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Howard, B. Molina earn honors

Howard, B. Molina earn honors

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Veterans Ryan Howard of the Phillies and Bengie Molina of the Rangers were recognized for their torrid hitting on Monday, when they were named the Bank of America Players of the Week for the National and American Leagues. Both players will receive a watch courtesy of Game Time, the leader in licensed sports watches, which are available at MLB.com.

The Player of the Week designation is the sixth of Howard's distinguished career, which has also brought him a Rookie of the Year Award, a Most Valuable Player Award and two home run crowns. Howard hit .400 (6-for-15) in four games last week, and he led all Major League players with four home runs. Howard also drove in eight runs and notched 18 total bases.

Howard, who started for the NL at designated hitter in the All-Star Game, didn't waste much time in starting off his second half. The slugger launched two home runs in his first game after the break, and then went deep again the following day. Howard also homered on Sunday -- his fourth in as many games -- to tie Chuck Klein (243) for fourth place in the franchise record book.

Molina, meanwhile, is lending his production to a brand new team. Molina, who started the season with San Francisco, was traded to Texas on July 1 and has made an immediate impact. The veteran catcher, who will turn 36 on Tuesday, batted .417 with two home runs and six RBIs in his first three games after the intermission, slugging at a 1.167 clip.

Molina's week exploded on Friday, when he became the first catcher since April of the 2004 season to hit for the cycle. Molina went 4-for-4, and his fifth-inning grand slam provided the key blow in a Texas win. Molina became just the fifth Ranger to ever hit for the cycle and just the eighth player since 1900 to have a grand slam as part of their cycle.

Howard, whose 73 RBIs lead all NL hitters, outpolled a large group of candidates that included four players from the Cubs -- Starlin Castro, Marlon Byrd, Geovany Soto and Randy Wells -- as well as two Braves (Matt Diaz and Brian McCann) and two Padres (Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell). San Francisco starters Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito also received consideration.

Molina, meanwhile, garnered more support than teammate Nelson Cruz and another varied group of contenders. Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar -- another recent trade acquisition -- also received some support, as did veteran infielders Carlos Pena of the Rays and Kevin Kouzmanoff of the A's. Youngsters Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, Reid Brignac of the Rays and Justin Smoak, recently acquired by the Mariners, were also considered.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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