Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ian Kinsler Leads Tigers in Win over Kansas City; AL Wild Card Tight ; Michael Cuddyer Drives in Seven for Rockies

Players of the Day for Friday, September 19, 2014

American League

Ian Kinsler
In his years with the Texas Rangers, Ian Kinsler gained valuable first-hand experience of pennant races and post-season play, so it was no surprise that he was batting in the leadoff spot when the Tigers opened an important three-game series at Kansas City on Friday.

The scrappy second baseman wasted no time getting the Tigers into gear, singling and scoring in the first inning, as Detroit forged a 3-0 lead. Kinsler went on to double and homer in four subsequent at-bats, driving in three runs as the Tigers routed the Royals, 10-1.

Justin Verlander held Kansas City to one earned run on seven hits over seven innings for his 14th win against 12 losses.

The result moved Detroit 1 1/2 games up on the Royals in the AL Central and made the wild card chase the closest it has been all season, with three teams - Oakland, Kansas City and Seattle - all within one game of each other.

The A's and Mariners were both winners on Friday, putting Oakland up by 1/2 game over the Royals, with Seattle another 1/2 game back. Oakland and Seattle have just nine games remaining in the regular season (Kansas City, 10), meaning there are no days off until the season ends on Sunday, September 28. Two teams will be wild cards, playing a one-game playoff at the home of the team with the better record.

The Yankees, winners of four straight, are 4 1/2 behind KC, but are quickly running out of time.

Game two of Detroit's series at Kansas City is slated for 1:05 pm EDT on Saturday.

National League

Cuddyer: GS, 7RBI
At the start of the season, Michael Cuddyer was one of the hottest hitters in the National League, until suffering a hamstring injury that had him on and off the DL through the summer. Just about 12 days ago, the hamstring healed, he began playing regularly in right field, and Cuddyer has picked up right where he left off, riding a six-game hitting streak through Colorado's 15-3 pasting of Arizona Friday night.

Going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a grand slam, Cuddyer drove in seven runs and scored three runs as the Rockies and Diamondbacks play out the string, both teams long since having fallen out of post-season contention.

Elsewhere, the Dodgers improved their lead in the NL West to 3 1/2 games with a 14-5 slaughter of the Cubs in Chicago, while the Giants lost at San Diego, 5-0. In the Central, St. Louis squeezed out another close win, taking a 2-1 decision over Cincinnati. St. Louis leads Pittsburgh by 2 1/2 games in the division. Washington has already clinched the East.

The wild card is all but decided, that only matters remaining being what teams will be in which positions. Currently, the Giants have a one-game lead over Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are red-hot, having won five in a row, including Friday's 4-2 victory over the Brewers, which left Milwaukee 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates and with little chance of catching up.

Naturally, all positions could change, but the four remaining playoff spots appear to be split between St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Logan Morrison Homers in Ninth for Mariners; Dodgers Rally to Whip Cubs, Lead NL West

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 18, 2014

American League

Logan Morrison
Felix Hernandez tolled seven scoreless innings for the Mariners to no avail, as his teammates could muster but four hits against Angel pitching through eight innings.

Hernandez would receive no decision, but the Mariners eventually broke through for a 3-1 victory, on Logan Morrison's three-run homer in the top of the ninth, getting Seattle to within one game of Oakland in the quest for the second wild card.

Called on to pitch the ninth for the Angels, Kevin Jepsen managed to get the first two outs of the inning on routine ground balls, but surrendered a single to Kendrys Morales. An intentional walk to Kyle Seager after pinch-runner James Jones took second on a Jepsen pick-off attempt set the stage for Morrison, who delivered the ball to the right field stands, his ninth homer of the year.

With Oakland losing 7-2 to Texas and the Royals on a day off, the race for both wild cards has the Royals, A's, and Mariners all within 1 1/2 games. With only two spots available and 10 games left (KC has 11 remaining), it's put up or go home time in the American League.

