During a 1999 American League Division Series, Indians centerfielder Kenny Lofton, while diving into first, suffered a horrific injury that nearly ended his career: He separated his left shoulder and tore his rotator cuff when he jammed his upper body against the bag. Still, lots of players continue to take the plunge, including such savvy veterans as Lofton's teammate Roberto Alomar. Indians manager Charlie Manuel's response after Alomar was called out on such a play earlier this month? A terse, "I'd prefer he not do it."
Working Dugout Magic
Cubs' Charming Approach
Eight-game losing streaks will drive grown men to do strange things, even on a franchise as cursed as the Cubs. With Chicago mired in such a skid last week, Julio Zuleta, who platoons at first base with Matt Stairs, performed a little Major League-style black magic in the home team's dugout at Wrigley Field in the hope mat it would revive the Cubs, who were hitting .208 during their losing streak. In the May 19 game against the Diamondbacks, Zuleta waved a burning newspaper under each starter's bat, rubbed them down with the bones hitters use to harden the wood and waved apples, bananas and oranges over them. "It's not voodoo," Zuleta said. "The bats, they get tired. I thought they were hungry, so I put some fruit in there."
The blessing apparently paid off: Chicago beat Arizona 6-2, reaching double figures in hits for the first time in two weeks. Through Sunday, Zuleta had performed the dugout ritual during every game since, and the Cubs had won seven in a row, outscoring opponents 29-13. "Whatever it takes to win, we're going to do," said Zuleta.
June 1-3, the Giants at the Rockies
If San Francisco manager Dusty Baker has a nervous tic, it will be on display in this series. The Giants, who had committed the third-most infield errors (28) in the National League through Sunday, will be facing the ground-ball-hittingest team in the league. The Rockies had hit 662 grounders, and their 1.43-to-1 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio was the league's highest. Leading the ground attack is centerfielder Juan Pierre, who had pounded into the dirt 77.0% of the balls he'd put in play (excluding hits), the highest percentage in the league.