This week's Diamond Digits takes a look at, among other things, the NL's anonymous workhorse, a second Cincinnati outfielder to hit the ground running in his big league career, and the White Sox slugger who isn't just one of baseball's top hitters, he's one of baseball's top hitees.
Reds rookies who have broken into the majors this year by collecting at least three hits in one of their first five career games. The latest to do it was outfielder Chris Dickerson who had three hits in both his second and fifth career games. His first six career hits went for extra bases (five doubles, one triple) putting him one shy of Oakland's Carlos Gonzalez who in June became the first man since Johnny Mize in 1936 to begin his career with seven extra base hits. Dickerson, Jay Bruce (three three-hit games in his first five) and Paul Janish are the first rookie trio to break in with at least one three hit game so early in their career since Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe and J.D. Closser each did it in 2004. Dickerson and Bruce are the only two players with multiple three-hit games in their first five career games for the same team in the same season in the expansion era.
Consecutive starts in which Pirates lefty Paul Maholm has gone at least six innings, the longest active streak in the NL. Only Milwaukee's CC Sabathia has completed six frames more often of late, with a streak of 23 straight starts dating back to April 22 when he was a member of the Indians (he's started just nine games for the Brewers). As for Maholm, he places in the top 10 of just two pitching categories in the NL (seventh in both innings and batters faced), but his is the fifth longest streak in the last half-century for the Pirates, with Vernon Law's 30 straight starts from June 14, 1959 to May 18, 1960, topping the list. However to put things into better perspective, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson had three such streaks of over 50 games in his career, topping out with an expansion-era high 78 straight games pitching at least a half dozen innings from Sept. 12, 1967 to May 2, 1970.
Years since the last Brave hit for the cycle, before centerfielder Mark Kotsay did it last Thursday by going 5-for-5 (with two singles) against the Cubs. Prior to Kotsay the only Atlanta Brave to accomplish the feat was Albert Hall who was 4-for-5 with an RBI in a 5-4 win over the Astros on Sept. 23, 1987. Before Hall, the only Braves to hit for the cycle since 1900 were Duff Collins (1904), John Bates (1907) and William Collins (1910). Kotsay also achieved a curious oddity with his seventh-inning double that night: It was his 1,500th career hit, making him the first player since St. Louis' Curt Flood to collect his 1,500th hit in the midst of a five-hit game. Now with 1,504 hits, Kotsay ranks 563rd on the alltime hit list, one behind Doug DeCinces for sole possession of 562nd.
With Carlos Lee going on the DL with a broken pinkie, the Astros needed someone else to step up. Enter third baseman Ty Wigginton who was named the NL player of the Week on the strength of his four home runs, 11 RBIs, a 1.143 slugging percentage and 32 total bases. He had hits in all seven games for the week, collecting at least two hits in six. Wigginton trailed only Carlos Quentin of the White Sox and Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins with a .586 on-base percentage for the week and provided the game winning RBI in two of Houston's five wins for the week.
The Phillies fell out of first place in the NL East after a disastrous trip through Southern California that saw them lose five of seven games, including a four game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers. Not helping the Philly cause at all was right-hander Kyle Kendrick who lost both of his starts in spectacular fashion, allowing 13 earned runs in just seven combined innings while getting knocked out in the fourth inning at both Chavez Ravine and Petco Park. In two games Kendrick saw his once respectable ERA balloon from 4.37 to 5.01 and walked eight over the span (1.14 per inning) compared to the 41 he had walked in his previous 23 appearances (0.32 per inning).
On Friday night White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin was not hit with a pitch. Why is that noteworthy? Because Quentin had been hit in six consecutive games until then, which is, as far as anyone can tell, the most in the modern history of the game. In fact nobody in the expansion era had ever been hit by a pitch in more than four consecutive games. With 34 home runs, Quentin is attempting to be the first White Sox hitter to ever lead the major leagues in home runs. He's also now the AL leader in getting hit by pitches, reaching base 20 times via the body carom. Only five men have ever led their league in both home runs and hit by pitches during the same season.