Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lester Leads Red Sox over O's, 4-0; Lights Out Lincecum

Players of the Day for Monday, June 29, 2009 American League If the Red Sox keep getting the kind of starting pitching they have been of late, there won't be a pennant race in the AL East. Boston could wrap up the division by mid-September. On Monday, the latest Boston pitcher to throw lights out was Jon Lester, who set down the Orioles on five hits over seven innings in a 4-0 Boston dusting. Lester (7-6) struck out 8 while getting 7 more outs on ground balls and 6 via the fly. He did not walk a batter and never allowed a base runner past second. To say he was in command would be an understatement. The O's never had any offensive threat all night against Lester's array of out pitches. The win put the Red Sox 3 1/2 ahead of the idle Yankees, winners of 5 straight and 5 games better than the Rays, who have won 6 in a row. Toronto has tailed off into 4th place with 3 straight losses. National League If you're looking for Cy Young candidates in the National League, you'd better take a serious look at Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants, because this 29-year-old is looking to surpass the stats he put up in 2008, when he won the award. On Monday night in St. Louis, Lincecum (8-2) tossed his second complete game shutout of the season in a 10-0 waltz past the Cardinals, and the numbers were mind-blowing: 2 hits, no walks, 8 Ks. The only hits were Rick Ankiel's 5th inning single and Albert Pujols' double in the 7th. Lincecum put down the first 14 and last 8 batters in order, using just 95 pitches, 60 of which went for strikes. With the season approaching the midpoint, Lincecum is on pace for a repeat of 2008. Last year he went 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 265 strikeouts in 33 starts. So far in 2009, he's had 16 starts, is 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 132 Ks. While the Cardinals were being shut out, Milwaukee was cruising past the Mets, 10-6, and into first place in the NL Central by one game over St. Louis.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rivera Records 500th Save; Gaudin's 1-Hitter Halts Texas

Players of the Day for Sunday, June 28, 2009 American League The Yankees completed their sweep of the crosstown rival Mets with a 4-2 victory at City Field Sunday night. While the game itself was rather mundane, there was an important milestone reached by closer Mariano Rivera, who recored his 500th career save with a 4-out, 1-hit effort to seal the win. Rivera became just the second pitcher to reach the 500 mark, and the first in the American League. Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, cracked the mark in 2007 and has 571 as of today. Rivera also managed to drive in an insurance run in the top of the 9th, taking a base on balls with the bases loaded, forcing in Melky Cabrera. Rivera is having his usual solid season, with 18 saves, 2.93 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. National League There hasn't been a no-hitter thrown this season, but San Diego starter Chad Gaudin came pretty close, tossing a one-hitter over 8 innings in a 2-0 Padres' win over Texas. There was no indication that Gaudin (4-6) was about to uncork his best effort of the season, especially after allowing a one-out walk to David Murphy and a single by Michael Young in the first inning. Once out of that mini-jam, Gaudin was nails, giving up just one more walk and no hits while fanning 9 over the next 7 innings. He gave way to closer Heath Bell in the 9th, who picked up his 21st save. Gaudin may be showing signs of coming around, even if his Padres are mired near the bottom of the NL West. His prior outing was also a strong effort, when he picked up a win at Seattle, allowing 4 hits and 2 runs over 7 innings while striking out 11.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Burnett Stops Mets on 1 Hit; Happ, Werth Provide Phillies Win

Players of the Day for Saturday, June 27, 2009 American League Boston still leads the AL East, but the Yankees continue to hunt, just 4 games back. On Saturday, A.J. Burnett twirled a no-hitter through five innings before giving up a single to Alex Cora opening the 6th for the only hit in 7 innings of work. Burnett (6-4) walked 3 and struck out a season-high 10. Only one Met baserunner reached second base as Burnett and the Yankees topped the Mets, 5-0, their second straight lopsided win in the subway series which concludes Sunday at City Park. So far, the Yankees have won 4 out of 5 between the two New York metro teams. National League Having gone 2-11 in interleague play since June 12, watching their NL East lead shrink to a mere 1/2 game, the Philadelphia Phillies needed somebody to step up and get the team back to its winnings ways. In Satruday's 10-0 plastering of the Blue Jays, Jayson Werth (left) provided the offense while rookie J.A. Happ (right) pitched his first major league complete game shutout, working over the Jays on 5 hits, striking out 4 without issuing a walk. With Happ keeping the Blue Jays in complete control, Werth did more than enough damage at the plate to secure the win, going 4-for-4 with a single, double and two homers, three RBI and three runs scored. Werth has 15 homers and 43 RBI on the season. Happ is 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. Coupled with losses by both the Mets and Marlins, the Phillies opened up a 1 1/2 game lead in the division over NY, with the Marlins 2 games back. NOTES: Other stellar performances from Saturday's action included Tim Wakefield's 3-hit, 6-inning shutout effort to lead Boston past the Braves, 1-0 and Albert Pujols' pair of 2-run homers in St. Louis' 5-3 win over Minnesota. Wakefield's win tied him with Minnesota's Kevin Slowey (victimized by Pujols) and Roy Halladay for the AL lead in wins with 10. Albert the Great, meanwhile, leads the majors in homers (28) and RBI (74). Pujols could be having his best year ever, and that's saying something. He's on pace to smash is personal best power numbers of 49 homers and 137 RBI, which earned him his first MVP Award in 2005. Pujols won it again last year with 37 homers, 116 RBI and a .357 batting average. The Angels are finally back to familiar ground, atop the AL West, thanks to some help from fellow Californians down the coast. San Diego popped Texas, 7-3, while the Angels were dispatching Arizona, 2-1, resulting in the Halos taking a 1/2-game lead in the division. The Rangers will have their opportunity to take the lead back, but they'll have to do it in Anaheim, as the two teams open a 3-game series on Monday.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gardner's 5-for-6 Sinks Mets; Ethier Blasts Three for Dodgers

