Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-7-7

7/7/2008
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

Billy-Ball – From the diamond to your desktop…
By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Monday, July 7, 2008

Top of the 1st
YOUR ALL-STAR TEAMS
It’s an exhibition, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a marketing event – call it what you want the All-Star Game always feel special to me and to so many of the participants. A record seven Chicago Cubs and seven Red Sox were announced for the July 15 event at Yankee Stadium. The Tampa Bay Rays, with the best record in the majors, did not have a single player elected to start. The fans got to vote for the eight starters, the players got to vote for 16 back-ups.

Cubs pitchers Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster and third baseman Aramis Ramirez were chosen by NL players. Boston outfielder J.D. Drew, catcher Jason Varitek and closer Jonathan Papelbon were picked by a vote of AL players.

An Internet vote will be held this week to select the final player on each team.

The AL candidates for the last spot: outfielders Jermaine Dye and Jose Guillen, first baseman Jason Giambi, second baseman Brian Roberts and third baseman Evan Longoria. The NL candidates: outfielders Pat Burrell, Corey Hart, Carlos Lee and Aaron Roward and third baseman David Wright.

There are seven first-time starters.

The Tampa Bay Rays, with the best record in the majors, did not have a single player elected to start.

The Cubs and Red Sox each have seven players selected for the 2008 NL and AL All-Star teams. The Rangers have four and the Angels, Twins, and Yankees have three apiece. For the first time in their 41-year history, the Angels will be sending three pitchers to the All-Star game. It also is the first time no Angels position player was selected since 1999, when their only representative was closer Troy Percival.

The Cubs’ Soto and Fukudome will be the first rookie starters for either league since Hideki Matsui did so for the American League team in 2003. The Cubs have not had a rookie chosen for the All-Star Game since Sam “Toothpick” Jones in 1955. The only other Cubs rookies to make the All-Star event were catcher Toby Atwell in 1952 and Don Johnson in 1944.

The Giants have two All-Stars for the first time since 2004.

A record number of Canadians will be in the major-league all-star lineups this month.
Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, from Gibsons, B.C., Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., and New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins. It’s the first time three Canadians have been selected for a single all-star game. The previous high was two, when last year both Martin and Morneau were elected starters.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, at least three players of Jewish descent made the lineups: Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, the second baseman from the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun will start for the National League. Both Braun and Kinsler have Jewish fathers and reportedly identify as half-Jewish.

Tickets will be $150 to $725 for the July 15 game. That’s up from $75 to $285 for last year’s game at San Francisco and $10 to $15 for box and reserved seats the last time the All-Stars were at Yankee Stadium, in 1977. Tickets for the Home Run Derby and workout day on July 14 are $100 to $650, an increase from $50 to $225 last year. Tickets for the Futures game on July 13 are $50 to $225, up from $22.50 to $125 last year.

The Futures game will last nine innings instead of seven. The United States team will be largely comprised of the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

The Yankees plan to donate $7 million to local programs from All-Star activities.

The AL has not lost an All-Star game since 1996 at Veterans Stadium. Since then, the AL has won 10 and tied one. Overall, the NL leads 40-36-2.

American League Starters

* Catcher — Joe Mauer, Minnesota – Mauer is the first Twins player since Torii Hunter in 2002 to be voted by fans into the starting lineup. He is second in the AL with a .325 batting average and second with a .415 on-base percentage. He beat Boston’s Jason Varitek by more than 600,000 votes on the fans’ ballot and was ahead 554-159 on players’ ballots.
* First Base — Kevin Youkilis, Boston – Last July 6, Youkilis was batting .329 with 9 home runs and 44 runs batted in. Exactly one year later, before Sunday’s game, he was hitting .308 with 13 homers and 53 RBI. “When you have these games that aren’t real games, you don’t really have the same attitude going in,” said Youkilis, who knows the outcome could affect the Red Sox if they make the World Series. “I’ll probably just sit back and watch what’s going on. But I’ll still be intense and play the game hard. This game does count because it decides home-field advantage.”
* Second Base — Dustin Pedroia, Boston – “I think fans enjoy the style that I play,” Pedroia said. “I play hard and take every pitch like it’s my last. It’s definitely an honor to be voted in by the fans. I’ll play as hard as I can for them.”
* Shortstop — Derek Jeter, New York – “I’ve said it before, if I don’t play in another All-Star Game after this one it would be OK with me,” Jeter said. “This Stadium here has more tradition than any other stadium. I am not trying to disrespect the other stadiums, but in my opinion it’s the best stadium in the world. The last season, it’s only fitting that it’s here.” Jeter is batting .282 with four home runs and 36 RBIs in 81 games this season.
* Third Base — Alex Rodriguez, New York – top vote getter. This is his 12th appearance. A-Rod is hitting .323 with 18 homers and 50 RBI. “It’s going to be a once in a lifetime [event], and to be there looking to my left and having Derek Jeter there, and hopefully having Mariano Rivera close the game, it’s something that I’ll treasure and never forget,” Rodriguez said.

