Saturday, May 31, 2008

Overbay Shoots Down Angels; Martin's 4-4 Leads LA Past Mets

Players of the Day from Friday, May 30, 2008 American League Lyle Overbay belted a pair of solo home runs, drove in another run with a single and scored three times, sparking Toronto to a 10-4 win over AL West leader Los Angeles. The Blue Jays, winners of 3 straight and 8 of their last 10, remain 3 games behind the Rays and 2 back of Boston in the AL East. Though usually not noted for their hitting prowess, the Jays have scored 22 runs in their last two games. Their pitching staff, however, is the stingiest in the league, with a 3.32 team ERA. Notes: The woes of the Royals continue. On Friday, Kansas City blew a 4-1 lead and failed to score after the 4th inning, dropping their 12 straight, a 5-4 decision to Cleveland. When the losing streak started, the Royals were just one game under .500, at 21-22. That was on May 18, before being losing four straight at Boston, four more at Toronto, dropping three straight home games to Minnesota and last night's defeat at the hands of the Indians. Of all the teams in the AL, the Royals are the only one that has not cracked the 200 barrier in runs (197) or RBI (187). Their team ERA of 4.60 is 11th of 14, with only the Rangers, Tigers and Mariners posting worse numbers. National League The National League's spot behind the plate at this season's All-Star Game should be occupied by the Dodgers' Russell Martin, batting a brisk .326 after a 4-for-4 night on Friday. Martin singled twice, doubled and hit a solo home run, drove in three and scored three times as the Dodgers whipped the Mets, 9-5, Friday. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Dodgers, and with Arizona losing their 5th in a row, puts LA 2 1/2 behind the Diamondbacks, the closest they've been since early in the season. Notes: While the Dodgers are closing ground in the West, the Phillies overtook Florida in the East with a 12-3 thumping of the Marlins in Philly. Chase Utley smacked his league-leading 18th home run. Teammate Ryan Howard notched his 15th bomb of the season as the Phillies took a 1/2-game lead in the East. Absolutely scorching, the Phillies have won five straight and 8 of their last 10. They've scored 60 runs in their last 5 games. Not surprisingly, they lead the NL in home runs with 82 and are second in RBI and Runs.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Barajas' 3 doubles lead Jays 12-0 romp; Wright's Pair Drops Dodgers

Players of the Day from Thursday, May 29, 2008 American League The Toronto Blue Jays have quietly slipped into third place in the AL East, winning 7 of their last 10, and made some noise last night, hammering the A's, 12-0. Catcher Rod Barajas stroked three doubles in four at-bats to lead the attack and also directed starter Jesse Litsch to his 7th win against just one loss. Barajas raised his batting average to .301.
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Notes: The AL East is turning into an interesting 3-team race, with the Tampa Bay Rays a game in front of the Red Sox and Toronto just 3 back. The Yankees lurk in last place, 5 1/2 off the pace. National League David Wright and the Mets spoiled Joe Torre's return to New York and roughed up starter Brad Penny, sending the Dodgers to their 4th straight loss with an 8-4 win in New York. Wright connected for a pair of 2-run homers off Penny in the 3rd and 4th innings with Luis Castillo - who went 3-for-4 - aboard for both trips. The Mets have won three straight and have reached the .500 mark at 26-26, but still trail the Marlins by 4 games in the East, with the Phillies and Braves also ahead of them in the standings. Notes: Randy Johnson tied Roger Clemens for second place on the career strikeout list, fanning 9 Giants in Arizona's 4-3 home loss. San Francisco completed a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks by scoring single runs in the 8th and 9th innings, after Johnson had left the game with a 3-2 lead. It was Arizona's 4th straight loss, though they continue to lead the NL West as the 2nd-place Dodgers have also dropped 4 in a row. Johnson, who had taken second place on the strikeout list last season only to see Roger Clemens pass him while he sat on the disabled list, was unimpressed by the feat. Clemens, now retired, and he both have 4672 Ks with no chance of ever catching all-time leader Nolan Ryan, who struck out an amazing 5714.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ross' 2 HR Not Enough for Marlins; Bedard Blanks Boston

