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.
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.
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.
• 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.
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.
• 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.