Thu May 22 04:34pm EDT
Each week, BLS contributor Nick Friedell goes through the quad and into the gymnasium to look at five of the hottest players in baseball and their chances of keeping it going ...
Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals
The Naked Truth: .336 average, 12 HR, 35 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Ludwick, not Albert Pujols, leads the Cardinals in home runs (12) and RBI (35). Since May 17, the St. Louis outfielder is 7-for-19 with 4 HR and 10 RBI.
You're my boy, Blue!: The 29-year-old Ludwick is in the middle of a breakout season and his confidence seems to have blossomed, "I think I may be becoming the player people thought I might be," Ludwick said. "Everyone in here gets smarter as they get older in this game."
His teammate, Adam Wainwright, summed it up a little differently, "He's a stud," Wainwright said. "You don't hear anything about him from ESPN or any of the reporters or anything. But he's quietly having one of the best years out there." (AP)
Think KFC will still be open?: It's hard to tell. Ludwick has been tearing the cover off the ball, but this is the first time in his career that he is getting to play on a consistent basis. Last year, he batted .267 with 14 HR, and 52 RBI in 303 AB.
He's been great against right-handed pitchers, though. In 38 games this season against right-handers, Ludwick is hitting .390 with 6 HR, and 23 RBI. In 27 games this season against lefties, he is hitting .245 with 6 HR, and 12 RBI.
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Adam Dunn, Reds
The Naked Truth: .237 average, 11 HR, 29 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Dunn has had a monster week. Since May 14, the left-fielder is 9-for-21 with 5 HR, and 10 RBI.
You're my boy, Blue!: Those home runs that Dunn hit over the last week, came over a stretch of five straight days. "Home runs come in spurts and I just have a little spurt going," Dunn said. "I'm seeing it good and everything is starting to come together." (The Sports Network)
Think KFC will still be open?: Dunn has always been a streaky hitter, but the power numbers have always been there. The Reds' star has hit at least 40 home runs, in each of the last four years.
He's in a good situation tonight. He is 7-for-23 with an HR, and 2 RBI in his career against Padres' starter Randy Wolf.
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Ted Lilly, Cubs
The Naked Truth: 5-4, 5.14 ERA
Having a nice little Saturday: Over his last four starts, Lilly has compiled a 4-0 record, giving up 10 earned runs over 25 1/3 innings with 31 Ks.
You're my boy, Blue!: "I don't think I just stand out there and try to throw fastballs by guys," Lilly said. "I have to mix my pitches and change speeds and locate the ball and things like that. And at times, when I got my curveball going, I'm going to get some strikeouts on it. But I'm not going to say I'm a power pitcher." (ESPN.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: Lilly is no stranger to winning streaks. Last year, he went on a stretch in which he won six starts in a row. He definitely seems to have gotten his stuff together after getting rocked over the first few weeks of the season.
The left-hander's next scheduled start will be on Sunday against the Pirates. He has already faced Pittsburgh once this season, picking up a no decision after going 3 and 2/3 innings, and surrendering five earned runs, and seven hits.
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Josh Hamilton, Rangers
The Naked Truth: .328 average, 11 HR, 51 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Hamilton is having a monster week, to go along with his monster season. Since May 16, the Texas outfielder is 14-for-25 with 3 HR and 7 RBI.
You're my boy, Blue!: Even Lance Berkman seemed blown away by what he saw from Hamilton over the past weekend. "[It was] pretty impressive," Berkman said. "That guy is hitting some pitches I probably wouldn't even swing at, and if I did, I'd be out. He's hitting them off the second deck for three-run homers and stuff. Tremendous bat speed, great-looking athlete. We saw some of that last year when he was with Cincinnati." (MLB.com)
Think KFC willl still be open?: The scary part about Hamilton is that he is still seeing many of these pitchers for the first time. This is only his second year in the big leagues. Last year, in 90 games with the Reds, he hit .292, with 19 HR, and 47 RBI.
He's super-great when the Rangers are at home. In 23 games in Arlington, Hamilton is batting .385 with 7 HR, and 32 RBI.
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Scott Kazmir, Rays
The Naked Truth: 3-1, 1.57 ERA
Having a nice little Saturday: After struggling in his first start off the DL and then having his feelings hurt by being left off the Sunshine State All-Stars, Kazmir has been dominant. Over his last three starts, the left-hander is 3-0, having given up one earned run, and 10 hits.
You're my boy, Blue!: Even after earning the win on Tuesday night, Kazmir still believes he has a few more hurdles to get over, to get back to how he felt last season. "It felt good, but it still feels like there's another step to take," Kazmir said. "Everything felt strong, I felt like I was able to stay closed a little bit and actually just let it go. I felt like I had my legs under me and everything." (TBO.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: The only thing that can stop Kazmir, it seems, is another injury. When healthy, he has the ability to be one of the top pitchers in the game. His next scheduled start is set for Monday against Texas. In four career starts against the Rangers, Kazmir is 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA and 33 Ks.