Players of the Day for Friday, June 26, 2009 American League Brett Gardner won the center field job in Spring training, lost it briefly to Melky Cabrera, but, after his 5-for-6 performance Friday night in the Yankees' 9-1 thumping of the Mets, there's little doubt who will be regularly patrolling the depths of Yankee Stadium in the foreseeable future. Gardner started the game off with a sharp single, but was forced out at second. He singled again in the second and scored. In the 6th, he singled, stole second and was left stranded. Gardner knocked his 3rd home run of the season, a solo shot in the 8th, and in the ninth, smacked a triple to the right-center gap, driving in his second run and scored on Johnny Damon's double to complete the Yankee scoring. Gardner boosted his average from .281 to .303. Blessed with blazing speed, Gardner has proven adept at the swipe, having stolen 17 bases this season in 19 attempts. National League Andre Ethier is one of the players helping the Dodgers survive Manny Ramirez's 50-game drug suspension, due to end within a week. While the Dodgers have seen their lead in the NL West shrink a bit, they are still a comfortable 8 games clear of the San Francisco Giants. On Friday, Ethier proved his value in big ways, launching three homers and driving in six runs in the Dodgers' 8-2 win over visiting Seattle. Either unloaded on starter Jason Vargas with a three run shot in the second inning, followed up with a two-run blast in the 6th and a solo shot in the 8th. Ethier has just 14 home runs on the season to go with 49 RBI, but those numbers are expected to rise once Manny gets back in the lineup.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A-Rod Cracks on Braves; Ramirez Smacks Down O's

Players of the Day for Thursday, June 25, 2009 American League The Yankees haven't exactly feasted on interleague play, but they evened their record in the current round at 6-6 (7-8 overall) with an 11-7 victory at Altanta. Considering the level of opposition - Braves, Mets, Nationals, Marlins - the Yankees have underperformed in the odd ritual and close out the interleague schedule with a three-game series at City Park with the Mets. In Thursday's win, Alex Rodriguez broke out the good wood, smacking his 10th home run of the season - a solo shot in the 1st - singling in a run in the 2nd, reaching on an error and scoring in the 4th and singling home two more in the 7th, which put the Yanks safely ahead 10-6. Johnny Damon also rapped out three hits and drove in four, while Derek Jeter went 4-for-4 and scored four times. Both Jeter and Damon stole a base. National League While the Yankees have struggled against NL opponents, the Florida Marlins have been making hay against the AL East, going 9-3 since June 12 (in May, they lost 2 of 3 to the Rays). On Thursday, Florida defeated the Orioles, 11-3, earning the sweep, as Hanley Ramirez went 3-for-5, scored three times and drove in 5 runs, the big blow being an 8th inning grand slam that put the Marlins up 11-0. Sean West improved to 3-2 by blanking the O's on 4 hits over 6 innings. Ramirez, the likely starting shortstop in the upcoming All-Star Game, is having his usual exceptional season, batting .335 with 11 homers and 47 RBI. Even though the home runs are a little down, Ramirez has the Marlins in the NL East and wild card chase. with the Phillies struggling atop the division and the Mets banged up, the Marlins have snuck into contention, just 1/2 game behind the Mets and 1 game back of Philly. Florida concludes their interleague obligations with a 3-game set at Tampa Bay this weekend. NOTES: Phillie Foibles... Whatever is wrong with the Philadelphia Phillies, it probably has more to do with pitching than anything else, though playing AL East teams the past two weeks hasn't exactly been a walk in the park. The Phillies have been losers in 10 of their last 12 games - all interleague - having allowed 71 games in those losses, 7.1 per outing. Other than a 2-1 loss to Baltimore, the fewest number of runs allowed in those losses was 5, and despite the impressive power in the Philadelphia lineup, no team is going to win many games with a pitching staff giving up 7 per game.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fields, White Sox, Pound Dodgers; Nieve Cuts Cards

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 24, 2009 American League Everybody's chasing the Tigers in the AL Central. Detroit holds a comfortable 5 game lead over the Twins and is 6 better than the White Sox. KC is 8 1/2 out and Cleveland has fallen 11 back. One of the teams within shouting distance is Chicago, which knocked off the Dodgers Wednesday night by a 10-7 score, smacking 6 homers in a 13-hit attack. The player doing most of the damage, down there at the bottom of the lineup, was Josh Fields, who belted two - a two-run and a solo variety - in the 4th and 5th innings, blowing the game wide open. Fields could become an important element for the Sox as their everyday third baseman, a role which he has filled this season until management brought up prospect Gordon Beckham from AAA Charlotte. Fields and Beckham are now vying for the full-time job at the hot corner. Both were in the lineup Wednesday, as Fields subbed at first base for Paul Konerko. In 2008, Fields only saw action in 14 games, but in 2007, when he replaced the injured Joe Crede, he launched 23 homers and drove in 67 runs in 100 games. National League The Mets are probably the most injury-ridden team in the majors right now, the latest victim being Carlos Beltran, who joined Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Jon Maine, Oliver Perez and Billy Wagner on the DL Monday. Still, the Mets were able to overcome all that and completely swamp the visiting Cardinals, 11-0, on Wednesday. David Wright went 4-for-4 and Fernando Tatis drove in 3 runs, but the real story was rookie starter Fernando Nieve, who shuffled the Cards with 6 innings of shutout ball for his third straight win. Nieve (3-0) allowed just three hits while walking 4 and fanning 5, lowering his ERA to 1.31 and his WHIP to 0.97. Nieve was called up earlier this month to fill in the rotation and he's responded with wins in each of his three starts. That has helped the Mets pull to within 1 1/2 games of the struggling Phillies in the NL East.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BoSox, Bay Blast Nats; Pineiro Grounds Out Mets

