Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ramirez Slam Extends ChiSox Season; Twins-White Sox in Tuesday Elimination Game

Players of the Day from Monday, September 29, 2008 American League Alexei Ramirez blasted a 6th inning grand slam to lead the White Sox to an 8-2 win over Detroit forcing a one-game playoff with the Minnesota Twins to determine the winner of the AL Central. Ramirez set a rookie record with his 4th grand slam in a make-up game played because the White Sox trailed the Twins by 1/2 game in the division. Now tied, the Twins must travel to Chicago - where the White Sox are 7-2 against the Twins this season - to play an elimination game Tuesday night. The winner will play Tampa on Wednesday in the first game of a five-game playoff series. The loser will go home. Ramirez also singled, stole second and scored a run in the 8th. Notes: John Danks (11-9, 3.47 ERA) will start for the White Sox, facing Minnesota's Nick Blackburn (11-10, 4.14 ERA). The Twins are 35-46 on the road this season; the White Sox have compiled a 53-28 at US Cellular Field in 2008. Game time is 7:35 ET. National League There should be little argument that Ryan Howard is the National League MVP. In the final month of the season, Howard simply blew the competition away, blasting 10 homers and driving in 34 runs in the final month of the season. His final stats - .251 batting average, 48 home runs, 146 RBI - were easily the best in the league, and the majors.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sabathia Hurls Brewers Into Playoffs; AL Central Still Undecided

Players of the Day from Sunday, September 28, 2008 American League Joe Mauer wrapped up the AL batting title with a 2-for-5 afternoon, including a 2-run triple in Minnesota's 6-0 win over the Royals, forcing the White Sox - who beat Cleveland 5-1 - to play a make-up game with Detroit on Monday. Mauer's .330 batting average was tops in the AL, beating out Boston's Dustin Pedroia at .326. The Twins finished the regular season with a 1/2 game lead over the White Sox, who will host the Tigers on Monday, making up a game that was rained out in mid-September. Notes: If the White Sox beat the Tigers, the Twins travel to Chicago for a one-game playoff to determine the AL Central. If they lose, the Twins win the division by one game and will begin the playoffs at Tampa Bay on Thursday in the first game of a 5-game series. Boston travels to LA to face the Angels in the other series, which begins on Wednesday. Both series are best-of-five. National League C. C. Sabathia pitched his 7th complete game for the Brewers, allowing just 4 hits and no earned runs while striking out 7 as Milwaukee topped Chicago, 3-1, and clinched the wild card. Tied with the Mets going into the final day of the regular season, Sabathia came through once more for the Brewers as the Mets lost to Florida, 4-2, missing the playoffs by one game, just as they did last season. Notes: The Brewers will open the playoffs at Philadelphia on Wednesday after noon at 3:00 pm ET. Later in the day, Chicago will hosts the Dodgers in the other NL opener at 6:00 pm. Both series are best of five games.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Phillies Clinch NL East; NL Wild Card Tied; Who Wants Al Central?

Players of the Day from Saturday, September 27, 2008 American League Paul Konerko cranked a pair of homer runs and drove in three, but it wasn't nearly enough as the White Sox lost their fifth straight and continue to trail the Twins by 1/2 game in the Central division. Cleveland beat the White Sox, 12-6, while the Twins were losing their second straight to the Royals, dropping a 4-2 decision to Kansas City. It was the Twins' second straight loss to the Royals. Notes: Unless Minnesota wins the final regular season game on Sunday and the White Sox lose, Chicago's make-up game will have to be played on Monday in order to decide the division. Further, depending on the outcomes of all games, there may be a playoff on Tuesday at Chicago between the Twins and Sox to decide the division. National League Maybe it will turn out to be a little too late and a game or two short, but Johan Santana hurled a 3-hit, complete game shutout as the Mets dropped the Marlins, 2-0, and tied Milwaukee (losers to the Cubs, 7-3) in the wild card race. Meanwhile, the Phillies did their job, beating the Nationals, 4-3, to clinch their second straight NL East crown. Philadelphia will have home field advantage in one of the first round series. If the Mets win the wild card, the Phillies would play the Brewers. If the Brewers win, they would play them. Notes: Should the Mets and Brewers remain tied after Sunday's games, a single-game playoff on Monday at New York would determine the wild card.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yanks Help Rays Clinch East; Howard, Utley Get Phillies to Within One