Players of the Day from Wednesday, May 28, 2008 American League Tim Wakefield had the old flutterball working last night in Seattle, but the Mariners' Erik Bedard used harder stuff to get the decision in Seattle's 1-0 win over Boston. Bedard (4-3) gave up two hits and three walks while fanning 8 over 7 scoreless innings in his best performance of the season. Brandon Morrow and J.J. Putz finished up with an inning of perfect relief each. Though his ERA is a bit high at 4.03, Bedard has pitched well in his 9 starts, allowing only 42 hits in 53 innings. His strikeouts to walks ratio is better than 2-1 (48-23), but he's given up 8 homers and often doesn't get much run support. Well, he does play for the Mariners, who have scored just 217 runs in 54 games. In the AL, only the Blue Jays and Royals have scored less. Notes: Kansas City lost a tough 10-9, 10-inning decision to the Twins on Wednesday, but it was their 10th straight loss, the longest losing streak in the majors this season. National League Cody Ross did what he could to keep the Marlins in the game, but the Mets eventually overcame Florida, 7-6, in 11 innings. Ross delivered a pair of homers off NY starter Oliver Perez - a solo shot in the 5th and a 3-run blast in the 6th which actually gave the Marlins a 5-4 lead. Ross' heroics went for naught, however, as Eric Chavez homered to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, and Fernando Tatis doubled home a pair in the 14th after Florida had retaken the lead with a run in the top of the frame. Notes: Jeff Suppan 4-hit the Braves over 8 innings in Milwaukee's 1-0 win, but he couldn't stop Chipper Jones from extending his hitting streak to ten games. Jones singled in the 3rd inning and walked twice. His 1-for-2 night at the plate raised his batting average to .418.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hamilton a Triple Crown Threat; Pence's 5-for-5 Leads Astros

Players of the Day from Tuesday, May 27, 2008 American League Cincinnati's loss has been the Rangers' gain. After hitting .292 with 19 homers and 47 RBI for the Reds as a rookie in 2007, Josh Hamilton was traded to the Rangers and he's already exceeded expectations. On Tuesday, Hamilton smacked a grand slam - his 13th home run of the season - and doubled in 5 at-bats, driving in five runs in the Rangers' 12-6 thrashing of the Rays.
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The five RBI gave Hamilton 58 on the year, miles ahead of the closest competition. Carlos Quentin is second in the AL with 44. The 13 homers has Hamilton second behind Quentin and his .329 batting average is tied with Joe Mauer and Milton Bradley as the best in the AL. Notes: Hamilton is looking having a triple crown season, while Lance Berkman is doing much the same in the AL. The last time a player led the league in average, home runs and RBI in the AL was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 (.326, 44, 121). Frank Robinson (.316, 49, 122) did it the year prior, in 1966, playing for the Orioles. In the NL, the feat was last accomplished in 1937, when Joe Medwick hit .374 with 31 homers and 154 RBI for the St. Louis Cardinals. National League Albert Pujols went 4-for-4 and knocked his 12th home run, but Hunter Pence did him one better, going 5-for-5 at the plate and drove in two runs in Houston's 8-2 win over the Cardinals. Pence, in his first full season as the regular right fielder for the Astros, is batting .311 with 7 homers and 31 RBI, and is one of the reasons (besides Lance Berkman) that the Astros are challenging for the NL Central title. Notes: The Cardinals and Astros are both 30-23, 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the Central division. Florida remained 1 1/2 to the good over the Phillies, as the Marlins lost to the Mets, 5-3, while Philly won their third straight, a 7-3 win over visiting Colorado. Nothing much has changed in the West. Arizona still leads the Dodgers by 3 1/2 games.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Markakis Rakes for O's'; Utley Drives in 6 in Philly's 20-run Outburst

Players of the Day from Monday, May 27, 2008 American League First, Nick Markakis kept the O's and Yankees deadlocked at 0-0, rifling a strike to the plate to nail Johnny Damon in the third inning. Later, in the sixth, he broke the scoreless tie with a solo home run, and in the seventh, he singled home another run and later scored on Aubrey Huff's 3-run homer.
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The Orioles snapped their five game losing streak with a 6-1 win over the Yankees. With the win, Baltimore escaped last place, for now. They are just 1/2 game better than the Yankees, but the two teams play twice more on Tuesday and Wednesday. Notes: At the other end of the AL East standings, the Tampa Bay Rays retained the top spot over Boston by 1/2 game, downing the Rangers, 7-3, while the Red Sox were beating Seattle, 5-3. The Rays have won 4 straight, and, at 31-20, have the best record in the majors. National League The Phillies took it to the Rockies, 20-5, on Monday, with Chase Utley leading the charge with 6 RBI. Utley smacked his 16th home run in the first inning, tying him for the NL lead with Lance Berkman and Dan Uggla. The three-run shot complemented his two RBI singles and a ground out that drove in another run. Utley also scored twice and stole his fifth base of the season. Notes: Two other players registered big numbers for the Phillies. Pedro Feliz went 4-fot-6 and drove in 4 runs. Catcher Chris Coste singled, doubled and homered in 6 at-bats, also collecting 4 RBI.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Gonzalez Walks Off Reds in 18th; Kubel Slams Tigers

