Holliday getting his kicks at the plate
Cardinals impact acquisition went back to old style
After Matt Holliday hit a first-inning home run on Saturday -- his fifth as a member of the Cardinals -- he was batting .500 (38-for-76) since the trade that brought him over from the Oakland A's. The home run came, as nearly all of them have this season, came with Holliday's signature leg kick that he uses to help his timing and balance.
Interestingly, he had tried to get rid of the kick this spring when he worked extensively with Mark McGwire to simplify his stride.
"I thought if I could minimize it or tone it down -- maybe even go to a stride -- I could be more consistent," Holliday told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It worked really well in the cage and during [soft] toss, and so I stuck with it for a while. ... I was trying to eliminate it still at the beginning of the season. I got off to a rough start and had to go back to what I was comfortable doing."
So, despite looking a little rough, Holliday says the kick is what works for him, and he doesn't plan on trying to change it anytime soon.
"It's not that I'm swinging hard, but, when I'm going good, it looks violent. It doesn't feel violent," Holliday added. "I've been swinging pretty well lately. It's more based on feel than production. Right now I feel like I'm recognizing pitches, that I have [a good] approach. How you feel about your swing doesn't always hinge on the results."
Thome ties Jackson with No. 563: Jim Thome hit his 563rd career home run on Saturday night, tying Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for 12th all-time in the White Sox's 8-1 victory over the Oakland A's.
"It's pretty neat and humbling," Thome told MLB.com. "Reggie is one of the all-time greats with what he's done for the game, and to be a part of that is pretty neat."
Johnson a victim of dugout chatter?: On Friday night, Josh Johnson had a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings. Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez fears he may have jinxed Johnson by talking about him with pitching coach Mark Wiley, specifically about Johnson's rising pitch count.
"I turned to Mark and said, 'He has an extra day off, right?'" Gonzalez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, referring to Monday's day off. "He said, 'Yeah, we pushed him back.' I'm thinking to myself we could even push him back two days, then, bam! Home run. Just like that. I said I jinxed him, and [Wiley] said you've got to ask that question."
Willingham also shines on basepath: Josh Willingham has turned heads with his hitting the past two months, but on Sunday he helped win a game with heads-up baserunning. The Nationals outfielder took advantage of a slow relay throw to score the winning run in Washington's 5-4 win over Cincinnati, giving the Nationals their 11th win in 15 August games.
"Just spur of the moment," Willingham, who also homered in the game, told the Washington Post. "I took off."
"A heads-up play," interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "You can't teach that. That was all him."
Francoeur finds plenty to like about Mets: Jeff Francoeur gave a phone interview to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently during which he talked about his new life with the Mets.
"Oh, heck yeah, it's a big transition, but it's a lot of fun," Francoeur said. "[Citi Field] is sweet. The locker room is unbelievable. They have two chefs on-site full-time. They've got a steam room, sauna room, three hot tubs, two cold tubs. It's really cool."
Bannister's cut fastball a natural phenomenon: When Brian Bannister throws a fastball, it cuts like just about no other pitch in baseball. But the Royals' pitcher says he's doing nothing special.
"Even when I was young and I threw a basketball or threw anything, it always cut. It's kind of how my natural arm action is, how my body's put together. It's kind of unique. I wouldn't recommend it to everybody," Bannister told MLB.com. "I found that I don't throw a natural sinker, the natural two-seamer the way that most guys do, and it's kind of what makes me unique."
Nix swinging with newfound rhythm: Laynce Nix has been swinging a good bat lately, and the Reds outfielder says that a good part of that has to do with his comfort level at the plate.
"I've recently felt that my rhythm at the plate has been a lot better than when I got into a slump," Nix told MLB.com. "I feel more comfortable since I've done that. I will continue to grind out the at-bats and try to finish strong."
Matsui picks up 2,000th career hit: Kaz Matsui joined Japan's Meikyukai, or Hall of Fame, on Saturday night when the Astros second baseman collected his 2,000th career hit with an infield single. Matsui had 1,433 hits during his career in Japan before coming to the United States and playing in the Major Leagues.
After the game against the Brewers, Matsui's former Seibu manager, Osamu Higashio, presented him with a blue blazer signifying his membership in the Meikyukai. Matsui is the 56th Japanese player to be so honored and the fifth who played part of his career in the United States. Membership in the Hall of Fame is for players with 2,000 hits, 200 victories or 250 saves.
"Whenever I started playing baseball, I couldn't imagine I could get 2,000 hits," Matsui told the Houston Chronicle through a translator. "Today I wore the jacket and realized how important this is going to be."
Bush making progress after triceps tear: Dave Bush threw two simulated innings on Saturday, moving him one step closer to a return to the active roster with the Brewers.