Players of the Day from Friday, September 26, 2008 National League Philadelphia improved to within one win of clinching the NL East as Ryan Howard and Chase Utley provided nearly all of the offense in the Phillies 8-4 victory over the Washington Nationals. Howard cracked a three-run homer (his major league-leading 48th) in the first inning and doubled home Utley in the 2nd. Utley powered home 3 runs with his second inning double and scored 3 times, including the final run of the game, scampering home from third on a passed ball. Utley also singled twice and stole his 14th base. The win, coupled with the Mets 6-1 loss to Florida, left the Phillies staring at the NL East pennant. One more win or a single Mets loss will clinch. As for the Mets, with two games left, they now need help in the form of Philly or Milwaukee losses. The Brewers topped the Cubs, 5-1, and now lead the wild card race by one game. Milwaukee can force at least a playoff with a win in either of their last two games vs. the Cubs. Ben Sheets will start for the Brewers on Saturday. Notes: If the Brewers are the wild card, the LA Dodgers would begin the NLDS at Chicago and Milwaukee would travel to the NL East champion site, either the Phillies or Mets, though the Mets could only win the division if Philly loses their last two games and the Mets win a single-game playoff. The Nationals' loss on Friday was their 100th of the season, tops in the NL. Seattle leads the majors in futility with a 59-101 record. American League The Rays can thank Yankee Robinson Cano for helping them clinch the AL East. In a night which saw the four remaining playoff contenders all lose, the Red Sox were relegated to wild card status as Boston was pounded by the Yankees, 19-8. Cano singled, doubled twice and provided a sac fly in five at-bats, driving in five runs. New York hammered six Boston pitchers for 20 hits, including 6 doubles and 3 homers. With both Minnesota and Chicago losing, the Central division is still up for grabs. The Twins hold a 1/2 game lead over the White Sox. Minnesota has two games remaining at home against the Royals. Chicago is home for two games against Cleveland. If necessary, the White Sox would play Detroit on Monday, making up a postponed game from earlier in September. Notes: With the Rays backing into the AL East title, most of the layout for the playoffs is set. Because the wild card - Boston - is also in the East, they cannot play the Rays in the opening round, so Boston will travel to LA to face the Angels and the Rays will host the eventual AL Central winner.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Twins Overtake White Sox; Dodgers Clinch; Braun Slams for Brewers

Players of the Day from Thursday, September 25, 2008 American League Alexi Casilla singled home Nick Punto in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Minnesota Twins completed a comeback and three-game sweep of the White Sox with a 7-6 win. Minnesota began the series trailing Chicago by 2 1/2 games and ended it, rallying from a 4th-inning 6-1 deficit to complete the sweep and take the lead in the AL Central by 1/2 game. With the regular season ending on Sunday, no matter what the Twins do, they will need Chicago to lose one of their three weekend games with Cleveland. That's because the White Sox still have unfinished business with the Detroit Tigers. In the event that the two teams are still separated by 1/2 game, either way, the Tigers will play at Chicago on Monday, Sept. 29. If the two are tied after that game, Minnesota would travel to Chicago for a one-game showdown. In the interim, the Twins host a three-game series with Kansas City. Minnesota has handled the Royals well throughout the season, compiling an 11-4 record. Notes: Jon Lester allowed just 2 hits and one run over 6 innings and Kevin Youkilis homered and collected two RBI as the Red Sox inched closer to the East division-leading Rays, who lost at Detroit, 7-5. Tampa's magic number remains at 1, with three games remaining. The New York Yankees, who've already played their final game at Yankee Stadium, may have the last laugh in determining the eventual AL East winner. They travel to Boston to take on the Red Sox in the final three-game series of the season. Tampa Bay will finish up with three games at Detroit. National League Ryan Braun shattered a 1-1, 10th inning tie with his 36th home run of the season, a grand slam that gave Milwaukee a 5-1 win over Pittsburgh and kept them tied with the Mets in the wild card race. New York won, 7-6, over the Cubs, as Jose Reyes raced home with the winning run on Carlos Beltran's 2-out, 9th inning single. The Mets had been down 6-3 in the 7th inning, but the bullpen held up as the batters rallied for the win. With the Phillies idle, the Mets are now 1 game behind them in the NL East. In the West, the LA Dodgers backed into clinching the division when Albert Pujols led the St. Louis Cardinals to a 12-3 win over Arizona. It was Arizona's third straight loss at St. Louis after taking the opener of their 4-game series on Monday. Pujols went 3-for-3 with his 35th home run and 4 RBI, giving him 112 on the year. Pujols is desperately chasing Atlanta's Chipper Jones for the NL batting title. Jones leads at .365. Pujols is second at .353. Since Jones already has the requisite 502 plate appearances and has been limited lately to pinch-hitting due to an ailing back, Pujols is unlikely to run him down in the final three days. The Dodgers lost to San Diego, 7-5, but don't even have to win another game. They hold a 4-game lead over Arizona with 3 left to play. Notes: As the final weekend is played out, the Phillies host the Nationals, the Mets have the Florida Marlins in town and the Brewers host the Cubs. All are three-game series ending Sunday. In the case of ties, one-game playoffs would determine either the winner of the NL East or wild card. If all three teams are tied at the end of play on Sunday, there would be multiple playoff scenarios. The Mets and Phillies would play one game for the East division title, then the loser of that game would play Milwaukee for the wild card spot on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rays, Dodgers Can Taste It; Phillies, Mets, Brewers Battle On