Yasiel Puig
National League

The LA Dodgers opened their four-game series in Chicago with the Cubs with a come-from-behind, 8-4 win, picking up 1/2 game on the idle Giants in the race for the NL West.

Down 4-1, Yasiel Puig finished the scoring of a five-run seventh inning with an RBI single, putting the Dodgers up by a run. Puig was 3-for-5 on the night and scored the Dodgers' final run on a sac fly in the ninth.

LA's lead over San Francisco is 2 1/2 games. The Dodgers have nine remaining on the schedule, their magic number to clinch the division is now eight. With three games remaining at Wrigley Field this weekend, the Dodgers should make hay against the Cubs before returning home for a three-game series with the Giants. After that, they host the Rockies for three to close out the regular season.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

CJ Wilson Blanks Mariners, Angels Clinch AL West; Charlie Blackmon, Justin Morneau Bury Dodgers in 16-2 Rout

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 17, 2014

American League

CJ Wilson
Struggling to keep pace with Oakland and Kansas City - the co-leaders in the wild card race - the Seattle Mariners managed just one hit off Angels' starter, CJ Wilson, and two relievers in a 5-0 Angels win that clinched the AL West division.

Wilson (13-9) worked over the Mariners' lineup for the first seven innings, allowing the one hit - a two-out single in the fifth by Justin Smoak - walking two and fanning seven.

Having thrown 95 pitches, Wilson turned the ball over to reliever Joe Smith for a perfect eighth inning. Huston Street closed out the game by getting the Mariners in order in the ninth, sparking a celebration over the West division title, the team's first since 2009, breaking a string of four years in which the Angels, longtime leaders in the division, did not make it to the post-season.

LA has a three-game edge over Baltimore for the best record in the AL, which, if they maintain it, would give them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

In the wild card race, Kansas City won, 6-2, over the White Sox, while the Oakland A's fell to Texas, 6-1, creating a tie for the league's two wild card spots. Seattle is two games back and the only team with a realistic chance of catching either of the two current leaders. Cleveland is five games out; the Yankees and Blue jays are six games back. All of the teams still in contention have 11 games remaining on the regular season schedule.

The Royals are just 1/2 game behind the Tigers in the Central, so Detroit and the Royals could swap places any number of times during the rest of the season.

National League

Charlie Blackmon
Justin Morneau
Clinging to a slim lead in the division, the LA Dodgers' road to the NL West title hit something of a speed bump Wednesday in Denver, as the Colorado Rockies banged out 21 hits in a 16-2 win.

Leadoff hitter, Charlie Blackmon, went 5-for-5 (all singles), scored four times and drove in a pair of runs. First baseman, Justin Morneau, was 3-for-4, with a double, home run, single and a sac fly, driving in six runs.

On the season, Blackmon has 18 home runs and 70 RBI. Morneau has 16 dingers and 79 RBI.

The defeat was the second straight for the Dodgers, and cut their lead in the division to just two games over the Giants, who took a 4-2 win at Arizona.

It's too early to start looking at magic numbers for the Dodgers, as they could still be caught by the Giants and pushed into the wild card maze. The same is true for St. Louis, which holds a 2 1/2 game lead over the Pirates in the Central.

San Francisco holds a 2 1/2 game edge on the Pirates for the first wild card. Likewise, Pittsburgh leads Milwaukee by 2 1/2 games for the second, and final, wild card spot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Steve Pearce Homers, Orioles Clinch AL East; Tanner Roark, Ian Desmond Lead Nationals to Clinch NL East

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 16, 2014

American League

Steve Pearce
The Baltimore Orioles are champions of the American League East for the first time since 1997.

Steve Pearce socked a three-run homer in the first inning, which turned out to be all the O's needed as Ubaldo Jimenez and four relievers held the Blue Jays to four hits and a pair of runs in an 8-2 rout.

The win was Baltimore's third straight and ninth in their last 10, as they streak toward their second playoff appearance in the last three years. They've taken the first two from Toronto at Camden Yards and will play the final game of the series on Wednesday, beginning at 7:05 pm EDT at Camden Yards.