Outfield
* Josh Hamilton, Texas – He leads the majors with 84 RBI and is batting .309 with 19 home runs. Hamilton has overcome 3 1/2 years of drug and alcohol problems, and finished first among all outfielders in the fan voting. “It’s cool,” Hamilton said. “It’s definitely a dream come true. To come back and be able to play Major League Baseball again is great, but to be on the All-Star team with three of my teammates means a lot. That says a lot about our team. I was more excited about the other guys going with me.”
* Manny Ramirez, Boston – “What is this, my 12th?” Ramirez asked. “I was hoping for a little rest, but I’m playing in the All-Star Game. It’s all right.”
* Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle – This is his eighth consecutive appearance and his seventh time as a starter. “I don’t think getting used to something is the right word, but I can start to imagine what’s going to happen [every year],” he said. “So it’s only natural to think that way, but at the same time, going to the All-Star Game is still a huge thing.”
* Designated Hitter — David Ortiz, Boston – Injured; Milton Bradley, Texas, Bradley is hitting .320 with 17 home runs and 54 RBIs while leading the league with a .439 on-base percentage and a .605 slugging percentage, was selected to the team by his fellow players, receiving the highest number of votes at the designated hitter position. “A few months ago, I never imagined this opportunity,” Bradley said. “It’s about as humbling and fulfilling and as special a feeling as you can get. For a few weeks, I’ve been asked the question about going to the All-Star Game and I’ve shrugged it off. You think you have a chance, but I never imagined it would happen to me.”

Reserves

Catchers
* Dioner Navarro, Tampa Bay – “I started my career with the Yankees and going back there as an All-Star now, it means a lot to me and I know it means a lot for my family, too,” Navarro said. “My wife and my wife’s family, they’re all from the Bronx, so it’s going to be a full house for me that day and hopefully we get to enjoy it.”
* Jason Varitek, Boston – Tek is hitting .218 and will be asked repeatedly whether he is embarrassed to have been selected – “There’s a level of (embarrassment), but this was a player vote, so there’s a level of appreciation, too,” Varitek said. “It’s still an honor.” “He should be proud,” said Terry Francona. “We all know where his batting average is. That is a show from the players around the league how they feel about Tek.” It also shows Chicago’s A.J. Pierzynski is as popular as salmonella.

Infield
* Joe Crede, Chicago – “To be voted in by your peers is one of the greatest feelings you can have,” Crede added. “It’s other players who play the game and understand the game and understand what you go through on a day-to-day basis.”
* Carlos Guillen, Detroit – lone representative; “I’m glad. I’m very excited,” Guillen said. “It’ll be a good experience.” He entered play Sunday batting .292 with a team-high 21 doubles to go with eight home runs, 44 RBIs and an .821 OPS.
* Ian Kinsler, Texas – Kinsler, who leads the AL with a .332 batting average, 79 runs scored and 121 hits, just missed catching Dustin Pedroia as the AL starting second baseman, falling short by 34,243 votes. “I would love to start the game, but I’m just excited about being a part of the All-Star Game,” Kinsler said. “It’s the last year of Yankee Stadium, three of my teammates, we’ll have a great time and take over the locker room.”
* Justin Morneau, Minnesota – Morneau is batting .307 with 12 homers and is second in the league with 65 RBI. He lost to Boston’s Kevin Youkilis by only 56,823 votes in fan voting for first basemen but earned a spot as a reserve thanks to the players’ ballots, where he soundly beat Youkilis 502-229. “Last one at Yankee Stadium, it’s pretty cool,” Morneau said. “It was kind of a goal I set for myself. You want to be playing well enough to be make that All-Star team. To get in there with Joe (Mauer) and Joe (Nathan) is pretty cool.
* Michael Young, Texas – Young, who is hitting .292 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs, is going for the fifth straight season. “Every [All-Star Game] is special for different reasons,” Young said. “Going to New York will be fun, but getting to go with three of my teammates, all going for the first time, that’s special. I’m really happy for those three guys.”

