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Sunday, July 13, 2008
Updated: July 14, 11:11 PM ET
Hamilton looks to add HR crown to dream season

ESPN.com

Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire

Josh Hamilton hit 21 homers in the first half. Can he hit enough Monday to win the Home Run Derby?

BREAKING DOWN THE DERBY

By Chris Singleton, ESPN

The biggest question I have about the Home Run Derby is this: Will Lance Berkman switch-hit? No, seriously, the left side is obviously where you have to be for a home run hitting contest at Yankee Stadium. It's 314 down the right-field line, so I think the lefties will have an advantage there.

He's strong, but Florida's Dan Uggla has short arms. He's short and quick and he really gets to fastballs. He's able to turn on them and get the bat there quickly. But you're not going to have the type of velocity on pitches in the Home Run Derby that you would in a game. So he'll almost have to wait a little bit longer and be a little more patient because he is so quick and he doesn't have the wingspan that some other guys in the Derby have. When the velocity of the pitches is not so great, his timing will be affected.

I like Josh Hamilton to win the Derby. He obviously has been a great story, and he's had a great first half for the Rangers. More than that, he is a lefty, and he has the ability to just "throw" the ball out of the park with his bat. He's so strong, and he's just got more of that home run swing than some of the other guys.

People have questioned it, but I think Alex Rodriguez's reason for skipping the Derby is somewhat valid. When taking batting practice before a game, guys can get into bad habits because they are out there trying to hit home runs. When you consider the amount of swings that you're taking in a competition like the Home Run Derby, it can have an impact on your swing. That's a lot of swings to sort of groove a bad habit. The excitement of hitting the ball out of the ballpark for a player can be hard to resist. The biggest challenge can be to have the discipline to hit the ball up the middle and hit the ball hard the other way because everyone loves the thrill of a home run. There's no better feeling -- ever -- than the ball going off your bat and carrying over everything and into the seats. And even though a guy can be struggling and knows what he needs to do to get back on track, he still thinks, "If I can hit a home run on this at-bat, I don't want to pass up this opportunity to have that feeling." So it takes a lot of discipline to really rein things in and get your hitting back on track to hit for average, and then, eventually, for power.

A guy like A-Rod knows himself, knows his swing. I think with everything he's got going on -- on and off the field -- he wants to show as much commitment as he can to his performance for the Yankees. He wants to help salvage the season and possibly get the Yankees to the postseason. He doesn't want to jeopardize that. I totally understand guys who worry that the Home Run Derby could alter their swings. It depends on how mentally tough you are -- and how disciplined you can be after the Derby.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: July 10 | July 9 | July 8 | July 7 | July 6 | July 3

FADING RAYS

By Mark Simon, ESPN Research

The Rays were the talk of baseball for much of the first half. But now, the murmurs about the Rays' decline are starting.

The Indians on Sunday finished a four-game sweep of the Rays, exposing the Rays' lack of offense and occasional weak starting pitching. Tampa Bay has now dropped seven straight and fallen out of first place in the American League East, not the best way to head into the All-Star break.

Inside the series (Indians sweep Rays)
TB CLE
Runs 8 31
BA .185 .338
HR 1 9
BA with RISP .120 .375
Starters' ERA 9.27 1.71

Rays' past 7 games
W-L 0-7
BA .186
Runs 13
Batter K-BB 69-23
ERA 6.67
Opponents' BA .313
HR allowed 12

BBTN ON THE AIR: MONDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Eric Young, Peter Gammons
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Steve Phillips, Eric Young, Peter Gammons

BBTN MINUTE: DERBY PREDICTIONS

SUNDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Tim LincecumTim Lincecum finished off a strong first half by holding the Cubs to one run and six hits in eight innings. He also struck out nine against one walk.
BAD
Jose ContrerasJose Contreras was just one of 10 pitching culprits in the White Sox's game vs. Texas. The two staffs gave up 23 runs and 39 hits.
UGLY
Andrew Miller• The Dodgers knocked around starter Andrew Miller, who gave up five hits and seven runs in just 1 2/3 innings in the Marlins' 9-1 loss to close the first half.

"TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME"

Ballgame It's the 100th anniversary of baseball's most famous tune, and "Baseball Tonight" asked nine popular musical artists to record a rendition of the song for a battle of the bands. On Sunday, a winner was crowned. The winner is … Gretchen Wilson.

NEWS AND NOTES

Bobby Jenks• White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, out with bursitis near his nonpitching shoulder, is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Winston-Salem on Monday. If all goes well, he will then go to Double-A Birmingham and pitch there Wednesday. The White Sox are hoping to activate Jenks from the disabled list immediately after the All-Star break.

Odalis Perez• Perhaps Odalis Perez should ask for a day off if he is scheduled to pitch against the Astros. Over his career, Perez, who lost against Houston on Sunday, is 0-5 in seven starts against Houston.

• The Indians extended their home winning streak against the Rays to 13 games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is the longest such current winning streak in the majors.

FANTASY vs. REALITY: FUTURES GAME