Players of the Day from Sunday, May 25, 2008 American League Jason Kubel broke open a 1-1 game with an 8th inning grand slam that propelled the Minnesota Twins to a 6-1 victory over the hapless, last-place Tigers on Sunday. Kubel also singled earlier in the game, and finished 2-for-4 with 4 RBI. The win got the Twins to .500 (25-25) and into sole possession of second place in the upside-down AL Central, 2 1/2 behind the surprising White Sox. Notes: The Twins have relished beating up on divisional opponents, posting a 15-9 record. Sunday was their 5th win in their last 6 games against the Tigers. National League The last-place Padres haven't had much to cheer about this season, but after 18 grueling innings last night in San Diego, Adrian Gonzalez finally delivered some joy in the form of a walk-off 3-run homer to down the Reds, 12-9. Gonzalez went 4-for-9, with a single, two doubles and the game-ending bomb, drove in four runs and scored just once. For Gonzalez, one of the Padres actually having a productive season, it was his 14th home run of the season. His 43 RBI ties him with Houston's Carlos Lee, who are both two behind Lance Berkman. Notes: The Reds used 10 pitchers in the Sunday marathon; the Padres employed eight. Fans are still waiting for Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600th home run. Junior hit #498 on May 22, ending a 21-game homer drought and he has only five on the season.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bay Puts Cubs Down in 14th; Ordonez, Tigers Hammer Twins

Players of the Day from Saturday, May 24, 2008 American League After Magglio Ordonez gave Detroit an early lead with a two-run, first-inning homer, Minnesota tied it back up on Alexi Casilla's 2-run shot in the third, so when Ordonez next stepped to the plate, he was determined the Tigers were going to stay ahead. He knocked a two-run double to right and later scored as Detroit scored 4 times in the bottom of the 3rd, en route to a 19-3 demolition of the Minnesota Twins. Ordonez was not finished, however. He smacked another 2-run homer in the 4th and walked and scored in the fifth inning. By the time he was relieved by Ryan Raburn in the 6th inning, he had gone 3-for-3 with a double and two homers, 6 RBI and 4 runs scored - pretty fair performance for five innings of work. Following a sensational 2007 campaign (.363, 28 HR, 139 RBI), Maggs is getting into the swing of things even though the Tigers are woefully out of it in the AL Central. He's batting .330, with 9 homers and 35 RBI. Notes: The White Sox and Red Sox had respective 8 and 7-game win streaks halted on Friday night by the Angels and A's, but the AL West leaders went one better on Saturday, blanking the East and Central leaders. Jered Weaver smoked the White Sox on 3 hits over 8 innings and Francisco Rodriguez earned his 21st save as the Angels won, 2-0. In Oakland, Justin Duchscherer was nearly perfect through 8 innings in the A's 3-0 triumph over Boston, hitting Jason Varitek with a pitch in the 6th and allowing only David Ortiz' single in the seventh for the one-hitter. Huston Street pitched a perfect ninth for his 10th save. National League Having accomplished little since the days of Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, disco and leisure suits, the Pittsburgh Pirates don't usually get much press, but every now and then Jason Bay reminds us that there still are some real ball players in the Steel City.
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On Saturday, Bay went 4-for-6 with a two-run homer and the game winning RBI single in the 14th inning as the Pirates downed the Central-leading Cubs, 5-4. He also stole a base and scored twice as the Pirates (still 6 games back) knocked down the Cubs into a first-place tie in the division with the Cardinals. Notes: Jeff Francoeur cracked a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, breaking a 1-1 tie and giving the Braves the 3-1 win over Arizona on Saturday. Who was on base when Francoeur unloaded? Obviously, it was Chipper Jones, who had two hits in four at-bats and continues to lead the majors in hitting with an astonishing .417 batting average. Jones has been a machine at the plate, already amassing 73 hits through just 46 games. At his present pace (73-175), Jones would play in 151 games, have 574 at-bats and produce 240 hits. That would put him close to the NL record of 254 by Lefty O'Doul (1929) and Bill Terry (1930). Even if he doesn't break any records, 240 hits would be the most by a National Leaguer since Joe Medwick's 237 in 1937.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Zambrano Plunders Pirates; Murphy Has AL Rookie Cred

