Ian Kinsler already has 15 home runs and is well ahead of the pace he established in his previous two big-league seasons.

"I think I should have 17," Kinsler, who has been robbed twice by Oakland center fielder Ryan Sweeney, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "My goal is to do the most damage, so I'm happy with that. I feel stronger, and when you work at something every year, you want to get better at it. It's something I want to continue to improve upon."

Kinsler is doing this damage from the leadoff spot, which is sparking media speculation about whether he's capable of a 30-home run, 30-stolen base season.

"If it [30-30] happens, I'll be glad about it," he said. "Right now, I'm worried about winning games and us getting to the playoffs."

Villanueva watches scoreless streak rise: After a scoreless inning on Saturday, Carlos Villanueva has not allowed a run in 15 straight innings for the Brewers.

Villanueva credits the return of closer Trevor Hoffman from the disabled list, which allowed he and his bullpen mates to return to their expected roles.

"When Hoffman came back, it stabilized the bullpen more," Villanueva, who has 17 strikeouts in his last 10 innings, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "They're able to put us in situations now where we're able to succeed a little more. That has really helped.

"I'm not even thinking about [the scoreless streak] right now because we have four months left. Anything can happen. I just know if I'm succeeding I'm helping the team win."

MacDougal gets back on top: The White Sox released former All-Star closer Mike MacDougal at the end of April, but he signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals and has now become the latest closer for the NL East's cellar dwellers.

"Well, he's got some nasty stuff," manager Manny Acta told the Washington Post of MacDougal. "He's got that ball sinking in the mid-90s. He's got the slider and changeup, and if he stays consistent in the strike zone, it's very tough to hit this guy."

Galarraga gives props to Sandoval: Former Major League star Andres Galarraga was at the Giants game on Saturday, and he raved about fellow Venezuelan Pablo Sandoval.

"He's a great hitter," Galarraga told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The best thing about him is that he's so natural. He can swing high, low, out, at inside pitches. He makes contact and hits it hard. He reminds me a lot of Vladimir Guerrero. Those hitters can make it tough for the pitchers, because the pitchers don't know how to throw to those guys. Whatever they throw, they make contact."

Galarraga also delivered good news on his health situation, saying that he remains cancer-free.

Fans' love for Griffey Jr. not waning: Ken Griffey Jr.'s popularity with fans in the Pacific Northwest is underscored by the standing ovations he receives in every Mariners homestand.

"It's been overwhelming, really," Griffey told the Seattle Times. "And I'm not taking any of it for granted. When I come up and I get those standing O's and stuff like that, I'm really trying to give them something to clap for after that.

"It's been really nice. I couldn't have written a better story for this [homecoming]," he said. "Other than the numbers, and the numbers can change, they can go up. It's been overwhelming."

Bush stays on schedule after getting hit: After playing catch for the first time since taking a line drive off his pitching arm on Thursday, Dave Bush said he didn't feel any discomfort.

"I'm encouraged," the Brewers' starter told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Nothing has been decided [about the next start], but it's a good step."

Bush threw a bullpen session on Sunday and is expected to take his scheduled start on Wednesday against the Rockies.

Cabrera coming through with key hits: Melky Cabrera has come through in key situations for the Yankees this season. On Thursday, he hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth against Texas to lead the Yankees to an 8-6 victory.

"We are very comfortable when he comes up there," manager Joe Girardi told Newsday of having Cabrera hit during late-inning situations. "Another big hit from Melky -- he has a knack of doing that."

Baldelli adjusting to new role: After battling chronic channelopathy, a disease that causes fatigue in his muscles and nearly ended his playing career last season, Rocco Baldelli is getting used to seeing his playing time come in spurts.

"It's just different," Baldelli told the Boston Herald. "It's just a totally different approach to showing up to the field every day. When you're playing every day, there's not much to think about. You show up, pretty much knowing what you're going to be doing that day. You take care of what you have to do. When you're not playing, you try to maintain everything -- from your body to hitting -- because you never know when you're going to be needed."

Hawksworth hears tears of joy after callup: Blake Hawksworth enjoyed making it to the Cardinals roster as a long reliever.

"I'm extremely excited," Hawksworth told MLB.com. "My family, it was all worth it to hear my parents' reaction. I called them up and told them, and it was the best thing. To hear my mom cry and all that, it was great."

Salazar brings confidence after promotion: Oscar Salazar, who was hitting .372 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs at Triple-A Norfolk, was recalled by the Orioles. He played 34 games with the Orioles in 2008.

"I feel a lot more comfortable since I've played with these guys," a beaming Salazar told MLB.com. "I feel like I walked into my home. I know them and they know me."

Sanchez glad to be turning two with Wilson: Freddy Sanchez has been part of an NL-high 266 double plays since taking over as the Pirates second baseman in 2007. He credits shortstop Jack Wilson.

"It's a great feeling to have [Wilson] play next to me," Sanchez told MLB.com. "He's one of the best in the game, and we've been a tandem for the past few years. I know him like the back of my hand and he knows me, and that's what makes our relationship so special. It's comfortable knowing and makes my job easier knowing all I have to do is get the ball close to him and he's going to make the play."

Geary opts for simulated games: Geoff Geary, a reliever with the Astros, prefers simulated games over rehab assignments, because he gets better quality feedback from Major League hitters.

"What's good about simulated games ... is that the hitters immediately come to me," Geary told the Houston Chronicle. "It just makes more sense to get my own teammates -- they're Major League ballplayers who see Major League [pitchers] -- and tell me what looks good and doesn't."

Geary is currently on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

Thompson brings winning ways to mound: In Brad Thompson's 25 career starts, the Cardinals are 18-7, including last Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Reds.

"That's what you try to do when you go out there," Thompson, who will get the start Monday in St. Louis against the Rockies, told MLB.com. "Try to give your team a chance to win. That's what I try to do every time I go out there, and hopefully I can keep the team in the game and give us a chance again [Monday]."

Nolasco encouraged by outing: In his first appearance since being recalled from the Minors, Ricky Nolasco pitched a strong game in the Marlins' 3-2 loss to the A's.

"I did what I had to do just to keep us in the game," Nolasco told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "Obviously, the ultimate goal here is to win, and I'm not satisfied by what I did. I can improve."

Dickey consistently eats up innings:R.A. Dickey says knowing his role -- eating innings in relief -- makes him a better pitcher.

"I think it's a significant advantage that I didn't have last year," the Twins' pitcher told MLB.com. "If you look at my games last year [in Seattle], I was bouncing all over the place -- starting games on two days rest, three days rest and pitching out of the pen in between starts. It was fine, and I could do it; it's just not necessarily a great formula to have consistency. Here, you know, I have a set routine and really a good idea of when I'm going to be used and how I'm being used. That can change, and it would be OK, but I've settled into a place where I think I can help this team."

Hanson starts strong in debut: Tommy Hanson began his Major League debut on Sunday by retiring the first nine hitters and ended with a no-decision as the Braves rallied for an 8-7 win over the Brewers.

"I think my command got away from me a little bit," Hanson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The first three I felt good with everything. It was more so fastball command the last three innings. I was leaving some pitches up, and when I did that, they let me know."

Zambrano circles retirement date: Carlos Zambrano, after winning his 100th career game on Friday night, said that he plans to retire after his current contract runs out at the end of the 2012 season.

"After this contract, I'm gone," Zambrano told the Chicago Tribune. "I'll betcha $100. I'm serious."

-- Red Line Editorial