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 ...
James Shields, Rays
The Naked Truth: 9-6, 3.66 ERA
Having a nice little Saturday: Shields has been impressive since the All-Star break, going 2-0 while surrendering four earned runs over 15 and 1/3 innings.
You're my boy, Blue!: Rays manager Joe Maddon knows that if his team is going to make it to October, Shields and the rest of the rotation has to continue to pitch like he did on Wednesday, going 8 and 1/3 innings, while giving up just three runs. "It's all about the pitching," Maddon said. "Shields doing what he did this afternoon permitted us to get that win." (Tampabay.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: Maybe. Shields has been the Rays most consistent pitcher this season, and there isn't much reason to think that won't continue. While some might raise issue with his age and durability, Shields pitched 215 innings in 2007, so it's not like he's pitching a big workload for the first time.
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Howie Kendrick, Angels
The Naked Truth: .341 average, 3 HR, 32 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Kendrick is 11-for-21 with a home run and 7 RBI since the All-Star break.
You're my boy, Blue!: Led by Kendrick and company, the Angels believe they will have enough offense to last until October. "I think we've got plenty of offense in this room to do well in the regular season and the postseason," pitcher John Lackey said, "if we're fortunate enough to get there." (LA Times)
Think KFC will still be open?: Probably. Kendrick has proven he is one of the most consistent hitters in the game, the only problem is that he can't seem to stay healthy for an entire season. He has already missed almost a month and a half of action this season because of hamstring injury.
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Melvin Mora, Orioles
The Naked Truth: .253 average, 15 HR, 63 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Since the All-Star break Mora is 13-for-26 with 4 HR and 15 RBI
You're my boy, Blue!: The All-Star break seemed to re-energize the Orioles' third baseman "I see the ball better," said Mora, recently. "I feel good at home plate right now." (Baltimore Sun)
Think KFC will still be open?: Maybe. Mora has always been a solid hitter, but it's doubtful that he can keep up this pace for much longer. He has not fared very well against right-handers this season, hitting just .239 against them.
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Conor Jackson, Diamondabacks
The Naked Truth: .314 average, 10 HR, 52 RBI
Having a nice little Saturday: Jackson is 12-for-25 since the All Star break with 2 HR and 5 RBI
You're my boy, Blue!: After splitting time with Tony Clark last year at first base, Jackson has blossomed into a full-time threat in the lineup since being given the starting job on a permanent basis. "It's nice to know that your name is going to be in the lineup every day when you come to the field," Jackson said. "You're not really looking over your shoulder if you make a mistake." (azstarnet.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: Probably. Jackson has hit consistently since coming up to the big leagues full-time in '06, so there is a good chance he will be able to keep that up. In the short term, look for him to keep his hot streak going tomorrow night when the D-Backs face Jonathan Sanchez and the Giants. Jackson is 7-for-9 against the San Francisco left-hander with a home run and 3 RBI.
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CC Sabathia, Brewers
The Naked Truth: 10-8, 3.30 ERA, (4-0, 1.36 ERA with Brewers)
Having a nice little Saturday: CC has been lights out since coming over from the Indians, winning all four of his starts while striking out 31.
You're my boy, Blue!: Brewers manager Ned Yost knew what he was getting when his team got Sabathia. "I know how good he is," said Yost. "It doesn't surprise me because I knew he was a fierce competitor, I knew that he was as durable as could be, I knew that he filled up the strike zone with three different pitches. So it doesn't really surprise me what he's capable of doing." (JSOnline.com)
Think KFC will still be open?: Yes. Sabathia is one of the best pitchers in baseball, there is no reason he can't keep this up. Most hitters in the NL haven't faced him before either, so he also has that advantage working for him, as we head down the stretch.