Players of the Day from Friday, May 23, 2008 American League Texas outfielder David Murphy continues to rack up stats in a bid for Rookie of the Year honors. Murphy belted a three-run first-inning double on Friday to help the Rangers outlast Cleveland in a 13-9 slugfest. Murphy also scored in the first, adding to more singles and to scores in a 3-for-6 effort. Murphy is batting .297 with 6 homers and 34 RBI. Murphy is already staking his claim, being named AL Rookie of the Month for April. Notes: Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona had to leave the game in the third inning with a strained left hip. Carmona was being knocked around pretty well, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks and 6 earned runs in his 2-plus innings. The Indians, who now have lost 7 straight, say Carmona is day-to-day. Both the White Sox and Red Sox had their winning streaks snapped on Friday. Chicago's 8-game streak came to an end when they lost to the Angels, 3-1, while Boston's 7-game run was stopped in an 8-3 loss at Oakland. National League Carlos Zambrano earned some respect on Friday night, both from the mound and at the plate, improving to 7-1 as he limited the Pittsburgh Pirates to 6 hits and 2 runs over seven innings and had four singles in five at-bats. The Cubs walloped the Pirates, 12-3.
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Zambrano, who drove in two runs and scored once, struck out 6 and allowed just one walk. He's batting a ridiculous .343, to complement his 2.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Notes: Only three teams have winning road records in the National League - St. Louis, Philadelphia and Florida. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Braves wish all their games were in Atlanta. Despite their 11-1 home loss to Arizona on Friday, the Braves are 20-6 at Turner Field, but just 6-16 away.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Boston's Lowell, Drew, are Grand; Miller Blanks AZ as Marlins Sweep

Players of the Day from Thursday, May 22, 2008 American League Mike Lowell (left) and J. D. Drew (right) each hit grand slam homers as Boston won their 7th straight, an 11-8 Fenway slug-fest over the KC Royals. Drew hit his slam in the second inning and also singled and scored in the sixth, before the bases got loaded and Lowell delivered his bomb. Lowell also singled and doubled and scored three times on the night. While the Boston efforts were spectacular, they barely outshone those of the Royals' Jose Guillen (4-5, double, homer, 3 runs, 3 RBI) and Miguel Olivo (3-5, 2 doubles, homer, 1 run, 5 RBI). Going unnoticed with all the balls leaving the yard was Daisuke Matsuzaka winning his 8th game without a loss. Despite pitching poorly (5 2/3, 6 hits, 6 BB, 3 ER 7 K), Dice-K now stands alone as the AL's only 8-game winner. Notes: While the Sox have opened up a healthy 2 1/2 game lead over the Rays in the East with seven straight wins, the White Sox have won 8 straight and pulled 3 1/2 ahead of the Twins and 4 1/2 beyond the Indians, who have lost six straight, in the Central. The Angels lead Oakland by 2 1/2 in the West. National League Andrew Miller worked 7 scoreless innings, allowing just 5 hits and a walk while striking out nine, as the Florida Marlins downed Arizona, 4-0, completing a three-game series sweep of the NL West leaders.
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Miller, 4-3, got his work in, throwing 107 pitches, before retiring at the end of the 7th. In his last four starts (in which he's recorded 3 wins), Miller has lowered his ERA from 9.12 to a nearly-respectible 5.33 and has helped keep the Marlins in first place. Notes: Though the Marlins scored just 10 runs in their series sweep of the Diamondbacks, Florida pitchers gave up just 3 runs, keeping them 1 1/2 ahead of the charging Braves (5 straight Ws) and Phillies (3 straight). Meanwhile, the Dodgers, idle on Thursday, have climbed to within 2 1/2 games of Arizona in the West.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eveland Complete for A's; Phils' Howard Bombs Nats

Players of the Day from Wednesday, May 21, 2008 American League Dana Eveland tossed the first complete game of his career in the A's 9-1 triumph over the Tampa Bay Rays last night in Oakland. Eveland was on top of his game, allowing just three hits and a walk, though one of the hits was an 8th inning homer by Tampa's Jonny Gomes. Somewhat of a hard luck pitcher considering his excellent 2.90 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, Eveland is only 4-3 after ten starts. Twice this season, he's received no decision when holding the opposition scoreless in games the A's eventually won. Notes: He's back. Alex Rodriguez homered for the second straight game in the Yankees' 8-0 romp over Baltimore in the Bronx. The Yanks are still in last place in the division, 7 1/2 behind Boston, which as won 6 straight. In the Central, the White Sox won their 7th in a row, 7-2, over Cleveland, and the Angels have opened up a 3-game lead on the A's in the West. National League If the Phillies hope to repeat as NL East champs, they'll need more production from the likes of Ryan Howard, who blasted away in three of his five trips to the plate in Philadelphia's 12-2 shattering of the Washington Nationals. Howard doubled in a run in the first inning to start the scoring for the Phillies, added a solo homer in the 5th and a two-run shot in Philly's 8-run 6th to complete a 3-for-5, 4 RBI night. Notes: The Phillies kept pace with Atlanta and Florida in the East. Philadelphia and Atlanta are tied, 1 1/2 games behind the Marlins. Meanwhile, in the West, LA continues to close ground on Arizona, narrowing the D-Backs' lead to just 3 games as the Dodgers won their third straight and Arizona lost for the second straight day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hamels Blanks Nats; Renteria Drives Five for Tigers

