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Down The Line

August 23, 2009|Bill Shaikin

A pennant race, not a Holliday

In the off-season, the Colorado Rockies traded their best player, outfielder Matt Holliday, for a closer who had lost his job last season and a young outfielder who did not make the team out of spring training this year.

It might be the trade of the year now. As the Dodgers head to Coors Field this week, trying to hold off the surging Rockies in the National League West, Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street are starring in Colorado.

Gonzalez, 23, the outfield prospect acquired by Oakland in the Dan Haren trade and flipped to Colorado one year later in the Holliday trade, hit home runs in four consecutive games last week.

The Rockies called him up in June and eased him into the lineup, and he emerged this month as a pretty fair imitation of Holliday. Gonzalez began the weekend batting .380 since the All-Star break, and his .772 slugging percentage since then leads the major leagues.

Street, 26, blew seven saves in 25 tries for the Athletics last season. He has blown one save in 33 tries for the Rockies this season.

"Those bullpen guys are kind of like the stock market," Colorado General Manager Dan O'Dowd said. "Sometimes it's better to get them coming off a time when they struggle."

The Rockies might have kept Holliday for another year, and played for October, then taken two draft picks when he left as a free agent, but O'Dowd said the team would not have flourished amid the distraction -- not created by Holliday himself, but by relentless speculation about where he might play in 2011.

"We thought we needed to get back to the values we had," O'Dowd said, "without that hanging over our heads."

Holliday, traded to St. Louis in July, leads the majors with a .408 batting average since the All-Star break. And, in what might end up as a win-win-win scenario for three clubs: Infielder Brett Wallace, the key prospect given up by St. Louis for Holliday, hit five home runs last week for Oakland's triple-A affiliate.

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Glory days by the Bay

Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter last month. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain rank 2-3 in the NL in earned-run average, just behind Chris Carpenter of St. Louis. So which pitcher on this distinguished San Francisco pitching staff has the best ERA since the All-Star break? That would be Barry Zito, at 2.36.

The $126-million man is throwing fewer fastballs than ever -- half the time, and no more, according to fangraphs.com -- but he apparently has learned how to throw slow strikes without fear. His ratio of strikeouts to walks: 1:1 last year, 2:1 this year, 3:1 since the All-Star break.

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Your souvenir: She is . . . gone!

In the first summer of the rest of his life, Greg Maddux accompanied his son's youth baseball team to a tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., this month.

Before one game, a volunteer umpire asked Maddux to autograph a baseball. Maddux obliged, and the ump dropped the ball into his ball bag.

The umpire accidentally pulled the Maddux ball out of the bag during the game and threw it to the pitcher. He realized his mistake, but too late to stop the pitcher, so the umpire figured he would just change baseballs after that pitch.

That pitch, of course, was hit for a home run.

-- Bill Shaikin

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