Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reds' Nix Kicks Cards; Rays' Niemann Blanks Royals

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 3, 2009 American League The defending AL champs, Tampa Bay, hasn't come back in 2008 looking very much like the team to beat. Though they are just 5 games behind the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East, they have yet to get past the Blue Jays, who are themselves still 3 games in front of the Rays. In Wednesday's 9-0 win over the Royals there may be signs that the Rays are going to begin coming around, especially if starter Jeff Niemann can replicate his complete game, 2-hit, 9 K performance - his first career complete game shutout - against future opponents. At 5-4, Niemann has had an up-and-down season thus far, but, for a rookie, his 3.77 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 39 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings is a respectable beginning. If he can remain in good form, the young Tampa staff may yet have something to say about the outcomes in the division and the league. National League The Cincinnati Reds continue as contenders in the wide open NL Central, just 2 1/2 behind division leading Milwaukee, and, after last night's 9-3 thumping of St. Louis, just 1 1/2 back of the second place Cardinals. The Reds got started early on the Cards, as Laynce Nix opened the scoring with a solo homer in the second, and the Reds piled on additional runs in the 3rd, 4th, 8th and 9th, including Nix's second homer of the night, a 3-run blast in the 8th inning which put the game out of reach. Nix, who has bounced between Milwaukee and Texas for most of his 7 seasons in the majors, is getting more playing time with the Reds and has responded well, with 6 homers and 17 RBI in 101 at-bats. The Reds are 4-2 against the Cardinals in 2008, and have taken two of three in their current series, which wraps up Thursday in St. Louis. NOTES: Randy Johnson's first attempt at his 300th career win was rained out Wednesday in Washington, but the Big Unit is slated to be on the mound at 4:35 pm in Washington for the first game of a double-header between the Giants and Nationals.

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