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Thursday, July 1, 2010
1st Pitch: July numbers to rely on

By Jeremy Lundblad, ESPN Stats & Info

Quick Hits: With the calendar turning to July, certain players are anxious for a fresh start, while others would prefer we just skip to August. Let’s take a look at what history tells us to expect.
Today’s Trivia: July 1 is Canada Day. It’s also the final day of All-Star voting. Can you name the five players born in Canada to have made three or more All-Star Games?

Today’s Leaderboard: This is Howie Kendrick’s month to shine. He’s a .398 hitter in July, compared to .282 in every other month combined. Chase Utley’s injury status remains up in the air, which means he could miss the month where he performs at his best. He has the second best average among active players, followed by Robinson Cano. Throw in Skip Schumaker (fifth-best), and apparently July is for second basemen.

Key Matchups: Ichiro Suzuki is a .396 career hitter against CC Sabathia, whom he faces on Thursday. Even against an elite pitcher, a high batting average is nothing particularly notable for Ichiro. However, a .708 slugging percentage is quite noteworthy for a player known as a singles hitter. It’s his highest against any pitcher that he’s faced 35 times. Ichiro has eight extra-base hits (including three home runs) off of Sabathia, his most against any pitcher.

For the second straight year, Nelson Cruz will celebrate his birthday by facing Jered Weaver. Let’s just say it probably wasn’t his first choice. Cruz, who turns 30 today, is a .190 career hitter against Weaver with seven strikeouts in 21 at-bats. John Lackey is the only pitcher against whom Cruz has more strikeouts. In last year’s birthday meeting, Cruz went 1-for-2 against Weaver before leaving the game with back stiffness.

Trivia Answer: Larry Walker’s five All-Star Games are the most for a Canadian. Eric Gagne, Fergie Jenkins, Justin Morneau, and Jason Bay have all been named three times. On the subject of Canada, Jason Bay is 0-for-18 on Canada Day since 2006 according to the Elias Sports Bureau.