Players of the Day from Wednesday, September 24, 2008 American League Minnesota's Joe Mauer didn't get a hit in four at-bats, but he grounded into a first inning fielder's choice which plated the first run, and did the same in the second, driving in what proved to be the game-winner in the Twins' 3-2 decision over the White Sox. Minnesota now trails Chicago by a mere 1/2 game in the down-to-the-wire AL Central, and will have a chance to take the lead at home tonight as the division leaders wrap up their head-to-head series. In the East, Tampa Bay reduced its magic number to 1, dominating Baltimore, 11-6. Boston remained 3 back with a 5-4 win over Cleveland. Both have already qualified for the post-season. One more Tampa win or Boston loss will award the AL East title to the Rays. Notes: The Angels won their 98th game and are two ahead of Tampa Bay with the league's overall best record. The team with the best record in the league receives home field advantage in the playoffs and will host the wild card in the first series. National League Nomar Garciaparra homered, doubled, scored twice and drove in a pair as the Dodgers bombed San Diego, 12-4, reducing their magic number to clinch the NL West to 1. With the Cardinals knocking off Arizona for the second night in a row, LA is virtually assured of post-season action. A LA win or an Arizona lost will finish the job. Matters became more complicated in the wild card race. The Mets lost and the Brewers won, putting those two in a tie at 87-71. Philadelphia lost to Atlanta, 10-4, keeping the Mets close in the NL East race, down just 1 1/2 games. Notes: Obviously, the East division and wild card are going to be settled over the final weekend. The Mets finish their series with the Cubs on Thursday, and then host the Marlins in the final three game series. Those Cubs finish at Milwaukee. The Brewers have a Thursday game with Pittsburgh remaining before hosting the series. Chicago has great incentive, even though they've already clinched. At times this season, they have dominated the Brewers, so it's not expected that they'll lie down over the final weekend. Philadelphia would seem to have an easy route to the AL East crown. After a day off Thursday, they are home for three days with the lowly Nationals. A sweep assures the Phillies of the title. Washington needs just one more loss to reach 100.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kubel Homers Down ChiSox; Fielder Keeps Brewers Close

Players of the Day from Tuesday, September 23, 2008 American League In what will likely decide the AL Central, the Twins and White Sox opened their three-game series in Minnesota Tuesday night. Game one went to the Twins as Jason Kubel tripled and homered twice, scoring three times and driving in three runs in Minnesota's 9-3 rout of the white Sox. That tightened the race to a 1 1/2 game lead for Chicago. It's all or nothing for both teams. Boston clinched at least a wild card placing with a 5-4 win over Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Rays were sweeping the Orioles in their day-night double header, 5-2 and 7-5. Tampa Bay now leads the AL East by 3 games. Their magic number is 2.
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Notes: Whatever happens in the Twins - White Sox series this week, both teams will have important games remaining. The Twins will stay at home to host the Royals, a distinct edge, as KC is one of the weaker teams in the AL. The White Sox will host the Indians for a 3-game series. Third-place Cleveland has been hot - 14-8 in September. Their loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday halted a 7-game win streak. The Indians, who have been out of the playoff race for months, may have the last laugh as a spoiler. Also in the mix is a rainout with Detroit that would be played on Monday, Sept. 29, if necessary. A two-day rainout washed away games with the Tigers on September 12 and 13. The Sox took both ends of a double header on the 14th, but the third game of the series was indefinitely postponed. National League Prince Fielder was not about to let the season slip away, especially against the lowly Pirates. With the score tied at 6-6 with two out in the bottom of the 9th, Fielder launched a bomb deep into the right field stands, bringing home Ryan Braun and himself with the winning runs in Milwaukee's 7-5 win over Pittsburgh. Milwaukee's win kept the wild card race tight as a sailor's knot. The Mets won, 6-2, over the Cubs, leaving the New Yorkers one game ahead of the Brewers. The Phillies dropped a 3-2 decision to Atlanta, leaving the Mets 1 1/2 back of Philly in the NL East race. Florida, despite a valiant season-long effort, was eliminated from both the wild card and NL East races with a 9-4 loss at Washington. Notes: The Dodgers took a long stride closer to the NL West title with a 10-1 win over San Diego coupled with Arizona's 7-4 loss at St. Louis. Those results left the Dodgers three games up with five to play. Their magic number is 3.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Burrell Bomb Puts Atlanta Away; Youkilis Can't Do It Alone for Red Sox

Players of the Day from Monday, September 22, 2008 American League The Red Sox are almost assured of winning the wild card. All they need is one more win or one Yankee loss. Each team has six games remaining. The Twins have been eliminated and can only win the Central, but must get past the White Sox to do so. On Monday, a guy they'll certainly need to produce during the playoffs, Kevin Youkilis, singled, doubled twice and drove in 2 runs in 4 at-bats, though his Red Sox dropped a 4-3 decision to Cleveland. The Rays were meanwhile beating Baltimore, 4-2, improving their AL East lead to 2 1/2 games. Tampa's magic number is now 5. Notes: Both the White Sox and Twins were idle, so Chicago's lead remains at 2 1/2 games. Francisco Rodriguez earned his 61st save in LA's 2-1 win at Seattle, increasing his single-season saves record. National League Philadelphia took a big step closer to the NL East title when Pat Burrell belted a 3-run homer in the 8th inning to put away the Braves, 6-2, increasing their lead over the Mets to 2 1/2 games. The Cubs knocked off the Mets, 9-5, on the strength of pitcher Jason Marquis' grand slam.
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The Mets are in semi-fold mode as September and the regular season winds down. They are just 4-7 since July 13, have given away the division lead, but still remain one game ahead of the Brewers, who have gone into full collapse in the wild card race, losing 14 of their last 19. Philadelphia's magic number is 4. Notes: The NL West tightened up a bit as Arizona knocked off St. Louis, 4-2. With the Dodgers idle, the lead is down to 2 games. LA's magic number stands at 5.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Dice-K Wins 18th for Red Sox; Fielder Brings Brewers Back

