The Week Ahead: Huge hopes for Rockies

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rockies_090823.jpgRemember that cute little Colorado Rockies team back in 2007?

A modern day Cinderella, they won their final 40 games (it only seemed that way), received some help from the ghost of Tony Gwynn (actually it was his son), then beat the Padres in a one-game playoff when Matt Holliday tried to tag home plate with his face (maybe he was out, but that would ruin a great story).

From there, it was a magical run to the World Series, where the dream ended rather abruptly when Jonathan Papelbon and the Boston Red Sox took the glass slipper and “Riverdanced” the thing into tiny pieces.

Well don’t look now, but the Rockies are at it again. In the middle of June, they won 17 of 18. Currently, they’ve taken six of seven, and 16 of 23, building a three-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the wild-card race.

And remember that huge lead the Dodgers held in the NL West? Yeah that’s pretty much gone now, reduced to a mere 3 1/2 games (the second closest division race, behind the AL Central).

The plucky Rockies have even been making moves just to show how serious they are, taking a flyer on veteran pitcher Russ Ortiz as insurance for the injured Aaron Cook, and hoping that Jason Giambi will find his legs after being deemed finished in Oakland.

It makes for a huge week ahead for the boys in black. Following the fourth and final game of their series vs. the Giants on Monday, the Rockies host the Dodgers in a huge three-game set, then head to San Francisco for a rematch with the Giants.

Will Cinderella dance again? This week could gives us a strong indication.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

Tigers at Angels, Aug. 24-26: The only matchup of division leaders this week, featuring the high-powered offense of L.A. vs. the tough pitching of Detroit. Go figure.

Rangers at Yankees, Aug. 25-27: Speaking of tough pitching, how about those improved Rangers? We’ll see if Yankee International Airport — I mean, Stadium — does anything to change that.

Dodgers at Rockies, Aug. 25-27: Colorado has won seven of 10 and all of a sudden the Dodgers’ NL West lead has shrunk to 3½ games. Division race, anyone?

Braves at Phillies, Aug. 28-30: Funny that it’s the Braves, and not the Mets, who are keeping the heat on Philly. Although, at 6½ games back, not THAT much heat.

Rockies at Giants, Aug. 28-30: The Rockies took two of three from the Giants this weekend, even beating Tim Lincecum. Now, the rematch of NL wild-card contenders.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 10:05 p.m. ET: Tigers at Angels (ESPN2)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: Rangers at Yankees (ESPN2)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rays at Tigers (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Mets at Cubs (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Dodgers at Reds (FOX)
Sunday, 1 p.m.: White Sox at Yankees (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Braves at Phillies (ESPN)
*Check local listings

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If you Twitter, you can find me there at @Bharks.

Ichiro Suzuki tops Rickey Henderson as the oldest starting center fielder

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Marlins’ outfielder Ichiro Suzuki set a new record for the Marlins on Sunday afternoon, and all he had to do was take the field. The 43-year-old made his second start of the year in center field, becoming the oldest starting center fielder in Major League Baseball since 1900.

Suzuki made his first start in center field back on May 6, but came 15 days shy of beating the record Rickey Henderson established in 2002 when he patrolled center field at a sprightly 43 years and 211 days old. During Sunday’s series finale against the Cubs, Suzuki’s 43 years and 246 days set a new record for aging outfielders.

Naturally, Ichiro commemorated his moment in history by doing what he does best — proving that age is just a number. He reached on a fielding error by Addison Russell in the first inning and came home to score on a Marcell Ozuna RBI single to pad the Marlins’ three-run lead. His defense wasn’t too shabby, either, as he gloved a shallow fly ball in the second inning to bail Edinson Volquez out of a bases-loaded jam.

The Marlins currently lead 3-2 in the seventh.

Indians sign Michael Martinez to minor league deal

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There’s something irresistible about Michael Martinez, at least where the Indians are concerned. Six weeks after parting ways with the utility infielder/outfielder, the Indians re-signed Martinez for the fifth time in three years, committing to a minor league contract that will see the 34-year-old in Triple-A Columbus this week. He was designated for assignment by the Rays last Thursday after slashing just .077/.172/.077 through his first 29 PA with the club.

Martinez bounced around the American League last season, logging four games with the Red Sox after the Indians jettisoned him in a trade for cash considerations. He returned to Cleveland on waivers and finished the year with a cumulative .238/.267/.307 batting line, contributing one home run and a .574 OPS in just 106 PA. He found more consistency in the minors, touting a .288 average, 11 extra-base hits and 12 RBI in 114 PA for Triple-A Columbus last season, but didn’t receive enough playing time to develop his stuff at the big league level.

Martinez will rejoin fellow infielders Chris Colabello, Nellie Rodriguez, Josh Wilson, Ronny Rodriguez, Todd Hankins, Yandy Diaz, Eric Stamets and Giovanny Urshela on the Clippers’ roster.