Outfield
* J.D. Drew, Boston – “I don’t think the selection has set in yet,” Drew said. “It’s pretty cool. I’ll be pretty fired up when the day rolls around and I can experience it. It’s going to be a lot of fun for me. It’s been one of those runs here lately that you just try to chip away and help the team. For (opponents) to notice is pretty special.” “Things happen for a reason, that’s the way things go,” said Drew, who, entering last night, was batting .333 and slugging .793 with 12 home runs and 29 RBIs since Ortiz went down. “I often wondered if I’d ever make one, because I was going really, really well [in 2004]. I thought, ‘Hey, I can’t put up much better numbers than this.’ “
* Carlos Quentin, Chicago, has a .273 average with 19 home runs, 61 RBIs, a .513 slugging percentage and .378 on-base percentage. “Maybe I’ll get some time to reflect later,” Quentin said. “I mean, I’m honored. I never really expected something like this coming into this year. My first priority was always to get on the field and play. I thank those who voted for me. I’m really at a loss for words.” “I’m definitely excited,” he added.
* Grady Sizemore, Cleveland, whose 22 home runs lead the league, is batting .269 with 56 runs scored, 18 doubles, four triples, 22 homers, 50 RBIs and 20 steals in 85 games, has hit 10 homers in his last 23 games and has 14 homers in his last 34 games. “I wasn’t expecting it, but it was a good feeling,” Sizemore said. “It’s always an honor to be a part of an All-Star team.”

Starting Pitchers
* Justin Duchscherer, Oakland’s lone selection owns’ the majors’ lowest ERA (1.96). He’s an All-Star for the second time, having been selected in 2005 – as a reliever.
* Roy Halladay, Toronto’s only All-Star representative, making the team for the fifth time, two shy of Dave Stieb’s franchise-record s. “It’s an honor, a nice perk,” Halladay said. Halladay, at 10-6, has six complete games (twice as many as several runners-up), the most in the majors, as are his 137 1/3 innings-pitched and his walks per nine innings ratio of 1.3. He’s also third in the league in strikeouts (113), sixth in ERA (2.88) and 10th in opponents’ average against (.237).
* Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay – Scott Kazmir didn’t make his first start of the season until May 4 after opening the year on the disabled list with a strained elbow, but was voted onto the American League team by his fellow players. “That was a big thing, just to know that your peers really respect your game and voted you in like that,” Kazmir said. “That means the most to me.”
* Cliff Lee, Cleveland, is 11-2 with a 2.43 ERA through 17 starts. “I just wanted to do my job,” Lee said. “Making the All-Star team is kind of icing on the cake. I’ve been pretty fortunate this year, and things have gone my way quite a bit.”
* Ervin Santana (9-3, 3.28 ERA), Los Angeles, “Out of all the guys who are going, what Ervin has done is remarkable,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He was sent down last season to work on his mechanics, pitched winter ball to get ready for the season, and he’s been lights out. I couldn’t be happier for this kid.”
* Joe Saunders, Los Angeles – Saunders is 12-4 with a 3.04 earned run average in 17 starts and has held opponents to a .239 average. The left-hander is tied with Arizona’s Brandon Webb for the major league lead in wins. “You look at his record, what he’s done, it’s great to have him recognized,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Through his experience, he’s become comfortable with what he needs to do to get hitters out, and he’s not afraid of contact.”