Players of the Day from Tuesday, May 20, 2008 American League The Detroit Tigers potentially have one of the best hitting teams in either league, especially considering that a batter in the #8 hole, Edgar Renteria can go 4-for-4 and drive in five runs on a given night. That's exactly what Renteria did in the Tigers' 12-8 win at Seattle on Tuesday, socking a home run and a triple to go with a pair of singles.
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Notes: Trouble is, the Tigers are still deep in a hole in the standings, 6 1/2 behind and in last place in the AL Central. They're even three games behind the 4th-place Royals, who have lost two straight. Detroit seems fine against fellow bottom-feeders like the Mariners, but a lack of solid starting pitching has doomed them against better squads. National League Cole Hamels didn't get a decision in Philadelphia's 1-0 squeaker over the Nationals, but he certainly deserved a W, working over Washington hitters for 7 innings, allowing just 4 hits and a pair of walks while blanking them with 11 strikeouts. The win went to reliever Tom Gordon (4-2) when the Phillies scored the game's only run in the top of the 9th inning. Hamels (5-3) has been very effective thus far in 2008, sporting an ERA of 2.61 and a 1.02 WHIP. Notes: Still feeling Chipper? Atlanta stood strong at home on Tuesday taking both ends of a double-header with the Mets, 6-1 and 6-2, sneaking past the New Yorkers into second place in the NL East. Chipper Jones, the hottest bat in the league, was held somewhat in check. He registered 3 hits in 8 at-bats in the two games, which actually made his league-leading batting average drop to .409.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lester No-Hits Royals; Ludick On Fast Track for Cards

Players of the Day from Monday, May 19, 2008 American League Last year at this time, Jon Lester was recovering from Lymphoma cancer and working to get back to the Red Sox. Twenty-two regular season starts later - with a World Series clinching win thrown in for good measure - Lester came all the way back and then some, no-hitting Kansas City for a 7-0 Boston triumph and a personal victory for one of baseball's truly great guys. Lester walked just two batters while striking out nine in a yeoman performance, throwing 130 pitches. Lester was perfect much of the game, setting down 20 straight batters from the 2nd through the 8th innings. Our hat's off to Jon Lester, who's proven to be not only a survivor, but a champion.
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Notes: Lester's win improved his record to 3-2. He's been no-decisioned in 6 of 11 starts this season. Flashing back to reality, the Red Sox win - their 4th straight - was necessary to keep them in first place as the Tampa Bay Rays beat Oakland, 7-6, in 13 innings, and are lurking just a game back. National League Ryan Ludwick is having a career year, helping the St. Louis Cardinals stay challenge in the NL Central. in Monday's 8-2 win at San Diego, Ludwick cracked his 12th home run (a two-run, first inning job) in the first inning, singled and scored in the 5th and doubled home another run in the 6th.
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After missing all of 2006 and finding his way in a career-high 120 games in 2007 - batting .267 with 14 homers and 52 RBI - Ludwick has become a reliable cleanup hitter behind Albert Pujols, batting .350 with 12 homers and 32 RBI, all top 10 numbers. His .772 slugging percentage is second in the league behind Houston's Lance Berkman. Notes: While the Cardinals won their third straight, the Padres continued their season from hell with their third consecutive loss. At 16-30, they have the worst record in the majors, along with the lowest batting average, .235 and lowest RBI total, 145.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ortiz Smacks a Pair; Big Unit On Track

Players of the Day from Sunday, May 18, 2008 American League Don't look now, but Big Papi, David Ortiz is getting into his mid-season groove. Boston's RBI guy knocked two balls out of the park and doubled in five at-bats on Sunday to lead the Red Sox to an 11-7 win and a three-game sweep of Milwaukee, with a 4-RBI game. Ortiz, who has not gotten off to a great start, has been ramping it up of late. The two Sunday homers gives him 10 on the season, to go with 37 RBI and a .250 batting average. In the sweep of the Brewers, Ortiz went 5-for-10 with three dingers and 8 RBI. Notes: Chicago has won five straight and leads the Central division by 1 1/3 over Cleveland, with surprising KC another 1/2 back. The Royals have won 6 of their last 7 and are just a game under .500 (21-22). National League Randy Johnson only started 10 games in 2007, but this season he's returned to solid form, posting his 4th win against just one loss on Sunday in Arizona's 4-0 win over the struggling Tigers.
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Johnson allowed six hits and no earned runs, walked one and struck out five over seven innings for the W. With 288 wins under his belt, Johnson should - if he stays healthy - come close to winning his 300th later this season. He's already had 7 starts, and should get about 25 more. While his ERA (4.42) and WHIP (1.40) are up this year, his last outing was his best and may indicate that he's ready to go on a roll. Johnson turns 45 on September 10. Win #300 would be a nifty birthday gift. Notes: While everyone's waiting for Junior to smack #600, the Reds have won six in a row and departed last place in the NL Central. Milwaukee has lost five straight and is a game behind the Reds, 7 back of division-leader Chicago. Griffey, however, has been mired in a homerless slump, stuck at #597 since April 23, 20 long games ago. Assuredly, fans are getting a little antsy in anticipation of the milestone.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Soriano's 5-for-5 Falls Short; Lowell Gets Sox Started

