Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shields 1-Hits Angels; Astros' Berkman On a Tear

Players of the Day from Friday, May 9, 2008 American League As pitcher's duels go, Friday's battle between the Angels' Jon Garland and Tampa Bays' James Shields was as good as it gets. Garland allowed just four hits over eight innings while Shields was twirling a 1-hitter, finishing up by retiring the final sixteen straight batters. Neither had allowed a run when the Rays went to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. Garland had thrown 114 pitches and was replaced by reliever Justin Speier, who promptly allowed a single by B.J. Upton. After Carlos Pena advanced Upton to second with a ground out, Evan Longoria ended the game with a blast into the left field stands for a 2-0 Tampa Bay win. Shields (4-2) had to throw just 92 pitches for the complete game shutout, his second this season. The only hit was a harmless third-inning single by Brandon Wood. Apparently more comfortable at home, Shields shut out the Red Sox in his last home appearance on April 27, giving up just two hits and one walk. On Friday, Shields didn't walk a batter and struck out 8. In his last two home starts, his WHIP is a ridiculous 0.22. Notes: While the Rays were winning in the bottom of the 9th, the Red Sox were losing, as Minnesota's Mike Lamb singled home a pair with two outs in the frame against closer Jonathan Papelbon for a 7-6 Twins' win. Tampa is just 2 1/2 back of Boston in the AL East. Minnesota stayed a game better than the White Sox in the Central while the A's also lost and stayed tied for first with the Angels in the West. National League Looking for an MVP candidate? Check out the Astros' Lance Berkman, who is having a Triple Crown-like season. On Friday, Berkman went 3-for-4, with his 14th double and 12th home run (2nd in the NL) of the season, scored twice and drove in two, giving him a league-leading 35 RBI. The Astros downed the Dodgers, 7-1, with Berkman, as he has all season, leading the way. While the Astros have won 6 of their last 7 and are just 2 1/2 behind the Cardinals in the Central, Berkman has been a beast at the plate. He's hit safely in 8 straight, expanding his batting average from .299 to .380 (2nd in the NL) with 4 homers and 12 RBI over that span. Nearly impossible to get out, he's had 18 hits in his last 24 at bats (.750). That's just plain smokin'! Notes: The Braves' win streak was snapped at six with a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh, but despite their efforts, they're still in 4th place, 2 1/2 back in the East because the division-leading Marlins have won five in a row. On the other side of the ledger, the Giants and Padres have both dropped five straight are are 9 and 11 games out of the race in the West. The Padres have been particularly awful. After a 4-4 start, they've gone 7-21, including 1-7 thus far in May.

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