Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thome's 7 RBI Lifts Sox; McCann Gets Braves Back to .500

Players of the Day for Friday, July 17, 2009 American League The designated hitter (DH) rule has extended the careers of many a slugger, but maybe none more significantly than that of Jim Thome, who came back to the American League after three years in Philadelphia in 2006. Since then, Thome has aided the White Sox cause with 127 home runs and 352 RBI. On Friday, Thome delighted the partisan Chicago crowd with a pair of bombs - numbers 15 and 16 on the season - and 7 RBI, bringing his season total to 57, not bad for a guy who turns 39 next month. In Chicago's 12-8 win over the Orioles, Thome provided the key runs, first, with a 3-run shot in the 5th inning, putting the Sox ahead 6-3, and then again in the 6th, after Baltimore had scored two runs in the top of the inning, Thome blasted his 9th career grand slam, putting the game away at 10-5. Thome is almost certainly a future Hall of Famer. His 557 home runs rank him at #12 all time, and his RBI total of 1545 are enough to qualify him for immortality at Cooperstown. And he hasn't even mentioned retirement yet. National League While the Mets struggled to get two hits off Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens and three relievers, Brian McCann and the Braves' regulars were mashing out 14 hits in an 11-0 rout of the stumbling New Yorkers. McCann singled, doubled and knocked his 9th home run of the season, driving in four runs and scoring three times. The win got the Braves back to the .500 mark, at 45-45, though they tied for second place with the Marlins, both six games behind the surging Phillies, who have won 7 straight. The loss dropped the Mets even further behind, 8 1/2 games out. With the Phillies threatening to run away with the division title, the Braves find themselves in second place in the wild card race as well, 4 1/2 behind surprising San Francisco. NOTES: Out of the mid-season break, the Phillies, Dodgers and Cardinals have the upper hand in their respective divisions. While the streaking Phillies may make the East a laugher, the Cardinals lead three teams - the Astros, Cubs and Brewers - by 3 games. The Reds are still a factor, though they have fallen to 5 1/2 behind and the Pirates have assumed a stranglehold on last place, 9 1/2 out. In the West, LA hasn't really been playing the best baseball, having lost 3 of their last four and two straight, but their 6 1/2 game cushion is still comfortable enough. The American League, which claimed home field advantage again with their All-Star win on Tuesday, may prove to be a bit more contentious. Boston leads the Yankees by 3 games in the East with the Rays lurking just 6 1/2 out. Detroit has held sway in the Central most of the season, but their lead - 2 1/2 over the white Sox and 3 ahead of Minnesota - will be challenged. The West is shaping up to be a battle down the stretch, though the Angels have recently assumed control and lead the Rangers by 2 games. The dark horse Mariners continue to hang on, 4 games back. A replay of last year's Philly-Tampa World Series looks very much in doubt, though the defending champions from Philadelphia have emerged, along with the Dodgers, as the team to beat. Those two are rock-solid. The Cardinals, along with all of the other teams in the Central division hunt, appear to be second-tier at best. With the trade deadline approaching, a key trade or late-season injury could change the fate of any of the contenders.

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