Players of the Day from Saturday, May 17, 2008 American League With Tampa Bay losing to St. Louis, 9-8, Boston had a chance to tie for first place in the AL East with a sweep of their double header with Milwaukee. After winning game one, 5-3, Mike Lowell got the Red Sox off early in game two, doubling in a pair in the first inning and cracking a two-run homer in the 3rd en route to a 7-6 win over the Brewers, who have now lost four straight. The Sox are percentage points behind the Rays in the standings, but the two teams are deadlocked in first with the Rays at 25-18 and the Sox at 26-19. Notes: The White Sox took a 1/2-game lead over the Indians in the AL Central with a 3-1 win at San Fran, joining the Cubs as same-state division leaders. With Florida and Tampa Bay tops in their respective divisions, if either the Dodgers or Giants catch Arizona, then California would own first place in both Western divisions. National League Despite losing, 7-6, to the Pirates on Saturday, the Chicago Cubs remain in first place in the NL Central. Even with the loss, the Cubs have won seven of their last nine and lead St. Louis by 2 games. And they didn't go down easily on Saturday. If Alfonso Soriano had gotten a little more help from his teammates - or maybe another at-bat - Chicago might have come away with the W. Soriano went 5-for-5, with a double and two solo homers, scoring three times and driving in three.
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It was the second straight game with two homers for Soriano and his 6th and 7th in his last six games. Prior to his 5-hit performance on Saturday, he had two hits in each of his last five games, and has raised his batting average from .223 to .295. His slugging percentage increased from .372 to .598. Soriano, who missed the last half of April due to injury, has returned with a vengeance, hitting safely in every game he's started since May 2 - 13 straight. Notes: Lance Berman continues to amaze, hitting his major league-leading 16th home run in Houston's 6-2 loss at Texas last night.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hamilton 5-for-5; Werth, 3 HR, 8 RBI as Interleague Play Begins

Players of the Day from Friday, May 16, 2008 American League The battle of Texas goes to... Josh Hamilton, whose 5 hits in 5 at-bats led the Rangers to a 16-8 trouncing of Houston. A second-year center fielder out of Raleigh, NC, Hamilton stroked a pair of homers, a triple and a couple of singles, scored four times and drove in 5 runs as part of the Rangers' 17-hit assault. The perfect night at the plate improved Hamilton's batting average from .293 to .314 and increased his major league-leading RBI total to 49. It was also his 15th multi-hit game this season and fifth in his last seven. The two homers tied him with Carlos Quentin for the AL lead with 10. Traded from the Reds after the 2007 season, Hamilton has been feasting on American League pitching all season. Seems he still likes the NL variety as well. Notes: Bottoms Up: The Detroit Tigers are mired in last place in the Central Division, having lost t straight while Kansas City has quietly snuck up on the leaders with five straight wins and is only 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland. KC and LA are the only AL teams with winning road record, 10-9 and 12-9, respectively. National League Few players ever have the kind of game Jayson Werth had in Philly's 10-3 pounding of Toronto. Werth hit a three-run homer in the second inning, a grand slam in the 3rd and followed those up with a solo shot in the 5th. Three homers in four at-bats, three runs scored and a whopping 8 RBI qualifies as a great night in anyone's book. A mainstay this season in center field for the Phillies, Werth is batting .288 with nine homers and 26 RBI. Notes: The win by Philadelphia moved them into a tie with the formerly red-hot Marlins, who have now lost four straight after dropping a 7-6 decision to Kansas City on Friday.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Peralta Scores for Indians; Berkman Topples Giants

Players of the Day for Thursday, May 16, 2008 American League The Cleveland Indians won their third straight, extending their lead to 1 1/2 games over Minnesota and Chicago in the AL Central with a 4-2 win over Oakland on Thursday. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta singled, homered, stole a base and scored three times as the Indians got their offense from an unlikely source. Peralta is batting just .221. Notes: Tampa Bay finished off their four-game set in New York by beating the Yankees, 5-2, winning three of the four. While the Rays surged to the top of the AL East, the Yanks dropped into last place, 4 1/2 games off the pace, scoring just 6 runs in the four games against Tampa. National League Lance Berkman is having an incredible season. Last night, in Houston's 8-7 come-from-behind win over the Giants, Berkman delivered the final blow with a solo home run in the 9th inning, capping a rally in which the Astros overcame deficits of 6-0 and 7-3. In addition to his league-leading 15th homer, Berkman singled in a pair of runs in the 4th inning, plating the Astros' first runs of the game.
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His three RBI gave him 43, which leads the AL by 9, and his two hits in four at-bats improved his batting average to .391. Notes: Last season's NL champions, the Colorado Rockies, don't look like they're about to repeat. In fact, they've fallen out of the NL West race, 11 games behind Arizona. While the Diamondbacks have been red hot, the Rockies have produced a record of 15-26, second worst in the majors, just 1/2 game better than the Padres.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sabathia Blanks A's 2-0; Pierre Leads Dodger Comeback

