Pedro Alvarez and the Pittsburgh Pirates appear poised to put 20 years of misery behind them, after two years of teasing their fans by being in the hunt heading into the break only to fade down the stretch. With the Houston Astros now in the AL, the NL Central is one of the most competitive divisions.
Reds manager Dusty Baker knew it would be a stiffer challenge this year.
“I figured it’d be close, closer, because none of us have the Astros in our division that we were counting on — not to malign them — but they were in our division last year and every team kind of counted on beating them,” he said. “Now you’ve got to beat each other.”
So far it’s only been California dreamin’ for Josh Hamilton in his first year in Los Angeles, even with Houston in the division. He’ll have to improve on his .224 average, .413 slugging percentage for the Angels to have a shot to overtake Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes and the pesky A’s. Albert Pujols’ ballclub is 11 games back in the AL West and nine games behind for the wild card.
Baltimore’s big bopper Chris Davis is off on a race of his own. With 37 homers before the break — tying Reggie Jackson (1969) for best ever in the AL — talk of the single-season home run record is bubbling again.
Crush Davis, however, doesn’t have his sights set on Barry Bonds’ 73 homers, he wants to top Roger Maris’ 61, the number he thinks is the legitimate, untainted mark.
“After everything came out, I assumed 61 was the record,” Davis said. “I think it’s what a lot of fans would agree on.”
Davis, whose previous career high for homers was last year’s 33, needs 25 long balls in 66 games to reach 62. Of course, most of the rest of baseball goes with Bonds’ number, including Davis’ teammate Adam Jones.