Hart brings spark as leadoff batter
Outfielder's speed, power make for a lethal combination
Corey Hart has provided a spark for the Brewers as the team's leadoff batter. He hit two two-run home runs on Wednesday night against the Houston Astros and added a three-run home run Thursday afternoon to give him 10 home runs for the year and 39 RBIs to go with a .300 batting average.
But Hart's power is not the reason for his insertion into the leadoff spot. It's because of the speed he provides.
"That's the best part about it," Hart told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "A lot of times I can't steal [when I hit fifth], but in the leadoff spot I can. That's the advantage. I never saw myself as a leadoff hitter. Then last year, I started leading off and liked it."
Manager Ned Yost said the decision to place Hart, who had 23 steals last season, at leadoff was easy to make.
"We moved him there because, No. 1, he is a great base runner; No. 2, he's got a very nice on-base percentage; and No. 3, when we put him in the No. 1 spot last year, he did very well, and it kind of got him going a little bit."
Tough love from home for Capps: After Matt Capps blew a save for the first time this season earlier this week, he got a little "support" in a telephone call from his father in Georgia the following morning.
"My dad wanted to tell me they took a poll at our house to see who still loved me and who still liked me," Capps told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I got one vote for the love, and that was from my dog."
Oswalt shows his dominance: Roy Oswalt, who has been trying to pitch to contact to keep his pitch counts down, had better results when he returned to being a power pitcher earlier this week against Milwaukee.
"It's better to put up six zeros," he told the Houston Chronicle after throwing seven innings in a 6-1 victory over Milwaukee on Tuesday night, "than last seven innings and give up four or five runs."
Pettitte still mulling a 2009 return: Andy Pettitte feels healthy but isn't yet ready to commit to playing next season.
"Since I've signed here, I have felt nothing in my elbow," Pettitte told Newsday, pausing to knock on wood in his locker. "I just don't think that it would be right for me to do that [commit to another season]. I don't want to feel obligated."
Aybar swinging hot bat after return from DL: Willy Aybar has hit .320 since coming off the disabled list a week ago. He has also played well at first base, allowing Rays manager Joe Maddon to use Eric Hinske at DH and Gabe Gross in right field.
"There's all different reasons, but the primary reason is just to keep this group together," Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "We're just staying with the hot lineup. ... Things are going pretty nicely right now, and we're just going to stick with it."
Durham's 2000th comes at a big time: Ray Durham became the 250th player in the Major Leagues and the 22nd second baseman to reach 2,000 hits when he delivered a two-run single in a 10-7 victory over the Rockies on Thursday. The win helped San Francisco avoid a sweep.
"It was a big at-bat," Durham told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It wasn't in the ninth inning, with their mop-up guy in there, or a guy just brought up to get the game over. It was a meaningful hit."
Guerrero warms with the weather: Vladimir Guerrero is heating up as the weather does. He hit his third home run in four games on Wednesday and has hit safely in 11 of 24 at-bats to raise his average 23 points to .269 for the season.
"I have been working more in the batting cage, hitting off the tee," Guerrero told the Los Angeles Times. "That helps me stay on the ball longer. It is something I have done in my career before. I felt like I needed to go back to it."
Manager Mike Scioscia is glad to have Guerrero healthy again but dismissed talk that an injured knee was the cause of his early-season struggles.
"I just think, in the batter's box, he's very comfortable right now," Scioscia said. "It's not just the knee getting healthy. He was healthy earlier in the year, but maybe he wasn't locked in.
"What happened to him has happened before to him, so it's not like, 'My God, what is going on?' It was magnified because it was at the start of the year. Hopefully, as he keeps going, we'll see those numbers [we're] more accustomed to seeing from Vlad."
Hernandez breezes, crosses early milestone: Felix Hernandez needed just 87 pitches to go eight innings in the Mariners' 2-1 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon. Hernandez had eight strikeouts in the game but insisted that he is trying to pitch to contact more this season.
"I'm just trying to throw strikes," Hernandez told the Seattle Times, "Throw my two-seamer and get some quick outs."
The only reason Hernandez didn't come out and pitch the ninth inning is because his calf muscle tightened up.
"I didn't finish the game because of my leg," he said. "The seventh inning was long, and my leg was getting tighter and tighter."
Hernandez settled for the win and his 500th career strikeout, which occurred when he fanned Rod Barajas in the eighth inning.
Looper gives bullpen a break: Braden Looper tossed his first complete game on Wednesday night, a two-hour, 16-minute shutout over the Reds. Looper needed just 98 pitches in his bullpen-saving effort.
"I think not only did our team need it, our bullpen needed it," Looper told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "For me personally, it's an achievement I can always look back on. Obviously, it's not a no-hitter, but I gave up only three hits in a nine-inning shutout. That's pretty good, I'd say."
Dempster's Wrigley magic continues: Ryan Dempster is 8-0 at Wrigley Field after tossing his first complete game since 2002 in Wednesday night's 7-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. Dempster, 8-2 overall, struck out 11, walked just one and lowered his ERA to 2.81.
"I like it here; I like pitching on the road too," Dempster told the Chicago Tribune. "It just hasn't worked out. Hopefully I'll start getting some wins out there.
"I enjoy pitching at home, man. From running out in center field before the game where they're cheering for you, and going out there from the first pitch on, it's exciting, it's entertaining."
Bradford toes the rubber for 500th time: Reliever Chad Bradford made the 500th appearance of his 11-year career in Tuesday's game against the Red Sox.
"I never really thought about it; it's been a long road, but it's pretty cool to hit that kind of milestone," Bradford told MLB.com.
"He's a guy of experience," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We've got a young club, and we've got a lot of guys down there in the bullpen that don't have hardly any experience. And he's been willing to lend himself and help those guys out. You really can't thank him enough for that."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.