bell did on Saturday. What could be better? An inning later, he hit his second career home run, also off Lee for a total of five RBIs. Bell also lined a third pitch off the wall for a long single, missing a third home run by a few feet.
With just an 8-16 record and 5.27 ERA in parts of four seasons with the Padres and Reds, pitcher Justin Germano wasn't in high demand, so in 2009 he pitched in Japan. "It helped my drive to succeed here because I didn't want to have to go back," he told reporters in Cleveland. Desperate to return to the States, he did what any 21st century player would do: He started emailing clubs, including Indians G.M. Mark Shapiro and director of player development Ross Atkins. Germano received a minor-league contract and since a call-up in late July, he has yet to allow an earned run in 14 2/3 innings.
Justin Upton is in his fourth major league season, yet he just turned 23 on Wednesday. Of players who have debuted in 1970 or later and had 1,500 plate appearances before their 23rd birthday, the Diamondbacks' right fielder ranks fifth with an .822 OPS, trailing only Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr. and Cesar Cedeno. Rounding out the top 10 are Andruw Jones, Rickey Henderson, Adrian Beltre, Ted Simmons and Ruben Sierra. In other words, Upton is in good company.
Here's a new one: pitcher Jeff Karstens recently missed a start with a "cranky" arm. The Pirates announced that he was held out with "arm fatigue," but they simply weren't having enough fun. Injury reports would certainly be livelier if other players and teams started using adjectives of mood to describe ailments. Angry elbows, irritable ankles, depressed knees -- the possibilities are endless.
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