Player of the week: Jack Cust

Heading into this season, Jack Cust had five career home runs. He matched that total in four games last week for the A’s. The five-year pro, who was acquired in a minor-league deal for cash from the San Diego Padres, has thrived in his second stint in the Oakland organization. Cust drilled two home runs against the Kansas City Royals on May 10 to start a four-game outburst that included three more homers, 14 RBIs and eight runs scored. He punctuated that surge with a three-run walkoff blast Sunday against Cleveland. In 35 at-bats, Cust has already smashed seven homers, helping him to a .286 batting average and a jaw-dropping 1.359 OPS.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

The 11th edition of interleague play begins today and already teams are grumbling about scheduling issues. Because baseball has sought to include historical rivalries (mostly based on geographical proximity) into the normal alternating divisional matchups, some players (including Atlanta’s Chipper Jones) must deal with what they believe is an unbalanced schedule. For instance, the Braves play against the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox (the Braves were once based in Boston) six times this season, as well as facing off against the teams from the rugged AL Central. In contrast, the Houston Astros play the Texas Rangers, a struggling intrastate rival, before taking on the weaker AL West in their remaining interleague games. “I don’t think there’s any question it’s not fair, but I don’t think major league baseball is concerned with fair,” Jones said. “If you play the top teams in the American League and everybody else doesn’t, it’s pretty unfair.”

We’re not even done with May yet and already two teams — the Red Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers — have commanding leads in their respective divisions. The Red Sox’s wide lead is owed in large part to the combination of terrific pitching and an AL East destroyed by injuries (especially the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees.) The surprising Brewers are thriving with their farm-grown youth movement taking advantage of a division devoid of competition (as of Tuesday, no other team was above .500).

You wonder how many times can athletes get in trouble for rapping before they learn their lesson? Following in the steps of Allen Iverson, New York Mets prized young star Lastings Milledge was reprimanded by the team for his part on the rap track “Bend Ya Knees” — which was released by his record company and featured the 22-year-old’s vocal contributions. The song contained vulgar references to women, explicit content and multiple uses of a racial slur toward blacks.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

PADRES AT MARINERS (Today-Sunday): One of the most intriguing meetings takes place between two underexposed teams from opposite corners of the West Coast. Seattle has overcome injuries to remain in the thick of the AL West race, while San Diego has stayed near the top in the NL West because of Chris Young and a strong pitching staff.

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