Monday, June 30, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, June 29, 2008 American League After winning 10 straight, the Twins dropped a 5-1 decision to Milwaukee on Saturday, but on Sunday, Kevin Slowey pitched a complete game, 3-hit shutout to get the Twins back to their winning ways as Minnesota downed the Brewers 5-0. Slowey (5-6) didn't walk a batter and struck out 8, throwing 109 pitches, of which 79 were strikes. The shutout extended Slowey's scoreless innings streak to 16, dating back to June 18, when Washington's Felipe Lopez led off the 5th inning with a solo homer in an 11-2 Minnesota win. Slowey's won three of his last four starts - all against NL foes - and has an ERA of 3.47 to go with a 1.03 WHIP. Notes: With interleague play done for the season, teams can focus on divisional races. In the AL there are two good ones. In the East, Boston gave way to the pesky Rays and now trail Tampa Bay by 1/2 game, with the Yankees 5 1/2 back. The Central has Chicago on top by 1 1/2 over the Twins and 5 better than the Tigers. The Angels lead the West by 4 1/2 over the A's, though that division always seems to go the Angels' way, as they grind down the opposition in September. National League Rich Aurilia singled twice, hit a two-run homer and drove in five runs in five at-bats to lead the Giants to an 11-1 win at Oakland and finish interleague play by taking two of three from their crosstown rivals. Notes:All three divisions have good pennant races going. In the West, the Giants have pulled to within 5 games of Arizona. Ahead of them, the Dodgers are 2 1/2 back. The Central is a three-way joust, with the Cubs 2 1/2 clear of the Cardinals and 4 1/2 to the good over Milwaukee. The East has four teams in contention. The Phillies lead the Marlins by 1, the Mets by 3 and the Braves by 4. The AL went 9-5 in interleague games Sunday, extending their dominance over the National League. Since June 13, the tally stands at AL: 138; NL: 83.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Players of the Day from Saturday, June 28, 2008 American League Jered Weaver (6-8) didn't allow a hit to the Dodgers on Saturday. He did, however, give up a run, and that cost him the game, as the Dodgers won a strange one, 1-0, over the Angels. In the 5th inning, Weaver threw wildly to first, attempting to throw out Matt Kemp, who reached on the error, stole second and went to third on catcher Jeff Mathis' throwing error. Kemp then scored on Blake DeWitt's sac fly to right. And that was it, as Jose Arredondo worked hitless 7th and 8th innings, while Chad Billingsley and a pair of Dodger relievers shut out the Angels on 5 hits. Notes: According to published reports, it's only the fifth time since 1900 that a team has won a game without getting a hit. Incidentally, the Dodger win kept them at 2 1/2 behind the Diamondbacks, the closest they've been since early April. The Angels, despite losing straight, are still 3 1/2 clear of the A's in the AL West. National League Here's your National League starter for the All Star game. Tim Lincecum improved to 9-1 on Saturday, with 7 innings of shutout ball as the Giants downed Oakland 1-0. Lincecum allowed just five hits while fanning 11. The second-year starter has compiled one of the best records in baseball (9-1, 2.38 ERA, 114 Ks), pitching for arguably one of the worst teams in the National League. Lincecum has accounted for almost a third of their 35 wins, has posted five straight wins since losing to Colorado, 3-2, back on April 29. Lincecum's record could actually be much better. Four times this season, he's left games after allowing either 0 or 1 earned runs without getting a decision. Notes: Just how bad are the Giants? Well, in a year in which the NL is sporting some pretty feeble squads, San Fran is an enigma. They, along with Arizona, are the only teams in the NL West with winning records against divisional foes. They're also the worst home team in the majors, with a disappointing 14-24 record by the Bay. An average hitting team (.260), they are dead last in the majors in home runs (52) and only the Padres and Nationals have scored less runs (324) in the NL. Thanks to the Dodgers and Giants winning 1-0 games, the NL actually took the day's interleague games, 8-6, bringing the totals since June 13 to AL, 129; NL, 78.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Players of the Day from Friday, June 27 2008 American League After a rough start to the season, C. C. Sabathia has turned things around in a hurry. Over his last four starts (3 wins), he's allowed just 20 hits and 4 earned runs over 32 innings. On Friday, he was in complete control, blanking the Cincinnati Reds on 4 hits over 8 innings in a 6-0 Cleveland win. Sabathia (6-8) struck out 11, including Ken Griffey Jr. three times, while walking two. Generally pitching better than his record indicates, Sabathia carries an ERA of 3.78 and a 1.24 WHIP. Cleveland trails the White Sox by 7 1/2 games and the red-hot Twins, who have won 10 straight, by 7. Notes: The American League onslaught continued against their undermanned NL opponents, winning 11 of 15 interleague games on Friday night. That boosts the AL's record since June 13 to 123-70 over the NL. National League Carlos Delgado didn't get off to a very promising start, flying out with a man aboard to end the first and striking out in the 3rd inning as the Yankees forged a 4-3 lead. All of that changed in the 5th inning, as Delgado doubled home a pair of runs, then hit a grand slam in the 6th, followed up with a 3-run homer in the 8th, as the Mets buried the Yankees, 15-6, in the Shea Stadium game of a home and home subway series. Delgado drove in 9 runs, a Mets single-game record. Notes: In the Yankee Stadium nightcap, the Yankees turned the tables, blanking the Mets, 9-0, getting 6 innings out of starter Sidney Ponson. Streaking Bobby Abreu went 4-for-4, with a double and three singles, driving in 4 runs. Over his last 5 games, Abreu is 10-for-20, with two homers and 9 RBI.