Triple Crown Watch
NL batting average leaders
.33092 Ryan Braun (up .00183)
.32950 Jose Reyes (up .00002)
.32534 Matt Kemp (down .00052)
NL home run leaders
37 Matt Kemp
37 Albert Pujols
35 Dan Uggla
35 Prince Fielder
NL runs batted in leaders
119 Matt Kemp
114 Prince Fielder
114 Ryan Howard
Not that I'm watching every Ryan Braun or Jose Reyes at-bat to see how close their outs were to becoming hits, but Matt Kemp has missed some close ones this weekend in San Diego.
The latest came in the sixth inning tonight, when Kemp hit a 400-foot drive to center that was caught at the wall – a vintage Petco Park out.
Braun, 2 for 3 with Milwaukee, leapfrogged Jose Reyes in the batting title race and put a hair more distance tonight between himself and Kemp, who singled in the first inning but was hitless in his final three at-bats, the last one a 4-6-3 double play (hit to Orlando Hudson, positioned almost directly behind second base) against Padres closer Heath Bell, who finished off San Diego's 3-0 victory over the Dodgers.
After no-hitting the Dodgers for six innings in July, Aaron Harang pitched shutout ball against Los Angeles for eight tonight. In his past 14 innings against the team, Harang has allowed no runs, three hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts.
James Loney, Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon had the Dodgers' other hits. Sands, interestingly, had his 15th double – putting him fifth on the team for the entire season despite barely having 200 plate appearances.
* * *
In his final start of 2011, Chad Billingsley had a one-hit shutout for 4 2/3 innings, then with two runners on, threw a 66 mph curveball to Will Venable that shocked Vin Scully with its lollipopness. Venable delivered an RBI single, Hudson followed with another RBI single and then a Tim Federowicz throwing error brought home a third Padre run. Billingsley hit Cameron Maybin in the back with a 3-2 pitch before getting out of the inning on a Chase Headley groundout.
Something to remember before throwing Billingsley under a bus, besides the ongoing worry (at least on my end) that there's a physical problem: A year ago at this time, Kemp was wrapping up a disappointing year. People do bounce back. Billingsley had a rough second half in 2009, and came back strong in 2010 with a 3.57 ERA.
That being said, the decline in Billingsley's strikeout stuff remains distressing.