Player of the Week: Brandon Webb

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ surprising perch atop the NL West standings can be attributed in large part to their ace, who has been utterly dominant over his past three starts. In victories over the Florida Marlins and the division rival San Diego Padres and Los AngelesDodgers, Webb hasn’t allowed a run over 23 innings. In a 4-0 win over San Diego on July 31, Webb threw seven scoreless innings, while striking out seven. In his next start, pitted against Dodgers ace Brad Penny on Saturday, Webb pitched a shutout, allowing seven hits while striking out four in a 3-0 win. Webb improved to 11-8 with a 2.92 ERA.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

The man that everyone has an opinion on — Giants slugger Barry Bonds — made history Tuesday, when he crushed a 3-2 pitch from Washington Nationals left-hander Mike Bacsik for his 756th career homer, breaking the all-time mark set by Hank Aaron 33 years ago. Bonds, who will be forever linked to the scandal over performance-enhancing drugs that has dominated the headlines in recent years, was able to break the all-time home run record in front of his beloved hometown fans, who have remained steadfast in their support of him. The 43-year-old slugger, who has never been charged with using the illegal drugs but has been dogged repeatedly about his involvement with the corrupt BALCO facility, addressed the crowd for approximately 10 minutes after the historic homer, while receiving a congratulatory call from former record-holder Aaron via the Giants’ center-field video board.

It may have taken him eight games and 27 at-bats, but Alex Rodriguez finally connected for home run No. 500 on Saturday, making him the youngest player ever to reach that milestone. At just 32 years old, A-Rod, barring any devastating injuries, has a legitimate shot at making Bonds’ hold on the career home run record relatively short-lived. Also making history last weekend was New York Mets left-hander Tom Glavine, who recorded his 300th career victory, joining active pitchers Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux in the elite fraternity. Just 23 pitchers have reached the formidable plateau and, with aging former aces Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina both looking unlikely to pull together enough wins, Glavine might be the last entry into the 300-win club.

This season has taken on an unusually historic feel to it, with Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa, Glavine, A-Rod and Bonds all reaching career milestones. It all leaves the question — who’s next in line? Well, unless the Big Unit can recover from what appears to be a career-threatening back injury, no significant pitching records stand to fall, but plenty more offensive marks could still be set. Ken Griffey Jr., with 589 career home runs, might become just the sixth major-leaguer in history with 600 homers — bringing up the nagging question of where would Junior be if not for a series of injuries? Also, if Manny Ramirez, stuck in a season-long power drought, can blast out 11 more homers, he will become the 23rd member of the 500-homer club.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

YANKEES AT INDIANS (Today-Sunday):

You know things are getting serious when the wild-card standings are starting to become a topic of conversation. The Indians, flip-flopping with Detroit for the AL Central lead despite a sub-.500 mark since the break, will look to hold off Derek Jeter and the surging Yankees.

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