Players of the Day for Tuesday, June 23, 2009 American League The Boston Red Sox expanded their AL East lead to five games, knocking off the Nationals, 11-3, while the Yankees lost at Atlanta. Already the league leader in RBI entering Tuesday's games, Jason Bay added to his total by driving in three runs with a solo homer in the second inning and plating two more with a single in the 8th. Bay singled twice more in the game, going 4-for-6 and also scored three runs. He's now established a comfortable lead in the RBI category with 69, 8 better than Tampa's Evan Longoria. In the home run department, Bay's 19 dingers put him in third place behind Carlos Pena (22) and NY's Mark Teixeira (20). National League With a 1.13 WHIP and an ERA of 3.40, one would expect Joel Pineiro's record to be better than 6-8, but that's what it is after Pineiro induced 22 ground outs with his exceptional sinker, leading the Cardinals to a 3-0 victory over the Mets. Pineiro was in complete control throughout, allowing just 2 hits and one walk overall while fanning just one for the complete game shutout, the 5th shutout and 12th complete game of his career. He allowed just one hit over the first eight innings, a harmless single by Luis Castillo in the third inning. Castillo also walked to open the sixth, though he was caught stealing for the first out of the inning. Pineiro threw an even 100 pitches (62 strikes) to snap a string of five straight losses. Over that span, Pineiro didn't pitch all that poorly, never allowing more than 4 earned runs in any outing, but the Cardinals didn't exactly support him, scoring a total of 12 runs in the five losses.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cook Skewers Angels; Cahill Cuts Down Giants

Players of the Day for Monday, June 22, 2009 American League The A's cooled off their cross-town rivals, San Francisco, with a 5-1 home win on the strength of rookie Trevor Cahill's 4-hit pitching over seven innings. Cahill evened his record at 5-5 with a third win in his last four starts. The 6'3" California righty gave up his only earned run of the contest on Trevor Ishikawa's 4th homer of the season, a 2nd inning solo shot. Cahill walked one and struck out 4, finishing strong by retiring the Giants in order in the 6th and 7th innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen. The Giants had won three straight before coming to Oakland. The A's remain in last place in the AL West, 6 1/2 games off the pace. National League The Colorado Rockies are tearing it up, be it against National League opposition or teams from the AL. On Monday, the Rockies inflicted some pain on the California Angels, swamping the Halos, 11-1, behind the 3-hit, 7-inning pitching of Aaron Cook. Having spent his entire career - since 2002 - in the Rockies' organization, Cook had his best season in 2008, going 16-9 with a 3.96 ERA. Thus far in 2009, he's on track for an even better seasonal performance, already at 7-3, with a still-high 4.00 ERA, part of the punishment for pitching in thin air. Cook allowed the three Angels' hits in the first four innings, the last of which was Kendry Morales solo home run in the 4th, though by then, Colorado had already put up three runs of its own. In the next frame, Brad Hawpe quickly upped the lead to 6-1, with his 11th home run of the season, a 3-run jolt. Through the 5th, 6th and 7th, Cook retired the Angels in order, except for a 6th inning walk to Vladimir Guerrero. He left after completing seven innings, striking out four in the process. The win put the Rockies 9 games back of the Dodgers, just 1/2 game out of second place in the NL West, behind the Giants. Colorado has won 17 of its last 18 games and six straight. 11 of the wins came against NL teams, 6 against AL teams. The only loss during the streak was a 12-4 home loss to Tampa Bay.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pujols Puts Cards Back in First; Upton Paces Rays

Players of the Day for Sunday, June 21, 2009 American League Streaky? That would be the Tampa Bay Rays. So far this month, the Rays have won 4 straight, lost 3, won 6, lost 3 won 2, the last pair over the NY Mets, taking the last two in their three-game weekend series. In the 10-6 finale at the Mets' new home, City Park, the Rays banged out 17 hits, with B. J. Upton leading the charge with a 4-for-6 effort. Whenever Upton was up with men on, he made sure to get them home, driving in four total. In the 5th he doubled home a pair and later scored on Carl Crawford's single. After homering in the 7th with Pat Burrell aboard, he scored from third on a bases-loaded walk to Carlos Pena, crossing the plate for the third time. Not normally an RBI guy since he normally bats out of the leadoff spot, Upton notched a season high with his 4 RBI game. The Rays remain in 4th place in the AL East, but are just 6 games out of the lead and trail the Blue Jays and Yankees by one and two games, respectively. National League The St. Louis Cardinals took over first place in the NL Central and cemented their position on Sunday, thanks to a monster effort from - who else? - Albert Pujols. While the Brewers - who entered the weekend in first place - were being swept by Detroit, the Cardinals had the brooms working against Kansas City, outscoring the Royals 29-11 and taking the last game of the series by a 12-5 score. Pujols, who went 6-for-12, with 3 homers and 10 RBI during the three-game stint, saved his best for last. After singling home a run in the 1st, Pujols blasted a grand slam in the 4th inning as part of an 8-run outburst. With the game in hand, he then launched his major league-leading 26th homer, a towering dead-center solo-shot. Amassing 6 ribbies on the day, Pujols vaulted to the MLB lead in RBI, with 68. The Cardinals have a 1 1/2 lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beckett Blanks Braves; Harris, Nats Stun Jays

