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Sidesplitter: Healed from his sneeze-induced (or was that snicker-induced) injury, Mat Latos returns from his DL stint and pitches the Pads past the Pirates. The two runs he surrenders come via a pair of homers, equaling the number he’d yielded in his previous 12 starts, a span of 80 1/3 innings with a 1.46 ERA. Not healing from his own injury is Kyle Blanks, who will need Tommy John surgery; after bopping 10 homers and slugging .514 in 172 PA last year, he finishes the year with a miserable .157/.283/.324 line and three homers in 120 PA.


More Like That, Please: Brooks Conrad clubs his second pinch-grand slam of the season amid an eight-run eighth-inning rally against the Marlins, but it’s the lone Braves win in a five-day stretch that sees their NL East lead dwindle from a season-high seven games to 3.5. Elsewhere, the much-ballyhooed meeting between Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg fails to materialize for the second time this season; Strasburg is scratched, not that you’d know it from the box score. The good news is that Heyward’s hitting .400/.509/.467 since coming off the disabled list after the All-Star break, compared to .181/.287/.245 before being sidelined in late June.


Not Waining: After yielding just one run in his previous five starts (35 1/3 IP), Adam Wainwright is clobbered for six in five frames by the run-starved Mets. Even with the disasterpiece, Wainwright is still third in the league in SWNP (.657), ERA (2.23), and strikeouts (142). A day later, the Mets and Cardinals reprise their early-season 20-inning battle by going 13; this time it’s St. Louis coming out on top to snap a 1-4 mini-slump and maintain a share of first place in the NL Central.


Bust a Move: The Giants remain hot with a 17-4 run (11-3 since the break) which pushes them into second place in the NL West, closing in on the Padres; very quietly, they’ve compiled the league’s second-best run differential. Leading the way is Buster Posey, whose 21-game hitting streak began the day before that tear; he’s hitting .440/.479/.738 with seven homers this month. Also hotter than July are Aubrey Huff (.375/.472/.693) and Andres Torres (.323/.388/.677), each with seven homers this month as well.


It’s Miller Time: The Reds’ offense explodes for 22 runs in less than 24 hours in two games at Milwaukee. The top four hitters in the lineup account for 15 of their 19 hits in a 12-4 rout, with Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, and Scott Rolen (in his second game off the DL) each collecting four hits, and Orlando Cabrera adding three. The second win features the Reds scoring 10 unanswered runs, with Phillips bashing a monstrous grand slam off Bernie Brewer’s slide, and Votto adding his league-leading 26th blast. The latter now leads the league in all three triple-slash categories (.322/.423/.599); 10 players have pulled off the feat a total of 16 times since 1939-it was much more common in ancient times-with Joe Mauer doing so last year.


Is it Werth It? Their efforts to acquire Roy Oswalt and trade Jayson Werth have yet to come to fruition-they’re awaiting the pitcher’s word at press time-but the Philles do snap out of a 1-6 slide with a seven-game winning streak. Werth hits .500/.586/.864 during the streak, including a homer against the Diamondbacks. He’s not the only hot hitter in the Phillies lineup: both Ryan Howard (.313/.393/.625) and Raul Ibanez (.338/ .418/ .488) are raking this month. With Shane Victorino hitting the DL due to an abdominal strain and top prospect Domonic Brown being recalled to cover (he enjoys a nice debut), the question is whether GM Ruben Amaro Jr. can stomach trading his right fielder now that he’s snapped out of his slump.


We’re Losing Altitude! An eight-game losing streak drops the Rockies’ post-break record to 2-11; they’ve fallen seven games in the standing and damaged their Playoff Odds more than any other team in the majors. Even Ubaldo Jimenez is getting knocked around; he surrenders six runs in two innings against the Phillies, his third disaster start out of six; he’s now yielded 28 earned runs in his past 33 innings, pushing his ERA to 2.75, and may be battling fatigue. Faring much, much worse is Huston Street, who loses consciousness and goes into shock after being drilled in the groin by a stray line drive, making Carl Crawford‘s injury last week look trifling by comparison. Dear athletes, please wear protective cups, if only so we fans don’t have to cringe when reading about such injuries.


Blankety Blank: One night after the devastating Donnie Double Dip, Chad Billingsley halts the Dodgers’ six-game losing streak with a 125-pitch, five-hit whitewashing of the Giants. It’s the first of four shutouts the team throws in a span that sees the Dodger starters yield just one earned run in 43 innings. The stretch includes Clayton Kershaw‘s career-best eight-inning effort against the Mets and another six zeros from Billinglsey, whose departure from the latter game pays instant dividends as ailing Andre Ethier strokes a pinch-single against the Padres, plating the game’s only two runs.


