Monday, August 31, 2009

Greinke 1-Hitter a Gem; Renteria Sends Giants Soaring with Slam

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 30, 2009 American League With most of the attention focused on divisional or wild card races, there wasn't much excitement generated by a matchup between the Royals and the Mariners. Kansas City fell into their usual position in last place months ago and Seattle is struggled to remain relevant. Little did the 30,286 fans in attendance realize that they were about to witness one of the outstanding pitching performances of the season by Royals' ace, Zack Greinke. In the bottom of the second, Greinke issued a walk and then gave up a single, but those were to be the last baserunners Seattle would have all day as the 26-year-old native Floridian set down the final 22 batters in order. The Royals scored all of their runs in the 5th inning for the 3-0 victory. Greinke, who struck out 15 in his prior start - a 6-2 win over Cleveland - fanned five and walked one, improving his record to 13-8, matching his carrer-high for wins in a season, set last year when he went 13-10. His record, considering that he is playing for a last-place team, plus his 2.32 ERA - tops in the AL - make his part of any Cy Young award discussion. National League When the Rockies and Giants hooked up Sunday at AT&T Park in San Francisco, all that mattered was the lead in the wild card standings. Heading into the final month of the season, the Giants and Rockies both wish to lay claim to a post-season berth. Matt Cain started for the Giants, but clearly did not have his best stuff, as, even though he struck out 8, he was dinged for 8 hits, 2 walks and 4 earned runs. Thus, heading into the bottom of the 7th, the Giants found themselves on the wrong end of a 5-2 score, but that all changed, as did the Giants' luck. Jose Uribe walked and went to second on Aaron Rowand's single. When Fred Lewis was hit by a pitch, it loaded the bases for Edgar Renteria with one out. What happened next may be the single most memorable moment of the season. Renteria drove a Rafael Betancourt offering high and deep over the left field wall, giving the Giants their first lead of the game at 6-5. Adding three more in the 8th, San Francisco went on to the 9-5 win, sweeping the three-game series and tying for the wild card lead with the Rockies. Renteria also singled and doubled in his 5 at-bats. His 5 RBI tied has career best. Both teams trail the Dodgers by 6 games in the NL West, though winning the division seems like an afterthought the way these two are pursuing the wild card. They've separated themselves from the rest of the contenders, leading Florida and Atlanta by 3 1/2 and the Cubs by 5 1/2. NOTES: In the NL, the rich got richer on Sunday, as all three division leaders - Philly, St. Louis and the Dodgers - all won while their closest pursuers were losing. For the Phillies, they were the ones beating back Atlanta, opening up an 8-game lead over the Braves and marlins in the East. The Dodgers won their second straight as the Rockies were losing their 5th in a row, and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright became the first 16-game winner in the majors with a gutsy, 2-1 win over Washington. The Dodgers lead is now 6, while the Cardinals have the largest advantage in the majors, at 10 games. Quietly, the Twins have snuck into second place in the AL Central as the White Sox have lost 3 straight and 7 of their last 8. Minnesota is running out of time, however, as the Tigers are 4 1/2 ahead in the division. New York continues to cling to a 6-game lead in the East, while the Angels hold a 5-game bulge over Texas in the West. Boston has won three straight to command a 3 1/2 game lead in the widl card over the Rangers, and 5 1/2 better than the Rays.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fox Slam Drops Mets; Mitre, Gaudin 1-Hit ChiSox

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 29, 2009 American League Just what the Yankees need - already leading the AL East by a comfortable 6 games - is more quality pitching, and they got a good measure of that with starter Sergio Mitre (left) and reliever Chad Gaudin (right). Mitre, who has started just seven times this season, worked a perfect game into the 5th inning, ending with a 1 hit, 1 walk, 2K performance over 6 1/3 innings. After being hit by a line drive in the 6th, reliever Chad Gaudin came on for the final 2 2/3rds, allowing just one baserunner, an 8th inning walk to shortstop Alexei Ramírez, sealing the 10-0, 1-hit win over the White Sox. Gaudin struck out 4, giving him 19 over his last 19 innings of work. Jim Thome had the only hit for the White Sox, a 5th-inning double down the right field line. National League The Cubs have struggled mightily over the past three weeks, going 7-12 since August 9, but they got a little bit of a boost on Saturday from rookie Jake Fox, who busted open a 4-4 game with a grand slam in the 5th inning, sending the Cubs to an 11-4 victory over the injury-riddled Mets. Fox, who has appeared in 61 games for the Cubs this season, mostly at 3rd base replacing the oft-injured Aramis Ramirez, was in left field Saturday and is getting the attention of more than a few scouts. In addition to his 4-RBI round-tripper, Fox also doubled in a run and scored in the 7th. The 2-for-4, 5-RBI effort boosted Fox's batting average to an even .300. He has 10 homers, 11 doubles and 39 RBI in just 160 at-bats. The Cubs, already thinking about "next year" as has been the case for over a century, might consider Fox a keeper. NOTES: The wild card race in the National League has suddenly gotten a whole lot more interesting after the Giants bopped the Rockies for the second straight day. San Fran is now just one game behind Colorado in the wold card race, with the final game of their 3-game series on tap Sunday by the Bay. After Tim Lincecum stopped the Rockies, 2-0, Friday, Barry Zito stepped up and gave the Giants 8 1/3 strong innings, allowing just one run on 8 hits while fanning seven. The Giants go for the sweep and a tie for the wild card with Matt Cain (12-4, 2.39) heading to the mound against the Rckies' Jason Hammel (8-7, 4, 43).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lincecum Stops Rockies, 2-0; Morales One of 7 Angels Over .300