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Players of the Day from Thursday, June 26, 2008 American League Matt Garza allowed just one hit - a seventh-inning solo home run by Hanley Ramirez - in a dominating, complete game, 6-1 win over Florida, completing a three-game sweep of the in-state series by the Rays. Garza (6-4) had a no hitter through six innings before giving up the leadoff blast to Ramirez, who smoked his 17th home run into the left center field stands. Unfazed, Garza retired the next nine batters in order, ending the game by getting Ramirez to ground out harmlessly to short. Garza struck out 10 and walked one. Notes: With the win, the Rays moved to within 1/2 game of the idle Red Sox atop the AL East. National League With the National League taking such a serious thumping from the AL in interleague play, it's only fitting to feature Rich Harden of the Oakland A's in this spot. Harden worked over the punchless Phillies on 2 hits over 8 innings, striking out 11 in the process as the A's downed Philadelphia, 5-0. Harden (5-0) threw 96 pitches, 64 of them for strikes. The A's took 2 of 3 from Philly. Notes: Just how bad a beating is the AL putting on the NL in this current round of interleague play which began June 13? Pretty bad. Over the past two weeks, the American League has won 112, the Nationals, 66. That's a winning percentage of 63%, currently good enough to win any divisional race. The teams go back to playing within their own leagues on Monday, June 30.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Players of the Day from Wednesday, June 25, 2008 American League There doesn't seem to be much doubt about which is the best baseball team in Florida (though they're both pretty good) as the Tampa Bay Rays took their second straight from the Florida Marlins, by a whopping 15-3 score Wednesday. Carl Crawford furnished a large share of the damage, belting a pair of home runs - a three-run shot in the 3rd and a solo homer in the 5th. He drove in another run with a ground out later in the 5th to give him 5 RBI on the night. The Rays will be seeking a series sweep when the two teams hit the field this afternoon in Miami. Notes: The Rays continue to dog the Red Sox in the AL East, remaining just one game back as both teams won on Wednesday. National League Getting his second start replacing injured Brad Penny, rookie Eric Stultz fired a complete game 4-hitter at the White Sox, as the Dodgers won, 5-0. Stultz (2-0), threw 116 pitches, striking out 3 and getting 17 outs on fly balls. He also earned his first major league RBI, driving home a run in the 4th inning with a sac fly. Penny is due to come off the DL around July 1, so Stultz should get another start on June 30 in Houston against the Astros. After that, his AAA or major league fate largely depends on the overall health of the Dodger pitching staff. Notes: The Dodgers could certainly use solid arms for the next few weeks leading up to the All-Star break. They're within 3 games of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks though still five games under .500 at 36-41. A record just above .500 may be good enough to win the West this season as it appears to be one of the weaker divisions.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Players of the Day from Tuesday, June 24, 2008 American League Since being traded from St. Louis to Toronto in the off-season, Scott Rolen hasn't been very productive, but Tuesday night, he homered and doubled in 4 at-bats, driving in 4 runs and scoring twice to lead the Blue Jays to a 14-1 win over Cincinnati. A. J. Burnett (7-7) worked 8 innings for the Jays, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks. Notes: The Angels won for the 9th time in their last 10 road games, 8-3, at Washington, and lead the AL West by 5 games over the A's. National League Ryan Doumit singled, doubled and hit a solo homer (10) driving in 2 runs and scoring twice as the Pirates humbled the Yankees, 12-5. Doumit is batting .350 and has driven in 24 runs in part-time duty. Notes: Philadelphia has lost six straight, all to American League teams, their latest, a 5-2 no-show at Oakland, but still lead the NL East by a single game over the Marlins.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Players of the Day from Monday, June 23, 2008 American League The Seattle Mariners haven't had much to cheer about but Monday night, starting pitcher Felix Hernandez - who came into the game riding a four-game winning streak - provided the highlight of a lifetime by hoisting a 2nd-inning Johan Santana delivery into Shea Stadium's right field stands for a grand slam home run, leading the Mariners to a 5-2 win over the Mets. The slam was the first by an American League pitcher since 1971, almost 15 years before Hernandez was born, but the hurler didn't last long enough to earn his fifth straight win, having to leave the game in the 4th inning with a sprained ankle. Notes: While the Mariners aren't going anywhere in the AL West (they're 19 1/2 games back), the loss for the Mets was stunning and dropped them to 37-38, 4 games behind the Phillies in the NL East. National League Ben Sheets (9-1) pitched his third complete game of the season, working over the Atlanta Braves on four hits, in a 4-1 Milwaukee win. Sheets struck out 7 without walking a batter, dropping his WHIP to 1.04 and his ERA to a solid 2.59. Milwaukee has won three straight and trail the Cubs by 6 games and the Cardinals by 1 1/2 in the NL Central. Notes: Usually considered the weakest division in the NL, this year seems different, as the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers have the three best records in the league. Incidentally, the Cubs, at 48-28, have the best record in the majors, including a ridiculous record in home games of 32-8.