Player of the Week: Hideki Matsui

New York’s own Godzilla ate up opponents’ pitching, helping the Yankees continue to make their push for the AL wild-card spot. Perhaps jump-started by a 5-for-6 performance on July 22, Matsui has been a power-hitting machine recently, hitting four homers with eight RBIs in a six-game stretch. Matsui also scored seven runs and drew four walks during that run. With the binge, Matsui brought his season totals up to 21 homers and 74 RBIs, putting him on pace for career-best numbers in both categories.

BASEBALLSTORYLINES

With the media-inspired maelstrom that is the non-waiver trading deadline now behind us, the results clearly point to a few teams as significant winners — none more so than the Atlanta Braves. Although they gave up a number of highly regarded prospects, the Braves picked up a big-time power hitter in Mark Teixeira, a top-notch late-game reliever in Octavio Dotel and two left-handed bullpen arms in Ron Mahay and Royce Ring — all adding up to a squad that should make a serious bid at the NL East title. In the AL, the Boston Red Sox made the biggest news when they traded for reliever Eric Gagne, the 2003 NL Cy Young winner who will team up with Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon to form the majors’ best bullpen.

In a division as competitive as the AL Central, the top three teams did surprisingly little at the deadline. The Minnesota Twins, who have made the postseason in four of the past five seasons, neglected to pull any strings (although they did give up .300 hitter Luis Castillo, much to the chagrin of ace Johan Santana), despite being a handful of games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers. The Cleveland Indians, unwilling to part with any key youngsters, only added Kenny Lofton, despite the prospect of the New York Yankees chasing them in the wild-card race. In the NL, the Philadelphia Phillies couldn’t swing a deal for a quality pitcher, but did move quickly to replace the injured Chase Utley by picking up Tad Iguchi.

If you’re a fan of a team that couldn’t pull off the big heist by the deadline, don’t bury your head just yet — there could still be deals to be made, albeit in a much more complicated manner. The July 31 date everyone talks about so much was just the non-waiver trade deadline, so teams can still make acquisitions, they just have to look at the available players on the waiver wire. Any player on any team can be put on waivers, with a 47-hour window for other teams to make claims. The team that puts the player on the wire can pull that player back or negotiate with the claiming team. One player who could be attractive on the waiver wire is Chicago White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye. — Will Reisman

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

PHILLIEs AT BREWERS (Today-Sunday): With the NL’s best offense, Ryan Howard and the Phillies have come roaring back into contention in the East. The Brewers, meanwhile, have lost their once-comfy lead in the NL Central and need to turn things around to stave off the Chicago Cubs.

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