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Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland
"They're not here to get their feet wet," says Rangers G.M. Jon Daniels of his young fireballers, the crown jewels of baseball's top minor league system. "They're here to contribute." And, while they're at it, carry Texas to its first playoff berth since 1999 as they change the identity of a pitching-starved franchise. Feliz (left), 21, had struck out 19 in his first 14 1/3 innings at week's end, bringing 100-mph heat to his setup role. Holland (4--1, 1.85 ERA since July 30) is the biggest reason the rotation, second to last in the AL last year, must now be taken seriously (third-best 4.28 ERA). "At the beginning it was a matter of proving I belong," says Holland, 22. "Now I know I do."
Pay no attention to his current numbers. Rollins's near-Mendoza-line first-half performance, the worst three months of his 10-year career, weighs down his stats (.243, .290 OBP, .409 slugging through Sunday) like a thumb on a scale. If you want to know what the Phillies are getting from their leadoff man as they close in on another division crown, consider these figures: .297/.348/.540. That's J-Roll since July 1—the 2007 MVP, the shortstop for a champion, the catalyst for a great offense. Since that guy showed up everything has changed in Philly. Once 39--35 and in a dogfight in the NL East, the Phillies have gone 32--15 and stretched their lead to "setting the playoff rotation."
He's working on his 13th consecutive .300 season, and he'll still swing at any pitch delivered between I-5 and the 57. But at 34, Guerrero is no longer the most feared hitter in a lineup that had nine—nine!—regulars batting above .300 at one point last week. The slugger, who has drawn 242 intentional walks in his 14-year career and at least 13 in every season since 1998, had just three at week's end. Guerrero's power stroke has reappeared recently, though, and if he keeps going deep, so too could the Angels. After hitting only four home runs in his first 184 at bats, he had seven in his last 60 through Sunday, including two two-homer games since Aug. 10.