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, June 22, 2008 American League While the White Sox were busy being swept by the Cubs, the Tigers continued to make progress, taking two of three from San Diego. On Sunday, Magglio Ordonez provided key offense with a two-run homer and an RBI double in Detroit's 5-3 win over the Padres. The Tigers have now won 12 of their last 15 games and are within 5 games of the White Sox and the lead in the AL Central. Also ahead of them are the Twins, winners of 6 straight, 1 1/2 behind the Sox. Ordonez, who finished a strong second in RBI to last season's AL MVP, Alex Rodriguez (139-156), notched his 13th home run and 48th RBI. Notes:The Yankees continue to keep pace in the AL East, remaining 5 behind Boston as both teams won on Sunday. The Rays took an unexpected loss at Houston, but are still only 1 1/2 behind the BoSox. National League With Chipper Jones out of the lineup, responsibility for driving in runs fell primarily to Mark Teixeira, and he responded in style, with 3 home runs in Atlanta's 8-3 beating of Seattle. Jones, who has had to take time off to repair what's described as a "small tear in the right quad" was out of the starting lineup on Saturday and Sunday and will likely sit on Monday as well. The injury has affected his fielding as well as his hitting. Jones' league-leading batting average has fallen from .419 on June 11, to .393 on Saturday. Teixeira, with his three blasts, now has 13 homers, and his 4 RBI gives him 55, ten behind league leader, Adrian Gonzalez. Notes: Philly Foibles: The Phillies probably can't wait for interleague play to be over so they can get back to beating up on National League teams again. The Phillies are one of only four NL teams to have posted winning records against each division. The others are the Cubs, the Cardinals and the Marlins. Meanwhile, the Phillies have lost five straight to AL division leaders, including a three-game sweep by the Angels which concluded with Sunday's 3-2 loss. The Phils won their opener against Boston at the start of the week, but dropped the next two. They'll get some class relief this week, but have to travel to Oakland, and then to Texas a pair of three-game series with the A's and Rangers. Their lead over the Marlins has dwindled to just one game.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Players of the Day for Saturday, June 21, 2008 American League Reserve outfielder Gabe Gross doesn't get a lot of playing time, but he made the most of his pinch-hitting opportunity last night, knocking a two-run, game-winning double in the bottom of the ninth to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 Tampa Bay win over struggling Houston, which lost for the 9th time in their last 10 outings and fell to the bottom of the NL Central. The loss went to Astros' reliever Doug Brocail (2-3), who failed to record an out in the ninth. With the win, Tampa Bay now trails Boston by just 1/2 game in the AL East. Notes: Continuing to close in on the leaders in their respective divisions, the Yankees and Tigers may be the teams to watch after the All-Star break. The Tigers are 6 games behind the White Sox in the Central, while the Yankees are just 5 behind Boston in the East. National League Because they're chasing the Cubs in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals, despite having the second-best record in the league, have to keep winning. On Saturday, they took their second straight at Boston, as Troy Glaus led the charge with a second-inning grand slam, whipping the Red Sox, 9-3. The Cardinals battered Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka for 7 runs in one-plus inning of work. It was the first loss of the season for Dice-K (8-1), who was making his first start since May 27. Notes: Jim Edmonds homered twice in the Cubs' 9-run 4th inning, en route to an 11-7 win over the White Sox. Edmonds' feat overshadowed another swell game by Aramis Ramirez, who singled in a run in the first inning and smacked a 3-run homer in the big 4th. It was Ramirez' 3rd home run in his last two games.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Players of the Day from Friday, June 20, 2008 American League Don't tell anybody, but the LA Angels are putting together another division-winning kind of season, leading the pesky A's by 3 1/2 games in the AL West, thanks to players like Vladimir Guerrero, who hit a two-run homer - his 11th - in the first inning, singled twice, drove in three runs and scored twice in the Angels' 7-1 win at Philadelphia. At 44-30, the Angels have the second-best record in the American League, behind Boston's 46-30. And while they don't dominate in any hitting or pitching categories, they do lead the league in saves at 30, testament to their winning close games. Notes: After dropping five straight and falling to last place in the AL East, the Blue Jays fired manager John Gibbons and replaced him with former manager Cito Gaston. That move still didn't help one of the weakest offenses in the league, as Toronto lost to the Pirates, 1-0, in 10 innings. The Jays scratched out only 8 hits in the game, all singles