Pence, Valverde share NL honors

Pence, Valverde share NL honors

Hunter Pence's job is to make a mess of Major League pitching. Jose Valverde's job is to clean those messes up.

It'd be scary to think what would happen if the two met.

Fireworks would likely fly, as Pence and Valverde proved last week that they're among the best at their jobs in the game, sharing National League Player of the Week honors for the season's seventh week. For one, it was a show of offensive excellence. For the other, a clinic in keeping offenses at bay.

And for both, it was a not-so-subtle reminder that they have earned their way into the ranks of the game's elite.

Pence's week began with a bang, as the 24-year-old rookie hit safely in each of his first seven at-bats. The third of those, a two-run homer against the Giants last Tuesday, kept Pence's Astros alive long enough to head to extra innings, where they eventually won the game.

"Just having [Pence] around adds a lot of excitement," Astros pitcher Woody Williams said of the blast. "He's like a little kid in that you don't know what he's going to do. It's fun to watch and fun to be a part of. He's just enjoying himself and doing a great job right now."

A day later, Pence was at it again, this time providing the winning run for Houston with a fourth-inning homer.

Pence finished the week at .591 (13-for-22) to lead the Majors, scoring five runs and knocking in five. And it's all the success the rookie has needed to endear himself to Houston with his unique brand of energy-infused baseball.

"[His energy] definitely rubs off," reliever Brad Lidge said after Pence's four-hit game. "It's hard to explain exactly how, but there's no doubt about it. He has so much energy -- sometimes it borders on out of control -- and it's a lot of fun for us to watch. Certainly some of the veterans can get [tired] as the season goes on, but every night he's something to watch."

So, too, is Valverde, who's been pitching seemingly every night for the D-backs. That's a good thing -- it means Arizona is winning -- and Valverde capped the team's hot streak with one of his own, polishing off all four of Arizona's wins last week with a save.

Valverde didn't allow a run during that span. He's now notched six straight saves in six tries, and has 16 on the season with a 2.79 ERA. And he provided plenty of relief in a taxed bullpen, ready at the call whenever manager Bob Melvin needed him.

"You've got to go for it," Melvin said, "and deal with the next day the next day."

Pence and Valverde beat out a strong NL field that included New York's David Wright (.409, 4 HR, 10 RBIs), Arizona's Randy Johnson (2-0, 1.54 ERA, 19 Ks) and Colorado's Taylor Buchholz (seven scoreless innings).

Tourneau, the world's largest watch store, will award Pence and Valverde luxury Swiss Tourneau watches for their efforts.

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.