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Monday, April 17, 2006

Baseball Home Runs At A Considerable Pace - USA TODAY

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By Mel Antonen, USA TODAY

The season is only two weeks old, but home runs are leaving parks at the fastest pace ever.
And, it's not the usual culprits doing the damage.

Chris Shelton, first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, is tied for the major league lead with eight home runs while Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox's Manny Ramirez have yet to hit a home run.

Starting play Monday, teams have hit an average of 2.48 home runs a game this year.

Sunday, St. Louis' Albert Pujols hit three in the Cardinals' 8-7 win vs. the Cincinnati Reds, giving him eight. And the Cincinnati Reds' Bronson Arroyo has two homers. And he's a pitcher who spent the last three seasons in the designated-hitter American League.

Also Sunday, the New York Yankees hit four home runs against the Minnesota Twins.

Teams hit 2.06 home runs a game in 2005. The highest average was in 2000 (2.34).

Shelton, 23, hit a home run against Cliff Lee at Comerica Park on Sunday to give the Tigers a 1-0 win against the Cleveland Indians.

"I can't really tell you why it went out of the ballpark," Shelton said, "but it did. I wasn't trying to go up there and hit a home run. I was just trying to hit it hard."

Shelton is one of the building blocks in the Tigers' rebuilding process. He started last season at Class AAA Toledo (Ohio) and was promoted to the Tigers after the first two months of the season. He hit 18 home runs while averaging .299 in 107 games for the Tigers.

Bonds, who has bone chips in his elbow, is 4-for-23 with no home runs in nine games.

His longest home-run drought to start a season is 12 games in 1998. Bonds has 708 career home runs, six short of tying Babe Ruth for second on the all-time list.

Ramirez, who has at least 30 home runs in eight consecutive seasons, didn't hit a home run Sunday, so now he's dealing with an 11-game drought, longest of his career, says Elias.

Last season, Ramirez, who led the American League with 43 home runs in 2004, didn't hit his first home run until his 11th game.

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