except for Alex Rios' pair of doubles. While Toronto sports the third-best team ERA in the AL at 3.54, they are third-worst in runs scored (297) and RBI (277), ahead of just Seattle and Kansas City. National League Winning teams usually are that way because they win the close ones, and that's exactly what the Chicago Cubs did Friday night in their 4-3 win over their cross town AL rival White Sox. Trailing 3-1 in the seventh, the Cubs tied the game on back-to-back solo home runs by Derreck Lee and Aramis Ramirez, who ended it two innings later with a walk-off shot to center. Lee's home run was his 15th, Ramirez' two blasts give him 12 on the season. The Cubs improved their record in one-run games to 12-11. Notes: Shades of Ernie Banks? Leading the majors in home runs is Dan Uggla, the Florida Marlins second baseman, who belted two on Friday to give him 23 on the season. Uggla, in just his third season, hit 27 in 2006, 31 last year and is on pace for his best effort yet.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Players of the Day from Thursday, June 19, 2008 American League The White Sox lead the AL Central because they've been getting key contributions from different players. On Thursday, it was Jermaine Dye, who doubled in a run in the second inning, hit a solo homer in the third and blew the game wide open with a grand slam in the seventh to lead Chicago to a 14-8 mash-fest over Pittsburgh. Dye finished with 6 RBI on the night, completing the three-game sweep in which the Sox scored 37 runs to the Pirates 15. The win kept them 4 1/2 ahead of the Twins and 7 in front of the suddenly-threatening Tigers, who have won 8 of their last 9. Notes: The Seattle Mariners, with the worst record in baseball (25-47), fired manager John McLaren and replaced him - for the time being - with bench coach Jim Riggleman, who is not expected to stay in the job long. Besides searching for a manager, the Mariners are likely to unload underperformers like Adrian Beltre or Richie Sexson. Veteran Raul Ibanez would be a solid acquisition as he's very steady. The only player whose job is deemed safe is hitting star Ichiro Suzuki. The Mariners are 17 1/2 games behind the Angels in the AL West. National League Milwaukee starter Dave Bush (3-7), had a perfect game through five innings and a no hitter through seven, left the game with an 8-1 lead after completing the 8th, in which he allowed a pair of hits and a run, and watched as the bullpen nearly gave it away in the ninth. The Blue Jays scored six times in their final at-bat as the Brewers held on for an 8-7 win, a series sweep and their 4th straight win. For Bush, it was easily his best performance of the season, as he lowered his ERA to a barely-acceptable 5.26. The starter was aided by an inside-the-park home run by Prince Fielder and a 3-run blast from Russell Branyan. The Brewers gained on both the Cubs and Cards in the Central. They are now 5 1/2 behind Chicago and just 2 shy of the Cardinals. Notes: If you're looking for coaches about to be fired or players to be traded, look no further than the bottom of the NL Central. The Reds are the current occupant of the basement, and manager Dusty Baker could go any day, along with Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Corey Patterson or a host of other possibilities. The Reds have lost five straight and are 12 1/2 back at 33-41. Not to be outdone, the Houston Astros have dropped 8 straight and are just 1/2-game ahead of the Reds at 33-40. The prize here is clearly Lance Berkman, though Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee or Mark Loretta hold some appeal. Pitcher Roy Oswalt would also make a fine pick-up. Manager Cecil Cooper probably isn't likely to last much longer if the 'Stros don't turn things around. Prior to their current 8-game skid, they rode a 4-10 streak. That's 4-18 over their last 22 games. Not so hot.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Players of the Day from Wednesday, June 18, 2008 American League The Red Sox earned a 2-1 split in their series with Philadelphia as J. D. Drew went 4-for-5 in Boston's 7-4 win Wednesday. Drew got things started early for the Sox with a three-run homer in the opening frame - his 13th - and followed up with three singles, completing a 4-RBI night. With both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz out of the lineup, Drew and 3rd baseman Mike Lowell have moved into the 3 and 4 spots in the lineup. While Ortiz is on the 15-day DL, Ramirez took the day off to rest a troublesome hamstring, and should be back in the lineup on Friday. Notes: While the Red Sox nurse their various injuries and their two-game lead over Tampa in the division, the Yankees won their 6th straight (8-5 over San Diego) on Wednesday, and are just 5 1/2 back. In the Central, Detroit has won 8 of their last 9 and are in third place, 6 1/2 behind the White Sox and 2 back of the Twins. The Tigers are still 4 games under .500 (34-38), but after going 17-28 through May 18, they're 17-10 since. National League After seeing ace Brandon Webb demolished by the A's in Tuesday's 15-1 romp, Dan Haren literally took matters into his own hands and single-handedly defeated the A's 11-1, Wednesday night. Haren allowed just 4 hits and one earned run over 7 innings, striking out 8 in the process, but also delivered a key blow with a bases-loaded double in the third inning, which put the D-Backs ahead 8-0. Haren threw 112 pitches as he improved to 7-4 and dropped his ERA to a very respectable 3.26. Notes: It looks like Milwaukee may be about to get serious about the race in the NL Central. With their third straight win - 5-4 over Toronto - on Wednesday, the Brewers have gained to within 6 1/2 of the Cubs and are just 3 behind the Cardinals. Both teams have lost their last two games.