Players of the Day for Friday, August 28, 2009 American League Kendry Morales went 5-for-5 with two doubles and two homers, drove in 6 runs and scored twice as the LA Angels bombed the A's, 11-7. Morales upped his home run total to 29 on the season to go with his 91 RBI. His .307 batting average is just one of seven LA regulars with an average over .300. As a team the Angels lead the majors at .289. The win boosted the Angels' lead in the AL West to 5 games over Texas as the Rangers dropped a 3-2 decision in Minnesota. National League If the San Francisco Giants are going to reach the post-season, it will likely be due to the pitching of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. The two aces have a combined record of 25-8 thus far in the season, and have been dominating mound presences all year. On Friday, Lincecum notched win #14 against just 4 losses with an 8-inning shutout performance over the Rockies and a 2-0 Giants win. Lincecum allowed just 4 hits, while walking 3 and fanning 8. He leads the league in strikeouts with 222 and is second in ERA at 2.33. Lincecum is also tied for second in NL wins with Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis. The trio is one behind league leader Adam Wainwright of St. Louis. The win was critical for the Giants to stay in the wild card and NL West races. As the first of a three-game series by the bay, the Giants got to within two games of the Rockies, who lead the wild card race. In the division, San Fran is 6 behind the Dodgers and 2 behind the Rockies. Two more crucial games are set for Saturday and Sunday.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kinsler drops a Pair on Yankees; Fielder Having Career Year

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 27, 2009 American League Locked into the quest for the post-season, both the Yankees and Rangers had much on the line when they wrapped up their three-game series in New York on Thursday afternoon. With the series tied 1-1, Texas came away with a much-needed 7-2 victory, primarily off the bat of second baseman Ian Kinsler, who recently returned from a stint on the DL and is once again proving to be one of the game's most dangerous hitters. Down 1-0 in the top of the 4th, Kinsler stepped to the plate with two aboard - Josh Hamilton and Nick Cruz - and deposited his 27th home run into the left field stands, giving the Rangers a lead they would not relinquish. After Texas had upped the lead to 6-2 on Chris Davis' 3-run shot in the 6th inning, Kinsler completed the Texas scoring with his 28th homer, a solo shot, again to left. Kinsler is having the best year of his 4-year career with the Rangers, already having topped his season-high totals for home runs (28) and RBI (73). Since returning from the DL on August 15, he's smacked 5 homers and driven in 10 runs. The win by Texas moved them to within 4 games of AL West leader, Los Angeles, and trimmed their deficit in the wild card race to 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, who took it on the chin in a 9-5 loss to the White Sox. That leaves the Yankees with a 6-game lead in the East, with just 35 games remaining. National League Despite losing their third straight - 8-5 to Cincinnati - and dropping out of contention for any post-season fun, the Milwaukee Brewers still have some solid hitters in their lineup, but none more feared than mighty Prince Fielder. Even though the Brew crew has floundered to a 61-66 record and 4th place in the weak NL Central, all Fielder has done is lead the world in RBI with 115, smack 35 homers and put up a very respectable - for a power hitter - .305 batting average this season. Fielder cracked his second homer in as many games - a 3-run job - and his 10th in the month of August. He's already hit the second-most homers (50 in 2007) in a season in his brief, 4-year career with the Brewers and four more RBI will tie his best for a season, set last year. Besides all that, his current batting average is 21 points better than his career average. NOTES: Don't look for pennant races to develop in the National League, except maybe in the West, though the Dodgers took two of three in Colorado to put them 4 games ahead of the rocketing Rockies. In the East, the Phillies are 7 in front of the Marlins and Braves, with both of those teams eyeing the wild card instead of a division title, though they trail the Rockies by 4 1/2 games. St. Louis has all but wrapped up the Central division with a 9 game lead and just 33 games left on their schedule. If they play just above .500 ball the rest of the way, they'd finish at 91-71 and the second-place Cubs would have to go 28-9 just to tie them, an unlikely scenario. In the AL, the Yanks continue to roll toward the AL East crown with a 6 game lead over Boston, with the Rays 9 1/2 back. The Central and west are still too close for comfort for front-running Detroit and LA. They lead the white Sox and Rangers by identical 4-game edges, respectively.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walk-Off Wonders: Ortiz, Howard Blast Teams to Wins

