06/20/2007 1:30 PM ET
Sammy on the verge of No. 600
Sammy Sosa became a household name as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Now, he's trying to make history against his former team.
Only Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays have hit more homers than Sammy Sosa. (Al Behrman/AP)
The Texas Rangers' designated hitter needs only one home run to reach 600 in his career, and the Rangers are in a three-game series against the Cubs.
Sosa spent 13 years with the Cubs, and he has fond memories of his time there.
"I have all my memories there, anything that a man can possibly imagine in baseball, I had it at Wrigley Field -- an incredible place, great fans, unbelievable," Sosa told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "But right now, I'm a Texas Ranger. All the love that I have for Chicago is still there, but now I'm on a different team doing my job."
Out of baseball last season, Sosa has come back this year in fine fashion. He leads the Rangers in RBIs with 51 and has 11 home runs. His play has silenced critics who thought Sosa would be unable to produce this year.
"People didn't expect anything from me when I got to Spring Training. The bell rang, and I've just been sticking to my plan," Sosa said. "Every chance that I can have with somebody on base, I'm focused a little bit more, trying to bring that RBI home and trying to have a good at-bat."
Sosa, who plays mostly at designated hitter, hopes to eventually return to Wrigley Field and play in front of the Cubs fans.
"They come this year to our ballpark; maybe next year we've got to go to their ballpark," Sosa said.
Figgins basks in 6-for-6 game: Chone Figgins had a 6-for-6 game in Monday night's 10-9 come-from-behind win over the Astros. He tied the game with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning and his RBI triple in the ninth gave the Angels the win. Even on Tuesday, Figgins was still basking in the glow of his performance.
"I came in here, sat down for a few minutes, really sat back and enjoyed it, because that doesn't happen too often," Figgins told the Los Angeles Times. "But you eventually have to forget about it and come back tomorrow."
Last September, Figgins hit for the cycle. He was unsure if the six-hit game trumped the cycle for his personal-best game in the Majors.
"I think I liked the cycle more," Figgins said. "It's tough because the cycle came in a loss. The six hits came in a win."
The six-hit game is just the latest in a recent hot streak for Figgins. He started the year on the disabled list and got off to a slow start when activated. But since being given two days off, Figgins is batting .484 in his last 74 at-bats.
"He's a grinder," Scioscia said. "I thought his offense would come back in pieces, but it's coming in gushes. He's got to be the hottest hitter in baseball right now."
Blanton lifts A's staff: The A's needed a big game from a starter and Joe Blanton delivered on Monday. In the previous two games, Oakland allowed 25 runs. But Blanton tossed eight innings and allowed only one runner to score, lifting the A's to a 6-1 win over the Reds.
"We needed a well-pitched game from our starter and we got it," A's manager Bob Geren told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It was needed ... needed for our bullpen. We got hit around a couple times and we were looking for someone to come out and do something like that."
The outing lowered Blanton's June ERA to 1.44 and he is 3-1 in the month.
"I knew the past couple of games we'd used a lot of guys out of the 'pen, so I just tried to attack the zone a lot," Blanton said. "I just let it work. ... And I have such a good thing going with (catcher Jason) Kendall; I see the sign and throw the pitch. That makes it a lot quicker, too."
Big turnaround for Byrnes: In 2005, Eric Byrnes was a platoon player for the Baltimore Orioles and hit .192 in 52 games. Not offered a contract at the end of the season, Byrnes was hoping his career wasn't over.
"Of course I had questions. I didn't know if I was going to find a job," Byrnes told the East Valley Tribune. "I can't blame the Orioles, because I didn't play well for them. The only thing I was disappointed with was that they wouldn't bring me back in Spring Training and give me a better look."
Byrnes, however, didn't have to worry about finding a job. He received several contract offers. He decided to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks and has blossomed into a possible All-Star outfielder.
Byrnes leads the team in hitting (.306), home runs (10) and runs scored (41) while his 35 RBIs rank second on the team. He also leads the club in stolen bases with 13. Those numbers may be good enough to land Byrnes on the National League All-Star team. The game will be played in San Francisco, which would be a homecoming for Byrnes, who grew up in Redwood City.
"It would be very cool. It would be awesome," Byrnes said about possibly returning to the Bay area as an All-Star. "But we have some business to take care of now."
