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Scott Pianowski

Closing Time: Tommy Hunter must be living right

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Tommy Hunter(notes) doesn't record a lot of strikeouts and he doesn't go past 90 mph on the radar gun very often. So how the heck does he keep frustrating batters and beating American League clubs?

Hunter had a difficult assignment on Thursday – a start at Fenway Park – but he was up to the assignment, working into the seventh inning and allowing five hits and two runs (a pair of solo homers). Hunter certainly wasn't dominating anyone – just one strikeout, 13 fly-ball outs – but it was good enough to improve his record to 6-0. He's got a 2.39 ERA on the year and he's only allowed more than two runs in one of his starts.

It's easy to rain on this parade if you want to, however. Hunter's been very fortunate with his FB/HR rate in 2010 (just 5.6 percent) and his strand rate is over 81 percent. If you crunch the peripherals and give him ordinary luck on fly balls, the ERA (per xFIP) jumps to the mid-4s. In a mixed league, I wouldn't want to be gambling on this sort of pitcher with a correction likely on the way.

Left-handed batters have never been fooled much by Hunter – he's got a .304 BAA and 1.73 WHIP against southpaws for his career. While it's surprising the Red Sox couldn't do more with Hunter here, I'm still not ready to trust him against the better offenses in the league, especially the clubs that can stack a bunch of lefties in the lineup. Minnesota and New York are two teams Hunter could struggle against, and I'm not bullish on his chances against the Tigers and Angels next week, either.

Results are great, amigos. But if the path to those results doesn't look right, be suspicious.

Milwaukee's Dave Bush(notes) is another pitcher getting it done with less-than-electric stuff these days, albeit he's got a much easier gig working in the National League. He took a loss at Atlanta on Thursday but pitched reasonably well, allowing just two solo homers (Prado, Chipper) over six innings. There's no magical upside to Bush (he hasn't topped five strikeouts in a game since the second week of April), but he's capable of giving you a quality start when the matchup is right. He's allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last six turns, and he's working at Pittsburgh next week; clip and save, stream police.

Let's hear it for Ryan Dempster(notes), perhaps the most underrated pitcher in the National League this year. Dempster cruised past the Phillies on Thursday (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 9 K) and he hasn't given us a bad start since the end of May. A 3.57 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP don't knock you out of your chair but there's something to be said for consistency, and Dempster is quietly fourth in the majors in strikeouts (using his excellent slider and an improved fastball). He's probably working twice next week, with the first start coming against the hacking Astros.

Gordon Beckham(notes) is doing all he can to get off the fantasy restricted list, putting together a 7-for-13 run with two homers and two doubles over his last four games (his round-tripper at Target Field on Thursday was a no-doubter). Beckham wasn't driving the ball at all for the opening three months of the year, but finally were's starting to see the live bat that he showed us in last year's second half. Beckham's still saddled with a crummy spot in the Chicago lineup – he's hit seventh or lower in every game since the middle of May – but if he can keep roping the ball like he is right now, Ozzie Guillen might be forced to make an adjustment.

Handshakes, Etc.: Billy Wagner(notes) is having a dynamite year that few are talking about. He put the Brewers aside on just 10 pitches Thursday, and he's now got 21 saves and 58 strikeouts over 38.1 innings. May we all age as gracefully as this guy is. … Make it 15 save conversions in a row for Bobby Jenks(notes), who got the last four outs at Minnesota (three strikeouts, one run). … No handshake for Brian Wilson(notes), though he was ready if needed. The Giants decided to let Tim Lincecum(notes) finish up against the Mets, a six-hit shutout that required a modest 110 pitches. … Jose Contreras(notes) picked up a "get work" appearance and didn't have a thing, allowing five runs against just two outs in the seventh inning at Wrigley. Geovany Soto's(notes) homer eventually chased Contreras to the bench. … Sean Marshall(notes) struck out both men he faced, pushing his ERA and WHIP down to 2.00 and 1.04, respectively. He's got 51 punchouts over 45 innings of work this year and more importantly, he's finally keeping the ball in the park (just one homer allowed).

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Injury Blog: Justin Morneau(notes) (concussion) went on the disabled list but it's not as bad as you might think; the move was backdated to July 8 and he could be back in the lineup in a week. Morneau says he's making progress. … Troy Tulowitzki(notes) (wrist) might take batting practice on Friday and barring a setback he should be ready for a rehab assignment next week. … Page me when the Matt Wieters(notes) World Domination Tour begins. He went on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a hamstring injury. … Jose Reyes(notes) has a sore oblique and was a late scratch at San Francisco. He might be the trickiest middle-infield call of the second half. … Erik Bedard(notes) (shoulder) has hit a setback, to the surprise of absolutely no one. … Manny Ramirez(notes) (hamstring) got back to work for the Dodgers, going 0-for-3 against Chris Carpenter(notes) and the Cardinals. … Josh Hamilton(notes) left Thursday's game due to a sore calf, but he called the move a precautionary measure. "I could have stayed in and kept playing," he told the Associated Press. "I thought it might be a good time for a break." … I'm still not sure why the Red Sox let Adrian Beltre(notes) and his sore hamstring get on the field during Tuesday's All-Star Game. Beltre didn't play Thursday against Texas but he did have an MRI. … Clay Buchholz(notes) (hamstring) will get one rehab turn and then aim at returning to the Red Sox. … Victor Martinez(notes) had X-rays done on his broken left thumb Thursday. It's not clear yet what his return timetable looks like.

Speed Round: The Angels kicked Doug Fister(notes) around for 12 hits and six runs. The Seattle righty has been ineffective in three of his four turns since returning from his shoulder injury, and he's earned just one victory since April 19. … Carlos Beltran(notes) went 1-for-4 in his season debut (single, caught stealing). Jerry Manuel used him as the cleanup man. … The Twins could regret not making a more serious pitch for Cliff Lee(notes), as most of the Minnesota starters are scuffling these days. Kevin Slowey(notes) got it on Thursday, getting hammered (nine hits, five runs) for the fifth time in seven starts. A home date with Cleveland looks good for next week, but give all of your options a long look before you make a commitment. … Ryan Howard(notes) has a career .304/.408/.638 line after the All-Star break – the warm weather and the dog days of summer seem to agree with him. He homered twice in the loss to the Cubs on Thursday. … Andy Behrens says you should believe in Aramis Ramirez(notes), and the third sacker looked the part Thursday, stroking two doubles and collecting four RBIs. Ramirez has six multiple-hit games in his last seven starts, with four homers in that mix.

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