Players of the Day from Sunday, September 21, 2008 National League The Milwaukee Brewers have stumbled through most of September, compiling a 4-15 record until Prince Fielder broke out on Sunday with his 33d home run in the first inning and a two-run double in the 4th, leading the Brewers to an 8-1 win over the Reds. The win - coupled with the Mets' 7-6 loss to Atlanta - left the Brew crew 1 1/2 games behind the New Yorkers in the wild card race. The Phillies inched closer to their second straight NL East title with a 5-2 win over Florida. Philly leads the Mets by 1 1/2 and Florida by 6 1/2. Notes: The West tightened again as the Dodgers lost, 1-0, in 12 innings, to San Francisco while Arizona enjoyed a rare power surge in their 13-4 win at Colorado. The Dodgers lead the Diamondbacks by 2 1/2 games. LA has just 6 games left to play; Arizona, 7. American League Having conceded nothing in the AL East race Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-2) shut down the Toronto Blue Jays on 2 hits over 7 innings, pulling the Red Sox to just 1 1/2 behind the Rays as Boston beat back Toronto, 3-0, entering the final week of the regular season. The Rays lost, 4-1, to the Twins, but time is running out on Minnesota. Chicago lowered their magic number to 5, topping Kansas City, 3-0. They lead the Twins by 2 1/2 games, but the Twins get one final shot as the White Sox visit Minnesota for a 3-game series, Tuesday through Thursday. Notes: In storybook fashion, the Yankees ended their stay at Yankee Stadium with a win, beating the Orioles, 7-3. Through the years, the "House that Ruth Built" has hosted no-hitters and home run hitters, playoff and World Series magic, in addition to football, boxing, concerts and papal visitations. A home to presidents and players alike, Yankee Stadium - though it will be torn down this fall - remains engraved in not only baseball history, but the history of our nation and the world. Farewell, old friend. It's been fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cubs Clinch Central; Dodgers Inch Closer; Rays Reach First Playoff Berth

Players of the Day from Saturday, September 20, 2008 American League Scott Kazmir (12-7) shut out the Twins n five hits over 6 innings, ensuring Tampa Bay's first ever appearance in the post-season while dampening Minnesota's playoff hopes as the Rays dropped the Twins, 7-2 The Rays wrapped up at least a wild card spot, but reman focused on winning the AL East. With Boston losing 6-3 to Toronto, they lead the Red Sox by 2 1/2 games and have reduced their magic number to clinch the division to 7. Notes: The White Sox didn't take advantage of Minnesota's loss, dropping a 5-2 decision at Kansas City. Chicago still leads the Twins by 2 1/2 in the Central. Their magic number is 6. National League Mark DeRosa singled and scored on Aflonso Soriano's bases-loaded single in the first, doubled in a run and scored the game-winner in the 4th as the Cubs clinched the NL Central with a 5-4 win over St. Louis. Chicago clinched the division for the second straight year and, in all likelihood, will have home field advantage throughout the league playoffs. In the year marking the hundredth anniversary of the Cubs' last world series championship, the Cubs have the best record in the National League and is the first team to clinch a division title. Notes: The Phillies beat back the pesky Marlins, 3-2, ending their nine-game winning streak, and, when the Mets lost to Washington, 4-2, took back first place in the NL East by 1/2 game over New York. The Marlins are 5 1/2 back. Milwaukee continued to unwind down the stretch, losing their second straight game at Cincinnati, 4-3, dropping 2 1/2 games behind the Mets in the wild card race. The Brewers have lost 15 of 19 in September. Taking one step closer to the NL West title, Los Angeles reduced its magic number to 5 with a 10-8 win over San Francisco. Manny Ramirez homered twice and drove in five runs in the LA win. The Dodgers continue to lead the Diamondbacks - 5-3 winners at Colorado - by 3 1/2 games. Since joining the Dodgers in late July, Ramirez is batting .404 with 16 home runs and 49 RBi in 47 games.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pena, Rays Sting Twins; Jacobs Keeps Florida Hopes Alive