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 26, 2009 American League David Ortiz has had his share of ups and downs in 2009. There was the April-May slump in which his batting average fell to .185 and talk of benching the Boston slugger. When Ortiz did get his swing back in June and July, the good feelings were tinged by allegations of banned-substance use. But since his early August news conference in New York helped to clear the air and his good name, "Big Papi" has gotten his groove back, busting out with 6 homers and 15 RBI in his last 9 games. On Wednesday, with the Red Sox in the heat of a three-way wild card race, Ortiz came all the way back to hero. On the day in which Boston fans honored the late Ted Kennedy, Ortiz delivered a pair of solo home runs, the second of which was a one-out, bottom of the 9th job just inside the right field foul pole, sending the Red Sox to a 3-2 win over the White Sox and the Boston crowd into a frenzy. The pair of bobs gave Ortiz 22 on the season, to go with his 77 RBI. More importantly, the win gave Boston a 2 1/2 game lead over the Rangers in the wild card and a 4-game edge over the Rays as Texas was beaten by the Yankees and the Rays lost to Toronto. National League After Cole Hamels pitched 8 innings of shutout ball against the Pirates, the Phillies, in such desperate need of a closer, turned to Ryan Madson for the ninth inning. Unfortunately, Madson's form as a closer was predictably bad (9 saves, 18 blown saves since 2004) and the inevitable occurred, pinch hitter Brandon Moss smacked a leadoff homer off Madson, tying the game at 1. However, Madson was able to get through the rest of the inning without allowing another run and after Ryan Howard's 3-run blast in the top of the 10th, had a cushion with which to work. Madson kept the Pirates off the board and the Phillies escaped with the 4-1 win, though Hamels was likely disappointed in not getting the decision for one of his best-pitched games of the season. Howard's homer was his 35th of the season and he has 107 RBI, tying him with Albert Pujols for second place in the RBI category. Both are chasing Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, who has 112. Pujols leads the NL with 40 dingers, followed by Arizona's Mark Reynolds with 38 and Howard's 35. The win left the Phillies with the second-largest division lead in the majors, at 7 games. St. louis Leads the Central by 9.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wainwright Wows; Willingham Plows; Pena Pops a Pair

