Vexing Rise in Oblique Injuries, and Little Explanation

Nearly everyone has four of them — broad flat muscles, known as obliques, that attach the rib cageEvan Longoria and the pelvis on each side of the body and, until recently, have not really been part of the sports lexicon.

But now they are. The muscles are particularly important to baseball players, who use them to rotate their bodies as hard as possible to throw a ball and swing a bat, and increasingly those muscles are being injured and putting players like Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria on the disabled list.

Why this is happening is not really clear, but happening it is. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ head trainer, Stan Conte, was so intrigued that he stayed up through the night last week going line by line through a list he has assembled of the roughly 7,000 players who have gone on the disabled list since 1991. Continue reading

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The Yankees Keep Winning

Hot dogs cost a dollar on Thursday night, which could be one reason why the largest crowd since the Indians’ home opener flocked to Progressive Field. Another, this one more plausible, involved the desire to see a singular event, a home run slugged by a certain third baseman, before the Yankees skipped town for a more meaningful series against Tampa Bay.

Cleveland has played host to milestone homers before — Babe Ruth hit No. 500 at League Park in 1929, and 31 years later Ted Williams followed at Cleveland Stadium — but, despite the best efforts of the Indians’ pitchers, Alex Rodriguez will hit No. 600 somewhere else. NY Yankees

In six plate appearances Thursday against six pitchers, Rodriguez had one hit, a two-run single that capped the seven-run seventh inning that guided the Yankees to an 11-4 victory against the Indians. After his final at-bat, when he struck out swinging with the bases loaded to end the eighth, Rodriguez banged his bat against the dirt, as if he had missed a pitch he felt he should have clobbered.

“I think the thing to remember is that when I hit this, nothing’s going to change,” Rodriguez said. “We’re in the middle of a pennant race, and we’re just trying to play good baseball.”

Since hitting No. 599 last Thursday at Yankee Stadium, a span of 30 at-bats and 34 plate appearances, Rodriguez has rarely shown any frustration. He can retain his equanimity because the Yankees keep on winning, receiving contributions Thursday from Dustin Moseley, who allowed one run over six sturdy innings; Curtis Granderson, who had two hits for the fourth time in five games and also drove in two runs; and Colin Curtis, who had two hits and scored three runs. Continue reading

For the Reds’ Rhodes, Pitching Becomes a Tribute

Arthur Rhodes will leave tickets for five people at the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Anaheim. His mother will be there, and two sisters, a niece and his 16-year-old daughter, Jade. Five women supporting a 40-year-old rookie All-Star. Baseball-Field

A boy will be there, too. Rhodes, a left-handed reliever for the Cincinnati Reds, is sure of it. Rhodes’s son, Jordan, was 5 when he died in December 2008 of an undisclosed illness. Whenever Rhodes pitches, he scratches the initials “J R” in the dirt of the mound. He will do so again at the All-Star Game.

“I feel like he’s right behind the rubber, watching me pitch,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes spoke softly at his locker Tuesday before a game with the Mets at Citi Field. He rarely says much, anyway. He signed with the Reds the week his son died, but club officials never knew of his pain. On Sunday, when Manager Dusty Baker told Rhodes he had made the All-Star team, he said Rhodes was stoic. Continue reading

LaRoche leads Braves in sweep of Mets

Flushing, NY (Sports Network) – Adam LaRoche went 3-for-5 with two runs batted in, as the Atlanta Braves beat the Mets, 5-2, to complete a three-game sweep of New York.

Tim Hudson (2-1) got the win after allowing two runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings. He also struck out three for the Braves, who pulled within four games of Colorado, which lost to San Diego on Wednesday, in the NL wild card race.

“I danced around and bobbed and weaved around out there and somehow managed to only give up two runs,” Hudson said.

Atlanta’s victory came hours after longtime manager Bobby Cox announced he will retire from managing following the 2010 season, for which Cox and the team agreed to a one-year contract extension.

