Each Friday, BLS contributor Nick Friedell runs through the quad and into the gymnasium to look at five of the hottest players in baseball and then assesses their chances of keeping it going.
This week's edition starts in an unusual place to find a hotter-than-hot player — Colorado's pitching staff.
Aaron Cook, Rockies
The Naked Truth: 10-3, 3.29 ERA
Having a nice little Saturday: Cook has earned the win in his last three starts, going 21 innings and giving up seven earned runs over that time.
You're my boy, Blue!: Cook's performance throughout this season, has been one of a just a few bright spots for the defending NL champs. As Jeff Bimbaum of MLB.com puts it, "About the only thing Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook hasn't done this season is put on a cape and rescue innocent civilians from a burning building." (MLB.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: It seems likely. Cook has pitched great at Coors Field this season, going 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA. Expect that to continue tonight as the Rockies host the Mets. The
left right-hander has already defeated the Mets once this season, going the distance while surrendering just four hits and a run.
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Placido Polanco, Tigers
The Naked Truth: .316 average, 2 HR, 25 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: After struggling early in the season, the Tigers second baseman has been on an absolute tear of late. Since June 8, Polanco is 23-for-44 with 8 RBI and is in the middle of a 10-game hitting streak.
You're my boy, Blue!: "He's hitting the ball all over the field, which is why he hit .341 with 200 hits last year," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He hits to the right-field line. He hits to the left-field line. He knows what he's doing." (Mlive.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: Yes, as long as he can stay healthy. Polanco battled back problems earlier in the season, but has recovered to spark the Tigers lineup once again.
He has absolutely destroyed left-handed pitching this season, hitting .426 with a home run and 9 RBI. He also has had success against Greg Maddux, whom he will face during tonight's game against the Padres. He's 8-for 28 against him in his career.
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Marcus Thames, Tigers
The Naked Truth: .250 average, 13 HR, 29 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Since June 11, Thames has hit 7 home runs and has 11 RBI, including a stretch where he hit six of those in five days. According to the Sports Network, it was just the fifth time in Tigers history that a player has homered on five consecutive days, and the first since Willie Horton did it in 1969. (Sports Network)
You're my boy, Blue!: "That's awesome, especially when we're winning games like this," Thames said of his streak. "Willie Horton has always been influential to me. He takes the time to talk."
His teammates also seem to be happy for Thames, one of the most affable guys in the clubhouse.
"He has a great attitude," pitcher Kenny Rogers said. "When he sat on the bench a lot the last few years, he never complained. He just waited for his shot. Those types of guys are nice to be around." (Freep.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: Probably not. Thames has never been a consistent hitter. There's a reason he's played sporadically during the last few seasons. Keep in mind, Thames is hitting just .188 against left-handed pitching, and .292 against right-handers.
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Jon Lester, Red Sox
The Naked Truth: 6-3, 3.18 ERA
Having a nice little Saturday: Lester has won his last three starts, going 20 1/3 innings and giving up just three earned runs over that stretch.
You're my boy, Blue!: According to the Hartford Courant, Lester has not allowed more than three earned runs in 10 straight starts. "I think his confidence is growing," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He's commanding the strike zone a lot better, his tempo is quicker. It looks like he's trying to grow up as a major league pitcher. He's following one pitch up with the next pitch. We're seeing a maturing, good young pitcher. He should be confident. He's got a lot of ways to get people out." (Hartford Courant)
Think KFC will still be open?: Why not? He has to work on his control a little more though, to reach the next level. Lester has surrendered 38 walks this season, tied for sixth most in the AL. If he can cut down the walks, he will be able to work deeper into games.
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Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
The Naked Truth: .335 average, 14 HR, 41 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Since June 2, A-Rod is 27-for-61 with 7 HR and 20 RBI. Oh yeah, he's also in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak.
You're my boy, Blue!: If the Yankees are going to try to make some noise in the AL East race, A-Rod obviously has to be the guy to get them there. The way he makes it sound, if he hits, everyone else will follow. "I feel good, but the whole team is swinging the bat with a lot of confidence. That's very contagious," Rodriguez said. (AP)
Think KFC will still be open?: Absolutely. He's the best player in the game. Period.
Want another reason as to why he's the best in the game? Unlike most hitters who struggle against a certain handed pitcher, Rodriguez doesn't seem to care. He's hitting .346 against lefties, and .331 against righties.