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.

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