Rafael Furcal called it "unbelievable," but, really, it's just May.
Last night at Dodger Stadium, on the anniversary of Joe DiMaggio hitting in the first of 56 consecutive games, Furcal had four more hits, bringing his three-game total to 12, and his three-plus game run to 14 hits in 16 at-bats.
Sometime mid-evening Saturday, Furcal, who routinely warms with spring, was batting .214.
By late Tuesday night, .297.
"That's as good as anybody I've ever seen for three or four days," one scout said. "Thing is, he's hitting good pitches, hitting almost everything hard, and swinging a magic wand."
Over 18 plate appearances (he mixed in a squeeze bunt and a walk), Furcal has gotten hot off -- incredibly -- 10 different pitchers. Ten of his hits have come while batting left-handed, four batting right-handed. Six of the hits were to center field or the opposite way.
And the biggest of them came Tuesday night against St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, a two-out, bases-loaded triple on a decent pitch down in the strike zone that gave the Dodgers a 7-4 lead. He lashed that to right-center field, a ball that appeared to be carrying to medium depth and instead landed near the warning track, between Jim Edmonds and Ryan Ludwick.
Though last spring lacked the same concentration of hits, Furcal, five months after signing a three-year, $39-million contract the industry choked on, turned a .198 April into a .311 May. This spring, April's .203 -- some spent recovering from a sprained ankle -- has become May's .426.
It's come to the point the next hit is assumed. When Furcal flied to left field in the fifth inning, there was a long silence in the stands, the folks confused by this thing in baseball they call an "out."
"If he gets two hits tomorrow night," Luis Gonzalez said, "we're all going to be disappointed."
• Raul Mondesi, in town tending to personal business, was at Dodger Stadium last night, where he waved to the crowd from behind home plate, and the crowd responded with its old, familiar -- "Ra-ooooool!" He is 36 years old, out of baseball since May 25, 2005, when he was released by the Atlanta Braves. The game was never as good to Mondesi as when he played it in L.A., nor him to it. The Dodgers traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays in the Shawn Green deal after the 1999 season, and after 2 1/2 decent years in Toronto he bounced from there to New York to Arizona to Pittsburgh to Anaheim to Atlanta to forced retirement. He said he's running for public office in his native Dominican Republic and, with a wry smile, said he's working out again, hitting, throwing and running, hinting maybe he's not quite done. "I feel great," he said with a Mondi smile. I smell a comeback.
• Apparently whatever it was that afflicted the New York Yankees for the first month of the season has spread to the Texas Rangers, quite probably while the Yankees were in Arlington for a three-game series last week. Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Phil Hughes went down with hamstring injuries (Wang and Mussina have reported back, Hughes hasn't), Joe Torre had a few uncomfortable weeks because of it, and then Roger Clemens got richer. Rangers ace Kevin Millwood lasted just a few pitches on his hamstring Monday night, limped off again, and on Tuesday night outfielder Brad Wilkerson grabbed a hammy. Not sure where it goes from here, but they'd better get Eric Gagne inoculated, just to be safe.
• New to the National League Rookie of the Year watch, Houston Astros center fielder Hunter Pence has three home runs and 14 RBI in his last 12 games, or since Lance Berkman dumped on the organization for losing patience with Chris Burke.
• Also in Houston, Brad Lidge has allowed only one run and two walks (against 20 strikeouts) in his last 12 appearances, lowering his ERA from 10.12 to 3.57. Those who know Lidge trace his career wobble to the 2005 World Series and Scott Podsednik's walk-off home run in Game 2. Lidge apparently became convinced he needed to add pitches to become more effective against left-handed hitters, and while working on a splitter, cutter and two-seamer, lost the feel for his signature four-seamer and slider. John Wetteland, in a chance meeting, convinced Lidge he'd be better off going back to the pitches that made him, well, lights out.
• Another lesson is coming for New York Mets prospect Lastings Milledge and rookie rapper L Millz (they're the same guy), after the Mets were forced to publicly disassociate themselves from L Millz's lyrics in a song called "Bend Ya Knees." It's beginning to look like Milledge can't get out of the way of his own baseball career.
… AND FLY
Pretty interesting stuff from Bobby Bonds Jr. in the Newark Star-Ledger today. Although, I've got to say, I'd completely forgotten there was a Bobby Bonds Jr.