Players of the Day from Wednesday, May 14, 2008 American League Cleveland took back first place in the AL Central on the strength of starter C. C. Sabathia's arm. The burly lefty shut out Oakland on 5 hits, leading Cleveland to a 2-0 win. Sabathia won his second straight (both at home) to improve to 3-5 on the season, fanning 11, which gave him the AL strikeout lead at 57, to more than injured Blue Jay Roy Halladay. It was Sabathia's first shutout and first complete game of 2008. Notes: Rays Remain: The Tampa Bay Rays stayed in first place in the AL East, despite dropping a 2-1, 10 inning decision to the Yankees last night as the Red Sox fell, 6-4, to Baltimore. It was Boston's 4th straight loss. Boston was cruising along with a 3-0 lead in the 6th, but Baltimore scored twice in the bottom of the inning and Jay Payton's grand slam in the 7th put the BoSox away. Payton, who has played for 6 different teams in his 11 years as a pro, totaled 5 RBI on the night. National League The LA Dodgers are just trying to keep pace with the runaway leader in the NL West, Arizona, and every win is important. On Wednesday, Juan Pierre led the way for LA, going 3-for-5, with key hits - an RBI single in the seventh and a two-run double in the ninth, as the Dodgers came back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Milwaukee, 6-4. In addition to driving in important runs, Pierre also swiped his 14th base of the season and scored the final run of the game. The Dodgers remained 4 1/2 behind Arizona, and increased their lead over the third-place Giants to 4 games. Notes: Berkman first to forty. Houston's Lance Berkman is on pace for a triple crown season. Last night he tied Philly's Chase Utley for the league lead in homers with 14 and drove in 2 runs, making him the first player to reach 40 on the season. Normally, his .388 batting average would lead the league, but Chipper Jones is hitting an astronomical .418. Berkman is second.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tough-luck Weaver; Church a Mets Leader

Players of the Day from Tuesday, May 13, 2008 American League 2008 has not been kind to Angels' starter Jered Weaver, who went 24-9 over the past two seasons, but is off to a 2-5 start this year. Last night in Anaheim was more of the same. Weaver threw 1-hit ball over 7 innings but didn't get a decision as John Danks was shutting out the Angels on 7 hits. Eventually, LA scored a couple runs and beat the White Sox, 2-0, albeit too late for Weaver to get a decision.
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Scott Shields (2-0) picked up the win and Francisco Rodriguez earned his major league-leading 16th save. Notes: Tampa Bay took over first place in the East with a 2-1, 11-inning win over the Yankees while Boston was dropping a 5-4 decision to Baltimore. Tampa has won six straight; the red Sox have lost three in a row and Tampa leads by 1/2 game. With Florida 1 1/2 up in the NL East, this marks the deepest into a season that both Florida teams lead their respective divisions. National League After he socked 15 homers and drove in 75 runs with the Nationals in 2007, the Mets were expecting good things from Ryan Church, but maybe not this good. On Tuesday night, in the Mets' 6-3 win over Washington, Church drove in four runs with a solo home run, a two-run double and a sac fly, giving him, 30 RBI, second on the team behind David Wright's 32. His 8 homers, .324 batting average and 29 runs all lead the team. Notes: Home Sweet Central: All six teams in the NL Central have winning home records, even last-place Cincinnati, at 10-9. On the flip side, none have winning road records, though the Cubs, Cardinals and Astros are all just a game under .500 away from home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Braun's Blasts Buoy Brewers; Johjima Stars as Seattle Falls Short

