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May 9, 2012

What You Need to Know

Wednesday, May 9

by Daniel Rathman

The Tuesday Takeaway
Step aside, Matt Kemp—there’s a new name atop the home run leaderboard. That would be Josh Hamilton, who hit not one, not two, not three, but four long balls at Camden Yards in the Rangers’ 10-3 win over the Orioles.

Hamilton, whose absurd 1.298 OPS still trails Kemp’s by seven points, went 5-for-5, adding a double to those homers to finish just one total base shy of Shawn Green’s single-game record of 19. He is the first player to hit four homers in a game since Carlos Delgado did it on September 25, 2003, the first Rangers player ever to accomplish the feat, and the second player to join the club against the Orioles. The other was the Indians’ Rocky Colavito on June 10, 1959.

Tuesday night’s display was the highest of Hamilton’s career highs, a remarkable turnaround from his nadir three months ago, and a resounding reminder that—despite his off-field troubles and injury history—the 30-year-old outfielder remains one of the most talented players in the game. If the season ended today, Hamilton would be a runaway triple-crown winner in the American League: He leads Derek Jeter by 14 points in batting average, Curtis Granderson by four homers, and Edwin Encarnacion by 11 RBI.

With last night’s victory, the Rangers usurped the Orioles atop the AL standings and became the first team to reach 20 wins this season. They’ll go for number 21 behind Colby Lewis tonight (7:05 p.m. ET). Rookie lefty Wei-Yin Chen draws the unenviable challenge of slowing down Hamilton for Baltimore.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • Rockies prospect Christian Friedrich hasn’t exactly taken the most direct route to the majors since being drafted 25th overall in 2008, but his performance at Triple-A Colorado Springs to date suggests that he’s ready for the big stage. The 24-year-old lefty has compiled a 27-to-4 K/BB ratio and allowed just one home run in 30 innings this year, finally showcasing the skills he possessed before encountering elbow trouble in 2009-2010. After a solid but unspectacular effort from Alex White in last night’s loss to the Padres, Friedrich has a chance to show that he deserves to fill the vacant spot at the rear of manager Jim Tracy’s rotation (3:35 p.m. ET).
  • Last night, David Robertson saw his first save opportunity since taking over for the injured Mariano Rivera as the Yankees’ top closer option, and though he nailed down a 5-3 victory over the Rays, Robertson needed 25 pitches to complete an adventurous ninth inning. It will be interesting to see how manager Joe Girardi handles his bullpen tonight (7:05 p.m. ET) if the Yankees once again take a narrow lead into the late innings, especially because set-up man Rafael Soriano took 26 pitches to complete the eighth. Robertson had three days of rest prior to Tuesday’s appearance, so he is the more likely of the two to be used in a save situation.
  • Here are the Angels’ runs scored totals in Ervin Santana’s last five starts: 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0. That’s right—Santana has received zero runs of support since April 8, and while his performance improved in his last two outings, he enters tonight’s (8:10 p.m. ET) rubber match against the Twins at 0-6 with a 5.59 ERA. The Angels plated five runs in 6 2/3 innings off Minnesota’s Wednesday starter, Carl Pavano, on April 11, so Santana has reason to be optimistic that if he builds off his eight-inning effort against the Blue Jays last Friday, that elusive first win might be attainable.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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