In this Week's Diamond Digits you'll find a main reason why the Twins are hanging in the race, an Angels rookie finally living up to his potential, two Phillies on opposite sides of the Spectrum and the possible farewell to a famous second fiddle.
Wins from rookie pitchers for the surprising Twins. While the preseason favorites in the AL continue to fall by the wayside, the Twins are staying strong in the race to the postseason, just a half game behind the White Sox in the AL Central and 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for the Wild Card. Despite losing Johan Santana in the offseason, the Twins starting pitching has been a team strength with two rookies, Nick Blackburn and Glen Perkins, pitching well above expectations. With a combined 25 wins from rookies (Blackburn, Perkins, Brian Bass and Bobby Korecky) Minnesota leads all of baseball in production from first-year hurlers. Perkins' leads all rookies in winning percentage and his 12-3 record puts him well on the way to the best for an AL rookie with over 20 starts since 1939 when Atley Donald of the Yankees was 13-3. Only two other rookie pitchers in league history, Russ Ford (26-6 for the 1910 Highlanders) and Johnny Allen (17-4 for the 1932 Yankees), had better winning percentages with more than 20 starts than Perkins.
Career games for Angels infielder Brandon Wood from the start of his career before his first multi-hit game. On Saturday and Sunday, the highly touted rookie went 2-for-3 and 3-for-4 respectively, accounting for his first two career multi-hit games, and raising his season average to .167. The only active position players who went further in their careers before picking up a two-hit game were Wily Mo Pena (38), Adam Melhuse (38), Paul McAnaulty (58) and Brady Clark (62), but none of them were as highly touted as Wood who has smacked 122 home runs in the minors over the last four seasons. The expansion era leader for most games before collecting two-hits in one is held by Jim Tatum who went 137 games from 1992 to 1998 for the Brewers, Rockies, Red Sox, Padres and Mets before finally breaking through by touching up Houston's Mike Hampton for a home run and a single on April 27, 1998.
Career home runs by Jeff Kent, most among all second baseman in history. We may have seen the last of Kent after he was placed on the disabled list by the Dodgers suffering from torn cartilage in his left knee in what is believed to be his farewell season. Should he indeed have played his last big league game, Kent has made a strong case to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Among second baseman with at least 1,000 games at the position, Kent ranks first in home runs (376), third to Nap Lajoie and Rogers Hornsby in RBIs (1,516), fourth in doubles (560) to Craig Biggio, Lajoie and Charlie Gehringer and second to Hornsby in slugging percentage (.499). The 2000 MVP and five-time All Star ranks seventh among active players in total bases and has more career home runs than Joe DiMaggio, more RBIs than Mickey Mantle and more total bases than Harmon Killebrew. And although he played in just one World Series, he was a career .292 hitter in the postseason with nine career playoff home runs. Cooperstown calls.
What a week it was for Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth. The part-time outfielder clouted four home runs against the Mets and Cubs in two big series. He was tied with Manny Ramirez with 27 total bases for the major league lead, slugging a robust 1.125. He reached base at a .613 clip, drove in nine runs and batted an even .500 for the seven day period. His fifth inning home run on Saturday at Wrigley helped turn the tide in what appeared to be a potential third straight loss for the Phils in Chicago that would have put a serious dent into their playoff plans.
On the opposite spectrum was the guy on the opposite side of the Phillies outfield, Pat Burrell. "Pat The Bat" came to the plate 34 times with just four hits, no walks, one RBI and a dozen strikeouts. He had an 0-for-4, two 0-for-5's and one 0-for-7. Up to this point in the year Burrell has helped carry the Phillies with Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins in long slumps, so one week in which he bats .118 can be forgiven.
It was a big few days for cycles. First on Thursday night Washington's Cristian Guzman collected a hit of each variety in an 11-2 win against the Dodgers. Then on Labor Day we had two more, the first by Arizona's Stephen Drew who went 5-for-5 in a huge come from behind win against the Cardinals, and then by Seattle's Adrian Beltre who was 5-for-6 in a 12-6 drubbing of the Rangers. According to The Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time two players hit for the cycle on the same day since Sept. 17, 1920, when Bobby Veach of the Tigers and George Burns of the Giants did it.