Big League Stew - MLB

This and every weekday morning let's rise and shine together with the latest happenings in the Roll Call major league world of baseball. Today's starts in the Valley of the Sun where Jeff Karstens shows that dominating a NL West team is so easy that even a Pirate can do it.

As they did on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, substitute squeezers Rob Iracane and Camp Tiger Claw of Walkoff Walk fame have the call. This is their last appearance on the Juice (for now), so we'd like to thank them  for their efforts by granting their departing wish and posting the picture of the rocker on the left.

Whatever strums your guitar, gentlemen.   

Game Of The Day: Pirates 2, Diamondbacks 0

Practically Perfect: Pirates starter Jeff Karstens faced 23 Diamondback batters in the first seven and two-thirds innings and sent them all back to the dugout without a fruit cup. This left him just four outs shy of the vaunted perfect game. Of course, it wasn't to be as outfielder Chris Young lined a double to left, a double that killed both a perfect game and a no-hitter. Karstens got Alex Romero to ground out to end the eighth, then worked around a single and walk in the ninth to finish his first career shutout.

Return to Sender (Please?): Karstens went two-for-three in the game and scored on a Doug Mientkiewicz double in the eighth; he's batting .500 in his short NL career. Karstens began his career in the Yankees system but suffered several setbacks, including a broken leg incurred by a Julio Lugo comeback liner in April 2007. With a seeming abundance of starters, Karstens was traded by the Yankees in the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady trade to the Pirates last month. He's now thrown 15 straight scoreless innings for the Pirates. Wanna bet that Brian Cashman wish he'd gotten rid of Darrell Rasner instead?

Cold War Kids: Lost in the quest for a perfect game was the heated rivalry between veteran infielder Mientkiewicz and super-tall, super-awkward pitcher Randy Johnson. In a June 9 game at PNC Park, Randy and Doug had a little staring contest that escalated into a bench-clearing square dance. Seems that Mientkiewicz called time and stepped out of the batter's box just as Johnson was starting his pitching motion. Doug won the battle today as his eighth inning RBI double sent Randy to the showers.

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Feelin' Rundown (Wednesday's other games):

Cubs 11, Astros 4 — Houston hurler Brandon "Baby Got" Backe allowed but eleven earned runs in five July starts. He matched that total in just over three innings against a Cub offense led by Mark DeRosa's third inning tetra-tot. We faxed Ron Santo but he did not read my liveglog.

Rays 10, Indians 7 — Cleveland's bullpen absolutely crumbled in the ninth, allowing six runs without recording a single out. Carlos Pena's 3-run walkoff homer off Masa Kobayashi sealed the deal.

Brewers 6, Reds 3 — Reds' starter Homer Bailey entered the game with a sky-high 7.55 ERA and actually saw it go up even higher. Allowing six runs in five innings will do that to you. Walkoff Walk favorite Salomon Torres notched his 22nd save.

Angels 9, Orioles 4Vladimir Guerrero and the Angels continue their post-Teixeira-trade tear. Vlad and Tex combined to go 4-for-6 with two walks, four RBI, five runs and a homer. Hey, maybe Mike Scioscia was right about the Anaheim offense!

Twins 7, Mariners 3 — After driving in 14 runs over his past three games, Raul Ibanez went without an RBI. I guess Twins outfielder Denard Span hogged them all, notching four of 'em on three hits. THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY OF THOSE TO GO AROUND.

Giants 3, Braves 2 — If he hasn't struck you out yet, Tim Lincecum will come to your house and throw three baseballs at your refrigerator door, politely tip his cap, and move on to your neighbor's kitchen. Kid is just unhittable sometimes, like when he sent down all three Braves hitters with a K in the eighth.

Phillies 5, Marlins 0 — Looks like dating former Survivor contestant Stephenie LaGrossa is serving Kyle Kendrick well. He pitched six scoreless and was helped by Ryan Howard's 32nd homer.

Padres 4, Mets 2 — Two first inning solo dingers put Pedro Martinez in the corner and the Mets impotent offense wouldn't let him out.

Toronto 5, Oakland 1 — I find it strangely comforting that the A's didn't win at all while we were here. They're like patron saints for you losers. Rod Barajas hit a 3-run tater tot and Shaun Marcum threw seven good innings.

Yankees 5, Rangers 3 — While Joba was making Yankee fans grumpier than Statler and Waldorf they almost forgot they were on the verge of being swept by the Rangers. Well pay attention, dammit. Sidney Ponson turned in his second solid perfomance, Jason Giambi went all funny bone and that was that.

Red Sox 8, Royals 2Luke Hochevar dropped his razor and said goodbye to your sister only to get lit up by the boys from Boston. Jacoby Ellsbury had a 3-run homer and Florida State Seminole JD Drew drove in two (from the leadoff spot). It's almost enough to make you not want to move to Kansas City.

Cardinals 9, Dodgers 6RYAN LUDWICK IS STRONGER THAN ZANGIEF. Kid hit a home run in his fifth straight game. It came right after Albert Pujols hit a Peanut Buster Parfait (or as you squares call it a 'grand slam'). Manny hit one out, but who cares?

White Sox 5, Tigers 1 — That's it. Stop the fight. The Detroit Tigers are finished. Dog food. No playoffs for a team I predicted to go to the World Series. John Danks mystified 'em with his stupid facial hair and stupified 'em with his mystifying pitching. WordUpThome hit a 3-run bomb. Jim Leyland oughta be ashamed of himself.

Nationals at Rockies: Postponed.

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Photo of the Day: The Whole Park Is Spinning

Umpire Bob Davidson regrets handing out whip-its.

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Fantasy Freaks

Jeff Karstens (Pirates) 9IP, 2H, 0R

Mark DeRosa (Cubs) 2-for-3, 1HR, 5RBI, 1R

Albert Pujols (Cards) 4-for-4, 1HR, 4RBI, 2R

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Fantasy Fruitcakes

Brandon Backe (Astros) 3.1IP, 11ER

Justin Morneau (Twins) 0-for-5, 2R left ISP

Derek Lowe (Dodgers) 3.1IP, 8 ER

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Words of Mouth

"You can have nine Manny Ramirezes out there and I'm still going to go and play my game. I don't have to impress Manny Ramirez or 45,000 people. My job is to play hard and help my team to win." — Albert Pujols, properly refocusing our collective attention to the best player in the NL

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