Moises Alou is impressing his new teammates with his hard-nosed style.

"He plays hard," Mets manager Willie Randolph told Newsday. "He almost plays too hard sometimes. I wish he would back off a little bit. I saw him go crazy over a fly ball that was 10 feet in the stands. You love the way he plays the game and love the way he gets after it. But you wish sometimes he would take his foot off the accelerator a little bit. He's old-school."

Alou is currently playing with an ailing left knee, which kept him out of the game Friday and forced him to leave Thursday's game in the sixth inning. Alou, however, was ready to play Friday before Randolph told him he was going to leave him out of the lineup.

"It feels OK," Alou said. "The knee is something that I've been playing through, but for the first time [Thursday], it actually felt unstable, and that's not a good feeling."

Alou had an MRI on Monday and the test showed he has a slightly torn meniscus and arthritis. Alou was actually pleased with the news since he was expecting to hear that the knee would have to be drained or that he would need a cortisone shot.

"The swelling had gone down almost completely," assistant GM John Ricco said before Friday's game. "There was not enough fluid of any kind to drain it."

Alou is currently batting .348 with two home runs and 12 RBIs, giving the Mets the a much-needed right-handed hitter that the team lacked last year, aside from David Wright.

"He's impressed me because he's focused on what he's doing," Randolph said. "When you get a little older, your skills diminish a little bit. But you look at him out there, he's always in the game. He's concentrating. Sometimes you look at outfielders and you don't know where their heads are. But you know Moises is in the game. That's what I appreciate about him."

Pence delivers another first: Since being recalled from Triple-A Round Rock, Houston Astros center fielder Hunter Pence had accomplished a lot of firsts. Pence took care of the one thing that was missing on his Major League resume Saturday when he collected his first Major League home run against the St. Louis Cardinals.

And Pence made the most of the home run as it was a grand slam on a 1-0 pitch in the eighth inning in a game the Astros won 13-0.

"It happened so fast," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I really didn't get a chance to do anything but just smile and be like, 'All right, sweet.'"

As the team did when Pence collected his first career hit, Pence was the subject of a small prank when he was handed two baseballs, one from trainer Dave Labossiere and one from equipment manager Dennis Liborio, which had a sticker of authenticity from Major League Baseball.

"They got the ball for me," he said. "It was weird. I got two balls this time again, neither of them written on. One had the sticker and one didn't, so I guess the one with the sticker is the real one, I hope."

Hardy keeps it simple: Milwaukee Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy always reminds himself of what to do when he steps into the batter's box: "I keep telling myself, 'Don't try to do too much,'" Hardy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Hardy's hitting exploits, however, make it hard for others not to think he can do just about anything at the plate right now. Hardy extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games Sunday night and is a big reason why the Brewers won 6-3, putting them 10 games over .500 for the first time since 1992, when they finished 92-70.

"A lot of things are going right," Hardy said. "More is going right than wrong, for sure."

Hardy drove in four runs Saturday night, one on a single and three on a home run, his team-leading eighth of the season. He is also hitting .339 and has 26 RBIs.

"I've got high expectations for all these kids," manager Ned Yost said. "I've always felt J.J. is a special player who could hit for power and average. I'm not overly surprised."

Bay moves into elite Pirates company: When Pittsburgh outfielder Jason Bay hit his 100th career home run last week, he became just the 20th member of the Pirates to hit 100 more home runs in a Pirates uniform.

"It's special, when you look at the names -- the company that you're with -- and I've only been there for three-plus years," Bay told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "A lot of guys have come through here, and you realize not many guys have done it. It is nice company to be in."

With 475 career home runs for the Pirates, Willie Stargell is a long way off for Bay. Stargell is followed on the list by Ralph Kiner (301 homers) and Roberto Clemente (240).

To get into the top ten, Bay would need to reach 135 home runs sometime this season. That's the number of bombs hit by Al Oliver as a member of the Pirates.

Monroe gets out of his own way:Craig Monroe led the Detroit Tigers with 28 home runs last season. But last Tuesday, Monroe had hit just one homer in 2007.

In the five games since then, Monroe has hit three home runs, driven in nine and struck out just twice -- after striking out almost 30 times in his first 83 at-bats.

"So many times, I get in my own way -- I'm overanalyzing," Monroe told the Detroit Free Press. "I've got to stop doing that, and I think I've found a way in about these last 10 at-bats to just focus on one thing. And that's just trying to see the ball and letting my athletic ability take over.

"As a hitter, when something doesn't feel right, you get in the box and you think about where your hands and feet are. But if I can focus on just seeing the ball, it eliminates all my analyzing."

In addition to his hot hitting, Monroe has been a star on defense, too. On Saturday, he made an outstanding grab of the Royals Mike Sweeney's bases-loaded drive in the sixth inning. It's a play that made him very proud.

"I continue to work with Andy Van Slyke (the outfield coach) on breaks on (the) ball," Monroe said. "Sweeney's ball was a tough play because it was a line drive right at me. You have to freeze because you don't know if it will dip. It got some backspin and took off. I put my head down and got it."

Looper battles through less-than-best stuff: Despite not working with his best stuff on Sunday, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Braden Looper turned in six strong innings in the Cardinals 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros to pick up his fourth win of the season.

"It's not easy," Looper told "That wasn't easy today. It was a struggle. From the first inning on, I felt like I struggled and nothing came easy. It's not supposed to be that much work. But, luckily, I was able to work though it and make some really good pitches when I needed to."

Manager Tony La Russa said after the game that he was impressed with Looper's outing.

"He did a real good job of working with what he had," said La Russa. "I think early on, he wasn't as overpowering as he can be. But, he never gave in and kept pitching and got better. [It] was a really clutch performance for us."

A converted reliever that never made a Major League start prior to 2007, Looper is now 4-2 on the year with an ERA of just 2.66.

Another La Roche makes the Majors: With the Dodgers getting little production from their third basemen the club decided to promote Andy La Roche from Triple-A.

The younger brother of Pirates first baseman Adam La Roche, Andy went 1-for-4 in his Major League debut on Sunday.

"We decided to try a little bit different angle," manager Grady Little told the Los Angeles Times. "We know what this kid is capable of doing. We're going to give him a good opportunity."

La Roche's first Major League hit was a ground-rule double. Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur helped retrieve the ball and it ended up with Dodgers clubhouse manager, Mitch Poole.

When La Roche got the ball back after the game, Poole decided to play a joke on the rookie. He gave him a different ball and inscribed the wrong name of the pitcher whom La Roche got the hit off of.

"I got a baseball, but I'm not sure if that's even the [right] one," La Roche said. "It's not a big deal. I don't really need the ball or anything."

Poole then showed La Roche the real one, which was in a bag for safekeeping.

Swisher comes back strong: After sitting out six games with a sore hamstring, Nick Swisher has come back with a vengeance. He's 7-for-15 with six RBIs, including the game-winner in Sunday's 5-3 win over the Devil Rays.

"It just goes to show you how good a player he is to sit out that long and come back that hot," Oakland manager Bob Geren told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Swisher hit a home run that was estimated at 445 feet, which makes it the third longest ball hit at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field this season.

"That was a monster shot and it came at a huge time," said starting pitcher Joe Blanton, who moved to 3-1 on the season thanks to Swisher's big hit.

Swisher took advantage of a slider for his homer.

"The first three pitches were sliders, and then he threw another slider and another slider again -- and I was on that one after seeing it four times in a row," Swisher said. "But everything is coming at you hard. I just got the barrel on it."

-- Red Line Editorial