Players of the Day from Friday, September 19, 2008 American League Carlos Pena doubled, homered and drove in four runs in Tampa Bay's 11-1 rout of the fading Minnesota Twins. With Boston beating Toronto, 4-3, and the White Sox creaming KC, 9-4, the Rays remain 1 1/2 to the good atop the AL East, but the Twins dropped 2 1/2 behind Chicago in the Central and are close to being eliminated from wild card consideration, 7 1/2 behind Boston. Notes: The Angels, having already clinched the AL West, keep playing hard to maintain their overall lead for home field throughout the playoffs. After a wild 15-12 win at Texas on Friday, the Angels are 94-59 and with 9 games remaining may be the only team in the majors to reach 100 wins this season. 100-62 may be good enough to capture AL home field rights. The Rays, being the only team within striking distance at 91-61, would have to win nine of their last ten to match that mark. No matter the outcome, the AL will have home field advantage in the World Series after winning the All Star game in this past July. National League The Phillies came into Miami sporting a seven-game winning streak. Trouble was, their hosts, the Florida Marlins, were ready and waiting with an 8-game streak of their own on the line. Mike Jacobs helped settle the matter with a 2-run double in the 1st and a 2-run single in the 6th, helping the Marlins to their 9th straight in a 14-8 slugfest over the Phillies. Pretty much written off a few weeks ago, the Marlins never gave up and have roared back to within 4 1/2 of the Phillies, who currently are the wild card leader. Florida is also just 5 games back of the Mets in the NL East race. The Mets downed Atlanta, 9-5, on Friday, to retake the lead in the division. In between the Phillies and Marlins in the wild card race are the Milwaukee Brewers, who took another step backwards on Friday in an embarrassing 11-2 loss at Cincinnati. Milwaukee is this season's September swooner, compiling a horrific 4-14 record so far this month. While still in contention for the wild card, they face the Cubs in the final three games of the season, Sept. 26, 27 and 28. Chicago's magic number to clinch the division title is down to 1, despite being hammered by the Cardinals, Friday night. Notes: In the West, the Dodgers look to be the class of the division, but they'll have to prove it to their upstate rivals, the Giants, who ham-strung them 7-1 in the opener of their 3-game series in LA. Following the weekend series, LA hosts the Padres for three and closes out the season next weekend at San Francisco. The Dodgers lead the NL West by 3 1/2 games over Arizona. Their magic number is 6.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Longoria's 3 HRs Can't Top Twins; Baker Leads Marlins to 8th Straight

Players of the Day from Thursday, September 18, 2008 American League Evan Longoria was probably going to win the Rookie of the Year award anyway, but his performance Thursday night against Minnesota probably clinched it. Unfortunately, Longoria's 3 home runs and 4 RBI weren't enough to prevent Tampa Bay from losing to the Twins, 11-8. Longoria hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and solo shots in the 4th and 7th, the last one giving the Rays an 8-6 lead. Minnesota, however, scored five runs in the 9th inning to ruin the Rays' night and tighten the races in the AL East and Central. The Yanks spanked the White Sox on Bobby Abreu's 2-homer, 6-RBI effort, 9-2, shrinking Chicago's lead over the Twins to 1 1/2 games. The Red Sox were idle, so they now trail the Rays by the same margin. Notes: LA's Francisco Rodriguez picked up save #59 in the Angels' 6-4 win at Oakland, extending his own record. National League Talk about flying under the radar. While all eyes have been focused on the Phillies and Mets, the Florida Marlins won their 8th straight, thanks to rookie catcher John Baker's 2 double, 1 single, 4 RBI night in the Marlin's 7-1 win over Houston. Even more amazing to those of us who watch the standings religiously is that Florida's win over the Astros was Houston's 5th straight loss, yet the Astros are just 3 1/2 games behind the flagging Brewers. Both the Marlins and Astros have shots at the wild card, albeit long ones. Currently, they trail the Mets by 5 games in the wild card. The Marlins, in particular, can help themselves out beginning Friday when they begin a 3-game series with the Phillies in Florida. After a make-up game with Cincinnati, they play 3 at Washington before closing out the season with 3 at New York. The Marlins are 5 1/2 behind the AL East-leading Phillies. Notes: Derrek Lee singled home Jason Marquis in the bottom of the 12th inning to send the Cubs home winners and shave their magic number for clinching the Central down to 2 after taking two of three from Milwaukee. The Brewers' hopes are fading fast. They are 1 1/2 behind the Mets in the wild card and an impossible 9 games behind the Cubs in the division. In the West, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks both won, but the Dodgers took another step closer to the divisional title, dropping their magic number to 7. They lead Arizona by 3 1/2 games. Arizona's 3-2 home win over the Giants may have significance toward the Cy Young award. The D-Backs did what no other team had been able to do since July 20: they beat Tim Lincecum (17-4), who pitched all 8 innings for the Giants, ending his 6-game win streak.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Aybar, Rays Smack Red Sox; Beltran Keeps Mets in Races