“We’ve got a nice team, and we’re going to compete next year for sure again,” Cox said. “It’s the love of baseball, I guess.”

Mike Pelfrey (10-12) took the loss after giving up four runs — three earned — on nine hits and three walks in six innings. Angel Pagan went 2-for-4 with a walk and a run batted in for New York, which was also swept by Atlanta from September 15-17. Continue reading

Slumping Tigers return home to battle Blue Jays

The Detroit Tigers try to maintain their lead atop the American League Central this evening, when they open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park.

The Tigers enter play with a 5 1/2-game edge on the Minnesota Twins in the division after completing a 3-3 road trip. The trek started with a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays but ended on a sour note, as the Tigers lost all three games of their series to the woeful Kansas City Royals.

“Coming off a good trip to Tampa and all of a sudden you come in here and you get beat, it’s not the end of the world,” Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. “You can’t really hang your head at this point of the season. You can’t get upset about it.”

Luckily for the Tigers, Toronto took care of the Twins on Thursday to split a four-game series.

In Thursday’s 7-4 setback to the Royals, Wilkin Ramirez had two hits — including a triple — knocked in a run and scored twice, while Magglio Ordonez banged out three hits in a losing effort.

Tigers starter Jarrod Washburn took a no-decision after surrendering three runs on seven hits in five frames. Zach Miner (6-5) was saddled with the loss after yielding five hits and three runs in one-plus innings.

Getting the call for the Tigers tonight will be lefty Nate Robertson, who is 1-1 with a 5.40 earned run average. Robertson last started back on September 3 against Cleveland and received a no-decision despite throwing six scoreless innings.

Robertson, who has pitched primarily from the bullpen this season, is 3-3 lifetime against the Blue Jays with a 5.00 ERA in 10 games, seven of which have been starts.

Toronto, meanwhile, will counter with lefty Brian Tallet, who is 6-9 with a 5.31 ERA. Tallet won for the first time in over two months Sunday against the New York Yankees, as he allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings.

Tallet will be making his first-ever start against the Tigers, but has faced them six times in relief without recording a decision and pitching to a 4.76 ERA in those outings.

The Blue Jays earned a split in their series with the Twins on Thursday, when Adam Lind knocked in a pair of runs, including the go-ahead tally with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning, to help Toronto to a 3-2 win at Rogers Centre.

Jose Bautista hit a solo homer for the Blue Jays, who have won three of their last five games.

Brett Cecil (7-4) earned the win after tossing six effective innings. The rookie left-hander allowed two runs on seven hits, walked one and fanned three.

“It felt good. It was a great way to end it,” Cecil said about his outing. “I worked on some things in my last bullpen and took it on the mound today. Everything worked out and still got a few things to work on.”

Toronto has won three of four from the Tigers this season and six of eight matchups between the teams dating back to last season.

Yanks try to keep hot streak going in Seattle

(Sports Network) – The New York Yankees may once again be without third baseman Alex Rodriguez this evening, when they continue their four-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

Rodriguez was scheduled to have the day off on Thursday, but probably could not have played anyway after getting hit in the elbow with a pitch in the 11th inning of Wednesday’s win over Toronto. He is questionable for tonight’s tilt.

New York did not skip a beat without A-Rod on Thursday, though, as CC Sabathia fanned a season-high 10 batters in eight stellar innings and Hideki Matsui highlighted the Yankees’ offense with a pair of homers and five RBI in an 11-1 rout of Seattle.

Sabathia (13-7) gave up just one run on three hits and a pair of walks for the Yankees, who have won 10 of their last 11. Continue reading

Yankees go for Cash

New York, NY (Sports Network) – The New York Yankees have reportedly signed catcher Kevin Cash to a minor league contract.

The New York Post has reported that the deal will pay the former Boston backup $700,000 if he plays in the majors.

Cash was not tendered a contract by the Red Sox earlier this month, making him a free agent. He had spent each of the past two seasons with Boston’s organization and hit .225 with three homers and 15 RBI in 61 games for the parent club in 2008.