Relievers –
* Joe Nathan, Minnesota – this is his third All-Star selection and he has 25 saves in 27 opportunities.
* Jonathan Papelbon, Boston – Papelbon joins Frank Malzone, Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn as the only Red Sox players to make All-Star teams in each of their first three seasons.
* Mariano Rivera, New York – He is 3-3 with a 1.12 ERA and 23 saves.
* Francisco Rodriguez, Los Angeles, K-Rod has a major league-leading 34 saves and a 1.93 earned-run average, and has held opponents to a .171 average. He is looking forward to returning to the site of his first playoff win, as a 20-year old phenom in the 2002 division series, “That was an unbelievable feeling,” Rodriguez said. “I have so many memories of pitching there the first year I came up. And now, being able to go back there for the All-Star game in the last year of Yankee Stadium, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
* George Sherrill, Baltimore – Sherrill, was acquired as part of a five-player package in exchange for Eric Bedard. He ranks second in the Major Leagues in saves (27) and is on pace to shatter the team’s all-time saves mark (45), set by Randy Myers in 1997.
* Joakim Soria, Kansas City, who said, “This is the best thing in my life, next to getting married.” Good catch, Joakim.

National League
Starters
* Catcher — Geovany Soto, Chicago – Rookie – “He’s done a real nice job, not only offensively, but in handling our pitching staff,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said of Soto. “He’s a good kid and he works hard, and he takes pride in the work he does with the pitchers. And he’s obviously got some talent hitting-wise.” “It feels surreal,” Soto said. “Me trying to make the club and feeling really good, and then going to the All-Star Game. It feels awesome — I don’t know how to feel.
* First Base — Lance Berkman, Houston – Berkman ranks among league leaders in batting average (.350), runs (74), doubles (28), home runs (22), RBIs (69), total bases (210), slugging percentage (.669) and on-base percentage (.438). Berkman made the All-Star team in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006. “That’s just a great honor,” Berkman said. “When you look at the National League first baseman, it takes a pretty special half-season to get it done. I’m honored the fans chose me to start.”
* Second Base — Chase Utley, Philadelphia – The National League leading vote getter, “I never thought that would happen,” Utley said. “The fans in Philadelphia have always supported me, and I appreciate that. I’ve never been to Yankee Stadium, so I’m excited to see it. I’m going to try and enjoy it.” He leads the majors with 24 homers. Utley is making his third All-Star appearance. With four at-bats, he has one hit, a single off Kenny Rogers in 2006.
* Shortstop — Hanley Ramirez, Florida – Ramirez enters the week with 21 homeruns, a .302 batting average, 43 RBI, 75 runs scored and 21 stolen bases. He’s hit four homers in his last seven games, with five of those games having seen him collect two or more hits. “It’s a dream,” said Ramirez, who’s batting .304. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
* Third Base — Chipper Jones, Atlanta, will start at third base in his first All-Star game since 2001 and sixth overall.Hitting .400 for 10 weeks helped him earn the third-most votes in the National League (3,722,211) behind Chase Utley and Ryan Braun, good for his fifth career start. Chipper started his rookie year in 1996 in place of the injured Matt Williams. He won the voting at third base in 1998, 2000 and 2001.”It’s a tremendous honor,” Jones said. “There are a lot of people here in Atlanta stuffing boxes. I heard a lot of radio stations in Atlanta promoting trying to get me in. I appreciate all that. It’s going to be a cool couple days for me and my family.”He gets to take his father, Larry Wayne Jones Sr., to Yankee Stadium for the first time in its final season, the home of his father’s favorite player, Mickey Mantle. His father’s one request was a father-and-son photo in Monument Grove at Mantle’s monument.
Outfield
* Ryan Braun, Milwaukee, came into Sunday’s game against the Pirates hitting .279 with 20 homers and 58 RBIs. He hit a homer in the 1st inning just before the team was announced. 
”I was nervous all morning, my stomach was churning and I’m just really fortunate and really happy that it ended up working out this way”
* Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago – Rookie – “I’m very honored to be selected in my first year in Major League Baseball, and I really appreciate it,” Fukudome said through interpreter Ryuji Araki. “I’ll play anywhere in the outfield, and I’m looking forward to having fun playing in the game,” Fukudome said.
* Alfonso Soriano, Chicago – Soriano most likely will not play. The left fielder has been sidelined since June 11, when he was hit by a pitch on his left hand and suffered a broken bone. “The swing, it doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to,” Soriano said. “I think it will take time, maybe a week, to feel good again. I’ll be ready to play in the second half. “I think I want to go, but not play because my hand doesn’t feel good. I’ll go to enjoy the game. Six players, me seven, so I’d like to go and have fun with my teammates.”