Players of the Day from Wednesday, September 17, 2008 American League Willy Aybar smacked a two run homer in the first inning, singled in another and scored in the third and went 3-for-5 with another single to push the Rays past Boston, 10-3, taking two of three from the Red Sox in their final meeting of the regular season. Tampa Bay can now begin counting the wins and losses with a 2-game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East. Their magic number stands at 10. The Rays have 12 games left to play; Boston, 10. Notes: In the Central, the White Sox and Twins both suffered losses, so the Sox remain 2 1/2 on top. Minnesota must either catch Chicago or go home. They are seven games behind the Red Sox in the wild card race. National League Well, the end of the regular season is upon us and the Mets haven't completely collapsed, so this season looks to be a little different than 2007. The Mets managed to stay 1/2 game behind the Phillies - who won, 6-1, at Atlanta - in the NL East. Carlos Beltran singled, homered, drove in 3 runs and scored twice as the Mets swatted the Nats, 9-7. New York also remained 1/2 game ahead of the Brewers (a team that seems to be falling apart). Milwaukee snapped a five game losing streak with a 6-1 win over the Cubs. It was also the Brewers' first win over Chicago in their last six tries, but starter Ben Sheets lasted only two innings, suffering from tightness in his right forearm. The injury was not severe enough to put Sheets on the DL, and the team will evaluate his status as the days progress. It is unclear whether he will miss his next start or not.
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The Milwaukee win stalled Chicago's quest for the NL Central crown, at least temporarily. Their magic number remains at 4. Notes: In the West, the Arizona Diamondbacks proved they're not dead yet, shaving a game off the Dodgers' lead, down to 3 1/2 games as Brandon Webb won his 21st game with a 7-6 win over the Giants. LA was a 15-8 loser at Pittsburgh, keeping the magic number for the Dodgers at 8.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Navarro Puts Rays Back in First; Howard Powers Phillies to NL East Lead

Players of the Day from Tuesday, September 16, 2008 American League Dioner Navarro only got one hit in Tampa Bay's 2-1 win over Boston but it was the game winner. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Navarro launched a fly ball to the deepest part of center field, over the heads of the drawn-in outfield, plating the winning run and putting Tampa back on top in the AL East by one game over the Red Sox. The Sox and Rays play the rubber game of their 3-game series on Wednesday night. It is the last time the two will face each other during the regular season, unless a tie forces a playoff. With Evan Longoria already back from injury, Carl Crawford is also expected back within the next couple of weeks, meaning the Rays should be at full strength entering the playoffs. Barring a complete collapse, the Rays are virtually assured of making the playoffs as either the East champs or the wild card. Notes: The Twins lost their third straight on Tuesday, losing to Cleveland in 12 innings, 12-9, on Victor Martinez's 3-run, walk-off homer. That dropped Minnesota 2 1/2 behind the White Sox, who topped the Yankees, 6-2. Minnesota is 7 games behind Boston in the wild card, making Boston's magic number 5 for clinching at least the wild card. National League Ryan Howard has been playing like a man on a mission, and with his 8th inning 2-run homer (45) sending the Phillies to an 8-7 win at Atlanta and into first place in the NL East, Howard's mission seems accomplished. Philly's slugging first baseman belted a triple and a couple of singles as well, going 4-for-5 with 3 RBI and 2 runs. Over his last nine games, Howard has hit 6 homers and driven in 17 runs with a 457 batting average (16-35). MVP? Howard leads the majors with 45 homers and 136 RBI. Nobody in the NL is even close. Notes: The Phillies have a slender 1/2 game lead in the East over the Mets, who, in turn, have a 1/2 game lead over Milwaukee in the wild card as both NY and Milwaukee lost Tuesday night. The Cubs beat the Brewers for the fifth straight time. The last time the Brewers beat the Cubs was May 1. The Brewers also lost their 5th straight overall, and 8th of their last 9. They've given up the wild card lead and virtually acceded the NL Central to the Cubs, whose magic number is down to 4. In the West, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks both won, but Arizona is running out of time as LA's magic number was reduced to 8. The Dodgers lead by 4 1/2 games. Heading toward the playoffs, the Dodgers have been the hottest team in the majors, going 14-2 since August 30.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ortiz Leads 6 Homer Assault; Lilly Wins 15th with 1-Hit Effort

Players of the Day from Monday, September 15, 2008 American League The Red Sox pounded Tampa Bay, 13-5, tying the Rays for first place in the East as David Ortiz drove in four runs, highlighted by a first-inning 3-run homer. The Red Sox opened their three-game series in Tampa with a resounding win, hammering starter Scott Kazmir and the Rays' bullpen for 6 home runs. Notes: Minnesota and Chicago both lost on Monday, leaving the AL Central standings the same. The White Sox lead the Twins by 1 1/2 games. National League Cubs' pitchers are on some kind of roll. After Carlos Zambrano no-hit Houston on Sunday, Ted Lilly had a no-hitter through six innings, but allowed a single to Mark Loretta leading off the 7th, the first Houston hit off Chicago pitching in 15 innings. Lilly (15-9) finished the 7th and the bullpen didn't allow another hit, as the Cubs steamrolled toward the post-season with a 7-1 win over the Astros. Chicago's lead in the Central division is now 8 games; their magic number has been reduced to 6. The Cubs have won 4 straight while the Brewers, idle on Monday, were just swept four straight by the Phillies. In response, Milwaukee's front office kicked manager Ned Yost to the curb and installed third base coach Dale Sveum as interim manager. Until this past weekend, the Brewers were comfortably 4 games ahead of Philly in the wild card race and still had an outside shot at catching the Cubs. Now, the Phillies and Brewers are tied for the wild card lead and the Cubs are seemingly not going to be caught. Notes: The Dodgers got back to winning with an 8-2 victory over Pittsburgh. Arizona beat back San Francisco, 3-1, to remain 4 1/2 back. The Dodgers' magic number is 9. Philadelphia and the NY Mets were idle on Monday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A-Rod Has a Shot at HR Title; Zambrano No-Hits Astros