The O's finish their regular season at the Rogers Center in Toronto with three games against the Blue Jays, but, prior to that, they will get to take victory laps against the Red Sox in Baltimore (three games), followed by a four-game series in New York with the Yankees.

Baltimore has a chance to finish with the best record in the league, though they trail the Angels in that department by three games. LA can clinch the West with a win over Seattle, Wednesday night.

National League

Ian Desmond
Tanner Roark
Champions of the National League East after a 3-0 blanking of second-place Atlanta, the Washington Nationals present an splendid blend of speed, power, and pitching to whomever they'll oppose in the post-season.

Ian Desmond doubled and homered, drove in two runs and scored twice while Tanner Roark blanked the Braves over seven innings in the pennant-clincher.

Roark (14-10) allowed five hits, did not issue any walks and struck out four. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen finished up with perfect eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Storen picked up his seventh save.

The first NL team to claim a playoff spot, the Nationals currently have the best record in the league, which would assure them of home field throughout their playoff run. They lead the Dodgers - currently on top in the NL West by three games over the Giants - by 1 1/2 game.

With eight wins in their last ten games and winners of four straight, the Nationals finish up with the Braves for the year in game three of their series in Atlanta, Wednesday night at 7:00 pm EDT.

A quirky schedule has the Nationals playing Miami eight times in the final two weeks, starting with four games in Miami this week, and four to close out the season in Washington. Sandwiched in between is a three-game series with the Mets at home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Homers by Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera Power Tigers over Twins; Andrew Cashner Tosses 2-Hit Shutout over Phillies

Players of the Day for Monday, September 15, 2014

American League

Miguel Cabrera
Torii Hunter
Breaking a 6-6 tie in the top of the ninth inning, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera socked back-to-back homers to give Detroit a 8-6 win at Minnesota in the opener of a three-game series with the Twins.

The win was the fourth in a row for the Tigers, who have regained control of the AL Central after yielding the lead to Kansas City in August. Coupled with the Royals' 4-3 win over the White Sox, Detroit holds a 1 1/2 game edge in the division.

Game two is Tuesday at 8:10 pm EDT.

The other two divisions of the AL are nearly decided as both the Angels and Orioles won on Monday, the Angels topping Seattle - and sending the Mariners further down the standings in the wild card hunt - 8-1, while Baltimore took care of second-place Toronto with a 5-2 win over the Blue Jays at Camden Yards. Baltimore's victory opened a three-game series with Toronto and set the stage for a possible clinching of the division on Tuesday, when the two teams meet for game two at 7:05 pm EDT. Baltimore's magic number is now one; LA's is three, as the A's are 10 1/2 back and were idle on Monday.

The A's have a one-game edge over KC for the first wild card. Seattle trails KC for the second wild card by two games. Toronto, Cleveland and New York are further back with fading hopes of reaching the post-season. The Yankees - 1-0 losers at Tampa Bay Monday - were officially eliminated from the AL EAst race.

National League

Cashner: 2H ShO
Andrew Cashner (4-7, 2.20) took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, eventually settling for a two-hit shutout for the Padres in a 1-0 win over the visiting Phillies Monday night.

Cashner walked one (Chase Utley in the fourth), fanned seven and threw 68 of 92 pitches for strikes. Domonic Brown bunted his way on with one out in the fifth, but was quickly erased on an inning-ending double play. Marlon Byrd's leadoff single in the eighth inning was the only other hit for the flat-lining Phillies.

The shutout was the second of the season for the San Diego hurler. Cashner shut out the Tigers on one hit back on April 11.

Elsewhere, division leaders LA and Washington were both winners; the Cardinals maintained a 3 1/2 game lead over the Pirates in the Central. Both the Cards and Pirates were idle on Monday.

In the only significant wild card action, San Francisco dropped its third straight, losing, 6-2, at Arizona. The Giants still hold a 2 1/2 game edge over the Pirates in the wild card. Pittsburgh is 1 1/2 in front of Milwaukee for the second wild card slot. The Brewers were also off Monday.