Sunday, August 31, 2014

Matt Holliday Powers Cards to Top in NL Central; Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence Rip in 15-5 Giants' Win; Clay Buchholz Goes Distance

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 31, 2014

American League
Buchholz: 3-hit ShO

Sadly, Clay Buchholz's 3-hit shutout of the Rays will not be remembered in the annals of great Boston performances, as the Red Sox have long since fallen out of contention, their 60-76 record leaving them 19 1/2 back and in last place in the AL East.

Buchholz did everything right in Boston's 3-0 victory, getting 23 first-pitch strikes on the 29 batters he faced, throwing 69 of 98 pitches for strikes, fanning six without walking a batter.

It hasn't been the best of season for either the Red Sox or Buchholz, who improved to just 6-8 while lowering his ERA to 5.40.

Buchholz allowed hits in the first, fourth and sixth inning, but, after Jose Molina singled, leading off the sixth, Buchholz mowed down the remaining Tampa hitters in order, getting the last 12 in a row, to finish with a flourish.

Elsewhere in the division, Baltimore extended their lead - the largest in the majors - to nine games over the Yankees with a 12-8 win over the Twins while the Bombers were losing to Toronto, 4-3. In case anyone wants to start counting, the Orioles' magic number to clinch the AL East outright is 19.
Hunter Pence

National League

Matt Holliday
It's getting crowded at the top in the NL Central, West and wild card races.

The Giants completed the three-game sweep of the Brewers with a 15-5 trouncing, pounding a parade of weary Milwaukee pitchers for 16 hits and five bases on balls, dropping the Brewers into a tie for first place in the Central division with the Cardinals, 9-2 winners over the Cubs.

Pablo Sandoval
Leading the Giants were Hunter Pence, who singled, doubled twice, tripled, drove in two runs and scored three times in five at-bats, and Pablo Sandoval, who went 3-for-3 with a single, triple and a two-run homer, driving in three. Both players scored three times in the rout, the Giants' sixth straight win, leaving them 2 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the West but atop the wild card race, with a game edge over either the Brewers or Cardinals. Atlanta trails San Francisco by 2 1/2 in the wild card. Pittsburgh is three out.

In St. Louis, the Cardinals rode the bat of red-hot Matt Holliday, who singled, homered, doubled and drove in four runs in the Cardinals second straight win over the Cubs, splitting the series, two games apiece.

Holliday homered twice on Saturday, has four homers in his last five games and has nine RBI in just his last two games. He has 16 homers and 78 RBI on the season. He's hit safely in nine of his last ten games, going 13-for-40 (.325) with 16 RBI.

As the calendar turns to September, on Monday, all NL contenders oen three-game series. St. Louis stays home to host the Pirates, Milwaukee heads to Colorado, the Brewers go to Chicago to play the Cubs, while the Dodgers host NL East-leading Washington.

The Giants could end the day riding an eight-game win streak, as they will be finishing a game with the Rockies that was suspended with the score tied, 2-2, in the bottom of the sixth inning, from May 22, prior to their regularly-scheduled start. The additional game due the Giants could - in the case of a win - put additional pressure on the Dodgers and the teams battling for the wild card.

Tampa's Jake Odorizzi, Toronto's Drew Hutchison Each Throw Seven-Inning 1-Hitters; Matt Holliday Homers Twice as Cardinals Break Losing Streak

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 30, 2014

American League

Drew Hutchison
If any one thing typifies the state of baseball in the 21st century it is the advent - and overuse - of the pitch count, the nearly deified number that skews statistics and has managers scurrying from the dugout to the mound with the diligence of a third grade schoolmarm.

Jake Odorizzi
On Saturday, the dreaded pitch count marred two exceptional performances, both in the AL East and both by pitchers on their separate ways to what could have been - should have been - shutouts.

In Tampa, rookie hurler, Jake Odorizzi quieted the Red Sox on one hit over seven innings, blanking them, while striking out seven and walking three, in a 7-0 Tampa Bay victory.

Other than plunking Yoenis Cespedes in the second inning and walking the bases full in the seventh, Odorizzi was round the plate, allowing only a Will Middlebrooks fourth-inning leadoff single to soil his record. That one hit, did, however, give manager Joe Madden an excuse to take his rookie from the mound ad turn the ball over to relievers for the final two innings. One supposes that had Odorizzi been throwing a no-hitter, Madden might have left him in, even after the alarming 103 pitches he'd thrown.

Jake Beliveau and Kirby Yates mopped up, pitching the eighth and ninth, respectively, preserving the victory.

Earlier in the day, Toronto's Drew Hutchison had set the mark for young hurlers, blanking the visiting Yankees on one hit over seven innings - a fourth-inning double by Mark Teixeira - before being lifted. Hutchison threw (you guessed it) 103 pitches, walking two and striking out nine prior to getting the hook.