Players of the Day for Saturday, June 20, 2009 American League Need an explanation for the Red Sox being 3 games in front in the AL East with the best record in the American League? How about Josh Beckett, who twirled a 5-hit, complete game shutout on Saturday as Boston slipped past the Braves, 3-0, at Fenway Park. Beckett (8-3) was at the top of his game, striking out 7 batters without walking any and using just 94 pitches (67 strikes) for his 6th career complete game and 3rd career shutout. After a slow start, Beckett has recorded wins in 6 of his last 7 decisions. National League The Washington Nationals won their 4th straight - all on the road - for their longest winning streak of the season, knocking off Toronto, 5-3, in 12 innings. The Nats have been getting quality pitching during their run, but on Saturday, it was Willie Harris' timely hitting that carried the day. Harris doubled and scored the Nationals' first run in the 5th inning, and persevered, delivering a game-winning, two-run home run in the top of the 12th, his first long ball of the season. The Nats will look to extend their season-high win streak to five games on Sunday in Toronto. They will also be looking for their first series sweep of the season. Ironically, the Blue Jays just finished off a sweep of the AL East first place Phillies before the last place Nationals came to town.

Thames Hammers Brewers; Ludwick, Rasmus Lead Cards

Players of the Day for Friday, June 19, 2009 American League The Tigers beat back the Brewers, 10-4, in a rain-shortened, 7-inning affair in Detroit which featured a pair of two-run home runs by one of baseball's hardest-hitting batters, the seldom-used Marcus Thames. Thames got the scoring started with a bomb in the first with Curtis Granderson aboard and capped the night with a another mash in the seventh, this time with Miguel Cabrera on base. Having played in just 19 games this season, Thames has 3 homers in his 54 at-bats. He missed much of the season with a strained rib cage and has suffered assorted injuries in his five years in the bigs. When he's otherwise healthy or in the lineup, he's a bona fide masher. Of his 327 career hits, almost half - 163 - have been for extra bases. Thames has knocked 67 doubles, 3 triples and 93 home runs in his major league days. The Tigers remained 2 games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central with the win, their second straight and first in their weekend series hosting the Brewers. National League Colby Rasmus (left) went 4-for-5 and Ryan Ludwick (right) smashed his first career grand slam as the Cardinals downed the Royals, 10-5, in Kansas City. Rasmus doubled and stroked three singles, scored twice and drove in a pair of runs as the Cards pounded out 14 hits. Ludwick only had one hit in his four at-bats, but it was a big one, produced after the KC brain trust decided to walk Albert Pujols to load the bases in the third inning. Ludwick's four-run blast was just the first of three homers in the frame. After his bomb, Rick Ankiel and Kahlil Greene hit back-to-back solo shots. With Milwaukee losing to Detroit, the Cardinals gained to within 1/2 game of the NL Central leaders. By the end of the weekend, the Cardinals, who play KC twice more, may find themselves atop the division. NOTES: Break up the Nats! The Washington Nationals took the final two games of their series with the Yankees and went up to Toronto on Friday to take the opener of their three-game series, 2-1, in 11 innings. It marked the second time this season that the Nationals have won 3 straight, the other back in May, when they took the finale in LA and then went to Arizona to take the first two games of their series. If the Nats win on Saturday, it will be the longest winning streak of their season. Meanwhile, a couple of teams that are truly hot reside in - of all places - the NL West, for years one of the weakest divisions in baseball. The Rockies won their 3rd straight and 14th of their last 15, with a 7-3 win over Pittsburgh. Colorado is finally over the .500 mark, at 34-33, 9 1/2 behind the Dodgers in the division. Just ahead of them, the San Francisco Giants - 8 games back - have been pretty good since late May, posting a 16-9 record recently to put themselves into at least a widl card contending position and with a possibility of running down the Dodgers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Young's 4-for-4 Boosts D-Backs; Lind Helps Surging Blue Jays

Players of the Day for Thursday, June 18, 2009 American League The Toronto Blue Jays completed a 3-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies with an 8-7 win on Rod Barajas' pinch hit solo homer in the 9th, but the guy who got them there was 3rd year player Adam Lind, who is one of the reasons the Jays are in the division hunt. Lind went 3-for-4 with a pair of singles and a home run, driving in two runs and scoring twice to keep the Blue Jays in the game. The homer was Lind's 14th of the season and his RBI total of 48 leads the team. A .308 hitter, Lind was 6-for-13 in the series with Philly, with two home runs and 3 RBI. The Jays trail the Red Sox by 4 games in the AL East, in third place, just one back of the Yankees. National League Arizona's Chris Young exploded with a 4-for-4 night as the Diamondbacks coasted past the Royals, 12-5. Young stroked a single, two doubles and a triple, scored a run and drove one in and stole his 11th base of the season. Young's totals could have been even more impressive had the batters in the weak Arizona lineup done anything. But Young should not be complaining. The 4 hits boosted his batting average to .206, the first time he's been over .200 since April 29th. The reason nobody's heard much from the Diamondbacks this season is their 29-38 record, which has left them in last place in the NL West, 17 games behind the Dodgers. NOTES: The Washington Nationals humbled the mighty Yankees in their own yard, taking 2 of 3 from the Bombers at Yankee Stadium with a 3-2 win Wednesday and a 3-0 win on Thursday. The Nats are probably unlikely to contend in their division, but they can play spoiler. Those who mentioned that if the Mets miss the playoffs by one game, they can look to the loss induced by Luis Castillo's dropped fly ball last weekend. Since the Yankees were the beneficiaries of that win, one can safely assume that they feel like they've given one or two back with the losses to the Nationals. The Yanks are 3 behind Boston in the AL East. Toronot is 4 back, and Tampa Bay 6 behind. Meanwhile, the Mets didn;t help themselves much as the Phillies were being swpt by the Blue Jays, dropping two of three in Baltimore. The bullpen is still the issue with the Mets, as they gave up a run in the 8th and 2 in the 9th in last night's 5-4 loss to the O's. Francisco Rodriguez blew his second save in his last three tries, allowing the 2 9th inning runs. The Mets still trail Philly by 3 games in the NL East.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kinsler Outruns Astros; Lannan Guns Down Yankees

