High & Inside: NL Notes

Stephen Strasburg delivers against San Francisco.
Stephen Strasburg delivers against San Francisco.
Posted: July 12, 2010

Hitting the all-star break in first

How big was that Phillies win Sunday? It might just have kept them in the pennant race.

According to Tom Verducci of SI.com, any team with a lead of more than five games at the all-star break is a virtual postseason lock.

Since the current divisional format began in 1995, only one team led its division at the break by more than five games and failed to make the playoffs: the 2003 Royals, who blew a seven-game lead.

Entering play Sunday, the Phils were 51/2 behind Atlanta. The Mets were 5 down. But New York's win over the Braves and the Phillies' 1-0 gutbuster over Cincinnati kept both within striking distance of Atlanta.

History lesson

The major league draft of 2005 already is verging on the legendary. The first round alone produced Justin Upton, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Ricky Romero, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Matt Garza, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, and Colby Rasmus.

The Phillies did not have a pick in that first round, having forfeited the No. 17 slot to the Yankees for signing Jon Lieber as a free agent.

The Yankees drafted C.J. Henry, who was traded to the Phillies in the Bobby Abreu deal but out of baseball by 2008. In 272 minor-league games, Henry hit .222 and made 57 errors. He played basketball last winter for the University of Kansas.

Be ready to bail out

Given the chance to call his own pitches for the first time Friday night, Washington flamethrower Stephen Strasburg, displayed a penchant for the old-fashioned brushback.

The Nationals' rookie phenom threw 31 pitches inside, including one clocked at 99 m.p.h., a couple at 98, and one at 96.

Catcher Wil Nieves told Yahoo.com that when Strasburg aims inside, "It seems like 140. If you see a fastball in there, you just want to get out of the way. You're hoping not to get hit."

The Phillies next play Washington on the road from July 30 to Aug. 1.

Fast fact

Only two major-league teams still play on artificial turf: Tampa Bay and Toronto.

Every team in the Senior Circuit plays on grass.

All-star updates

Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo has been selected to replace injured Braves outfielder Jason Heyward at the All-Star Game. Kuo is the first player born in Taiwan to be named to the game.

Heyward is on the 15-day disabled list because of a deep bone bruise in his left thumb. Charlie Manual initially picked Braves closer Billy Wagner, who plans to retire at the end of the season, but he declined because of a sore ankle.

The amazing Mark Reynolds

The Arizona slugger has 20 home runs and 56 RBIs but is hitting just .214. He struck out three times Sunday to increase his major-league-worst total to 122 and is on pace to threaten the MLB record of 223 he set last year. He struck out 204 times in 2008, breaking the record of 199 by Ryan Howard in 2007.

Noteworthy

Sidelined all season following right knee surgery, Carlos Beltran will be back in the Mets' lineup immediately after the break. He'll play center field and bat cleanup Thursday night in San Francisco, manager Jerry Manuel said. . . . Former MVP Jeff Bagwell will take over as Houston's hitting coach when play resumes Thursday. Sean Berry was removed from the position Sunday and offered another job with the team.


Contact staff writer Don McKee at dmckee@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.

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