Carlos Gonzalez surges ahead in the triple crown hunt

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All of the triple crown talk has been about Joey Votto and Albert Pujols — indeed, until just the other day they were the only two dudes in that triple crown tracker on the ESPN.com baseball front — but Carlos Gonzalez’s claim seems stronger than that of either of those guys at the moment.

Gonzalez was already ahead of Votto and Pujols in the batting title race — and recently surged ahead of would-be spoiler Omar Infante — thanks to his recent tear. Indeed, he’s batting .525 during his 15-game hitting streak. Last night CarGo hit a three-run homer as well, which put him ahead of Votto for first place in RBIs. At the moment he’s three homers shy of Pujols.

Pujols’ shot at it seems really, really long given how far down he is in average (he’s hitting “only” .308 compared to Gonzalez’s .340). Gonzalez is currently hotter than Votto and — more importantly — plays in a much more hitter-friendly ballpark.  I don’t think I’d bet the mortgage on Gonzalez hitting three more home runs than Pujols over the season’s final weeks, but if I had to lay odds, I like his chance to win the triple crown better than Votto’s.

And even if he falls short, a late-season surge by both Gonzalez and the Rockies may very well land him the MVP award.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.