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 17, 2009 American League Texas continues to cling to a narrow lead in the AL West, currently 2 games to the good over the charging LA Angels, winners of six straight. In Wednesday's 5-4 squeaker over Houston, the Rangers were fortunate to have Ian Kinsler in the leadoff spot. In the first inning, Kinsler led off with a double, stole third and scored on Ivan Rodriguez's errant throw. After beating out a bunt single in the 3rd inning and being forced out at second, Kinsler stroked a sac fly in the 5th, scoring Omar Vizquel with the go-ahead run. After Houston tied the game at 4-4, it was again Kinsler in the 10th who reached on an error, stole second and eventually scored the game winner on David Murphy's single to left. Not a bad night: 2-for-4, 2 steals, an RBI, and two runs, including the game winner. National League Don't tell the Washington Nationals that they're supposed to go up to New York just to be swept by the high and mighty Yankees. After a 5-3 loss in the series opener, the Nats evened the score, winning 3-2 in New York. While Washington was only able to muster 3 runs, Nationals' starter John Lannan limited the Yankees to just four hits and two earned runs over 8 1/3 innings of yeoman mound work. Lannan (4-5) allowed the Yanks to score only on home runs - both solo shots - in the 5th, by Robinson Cano, and in the 9th, by Johnny Damon. After allowing a one-out single by Mark Teixeira, Lannan turned the ball over to reliever Mike McDonald, who walked Alex Rodriguez but got Cano to ground into a game-ending double play for his first save since July of 2006. Lannan, a second-year starter for the Nationals who hails from Long Island, has bested both of his favorite boyhood teams. On June 6, he threw a 4-hit complete game to beat the Mets and now holds a win over both metro teams. For a starter on a last place team, Lannan's stats are favorable with an ERA of 3.38 and a 1.34 WHIP.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Meche, Hernandez Toss Zeros; Reds' Nix Kicks Braves

Players of the Day for Tuesday, June 16, 2009 American League Two outstanding pitching performances - by KC's Gil Meche (left) and Seattle's Felix Hernandez (right) - created a tie for POTD honors for Tuesday. In Kansas City's 5-0 wipeout of Arizona, Meche extended his scoreless streak to 16 innings with a 4-hit, complete game shutout, walking one while striking out 6. Meche, in his previous start, blanked Cleveland on 4 hits over seven innings. Tuesday's outing was an improvement on that, even though the righty threw 132 pitches (82 strikes) as he improved to 4-5 on the season. It was Meche's 3rd career shutout and 6th complete game over 9 seasons. At 7-2, Felix Hernandez has been flying under the radar in Seattle, compiling some impressive stats that compare favorably to any starter in the AL. In his complete-game 5-0 shutout at San Diego, Hernandez allowed just two hits - both singles - while walking 4 and fanning 6. It was Hernandez's second straight win and his third consecutive decision without a loss. Over his past 5 starts - 37 2/3 innings - Hernandez has allowed a paltry 3 earned runs while striking out 34 batters. His seasonal stats are outstanding: 1.22 WHIP, 2.77 ERA. National League In the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds continue to press the issue, remaining in third place, 3 games behind Milwaukee with a 7-2 romp over Atlanta. In Tuesday's win, slugging left fielder Laynce Nix provided a lift, going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a single, driving in three runs. Nix got the Reds on the board early, with a run-scoring ground out in the first and an RBI double in the 3rd, and late, with another run-producing double in the 8th inning which completed the Reds' scoring. NOTES: Tampa Bay ended Colorado's 11-game winning streak, busting up the Rockies 12-4 in Colorado. The loss dropped the Rockies two games under .500, leaving only San Francisco and the Dodgers as the only teams in the division with winning records. By winning, the Rays kept pace in the AL East, where each of the top four contenders - Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays - won their interleague contests. Other than the runaway Dodgers in the NL West, the divisional races are tight everywhere. In the AL, the lead in each division is a slender 2 games. In the NL, Philly leads the Mets by 3 games, while the Brewers hold a 1 game edge over the Cardinals in the Central.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Martinez Swinging Hot Bat; Braun, Fielder Lift Brewers