An auspicious debut for Gallardo: It will be tough for Yovani Gallardo to top his Major League debut for the Milwaukee Brewers against the San Francisco Giants. The rookie earned the win in his first start for the Brewers, appearing poised on the mound despite a rocky first inning.
"Gallardo pitched a great game in his Major League debut," closer Francisco Cordero told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
After a 31-pitch first inning, Gallardo hit his stride and lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four.
"In the first inning, I was a little nervous, but I was able to settle down," said Gallardo.
Gallardo also did the job at the plate. In his first Major League at-bat in the second inning, he smashed a two-out double to left-center field to score Rickie Weeks. The hit wasn't a fluke, however. At Triple-A Nashville, Gallardo hit .250 with three doubles and one home run in 24 at-bats.
"I was very excited about that," Gallardo said about his hit. "I love hitting. I look at that as a bonus for a pitcher."
Gallardo also wore No. 49 on his uniform, given to him by equipment manager Tony Migliaccio in honor of former Brewers pitcher Teddy Higuera, who like Gallardo is Mexican. Gallardo said he appreciated the gesture.
"I found out a couple of days afterward (that it was Higuera's number)," Gallardo said.
Torre: A-Rod's got a shot at Maris' record: Roger Maris may not own the single-season home run record anymore, but he still owns the American League mark. However, current Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez could make a bid to break the record of 61 homers set by Maris in 1961.
Entering Tuesday night, Rodriguez has 27 home runs, putting him on pace to hit 65 for the season. Manager Joe Torre believes Rodriguez can break Maris' mark.
"I think his chances are very good," Joe Torre told the New York Daily News. "I have no idea what the ceiling is for this kid."
Rodriguez started the season hitting home runs at a blistering pace with 14 dingers in April. However, he slowed down in May, hitting only five home runs, before warming up again this month. So far, Rodriguez has hit eight home runs in June. But while everyone is seeing if Rodriguez can keep up his current pace, he isn't thinking too much about any home run records.
"I don't get caught up in that," Rodriguez said. "Winning is what makes it all special; when you're helping the team win games, that's what counts."
Pena's maturity leads to success: Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena had to fight for a roster spot this spring. Now, he is one of the top hitters in the American League. Pena ranks third among all Major League players with a 1.092 OPS while ranking fourth in the American League in home runs with 16.
Through Tuesday, Pena is hitting .309, which ranks second on the team, while his 43 RBIs is the most on the club. For a player who wasn't assured of a spot on the roster at the start of the season, Pena isn't surprised with his production.
"Not at all," Pena told the St. Petersburg Times. "I'm not surprised because I always envisioned this. I always thought it would be this way. In my mind, I've been expecting it."
Pena spent most of last year at Triple A. But under the guidance of manager Joe Maddon, Pena has flourished with the Rays. Pena took Maddon's advice of trying to hit the ball to center field and "stay inside the ball."
"I'm more mature as a hitter so, yes, I am more consistent with the approach, " Pena said. "It all starts in the head and what you think about and visualize before the game, and being able to stay calm during an at-bat. All those things are so important."
Rowand may need to change mid-July plans: On July 1, Major League Baseball will announce the rosters for the All-Star Game, and those that follow Phillies outfielder Aaron Rowand on a daily basis believe he's got a real chance to represent his team in the game on July 10 in San Francisco.
Rowand, though, isn't counting on it. His focus is instead on winning another World Series championship like he did with the 2005 Chicago White Sox.
"Honestly, I already have my plans for the break," Rowand told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It obviously would be a dream come true to be able to say I've made an all-star team, but I definitely don't get my expectations up. I just concentrate on going out, playing and winning. That comes first. That's the focus right now, because, really, the thing I want most is another ring."
Despite having plans though -- which include seeing a new family home in Las Vegas that he's yet to visit since his family moved in as well as some golf -- Rowand admits he could be flexible.
"But I'd probably break plans if I made it," Rowand joked.
Streaking Watson gets the callup: Fresh off breaking a 95-year-old record in the Triple-A International League with a 43-game hitting streak, the Nationals have called up Brandon Watson to be their starting center fielder.
"All I know is he's got a 43-game hitting streak, and anyone who can do that deserves a shot," general manager Jim Bowden told the Washington Times. "It's still against Triple-A pitching, so I say that cautiously. But you know, bring him up, give him a chance."
-- Red Line Editorial