On May 8, 2012, Josh Hamilton did what few in history have accomplished, smashing four home runs in a single game against the Baltimore Orioles. Hamilton actually finished the game with five hits in total -- his other hit was only a lousy double -- and the Rangers outfielder drove in eight runs on the night. When he woke up on May 10, 2012, Hamilton was hitting .406/.458/.840 with 14 home runs.
What a difference a year makes.
Albert Pujols' steep decline and Mike Trout's stunning (relative) mediocrity have helped keep the heat off the 31-year-old, but on paper Hamilton has been one of the biggest disappointments, in fantasy or otherwise, this year. The Angels' big-ticket acquisition this offseason heads into Friday's game with a .213 batting average, four home runs and 11 RBI. It's taken Hamilton 34 games to virtually match what he did in one magical night a year ago.
There are signs, however modest, that his fortune could be changing, though. Hamilton swatted his second home run in as many nights Thursday, a solo shot off Astros starter Lucas Harrell in the second inning. He later doubled off Harrell as well. And he took a walk -- not a major accomplishment considering Harrell issued six on the evening, but an accomplishment for the walk-averse slugger nonetheless.
It's a small sampling of games from which to attempt to glean some hope, but it's hard to believe Hamilton won't get it straightened out sooner or later. After all, it wasn't that long ago we saw exactly what he is capable of on a given night.
Scott Kazmir's pitching lines from 2010-2012 read like the equivalent of a baseball eulogy: in 2010, Kazmir started 28 games and finished with a 5.94 ERA; in 2011, he lasted just 1 2/3 innings in his first and only start of the year; and by 2012, he was out of baseball entirely.
That history makes what Kazmir did Thursday against the A's all the more remarkable. Over six innings, Kazmir struck out 10 batters while walking none. He routinely hit 95, touching 96 with one of his final pitches of the afternoon. After the game, Kazmir had little interest in looking back at where he's been.
"I'm not thinking about last year or what happened before that," Kazmir said after the game. "I'm looking ahead. I'm throwing the ball well right now. I'm feeling better every time out."
After getting torched in his first start, the left-hander has gotten progressively better, with Thursday serving as the high-water mark. He's still got his warts -- he's prone to the home run, and walks have always been an issue -- but if Kazmir has found some of the form that once made him a strikeout-an-inning pitcher, he makes for an interesting flyer in mixed leagues.
Zack On Track
After suffering a fractured collarbone on April 11, Zack Greinke was estimated to be out until early-to-mid June while rehabbing from the injury.
A month to the day after his collision with Carlos Quentin, Greinke will make his first rehab start with an eye on returning to the Dodgers rotation next week. With scientific advancements such as they are, it's tough to call any recovery "miraculous" these days, but Greinke's certainly falls in the category of impressive.
It couldn't come at a better time for the Dodgers, either. The last-place team in the NL West has had nine different players make at least one start for them, and only three -- Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett -- have started more than two. The team recently lost starter Chad Billingsley for the season to Tommy John surgery, making Greinke's return even more crucial.
The right-hander pitched well in his two starts before the injury, compiling a 1.59 ERA, so if he's healthy it shouldn't take him long to pick up where he left off. That's what the Dodgers, and Greinke's owners, are hoping, at least.
National League Quick Hits: Jason Heyward (appendectomy) played in his first rehab game at Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday. He could be activated as early as Monday ... Johnny Cueto (lat, oblique) made a rehab start for Low-A Dayton on Thursday. He'll likely need at least one more before rejoining the Reds rotation, which could happen as soon as next weekend ... Jonny Venters cut short a bullpen session Thursday due to soreness in his left elbow. Season-ending surgery might be the next option ... Aaron Hill (hand) could be cleared to hit off a tee sometime next week. That could put him on target for a late-May return ... Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he doesn't expect Adrian Gonzalez (neck) to be in the lineup Friday. The first baseman is considered day-to-day ... Jayson Werth (hamstring) will likely sit out Friday before returning to the lineup on Saturday. The outfielder hasn't played since May 2 ... Heath Bell saved his third game in as many days Thursday. J.J. who? ... Brandon Beachy (elbow) could begin a rehab assignment next week. He's on track for a return in mid-June ... Brian McCann went 3-for-5 with his first home run of the season Thursday. The catcher is in for a nice rebound season now that he's healthy ... Patrick Corbin moved to 5-0 with a win over the Phillies on Thursday. The lefty, who had to win the job in spring training, owns a 1.75 ERA through seven starts.
American League Quick Hits: Michael Bourn (finger) was activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday. He should be back atop the Indians lineup Friday ... Erick Aybar left Thursday's game with a tight right hamstring. It's not clear yet whether the injury will force him to miss any time ... Jered Weaver (elbow) threw his first bullpen session since the injury on Thursday and said it went well. He could be back before June 1 at this rate ... Brett Anderson (ankle) is scheduled to make a minor-league rehab start on Sunday. Assuming it goes well, he is on target to return to the A's rotation next Friday ... J.A. Happ (head, knee) will likely miss 4-to-6 weeks. The Blue Jays are hopeful he can be back in a month ... Tommy Hanson won't make his scheduled start Friday due to the death of his step-brother. It's still known who will make the start in his absence ... Steve Johnson will be recalled by the Orioles to start on Saturday. Johnson will start in place of the injured Miguel Gonzalez ... Jarrod Parker (neck) likely won't have to miss a start after leaving his last outing due to stiffness. Whether that's good news or bad news for the A's is up for discussion ... Jeremy Guthrie allowed two runs -- one earned -- over six innings against the Orioles on Thursday. The win moved him to 5-0 on the season ... Eric Hosmer hit his first home run of the season Thursday. It wouldn't be surprising if more follow in the coming days.