Players of the Day for Monday, June 15, 2009 American League With most of the MLB teams traveling, there were only two games played on Monday night, and the Players of the Day actually came out of one game: the slugfest in Cleveland in which the Brewers outscored the Indians, 14-12. In the only other game, the Angels topped the Giants, 9-7. In the Milwaukee-Cleveland game, Victor Martinez took top honors for AL players, though in a losing cause. Martinez had an outstanding night, going 3-for-4 with a walk and scored Cleveland's first run of the game in the opening inning, singling and scoring on Shin Soo Choo's home run. Martinez added a two-run homer of his own in the 3rd, singled in a pair of runs in the 4th and walked and scored in the 6th before flying out to center in his last at-bat in the 8th. After missing time earlier in the season, Martinez continues to swing a hot bat and close in on the AL RBI leaders, batting .341 with 49 RBI. His home run was only his 11th of the season. National League Over on the visitor's side, Ryan Braun (left) and Prince Fielder (right) were doing what they do best, smacking the ball around and out of the park. Braun went 3-for-5, scored 4 times and drove in 5 runs. Not to be outdone, Fielder went 2-for-3, scored once and drove in 6 runs. Both hit home runs. Braun hit his 14th of the season with one aboard in the first inning, while Fielder waited until the 8th inning to smack his 16th home run, a grand slam that put the Brewers on top by a run. Milwaukee added one more in the inning, completing the scoring in a wild one. The win put the Brewers a full game ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central, but the redbirds may be the least of their worries. Lurking just 3 games back are the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds, both teams hungry for some post-season glory. Braun upped his RBI total to 47 on the season, while Fielder's 6 RBI vaulted him to the top of the National League lead, with 62, a number that is also tops in the majors, one better than Boston's Jason Bay.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lee Shoots Down Cardinals, 3-0; Paulino Shines in Marlin Sweep

Players of the Day for Sunday, June 14, 2009 American League Cliff Lee took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, but allowed a lead-off double by catcher Yadier Molina, spoiling his bid. He finished with a 3-hit, complete-game shutout, and a 3-0 win for Cleveland. The Indians took two of three from the visiting Cardinals, as Lee recorded his first shutout and complete game of the season. Lee walked 2 and struck out six, including Rick Ankiel three times. Last season's Cy Young Award winner with a record of 23-3, Lee is just 4-6 this season, though his numbers are still credible: 2.88 ERA, 1.33 WHIP. National League With regular starting catcher Ryan Doumit on the disabled list, Marlins' Ronny Paulino has been getting more than his share of work behind the plate, but he's making the Florida brass take notice. The Marlins completed a three-game sweep at Toronto with an 11-3 mauling of the Blue Jays, thanks in large part to Paulino's 4-for-5 effort at the plate. Paulino hit a two-run shot to get the Marlins started in the 2nd, and finished up his day with a solo blast in the top of the ninth. Sandwiched in between were a pair of singles. Paulino scored three times and drove in three. Florida is 6 games back of Philadelphia in the NL East but only two behind the second-place NY Mets. NOTES: The Colorado Rockies tied their franchise record with their 11th straight win, cruising past Seattle, 7-1. They still need one more win to get to .500 on the season, and are currently 10 1/2 behind LA in the NL West and 3 1/2 behind second-place San Francisco. The AL East may turn into a four-horse race if Tampa Bay and Toronto continue their winning ways. Boston leads the Yankees by 2 games, but the Rays and Blue Jays are tied for third, just 5 games out. All four teams are presently playing above .500. Life gets a little tougher for both teams in this week's interleague play: Toronto heads to Philadelphia, while the Rays travel to face the red-hot Rockies. The Yanks would seem to have the best chance to make a move, hosting the Nationals, while Boston welcomes Florida for three games at Fenway.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sanchez Slams Tigers; Hunter's 3 Bombs Led Angels Rout of Padres

Players of the Day for Saturday, June 13, 2009 American League The California Angels have spent most of the season in a spot to which they are unaccustomed, that being anywhere but first place in the AL West, but they aer just 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers after Torii Hunter launched 3 solo home runs against San Diego pitching in the Angels' 9-1 mashing of the Padres. Hunter's homers were part of a 14-hit attack, 8 of which went for extra bases. It was the second straight pasting put on the Padres by LA; on Friday, the Angels pounded them, 11-6. Hunter is surely enjoying hosting the Padres. On Friday, he hit a two-run homer in the first inning to welcome the San Diegans to Anaheim. Through all the injuries and setbacks endured by the Angels this season, Hunter has quietly put up some incredible numbers. He's batting .321, with 16 home runs, 49 RBI and 11 stolen bases. With fellow slugger Vladimir Guerrero - who missed more than a month in April and May - getting back into his groove, the Angels appear poised to make their move in the division. National League Pittsburgh may not be headed for the playoffs this year (again), but they do have a pretty good number of young hitters, as the Detroit Tigers found out on Saturday. Every position player in the lineup had at least one hit as the Pirates plundered the Tigers, 9-3, in the second of their three-game series. Making the most of the carnage done to Detroit's pitching staff was Freddy Sanchez, who belted a 4th inning grand slam that put the game out of reach. Sanchez, a staple at second base for Pittsburgh since 2003, also singled in the game, raising his batting average to .311. In 2006, Sanchez led the league in hitting with a .344 average. NOTES: In the NL West, most fans have been fixated by the Giants' recent pursuit of the Dodgers, but quietly, the Rockies have pulled into third place - still 10 1/2 games back - by winning 10 straight games. Following three straight losses to Houston to begin June, the Rockies began their streak the next day, with a 10-3 win over the Astros, then took four straight in St. Louis, three more at Milwaukee and have returned home to take the first two from Seattle, with the third and final game in the series Sunday. Despite the exceptional run, the Rockies are still two games under .500, at 30-32. The Dodgers remain 7 games to the good in front of the Giants in the division.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hochevar Stuns Reds; Lincecum Wins with Arm and Bat

