Full Count for Tues May 30 2006: Prodigal son

1. Make yourself at home: Jim Thome, playing in his second series at Jacobs Field since he used to be an Indian, gave fans a flashback to the past on Memorial Day. Thome, who hit 334 homers in his career as an Indian, hit two out on Monday, giving him 20 on the year. His two two-run shots increased his RBI total to 49, and he leads the AL in both power categories. Thome was just a part of the White Sox’s 11-0 smashing of the Indians, as Paul Konerko also homered and Javier Vasquez pitched 2-hit ball through 6 innings. The shutout was the third of the year for the Indians, who are second in the majors in scoring. The White Sox improved to 33-17, but they are still 1.5 back of the Tigers.

2. Most Important Player: Albert Pujols proved once again on Monday how valuable he has been to the Cardinals and their best-in-NL 33-18 record. With the Cardinals down 1-0 in the seventh and Astros starter Roy Oswalt out of the game, Pujols jacked his 25th homerun on the season. The three-run shot provided the Cards with their only runs of the game and showcased once again how valuable this player is. The Cardinals pitchers were efficient as usual–Jason Marquis improved to 7-4 and Jason Isringhausen got his NL-leading 17th save. The Astros–who have met the Cardinals in each of the last two NLCS–fell to 26-26 on the year.

3. Guess who’s back: Randy Johnson has struggled hugely this year for the Yankees, with no quality starts since April 23. On Monday, he showed that he can still pitch well, shutting out the Tigers in 6 innings pitched. It was the first time this year that Johnson hadn’t allowed a run, and the first time this month that he has allowed less than 4 runs. The Yankees rode Johnson to a 4-0 victory over the Tigers, who still have the major league’s best record. Detroit was held to 2 hits on the day, and this was their second loss in a row after winning 15 of 16. Meanwhile, the Yankees have won 3 in a row but they still trail the Red Sox by a game.

4. The Rockies are pitching well: That’s not a sentence you hear very often, but it was true on Monday. Jason Jennings, who’s ERA hasn’t been under 5 since his 2002 Rookie of the Year campaign, shut out the Padres. Jennings allowed only 2 hits in a complete game effort, and he was supported well by the Rockies offense. Matt Holliday hit his 12th homerun, and surprising Brad Hawpe hit his 11th. The Rockies are in third place now in the jam-packed NL West, while the Padres are just a game back of them yet tied for last. Arizona and Los Angeles are virtually tied for the division lead.

5. DL Time: 2005 AL Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon had been on the DL for more than a month now, and he is about to be joined by last year’s NL winner Chris Carpenter. Carpenter, who is on pace for numbers similar to last year’s stellar season, has had shoulder problems. He will go on the 15-day disabled list and will be replaced in the rotation by promising prospect Anthony Reyes. But the news is much worse for the Blue Jays’ AJ Burnett. He was transferred from the 15-day DL to the 60-day, which means he can’t come back until June 21. Burnett, after signing a huge contract this offseason, has only seen two starts in a Toronto uniform. However, Dodgers fans should be happy, as Eric Gagne made his final rehab start yesterday. Gagne, the record-breaking closer, earned a save for AAA Las Vegas. He is expected to be back this Thursday to fortify to Dodgers’ bullpen.

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