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 25, 2009 American League Already leading the American League in home runs, Carlos Pena improved his edge with a pair of blasts in Tampa Bay's 7-3 win over Toronto. Sending out two-run bombs in both the 2nd and 3rd innings, Pena helped the Rays build an early 6-1 lead en route to their second straight win at Toronto. With 37 homers in his holster, Pena is well ahead of the pack. Mark Teixeira and Russell Branyan are tied for second place with 31 each. Pena is also challenging for the RBI title. His 4 ribbies pushed him to third place in the league at 91, behind Teixeira (93) and Justin Morneau (95). The Rays kept pace in the wild card chase, 3 behind Boston and 1 1/2 behind the Rangers. Both Texas and the Red Sox have won two straight as well. National League We have a tie for NL POTD. Adam Wainwright (left) shut out the Houston Astros on 3 hits over 8 innings without allowing a walk as the Cardinals won a squeaker, 1-0, the sole run driven in by none other than Mr. Universe, Albert Pujols. Wainwright was pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 8th, after throwing 114 pitches and striking out 5. Closer Ryan Franklin came in for the 9th and slammed the door for his 33rd save, tying Colorado's Huston Street for the league lead. Wainwright (15-7) joined NY's C.C. Sabathia as the only 15-game winners in the majors. The Washington Nationals aren't going to be playing in October, but they're making sure some of their friendly foes aren't making their ways to the post-season. At Wrigley Field Tuesday, the Nats brought their bats, sending the Cubs to their 4th loss in their last 5 games with a 15-6 blowout. Leading the way was Josh Willingham (right), who cranked a couple over the ivy and added two singles in a 4-for-4 effort. Willingham, in one of the most impressive offensive performances of the season, scored 5 times and drove in 6 runs. Breaking out of a 2-for-23 slump, Willingham got his average back up to .301 and improved his home run total to 21, with 56 RBI. NOTES: As well as the Phillies are going - 7 up on the Marlins and Braves in the NL East - they have to be concerned about their ability to close out games, especially after Brad Lidge blew his 9th save opportunity of the season in spectacular fashion Tuesday at Pittsburgh. After the Phillies had built a 4-3 lead with 2 runs in the top of the 9th, Lidge came on in the bottom frame but did not get a single out, surrendering three straight hits, the last of which was a game-winning 2-run homer by Andrew McCutchen (8). As the closer for a World Series contender, Lidge's numbers are appalling, to say the least. Though he has 25 saves, few have been easy. In 46.2 innings, he has allowed 56 hits, 28 walks and 38 earned runs, is 0-6 with a 1.80 WHIP and an astonishing 7.33 ERA. Though the Phillies' brass insists that he's the "man," speculation is high that Brett Myers will assume the closer role, as he has relevant experience with Phillies in that regard. Myers saved 21 games for the Phils in 2007 with just 3 blown saves. Myers is currently on a rehab assignment with Double-A Reading, and is expected to return to the Phillies early next month. It's almost certain that Myers, who is recovering from right hip surgery, will get a couple of chances should Lidge continue to perform poorly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tigers, Cabrera Top Angels; Spilborghs Slams Giants

Players of the Day for Monday, August 24, 2009 American League Extending their narrow lead in the AL Central with a 10-7 victory over the Angels, the Detroit Tigers - with a little help from the Red Sox, who downed Chicago, 12-8 - are now 3 1/2 in front of the White Sox and 4 1/2 ahead of the Twins. In what was billed as a pitchers' duel between Detroit's Justin Verlander and LA's Jered Weaver, the two teams combined for 27 hits and 18 runs, with the Tigers keying off the 3-for-5 effort by Miguel Cabrera, who doubled home a run in the 1st, smacked a two-run homer in the 5th and doubled home two more in the Tigers' 7-run 6th inning. A four-time all star (Florida, 2004-07), Cabrera led the AL in homers last year with 37, and has left the yard 26 times this season, helping him to 80 RBI and a stunning .341 batting average. The slugging first baseman appears on his way to his 6th consecutive 100+ RBI season and first taste of the post-season in the AL. National League In Colorado, the sky's the limit when it comes to balls leaving the building, and Ryan Spilborghs proved the point with emphasis as his 14th-inning grand slam sent the Giants to their third straight loss at Coors field, even after scoring 3 runs in the top of the inning. After pitcher Adam Eaton (who also earned the W) walked, forcing in a run to cut the lead to 4-2, Spilborghs made the most of his trip to the dish with his blast to right, his 7th homer of the year, walking off with a 6-4 win. A part-time player of great importance to the Rockies, Spilborghs is of vital importance to the Rockies, both as a pinch hitter and a steady outfielder. In Monday's game, he started in left field and ended up in right. In 286 at-bats this season, Spilborghs has driven in 44 runs. The win was the third straight for the Rockies after dropping the first game of their series with the Giants and it gave them a 4-game edge over San Fran in the wild card race. The Giants are just 1/2 game ahead of Atlanta and 1 1/2 better than Florida in the wild card standings. NOTES: With many teams traveling on Monday, there wasn't much movement in the standings, except in the National League, where the Rockies appear to be rolling. They are now also just 3 games behind the Dodgers for the NL West lead, and begin a three-game series in LA beginning Tuesday. A Colorado sweep would leave the two teams deadlocked for the division. The key series in the AL also begins Tuesday, as the Rangers visit the Yankees for three games while Boston continues its series with the White Sox.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bruntlett Triple Play Seals Phillies' 9-7 Win; Cust Homers Tame Tigers