Players of the Day from Sunday, September 14, 2008 American League Alex Rodriguez hasn't had his best season, but the Yankees may still have some impact on the races and A-Rod might win the home run title. Rodriguez staked the Yankees to an early lead with his 17th career grand slam in the first inning of New York's 8-4 win over Tampa Bay. It was his 34th home run of the season, putting him just two behind league-leader Carlos Quentin. Rodriguez also reached the 100-RBI total for the 11th straight year. The Red Sox beat Toronto, 4-3, putting them just one game behind the Rays in the Eastern division race. The Red Sox have a 6-game lead on Minnesota for the wild card, so whether Boston catches the Rays or not will only matter in the seedings for the playoffs. Whichever team finished second in the East is almost assured of taking the wild card. Notes: In the Central, the White Sox took both ends of a double header with Detroit while the Twins dropped a 7-3 decision at Baltimore, leaving Minnesota 1 1/2 games back with time running out. National League Could this really be the Cubs' year? The omens are beginning to say yes, especially after Carlos Zambrano hurled a no-hitter at the Astros in a game that was delayed twice by hurricane Ike and eventually moved to Milwaukee. The Cubs won, 5-0, as Zambrano mowed down the Astros hitters, fanning 10 and walking just one. The outcome was almost never in doubt as the Cubs scored all of their runs by the third inning. While the Cubs spent most of the weekend dealing with winds and rain, they got plenty of help from the Phillies, who swept the Brewers four straight and tied Milwaukee for the wild card. Those wins help put the Cubs up by 7 1/2 in the Central, dropping their magic number to 7. The Phillies also closed to within one game of the Mets in the East. New York lost to Atlanta, 7-4, on Sunday. Notes: The Dodgers finally lost another game, 1-0, in 10 innings at Colorado, but Arizona was losing 2-1 to the Reds, so LA remained 4 1/2 in front in the West. Their magic number is now 10.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rodriguez Breaks Saves Mark; Morneau Ties Hamilton; Lincecum a Cy Young Candidate

Players of the Day from Saturday, September 13, 2008 American League Justin Morneau has been on an RBI tear. On Saturday, he ran down Texas slugger Josh Hamilton to tie for the AL RBI lead with a pair of RBI in each of the Twins' wins over Baltimore, topping the Orioles 12-2 in the opener and 12-6 in the nightcap. Morneau has driven in 15 runs in his last 8 games, He and Hamilton have 124 each. Hamilton has no RBI over his last six games. The twin killing of the O's put Minnesota into a tie with the White Sox, who have been rained out for two straight days. They will play a double-dip with the Tigers on Sunday. In the East, the Rays split two with the Yankees, as did Boston with Toronto. The Red Sox trail the Rays by 2 games in the division, but have a 5-game bulge over both Chicago and Minnesota in the wild card. Notes: Of course, out West, the Angels have already sewn up the division, but some unfinished mound work was taken care of as the Angels beat Seattle, 5-2, with Francisco Rodriguez earning his record-breaking 58th save, topping the major league mark of 57, set by Bobby Thigpen of the White Sox in 1990. Rodriguez' appearance wasn't his prettiest. Despite allowing a walk and a hit, K-Rod kept the Mariners off the board, getting two of the three outs in the ninth via strikeouts. National League Tim Lincecum isn't about to concede anything, especially not the Cy Young award. The NL competition is pretty much down to just him and Arizona's Brandon Webb, but Lincecum (17-3) boosted his stock considerably with a 4-hit, 12 strikeout, complete game shutout over the Padres on Saturday, as the Giants won, 7-0, at San Diego. Considering that Lincecum has accounted for 1 of every 5 Giants wins this season and also leads the NL in strikeouts (237) and ERA (2.43), he's going to be considered right up there with Webb, the NL's only 20-game winner. As for the NL West pennant race, the Dodgers continued to separate themselves from the competition, winning their 4th straight and 13th of their last 14 with a 5-1 triumph at Colorado. The Diamondbacks lost to the Reds, 3-2, and now trail by 4 games. The Dodgers' magic number is 11. Notes: In the Central, the Cubs and Astros were shut down again due to Hurricane Ike. At least two of their 3-game series is now scheduled for Sunday and Monday in Milwaukee. The 3rd game will be played at the conclusion of the regular season, if necessary. That game may not be needed, as the Brewers dropped their second straight to the Phillies, 7-2. The Brewers are now 6 games behind the Cubs. In the East, the Mets split with Atlanta, so the Phillies gained to within 2 1/2 games of the lead, but the Phillies are also just 2 games behind Milwaukee in the wild card race. The Phillies and Brewers play a double-header today in Philadelphia.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wakefield Stymies Jays; Webb Wins 20th

