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Weekend Buzz: Strong pitching carries red-hot Reds to baseball's best record

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The Reds' Aroldis Chapman has a 0.20 ERA and a .102 opponents' batting average vs. NL teams. (US Presswire)  
The Reds' Aroldis Chapman has a 0.20 ERA and a .102 opponents' batting average vs. NL teams. (US Presswire)  

The Weekend Trade Deadline Buzz while you were wishing you could have completed a deal to send Paul McCartney and Hey Jude from the Olympic opening ceremonies elsewhere. Sheesh, no wonder British cops turned the power off when he joined Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band onstage last week. ...

1. Close shave by someone other than Aroldis: Cincinnati is Reds hot, and all Brandon Phillips could tweet about before he and his mates extended their winning streak to a scorching 10 games in a row with Sunday's win in Colorado was haircuts.

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Tweeted the fun-loving Mr. Phillips: "ATTENTION: Going for 10 games in a row! If we win, #HOF #MartyBrennaman HAS to cut his hair bald. ..."

Normally these days, it's the other guys getting a close shave from closer Aroldis Chapman, who regularly is making the Reds must-watch TV. Against National League clubs, Chapman owns a 0.20 ERA and a .102 opponents' batting average. Of the past 46 outs recorded by Chapman, 35 are strikeouts.

"He hit 101 mph again the other night," said one wide-eyed scout, and it's always the same with Chapman: Three years later, even baseball people continue to marvel at Chapman's heat.

The Reds are winning without Joey Votto (11-2). They're winning with pitching (through 101 games, like clockwork, the same five starters -- Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Mike Leake -- continue to show up). They're wowing 'em with their gloves (Cincinnati on Sunday was tied with the Diamondbacks for the fewest errors and best fielding percentage in the majors).

They're winning without a true leadoff man, and sources say general manager Walt Jocketty is trying to acquire one before Tuesday's trade deadline. Philadelphia's Shane Victorino is among those who have been mentioned.

With Votto down, it wasn't supposed to be this easy. But talk about stepping up. The Reds now have won 14 of 16 games since the All-Star break and 17 of their past 19 overall. The Reds hadn't won 16 of 18 since June and July 1998, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Reds have built their longest winning streak since 1999. At 60-40, Dusty Baker's club was tied with the Yankees and Nationals for the majors' best record.

As for Brennaman, their legendary radio voice, apparently there was some banter on a recent charter flight during which he said he'd shave his head if the winning streak hit 10. Now, according to long-time beat man John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Bailey is volunteering for the role as Brennaman's barber.

"I feel like the chemistry in here is awesome," outfielder Ryan Ludwick told reporters. "Everyone in here gets along. I think we believe. Having Votto out of the lineup as long as he's been out and to have the record we have, that's half the battle.

"I think this is the best actual team chemistry on the big-league level that I've ever been a part of."

Even ex-Reds are down with this.

"I have to have a picture of Marty Brennaman with a shaved head," Hall of Famer Johnny Bench tweeted shortly after No. 10 was in the books Sunday.

2. Now what's Josh Hamilton worth? As the Angels load up, Texas' slugger continues to deflate. Hitting only .145 with a .505 OPS in July, Hamilton was booed at home in Texas on Friday and benched by manager Ron Washington on Saturday.

"It's disappointing," Hamilton said of the booing. "I'll leave it at that."

Hitless in his past 19 at-bats with runners in scoring position, Hamilton no longer even slightly resembles that Monster Slugger he was during May.

"I'm not seeing Josh Hamilton," one longtime AL scout who has seen Hamilton this month said. "When Josh Hamilton is Josh Hamilton, he doesn't let [Angels reliever Ernesto] Frieri throw three straight fastballs by him. When he's right, he turns those around.

"I don't know what it is, but something is not right. There's no fear among pitchers with him right now. He's missing by a lot.

"Maybe it's the pressure of that contract. Maybe it's the long season. Maybe he's injured and he's not saying anything. If he is hurt, he needs to rest and get ready for the rest of the season, because it's coming down to nut-cutting time.

"To me, if he's right, Texas wins the division. With Josh Hamilton, the Angels can't catch the Rangers."

3. Angels strike for Zack Greinke: No, that's not going to make Josh Hamilton's life easier. Lifetime, he's 0 for 16 against Greinke.

4. On fish tales, and dodging 'em: Paying immediate dividends to the Dodgers after they acquired him from the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez slugged a key home run Friday and knocked in six runs in his first four games as a Dodger.

Last time the Dodgers visited the Giants, June 25-27, they were shut out in three straight.

Saturday, Ramirez blew straight through a stop sign from third-base coach Tim Wallach and scored.

"Maybe they had a different sign in Miami than the universal hands up," manager Don Mattingly deadpanned afterward.

5. White Sox on Target: Five consecutive wins into Sunday night's series finale in Texas and the Sox had gained three games in the standings on Detroit. Meantime, not only is ultra-aggressive Chicago general manager Kenny Williams pulling every lever he sees in acquiring Kevin Youkilis, Brett Myers and, Saturday night, Francisco Liriano, but the Sox are starting Liriano on Tuesday night in ... Minnesota.

6. Marco Scutaro won't help with this: Through their first 50 home games, the Giants hit only 16 home runs at AT&T Park. Their 0.33 homers per home game is the majors' lowest average in more than 20 years, and as Stats LLC points out, three players in the majors have at least that many home runs at home as the Giants entire team: The Diamondbacks Jason Kubel (17), the Tigers Miguel Cabrera (16) and the Yankees Curtis Granderson (16).

7. Extra Cheez Whiz, less steak: After getting swept by the Braves, the Phillies are headed right where their Pennsylvania-neighbor Pirates are leaving off: With a losing season. "One time, we had the greatest attitude and best hustle of any team I ever had," manager Charlie Manuel told reporters the other day in a brutally honest assessment of the Phillies. "Teams used to tell me, general managers used to tell me, they had just as much talent but we had more heart. I always thought we had the talent and the heart. Seriously. We kind of slipped a little bit. I think our play shows that."

8. Carl Crawford's magic number: So Red Sox doctors said he couldn't play in more than four consecutive games because of his elbow. Then manager Bobby Valentine used him in six games in a row. Then Valentine admitted he ignored Boston's medical staff, saying he "did a manager no-no thing" and used "the old veto power." Then former manager Terry Francona pulled up a chair in Boston clubhouse Saturday and several Red Sox players pulled up a chair as if it was kindergarten story hour and ... uncle! This team is exhausting.

9. Astros win: Sunday. Over Pittsburgh. Just sayin'.

10. Honesty is the best policy: Told that Nate Eovaldi, the starter acquired from the Dodgers for Hanley Ramirez, had been the victim of wretched run support in Los Angeles, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen never missed a beat. "I don't expect that much from here, either," Ozzie quipped.

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