|The Braves' Chipper Jones takes a 13-game hitting streak into the All-Star break. (US Presswire)|
Who else? Chipper Jones, the Braves' all-time great, is going to the All-Star Game in style. He takes a 13-game hitting streak and the admiration of almost everyone with him to Kauffman Stadium, fittingly the only park in which he's never played.
It is so obvious Jones deserves to be an All-Star that 19-year-old Bryce Harper threw his support behind Jones in the 34th-man balloting. MLB heard Harper (and frankly, everyone else), and made Jones the replacement for injured Matt Kemp before all the Final Vote balloting was in. Good idea.
While there is irony in Jones making the team because of an injury (we can only imagine that Jones' total of eight All-Star Games would be much higher if not for his own injuries), he still has managed to fashion one of the more brilliant recent offensive careers. Those who saw him struggle in spring training (when he announced that this season would be his last) might not have expected such production this year from Jones, but he is showing a very nice finishing kick. He is 11 for his last 22.
For those who say Joey Votto is a shoo-in for NL MVP, we present Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who leads the surprising first-place Pirates in every offensive category, and now leads the NL in batting average (.362).
McCutchen signed a six-year, $51.5 million extension this spring, committing himself to the Pirates, a club without one winning record since another talented outfielder, Barry Bonds, left town. But McCutchen's dedication remained evident as he put together a big spring which has only continued into this brilliant season.
McCutchen not only is 15 for his past 29 but he's stepped up his power game, too. His confidence must be at an all-time high, as he didn't hesitate to replace monster power hitter Mike Stanton (out because of arthroscopic knee surgery) in the All-Star Home Run Derby.
Scouts at the Futures Game on Sunday were talking about what a nice future Ruggiano might have. Until recently, no one expected to hear anything like that about him.
But now, he looks like either a late bloomer or a late discovery, a la Bryan La Hair. Ruggiano, 27, has seemingly come out of nowhere recently to become the brightest spot of a tough Marlins season.
Ruggiano got only sporadic chances in a half-decade with the Rays, garnering only a total of 207 at-bats over five years before the Marlins wisely snapped him up. Considering all their first-half troubles, no one could have used him more.
In a way, he also has replaced Giancarlo Stanton -- at least for the moment -- as he's batted fourth four times for the Marlins (he's mostly batted fifth), hitting .390 with six homers and 17 RBIs. The Marlins are the only team without an All-Star in Kansas City (Stanton was replaced) in a pretty unfair twist of fate. But at least Ruggiano has played like one lately.
No word from Youk about how feels about the Red Sox's up-and-down existence since the longtime Boston hero was dealt to Chicago's South Side team, but one thing's for sure, he's thriving in his new environment.
While Will Middlebrooks, Youk's ballyhooed Boston replacement, was shelved because of an injury this week, Youkilis made himself into an instant hero in Chitown. Over the past eight days, he has 14 hits in 31 at-bats, including three home runs and a bunch of big hits. The two-time World Champion, who wasn't happy as his days wound down in Boston, appears to be reveling in his lucky turn. And no one can blame him.
Chicago feels pretty fortunate, too, having acquired him for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and extra arm Zach Stewart -- not to mention $5.5 million to offset his salary. It was the first trade of the trading season, and may wind up being the best.
1. Dan Uggla, Braves 2B:
He won the NL All-Star vote at second but takes an unbecoming .221 batting average to Kansas City. The notoriously streaky Uggla was in a 1-for-23 slide before hitting a two-run homer and taking a 1-for-3 Sunday to raise his average from .220.
During a career of great highs and extreme lows, perhaps Uggla's all-time low was the 2008 All-Star game at old Yankee Stadium where he had a memorably awful performance. He committed three errors and bobbled a couple other balls while turning an equally ineffective performance at the plate. But knowing Uggla's history, he has as much chance to go to K.C. and be the MVP of the game as he does to repeat that dreadful game.
One of the most coveted prizes of the trade market, Greinke didn't help his cause with rare back-to-back starts at Houston resulting from an ejection following a fit four pitches into Saturday's game. That allowed him to return to pitch Sunday.
Greinke, a noted All-Star snub, will also start the first game back from the break, meaning he becomes the first pitcher to start three straight games for his team since 1917. Greinke, who loves the game and its history, seemed genuinely excited about that rare trifecta. However, he needs to pitch to his usual form to help the Brewers market him (the Braves, Orioles and Rangers are among teams thought to be interested in Greinke).
Including his previous start this week, Greinke allowed nine runs in nine innings for an even 9.00 ERA. That's just not him. Weird week.
If Romero pitches better, the injury-depleted Blue Jays will have a much better chance of staying in the playoff race. Considering rotation mates Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are out for the season and Brandon Morrow is out for the moment, they absolutely need their ace to perform like one. And even then, it won't be easy for the unfortunate Jays.
And Romero has hit one of the worst patches of his career lately, losing three straight starts while allowing 18 earned runs in 15 innings over those starts for a 10.80 ERA. Romero's season ERA is now all the way up to 5.22, unsightly for an ace.