Today's Closing Time is brought to you by the numbers 25, 6 and 4. Let's start with a quick look at the Windy City clubs.
Carlos Pena is one of those notorious streak hitters and perhaps he's starting to get locked in. He missed a homer Sunday afternoon by about a foot — Justin Upton secured the ball by the narrowest of margins — and Pena took Jonathan Broxton to the wall Monday. Okay, you don't get awards for warning track power, but Pena backed that up with homers Tuesday and Wednesday. The Cubs open a nine-game homestand Friday and they head to Cincinnati after that, so hopefully the ballparks will play nice. We can't be sure that Pena's thumb is completely healed, but we have to be encouraged by the recent swings.
What's going on in Juan Pierre's head these days? He was picked off Wednesday — make it nine caught stealings for him this year — and he also made his fifth error. At least Alex Rios is coming around; he stroked three more hits, including his second homer of the week. Gordon Beckham didn't start and maybe that's a good thing; he could use a mental health day. You look at his plate-discipline stats, and you can see how messed up he is right now — Beckham is swinging at 35 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, and he's cutting and missing 12 percent of the time. Droppable in a mixed league? I think Beckham is.
• It would be awfully nice if we could get some definition in the Cardinals bullpen, but Eduardo Sanchez blew a great chance to mark his territory Wednesday. He was working in a tie game in the ninth at home — standard work for a closer, even as it's not a save situation — and he promptly lost his way, allowing a Mike Stanton moon shot and a couple of walks. Mitchell Boggs cleaned up the Sanchez mess, getting the final two outs, while Jason Motte and Fernando Salas gained ground simply by staying in the bullpen.
• Anyone feeling a Chone Figgins revival? Stay with me for a second. He's got 11 hits over his last seven starts — two more Wednesday — and he's stolen three bases in the last week. His .235 BABIP has to be seen as a fluke, especially when you consider that Figgins has a solid 20 percent line-drive rate. I'm not throwing dirt on Figgins yet.
• It was a mixed night for Frank Francisco — he received Toronto's save chance and converted, but it was a white-knuckle ride all the way (1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K). The Rays had the tying run on third and the winning run on first when Francisco finally escaped. I'd bet on Francisco over Jon Rauch going forward here, but nothing comes guaranteed. Brandon Morrow scored Wednesday's victory, giving us a nifty start on the road (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 7 K). He's back at home for Monday, facing Detroit.
Sizzling Adam Lind collected four hits (including a homer) and is up to .316/.349/.513 for the year. He's been super against lefties as well (.355), particularly encouraging when you consider how they owned him last season. Running Rajai Davis grabbed his seventh base in the victory, as Brad Evans promised you he would.
• Travis Wood didn't get a decision in his matinee start, but there's nothing wrong with the bottom line (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 B, 7 K). His 6.21 ERA has to be seen as a gigantic fluke; he's struck out 34 men in 37 innings, and he's being dragged down by a crazy .365 hit rate and a poor 59.5 strand rate. Fly ball pitchers in Cincinnati get us all nervous, of course, but the Reds are doing the right thing keeping Wood in the rotation. Use him at Houston next week.
• The Dodgers didn't have a save chance in Wednesday's loss to Chicago but they did get three scoreless innings from their bullpen. Hong-Chih Kuo worked the seventh (one walk, two strikeouts), Mike MacDougal worked out of trouble in the eighth (two baserunners), and Vicente Padilla was perfect in the ninth (two whiffs). Padilla looks like the best save grab here by default, though the club doesn't want to use him in back-to-back days.
• The Angels and Red Sox played a wacky 13-inning game in and out of the rain, going well into the New England morning. The Sons of Scioscia eventually took the game by rallying for two runs in the 13th; when Terry Francona puts Daisuke Matsuzaka into the game, it's a tacit admission that it's time to go home. Scuffling Vernon Wells hit his third homer and had a couple of hits, while good-looking catcher Hank Conger went 3-for-4 with a walk (he's up to .308).
• Kevin Correia beat the Padres for his fifth win, lowering his ERA to 2.91 in the process, and I'll openly admit I'm rooting for the guy given what he's been through over the last year. That established, his secondary numbers don't inspire confidence: he's striking out just 4.08 men per nine innings and he's been lucky with his hit rate (.237 BABIP) and HR/FB rate (6.8 percent, well below the league average and his established career norm). Perhaps he's worth a weekly stream next week with a two-start hitch coming; he gets the Dodgers at home and Milwaukee on the road.
• Andy Behrens covered the Brandon Lyon meltdown Wednesday, and there's more smoke to the situation: Lyon is set to have his weak shoulder looked at, which means it's time to get up to speed on Mark Melancon and Wilton Lopez. Melancon should be your first speculative play.
Speed Round: If you went with a double-shot of Nate McLouth on Wednesday, we salute you: he went 5-for-5 in Atlanta's doubleheader sweep, with a homer and three walks thrown in. He's still lacking in the power department (.417 slugging), but at least he's got an acceptable average (.287) and OBP (.384). … Zack Greinke's season debut was underwhelming in the Atlanta nightcap (4 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) but better days are ahead; he gets the Padres and Pirates next week at home. The often-underrated Tim Hudson upstaged Greinke, throwing a masterful one-hit shutout (1 BB, 6 K, 15 GBO, just 102 pitches). … We're not sure how long the Phillies will need Vance Worley in the rotation, but he's looked the part through two starts (12 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 12 K, 46.7 ground-ball rate). His next start comes at Florida. … Scott Sizemore had a single and a steal in his second game back with Detroit. … It's never easy to watch Kevin Gregg pitch but so far so good; he's 6-for-7 on saves and hasn't allowed a run since April 18. He's still got a nasty walk problem — seven over 11 innings — but he's been getting away with it so far. … Grant Balfour closed for Trevor Cahill and Oakland, sparing us another Brian Fuentes watch. David DeJesus provided the offense, homering twice. … A sore elbow kept streaking Andre Ethier out of LA's lineup. … Kelly Johnson had a homer and a walk in Arizona's loss to Colorado, his first extra-base hit in almost two weeks. … Pedro Alvarez (quad) should be back in Friday's lineup. … C.J. Wilson and Michael Pineda brought the goods in the Pacific Northwest, with Wilson (CG, 1 ER, 12 K) getting the better of the Seattle kid (7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 9 K). Pineda was hurt by a couple of gopher balls; Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis went deep. … Derek Jeter left Wednesday's game with a minor hip injury. He's not in Thursday's lineup. … Let's talk baseball, music, condiments and inanity on Twitter.
Images courtesy Associated Press