The Full Count: Diamondbacks are hot again


1. The League’s Hottest Team: The Arizona Diamondbacks have had an up-and-down season, alternating between winning and losing streaks. Right now, they’re on an MLB-high 7 game winning streak after sweeping the Astros and Phillies. Randy Johnson was dazzling on Wednesday as they finished off the Phils. The Big Unit pitched 6 innings, gave up one hit and no runs, and won for his third straight start. In May, Johnson put up a 2.93 ERA and 41 strikeouts. He’s part of an excellent Diamondbacks rotation that includes four pitchers with below a 3.90 ERA. Also, Jose Valverde has proved to be a capable closer, with a league-leading 19 saves in 21 chances. Between the D-Backs, the Dodgers, and the Padres, the NL West has one of the more underrated division races going on right now. Those three teams are separated by just a game.

2. The League’s Coldest Team: The Houston Astros, one of my preseason favorites in the NL Central, have suddenly become the third-worst team in the National League. They have dropped ten straight games, including two in a row at home to the league-worst Reds. Their problems are numerous: Lance Berkman isn’t hitting well, they lack an above-average starter besides Roy Oswalt, and three of their regulars have an OPS below .700. In almost every offensive category, the Astros rank in the bottom five in the MLB. Their only bright spot has been Carlos Lee, who has proved worthy of his contract with a .313 average and 46 RBIs. This team still has potential to be a contender in the weak NL Central, but time is running out.

3. Almost Unbeatable: Oakland’s Dan Haren is not undefeated, but he should be. The breakout ace has allowed three or fewer earned runs in all of his starts this season, good for an AL-leading 1.64 ERA. He also leads the league in WHIP and has won six decisions in a row. On Wednesday Haren dominated the Rangers, going 8 innings with one run allowed. Rich Harden was supposed to be the A’s ace this year, but he’s hurt once again. That spot has been filled admirably by Haren, who has come a long way since his 14-13 record and 4.12 ERA in 2006. The A’s are sitting at .500 now, but if they go on another second-half run, Haren will get the attention he deserves.

Player of the Day: Tie between Erik Bedard, Orioles; Derek Lowe, Dodgers; and Chris Young, Padres: Combined 22 innings, 0 runs, 17 strikeouts; each of them picked up the win.

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