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.

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