Player of the Week: Mark Teixeira

If the Atlanta Braves miss out on the postseason for the second consecutive year, no one can place any blame on Mark Teixeira, Atlanta’s prized trade-deadline pickup. Since being acquired by the Braves on July 31, Teixeira has blasted nine home runs in his first 18 games (he had just 13 in 84 games with the Texas Rangers) and his play has excelled to even greater heights over the past week. During a recent seven-game stretch, Teixeira belted five home runs, drove in 13 runs and scored eight times. Teixeira, who batted .381 during that stretch, capped off his weeklong binge by going 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBIs against the Cincinnati Reds.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

As the playoff drive heats up, a couple of contenders are welcoming the returns of key players back from the injured list. Joel Zumaya, the Detroit Tigers’ flame-throwing middle relief man, who has been out since May 3 with an injured finger, finally made his return to the roster this week and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Tigers have struggled mightily with finding quality bullpen arms. In the National League, Chase Utley is set to come back for the Philadelphia Phillies after a four-week absence because of a broken hand. Lastly, there is New York Mets right-hander Pedro Martinez — the one injured player who could make the biggest difference down the stretch, but who also happens to be the one with most uncertain status. Martinez is still pitching to minor-leaguers to build up strength, so his impact could be minimal.

With all of the major individual accomplishments this year being career-oriented, leave it to Garret Anderson and the Texas Rangers to put up some mind-boggling single-game numbers. Tuesday, Anderson had a two-run double in the first inning, an RBI double in the second, a three-run homer in the third and a grand slam in the sixth for a 10-RBI game in the Los Angeles Angels’ 18-9 victory over the New York Yankees. That is one RBI shy of the AL mark set by the Yankees’ Tony Lazzeri in 1936 and two short of the major-league record shared by St. Louis’ Jim Bottomley (1924) and fellow Cardinal Mark Whiten (1993). The next night, the Rangers — last in the AL West — put up even more video-game-type numbers. Texas blasted the Baltimore Orioles 30-3 in the first game of a doubleheader. The 30 runs were the most scored by one team since the Chicago Colts beat the Louisville Colonels 36-7 on June 29, 1897 — yes, 110 years ago. Oh, and the Rangers trailed 3-0.

The story that simply won’t go away seems to get uglier with each new revelation. According to SI.com, Kirk Radomski, the Mets’ clubhouse attendant who has already pleaded guilty in federal court to felony charges of distributing steroids, has also revealed the names of several major-leaguers to whom he sold the illegal performance-enhancing drug. Radomski gave the names of players to whom he allegedly sold steroids to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is heading baseball’s investigation into the issue.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

Padres at Phillies (Today-Sunday): Jake Peavy and the dominant Padres pitching staff will be put to the test by the high-powered Phillies offense, led by slugger Ryan Howard — who leads the NL in RBIs. This is one of many matchups in the final weeks of the season with playoff ramifications.

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