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Players of the Day for Tuesday, June 17, 2008 American League Interleague play is good for some teams, not so for others. The Arizona Diamondbacks lost their third straight to an AL team on Tuesday while the Oakland A's were thumping them, 15-1, for their 4th straight over the NL. Mark Ellis, who doubled and scored to open the game, followed up with a pair of home runs - a 2nd inning solo shot and a 3-run blast in the 9th. The leadoff 2nd baseman scored four times and drove in four runs, extending his hitting streak to 8 games. Ellis has caught fire of late, going 18-for-35 (.514) over those eight games, with multiple hits in 6 of them. Notes: While the A's were pounding on the D-Backs, the surprising thing is that they did much of it against one of the National League's best pitchers, Brandon Webb. In a very forgettable outing for Webb (11-3), he allowed 7 runs on 9 hits and 5 walks, lasting only 3 1/3 innings. Despite 3 straight losses, the Diamondbacks are still 4 1/2 in front of the Dodgers with the Giants and Padres 6 1/2 back in the NL West. National League Ryan Braun doubled, hit his 19th and 20th home runs of the season, scored three times and drove in three runs in support of Manny Parra (6-2), who gave up just 4 hits over 7 innings as the Brewers blanked the Blue Jays, 7-0. Braun's homers moved him into a tie with Florida's Dan Uggla for second place in the long ball chase. Both are two back of Philadelphia's Chase Utley, whose 22 dingers lead the majors. Notes: Who's hot? The Yankees and Tigers have each won 8 of their last 10 and are closing in on the leaders in their respective divisions. New York won their 5th straight on Tuesday, blanking San Diego, 8-0, while the Tigers won for the 7th time in their last 8, with a 5-1 win at San Francisco. Both teams are relishing interleague play. The Tigers are 6-2, and the Yankees, 4-2, against National League foes.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Players of the Day from Monday, June 16, 2008 American League Marcus Thames is finally getting the playing time he deserves and he's delivering for the Tigers. In Monday night's 8-6 loss at San Francisco, Thames homered twice, driving in three runs in 4 at-bats. It was the fourth straight game in which Thames has homered, and his 7th home run in his last 9 games. He has 12 on the season. Notes: The Tigers' loss snapped a six-game win streak, the longest of the season for Detroit, which is in 4th place, 6 1/2 behind the White Sox in the AL Central. National League Notorious for getting off to slow starts, the Phillies' Ryan Howard was batting just .184 with 9 homers a month ago. Since then, the average has rounded up to .224 and he's socked 10 more home runs, including the two that left the yard in Monday's 8-2 bombing of the Red Sox. Howard also tripled, going 3-for-5 with 4 RBI, giving him 62 on the season, tying him with teammate Chase Utley and San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez for the NL lead. He's also tied with Gonzalez for second in home runs, at 19, three behind Utley. Notes: After weeks of speculation, the Mets finally disposed of manager Willie Randolph, turning the team over to Jerry Manuel following the Mets' 9-6 win over the California Angels. Sadly, the Mets' brass saw to it that Randolph was given his walking papers far from the bright lights of Broadway, in an LA hotel room a continent away from home. Randolph probably isn't to blame for the collapse of the Mets last season, for losing in seven games to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series in '06 or for the 34-35 record this season, but, eventually, he became the guy who took the heat for this underperforming bunch. Manuel may do better, he may not. If the Mets win the East, the front office can pat themselves on their collective backs. If the Mets continue to play uninspired, sub-par baseball with a team loaded with talent, then letting Randolph go will be seen as a mistake. Only time will tell whether it was Randolph, the front office or the players who let Mets fans down. For now, he looks like a scapegoat for mismanagement that covers the entire organization.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, June 15, 2008 American League David DeJesus was Mr. Do-It-All for the Royals in Sunday's 8-2 win over Arizona. Batting in the leadoff spot, DeJesus opened the game with a single and came around to score on a wild pitch, then hit a grand slam in the 4th inning, and followed that up with an RBI double in the 6th innings, to go 3-for-5 with 5 RBI and a pair of runs scored. DeJesus, who patrols center field for the Royals, raised his batting average to .304, just .001 behind team leader Mark Grudzielanek. Notes: The Detroit Tigers continue to come around, winning their 6th straight, a 5-4 squeaker of the Dodgers, and are now six games behind the White Sox in the Central. Ahead of them are Minnesota, 4 1/2 back, and Cleveland, down 5 1/2. The division, which was projected to be a hard-fought race, is shaping up for the second half of the season. National League Talk about laboring in obscurity. Rookie third baseman Kory Casto hit his first major league home run on Sunday, shattering a 2-2 tie to lead the Nationals to a 6-2 win over Seattle. Pinch-hitting for Wily Mo Pena in the 8th inning, Casto delivered with a three-run blast to right off Seattle reliever Mark Lowe for a 5-2 edge. The Nats scored another run in the inning for the final score and a three-game sweep of the Mariners. That makes Seattle easily the worst team in the majors, with a record of 24-45. Other contenders are the Nationals (29-42), Colorado (28-41) and, of course, the Kansas City Royals (28-42) Notes: Fading fast. The Houston Astros, who were challenging in the Central Division just a few weeks ago, dropped their 5th straight, a 13-0 embarrassment at the hands of the Yankees, but that only tells part of the story. Since May 27, the Astros are just 3-14 and have scored 2 runs or less in 9 of their last 17 games.