Rickie Weeks and Gabe Gross have been top-of-the-order catalysts in the Brewers' recent revival.
09/12/2007 10:43 AM ET
Weeks, Gross leading Brewers' attack
Both players were sent to Triple-A Nashville earlier this year to get regular at-bats. Weeks was recalled Aug. 10 and has hit better than .300. Gross rejoined the Brewers Aug. 15 and has been just as hot at the plate.
Milwaukee has won seven of 10 games to start September and is battling Chicago and St. Louis for first place and a playoff spot in the NL Central.
"Since they've come back, Rickie's hit .312 with a .495 on-base percentage, and Gabe's hit .328 with a .400 on-base percentage," manger Ned Yost told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Rickie's averaging 4.63 pitches per plate appearance, which is first on the team. Gabe's at 4.31 per plate appearance, which is second on the team.
"Since Aug. 10, Rickie's got the highest on-base percentage in the NL and the second-highest in baseball behind Alex Rodriguez."
How hot has Weeks been at the plate? On Saturday, he had three hits in his last three at-bats. On Sunday, he had two home runs and a walk in his first three trips to the plate.
"I'm not big on stats," Weeks said. "If you feel good, you feel good and you just want to keep it going."
Cabrera aims for another Gold Glove: Orlando Cabrera is widely recognized as one of the top fielding shortstops in the game, but the slick shortstop has just one Gold Glove Award in his trophy case. The Angels' shortstop is hoping to add another one this season, but is also realistic about his chances in a race where the best is not always rewarded.
"Within the baseball world, I know how much Orlando is respected for how well he can pick it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times. "I know he's always in the running, and he broke through once to win the award," with Montreal in 2001.
"He's Gold-Glove caliber, I think that's a given. Whether he wins it or not doesn't mean he's not the best defensive shortstop in our league. Sometimes it's just a matter of preference."
Among American League shortstops, Cabrera has a league-high .983 fielding percentage, a league-low 10 errors, and his .829 zone rating, which indicates the percentage of balls in his fielding zones turned into outs, ranks third.
"It's difficult, because I thought I did a good job my first year here [in 2005], I thought I stood out from other guys, and it's, 'Oh, you don't hit.' What does hitting have to do with defense?" Cabrera said. "Now, I'm hitting, and it's, 'Oh, someone else is having a good year.' I don't know what I have to do to win it."
For now, Glavine feeling fine: It looks like the New York Mets will be able to pencil in Tom Glavine's name for the 2008 starting rotation.
"I'm having as much fun as I've had in a long time, and that's a big factor for me," Glavine told New York Daily Post. "It's a fun team to come to the ballpark with every day. All the factors are there [to coming back]."
Glavine will likely decline his player option this offseason and become a free agent. With an offseason home in Georgia, the Atlanta Braves could make a run for his services. But Glavine has enjoyed his time with the Mets and the winning the team has experienced.
"My two criteria, once I got my 300th win, was, how do I continue to pitch and how do I feel physically?" Glavine explained. "I think I've answered myself in terms of how I have continued to pitch. I feel good now, but with four starts left and the playoffs, I don't know exactly how I am going to feel [after the season].
Huber pulls off roster spot with Royals: Throughout the month of September, a lot of players that have spent significant time in the Minors hope to make an impact in the Major Leagues. For the Royals' Justin Huber, while he'd certainly like to log some playing time, he's just glad to be a part of a Big League roster.
"I was ecstatic that they called me up," Huber told the Kansas City Star. "I completely wasn't expecting it just for the fact I haven't had much playing time."
Able to play in just 77 games this season at Triple-A Omaha, Huber still managed to swat 18 home runs and drove in 68.
"I pulled my hamstring three different times, pulled my calf once and I had a couple of bouts of illness," he said. "I was out of the lineup more than I was in it. Getting 270 at-bats (actually 286) barely gets you through half a season."
For the time being, it's not his offense that might hold him back, and that's why Huber has been working in both the outfield and at first base. "I've been playing two different positions and that gives me a few angles to make the team," Huber said. "And I still want to keep improving with the bat.
"Even though I only had a half year of at-bats I felt I did make some improvements. It was really encouraging to see things I worked on in the offseason starting to pay off this year."
Thome tries to stay focused: As Jim Thome continues his quest towards 500 career home runs, he can admit it seems to get more and more difficult with each passing day.
"You get close, it gets talked about a little more, yeah, but that's what makes it so tough," Thome told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It makes it so tough because you can't get wrapped up into doing it.
"Over the last couple of games or so, my approach has really been to try to hit the ball to left-center. And what that's done is I've hit a couple of home runs to center, and it's kept me on the ball a little more."
