Three up, three down: Short but stout sluggers lead home run race


Cole revival: As the Dodgers continue to stash Chase Utley on the disabled list in advance of next week’s roster expansion and his subsequent retirement, his teammate on the 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies has turned back the clock. Cole Hamels, 34, was pretty ordinary for the Texas Rangers this season, and the Chicago Cubs took a flier on him at the trade deadline. In his last five starts for the Rangers, his ERA was 10.23. In his first five starts for the Cubs, his ERA is 0.79. Hamels gave up 23 home runs with Texas, still tied for sixth in the American League, through Friday. He has faced 127 batters with Chicago, and he has given up zero home runs. Hope remains alive for a Cubs vs. Houston Astros World Series in which Cole (Hamels) could face (Gerrit) Cole.

Brave young world: The Washington Nationals’ implosion opened a door for another team to win the National League East, and the Atlanta Braves walked right through the kiddie door. The Braves this week became the first team to use three 20-year-old starters (Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, Bryse Wilson) in the same season since the 1965 Kansas City Athletics. Second baseman Ozzie Albies, 21, and outfielder Ronald Acuna, 20, are tied for the team lead in home runs, with 21 each. Throw in pitchers Luiz Gohara and Touki Toussaint, both 22, and Atlanta has seven of the 14 youngest players in the major leagues this season. “Are you under 21 and looking to make some last minute summer cash? Try out for the Braves,” tweeted pitcher Brandon McCarthy, 35.

Short people: The AL leader in home runs: Khris Davis of the Oakland Athletics, with 39. Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians has 37. The AL leader in home runs last season: Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, who stands 6 feet 7. But look down, as Davis is 5-10 and Ramirez 5-9. The last AL player of that stature to win the home run title: Al Rosen of the Indians, who was 5-10, in 1953. Ramirez also needs two stolen bases to become the AL’s first 30-30 player since the Angels’ Mike Trout in 2012. With his 28 stolen bases, Ramirez is one shy of the league leader, Dee Gordon of the Seattle Mariners, who stands 5-11 and has two home runs this season.



National disaster: The Nationals waved the white flag, trading infielders Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams on Tuesday, after trading relievers Brandon Kintzler and Shawn Kelley within the previous three weeks. The Nationals have yet to win a postseason series, making it all the more painful that the team shut down Stephen Strasburg in 2012, in his comeback season from Tommy John surgery. The New York Mets did not shut down Matt Harvey in 2015, and they advanced to the World Series. Strasburg has been better and healthier than Harvey since then, a bittersweet vindication. The Nationals of Strasburg and Bryce Harper — the back-to-back No. 1 picks in 2009 and 2010, respectively — are 0 for October, with Harper weeks away from free agency. The last Washington pitcher to clinch a postseason series remains Walter Johnson, in 1924.

Beyond a rubber arm: The modern care of pitching arms has not pierced the culture and tradition of Japan’s prestigious Koshien, the national high school baseball tournament. Kosei Yoshida led his school to this summer’s finals by starting four games in five days, throwing as many as 164 pitches in a game. He was routed in the championship game, with his velocity down about 10 mph, and apologized for lacking the strength necessary to win, according to Times columnist Dylan Hernandez. When the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani participated in the tournament in 2012, he threw 173 pitches in a game.

Homecoming court jester: Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays was eagerly awaiting his June 21 start at Angel Stadium. Sanchez grew up in Barstow, and some 180 friends and family members would be on hand for his first career start in Anaheim. He pitched one inning, then left the game and went on the disabled list because of what the Jays called a bruised middle finger. It was not until this week, with the Jays about to activate him, that he fessed up about how he got hurt: Hours before the game, his suitcase fell, with his finger stuck inside. “My knuckle got super fat,” he said. He didn’t say anything and tried to pitch, he said, because Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez had been mocked earlier this season for injuring a knee while lifting luggage. Said Sanchez: “I didn’t want to get laughed at.”


Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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