Strangely enough, Hutchison also faced a bases-loaded condition, when he plunked Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann with two outs, around Teixeira's double, but got Martin Prado to fly out to center, ending the inning.

Aaron Sanchez came on with a flawless two innings of relief for the 2-0 Toronto win.

Hutchison, who tossed 58 innings in 2013, so is technically not a rookie, has already thrown a shutout this season. Odorizzi has not.

The results of the games did little to affect the standings, except that the Yankees fell further behind the Orioles in the East, now eight games back, and fell 3 1/2 off the pace in the race for the second wild card.

National League

Holliday: 2HR, 5RBI
The Cardinals finally broke out of their funk, winning the back end of a day-night double-headers with the Cubs Saturday night, breaking a four-game losing streak with a 13-2 win.

Matt Holliday led the hitting assault with a pair of homers - his 14th and 15th - a three-run jolt in the fifth inning which unknotted a 1-1 tie and a solo blast in the ninth igniting a nine run Cardinal eruption.

Holliday was also hit by a pitch with the bases loaded later in the inning, accounting for his fifth RBI of the night. He finished 2-for-3.

The victory came at an opportune time for St. Louis, holding onto their status in both the Central division and wild card races. While the Giants were beating Milwaukee, 3-1, for their fifth straight win (and the Brewers' fourth straight loss), the Cardinals had already lost the first half of their double-header to the Cubs, 5-1.

The results leave St. Louis one game behind the Brewers in the division, with Pittsburgh another game back. The Cardinals are a game behind the Giants in the wild card race, leaving them in the #2 slot, with the Pirates, again, one more game back. Atlanta is 1 1/2 behind the Cardinals.

Teams and positions are sure to change as baseball enters September. The Giants trial Los Angeles by just 2 1/2 in the NL West.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chris Davis Grand Slam Sends O's to 9-1 Win over Twins; Buster Posey 5-for-5 in Giants' 13-2 Rout of Brewers

Players of the Day for Friday, August 29, 2014

American League

Davis: Grand Slam
Baltimore's Chris Davis isn't having the kind of season he had in 2013, when he led the league in home runs (53) and RBI (138), but he's been picking his game up lately and the Orioles are happy to see that.

Davis has hit three homers and driven in seven runs in his last five games, four of which came in Friday's 9-1 mauling of the Twins, the opener of a four-game series at Camden Yards.

With the bases full in the fourth and the O's already up, 1-0, Davis unloaded on Minnesota starter, Trevor May, launching a 415-foot bomb over the right field wall. It was Davis' 24th homer of the season and upped his RBI count to 67 on the season.

Filling in at third base frequently since Many Machado's injury, Davis has helped the Orioles remain in first place in the East, where they currently hold a seven-game edge over the Yankees, who beat Toronto, 6-3, Friday, but are looking more and more like a possible wild card, rather than contenders for the division title.

Game two of the series in Baltimore is Saturday, at 7:05 pm EDT.

National League

Posey: 5-for-5
The meeting between the Giants and Brewers in San Francisco this weekend had more than enough intrigue, but the tenseness was dispelled early by Buster Posey and the San Francisco batters, who hammered Milwaukee starter, Wily Peralta, and scored all of their runs in the first five innings of a 13-2 rout.

Peralta lasted only three innings, giving up the first six runs on nine hits and a pair of walks. The Giants weren't exactly hospitable to the next Brewer hurler either, hammering Marco Estrada for seven more runs over the next two innings.

Buster Posey went 5-for-5 with four singles and a triple, scoring three times and driving in three before heading for the bench after six innings. As a team, the Giants were 19-for-42. Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence each collected three hits. Joe Panik went 4-for-6.

Recently, Posey's been on fire, hitting safely in eight of his last nine games, with multiple hits in six of them. Over that span, he's 20-for-40, with four homers and 13 RBI. Winners of four straight and seven of their last ten, the Giants have moved past St. Louis to claim the #1 wild card position, as the Cardinals fell to the Cubs, 7-2, Friday, their third straight loss.

The NL wild card race is still incredibly tight. St. Louis is 1/2 game behind the Giants, Atlanta, 1/2 back and the Pirates are just two games off the pace.

Game two of the Brewers-Giants three-game series is slated for a 6:05 pm PDT start, Saturday in San Francisco.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Alex Avila Lifts Tigers over Yankees; Jordan Shafer Helps Twins Down Royals in 10; Yusmeiro Petit Sets MLB Mark in Win over Rockies

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 28, 2014

American League

Alex Avila
Tightening the race in the Central division, Alex Avila delivered a walk-off, game-winner for the Tigers, banging one off the wall in right center with two down and two aboard in the bottom of the ninth for a 3-2 Detroit win over the visiting Yankees in an afternoon contest.
Jordan Schafer

Avila, who had just the one hit in three at-bats, did drive in the Tigers' first run, with a second-inning sac fly, scoring Nick Castellanos from third base. The Tigers took two of three from the Yankees on their final visit of the season to Motown.

