Josh Hamilton has picked up where he left off

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When Josh Hamilton went down after a fast start to the season, it just seemed like he and the Angels were snakebitten. He was turning it around after a lost 2013 season and the Angels, after two seasons of grand disappointment, were looking pretty respectable for once.

But a funny thing happened: the Angels continued to play well in Hamilton’s absence and in the six games since has returned, Hamilton has hit the ball as if he hadn’t missed a beat.

Hamilton went 2 for 4 with three RBI in the Angels’ 4-2 win over the White Sox yesterday, hitting an RBI double in the third inning and a two-run single in the fifth drove in two more. Since returning from the disabled list, Hamilton has gone 8 for 23 (.348) with five RBI in six games.

The two-month layoff seems to have done nothing to Hamilton’s red hot bat. And the Angels, though still trailing the A’s by four and a half games, are still looking pretty darn good. If the season ended today they’d be the top seed wild card. As it is not ending today, it is still worth noting that they seem just as well if not better set up as any of the other second place teams to remain strong contenders for a playoff spot.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.