When Jim Thome took Angels pitcher Dustin Moseley deep to give his team a 9-7 victory Sunday in Chicago, he did more than hit a walk-off home run. It was the 500th home run of his career.
"What a great day, a great feeling to do it here," Thome told MLB.com. "It's hard to explain what's going through me right now."
Thome has come a long way from his humble beginnings.
"He was in extended spring, and he could not hit a ball on the right side of second base," Kansas City Royals manager Buddy Bell, who was then an instructor in the Indians' system, told the Chicago Tribune. "He had no power at all. Nothing. Then one day he was [messing] around in the cage, he opened up [his stance] a little bit and he starting killing the ball. Charlie Manuel was down there at the time and he said, 'Hey, Jim, keep doing that, have a little fun.' Before the year was out he was in Double A. It happens like that sometimes."
White Sox hitting instructor Greg Walker says that Thome is, in his eyes, the perfect hitter.
"When I do work with left-handed hitters, we use his videos to help us teach," said Walker. "He's fun to watch. He does a lot of things that are technically correct. You take a big, strong guy with sharp fast-twitch reactions and repeatable, perfect mechanics and, wow, you get some hitter."
Jones chalks up save No. 300: When the final out was recorded in the Tigers' 6-4 victory over the Twins on Sunday, veteran reliever Todd Jones had recorded his 37th save of the season, which also happened to be the 300th of his career.
As he approached the milestone, Jones talked about saving nearly every game-ball that are now a part of history.
"I've got my whole career," Jones told the Detroit Free Press. "I'm missing 15 of them or so. I've got a nice little display at home, over a fireplace in my game room."
And the missing 15?
"Early on, I'd lose one or something like that," he said. "The last four, five years that I've been closing, I've been able to keep a pretty good hold on it."
Manager Jim Leyland says that Jones is an invaluable cog in the Tigers bullpen. "Todd Jones has been a tremendous pitcher for us -- tremendous," said Leyland. "He has done an unbelievable job the last two years.
"We'd be lost without him, last year and this year. This guy has been absolutely fantastic."
Jones is the 21st member of the 300 save club.
Hudson does Braves' bullpen a favor: With 13 games left in the season, the Braves got their first complete game of the year when Tim Hudson shut out the Nationals on Sunday. It was the 10th shutout of Hudson's career and his 16th victory of the season. With the win, Hudson lowered his ERA to 3.33 for the year.
"It's great seeing the bullpen guys coming in with a big smile on their face, knowing they had an off day," Hudson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "So many times this year they've been beaten up and have been abused a lot down there, having to come in early for some games. That's the most rewarding thing for me is to see those guys come in and feel like they had an off day."
It was the third time this season Hudson carried a shutout into the ninth inning. The two previous times he gave up hits and was removed and ended up with a loss. Sunday, he gave up just seven hits, including two to the first three batters of the game.
"It looked like his luck would run out in the first inning, honestly," manager Bobby Cox said. "Two high hoppers get through the infield, and here we go again. That's what happened when he started those other innings, ground balls got through."
Hudson struck out two batters to escape the first inning. Hudson credited an improved curve ball for his good outing after going 0-3 in his previous four starts.
Speedy Velez gets first hit: The Giants acquired Eugenio Velez in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft in 2005. He got his first Major League hit Friday night when he hit a triple. Speed is a big part of Velez' game. He stole 64 bases in 2006 when he was the MVP of the Class-A South Atlantic League. This season he stole 49 bases in Double-A despite missing seven weeks with an injured wrist.
"He'd have had 75 steals at Double-A if he played a full season," Giants vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Guys who steal 75 bases in Double-A usually make it to the Major Leagues."
His triple was a fine example of his speed. Most people assumed it was a double, but Velez was thinking triple as soon as he hit the ball and he beat a close play at third base because of his all-out approach.
Indians' Carmona makes it look easy: Dominating. That may be the best or only word to describe Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona after he shut out the Royals through eight innings in the Indians' 6-0 win over the Royals on Friday night. The victory, his 17th of the year, lowered his ERA to an American League-best 3.07.
"I was feeling really good and in a groove," Carmona, who struck out nine in eight innings of work, walked none and allowed only three hits, told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "I wasn't thinking about strikeouts. I had a fastball, change and slider. Every pitch was working."
Manager Eric Wedge wants people to know that while Carmona may look effortless on the mound, what he's been able to do is not an easy task.
"It's not as easy as it looks," said Wedge. "Other teams make adjustments, and he makes adjustments. He puts his emotions in the right direction."
Reds score early, often for Shearn: It seems like every time Cincinnati Reds 30-year old rookie pitcher Tom Shearn takes the ball, the Reds are scoring a lot of runs. In his first four starts, his team has notched 15 first-inning runs.
