This week Diamond Digits takes a look at the best pitcher in the majors, Baker's dozen (plus four) bases, and the Jay Bruce experience.
Wins in 12 starts for Arizona ace Brandon Webb who pitched his first shutout of the season against the Nationals on Saturday. Webb struck out eight and didn't walk a batter to end his personal two game losing streak and move two wins ahead of the pack in the race for the major league victories lead. With at least eight starts remaining, Webb has an outside shot of reaching the post-expansion National League record for wins before the All Star game, currently held by San Diego's Randy Jones who won 16 pre-All Star contests in 1976. Wilbur Wood owns the major league record in the Expansion Era with 18 (on 31 starts) before the midsummer classic in 1973.
Doubles in four at bats for Colorado right fielder Jeff Baker last Friday at Wrigley Field in the Rockies collapse from an 8-0 lead to a 10-9 loss. Baker became just the third player in the expansion era to have doubles in all four of his plate appearances during a game. Coincidentally, the last one to achieve the feat was Matt Murton, who also had four Wrigley doubles, fittingly in the second game of a doubleheader against the Diamondbacks on Aug. 3, 2006. The only player in the AL to pull it off during that time was Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. who did his damage in Fenway Park versus the Red Sox on June 6, 1997. For the record, Murton and Alomar's teams both won 7-3.
Three-hit games during Jay Bruce's first week as a Red. Cincinnati's center fielder proved why he was considered the best hitting prospect in the minors by hitting a major league leading .577 with three home runs, seven RBI's and a 1.038 slugging percentage and .667 OBP in his first seven days in the majors. His walk-off home run on Saturday was the first by a Reds rookie since Skeeter Barnes beat the Astros in Aug. 1984. In one week Bruce has as many three hit games this season as such notables like Bobby Abreu, Jason Bay, Miguel Cabrera, Todd Helton, Carlos Lee, Jimmy Rollins and Grady Sizemore. Not bad company to be keeping for a green rookie.
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies
So far this season, Utley has been the runner-up in this category multiple times, but a major league leading five home runs and 14 RBIs while hitting .391 and slugging 1.087 for the week gives him the nod over the aforementioned Jay Bruce. Look for him to be right in the thick of next week's top stats honors too: next up for the Phillies is one of his favorite teams, the Reds, against whom he's slugging .698 with 11 home runs in 30 career games.
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Tigers
This spring Pudge was showing signs that he was ready to have a great comeback season. It hasn't turned out that way, as he, like most of his Tigers teammates, has struggled mighitly all season. This week was the worst for Rodriguez who had batted .055 last week (1-for-18). His .053 OBP was the worst of any major league regular while his .056 slugging percentage was higher than only Boston's Coco Crisp who narrowly escaped this week's dubious distinction.
On Saturday night Red Sox leftfielder Manny Ramirez took Baltimore's Chad Bradford deep in the seventh inning with what ended up being the game winning RBI in the Sox 6-3 win. It was also the 500th home run of Ramirez's career, making him the 24th player in baseball history, and second member of the 1993 to 2000 Cleveland Indians reach the milestone, joining Jim Thome, who crossed that plateau last season. Most members of the 500 home run club have familiar company with them in the club. Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. were teammates in Seattle, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro teamed up in Texas, Mark McGwire and Reggie Jackson were teammates in Oakland, and the list goes on. Ramirez is just the third player to hit his 500th as a Red Sox player, joining Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams.
Last week Josh Banks got a mention here for his yeoman's work in the Padres 18-inning win against the Reds. He followed up those six shutout innings with a complete game six-hitter against the Giants in which he allowed just one unearned run while striking out five and walking none. Acquired off of waivers in April from the Blue Jays, Banks now has yet to allow an NL earned run in his first 17 innings. Last year he appeared three times for Toronto in September, compiling a 7.36 ERA and .344 opponents batting average. He's the perfect type of pitcher for San Diego's spacious Petco Park: someone who throws strikes, rarely walks a batter and keeps his fielders involved in the game. He should learn from teammate Greg Maddux and be part of what the Padres hope will be a second half surge.