Daily Dose: Hudson set for Monday return

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Out since last July following Tommy John elbow surgery, Tim Hudson is scheduled to make his season debut Monday against the Marlins while Kenshin Kawakami has his usual start skipped. Hudson has fared pretty well while rehabbing in the minors, posting a 3.86 ERA and 14/4 K/BB ratio in 23.1 innings between high Single-A and Triple-A, and the 34-year-old was regularly clocked in the low-90s for his last start.
Hudson is definitely worth a flier in NL-only leagues, but don’t expect him to produce mixed-league value again until next season. Atlanta’s decision to bump Kawakami from the rotation is an odd one, because he has a 3.52 ERA in 20 starts since a poor April. Bobby Cox expressed concern that Kawakami could wear down because he’d never made even 30 starts in Japan, but he has a 3.75 ERA since the All-Star break.
While the Braves welcome back a pitcher who went 54-38 with a 3.78 ERA through his first four years in Atlanta, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Nyjer Morgan has provided a huge spark for the Nationals since they acquired him from the Pirates in late June, batting .351 with 22 steals and outstanding defense in 48 games. Unfortunately he’s now done for the season after suffering a broken hand Thursday, finishing his breakout campaign at .307/.369/.388 with 40 steals and 73 runs in 119 games. His teams were 51-64 when he started, 46-90 when he didn’t.
Morgan has played somewhat over his head and is already 29 years old, but is also a lock to be the Nationals’ starting center fielder and leadoff man again next season. While hitting over .300 with a .370 on-base percentage will be tough to repeat, he hit .293 in the minors, batted .296 in various stints with the Pirates prior to this season, and has the speed to swipe 50-plus bags even if his OBP declines a bit in 2010.
* Bumped from the rotation earlier this week, Brad Penny asked for and received his release Thursday. He pitched his way out of Boston by going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 131.2 innings, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his last five starts, but several teams are reportedly already in the mix to sign him for the stretch run. Unless he winds up in the National League, don’t count on Penny having any real fantasy upside.
AL Quick Hits: Billy Wagner threw a bullpen session Thursday and informed the Red Sox that he’s unavailable to pitch on consecutive days … A.J. Burnett lost Thursday despite racking up a season-high 12 strikeouts … Francisco Liriano got a cortisone shot in his injured elbow Wednesday and may be out for the season … After shutting out the Yankees for six innings in his last start, Junichi Tazawa was rocked for nine runs Thursday … Rather than joining the White Sox’s rotation Jake Peavy (ankle) will make his fourth rehab start Saturday at Triple-A … Chris Davis homered off a lefty Thursday in his third straight start since being recalled from Triple-A … Andy Marte went 2-for-4 with a game-winning homer Thursday and now has a 1.000 OPS in his last 10 games … Jacoby Ellsbury left Thursday’s game after injuring his ankle on a feet-first slide … Adam Jones (back) is now hoping to rejoin the lineup Friday … You might be surprised to learn who leads the AL in homers since June 1.
NL Quick Hits: Garrett Jones hit a game-winning homer Thursday, going deep for the 15th time in 189 at-bats … Mike MacDougal recorded five outs with a one-run lead Thursday for his eighth save of the month … J.A. Happ took a complete-game loss Thursday, allowing three runs … St. Louis is reportedly close to signing 36-year-old closer Ryan Franklin to a contract extension … Bengie Molina (quadriceps) missed his third straight game and underwent an MRI exam Thursday … Chris Coghlan hit a pair of homers Thursday and is now batting .355 in the second half … Batting higher than fifth in the lineup for just the 15th time this season, Matt Kemp went 3-for-5 with a homer Thursday … Javier Vazquez tossed seven scoreless innings Thursday, with his ERA dropping to 3.02 … Vicente Padilla won his Dodgers debut Thursday with five innings of two-run ball … Thursday was Carlos Gonzalez’s first game back after slicing his hand with a steak knife and he promptly exited with a bruised thumb.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
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Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.