• Marc Rzepczynski has received a trial by fire in the rough-and-tumble AL East (six of his nine starts have come in division) but he's managed to keep his head about him and throw the ball well most of the time (3.65 ERA, no outing with more than four runs). The Halos managed just three hits and one run against the gangly lefty Friday night, while Rzepczynski struck out six (video here). "He was as billed," said an impressed Mike Scioscia. "You see a guy with good life on his fastball, good movement, who gets his slider under swings. He moved the ball around and threw a lot of strikes." The rook gets a home date with Tampa next week, an opponent he's fared well against (12 IP, 2 ER).
• Jonathan Sanchez(notes) allowed just one unearned run in five strong Colorado innings (eight K) and he's turned into one of the more consistent NL strikeout sources through the summer. You know all about the no-hitter from early July, but he's quietly validated that performance in his seven starts since then (3.54 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 49 K in 40.2 IP). It's never been a question of stuff with Sanchez (sinking fastball, power slider, good change), it's a matter of being around the strike zone. He's an intriguing call for the middle of next year's draft; what's your price on this one? There's a good chance I'll chase him into the double digits.
• Anibal Sanchez(notes) dodged the raindrops and threw a beauty in his return at Atlanta, giving the Braves just two hits and one run over six innings. Sanchez walked two, whiffed seven and deserves a long look against the Mets next week. The erratic Leo Nunez(notes) was the last man standing before the ark departed; he retired three of four en route to a fairly clean save.
• Jeff Francoeur(notes) led the way Friday as the Mets became the latest team to knock Cole Hamels(notes) around; Frenchy knocked three hits including a homer. You don't want to overreact to six weeks of results but Francoeur's bat has certainly woken up since New York acquired him on July 10; he's at .310 with the Mets with six homers, albeit there's been nothing different about his approach at the plate (five walks, 19 strikeouts).
As for Hamels (5 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 6 K), how do we best explain his frustrating season? There's certainly been some bad luck at play here – while his walk and strikeout rates are just about identical to what he posted in 2008, his BABIP has spiked 50 points and his HR/FB rate has moved as well. Don't blame things on his home park, he's been far worse on the road (5.48 ERA, 1.55 WHIP). There's nothing awry with his velocity. I can't guarantee you that things will magically normalize for Hamels down the stretch, but everything under the hood suggests that he's pitching better than the surface stats suggest.
• The Red Sox obviously didn't give John Smoltz(notes) an endless supply of starts to figure things out; how long does the leash extend for Brad Penny(notes)? The Yankees took BP on Penny Friday night (10 H, 8 R), pushing his ERA to 5.61 for the year. Penny has just two wins in his last 15 starts and the league is hitting .299 against him. In Penny's defense the Yanks raked just about everyone en route to 20 runs; Michael Bowden(notes) was rocked for seven runs in a messy two-inning stint.
• I'm not crazy enough to give a strong recommendation to Scott Kazmir(notes) these days, but he did post his longest outing of the year Friday against the Rangers (7.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K) and he's now turned in a low-end quality start (three runs) in four of his last five starts. Feel free to use that information any way you like; he gets Toronto next week.
Speed Round: The Pirates turned back the clock Friday and wore those outstanding 1979 uniforms, and as fate would have it the current Bucs got a home victory, riding the power of Garrett Jones(notes) and Lastings Milledge(notes). Matt Capps(notes) had his third clean appearance in a row and seems like he's back in form. … Felipe Lopez(notes) is hitting .336 since joining the Brewers and he's getting on base greater than 40 percent of the time but what happened to the category juice this guy used to offer? He has just one homer, and no steals, since joining Milwaukee a month ago. … Bill Hall(notes) had a fun debut with the Mariners, picking up two hits and two RBIs as Seattle dropped Cleveland. Hall started in left field and batted sixth. … Randy Ruiz(notes) spent most of his first Toronto week hacking at everything he saw, but he actually walked twice (and stole a base) against the Angels Friday.
Injury Blog: A flu bug kept Troy Tulowitzki(notes) out of Friday's lineup. … Jake Peavy(notes) (ankle) will rest one extra day before his next rehab turn, though it's just a matter of general soreness, no cause for alarm. … Freddy Sanchez(notes) (shoulder) took some less-than-convincing cuts in Friday's batting practice and wound up missing his fourth straight game. It won't be a shocker if he sits through the weekend. … Brandon Phillips(notes) (wrist) wasn't able to go Friday, as expected. … Aaron Cook(notes) struggled against the Giants then left the game with a sore shoulder; he's also dealt with a toe injury in recent starts. … Edwin Encarnacion(notes) (knee) didn't start Friday after getting dinged up in his previous start. … Johnny Damon(notes) fouled a pitch off of his right knee and left early. … Justin Duchscherer(notes) is dealing with some personal issues in addition to a sore elbow. He's done for the season.
- Marc Rzepczynski