It's quite possible that Thome could reach 500 against his former team, the Cleveland Indians, this week while the Tribe is visiting Chicago.
Cuban showdown goes to Escobar: Like many Latin American countries, Cuba has a great baseball tradition. While the political climate in the country has kept many of the island's top stars from playing in the Majors, there has been an influx of top Cuban talent into this country the past decade. One of the top young players from Cuba is Braves' infielder Yunel Escobar, who hit a home run off one of Cuba's legends, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, in Tuesday's 13-5 win over the Mets.
"The game was being televised in Cuba -- it's a big thrill," Escobar told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "And with the importance of the game, it's an even bigger thrill."
The win gave some life to Atlanta's playoff chances. The Braves are now 8 1/2 games behind the Mets for the National League East and five games in back of San Diego in the Wild Card chase.
Escobar is a shortstop who has played both at second base and third base as needed. Tuesday he was filling in for Chipper Jones at third.
"He's a good one," manager Bobby Cox said. "When he's in there, you expect him to get hits."
Ramirez MVP talk heats up: Hanley Ramirez continued his MVP-like season with two home runs Tuesday night in the Marlins' 13-8 win over the Nationals. He led off the game with a homer, the 15th time he's done that in 298 career games. He later added another solo homer in the eighth inning, which was his 28th long ball of the season.
"I didn't even know it landed in the upper deck, until [Mike Jacobs] told me," Ramirez told the Miami Herald of his leadoff home run. "Yeah, it felt pretty good when I hit it."
Meanwhile, manager Fredi Gonzalez banged the drum for Ramirez winning the MVP.
"Why not?" Gonzalez said. "Why can't he win the MVP? There's precedent. It's been done before. Why not Hanley?
"There are pitchers who pitch for last-place teams and win 20, 22 games and win the Cy Young, and a player has won the MVP [while playing for a last place team], so why wouldn't you vote for Hanley?
"He is special," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, we will get to see him do that for a lot of years. There aren't too many guys doing what he's doing."
Kinsler getting late-season legs: Last season as a rookie, Ian Kinsler struggled through the month of September. It was new territory for Kinsler -- he was playing in a month he had never played in before. This year, however, Kinsler seems to have learned the secret of how to remain strong through the end of the season.
"September of last year was the reason I worked so hard, particularly on my legs, over the winter," Kinsler told the Dallas Morning News. "I knew what my legs felt like last year, and I didn't want that to happen. It's not like I ever felt tired, but I knew when I was missing pitches right down the middle that they were tired. I remember a couple of times last year thinking, 'Wow, I've still got a month left.' "
From Aug. 17 through Sept. 17 last year, Kinsler hit .202 and finished with a .277 batting average thanks only to a late surge the final week of the season. He stopped running the bases as he had earlier and looked slower in the field. Basically, he was worn out from a long season. But Kinsler spoke with shortstop Michael Young and learned what he did to overcome the tiredness September often brings.
Young told Kinsler about his offseason workout routine and Kinsler started to work on some leg-specific exercises and did lunges and sprints for the first time. The conditioning program seems to have helped as Kinsler is hitting close to .400 the last three weeks.
"Mentally, I just feel more in tune," Kinsler said. "I think the experience factor of going through it was huge. Knowing what that last month was like, you can either just give up and say, 'Hey, we're almost at the end,' or you can find a way to fight through it."
Clemens set to start Sunday: After receiving two cortisone injections in his right pitching elbow, Roger Clemens threw a bullpen session Tuesday in Toronto and now intends to take his start Sunday at Fenway Park, despite the fact he is dealing with a slight ligament problem in his forearm.
Clemens will throw once more before he and the team determine if he will definitely pitch on Sunday.
"Right now, I expect to [pitch]," Clemens told yankees.com. "I fully expect to. Just like I've told (manager) Joe (Torre)and (pitching coach Ron Guidry) and everybody who's asked, I have full confidence that the two injections helped me. I had great relief that day. The next day I was obviously sore, but [I'm] doing everything I can to push my body and do what I'm supposed to do."
Clemens visited Houston Astros physician Robert Melhoff last week. The results of Clemens' original MRI given by Yankees team physician Stuart Hershon were confirmed by Melhoff, who administered the injections to Clemens.
Clemens said he feels much better and not like the pitcher who allowed 12 earned runs, 16 hits and nine walks in his last three starts.
"It's relaxed, and it's not in a state where it feels like I'm throwing someone else's arm," Clemens said. "That's what I felt like. I felt like I had a piece of wood out there. If you miss your spots by two feet, obviously that's not good."
Clemens said a blister on his push-off foot may have led him to alter his mechanics, leading the elbow pain. Clemens has since changed the shoes and socks he wears and is trying to keep the foot away from moisture.
-- Red Line Editorial