BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

Pence fitting in perfectly


Hunter Pence seems to be a quick study. The Astros' rookie has put together a string of impressive games, and with four hits on Wednesday is now 7-for-7 with a pair of home runs in his last two games. Houston has won four straight and seven of its last nine thanks in large part to Pence's contributions.

Pence is a neat story, as he grew up in Arlington, Texas wanting to play for the Astros and now he's fulfilling his childhood dream, making an impact of a significant nature as the Astros try to catch the slumping Brewers in the NL Central.

A PENCE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
How Pence has performed this season:
  First eight games Last eight games
Batting average .219 .500
Home runs 1 3
RBI 6 9
Hits 7 15

FACING THE DANCING KNUCKLER

(Tuesday) night we faced Tim Wakefield, who for the longest time has had the best knuckleball in baseball. Part of the reason why he is so effective is that there's no way to prepare or practice for him. There aren't many people who can simulate the type of movement he is able to get on the baseball. When people say the ball is dancing, it actually is. The pitch can move up, down, left or right -- all before it crosses the plate.

The key to having any success against him and any other knuckleballer is that you have to throw out all the years of practicing a short, quick swing and pretend you are playing in the backyard. When you were little, you never thought about mechanics. Your job was to go up there, see the ball, and hit it as hard as you could.

That approach doesn't always work against knuckleballers, especially in Wakefield's case; he has one of the lowest batting averages against in the American League (.207). But at least it gives you a chance. Luckily, we were able to come away with a win against him, but a lot of that was due to Justin Verlander, who pitched an excellent game.

• Complete blog from Curtis Granderson

FORWARD THINKING: THURSDAY
• Yankees at White Sox, 2:05 p.m. ET: Rookie Matt DeSalvo (1-0, 1.98) will make his third start for the Yankees, having earned the first victory of his career in his last outing against the Mariners. He'll face Jon Garland (2-2, 3.44), who is riding a two-game winning streak and has allowed a combined four runs in his last two starts.

Roy Oswalt
Oswalt

• Giants at Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET: Rookie right-hander Tim Lincecum (1-0, 5.56) will make his third start for the Giants. He gave up 12 hits, including three home runs, in his first two starts (11 1/3 innings pitched). He'll be opposed by Roy Oswalt (6-2, 3.14), who has pitched six or more innings in eight of his nine starts.

• Angels at Mariners, 10:05 p.m. ET Bartolo Colon (4-0, 3.66) is unbeaten in five starts, and has issued just four walks in 32 innings pitched. He'll face Jarrod Washburn (3-3, 2.64), who was 3-1 with a 4.31 ERA in five starts against the Angels -- his former team -- last season.

• Thursday's complete list of probable starters

NEWS AND NOTES
• Rangers OF Brad Wilkerson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a pulled right hamstring. He was injured running out a double on Tuesday. To replace him, the Rangers purchased the contract of OF Kevin Mahar from Triple-A Oklahoma.

Ryan Howard
Howard

• Phillies 1B Ryan Howard, on the 15-day disabled list with a left quadriceps strain, started running and could begin a rehab assignment next week. Barring any setbacks, Howard is scheduled to serve a rehab assignment as a designated hitter at Class A Lakewood on May 23-24. He is eligible to be activated May 25.

• The Blue Jays lost INF Jason Smith on waivers to the Diamondbacks. Smith was placed on waivers Monday.

SAMMY GOES DEEEEEP
Sammy Sosa hits career home run No. 597.
IN THE ZONE
Cole Hamels Cole Hamels was perfect through six innings and finished up allowing two runs on two hits in eight innings, lifting the Phillies to a 6-2 win over the Brewers. Hamels also struck out 11 and walked just one.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
AP Photo/M. Spencer Green
Yankees left fielder Melky Cabrera robs the White Sox's Juan Uribe of a two-run home run in the first game of a doubleheader between the teams.
NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES
GOOD
A.J. Burnett A.J. Burnett pitched a complete game, allowing one run -- a leadoff home run to Kevin Millar in the top of the third -- on three hits in the Blue Jays' 2-1 win over the Orioles. Burnett also had 10 strikeouts and retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.
BAD
Alfonso Soriano Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Michael Barrett went a combined 0-for-12 as the Cubs lost to the Mets 8-1. As a team, the Cubs got just two hits the entire game.
UGLY
Vicente Padilla Vicente Padilla gave up eight runs -- all earned -- on 12 hits in four-plus innings in the Rangers' 11-8 loss to the Devil Rays. Padilla is now 1-6 with a 5.77 ERA in nine starts.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"I get chills right now just thinking about when I'm out there looking in the stands and watching Barry Bonds hit. It's unbelievable."
-- Astros 24-year-old rookie center fielder Hunter Pence
HAMELS TOSSES A GEM AT BREWERS
Cole Hamels helps Phillies to third win in row.


 

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