"From my eye, he showed no trepidation in releasing the ball," manager Ken Macha told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "His cutter was cutting pretty well, and his sinker was sinking with good finish."
Out since late June with a triceps tear, Bush will pitch in Minor League rehab game on Tuesday for Class A Wisconsin.
Wright lands on DL after hit to helmet: David Wright was discharged from the Hospital for Special Surgery on Sunday, one day after getting hit in the helmet by a fastball. Wright was then placed on the 15-day disabled list with "post-concussion symptoms and a headache."
There is a chance that Wright will miss the rest of the season.
"It's going to depend on the tests," manager Jerry Manuel told the New York Daily News. "If there's any question, it's a possibility."
Bruney providing boost out of bullpen: The outstanding relief of Brian Bruney lately has given the New York Yankees one more weapon to use out of the bullpen in late innings.
Bruney, who has battled injuries this season, has not allowed a run in his last four appearances, covering five innings, including a scoreless frame on Friday in a tie game. These performances are progress that Girardi said was important to see.
"We wanted to see his stuff get back to where it was," manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News. "We wanted to put him in situations where he'd have a chance to work it out -- and it's worked out well."
Vizquel shines in relief of Kinsler at second: Ian Kinsler was able to return to the Texas Rangers lineup over the weekend, but Omar Vizquel did a great job filling in for Kinsler at second base in his absence, hitting .347 with five multi-hit games in his last 12 games. During that span, his average climbed from .274 to .301.
"That's what professional baseball players do, and he's totally a professional," manager Ron Washington told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram of Vizquel. "He knows what his job is, and he's not in awe of anything that he sees. He goes out there, and the game just flows."
Zaun has sights set on being oldest catcher: Gregg Zaun, who hit a game-winning grand slam on Sunday to lift the Rays past Toronto, 5-2, said he wants to be the oldest catcher in baseball. Only 38 right now, Zaun wants to play until he is at least 45 and start a game at catcher to see if he can match what Carlton Fisk did.
"I know I'm 38 years old, and I know I'm a catcher," Zaun told the St. Petersburg Times, "but a lot of people forget that the first eight years of my career were spent on the bench. So I got the benefit of those years of experience, being there watching the games and playing behind some pretty good catchers, without the mileage on my body.
"I would like to be mentioned in the same breath as a guys like Julio Franco [who played until 48] as far longevity goes. ... All the rigors of the position, the pain, the stuff you go through to play -- I don't know anything else. I really don't. I really don't know what else there is to do."
Rookies Borbon, Andrus shine for Rangers: It was rookie night for the Texas Rangers on Saturday against Boston. Thanks to a group of players who were all at Double-A Frisco last season, the Rangers defeated the Red Sox, 7-2, as the club got seven hits and seven steals from Julio Borbon and Elvis Andrus, a solid start by Derek Holland, and the first career save by Neftali Feliz in a game caught by Taylor Teagarden.
"What it says about the whole organization is that we're filling it up with some talent," manager Ron Washington told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We're not afraid to bring our young kids up here and let them play."
Borbon hit leadoff for the Rangers, went 4-for-5 at the plate and stole four bases. Andrus was 3-for-4 and had three steals.
Kotsay ready to lend a hand in playoff push: Mark Kotsay knows he isn't going to get as much playing time as he might like with the White Sox, but he admits that it's not all about that at this stage in his career. A chance to make the playoffs is all Kotsay wants.
"I'll keep doing what I'm doing now," he told MLB.com. "I'll play when a guy needs a day off or gets hurt, I'll pinch-hit or pinch-run. At this point in the season I'd rather be playing with a team in the race rather than on some last-place team. This is something we're all excited about."
Rasmus provides walk-off blast: With his team tied 5-5 in the ninth inning with the San Diego Padres on Sunday, rookie Colby Rasmus smashed a walk-off, two-run, game-winning home run, giving St. Louis a 7-5 win and a sweep of the visiting Padres.
"It doesn't get much better than that," Rasmus told MLB.com. "Especially with the long day, the rain delays and everything -- I just tried to get up there and relax and get a good pitch to hit. It felt pretty good when I hit it."
Wolf splendid on the mound, at the plate: The star of the game on Sunday for the Dodgers was Randy Wolf, who shut out the Diamondbacks over the first seven innings. He also delivered three hits, including a home run, in the team's 9-3 win.
"My last few outings I've been a lot more aggressive, going after guys a lot more, pitching in a lot more, and I've had good success doing that," Wolf told the Los Angeles Times.
"You get lucky sometimes," said Wolf of his batting, which produced three RBIs on Sunday. "It just all comes in one day."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.