Gene Autry or Aerosmith, it’s all good:
[#1 Dodgers] Prodigal Sons: The Dodgers regain the Hit List top spot as Manny Ramirez returns from a 50-game suspension. He goes 6-for-18 with two homers and seven RBI, drawing louder jeers for being ejected after an awful strike three call than for his transgression. With Juan Pierre sitting, Rafael Furcal is restored to the leadoff spot and feeling better about his swing via a 14-for-30 showing this month.
[#3 Yankees] Running the Table: A 13-2 run carries the Yankees back into a first-place tie with the Red Sox. They take a three-game set from the Twins in Minnesota, thus winning the season series 7-0; they’ve won 18 of their last 24 games against the Twins. Alas, the run is tempered by the loss of Chien-Ming Wang due to a shoulder strain. Not that he’d pitched well (9.64 ERA overall, 5.50 since returning from the DL, and still waiting for that first quality start), but his absence forces the Yanks to pull Alfredo Aceves into the rotation. Along with Phil Hughes, he’s become a key player in a bullpen that’s put up a 2.39 ERA and 3.3 K/BB ratio since the beginning of June; he’s 18th in the league in WXRL.
[#10 Blue Jays] Break Up the Jays: J.P. Ricciardi opens the door to offers for Roy Halladay, though the ace won’t be a free agent until after 2010. It’s a consequence of a ridiculously top-heavy payroll; they have $74.45 million — 92 percent of this year’s Opening Day payroll — committed to just six players for next year, including B.J. Ryan, whom they punt with some $15 million remaining on his deal. The bigger problems are their five-year commitments to Vernon Wells ($107 million) and Alex Rios ($59.7 million), hitting an interchangeably pallid .264/.313/.418 and .259/.314/.415, respectively.
[#30 Nationals] Dunn Deal? Adam Dunn’s 300th career homer halts Tommy Hanson’s 26-inning scoreless streak and helps the Nats snap their four-game losing streak. Dunn’s the fifth-fastest to 300 homers, at least in terms of the fewest at-bats to reach that milestone, trailing Babe Ruth, Mark McGwire, Ralph Kiner and Harmon Killebrew. Acting GM Mike Rizzo has no plans to trade the curiously consistent slugger. Meanwhile, ex-Nat and current Pirate Joel Hanrahan earns the win in a suspended game against the Astros, with the winning run scored by Nyjer Morgan, who arrived from Pittsburgh in that deal.
Notes galore to these:
• That NBCSports.com link in the Dodgers entry, by Mike Celizic, may be the best piece yet about Manny Ramirez’s return. Between that and Eric Seidman’s piece on John Hirschbeck’s lousy strike three call, that’s a rather off night in the Mets’ booth for the usually appealing Gary Cohen.
• The ease with which Hughes has taken up residence in the bullpen should be used to quiet those who continually pine for Chamberlain to return to the pen. Why? Because it shows that Chamberlain isn’t so unique in his ability to dominate in relief. A pitcher with excellent stuff — Chamberlain, Hughes, even Aceves — can succeed down there by shortening his arsenal and attacking hitters more aggressively. Those same pitchers may struggle a bit in the rotation, but that’s life in the big city; it’s a much harder job getting hitters out three or four times a game, and it’s no crime for even a pitcher with their skills to scale a learning curve. Particularly given the specter of a Brett Tomko start.
• As somebody who likes to dine on schadenfreude pie, metaphorically speaking — it’s the term my friends and I use when discussing the pleasure of watching right-wing lunatics self-immolate — I’m continually amused by Ricciardi’s brash displays of incompetence. I can’t believe that guy still has a job.
• That Hanrahan-Morgan game is just so wonderfully weird I had to squeeze it into the last line of the Hit List. A box score for the ages.