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Players of the Day from Saturday, June 14, 2008 American League Keep your eye on rookie shortstop Mike Aviles of Kansas City. In the Royals' 12-3 romp over Arizona, Aviles went 4-for-5 with a single, two doubles and his second home run of the season, driving in 2 runs and scoring four times. The game was only the 10th of Aviles' short career, but it's already his 4th multiple-hit game. The effort boosted his batting average to .361. Eight of his 13 hits have been for extra bases. Notes: The Tigers continued their winning ways with their 5th straight, slugging their way past the Dodgers, 12-7, to pull to within 7 games of the White Sox in the Central. National League The San Diego Padres had already taken a one-run lead in the 10th, but Kevin Kouzmanoff made sure they'd stay on top, belting a grand slam to help the Padres finish off Cleveland, 8-3. Kouzmanoff had doubled earlier in the game, and finished his night 2-for-5 with 4 RBI. The homer was his 10th of the season. The Padres' win pulled them to within a game of second place Los Angeles. The Dodgers trail Arizona by 5 1/2 games in the NL West. Notes: The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are pulling away from the pack in the NL Central. Both won last night, while the Brewers, Astros, Pirates and Reds all suffered losses. The Cubs hold a 3 1/2-game edge on the Cards, with the Brewers 5 games further back.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Players of the Day from Friday, June 13, 2008 American League The Indians continued to stay in the thick of things as Grady Sizemore bopped a pair of homers and drove in three runs in Cleveland's 9-5 win over the Padres. Riding a ten-game hitting streak, Sizemore has homered in each of his last three games and has 16 on the season. During the streak, he's raised his batting average from a sub-par .254 to a nearly-respectible .271. Notes: Detroit won their fifth straight, a 5-0 win over the Dodgers. However, with Minnesota, Cleveland and the White Sox all winning, they remain 8 games off the AL Central pace. In the AL East, Boston lost 3-1 at Cincinnati, while the Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays and Orioles all won. Every team in the AL East is playing at least .500 ball, with the O's at the bottom of the division at 33-33, 7 games out. National League Ryan Howard singled, homered twice, drove in 5 runs and scored 4 times in 5 at-bats as the Phillies piled on the Cardinals, 20-2, Fridays night. The game got out of hand quickly as Chase Utley, Howard and Pat Burrell launched back-to-back-to-back home runs in the first inning off St. Louis starter Todd Wellemeyer, who was eventually knocked out in the Phillies' 9-run 4th. In addition to Howard's big night at the plate, catcher Carlos Ruiz went 4-for-6 with two singles and two doubles, driving in four runs. The Cardinals used six pitchers in the game, though the best mound performance was recorded by second baseman Aaron Miles, who set down the Phillies in order in the ninth. Notes: The Phillies-Cardinals matchup was the only non-interleague game of the night. Tampa Bay did themselves and the Phils a favor, handing the Marlins a 7-3 loss, increasing Philly's lead in the NL East to 4 games.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Players of the Day from Thursday, June 12, 2008 American League Ben Francisco stroked three singles and a double in 5 at-bats, drove in three runs and scored one as Cleveland pounded the Twins 12-2. A rookie, Francisco has been a welcome find for the Indians, especially after injuries to a number of key players, including All-Star catcher Victor Martinez and DH Travis Hafner. Francisco has played in 37 games this season, and has been a regular fixture in the lineup since the beginning of May in either left or right field. He has just 3 homers and 20 RBI, but is batting a solid .309. Notes: The Tigers completed a sweep of the first-place White Sox with a 2-1 win as Kenny Rogers and Mark Buehrle dueled through 8 innings, each allowing just one run. Miguel Cabrera homered in the ninth off reliever Octavio Dotel for the winning margin. Detroit is now 8 games off the pace in the wide-open Central after winning 3 straight. Ahead of them are the Twins (-5 1/2) and Indians (-6 1/2). National League The Philadelphia Phillies are in first place in the NL East mostly due to the steady bats in their power-packed lineup. And then there's the guy with the 88-mph fastball, Jamie Moyer, who turned in his best performance of the season last night, shutting down second place Florida on 2 hits over 8 innings in a 3-0 win. Moyer threw just 102 pitches, walked one and struck out three, never allowing a baserunner past second. Brad Lidge came on in the ninth to pick up his 18th save. The win prevented a Marlins sweep of the three-game series, and gives the Phillies a 3-game cushion in the division. Notes: Those lovable Cubbies won their 4th straight on Thursday, 3-2, over Atlanta in 11 innings for a series sweep and Atlanta's sixth straight loss. At 43-24 have the best record in the majors and lead the Central by 3 1/2 over the Cardinals. Arizona topped the Mets, 5-4, in 10 innings and have the largest lead in the NL, 4 1/2 to the good over the Dodgers in the West.