Short hops, backhanded stops and quick pops:
-- The Brewers have climbed into second place in the NL Central thanks to ... their own beds? All that bratwurst? Milwaukee is 21-7 at Miller Park, the club's best home record EVER after 28 games. But at 9-19 on the road, the Brewers are the worst in the NL. Manager Ron Roenicke is not yet a believer in the trend, figuring "if we go three months into" the season and things don't change, then it's a problem. One reason the Brewers' road mark could be skewed: They opened with 21 of 34 games on the road, including an 11-game trip and a 10-game trip during a cold and wet spring. Assuming they stay in contention, look out for the Brewers in September: They finish with 14 of 25 games at home.
-- Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, though stuck with a no-decision in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (and though teammate Zack Greinke has received more pub for fewer starts), has pitched like an All-Star. He's allowed one run or fewer in six of his 12 starts. "He wasn't under my radar," Roenicke says. "He's the same guy I've seen pitch in Toronto. He was in the toughest division in baseball, for me. That league can flat-out hit. If you can pitch in that division, you can pitch anywhere."
-- Maybe if a team can get through the early part of a game without genuflecting to the big, bad, Yankees, it'll have a chance: New York has pummeled opponents 83-44 over the first two innings of games this year, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees are outscoring their opposition 43-16 in the first innings.
-- Clint Hurdle for manager of the year? Pittsburgh winning its 17th road game on Wednesday night ... matching the Pirates' total for all of 2010 (17-64). They're 17-14 away from PNC Park so far in 2011.
-- Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? When Arizona moved into first place in the NL West after being 6 1/2 games back through April 30, the Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to take sole possession of first place in their league (before 1969) or in their division (since 1969) during May after starting the month at least 6 1/2 back.
-- What's up with St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, an annual Cy Young candidate who is 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA over 12 starts? "I've been up and down all year," he says, pointing to one basic element for a pitcher that he's still battling: Fastball command.
-- Lance Berkman on his experience with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa this year: "Love him. He's great. He's such a players' guy. When you think of Tony La Russa, being a players' manager is not the first thing that jumps through your head. At least, not from watching him from the other side. But he's got a bunch of guys here who will run through a wall for him."
-- One significant difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's: The clubhouse atmosphere is far better in 2011. The stuff with Colby Rasmus has blown over. The presence of Berkman, in addition to that of Matt Holliday, has really helped. "He's unbelievable," Cards GM John Mozeliak says of Berkman. "He's a gentleman and a class act. I've really enjoyed getting to know him."
-- That the Yankees' Russell Martin currently is the AL All-Star leader at catcher is attention-grabbing. But the fact that Martin actually is deserving of consideration speaks more toward the dearth of quality catching than it
does to Martin's prowess.
-- Most productive designated hitters: Red Sox (.315 combined average, 34 runs scored, .565 slugging percentage), Royals (.302, 31, .394 on-base percentage) and Indians (.299, 27 runs, .510 slugging). Least productive? Yankees (.185, 21 runs, .350 slugging), White Sox (.234, 21, .383 slugging) and Mariners (.242, 15, .328 slugging).
-- At 17-37, the Twins are 20 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000 season (69-93).
-- So what is retired Braves manager Bobby Cox doing? He spent a nice summer's evening last week at the Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band's Atlanta show on the Welcome to Finland tour.
Likes: Former big leaguer Darin Erstad taking the job as head baseball coach at his beloved alma mater, Nebraska. ... Ian O'Connor's new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. ... Also, for you Giants fans, Worth The Wait, written by Brian Murphy and largely photographed by Brad Mangin, is beautifully done. ... The story on how Roger Ailes built the Fox news fear factory in the current issue of Rolling Stone. ... Professor Longhair's Rock and Roll Gumbo.
Dislikes: If it's anything like this, Michigan's "throwback" jersey for the night game against Notre Dame this Sept. 10 might make the game unwatchable.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Good luck had just stung me
"To the race track I did go
"She bet on one horse to win
"And I bet on another to show
"Odds were in my favor
"I had him five to one
"When that nag to win came around the track
"Sure enough he had won
"I took up all of my winnings
"And I gave my little Bessie half
"And she tore it up and blew it in my face
"Just for a laugh
"Now there's one thing in the whole wide world
I sure would like to see
"That's when that little love of mine
"Dips her doughnut in my tea"
-- The Band, Up On Cripple Creek