A Giant leap forward

Baseball Tonight Extra

Originally Published: June 21, 2004
By Mark Simon | ESPN Research

Out of the Box
On May 19, Moises Alou beat his father's team with a game-winning home run. Since then, the Giants have been playing terrific baseball. They are winners of 22 of their last 30 games, and it's not just about Barry Bonds any more.

Giant Steps
How three Giants players have fared since May 20:
Player BA HR RBI
A.J. Pierzynski .309 4 23
Michael Tucker .292 5 21
Edgardo Alfonzo .282 4 25
The Giants are averaging 6.1 runs per game in their last 30 games.

The Daily Rundown
Yes, Trey Wingo did reference both the soap opera character Marlena Evans (thought to be dead, but not) and the 1969 Mets (also jump-started by an 11-game winning streak) in reference to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on the Monday night edition of "Baseball Tonight."

There's a lot to learn about the Devil Rays and players such as Carl Crawford, who has been clocked from home plate to first base in 3.9 seconds; Aubrey Huff, whose mother bought him a batting cage not long after the tragic death of his father; and Julio Lugo, who has emerged as one of the best run producers on the squad.

Rays Of Our Lives
Tampa Bay Tidbits:

  • Aubrey Huff has raised his batting average 81 points since May 7 (.186 to .267).

  • Carl Crawford's 30 stolen bases is tied for the major-league lead.

  • Julio Lugo ranks second on the team with 40 RBI.
  • Touch 'Em All
    Ron Belliard (2) -- Sixth career leadoff home run.

    Casey Blake (11) -- Three homers in his last six games.

    Aaron Rowand (6) -- Five of his six home runs have come at home in 2004.

    Jason Lane (2) -- 10th career homer.

    Phil Nevin (10) -- Fourth home run at home in 2004.

    Vladimir Guerrero (17) -- Has three homers in six games vs. the Athletics.

    Stat of the Night

  • The last season in which the White Sox led the major leagues in batting average was 1919. The White Sox entered Monday with a major-league best .284 batting average.

    Source: Elias Sports Bureau.

    Most Important Thing
    Rob Dibble: Behind every good pitcher is a good catcher, like Brad Ausmus or Bengie Molina.

    Beyond "Tonight"
    Last week, in crossing paths with a first baseman from Florida Southern named Fred Popp, and in subsequent conversations with baseball fans, the challenge was issued to create a team of baseball players whose names were appropriate for the sport (only unlike Popp, it was decided that the spellings had to match the baseball phrase). That seemed like a good idea for this column, so long as we could tie it to our show, and a couple of current players, both of which were accomplished.

    Our squad starts at first base with Vic POWER. Though Power maxed out at 19 home runs as a season-high in a 12-year career from 1954 to 1965, he won seven Gold Gloves and was a solid contributor to every team he was on.

    Homer Bush
    Bush

    The second baseman is ESPN's Harold Reynolds. How does this fit the theme? Around here, many people refer to him by the initials "HR," and even though he only had 21 career home runs, he fills needs of speed and defense, beating out HOMER Bush.

    Former Mariners and Red Sox mainstay SPIKE Owen, and surprisingly Spike is his real name, plays shortstop, and hopefully he can avoid a few raised cleats on slides to turn double plays.

    Dave CHALK will guard the chalk along the third-base line and hopefully he'll hit a little better than the .252 career batting average he compiled from 1973 to 1981.

    Johnny BENCH wouldn't ride ours. He would be our best hitter, the lone Hall of Fame member on our team and our anchor behind home plate.

    The outfield could use a little help, with Horace SPEED, who didn't have much (four steals in nine attempts in 113 games 1975-79), HOMER Summa (18 home runs with the Pirates, Indians, and A's from 1920 to 1930), and TROT Nixon, who hopefully will round the bases often, but won't jog after many fly balls.

    At designated hitter, who else but Cecil FIELDER, who wasn't strong defensively, but clubbed 319 home runs and helped the Yankees win the World Series in 1996.

    The pitching staff needs a couple of starters, and our choices are Herb SCORE (55-46 1955-62, whose career was never the same after he was hit in the head by a line drive) and Bob WALK (105-81 career from 1980 to 1993). Holland-born reliever WIN Remmerswaal (3-1 with the Red Sox in 1979 and 1980) gets us through the middle innings.

    Eric Gagne
    Gagne

    Our closer assures us this will be a pretty good team, one that won't worry about the end of games. That's Eric GAGNE. For those who didn't take French in school, "Gagne" is a form of the verb meaning "to win," and the Dodgers have done nothing but that when he pitches, as evidenced by his streak of 81 straight saves.

    Suggestions are welcomed on how to better this team, and feel free to provide thoughts on who should run the dugout as manager.

    Mark Simon is the researcher for ESPN's Baseball Tonight. He can be contacted at Mark.A.Simon@espn.com.