Players of the Day from Monday, May 12, 2008 American League Baseball being a team sport, sometimes your best effort just isn't enough. Thus was the case last night for Seattle catcher Kenji Johjima, who singled, doubled, and hit his first home run of the season in the ninth inning with two men aboard to tie the game with Texas at 12. Despite going 3-for-4 with 4 RBI and a pair of runs scored, the Mariners were overcome by Texas, 13-12, in 10 innings when Rangers' third baseman Ramon Vazquez homered with one out in the bottom of the 10th. The loss - the 8th in the last 10 for Seattle - pushed the Mariners further into last place, 8 1/2 games out, while the Rangers got to within shouting distance of division-leading Oakland, 4 1/2 games behind. Notes: Cleveland and Toronto traded a pair of 3-0 wins in their double-header on Monday. The Indians took the opener as Fausto Carmona (4-1) blanked the Jays on 5 hits for a complete game shutout, the second of his career. In the nightcap, AL ERA-leader Cliff Lee (0.67) shut out the Blue Jays for nine innings, extending his scoreless streak to 16 innings, only to be outpitched by Toronto's Shaun Marcum, who allowed only 2 hits over 8 innings. Toronto erupted for three runs in the 10th off reliever Rafael Betancourt for the split. For Real: Tampa Bay closed to within 1/2 game of Boston in the AL East with their 5th straight win, a 7-1 conquest of the Yankees. National League Milwaukee's Ryan Braun hoisted a pair of solo homers and scored three times as the Brewers dropped the Cardinals, 8-3, Monday night. Braun homered in the first, scored after being walked in the third and smacked his 9th bomb of the season in the fifth inning, which put the Brewers up 7-1. The win got the Brewers to .500 (19-19), 4 games behind division leader Chicago, which has won 4 straight. The Cards dropped a game off the pace, while Houston won for the 9th time in their last 10, with a 7-3 victory at San Fran. Notes: Cincinnati snapped Florida's 7-game win streak, 8-7, at Cincy. The Marlins remain 2 1/2 in front in the East.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bannister 2-hits Baltimore; Beltran Leads Mets Again

Players of the Day from Sunday, May 11, 2008 American League Kansas City's Brian Bannister pitched 8 innings of shutout ball, allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks, striking out 5, as the Royals knocked off Baltimore, 4-0, on Sunday. Bannister (4-4) didn't allow any runners past first base and threw 110 pitches, giving way to Joakim Soria, who finished up with a 1-2-3 9th inning. The win was the first for Bannister after losing his last three straight starts. It was also the first win for the Royals after twelve straight losses to the Orioles. Notes: The Tampa Bay Rays swept the LA Angels over the weekend, finishing up with an 8-5 win in Tampa after beating the Angels by consecutive 2-0 scores. Tampa is just 1 1/2 behind Boston in the East, while the Angles yielded first place to the A's in the West. Minnesota continues to cling to first place in the Central, coming from behind to beat Boston on Sunday night, 9-8. National League Carlos Beltran was the hitting star again, as the Mets downed the Reds, 8-3.
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Beltran doubled home Luis Castillo in the first inning and socked his 3rd home run of the season - with Castillo aboard again - in the fifth. Beltran had three RBI total and scored twice as the Mets moved into a tie with Philadelphia for second place in the East. Both teams trail the red-hot Florida Marlins by three games. Florida won its seventh straight with a 5-4 win at Washington. Notes: Get the brooms out: The Marlins swept the Nationals while Arizona was being swept by Chicago and Houston swept the Dodgers. The rare dominance by Central division teams leaves St. Louis and Chicago tied for first with the surprising Astros 1 1/2 back. Arizona remains 3 1/2 to the good over the Dodgers.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sizemore Whacks 2 Homers; Beltran Leads Mets Over Reds; Maddux #350

Players of the Day from Saturday, May 10, 2008 American League Grady Sizemore had a heck of a night, all of it by the fifth inning as the Indians swamped the Blue Jays, 11-0, and moved to within 1/2 game of first place in the AL Central. Sizemore (.282, 6. 20) homered to lead off the game, doubled home another run in the 4th and socked a three-run homer in the 5th inning, scoring three times and driving home five. The loss was the third straight for Toronto, currently occupying last place in the East.
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Notes: Tampa Bay shut out the Angels for the second straight game. Scott Kasmir blanked the Halos for six innings, before giving way to a trio of relievers. Troy Percival picked up his 8th save. Seattle lost for the fifth straight time and the ninth in their last 10, losing 8-4, to Chicago. They are 8 games back in the West. National League The NY Mets split a double-header with Cincinnati on Saturday, winning the opener by a 12-6 tally before losing the second game, 7-1. Carlos Beltran accounted for 5 RBI in the opener, with a single, triple and sac fly in 3 at-bats. Beltran, who hit 33 homers and drove in 113 RBI last season, isn't off to one of his better starts. He's only homered twice and driven in just 18 runs while batting a sub-par .233. A career .279 hitter, he's improved his average by 29 points in the last seven games, but still has a long way to go. Notes: While the Mets remain in third place, three games behind streaking Florida (won 6 straight), they still have the Phillies with which to contend. Philly lost to San Francisco, 8-2, on Saturday, but are still a game ahead of the Mets. Florida beat Washington, 11-0, as Dan Uggla drove in five runs. The master of consistency, Greg Maddux, won his 350th career game yesterday in San Diego's 3-2 win over Colorado. Maddux (3-3, 3.60) worked 6 innings, allowing 3 hits and no earned runs. In 715 starts, Maddux is 350-217, with a 3.12 ERA. The doors to the Hall of Fame are open wide.