Peralta powers way into cleanup spot

Hot Peralta powers way into cleanup spot

Jhonny Peralta, who is batting .371 in his last 26 games with seven home runs and 28 RBIs, has filled in exceptionally well in the cleanup spot for the Indians.

"I feel so good at the plate right now," Peralta told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I'm seeing a lot of guys on base. I'm concentrating on driving in runs. I feel good hitting No. 4."

Manager Eric Wedge feels good about it, too.

"He has taken ownership in the middle of the lineup," Wedge said.

Karstens' command was the difference: Jeff Karstens was almost perfect on Wednesday night, tossing 7 2/3 innings before losing his perfect game in what was eventually a 2-0 Pittsburgh win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He gave up just two hits and a walk.

"To be honest," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after taking a deep breath, "I'm just trying to let some of it sink in."

He certainly impressed his teammates.

"Unbelievable," said center fielder Jason Michaels. "From where I was watching, there might have been no more than five times where he threw right over the middle of the plate."

Marcum's back with good old stuff: Before missing a month of the season with elbow soreness, Shaun Marcum ranked in the top five in strikeouts and ERA among American League pitchers. On Wednesday, the old Marcum was back on the mound for the Blue Jays.

He no-hit the Oakland Athletics through the first five innings before yielding a solo home run. It was the only run of the game for the A's.

"After the game, I told him, `Welcome back,'" catcher Rod Barajas informed The Toronto Star.

With hamstring healed, Crawford returns to thievery: A sore left hamstring has slowed Carl Crawford lately, but the speedster is close to 100 percent now, which is good news for the Rays.

"I feel strong enough to go full speed," Crawford told the St. Petersburg Times. "That was the reason we wanted to rest these three days so I can play at full speed and not have to worry about playing at like 70 percent."

Crawford, a four-time steals champion, stole a base last Friday and then another on Saturday, snapping a streak of 18 games without a steal.

Livan Hernandez gets a big welcome from Rockies: Seeing a chance to get back into the National League West race, the Rockies acquired Livan Hernandez from the Minnesota Twins. The move was met with enthusiasm in the Colorado clubhouse.

"How can they not think we are in it? It's a good sign," third baseman Garrett Atkins told the The Denver Post. "No one is running away with this division. And this is only going to help us."

Benoit back into the mix with healthy shoulder: The Rangers have activated Joaquin Benoit from the disabled list. Benoit had been slowed by shoulder inflammation.

"My shoulder feels good, as good as it's felt this year," Benoit told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "The way the team is playing, I'm coming back here and want to help the team. I want to try and be the guy I was last year for the last two months."

The Rangers expect to use Benoit in the fifth and sixth innings right now as he works his way back into a normal routine.

Ellsbury finally goes long against a lefty: Jacoby Ellsbury hit a three-run home run on Wednesday, his first career home run against a left-handed pitcher.

"That's pretty neat, especially going to dead-center," Ellsbury, who had not homered since June 15, told the Boston Herald.

Mets rookie finds late-inning role: With the Mets' bullpen depleted, manager Jerry Manuel says he won't hesitate to put 22-year-old rookie Eddie Kunz into some late-inning pressure situations.

"You don't really know how youth will respond despite success at a lower level," Manuel told Newsday. "So what I hope to do at some point is find him a spot where he has the confidence that he can close at the Major League level."

Helping Kunz make the rise from the Minors to the Mets this season is his command of the slider, a pitch he worked on last fall in the Arizona Fall League and into the spring.

Wainwright could come back as a reliever: Adam Wainwright, who was originally scheduled to start his rehab work on Saturday at Triple-A Memphis, is now set to work on Friday and again on Monday with a reduced pitch count. St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak acknowledged that the team is considering whether to use Wainwright as a reliever -- possibly as the team's closer -- when he returns.

"We moved him up since he's probably going to come back as a reliever," Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's not set. There's a chance before he comes back that [we'll] have a solution and it's not a need. Then he'll come back as a starter. We want to be prepared. Right now, everything is on the table."

Perez gets rave review from manager: Rafael Perez has been ideal as a setup man for the Indians.

"If we move him into the closer's role, we have to find another left-hander to do what he can do," Wedge told the Akron Beacon Journal. "And there's something to be said for someone who can pitch that seventh and eighth inning to get to the closer.

"I'm very confident in him. He's one of the best young left-handed relievers in the game."

Jim Johnson ready to contribute: Jim Johnson isn't overly concerned about whether he pitches out of the bullpen or as a starter.

"Coming into camp this year, I was just trying to make the team, so as long as I'm pitching up here, I don't care," he told The Baltimore Sun. "I like both roles. Whether you are starting or relieving, you are trying to get guys out. Once you toe the rubber, it's all the same."

Guerrero's power surge impresses Hunter: The Angels bolstered their offense once more with the return to form of Vladimir Guerrero. Guerrero homered and drove in four runs to lead the Angels to a 9-4 win over the Orioles on Wednesday night.

"The guy is a Hall of Famer," teammate Torii Hunter told the Los Angeles Times. "Other pitchers and other teams know that. Vladdy can get on base any time he wants to. They're not going to give him anything to hit. He can swing and get you anyway."

Volstad silences crowd with six shutout innings: Rookie Chris Volstad pitched Thursday night in front of 45,521 hostile Philadelphia fans and threw six shutout innings, leading the Marlins to a 3-0 win.

"To pitch in front of a full house with some of the hardest fans in baseball, he was right there locked in," Marlins third baseman Wes Helms, a former Phillie, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I always tell everybody winning is an attitude. If you feel like you're a winner, it carries on."

Wrist click gets Ortiz's attention: Doctors told David Ortiz that his injured wrist would possibly click at times. On Monday night, it did just that, and even though he was told it could happen, it wasn't easy for Ortiz to accept.

"At some point, it gets in your head," Ortiz told the Boston Herald. "Should I take another swing? Should I hold it? Whatever -- it happens. That's the way injuries are."

Milledge chalks up a memorable day: The Nationals won a doubleheader over the Rockies on Thursday thanks to outfielder Lastings Milledge, who went 5-for-9 with two home runs and five RBIs in the twin bill. On both of his homers, Milledge got ahead in the count and attacked the pitcher.

"It was tough," Milledge told The Washington Post. "It's something now, even if you get ahead in the count, there's no guarantee you'll get your pitch. Today I got pitches that were in my hot spot. And to be a great hitter, you have to capitalize on those consistently, day in and day out."

Being 'effectively wild' works for Kershaw: Clayton Kershaw won for the second time in three starts as he limited the Cardinals to one run over seven innings. The Dodgers' rookie walked four and struck out seven in the outing.

"I was effectively wild today," Kershaw told the Los Angeles Times. "They were chasing my fastball up, so I used that a lot today."

It was the first run given up by Kershaw in his last 19 innings. The 20-year old lowered his ERA to 3.71 for the season.

Lopez brings experience to Cardinals: Former Reds and Nationals infielder (and sometimes outfielder) Felipe Lopez was signed earlier this week by the Cardinals to provide veteran depth down the stretch. For Lopez, the move is a welcome one.

"It's like night and day," Lopez told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "... You come here, and, as soon as I walked in I felt the energy. That inspires you, that motivates you to play well."

-- Red Line Editorial