Phil Niekro is in the best shape of his life

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Niekro AP.jpgReally, he’s rarin’ to go:

Phil Niekro claims he’s in great shape, and if the wind is
favorable enough, the 70-year-old right-hander said he can still crank
his fastball up in the 80-mph range . . . “I’m in excellent shape,” Niekro said on a conference call with
reporters on Monday. “In fact, I’m on the boat right now fishing, and I
just got done throwing this morning. My fastball is up to about 81
[mph] now with the wind behind me, so yeah, I’m looking forward to [the
Classic].

What he means is the Hall of Fame Classic, the exhibition game played in Cooperstown in advance of the inductions in late June. Neikro was announced today as one of seven Hall of Famers who
will play this year.  Bob Feller will be there too, as he was last year. As will newcomers Rollie
Fingers Goose Gossage, Gary
Carter, Harmon Killebrew and Mike Schmidt.

The real question: If Niekro can really throw 80, and if he still has even a modicum of control over the knuckler — to the extent anyone ever really has control over a knuckler — how much better is he than, say, the Royals or the Mets fifth starters this year?

José Altuve records hit in 10 consecutive plate appearances

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Astros second baseman José Altuve recorded a hit in 10 consecutive plate appearances between Friday and Sunday against the Indians. If the Astros were still in the National League, that would tie a league record, but the AL and overall record is 12 consecutive hits, which was accomplished by the Tigers’ Walt Dropo on July 14 and 15 in 1952. Altuve’s 10 consecutive hits did set a new Astros record, however. The previous club record was eight, set by Altuve last season.

In his third plate appearance on Friday, Altuve grounded out to shortstop. Here were his next 10 trips to the dish:

  1. Two-run double
  2. Double
  3. Infield single
  4. Two-run home run
  5. Single
  6. Triple
  7. Single
  8. Infield single
  9. RBI double
  10. RBI single

This was hit No. 10:

In his final at-bat in the top of the ninth on Sunday, Altuve lined out to center field to end his streak. Teammate Josh Reddick, currently on the disabled list, was impressed with the streak:

After Sunday’s performance, Altuve is hitting .332/.378/.459 with three home runs, 28 RBI, and 31 runs scored in 239 plate appearances this season. His OPS was .760 after Thursday’s game and is now .837.