"(Shearn) said, 'Thanks for giving us a four-run lead,'" outfielder Adam Dunn, who hit a two-run home run in the first, told the Cincinnati Post. "I said, 'I knew who was pitching so I knew we needed it.'"
Dunn, of course, was just giving his teammate a hard time.
"(Shearn) is an easy one to joke with," said Dunn. "He's a different cat. It seems that nothing bothers him. If he can take it, we'll give it. We only need one or two for (Aaron) Harang, so we save them up for Hearn -- or Shearn, or whatever his name is."
Jokes or no jokes, Shearn isn't going to complain about the run support.
"I don't know what's going on," he said. "Every time I go out there and look at the scoreboard to see who is hitting, I see some runs up there and it's good to see."
Astros rookie Anderson is Morgan-like: After collecting his first two Major League hits Friday night and following that up with two more hits Saturday night, Houston Astros rookie Josh Anderson tied a 42-year-old club record Sunday by reaching base six times and going 5-for-5 at the plate in his third Major League start as the Astros defeated Pittsburgh 15-3.
Anderson is the first Astros rookie to reach base six times since Joe Morgan did so on July 9, 1965 against Milwaukee in a 12-inning game.
"I guess I am a little bit (surprised)," Anderson, who was hit by a pitch in the eighth, told the Houston Chronicle. "It's just one of those things. You feel good, feel locked in and are getting pitches to hit. It's hard to describe.
"When you get a few hits early in a game, you never know what can happen. These last couple of games we've swung the bat well, and we're playing pretty good here lately."
Brewers' Villanueva efficient as a starter: Carlos Villanueva has always preferred to be a starting pitcher. A reliever earlier this year for Milwaukee, Villanueva made his third September start and threw seven shutout innings Sunday against Cincinnati.
"We always knew that his future would be as a starter," manager Ned Yost told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Villanueva, who needed just 106 pitches -- 67 of them strikes -- to get through his seven innings. "We kind of got starter-rich in spring training. It was every intention to go ahead and send him to Nashville and go ahead and start there.
"But he pitched so well in Spring Training that he kind of made a niche for himself in the pen."
Villanueva started out well in the bullpen, going 6-0 with a 2.64 ERA through July 2. He then went into a bit of a slump over his next 18 appearances, going 0-3 with a 10.80 ERA. He was then briefly sent to Triple-A Nashville to start some games and stretch out his arm.
Since his return Sept. 1, he has gone 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in three starts.
Harris fits in fine every day with Rays: Since become a regular for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at either shortstop or second base, it has been nearly impossible to get Brendan Harris out the lineup, as he has started in nearly all of the Rays' last 140 games.
Not bad for a player who was given the "utilityman" tag in stops with the Cubs, Expos, Nationals and Reds prior to being traded to Tampa Bay this past offseason.
"The opportunity I've gotten and the position I'm in is so much better than any other year that I've had, when I've been here -- whether it's been September or whenever -- just sitting here waiting for a pinch-hit [chance]," he told the Tampa Tribune.
Heading into the season, Harris was a career .209 hitter. But given a chance to prove himself every day, he is hitting .286 after going 3-for-4 Saturday with 11 home runs and 59 RBIs. In the field, he has been nearly perfect. He has not committed an error in 44 games at second base and has only 12 in 86 games at shortstop, the third-fewest in the American League.
Barton smashes first home run: The A's called up top prospect Daric Barton despite having his Minor League team playing for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League championship. Barton has quickly adapted to Major League pitching, as he recorded four multiple-hit games in his first five starts. Friday, Barton posted a three-hit game, including his first Major League home run, to help lift the A's past the Rangers, 11-9.
"I'm still nervous, but the comfort level has been good so far," Barton told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm looking for the ball somewhere up in the zone. They've been challenging me, and I've been able to get the barrel on the ball."
His Minor League team, Salt Lake, ended up winning the championship.
"Good for them. They didn't need me," Barton said. "I'm happy for them and glad to get a ring."
Rolen optimistic after shoulder surgery: St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last week at the hand of Cincinnati Reds orthopedist Dr. Timothy Kremchek, said over the weekend that he was pleased to hear that his shoulder is actually going to feel better after the latest scope.
"I thought that's the way it was going to be the rest of my career," Rolen, already out of a sling, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "Settle for periods of productivity and then get a shot whenever it became fatigued or sore. I told myself I probably wasn't going to be the same player I was before the surgery."
After leading the Cardinals in games played in the first half of 2006 while batting .331 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs, he struggled in the second half but put off any further procedures at that time and instead just took a cortisone shot when the pain became too much.
"Would it have been better if he had been re-examined? Probably," said Kremchek. "But remember, there was a lot going on. The team had struggled the final month and then got on a roll during the postseason. Scott was productive. The team won. There was a parade. And afterward guys just wanted to relax and enjoy down time. Plus, the shoulder hadn't been a problem after the shot."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.