Jimmy Rollins has joined fellow MVP candidate David Wright as the only players in Major League Baseball this season with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases, but Hanley Ramirez, Brandon Phillips and rookie Chris Young could join them with a strong finish this week.
Rollins hit his 30th home run on Tuesday night in the Phillies' 10-6 loss to Atlanta. Ramirez, who has 50 stolen bases, needs two more home runs, Phillips has 32 stolen bases and needs one more home run, while Young, who has 32 homers, is four steals away.
Young is only the second player to have at least 30 homers and 20 steals as a rookie. Nomar Garciaparra accomplished the feat in 1997 with Boston.
"I've been through so many obstacles in this game that I've learned you've got to trust in yourself first before anyone else is going to believe in you," Young told the Arizona Republic. "You've got to believe that every time you walk to the plate that this pitcher can't get you out. You've got to believe that there's not a ball out there that you can't get to. As a team, you can't get intimidated by other teams."
Young played high school ball for Bellaire, near Houston. His high school coach, Ron Maddux, thought Young would be a good player, but never the power hitter he is right now.
"Thirty home runs? I didn't think of that," Maddux said. "Extra-base hits, stolen bases, yeah. But 30? That surprises me. He was always a hustler. He worked hard. It brings tears to my eyes, it really does, to know that you had a little bit to do with that kid's future."
Pence gets encouraging words from Pujols: Over the weekend in St. Louis, Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols pulled Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence aside to have a brief conversation with the rookie.
The deed left a strong impression on Hunter, as well as Houston interim manager Cecil Cooper.
"That showed me a lot right there," Cooper told the Houston Chronicle. "He has respect for guys that play the game and play it the right way. That was good. I'll tell you what he said, he said, 'You know what? Every year in spring training I go there to make the team.'
"I think that's great. He said, 'I go to Spring Training every year to make the team.' That to me is big. That's what you do. That's what stars do, meaning he's going there to play hard. Right from Jump Street I'm making the team. That's all right."
Pence, who hit his 16th home run Tuesday night against Cincinnati to set a club record for homers by a rookie, listened to everything Pujols had to say to him.
"It means a lot," Pence said. "Basically it just shows a lot of the character of Albert Pujols to come to a young rookie like me and tell me things such as to stay humble, to always play the right way, play hard and never take it for granted."
Coste's sense of smell brings back memories: As it turns out, it's true. Philadelphia Phillies catcher Chris Coste does sniff his bat -- but he says he has a very good reason why.
"I grew up in Minnesota and I went to the lake a lot," Coste told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "And one of my favorite smells is burning wood or burnt leaves. You rake up all the leaves and you burn them at the lake. That's what you do. So I've just always loved that smell. It reminded me of days when I was a kid.
"But there was one time when I first got into pro ball -- I don't know if I was catching or hitting -- but either myself or the batter barely nicked the ball on an unfinished bat. And you can smell it, without even putting your nose up to the bat. You could smell that same smell. So the next time I was hitting, I fouled off the ball and I smelled my bat.
"I don't know if it's the wood or the leather of the ball. Maybe it's the combination of both. But I think when I first did it, I might have hit a home run in that at-bat. So it's maybe 50 percent superstition, 50 percent because I just like the smell."
Willis becomes Marlins' all-time strikeout leader: Dontrelle Willis pitched seven shutout innings en route to a 4-2 Marlins victory over the Cubs on Tuesday. The win kept Chicago's magic number at four.
"I've been able to pitch good in big games," Willis told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "It's a big series for them."
Willis pitched eight innings and recorded seven strikeouts. He moved pass A.J. Burnett for the all-time franchise lead in strikeouts. Willis now has 755 lifetime strikeouts, all as a Marlin.
"It's a high honor to lead the organization [in strikeouts]," Willis said. "With all these other guys coming up, they'll break it soon. I'll enjoy it while I can."
Sheets unsure of starting status: Milwaukee pitcher Ben Sheets threw a bullpen session Tuesday and felt some progress.
However, the right-hander is still not sure if he will be able to make his next start Friday against San Diego. Sheets is currently trying to overcome a strained left hamstring that forced him to leave his start against Houston last Tuesday after the first inning and was unable to make is scheduled start this past Sunday. Sheets said he can still feel some pulling in the hamstring.
"I felt it," Sheets told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "It improved a little, but not too much."
Sheets said he may not get back to being 100 percent healthy. But he doesn't care about that. He just wants to be healthy enough to pitch.
"If it's good enough to make good pitches, then I'll go," Sheets said.
Clemens likely done until postseason: For the third straight time, Roger Clemens' scheduled start on Tuesday was pushed back after the Yankees pitcher continued to experience something wrong in his left hamstring. Clemens may not start the rest of the regular season, but he is positive he will be ready for the postseason.
"I think that's why they're working hard to protect that," Clemens told Newsday. "I'm going to try to keep myself from myself, if that makes sense."
Clemens threw a bullpen session Monday in Tampa. Afterward, he told general manager Brian Cashman he would need more rest but would pitch if the Yankees needed him to start. Choosing safety first, the club decided to skip his start.
"It just makes no sense to run him out there if it's still an issue," Cashman said. "If this were the last day of the season, (or) we were in the playoffs, nothing would stop him from pitching."
