James Loney is on fire ever since the Dodgers asked him to warm up as a pitcher

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It took six months, but James Loney is finally hitting.

Actually, maybe all it took was for the Dodgers to have him warm up in the bullpen as an emergency pitching option. Since that happened on August 21 he’s 18-for-35 (.514) with four homers and five doubles, which is pretty amazing considering Loney hit .254 with a grand total of five homers in the 123 previous games.

Loney’s overall numbers remain terrible for a first baseman, as his OPS is a career-low .709 and he’s managed just 28 extra-base hits and 32 walks in 471 plate appearances.

He’s on track to finish with a sub-.400 slugging percentage for the third straight season and if the Dodgers are smart they won’t let any late-season hot streaks talk them into keeping Loney around for another year. If he isn’t non-tendered Loney will make at least $5 million in 2012 via arbitration.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.