Reserves
Catchers
* Russell Martin, Los Angeles – This is his second consecutive National League All-Star team and he will be the Dodgers’ lone representative. “I was nervous last year, my first time at an All-Star Game,” said Martin. “This year, it’ll be more relaxing and I’ll enjoy it more. I’ve never played at Yankee Stadium and I’m fortunate to play there. A lot of guys will never have the opportunity.”
* Brian McCann, Atlanta – McCann is tops among NL catchers in slugging and homers and is hitting .330 vs. lefties. “There were a lot of catchers that deserved to go,” McCann said. “To get to go — I’m extremely happy.”

Infield
* Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego;
* Cristian Guzman, Washington – extended his hitting streak to 14 games and is Washington’s representative for the All-Star Game
* Albert Pujols, St. Louis – Pujols is hitting .350, which is second in the league, with 18 homers and 48 RBI. “I picked Pujols because I don’t see how you can play an All-Star Game and him not being on the National League team,” NL manager Clint Hurdle said.
* Aramis Ramirez, Chicago
* Miguel Tejada, Houston – Tejada is hitting .282 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs. This will be his fifth All-Star Game. “I’m really honored to be selected to the All-Star team,” Tejada said. “Making the All-Star team is special, no matter where the game is. It would be special this year, because it’s the last year at Yankee Stadium. The All-Star Game is exciting.”
* Dan Uggla, Florida – Uggla was leading the majors with 23 homers until he was recently sidelined. Uggla, who leads the Marlins in home runs and RBI (58), hasn’t played since June 28, when he left the game after slipping on the ankle. “There’s only one Yankee Stadium,” Uggla said. “They’re going to, I’m sure, do everything first class and go all out, especially since this is the last year it’s gonna be around. It’s going to be fun.”

Outfield
* Matt Holliday, Colorado – “Being the last All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium will be real special and I sort of had that goal coming in the year was I wanted to be part of that,” said Holliday, who is hitting .343 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI. “So I’m excited about it.”
* Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis – “It’s unreal,” said Ludwick, who will celebrate his 30th birthday two days before the Midsummer Classic. “I’m still kind of shocked at the whole thing. I’ve been through a lot.” Ludwick is hitting .290 with a .367 on-base percentage, a .577 slugging percentage, 17 home runs and 58 RBIs. “Tony (LaRussa) called me in his office and congratulated me,” Ludwick said, “and told me it’s a long way from the [Triple-A] All-Star Game.”
* Nate McLouth, Pittsburgh – “Any time your peers feel that way about you and vote you into an All-Star game it’s extremely special and it makes you feel good,” said McLouth, who already has set career highs with 15 homers and 53 RBIs. He’s the lone representative for the Pirates in the All-Star Game.