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Players of the Day from Wednesday, June 11, 2008 American League Maybe the NL brass should just hand over the Rookie of the Year hardware to David Murphy at the All-Star game. After all, there's a pretty good chance he'll be on the field. On Wednesday, Murphy added to his star appeal with a pair of home runs to right field in the 7th and 9th innings of the Rangers' 11-5 pummeling of the Royals. The first one was a grand slam, the second a solo shot, giving Murphy 5 RBI on the night and 46 on the season to go with his 10 homers. He also singled earlier in the game and was 3-for-5 overall. Murphy's solid stats may have something to do with his teammates. He's surrounded by some of the best hitters in the league, making it impossible to pitch around anyone in the Texas lineup. Leadoff batter Ian Kinsler is batting .312. Michael Young, at .302, just had a 23-game hitting streak snapped last night. Josh Hamilton is... well, you know, ridiculous. Milton Bradley leads the league with a .333 average, and third baseman Ramon Vazquez, who has filled in admirably for the injured Hank Blalock, is pounding the ball at a .333 clip. The Rangers are leading the majors with a .286 team batting average, 378 runs, 362 RBI and 683 hits. Heck, All-Star Game? Just send these guys. But leave the pitching staff home. Their 5.04 ERA is the main reason the Rangers are in 3rd place in the AL West, 7 behind the Angels, but only 2 back of the A's. Notes: Can Detroit turn its season around? With last night's 5-1 win over the White Sox (their second straight over Chicago), the Tigers are 9 games behind and have a record that is the converse of division-leading Chicago's. The Sox are 37-28; the Tigers 28-37, but hey, it's only June and there are still 90+ games to play. Stay tuned. National League Corey Hart had a pretty good game on Wednesday, helping the Brewers knock off Houston, 10-6, but it was more the kind of game you'd expect from a clean up hitter rather than your leadoff man. Hart stroked a double and a pair of 2-run homers in 5 at-bats, boosting his average to .302. The home runs were numbers 8 and 9 on the season and he has 36 RBI. For a leadoff hitter, his 31 runs scored is a little low and he still strikes out too much (43 Ks to 13 BBs). He has stolen 10 bases in 13 tries, so there's plenty of upside for the Brew Crew. Notes: Wild Cards? If the season ended today... well, what would we do all summer? But, if it did, the NL Wild Card would belong the the St. Louis Cardinals, who are 2 1/2 behind the Cubs in the Central. At 40-27, St. Louis would be leading if they were in either of the other two NL divisions. Their closest pursuers at the moment are the Marlins (36-29). Forget the West. Only Arizona has a winning record. Second-place LA is 3 1/2 back at 31-34. Every team in the Central except the Reds (7-8) has a winning record against West division teams.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Players of the Day from Monday, June 10, 2008 American League C. C. Sabathia (4-8), who has had his share of struggles and hard luck, put together a stellar mound performance on Monday night, hurling his third complete game and second shutout of the season, shutting down the Twins, 1-0, in the opener of a three-game series in Cleveland. Sabathia used 106 pitches - 77 going for strikes - over the nine innings, allowing just five hits and no walks. He stuck out five Minnesota batsmen. The win allowed Cleveland to gain a game on both the Twins and White Sox, though they are still 7 1/2 behind Chicago and one back of Minnesota, which has now lost 6 straight. The Sox lost for the first time in 8 games, as the Tigers cut them down, 6-4. Notes: The Rangers' Michael Young extended his hitting streak to 23 games with a sixth inning single in Texas' 6-5 win over Kansas City. The Royals blew a 5-1 lead, allowing the Rangers to score 4 times in the 8th and once in the ninth when Ian Kinsler scampered home from third on a passed ball by Royals' catcher John Buck. All five runs scored by the Rangers were unearned. Young is batting .308. His hit streak is the longest in the majors this season. National League Ryan Ludwick struck out in his first at-bat on Monday night, but after that all he did was hit, knocking a single, a pair of doubles and a solo homer as the Cardinals engulfed the faltering Reds, 7-2. His 4-RBI evening gave him an even 50 on the season, good for 4th in the league behind Adrian Gonzalez (57), Lance Berkman (56) and Chase Utley (56). The Cardinals' win kept them 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central and five clear of 3rd place Milwaukee. Notes: The East is not looking so sweet for two perennial contenders, the Braves and the Mets. Both are playing less than .500 ball, and are respectively 6 1/2 and 7 1/2 off the pace set by the Phillies, with Florida just three behind Philly in second place.