Sunday, July 12, 2009

Howard Brings Phillies Back; Youkilis Cranking for Red Sox

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 11, 2009 American League With the Yankees out on the coast, taking a daily beating from the Angels, Kevin Youkilis and the Boston Red Sox are increasing their AL East lead. The Yanks were throttled 14-9 Satuday, while the Red Sox were beating up on the Royals, 15-9, increasing their breathing space to 2 games over New York and 5 1/2 over Tampa Bay. Youkilis, the steadiest Red Sox player all season, singled and mashed a pair of homers - solo and one-run variety - drove in four runs and scored four in the rout. Batting .296, Youkilis upped his home run total to 16 and his RBIs to 52. The Red Sox and Royals close out their four game series on Sunday. A win would give the Sox a 3-1 series edge. The Yankees play the Angels Sunday afternoon with LA seeking the 3-game sweep and at least a 1/2 game advantage over Texas in the AL West. National League Ryan Howard had a perfect night at the plate in Philly's 8-7 comeback win over the Pirates. After singling and walking twice each, Howard saved his big hit for last, trailing by three with one out and two on in the bottom of the ninth, homering to deep center to tie the game at 7-all. Four batters later, Paul Bako completed the Philly revival, knocking in Raul Ibanez from third with the game-winner. Howard finished 3-for-3 with 3 RBI and 2 runs. He has 22 homers, tying him for 4th in the league with teammate Ibanez and Milwaukee's Prince Fielder. His 66 RBI are third-best in the National League. It was home run #199 in Howard's short career. Philadelphia's 4th straight win boosted their NL East lead to 4 games ahead of Florida, 5 over the Braves and 6 1/2 over the injury-plagued Mets. NOTES: The Phillies have established some space between themselves and the rest of the NL East by finally winning some home games. Before starting their current 10-game homestand, the Phillies were a shabby 13-22 on their own turf. Since then, they've won 8 of their last 9 at home and will look for 9 of 10 Sunday against Pittsburgh, which would be a nice way to head into the All-Star break. The NL West continues to get more interesting by the day. The Giants sliced LA's lead to 6 games with a 2-1 win over the Padres Saturday while the Dodgers were being handled, 6-3, at Milwaukee. Speaking of the Brewers, they remain 2 behind St. Louis in the NL Central. They are followed by the Cubs, Astros and Reds, 3 1/2, 4 and 4 1/2 out, respectively. Alex Rodriguez launched two homers on Saturday, career numbers 569 and 570, which moved him past Rafael Palmeiro into 10th place all time. Next up on the chart for A-Rod are #9 Harmon Killebrew (573), #8 Mark McGwire (583) and #7 Frank Robinson (586).

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