Starting Pitchers
* Aaron Cook (Colorado) is 11-6 with a 3.66 ERA and will have a chance Friday against the Mets to establish a franchise record with 12 victories before the All-Star break. “It’s going to mean a lot to be out there and, hopefully, have a chance to take the ball and be part of the All-Star Game.”
* Ryan Dempster, Chicago, is unbeaten at home at 9-0 with a 2.71 ERA. This will be his second All-Star Game. He did not get into the 2000 game. “It will be awesome to get back there again,” Dempster said. “For everything I’ve been through, to make the All-Star team, what a thrill that would be, and at Yankee Stadium with all the festivities. It’ll be one of the greatest All-Star Games ever. It would mean a lot.”
* Dan Haren, Arizona – Haren started last year’s All-Star Game for the American League while he was a member of the Oakland A’s. Haren is 8-5 with a 2.83 ERA and hisparents are from New York and his sister went to NYU.
* Tim Lincecum, San Francisco – Lincecum (10-1) leads the NL with a .909 winning percentage and 122 strikeouts. His 2.49 ERA ranks second in the league to that of Cincinnati’s Edinson Volquez. Lincecum called it a “big deal” to be part of the All-Star Game, “and it’s a bigger deal because it’s the last year Yankee Stadium is going to be there. It’s my first time being an All-Star. I’m sure emotions will take over.”
* Ben Sheets, Milwaukee – (10-4, 2.77 ERA) was named to his fourth All-Star game. “I think it’s going to be incredible. A lot of guys last year were saying that this was the one they were looking forward to, and some of those guys are good enough to look forward to the next All-Star game,” Sheets said. “It’s going to be a real exciting time there with the history that’s going to go on.”
* Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati – Volquez is the sole Reds’ representative. He has an 11-3 record and 2.36 ERA. “Everybody has dreams,” said Volquez. “A lot of pitchers want to win the Cy Young or go to the All-Star Game. This is one of mine.” “I’m excited,” a grinning Volquez said. “This is my first full season in the big leagues and I’ve made the All-Star Game.”
* Brandon Webb, Arizona – “I wanted to make this because I thought this was going to be pretty special being in New York the last year of Yankee Stadium,” Webb said. “So it was kind of a goal of mine to make it, even when I first heard about it last year, probably about this time, that it was going to be in Yankee Stadium. Just to be able to make it and represent the Diamondbacks and the National League there in Yankee Stadium. It’s going to be a madhouse, it’s going to be fun.” It’s the third straight year that Webb has been selected. He leads the league with 12 wins to go along with just four defeats and a 3.43 ERA in 18 starts.
* Carlos Zambrano, Chicago – This will be his third trip; he was also named to the NL All-Star team in 2004 and ’06. Asked if he wants to start for the NL, “I don’t think so,” Zambrano replied. “There’s Brandon Webb and Edinson Volquez. They deserve to start the game. I can close the game. I can pitch in the sixth, or close the game — whatever the manager needs. I want to be there to contribute and win.”

The NL starter won’t be Arizona’s Brandon Webb, San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum or Chicago’s Ryan Dempster, all of whom are scheduled to start Sunday. Cook, Zambrano, Haren, Volquez and Sheets will be rested and ready.

Relievers
* Brad Lidge, Philadelphia, who yesterday signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract extension with the Phillies. The deal includes a signing bonus, an awards package, assorted escalators and a fourth-year club option that could bring the overall value of the contract to $49 million. Lidge returns to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2005, when he was with the Astros and relieved Dontrelle Willis and struck out Melvin Mora, Mike Sweeney and Garrett Anderson. On July 11, 2003, he tossed the sixth and seventh innings of a six-pitcher combined no-hitter at Yankee Stadium.
* Billy Wagner, New York – “I thought that he would be a good chip to have out in the bullpen and he’s got a pretty good pedigree,” NL manager Clint Hurdle said of Wagner, named an All-Star for the sixth time. Wags is 0-1 with 19 saves and a 1.85 ERA.
* Brian Wilson, San Francisco – Growing up as a Red Sox fan taught Wilson about Yankee Stadium’s mystique — which he confirmed by talking to fellow Major Leaguers who have pitched there. “They said it’s a one-of-a-kind experience, stepping on the mound there with the aura and history and the crowd and intensity,” he said. Wilson has a 4.37 ERA.
* Kerry Wood, Chicago – “Let’s hope we win,” Wood said. “We could have a chance to benefit from that maybe this year. It would be an important game. It’s nice to have your teammates there for sure.” “It’s an honor to be chosen and an honor to be able to go.” “I think just coming back from where I’ve come back from, and the work put in and where I was two years ago, I think [this All-Star Game] means a lot more than the first one, for me anyways,” he said.

