With his outstanding mix of power and speed, Ryan Braun is continuing to put his name among elite company in the baseball's grand history.
Braun homered twice Friday and Prince Fielder hit his 33rd shot of the season, as the Brewers used a five-homer night to beat the Reds, 6-3. Braun's two-homer night gave him 30 dingers and 99 RBIs on the season. And with 31 steals, he became the second Brewers player (joining Tommy Harper) and 56th player overall to have 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season.
Braun is currently second in batting in the National League, trailing Jose Reyes .334 to .330. Among the 54 30-30 players through 2010, none had ever won a batting title. Matt Kemp has also gone 30-30 this season, and he is currently fourth in the league in batting, at .315.
Braun is the 11th player in history to have at least 30 homers in four of his first five seasons. Albert Pujols hit the plateau in each of his first five years, and nine others besides Braun went 4-for-5: Chuck Klein, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Ralph Kiner, Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Mark McGwire, Mark Teixeira and Dan Uggla.
With one more RBI, Braun will join Klein, DiMaggio, Williams, Kiner, Teixeira and Pujols as the only players with four (or, in the case of Pujols, five) 30-homer, 100-RBI campaigns through their first five seasons.
In 1922, two years after Yankees outfielder Babe Ruth became the first player in the game's history to club 50 home runs, St. Louis Browns outfielder Ken Williams had a first of his own. That season, Williams -- who led the American League in total bases, extra-base hits and RBIs, and finished in the top five in slugging, OPS, runs, hits and walks -- became the game's first 30-30 player.
Williams hit 39 home runs that season (another league-leading figure) and also stole 37 bases. The Browns outfielder, who turned 32 years old when he assembled that brilliant season, would be 66 when the Majors saw a second player hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases.
In 1956, Willie Mays joined the club, and then, for added flair, did it again in '57. Hank Aaron was the next to accomplish the feat, when he stole 31 bases and hit 44 home runs for the Milwaukee Braves in '63. After Bobby Bonds joined the club in '69, another player in Milwaukee -- this time for the Brewers -- became just the sixth player in the game's history to compose a 30-30 season a year later.
That year, Harper hit 31 home runs, stole 38 bases, and finished sixth in AL VP Award voting in 1970 despite being a representative of a team that finished 33 games out of first place.
Braun and Fielder have homered in the same game 35 times since they became teammates in 2007. The duo has done it nine times this season. Milwaukee has gone 26-9 in those games in which Braun and Fielder each homer.
Braun's OPS+ stands at 165, while Fielder's is 159. Since 1962, 11 pairs or trios of teammates have each finished the season with an OPS+ of at least 160. The most recent duo was Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz with the Red Sox in 2006.
The Tigers defeated the Athletics, 3-1, to capture the AL Central crown, becoming the first club to clinch a division this season.
The division title is the first for the Tigers since 1987, when they won the AL East. Since 1969, when division play began, this crown marks the fourth for Detroit, following '87 (lost in AL Championship Series), '72 (lost in ALCS) and '84 (won World Series).
Dating back to 2007, the Tigers are the fourth different club to take the AL Central. The Indians won it in '07, the White Sox beat the Twins in a one-game playoff to hold first place in '08, the Twins beat the Tigers in a one-game playoff in '09 to win the title, and then Minnesota took home its second straight crown last season.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has won four division titles. This is the first since he guided the Pirates to the third of three straight in 1992.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde pitched around a leadoff double and recorded his 45th save of the year to remain perfect in save opportunities on the season. Valverde's streak of 45 straight from the start of the season is the second longest in history, trailing Eric Gagne's 55 straight in 2003.
Dating back to last year, Valverde has converted 47 consecutive save opportunities. The streak ties him with Brad Lidge (2007-09) for the third longest in history.
Tigers starter Doug Fister allowed one run and three hits in eight innings to improve to 6-1 with a 2.12 ERA since being acquired in a trade with the Mariners on July 30. In his nine starts with Detroit, the Tigers have gone 7-2.
Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon struck out three Rays in a scoreless ninth inning and picked up his 30th save of the season. Papelbon's WHIP currently stands at 0.888. If he finishes the year below 0.900, it will mark the third time he has recorded 30 saves along with a WHIP that low. Mariano Rivera and Billy Wagner each have the most, with four such seasons. Dennis Eckersley had three.
Red Sox pitchers with at least 1,000 Career Strikeouts
Pujols went 4-for-4 with a pair of walks and raised his batting average to .301. Pujols, who has 35 homers and 93 RBIs, entered the 2011 season having hit .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each his first 10 seasons. He is the only player in history to make that claim.
Pujols' OPS+ now stands at 154. He has never been below 150 at the end of a season, and is the only player in history to begin his career by having 10 straight seasons of at least a 150 OPS+ while qualifying for the batting title.
Kansas City's Eric Hosmer capped off a 3-for-5 night vs. the White Sox with a game-winning double in the bottom of the ninth -- his third walk-off hit in 118 career games.
Hosmer owns an .847 OPS in 60 games since the All-Star break, and his OPS+ currently stands at 119. Since 1901, Hosmer is one of 44 first basemen to accumulate enough plate appearances in his first season to qualify for the batting title. Among those 44, Hosmer's 119 OPS+ would tie him with George Burns, Wally Joyner and Mark Grace for the 11th highest.
The Giants' Madison Bumgarner limited the Rockies to one run in seven innings and won his fifth straight start to improve to 12-12 for the season. Bumgarner owns a 1.04 ERA in 34 2/3 innings during his streak.
The southpaw struck out three Friday, giving him 181 K's for the season. The 181 strikeouts are the sixth most for any left-hander in his age-21 season or younger since 1901. Vida Blue (age-21 season) had 301 K's in '71; Frank Tanana (21) had 269 in '75; Fernando Valenzuela (21) had 199 in '82; Rick Ankiel (20) had 194 in 2000; Clayton Kershaw (21) had 185 in '09.
Javier Vazquez threw a five-hitter for his first shutout since May 22, 2005, and the Marlins beat the Nationals 3-0.
Most Complete-Game Shutouts in a Season since 1998
Vazquez's five-hitter marked the 71st complete-game shutout of the season. There were 60 all of last year.
Here and there
Milwaukee's John Axford became the ninth pitcher to convert at least 40 consecutive save opportunities. He is tied with Eckersley, who converted 40 straight in 1991-92.
The Astros' Carlos Lee became the 26th active player with 20 multihomer games. Among active players, Lee's 349 career home runs are the fourth most for any player who never had a 100-strikeout season. Chipper Jones (453), Vladimir Guerrero (448) and Pujols (443) are ahead of him. Lee is 13th among active players in home runs.
Blake Beavan threw eight shutout innings and helped lead the Mariners to a 4-0 win over the Rangers. Tim Stauffer threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings and got the win in the Padres' 2-0 victory over the D-backs. Combined with the Marlins' shutout of the Nationals, there have now been 300 team shutouts this year, leaving the 2011 season 29 behind last season for the most since 1998, when the league took on its present incarnation of 30 teams.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.