Indians' Carmona brilliant in September: When Fausto Carmona takes the mound for the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday, he will add more innings to what is already a career-high for him with 208 innings pitched. That number, though, does not concern the Indians.
"Fausto's done a good job of maintaining his delivery all season," pitching coach Carl Willis told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "He's a big, strong kid. And the emotion of this whole thing energizes everyone as well."
With a record of 18-8 and an ERA of 3.03, Carmona is not showing any signs of fatigue at all. His September record of 4-0 has seen him give up just four earned runs in 28 1/3 innings.
"Most of Fausto's outings have been right there around 100 pitches," said Willis. "He hasn't been pushed tremendously."
Heading into Wednesday, the numbers support what Willis believes, as Carmona has averaged less than 98 pitches per start.
A tale of two seasons for Burton: It's been a tale of two seasons for Cincinnati pitcher Jared Button, a Rule 5 pick from Oakland that struggled in the first half of the season with a 5.19 ERA that made his outstanding spring performances seem like a distant memory. Since then, though, he's been one of the best late-inning pitchers for the Reds and has sported an ERA just over 1.00 in his last 25-plus appearances.
"He started having some success, and he just got more confident," Reds manager Pete Mackanin told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It just keeps building with each outing. Now, we expect it."
Burton, who weighs in at about 6-feet tall and 230 pounds, can hit 94 mph on the radar and is plenty confident in his abilities.
"I'm not surprised at all," Burton said of his success. "You work hard to get the opportunity like this. I was thankful this winter to have an opportunity to come over here and have a chance. I finally got some opportunities after the All-Star break. I took advantage of it."
White's future might include changing diapers: It looks like the career of Rondell White, one that began in 1993 with the Montreal Expos, may be coming to an end. White has recently said that he is "99 percent sure" he won't be back in the Major Leagues next year, and is taking what is apparently his final trip around the league in stride.
"Everywhere I stop this year, I've always taken time to walk through the dugout and look around. Look around the field, take it all in," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "This place (Detroit), I had some good times here, even though we didn't win much. So it's not easy" to walk away from the game.
Even with that one percent chance still out there, White is being realistic about how he's feeling.
"When your body hurts, you've got to listen to your body," he said. "I'm going to go home (about 40 miles southeast of Atlanta) and think about it. But my mind is about made up."
With fewer at-bats that he'd hoped for this year, White still believes he could contribute as a hitter.
"I feel I can hit, I know it. (One hundred) at-bats don't determine if you can hit or not," said White, a career .283 hitter. "We were trying to put guys out there who gave us the best chance to win, and with my legs, I wasn't it. So my at-bats have been spread out."
Manager Ron Gardenhire doesn't disagree. "He still hits it 8,000 miles," said Gardenhire.
If he does leave the game -- starting on Monday -- White already has plans for his next role.
"I'm going to go home and raise my daughter," he said. "That's not too bad, either."
Bonds penciled in for final home game: Barry Bonds has not played since Sept. 15th due to a sore foot, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced following Tuesday's game that Bonds would be in the lineup Wednesday, the last home game of the year for the Giants. It's likely the last game that Bonds will play this season, as the team hopes to get a look at younger players for the final series versus the Dodgers.
The Giants will honor Bonds before Wednesday's game. The San Francisco Chronicle got some people associated with the team to share their favorite memories of Bonds.
Rich Aurilia, who first played with Bonds in 1995: "His 500th. A huge home run that beat the Dodgers, and I got a chance to be on base for it. I tripled right ahead of him, and when he crossed the plate, the two people there were me and the bat girl (Alex Busch). There was a long ceremony, and the Dodgers weren't too happy about it. It was the bottom of the eighth inning."
Jon Miller, who has called Giants games since 1997: "His birthday in 2003. He threw (Craig Counsell) out at the plate in the top of the ninth and led off the bottom of the ninth by hitting the first pitch out of the ballpark to end the game. He saved the game on one pitch and ended the game on the other. Who have you ever seen do that in the history of the game? After that, he got dressed to see his dad in the hospital."
Kevin Frandsen, who followed the Giants as a kid in San Jose and now is an infielder for them: "The whole 2002 World Series. It wasn't the pinnacle that San Francisco wanted, but Barry stepped up in the big moment. I was a junior at San Jose State, watching the games at home with my brother and parents. He carried the team, he'd get that one pitch and take advantage of it."
Nick Peters, who's retiring after 47 years covering the Giants: "You could make a case for a lot of things, but what's greater than 756? It's the greatest record in sports."
Sweeney hopes to remain with Dodgers: The Dodgers acquired veteran pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney for the stretch run. While the Dodgers did not make the playoffs, Sweeney hopes to return to Los Angeles for the 2008 season.
"I'm kind of one of those strange guys who's loyal to people who give me an opportunity," Sweeney told the Los Angeles Times. "Any time a team trades for you, it's a nice thing. But I don't know what their feeling is."
Sweeney has the second most pinch-hits of all time with 160. Lenny Harris has the most pinch-hits ever with 212. Sweeney is a long shot to reach Harris' mark, but hopes to continue his chase for the record next season.
"I'm going to play until they rip the uniform off," Sweeney said.
His first choice is to remain with the Dodgers, but if the club chooses not to re-sign him, Sweeney hopes to stay in the NL West.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.