Among the position players left off the team: Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, hitting .302 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs going into Sunday, Colorado third baseman Garrett Atkins (.311, 12 HRs, 50 RBIs), Detroit outfielder Magglio Ordonez (.307, 12, 50) and Boston third baseman Mike Lowell (.302, 13, 54). Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-1, 3.12 ERA) and St. Louis’ Kyle Lohse (10-2, 3.61) were among the pitchers left out.

Top of the 2nd
SWEEPS
Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer during a four-run 3rd inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays went on to finish off the Kansas City Royals 9-2 for their seventh straight win. Longoria has five homers and 17 RBIs in his last 13 games. His 16 homers this season are tied with Kansas City’s Bob Hamelin (1994) for the second-most by an AL rookie before the All-Star break in the last 20 years. James Shields (7-5) gave up two runs and four hits over seven innings to win his third consecutive start. He struck out eight and walked one.

The Rays, with the majors’ best record at 55-32, have won 11 of 12 overall. Their seven-game winning streak is the second-longest in team history; Tampa Bay won 12 in a row in June 2004. The Rays are 36-13 at home this season. They have won 11 of the past 12 series at Tropicana Field.

The Minnesota Twins came back again to beat the Cleveland Indians and All-Star Cliff Lee, 4-3 send the Tribe to their eighth straight loss. Lee (11-2) lost for the first time in nine starts, as the resourceful Twins put together another one of their small-ball rallies. They batted eight times that inning and hit the ball out of the infield only twice.

Since losing 12-2 to the Indians in Cleveland on June 12, the Twins are 18-3. They have swept four of their last six series.

J.J. Hardy hit two homers, All-Star starter Ryan Braun added one and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-6 yesterday to complete a three-game sweep. Milwaukee tied franchise records with nine doubles and 12 extra-base hits to finish its fifth series sweep, all at home. The Brewers improved to 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.

After losing their previous six to Washington, Cincinnati completed a four-game sweep of the Nationals in a series that even the most ardent fans of each team couldn’t care less about. Edinson Volquez gave up three earned runs in the finale won by the Reds, 5-6-5 and improved to 11-3. He’s given up more than three earned runs just once in 18 starts this season. The Nationals have lost 11 of 15. The four-game winning streak is Cincinnati’s second-longest of the season.

Top of the 3rd
ADDING INSULT TO INSULT
Cleveland traded C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee and the Brewers believe they’ve gone from hopeful contender to prime contender with the addition. “We’re going for it,” said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin at a news conference in Milwaukee today. Sabathia, who is expected to start for the Brewers against Colorado at Miller Park on tomorrow, went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA to win the AL Cy Young last season and gives the Brewers another power arm to pair with Ben Sheets. “It is comforting to know you have two pitchers like Ben and C.C. at the top of the rotation,” said Melvin.

The trade will send prized outfield prospect Matt LaPorta and minor league pitchers Zach Jackson and Rob Bryan, plus a player to be named, to the Indians.

What’s worse for Indians fans is that Cleveland signed righthander Jeff Weaver to a minor-league contract and sent him to triple-A Buffalo. Weaver, 31, who helped St. Louis win the World Series in 2006 with three playoff victories, pitched this year with triple-A Nashville (2-4, 6.22 ERA), Milwaukee’s top farm club. He was 7-13 with a 6.20 ERA for Seattle last season, and is 93-114 with a 4.72 ERA in his career

Top of the 4th
BACK AND FORTH
The Atlanta Braves’ sent Jeff Francoeur to the minors after batting a miserable .121 over an 18 game span. Bobby Cox sent the starting outfielder to AA affiliate Mississippi, the same team Francoeur played for before his MLB debut in 2005. Francoeur, was hitting just .234 with a .287 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage in 85 games. The slump had worsened recently with him hitting .121 in his last 18 games.

And now he’s back…

Jeff Francoeur’s stay in the minor leagues ended in a hurry.
Francoeur will rejoin the Atlanta Braves for tonight’s night’s game in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, general manager Frank Wren told The Associated Press.

He had four hits Sunday and was recalled by Atlanta on Monday.

The Braves placed three players on the disabled list today: pitchers Manny Acosta and Jeff Bennett and utility player Omar Infante. Infante hurt his hamstring while playing in right field, Francoeur’s position.