In the evening, Minnesota scored six runs in the 10th inning to upend the Royals, 11-5, leaving Kansas City just 1 1/2 games up on the Tigers. Left fielder, Jordan Schafer, who spent the first half of the season in Atlanta, playing part-time for the Braves, went 3-for-5 and drove in four runs, including two in the extra inning. He also came around to score in the 10th on Brian Dozier's double.

Riding an eight-game hitting streak, Schafer is blooming with more playing time for the Twins, batting .328 with the Twins while going 12-for-27 (.444) during his hit streak.

Minnesota, in last place in the AL Central, avoided being swept at home with the win. The Royals close out August with three home games with Cleveland, beginning Friday, while the Tigers travel to Chicago for four games with the White Sox, including a double-header on Saturday.

National League

Petit: 46 Straight
Setting a major league record by retiring 46 straight batters, Yusmeiro Petit went six innings, striking out nine, as the Giants took their third straight over the faded Rockies, 4-1.

Petit retired the first eight batters he faced, before allowing a double to the opposing pitcher, Jordan Lyles. The Rockies scored their only run of the game when the next batter, Charlie Blackmon, singled home Lyles from second.

The record (previously set by Mark Buehrle in 2009) out of the way, Petit got back to business, allowing allowing just two more hits while keeping the Rockies off the scoreboard.

Petit's record run covered eight games, six of which were in relief.

The Giants gained a half game on the idle Dodgers in the West, and now trail LA by 4 1/2 games. San Francisco gained to within 1/2 game of the Cardinals in the wild card, and have a 1 1/2 game edge over the Braves for the second spot. Atlanta defeated the Mets, 4-1, Thursday.

On Friday, the Giants open a crucial series with central division-leading Milwaukee, hosting the Brewers for three games at AT&T Park.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Drew Smyly Comes Though Again for Rays in 3-1 Win at Baltimore; LA's Clayton Kershaw is MLB's 1st 16-Game Winner

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 27, 2014

American League

Smyly: Nice trade
About a month ago, Drew Smyly was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the deal that sent David Price to Detroit. As of Wednesday night, that deal didn't look too bad... for the Rays.

As Price was getting shelled by the Yankees, allowing nine straight hits in the third inning en route to an 8-4 Yankee win, Smyly was setting up and knocking down the Orioles for a 3-1 victory.

Staked to a 3-0 lead after the first two Tampa Bay at-bats, the only run given up by Smyly - and one of just two hits over seven innings - was a two-out, solo homer to Baltimore's Chris Davis in the bottom of the second. After that, Smyly was just about untouchable, getting the next 12 batters in order before Steve Pearce's two-out single in the sixth inning.

After 87 pitches, Smyly was done. Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee pitched hitless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, McGee picking up his 15th save.

So, let's review. Since the trade:

Smyly: 5 starts, 3 wins, 1 loss, 1.50 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, Opp. BA: .150

Price: 5 starts, 1 win, 2 losses, 4.41 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, Opp. BA: .232

And, it gets worse, or better, depending upon which side of the trade you're on. The Rays also got 18-year-old infield prospect Willy Adames from the Tigers. Center fielder Austin Jackson was sent from Detroit to the Mariners, who then sent infielder Nick Franklin to the Rays.

Wednesday's results helped cloud an already murky playoff picture. The O's still lead the Yankees in the AL East by six games. Detroit trails Kansas City by 2 1/2 in the Central and Seattle by 1/2 game for the second wild card. The Yankees are 2 1/2 back of Seattle, with Cleveland 4 1/2 out.

Baltimore has taken two of three from the Rays and will complete the four-game series at Camden Yards on Thursday at 7:10 pm EDT.

Kershaw: 16-3
National League

There's little doubt that Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers to ever don a Dodger uniform, and that list was already pretty impressive beofre Kershaw came along (Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax come to mind).

On Wednesday, Kershaw became the first 16-game winner in either league, tossing eight innings in a 3-1 Dodger win.

Kershaw didn't have his best stuff, but still limited the Diamondbacks to six hits and a pair of walks. The only Arizona run was unearned, coming in the fourth inning on a throwing error by left fielder Steve Van Slyke.

Throwing 106 pitches, Kershaw struck out 10, moving him into third place among NL starters, with 194 Ks. Stephen Strasburg leads the league with 202; Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto is next, with 199.

Kershaw leads the league in wins and has only three losses this season. He sports a 1.73 ERA, lowest in the majors.

LA's win kept them five games up on the Giants, who also won, topping Colorado, 4-2. The Dodgers took both games in Arizona and, after a day off, head to San Diego for a three game series with the Padres. After that, they return home for a nine-game stand to start the month of September.