Players of the Day from Friday, September 12, 2008 American League Nothing like to trip to Boston to put an end to a winning streak. That's what the Toronto Blue Jays discovered as Tim Wakefield tossed 8 innings of shutout ball, paving the way for a 7-0 Red Sox win. Wakefield (9-10) didn't walk a batter and struck out four. With the Rays rained out at New York, Boston reduced the Rays' lead to just 2 games. Notes: The White Sox and Twins were also rained out of their games, so Chicago's lead in the Central remains at 1 game. National League Rumors of Brandon Webb's demise were grossly exaggerated. After failing to win his 20th three straight times, Webb was back on his game Friday, shutting out the Reds on 5 hits over 8 innings as Arizona won, 3-2. The rare Diamondback win - their first in their last 7 games - kept Arizona in step with the first-place Dodgers, who have established a 3 1/2 game lead, and beat Colorado Friday, 7-2. Notes: The Cubs, Mets, Brewers and Phillies were all rained out, so there were no changes in the standings. Nate McLouth nearly hit for the cycle in Pittsburgh's 10-2 win over St. Louis. He failed to get a single though he did reach base five times. McLouth hit a two-run homer and three-RBI double and a triple, driving in 5 runs, his career high.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rodriguez Ties Saves Record; Hot Howard Harms Brewers

Players of the Day from Thursday, September 11, 2008 American League Was there a mound conspiracy in Anaheim which allowed Francisco Rodriguez to tie the major league record with his 57th save? Mere mortals may never know, but the facts are out there. With the Angels safely ahead, 7-0 after six innings and the AL West title having already been clinched the day before, Justin Speier took the mound in the 8th and promptly allowed 3 runs. Scot Shields finished the inning, but allowed a pair of singles in the 9th. On came Rodriguez. It wasn't his prettiest performance, but two hits, a double play and a strikeout later, it was save #57. Bobby Thigpen's 1990 White Sox record was tied as the Angels beat Seattle, 7-4. Notes: With many of the AL teams traveling, the only significant action was in the Central division. The White Sox lost, 6-4, to the red-hot Blue Jays, but Minnesota also fell, 3-2, to the Royals, so the Twins remain 1 game behind Chicago. The Red Sox and Rays were idle. Tampa Bay holds a 2 1/2 game edge in the East. National League Ryan Howard has been on a tear of late, and his hot bat continued to produce as the Phillies took the first game of their critical four game series with the Brewers, 6-3. Howard homered, doubled and drove in 3 runs in 3 at-bats. Over the past five games, Howard has swatted 4 homers and driven in 10 runs. He leads both categories by wide margins with 43 home runs and 129 RBI. His closest pursuers are Adam Dunn and his 36 home runs, and David Wright, who has 109 RBI. MVP, anyone? Notes: Philly's win closed their gap with the Mets to 3 games, but, more importantly, the Phillies now trail the Brewers by the same margin in the wild card race. Milwaukee dropped 5 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who beat St. Louis, 3-2. The leaders n the West were idle. LA leads Arizona by 3 1/2 games.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Angels Clinch West; Pena Homer Tops BoSox; Wright Powers Mets

Players of the Day from Wednesday, September 10, 2008 American League A former Red Sox, Carlos Pena blasted a Mike Timlin offering over the green monster in Fenway, lifting Tampa Bay to a 14-inning, 4-2 win over the Red Sox. Pena's 3-run homer gave the Rays a little more breathing room atop the AL East, as they took 2 of 3 at Boston and re-established a 2 1/2 game lead in the division. While the Red Sox remain in second place, they still have a firm grip on the wild card, holding a 5-game advantage over Minnesota. The Red Sox have one series remaining with Tampa, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Notes: The LA Angels clinched the AL West title on Wednesday with a 4-2 win over the NY Yankees. The Angels had to wait for the Mariners to drop Texas, 8-7, to begin the celebration, but with 17 games left on the schedule, they had plenty of time on their hands. The Sept. 10 clinching is the earliest ever for the Western division. The previous mark was held by Oakland, which clinched the 1971 title on Sept. 15. Minnesota and Chicago both won, so the White Sox remain 1 game ahead in the Central. Chicago ended Toronto's 10-game win streak, 6-5, while the Twins romped past KC, 7-1. National League David Wright may be on his way to being named the NL MVP, but the competition is tough, especially from his own teammates. Wright hit his 28th home run of the season, doubled, singled twice, scored four times and drove in three runs as the Mets topped Washington, 13-10, and improved their lead in the NL East to 3 1/2 games over the Phillies. Wright is hitting .296 and has 109 RBI, but that's just a little better than the guys who are normally in front of and behind him in the lineup. Carlos Delgado has 104 and Carlos Beltran has 102 RBI. No other team in the majors has three players with 100 or more RBI. In fact, only one team, Houston, has two. Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman have both driven in exactly 100. Notes: The Dodgers keep rolling toward the post-season, winning for the 10th time in their last 11 games - a 7-2 mash of the Padres. The Diamondbacks continue to slump in second place, losing their 6th straight. What makes this LA story so intriguing is that prior to setting off on their current winning way, the Dodgers had lost 8 straight and 10 of 11. With that kind of consistency, even the current 3 1/2 game lead isn't safe in baseball's wackiest division. The Cubs and Brewers both won, so Chicago remains 4 1/2 ahead. Milwaukee has a 4-game edge on the Phillies for the wild card.