Top of the 5th
WHATTA COMEBACK
Sparked by six homers, including a grand slam and solo shot by Matt Holliday, the host Rockies overcame a 13-4 deficit and defeated the Florida Marlins, 18-17. The first four hitters in the Rockies lineup were a combined 16 for 22 with five homers and 13 RBIs.

In a return to the pre-humidor days (prior to 2002), the Rockies and Marlins combined for 35 runs and 43 hits.

Fourteen pitchers were used – eight by Florida.

According to ESPN.com, the Marlins became the sixth team since 1900 to score at least 17 runs and lose.

Interestingly, the Phillies were involved in four of those six games, including a 23-22 win over the Cubs in a 1979 game in which Mike Schmidt’s 10th-inning homer off Bruce Sutter was the difference at Wrigley Field.

A look at the high-scoring losers:

Year Losing Team Opp. Score

2008 Marlins Rockies 18-17

1979 Cubs Phillies 23-22

1969 Phillies Reds 19-17

1932 Indians Athletics 18-17

1922 Phillies Cubs 26-23

1900 Braves Phillies 19-17

Top of the 6th
BILLY-BALL-BLOG-OF-THE-DAY
Let’s give a little attention to the Texas Rangers and their fans – http://www.rangerslocker.com/

Top of the 7th
PROBABLE PITCHERS
AL
Royals (Gil Meche) at Rays (Matt Garza), 12:40
Twins (Scott Baker) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka), 7:05
Angels (Ervin Santana) at Rangers (Luis Mendoza), 8:05
Mariners (Jarrod Washburn) at A’s (Dana Eveland), 10:05

NL
Mets (Pedro Martinez) at Phillies (Adam Eaton), 7:05
Astros (Runelvys Hernandez) at Pirates (Phil Dumatrait), 7:05
Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez) at Brewers (Seth McClung), 8:05
Marlins (Ricky Nolasco) at Padres (Greg Maddux), 10:05
Braves (Jorge Campillo) at Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda), 10:10

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
The Orioles lost again to the Rangers yesterday, 11-10. The Orioles have now lost 13 straight Sunday games. The Orioles have been outscored 75-44 on Sundays.

The Rangers’ Ian Kinsler got three singles to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, and his 18-game hitting streak is one short of his career high, set earlier this season. Texas is now 15-4-2 in their past 21 series.

Top of the 9th
THE ONE MAN BATTERY
Seattle backup catcher Jamie Burke took the mound for the M’s yesterday in the 15th inning having already gone through the able bodies in the bullpen in a 1-1 game against the Tigers. Burke threw well for a catcher-turned-pitcher, but the Detroit Tigers finally broke through with a sacrifice fly from Marcus Thames to escape with a 2-1 win over the Mariners and a split of the four-game series.

Burke had thrown four innings in the minors, and can throw four pitches for strikes.
Burke became the third position player in Mariners’ history to take the mound. His first pitch was 82 mph and he hit 86 on the stadium radar gun.

Miguel Cabrera lined a double to center field, lumbering into second. He was lifted for pinch runner Michael Hollimon, who advanced to third when Burke (0-1) tried to throw a slider that slipped from his hands and ended up in the netting of the backstop. Marcus Thames then lifted a fly ball to deep left field that easily scored Hollimon with the winning run.

Burke then got a groundout from Ivan Rodriguez and a fly out from Edgar Renteria, and headed to the dugout to a standing ovation from the crowd that stuck around.

“Everybody thinks they can do everything. Everybody wants to try something,” Burke said. “But once you get on that mound; I’ve never talked about that I’ve pitched or anything like that, because I know how hard it is to get on that mound.”

Todd Jones pitched the bottom of the 15th for his 16th save in 17 chances, picking up the win for Aquilino Lopez (3-1).

Bottom of the 9th
BUY THE BOOK
Bill Chuck is the creator of Billy-Ball.com and, with Jim Kaplan, is the author of the book, “Walk-Offs, Last Licks, and Final Outs – Baseball’s Grand (and not so Grand) Finales,” with a Foreword by Jon Miller available now from ACTA Sports.

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