Players of the Day for Friday, June 12, 2009 American League No, that wasn't Zack Greinke tossing a three-hit, complete game for the KC Royals, it was second-year starter Luke Hochevar downing the Cincinnati Reds, 4-1. Hochevar (2-2) struck out three and walked just one in his most dominant start of the season. Of the three hits allowed, two were off the bat of Jonny Gomes, seemingly the only Red player who had Hochevar figured out. Gomes doubled to lead off the 3rd inning, but was left stranded and homered in the fifth for the Reds' only run. Brandon Phillips had the only other Reds' hit. Hochevar needed only 80 pitches (57 strikes) for the win, getting 15 batters on ground outs and 9 on fly balls. National League Tim Lincecum is a do-it-yourself kind of guy. Not only did the Giants' ace shut out cross-town rival Oakland, 3-0, on seven hits, he drove in the game's first run with a single in the fifth inning. Lincecum (6-1) sparkled, throwing 76 of his 110 pitches for strikes, fanning 8 and allowing just one extra base hit - a double by Jack Cust - for his first complete game and first shutout of 2009. Having won 6 straight decisions, Lincecum is a large part of the reason why the Giants are contending in the NL West, now just 7 games behind the Dodgers and one game behind the Cardinals in the wild card chase. In just his third season, Lincecum is off to a tremendous start with a career record of 31-11. He was named to the NL All-Star team last season and was the 2008 NL Cy Young award winner with an 18-5 record, 2.62 ERA and 265 strikeouts, which was tops in the league. NOTES: Interleague play began its second iteration on Friday, with some regional rivalries on display, but none bigger than the subway series at Yankee Stadium between the Yanks and Mets. In a wild game, the finish was even wilder, as Francicso Rodriguez, attempting to nail down the save, had Derek Jeter on second and issued an intentional ball four to Mark Teixeira, putting Alex Rodriguez at the plate with two out in the bottom of the ninth. K-Rod seemingly got the better of A-Rod, inducing a towering pop-up toward short right field, but, to the amazement of just about everyone, the ball kept drifting, twisting toward the foul line, as Luis Castillo struggled to get under it and eventually drop it. Jeter and Teixeira, running all the way, scored the tying and winning runs for the strangest 9-8 win of this season and maybe of all time. In Toronto, a less-traditional rivalry had the Marlins in town to face Roy Halladay and his gaudy 10-1 record. The AL's best starter wasn't doing all that well, having allowed five hits and an earned run through three, but warming up to start the 4th, he felt a twinge in his groin and was forced to leave the game. The Marlins didn't exactly seize the moment, falling behind 2-1 and not scoring again until the 7th inning. After tying the game, Cody Ross delivered with a grand slam that put the game out of sight for a 7-3 Marlins win. Raining zeros in Texas? The Rangers' staff hasn't allowed a run in two consecutive games. Kevin Millwood tossed 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball in a 1-0 win Thursday night against Toronto, and Vicente Padilla and two relievers combined for an 8-hit shutout of the Dodgers on Friday, winning, 6-0.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pena Knocks #19; Ibanez Blast Buries Mets in 10

Players of the Day for Thursday, June 11, 2009 American League While the Red sox were in the process of sweeping the Yankees (see notes below), Tampa Bay has been busy taking two of three from the Angels and moving back to .500 (31-31). With the Red Sox just 6 games ahead, the Rays may soon find themselves back in the thick of the division and wild card races. In Thursday's 11-1 thumping, Carlos Pena added to his resume with a 1-for-3 night which included a sac fly for one RBI, a walk and run scored and a three-run homer in the 8th inning to finish off the scoring. despite his horrific .229 batting average, Pena is otherwise having a solid season, with 19 homers and 47 RBI. He's on pace for his third straight 30+ homer and 100+ RBI season. National League The Phillies headed into New York on Tuesday with a 3-game lead over the Mets in the NL East. They departed with a 4-game bulge after back-to-back extra-inning wins and a decided psychological edge. After dropping the first game of the series 6-5, the Phillies responded with an 11-inning win on Chase Utley's home run on Wednesday for a 5-4 win and followed that up with a 3-run Raul Ibanez blast in the 10th inning of Thursday's game, posting a 6-3 result. Ibanez's game-winner was his only hit of the game, but it was his 21st of the season, one behind San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez in the NL, while the 3 ribbies pushed him to the league lead in that department with 58. NOTES: The Yankees were swept in Fenway by the Red Sox, making it 8 straight wins for Boston in the rivalry. The Yanks swaggered into Boston with a 1-game lead in the standings, but left with bowed heads, 2 games back. How big a deal is losing 8 straight to the Red Sox? Well, since it is the longest winning streak in the rivalry for Boston since the Yankees were called the Highlanders in 1911-12, even the NY Daily News is praising Boston's emergence as the powerhouse in the division. Are Mort Zuckerman's guys playing to Boston's ego, or is there a hidden agenda, something to get the Yankee juices flowing? We'll see what happens when the Yanks take on cross-town rivals next: the Mets.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Meche, Callaspo Power Royals; Steady Molina Leads Giants

