Russell Branyan is giving the Brewers a midseason lift in the run production department.

After batting .359 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs in 153 at-bats at Triple-A Nashville, Branyan earned his promotion to Milwaukee in late May.

"It was time," manager Ned Yost told Brewers.com of the callup. "He was really doing well. ... We needed another left-handed bat in our lineup, so we figured we'd give him a chance to see what he can do."

Branyan, a 32-year-old veteran who previously played for Milwaukee in 2004 and 2005, has hit .264 with 11 home runs and 16 RBIs in 87 at-bats this time around. He has a .681 slugging percentage and 1.079 OPS.

Balester wows 'em in debut: The Nationals called up hard-throwing Collin Balester, who made his Major League debut against the Marlins on Tuesday night. Balester gave Washington five strong innings and the bullpen held on for a 9-6 victory to give the rookie a win in his first outing.

"Those last four innings seemed like they took about four hours," Balester told the Washington Post. "It was fun, though, to watch. I'm just so happy to be here and so happy to win in the big leagues."

"Very impressive," manager Manny Acta said of the right-hander's one-hit effort. "We haven't had an arm come through our system like this since Javier Vázquez. It's exciting. The kid threw the ball very well."

Sampson finds success out of bullpen: Chris Sampson has been a force coming out of the bullpen for the Astros. So impressive, he is now being used in the eighth inning at times.

"He's been really good in the bullpen," manager Cecil Cooper told the Houston Chronicle. "In the spring, we talked about that he's a guy that could be really key for us pitching out of the pen. I think he's feeling more comfortable doing it.

"Most guys that have started before, I'm sure they still want to. But Sampson, I think, has kind of bought into the idea that he could be real effective and help us. I've always said that because he's so efficient with his pitches, when he's right, he can throw two days in a row and throw maybe two innings two days in a row."

Lind making all the right moves at plate: Adam Lind is getting extended playing time in the Blue Jays outfield, and he is coming through for his teammates. Earlier this week in a game against Atlanta, Lind hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly and later moved a runner over to third base on a ground ball to the right side of the infield, a move that paid off as the runner eventually scored.

"He got the runner over and got a big sacrifice fly," manager Cito Gaston told the Toronto Star. "He might not have got a hit, but he helped the club."

Church off DL, back to his old self: Ryan Church's return from the disabled list got off to a solid start. Starting for the first time since June 5, Church went 2-for-4 Sunday night against the Yankees and then added another hit in three at-bats Monday against St. Louis. Church had been the disabled list since early June with post-concussion syndrome.

Church went on a brief rehab assignment before being activated before Sunday's game.

"I was able to test myself there, and then I was like 'OK, it's game time, I can go,'" Church told Newsday. "I felt good. It was good to get out there, sweat, move around and make some plays."

Posada makes rare appearance at first base: Don't expect to see it often, but Jorge Posada took the field at first base on Sunday for the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi said he went with Posada at first because he wanted Jason Giambi to have a day off and have as many right-handed hitters as possible in the lineup against southpaw Mets starter Oliver Perez.

"I still consider him a catcher," Girardi told Newsday of Posada, "but if I need any positional player to help us out at a different position or as a way to keep their bat in the lineup, I expect them to do it."

Longoria gets hardware to certify success: Evan Longoria's rookie campaign just keeps getting better and better. He was named the AL Player of the Week for the week ending June 29. Longoria hit .433 (13-for-30) with five doubles, three home runs and 10 RBIs. He also had a .900 slugging percentage. For the season, Longoria leads all rookies in home runs with 15 and is two homers short of tying the AL rookie record for home runs before the All-Star break. Tim Salmon hit 17 before the break in 1993.

"It's kind of that feeling where everything is just going my way right now," Longoria told Raysbaseball.com. "I'm just trying to keep it going, trying to ride it out. Every day you come to the ballpark, you don't know what's going to happen. I'm having success right now. I'm just trying to keep doing what I'm doing."

Hamilton's dream preempted All-Star selection: Unless something drastic happens, Josh Hamilton will be starting for the AL All-Stars at Yankee Stadium and will likely compete in the Home Run Derby. Hamilton, however, has already competed in the Derby -- at least in his mind.

"About three months before I was given clearance to return to playing, I had a dream that I was in a home-run contest and it was at Yankee Stadium," Hamilton told the Dallas Morning News. "I don't remember any details about my hitting, but I do remember that a lady came up at the end and put a microphone in my face and I got to tell my story to everybody in the stadium."

Hamilton is currently second among outfielders in voting. His 19 home runs rank him in a tie for first in the AL and he leads the Major Leagues with 80 RBIs.

Mulder begins comeback with relief appearance: Mark Mulder made the first relief outing of his 203 career appearances on Monday night.

"I was as excited as I've been in a long time," manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Guy's worked so hard. ... This guy is a great athlete. People in this town and in this league have only seen a little bit of it. In the American League, they know this guy is nails."

Loewen off DL, added to bullpen: Adam Loewen was activated from the disabled list this week, and he now finds himself pitching out of the bullpen. He worked two innings on Tuesday without giving up a run.

"I think I've been 100 percent for a while now," Loewen told the Baltimore Sun. "It was just a matter of getting used to coming out of the bullpen, getting ready quick, that kind of stuff. I got a lot of experience coming out of the bullpen the last three weeks. I'm excited to get going."

Jones able to avoid disabled list: After missing eight consecutive starts and with a disabled-list stint looming, Chipper Jones informed manager Bobby Cox that he was ready for action prior to Tuesday's game against the Phillies.

"It's great [news]; nobody wanted him to go on the DL," Mark Teixeira told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Hopefully there won't be any more setbacks with his quad and he'll be with us the rest of the season."

Wainwright working to get back on track: As Adam Wainwright continues to work his way back from a sprained right middle finger, he says that he feels close to returning. It's the lack of mobility in his joints that's a surprise to him.

"I would think if everything's good from there, I'll start throwing," Wainwright told the Belleville News-Democrat. "It feels a lot better. I'm out of my splint and I'm able to grip things. Not heavy things, but I'm able to squeeze soft putty and all that kind of stuff.

"When I took the splint off, my finger felt fine, but my joints were just completely locked up. It's amazing. A couple of weeks without bending your finger and your joints just go to waste."

Griffey Jr. provides memorable blast: Ken Griffey Jr., doesn't mind how his team comes up with its victories, as long as they happen. Griffey came off the bench and blasted a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, giving the Reds a 4-3 victory over the Pirates on Monday.

"For the most part, you do like to play 8 1/2 innings and then go out there and shake hands," he told MLB.com. "But I guess shaking hands at home plate ain't bad, either. I knew if it was close, I'd have a chance to swing the bat. An opportunity came about, and I was able to get up there and help the team win."

-- Red Line Editorial