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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Cleveland rocks, Grady gets greedy

There's no dynamic, buzz-worthy theme on a partial Thursday, so we'll take a leisurely stroll around the ballparks and see what we come up with:

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Grady Sizemore was in the midst of a pretty dreadful August (.185, six runs, one homer) before Thursday's jamboree against the Royals, one of the memorable lines of the summer (5-1-4-7, homer, steal). Not much to say on that; Sizemore owners dug it, Sizemore opponents felt the sting. And Cliff Lee's headed for the Cy Young and a bloated 2009 ADP, just accept it (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). I actually think his breakout is more real than a lot of people do, but as always the next buying decision will come down to the tenor of the room.

Don't sleep on this Cleveland offense; it scored 27 runs in the KC series, and a weekend in Arlington is on tap. You can probably make a case for renting Ben Francisco, Kelly Shoppach or Ryan Garko in most mixed leagues; give that waiver wire an audit.

Chris Dickerson went up against three electric Chicago arms and didn't look fazed Thursday, going 1-for-2 and drawing a couple of walks. The toolsy outfielder is at .344 in his brief time with the Reds, and he's reached base in 8-of-9 games. Cincinnati goes to Coors Field Friday and meets up with The Human Batting Tee Livan Hernandez, so it might be a good time to stream some Redlegs.

The trend keeps playing with Derek Lowe: money at home, bankrupt on the road. One of his two road starts next week comes at Washington, so we can stomach that one, but I'll stay away from his Arizona date. Jonathan Broxton closed up Thursday with a much-needed effort, striking out three of the four batters he faced.

Brandon Lyon got back on the horse Thursday with a four-run lead to protect, but it was another uneven effort: two hits, one run, no strikeouts. He got a little lucky when Kevin Kouzmanoff's liner settled into Augie Ojeda's glove. Keep Jon Rauch by the phone, save chasers.

Is Jose Guillen bored? Still hurt? Whatever the case may be, he hasn't hit a lick in the second half (.177/.257/.302), and he's got a history of final-quarter flameouts. Be very careful here.

I don't know Manny Ramirez and at times I don't think we share the same planet, but if he wants my advice here it is: re-up with the Dodgers. Hang out in Hollyweird, get lost in the shuffle, no fishbowl atmosphere. Your monster audition (.406/.494/.710, six homers in 19 games) should encourage the club to open the coffers. It's a good fit, amigo.

Washington finally got off the schneid Thursday, trimming Philadelphia and ending a 12-game losing skid. Cristian Guzman (thumb) returned with his normal bit: two hits, no run production. Ronnie Belliard shifted to first but took a collar. Joel Hanrahan worked hard for the money (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K) and recorded his first save since the first week of August. I'm still using Lastings Milledge anywhere I can, and you should be, too.

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The wonders never cease at Shea Stadium, where Pedro Martinez went seven innings for the second straight start and the bullpen worked two scoreless innings (Luis Ayala got the last four outs, for crying out loud). Carlos Delgado played hero in the bottom of the ninth with his fifth hit, ending the game; everyone who was ready to bury this guy in early May, raise your hand (okay, me too).

Speed Round: Another hitless day for Kosuke Fukudome, who's fallen into a 6-for-40 skid and doesn't have an extra-base knock since Aug. 6. It will be interesting to see how Lou Piniella fills out the lineup card this weekend . . . Dan Uggla has three hits, three walks and a homer over his last three games. Looks like the storm clouds are finally breaking up . . . If you can recite San Francisco's Thursday lineup from memory, I'm a little worried about you . . . Hideki Matsui homered at Toronto and finished his first series back 2-for-11 . . . There's life in Johnny Damon yet; he's batted .300 or higher in every month but April, and he's swiped eight bags in August (two on Thursday) . . . My apologies if you started Vernon Wells or Lyle Overbay, but otherwise, dig in Toronto fans (14 runs, 21 hits against Sidney Ponson and friends) . . . Carlos Gomez has four hits, a homer and a steal over the last three games, if that matters to you. He's still allergic to taking a walk and there's no way he'll get the leadoff spot back from the legit Denard Span, but that doesn't mean there isn't a home for Gomez in some deep mixers, depending on how badly you need the speed . . . I'm thinking Roy Halladay might go down as the most underrated stud pitcher of his generation. Discuss.

Julio Lugo had another setback with his quad this week, so let's keep an eye on Jed Lowrie in deep leagues; he might stick as a regular the rest of the year. Lowrie hasn't shown any pop or speed in the majors this summer, but just being caught up in the Boston undertow has its advantages; he's hitting .330 with 24 RBIs over 94 second-half at-bats.

Scott Baker is an intriguing case for 2009. He's still allowing too many fly balls (and homers) for our liking, but his strikeout spike is almost to the point where he can offset it. He's got mid-90s heat with movement, and a coupe of other decent pitches. There's another level to possibly climb here. His eight-inning duel with John Lackey Thursday (a 1-1 standoff) was one of the highlights of the night.

Injury Lap: Joba Chamberlain (shoulder) played catch Thursday and heads to a mound Saturday. He's hoping to pitch for the Yankees in early September, but will the Bombers be close enough to justify the risk? . . . The Marlins played it safe with Hanley Ramirez's thumb Thursday, as you'd expect. "It hurts," Ramirez conceded. "I want to play, but I knew right away, I couldn't play (Thursday)." Be ready with other options this weekend . . . Justin Duchscherer (hip) and Sean Gallagher (shoulder) both hit the DL as expected, so say hello again to Dana Eveland and Dan Meyer . . . Tim Wakefield (shoulder) and Bartolo Colon (back) are getting close to their return dates . . . Tom Glavine had elbow and shoulder surgery Thursday, but the door on 2009 hasn't been closed yet . . . If Brad Penny (shoulder) works again for the Dodgers this year, it will be out of the bullpen.

Handshakes: Kerry Wood (26), Joe Nathan (35, for a patient Gardenhire). Brian Wilson picked up a win by the bay, Kevin Gregg a loss.

Brad Ziegler struggled with his command from the word go Thursday, but the resourceful submariner found a way out of it, dodging five baserunners and recording his fourth save at Seattle. The Oakland victory ended in typical Ziegler fashion, on a double-play grounder. And with that chorus in our minds, let's gather up the jackets, move it to the exits. I hope you have found a friend.


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