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BY TIM McLEOD
Congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki on passing the 3,000-hit milestone. With two hits Tuesday, Ichiro reached this lofty goal by amassing 1,278 hits with the Orix Blue Wave in the NPB, and now 1,723 hits with the Mariners. Throw in hits in a season record, the Gold Gloves, the boatload of 200-hit seasons, and that cannon of an arm in right field and Ichiro should be the first player coming to MLB through the posting system to make it to the Hall of Fame, and a first ballot HOFer to boot.
Hank Blalock has managed to head back to the DL, again with shoulder inflammation, and this could very well be the last time we see him in 2008. Just as Manager Ron Washington was mentioning he’d like to find more at bats for Ramon Vazquez — lo and behold — the opportunity is there. Vazquez responded by going 4-for-5 with four RBI against the Mariners, including driving in the game winning run with a double in the bottom of the ninth. He atoned nicely from those three errors, including the one that allowed the Mariners to take the lead in the top of the ninth. Vazquez is a very intriguing option for those looking for corner-infield help down the stretch; it’s a gamble I just made in my Fantasy Writers League.
Carlos Zambrano is continuing to impress. He tossed a five-hitter over eight innings to move to 12-4 on the season. What was equally impressive was the nine Ks. He also messed up a bunt and proceeded to do his best Bo Jackson impersonation by snapping the bat over his knee. Hey Lou, talk to the kid and tell him you need both of his legs down the stretch if you’re going to keep that tight lead over the Brewers.
Speaking of impressive aces, how about Roy Halladay? He pitched eight strong innings again, making just two mistakes. One was tattooed by former Jay Eric “Where’s the Buffet?” Hinske for a solo homer, and the other turned into a two-run double by the probable AL ROY Evan Longoria. It’s a shame that Halladay has to pray for runs with an offense that has Joe Inglett, John McDonald and Marco Scutaro on a regular basis. Imagine the potential he’d have pitching for a team that actually had an offense. It is no wonder Halladay continues to be very frustrated in Hogtown. Matt Garza pitched a very nifty complete game five-hitter to earn the victory for Tampa.
John Lackey took a no-hitter into the ninth at Fenway and after striking out Jacoby Ellsbury had it broken by a solid single from Dustin Pedroia. Kevin Youkilis followed with a two-run shot, but Lackey rebounded nicely, getting David Ortiz to pop out to short, issuing a walk to Manny Ramirez and then inducing Mike Lowell to hit into a fielder’s choice to end things. Give Lackey a complete game two-hitter and another win for the scorching Angels.
Speaking of the Halos, they are proving to the world that they are serious about going for the gold this year, acquiring Mark Teixeira from the Braves Tuesday for Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek. While Marek is a virtual unknown, he won’t be for long given his 57 Ks in 46 2/3 IP for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers. It’s a great move by both parties here. The Angels needed a big bopper and Tex is just that; the Braves get some potential bullpen help in Marek and a solid young bat in Kotchman.
Is C.J. Wilson of the Rangers the next closer on his way out? He’s been in and out of the doghouse in Texas most of the season and with Everyday Eddie Guardado pitching well, it may be just about time for change in the Lone Star State. Tuesday, Wilson managed to cough up a couple runs, albeit the less-than-stellar defence of Vazquez did nothing to help his cause. Wilson was let off the hook by an even poorer performance by J.J. Putz, who allowed three hits while retiring only one Ranger in taking the loss. It would appear that things still aren’t right with Putz, and my take is that Brandon Morrow resumes closing for the Mariners for at least the short term.
Jhonny Peralta continues to tear the cover off the ball for the Indians. Tuesday, he went 2-for-5 with a couple of runs scored and an RBI. Over the past month, hitting cleanup for the Tribe, Peralta has racked up five homers and 21 RBI with a 960 OPS, some pretty nice numbers, indeed.
As of 11 p.m. Central Time Tuesday night, Doug Davis had pitched 6 1/3 innings of perfect ball. Un-friggin-believeable. Davis usually struggles to make it out of the first inning without issuing a free pass. After watching the Lackey effort earlier in the evening, it’s time to get my eyes glued to that ‘Zona game. Chris Young returned to the Padre rotation and went five shutout innings, allowing only two hits while striking out eight. Nice return after that horrific line drive off the bat of Albert Pujols back in May. Brian Giles breaks up the perfect game by singling with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, sigh…Davis ends up going 7 2/3 with just two hits and two walks allowed while fanning eight.
Carlos Delgado is on fire. He smoked his 23rd dinger of the season against the Marlins Tuesday, leading the Mets to a 4-1 victory. He’s back hitting in the clean-up slot and has been a principle in the surging Mets rise to the top in the NL East, smacking eight dingers, driving in 22 and recording an OPS of 1185 OPS in July. The Mets are going to need these numbers if they want to maintain their lead in the East.
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