Sinking and Stinking: The Mets complete their road trip from hell, a 2-9 West Coast swing in which they score just 21 runs and are shut out four times, making their most prominent headlines for not firing any coaches. Carlos Beltran‘s return hasn’t helped; beyond the accusations that he didn’t bring enough potassium nitrate to share with his teammates, he’s hitting .227/.333/.386 thus far, though he ‘s 4-for-8 with a double and a homer over his last two games. Worse off is Jason Bay (.194/.266/.250 in July), whose concussion could send him to the DL, which means more Jeff Francoeur for everyone. As if to prove that even a blind chicken finds the occasional kernel of corn, Frenchy hits his first homer in four weeks, having batted a robust .153/.206/.186 in the games bookended by those blasts.


The World’s Most Dangerous Pie: The Marlins climb above .500, albeit fleetingly, and it comes with a terrible price. After Wes Helmswalkoff single evens their record, Chris Coghlan tears a meniscus while delivering a shaving cream pie to Helms’ face. It’s bad enough that the Fish lose a hitter on a .312/.394/.480 run since June 1, but the move may interfere with the team’s ability to upgrade for the future via potential trades of Jorge Cantu and/or Cody Ross. Meanwhile, Josh Johnson‘s streak of 13 straight starts allowing two runs or less comes to an end at the hands of the Giants. Johnson’s in a six-way tie for the fourth-longest streak of all time, sharing the mark with a cadre that can claim 10 Cy Youngs between them.


Break ‘Em Up: With the Cubs going nowhere fast, GM Jim Hendry explores deals for Ted Lilly and Kosuke Fukudome. The former has pitched through a rough patch at the outset of the month to yield just four runs in his last 20 innings, while the latter is in an 11-for-70 slump that’s seen him lose his right field job to Tyler Colvin. Hendry’s plans to deal Derrek Lee hit a snag when Lee rejects a deal to the Angels by invoking his 10-and-5 rights. Hitting just .248/.333/.387, with all three triple-slash marks his worst since 1999, Lee’s doing the Cubs no favors by sticking around; don’t judge him too harshly for not wanting to leave, given his daughter’s health woes.


We Won’t Run Out of Expletives After All: Stephen Strasburg is scratched from his start due to shoulder inflammation, perhaps showing that even the easiest deliveries can take their toll. Fortunately, reports suggest the inflammation is minor, with MRIs revealing no structural damage. Against all odds, the team gets a Strasburgian performance from emergency starter Miguel Batista (5 3 0 0 1 6) in beating the Braves. Elsewhere, Adam Dunn pays a mid-game visit to Bob Uecker in the broadcast booth to wish him good health. The question now is whether the Nats will wish their big slugger happy trails at the deadline.


Good Weeks and Bad Weeks: The Brewers briefly show signs of being almost lifelike with a five-game winning streak, but a pair of double-digit drubbings in Cincinnati-22 runs allowed over two games-quells any threat of .500. While GM Doug Melvin mulls whether or not to trade Prince Fielder and/or Corey Hart to San Francisco, Texas, Anaheim, or elsewhere, Rickie Weeks homers in three straight games and five of his last nine. He’s got a career high 22, as many as Hart and just two less than Fielder, and has played in all but two games while hitting .276/.376/.492.


Snake-Whacking Day II: Interim general manager Jerry DiPoto pulls off a real howler of a trade, sending Dan Haren to the Angels for a whole lot of very little. While Haren had a 4.60 ERA, 1.5 HR/9 and .450 SNWP, those marks owe much to a .350 BABIP and 17.7 HR/FB%; his 3.16 SIERA is very close to last year’s 2.92 mark. That he had a favorable contract ($29 million owed for 2010-2011 or $41 million for 2010-2012) only exacerbates the situation; the Snakes dealt from weakness, and it certainly doesn’t help matters to hear DiPoto cite Saunders’ win total and winning percentage, even if that is just spin. Luckily the Diamondbacks lose six straight to remind us that they’re as inept on the field as they are in the front office.


You’re Still Here? Knocked out due to injury in his last start, Roy Oswalt simply gets knocked around in his return. He’s still around, for the moment as he deliberates on a deal to the Phillies. Given that the Astros lineup has provided him with just four runs of support over his last six starts, you couldn’t blame him for jumping at the chance to leave. Meanwhile, Brett Myers raises his own trade value with a 12-strikeout complete game against the Cubs; he’s put up a 1.67 ERA in five starts this month, never allowing more than two runs in a start, and now ranks 20th in the league in SNWP.


Roadkill: Zach Duke helps snap a four-game losing streak by pitching the Pirates to their first road win in four weeks and just their third since May 25; they were 2-24 on the road in that span. Thanks to a second straight road win, they’re now just 13-38 while being outscored by 2.6 runs per game away from home. The post-World War II record for fewest road wins in a 162-game season is 17, by the 1963 Mets; for more modern stylings in futility, the 1988 Orioles, 2003 Tigers and 2006 Rays all went 20-61 on the road.

The Prospectus Hit List rankings are derived from Won-Loss records and several measurements pertaining to run differentials, both actual and adjusted, from Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings through the close of play on every Thursday.

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