The Waiting is the Hardest Part: After 51 plate appearances without a home run-tied for his second-longest streak of the year-Alex Rodriguez finally hits his 600th; despite the delay, he’s still the youngest player to reach the milestone. The celebration is dampened by the number of players who have preceded him to the mark in recent years, by his awkward public persona and his own admission of steroid usage, and by the hypocrisy of so-called journalists who celebrated the post-strike home run binge while looking the other way at such activity but are now content to moralize. In any event, the well-timed homer helps the reloaded Yanks-Lance Berkman, Kerry Wood, Austin Kearnsand more cash?-snap a three-game losing streak that briefly bumps them out of first place for the first time since June 12.
Heavenly Hellickson: The Rays show off their depth while buying an extra day of rest for their rotation as they recallJeremy Hellickson, one of the minors’ top pitching prospects. He shuts down the Twins in an impressive debut (7 3 2 2 2 6) which helps the Rays recapture a share of first place in the AL East, then returns to Triple-A Durham to await his next opportunity. Meanwhile, with the lineup down Ben Zobrist and Carlos Peña due to minor injuries, B.J. Upton picks up the slack by going 6-for-12 with two doubles and a homer during a three-game stretch. Notably, two of those games come against lefty starters; Upton is hitting .267/.378/.535 against southpaws this year but just .222/.293/.361 against righties, this after showing a modest reverse platoon split from 2007-09 (.243/.367/.384 vs. LHP, .280/.357/.439 vs. RHP).
South Side Shuffle:Newly acquiredEdwin Jackson puts together his best start since his no-hitter (7 9 1 1 1 6), pitching the White Sox to a series win in Detroit. While the trade may seem like a head scratcher given rumors that the team planned to flip him to the Nationals for Adam Dunn, it’s not a bad one in its own right given that Jackson has a career 3.71 ERA in existing AL Central ballparks, compared to 5.02 everywhere else. Meanwhile, Juan Pierre helps the team overcome its failure to land a big bat-though they may yet lurk in the weeds on Manny Ramirez-by hitting his first homer since September 15, 2008, pushing his slugging percentage above .300 for the first time all season. Not to be outdone, Mark Kotsay becomes almost lifelike with a three-hit effort that includes a two-run homer in the ninth inning and a game-winning triple in the 11th, lifting his enfeebled line to .223/.304/.364.
Still Slugging:Jose Bautista survives the trade deadline and continues to pulverize the ball, adding three more homers to his ledger to give him seven in nine games and 33 for the year; he’s now fifth in the league with a .324 TAv. Elsewhere in the lineup, Travis Snider returns to the majors following a two-and-a-half month absence due to a wrist injury, collecting back-to-back two-hit games in a pair of wins over the Yankees; he homers for the first time since May 14 in the process. The Jays still lead the majors in longballs by a wide margin; their 167 is 24 more than the next-highest team, the Red Sox, and on pace for 251, which would rank fourth all-time.
Welcome Back:Brett Anderson returns to a major-league mound for the first time in nearly two months after being sidelined by elbow woes, though the results are a mixed bag; he gets roughed up by the White Sox, but tosses seven strong innings against the new-look Royals. Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill continues to roll, with a three-hit shutout of KC to run his scoreless streak to 18 innings. He’s now third in the league in ERA (2.72) and ninth in Support Neutral Winning Percentage.
Fallen Angels: A 3-11 slide knocks the Angels below .500 and into third place in the AL West, but it’s not like this hasn’t been a long time in the making; the team is 10-20 since June 30, and its run differential has spent just two days in the black since April 6. Change is afoot, given a defense that ranks 12th in Defensive Efficiency, the Angels recallPeter Bourjos to play center field, bumping Torii Hunter to right and Bobby Abreu to left or DH, where he’ll cut into the playing time of the underperforming Juan Rivera (.260/.314/.428) or Hideki Matsui (.249/.327/.413). The move may not yield overwhelming dividends; Bourjos rated as a three-star prospect coming into the year, and his gaudy Triple-A triple-slashes only translate to a .252 TAv, roughly 10-15 points lower than the players whose at-bats he’ll be taking, yet 10 points above his own weighted mean PECOTA.
Carlosless: Amid signs of life with a 12-9 record since the All-Star break, the Indians are dealt a cruel blow when they lose Carlos Santana for the remainder of the year. He’ll need surgery due to a hyperextended left knee sustained in a gruesome collision (insert Joe Sheehan rant about blocking home plate without the ball here). While he’d cooled off somewhat after a blazing start, Santana was still hitting .260/.401/.467 with an impressive 29/37 K/BB ratio; his .322 TAv is the highest on the team, and the highest of any catcher with at least 100 PA. Elsewhere, the Indians net little in the way of blood or treasure by dealing Austin Kearns, Kerry Wood and Jake Westbrook.
Yard Sale The Royals take steps to dismantle their collection of hopeless mercenary hacks, tradingRick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth to the Braves (suckers!) and sendingScott Podsednik to the Dodgers for stuff that might do more than prop up the proverbial table leg. Furthermore, they designateJose Guillen-the team leader in homers (16) and RBI (62)-for assignment; since a .304/.337/.609/7 HR April, he’d hit just .240/.307/.375, including an 0-for-21 slump to close out a stint in which he provided just 0.4 WARP for about $32 million. The moves clear space for the likes of Kila Ka’aihue and Alex Gordon; the latter homers three times in a five-game span, with all of them coming in wins, the first via his three-run walk-off shot.
Buckyball: The Buck Showalter Era begins with a bang as the Orioles win their first three games under the new skipper, something they did only six times prior to his hiring. Luke Scott celebrates his arrival by homering for the second and third games in a row; not only is he still an Oriole after various rumors had him departing for elsewhere, but he’s been on fire since returning from the DL on July 19, hitting .328/.356/.761 with eight dingers in 73 plate appearances. Also showing signs of signs of life after running the rumor gauntlet is Ty Wigginton, who’s hitting .284/.342/.552 with three homers since the break, after connecting for just one in his previous 42 games (.204/.309/.257).