You can probably guess who lit up the night in Houston, but who ruined the day in Boston?
Matt Kemp, Dodgers - Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. On Friday in Houston, Kemp went 3-for-3 with a walk and a home run. He now has eight bombs on the season (all of which have been opposite-field shots), and that means he's more than halfway to the all-time April record of 14, which is shared by Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez. Kemp is now batting .481 on the season (batting average doesn't always mean much, but it does when you're hitting .4flipping81) and has notched an RBI and-or a run scored in 13 of 14 Dodger games this season. Bold declaration: Matt Kemp is good at playing baseball.
Ross Detwiler, Nationals - Dewtiler wasn't even supposed to be part of the Washington rotation, but he snatched the job from John Lannan in the final days of spring training. Nice call, Nats. Detwiler was dominant again Friday night against the previously-surging Marlins. In six shutout innings, the lefty gave up three hits, fanned seven and walked only one. For the season, Detwiler's ERA now stands at 0.56.
Josh Willingham, Twins - Willingham went just 1-for-4 against the Rays on Friday night, but his one hit was a big one: with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Willingham smacked a triple to put the Twins on top for good. In the process, he extended his hitting streak to 14 games, which is a franchise record for hits in consecutive games to start the season. Pablo Sandoval of the Giants is the only other player to have a hit in each of his team's games in 2012.
Clay Buchholz, Red Sox - Way to be a buzzkill. Red Sox Nation was poised for a rousing centennial celebration, but, on Fenway's day, Buchholz wasn't able to rise to the holy occasion. The right-hander gave up nine hits, six runs and five homers in 6.0 innings of work. Not even 3.0 scoreless frames by the Boston bullpen allowed the Sox to get back in it. Unhappy birthday.
The Chicago Cubs - This is a team that has done nothing well this season. At this writing, the 3-11 Cubs rank last in the NL in ERA, 15th in OPS and 12th in defensive efficiency (which is the percentage of balls in play that a defense converts into outs). On Friday against the Reds, it all came together for the Cubs, as they gave up eight earned runs, went 5-for-34 at the plate and committed three errors in the field in a 9-4 loss.
Greg Holland, Royals - Holland, expected to stabilize the late innings during Joakim Soria's absence, has struggled badly this season. On Friday, he blew the save against the Jays and in doing so surrendered three hits, two walks and three runs without retiring a batter. His ERA for year now stands at 11.37. He's given up runs in four of his seven appearances in 2012.
Future vs. present: The mighty Rangers and almost-as-mighty Tigers were rained out on Friday, and that means a Saturday doubleheader in the Town of Mo. In the second game, Neftali Feliz, one of the most gifted young arms in baseball, opposes Justin Verlander, one of the most gifted arms of any age in baseball. The 2012 season is already notable for the lack of offense, and in this one the runs may be especially hard to come by. The Rangers enter play on Saturday having won seven straight. 7:05 p.m. ET
No-hitter alert: Presumptuous to send up the no-hitter flare before the game even begins? Perhaps. But it's the Phillies' Roy Halladay against the Padres in Petco. Halladay has been his usual excellent self this season, and on Saturday he'll be on the mound against a bad offense (almost as bad as the Philly offense) in a park that's unusually friendly to pitchers. His first and only prior appearance against the in Petco came last season, when he gave up one run and five hits and struck out 14 in 8.2 innings. 8:35 p.m. ET
Stras. Burg: Getting to see Stephen Strasburg crack off a few of his video-game breaking balls is always a privilege, and on Saturday the ace of K Street will face Anibal Sanchez (no slouch himself) and the Marlins. Can the Nats keep winning without their closer and their best power bat? 1:05 p.m. ET
• Tardy to the potty: One consequence of the new low-scoring environment in baseball is that the innings go by more quickly. That, as the Braves' Michael Bourn learned the televised way, leaves less time to attend to essential bathroom business. The game stops for no one, Mr. Bourn. [MLB.com]
• Hamels sings the blues: Cole Hamels, free-agent-to-be, knows the angst of the small-market fan. The Southern California native grew up a Padres backer but was scarred by the dismantling of the team following their 1998 World Series appearance. ”I mean, I loved that team, and all of a sudden it disappeared," Hamels told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I remember watching Fred McGriff before that, loving that guy, and boom, he's gone. I think it's hard to be a fan to devote your time to players, then see them leave like that."
• Nice work if you can find it: A rare Honus Wagner card, one of 60 believed to be in existence and one of 22 in acceptable condition, just sold for more than $1.2 million in auction. Inspired by the growth prospects in this undervalued sector, I shall now make available the 1981 Topps Tom Herr card that I used to carry around folded up in my pocket. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
• A quiet struggle: Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Tribune takes a compelling look at Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez and his young son's battle with autism. Rodriguez admits to being "angry at God" after the initial diagnosis and then disappointed that his son lost interest in baseball. But Rodriguez has learned to focus on the positive. "I've never been one of those who said my son has to play sports. Maybe he might want to, being around it, but I don't care. He can be a great piano player, or violinist, or a great architect. He kills puzzles. You could take a puzzle apart and he knows where everything goes, what goes in what corner. He kills puzzles. That tells me maybe he'll be an architect."
• Trollin', trollin', trollin': The great Pedro Martinez may have lost his fastball, but he hasn't lost his chops when it comes to tweaking Yankee fans. At Fenway on Friday, Martinez recalled the 2004 ALCS, when his Sox came back from 0-3 to vanquish the Yankees. “Now Boston has something that we can say back," Martinez said. "Whatever the Yankees bring up about all their success, we can easily knock it out by saying, ‘We knocked you out when it was 3-0.' Say that to any Yankee fan and they (stop) ... That hurt so bad. And look at it: The one the Boston Red Sox were able to get from the Yankees was probably the most painful ever in any sport.” [New York Daily News]
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