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 10 American League The Kansas City Royals have fallen to the usual spot near the bottom of the AL Central, but there are signs of life and hope for the future, especially after Gil Meche (left) and Alberto Callaspo (right) combined to tear up the Indians, 9-0, pushing Cleveland into last place in the division. Meche (3-5) worked seven innings of shutout ball, allowing 4 hits and 3 bases on balls, while fanning 11. Meanwhile, Callaspo, one of the promising young players with the Royals, went 4-for-4, with three singles and a fifth-inning grand slam homer, which completed the scoring for the Royals. It was his third homer of the season and also the third of his career. Callaspo seems to have found a limited power stroke this season as the Royals regular second baseman after hitting .305 in 74 games with the Royals in 2008. Meche's 11 Ks matched his career high. National League Since May 24, the San Francisco Giants are 11-4, winning their second straight Wednesday as Benjie Molina smacked a two-run homer in the third and added an insurance run in the ninth inning in a 6-4 Giants' victory over Arizona. Molina, whose 9 home runs and 37 RBI lead the youthful Giants, has been a steadying influence for both the pitching staff and around the clubhouse. Now in his 11th season, the stout Puerto Rican native looks to be on his way to career highs in both home runs and RBI. His previous highs are 19 homers (2006 and 2007) and 95 RBI (2008). He is just the kind of veteran the Giants can begin building a new post-Bonds-era team. The Giants have closed to within 7 1/2 games of NL West-leading Los Angeles.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Beckett Buries Yanks; Ethier, Dodgers Continue to Roll

Players of the Day for Tuesday, June 9, 2009 American League The Yankees and Red Sox renewed their storied rivalry Tuesday night at Fenway Park, the two battling for first place in the AL East. By the time it was over, the message was clear: Josh Beckett remains a big-game pitcher, as he 1-hit the Yanks over 6 innings, striking out 8 to lead the Red Sox to a 7-0 win and a tie for the division lead. Beckett (7-2) issued two walks and threw just 93 pitches< he obviously could have gone deeper, having allowed just one baserunner past first and setting down the last seven Yankees in order, but, with the game not in question, opted for an early out allowing the bullpen to mop up. The Red Sox and Yankees continue their three game series Wednesday and Thursday in Boston. National League The LA Dodgers continued their domination over the rest of their division with a 6-4 victory over San Diego. Andre Ethier paced the offense with a pair of solo home runs as Chad Billingsley and 4 relievers managed the Padres' hitters. Ethier's shots came in the first and third innings, with the latter giving the Dodgers an early 3-2 lead. After the Padres tied the score in the top of the fifth, Matt Kemp and Orlando Hudson launched solo bombs to give the Dodgers the lead for good. Ethier is having a productive season, with 11 home runs and 37 RBI. The Dodgers have the largest edge of any division leader, at 8 1/2 games over the San Francisco Giants and a 26-9 record against NL West opponents.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Contreras Cages Tigers; West Out-Units The Big Unit

Players of the Day for Monday, June 8, 2009 American League It was a night of firsts in the second game of the Tigers-White Sox double-header on Monday. After dropping the day game, 5-4, the Sox came back with a 1-hit performance by Jose Contreras, who notched his first win of 2008 (1-5), and a 6-1 win. Contreras allowed a first inning double by Clete Thomas, but then retired 22 of the next 23 batters, a 5th inning walk the only break in the streak. After completing the 8th inning, Contreras turned the ball over to reliever Matt Thornton, who allowed a one-out homer by Marcus Thames - his first of the season - in the ninth for the lone Tiger run. The outing was sweet redemption for the usually-reliable Contreras, who had recorded losses in five of his first six starts this season. It was his first start in a month, after back-to-back outings in which he didn't last past the third inning and was demoted to AAA Charlotte. If Contreras is sound, his arm will be a bonus for the White Sox, whether he comes out of the bullpen in middle relief or takes back his spot in the starting rotation. It is still unclear how manager Ozzie Guillen plans to use him. National League Rookie Sean West put it all together for his first major league win, facing off 300-game winner Randy Johnson, by blanking the Giants over 8 innings for a 4-0 Florida win. Obviously unfazed by the Big Unit (West stands 6'8" himself), West allowed just two hits and one walk while fanning six. In just his 4th major league start, West has actually pitched well enough to win before. In his first start, he allowed 4 hits and 2 earned runs in 5 innings against the Rays, and followed that up with 7 solid innings against the Mets, in which he gave up four hits and one earned run. He took his only loss last week against the Brewers, lasting only into the 4th inning, but his numbers are credible: 2.22 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 15 Ks vs. 9 BBs in 24.1 innings. Opposing hitters are getting to him at a feeble .159 clip. Fantasy owners alert!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Halladay Shuts Out Royals; Jones Perfect in Braves' 8-7 Win

Players of the Day for Sunday, June 7, 2009 American League Roy Halladay has already won one Cy Young award (2003), and it looks like he's well on his way to a second. In Sunday's 4-0 whitewashing of the Royals, Halladay was on cruise control, scattering seven hits without yielding a walk, striking out six. It was his third complete game and first shutout of the season. Notching his major league best 10th win against just one loss, Halladay helped keep the Blue Jays in the hunt in the AL East, 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees. Halladay's stats are sensational: He hasn't lost since April 21, winning 7 of his last 9 starts. This season, he's lasted at least 7 innings in every start, ranks fifth in the AL in ERA at 2.52, 4th in WHIP at 1.02, 3rd in strikeouts (88) and leads the league in innings pitched at an even 100. National League In Atlanta's wild, 8-7 win at Milwaukee, won by the Braves in come-from-behind fashion with three runs in the 8th inning, Chipper Jones was a force of nature, going 4-for-4, tripling in a run in the first, smacking a solo homer in the 3rd and blasting a three-run shot in the fifth. He also singled in the seventh and was intentionally walked - with runners on first and second - in the eighth inning, completing a perfect night at the plate while amassing 5 RBI. Jones continues to creep up on the leaders in batting average, now tied for ninth with the Cardinals' Raul Ibanez, at .329. Jones won his first batting title last season when he hit .364. His five-RBI afternoon gave him 1402 for his career.