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Players of the Day from Monday, June 9, 2008 American League Ken Griffey Jr. became the 6th player in major league history to hit 600 home runs, launching a first-inning blast off Marlins' starter Mark Hendrickson into the right field stands. Jerry Hairston was on third when Griffey hit the historic homer, giving the Reds a 2-0 lead and starting a 9-4 rout of Florida by the Reds. The home run was Griffey's only hit of the night. He finished 1-for-4 with 2 RBI. It was just his 7th home run of the season and his 28th and 29th RBI. Griffey joins Sammy Sosa, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds as the only players to reach the 600 HR plateau. Notes: Cincy split the 4-game series with the Marlins by find themselves in last place in the NL Central, 9 1/2 games behind the Cubs. With #600 out of the way, could Griffey be headed for a trade? Seattle has been mentioned, though other teams which might be looking for an extra left-handed DH or outfielder include Cleveland, Toronto and Baltimore. While Griffey would likely want to be traded to a contender, that may not happen. He and his swing would be a nice fit for the compact dimensions of Camden Yards. The O's could definitely use a boost, but do they have what the Reds need - young, starting pitching? Daniel Cabrera or Garrett Olson come to mind. The Blue Jays have even more to spare. Stay tuned. National League Just what do the Rays have in young catcher Dioner Navarro? It's somewhat early to say, but Navarro, a solid plate presence with occasional power is batting .347 through 42 games as Tampa Bay's #1 backstop. In the opener of their three-game series with the Angels, Navarro led the charge to a 13-4 Rays romp with a single, a pair of doubles and his third homer of the season in 5 at-bats, driving in four runs and scoring three times. Whatever the Rays see in Navarro, it's definitely working for them. Notes: Despite their loss on Monday, the Angels still hold a 4-game lead on the A's in the West, with Texas 7 back. The Mariners have dropped out of it completely, 15 1/2 games off the pace. Meanwhile, the White Sox won their seventh straight, sending the 2nd place Twins to their 5th straight loss, 7-5, and opening up the largest lead in the majors, 6 1/2 games. The Sox have built their lead by beating up on divisional opponents, posting a 21-8 mark in that regard.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, June 8, 2008 American League Nick Swisher cracked a three-run homer in the second inning and doubled home another and scored in the fifth as the White Sox buried Minnesota, 12-2. It was the third straight game in which the Sox scored 10 or more runs against the Twins, having won 10-6 on Friday and 11-2 on Saturday. The four-game series concludes Monday in Chicago. Notes: Joe Crede continues to swing a hot bat for the White Sox. After homering twice in each of the first two games of the series, he singled and doubled in 4 at-bats Sunday, driving in two and scoring twice. In his last four games, Crede is 10-for-12 with 5 homers and 12 RBI. His power burst has helped the White Sox to six straight wins and a 5 1/2-game lead over Minnesota in the Central. National League Hanley Ramirez went 3-for-5 with a pair of 2-run homers in Florida's 9-2 romp past the Reds. Ramirez, who bats leadoff for the Marlins and plays shortstop, boosted his batting average to an even .300. The Marlins remain 3 1/2 behind the first-place Phillies in the NL East. Notes: Ken Griffey Jr. continues to experience frustration at the plate as no pitcher wants to serve up the 600th gopher ball for Junior. In Sunday's game he went 0-1 with a pair of walks before being pulled in the 7th for a rest. Griffey has been at 599 and counting since May 31. The Reds conclude a four-game series at Florida on Monday before returning home for a three-game set with the Cardinals, Tuesday through Thursday. If Griffey doesn't get #600 in one of those games, Cincinnati fans may be in for a treat as the Boston Red Sox come to town on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the second round of interleague play.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Players of the Day from Saturday, June 7, 2008 American League so many players had big nights on Saturday, it was tough to pick just one for POTD in the AL, but Johnny Damon's 6-for-6 performance took the prize as the Yankees outlasted Kansas City, 12-11, in the Bronx. Damon's six hits - five singles and a double - tied both the Yankees' and AL records for hits in a game. Setting Damon's feat apart was his ninth inning single which plated Wilson Betemit with the winning run. Damon drove in four runs total, scored once and stole a base as well. Nearly outdoing the Yankee outfielder was KC's Jose Guillen, who hit a two-run homer in the first, singled in another run in the third and blasted a grand slam in the 7th, which, at the time, gave the Royals a 10-6 lead. Guillen finished 3-for-4 with 2 runs scored and seven RBI. Notes: Also putting up big numbers Saturday were Baltimore's Jay Payton (2 singles and a double, five RBI in a 9-5 O's win over Toronto), Edgar Renteria (3-for-4 with a grand slam in Detroit's 8-4 win over the Indians) and Joe Crede, who followed up his 2-homer night on Friday with a pair of 3-run blasts Saturday to propel the White Sox to an 11-2 thrashing of the Twins. It was not a good night to be on the mound in the AL. National League Russell Martin (left) singled twice and homered, driving in three runs, and teammate Matt Kemp singled and cranked a three-run homer in the 7th to send Cubs' starter off the mound and into a rage, as the Dodgers dropped the Cubs for the second straight night, 7-3. Both Kemp and Martin also added a stolen base each, furthering Zambrano's (8-2) frustration. Notes: Complicating matters for the Cubs was St. Louis' 8-4 win over the Astros, which put the Cardinals just 2 1/2 behind Chicago in the Central division. The Phillies won their third straight to maintain their 3 1/2-game lead over Florida in the East. The D-Backs won as well, keeping the Dodgers 4 behind in the West.