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 23, 2009 American League This season's version of the Oakland A's has not quite lived up to expectations, but Jack Cust is having another solid season. In Oakland's 9-4 win over the Tigers - the AL Central leaders - Cust took starter Rick Porcello out of the yard twice, with a three-run poke in the 4th inning and a solo smack in the 6th. Cust also singled in the second and walked and scored in the 8th, going 3-for-3 at the plate with 3 runs and 4 RBI. He has 19 homers and 74 RBI. Mired in last place, the best the A's can do the rest of the way is scout and try out new talent and play the role of the spoiler. In that regard, taking two of three from a division leader like Detroit is a positive. The Tigers, having lost two straight, still lead the divison by 2 1/2 over the White Sox, who were also in the process of dropping two out of three to a last place team, the Orioles, over the weekend. The Twins made the most of their series with KC, winning all three games to pull to within 4 1/2 of the division lead. National League Eric Bruntlett certainly wasn't starting at second base for the Phillies because of his bat. Batting just .128, he was in the lineup replacing dinged-up Chase Utley, mostly for his defensive skills. So, his 3 singles in 5 at-bats were a bit of a surprise to the Phillies' coaches, but what happened in the 9th inning was one for the record books. With the Phillies up 9-6 to begin the inning and Angel Pagon on third following a fielding error by first baseman Ryan Howard, Luis Castillo slapped a grounder in Bruntlett's direction, which he booted, allowing Pagan to score the 7th run for the Mets. D>>> Murphy then ripped a grounder between Bruntlett and second base, which Bruntlett was able to field on a dive, but not make a play. With both Castillo and Murphy on the move, Jeff Francoeur lined a 2-2 pitch almost right at second base. Bruntlett, who was moving over to cover the bag, made an easy grab of the drive, touched second, forcing out Castillo and tagged the shocked Murphy to end the game with an unassisted triple play. It was only the second time a game was ended on an unassisted triple play, the first accomplished by Detroit's Johnny Neun in 1927 and only the 15th unassisted triple play in MLB history. The play ended what was a wild affair, won by Philly, 9-7, including a 6-run first inning by the Phillies and a leadoff inside-the-park homer by Pagan. It also overshadowed Phillies' starter Pedro Martinez's return to New York, and his first win over his former team. Bruntlett raised his batting average all the way to .154, but that will long be forgotten as his feat in the field lives on in baseball history. NOTES: With the wild finish in New York, the Yankees taking 2-of-3 in Boston and the continued excellence of the Cardinals, the NL East, AL East and NL Central divisions appear to be runaways for the Phillies (up 6 1/2 games), the Yankees (+7 1/2), and the Cards (+8). Wild card standings have tightened in the AL, with Boston now just one game ahead of the Rangers and three better than the Rays. In the National League, the Rockies took 2 out of 3 from San Fran and are now just 3 1/2 behind the Dodgers in the NL West, in addition to their 3-game edge over the Giants in the wild card race. Colorado also leads the Braves by 4 and the Marlins by 5. The Rockies, who are 14-7 in the month o August, can make a big move this week as they finish their four-game series with the Giants on Monday, then host the Dodgers for three and go on the road to San Francisco for three more with the Giants over the weekend. The Dodgers are just 10-12 thus far in August.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Youkilis Delivers 6 As Sox Crush Yanks; Carpenter Nails Down Padres

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 22, 2009 American League The Boston Red Sox exacted a little bit of revenge on Saturday for Friday's 20-11 beat-down by the Yankees, returning the favor with a 14-1 slaughter of their own. Balls were flying around and out of Fenway Park with regularity, as 11 of the Red Sox's 15 hits went for extra bases - four of them homers. Knocking a pair over the Green Monster and adding an RBI double to his mix, Kevin Youkilis led the assault with 6 RBI on the night, upping his batting average to .308, his RBI total to 72 and his homer count to 22. Youkilis had 29 homers and 115 RBI in 2008, his best season as a pro, and is on pace for another solid campaign. Having shifted back to third base, where he is more comfortable and won a gold glove in 2007, Youk may begin belting with more authority, as the Sox battle for the wild card. Boston's win, coupled with the Rangers losing to the Rays, gave the Sox a 2-game edge over Texas, with the Rays one further back. Boston concludes their series with the Yankees Sunday at Fenway. National League The way the Cardinals are playing and Chris Carpenter is pitching, St. Louis could be heading to the World Series and Carpenter for his second Cy Young award (he won it once, in 2005). While the Cubs were losing their third straight to the Dodgers, Carpenter was holding the Padres scoreless over 7 innings, allowing 3 hits while walking 3 and fanning 6. Carpenter (14-3) cruised to the 7-0 win as the Cards dealt out 14 hits, the starter getting one of those himself. Leading the NL in ERA at 2.12, Carpenter is also tied with Colorado's (and former Cardinal) Jason Marquis and teammate Adam Wainwright for the league lead in wins with 14. The win pushed the Cardinal edge in the division to 8 games over the Cubs, 9 over Houston and 9 1/2 over Milwaukee. The Central division, which was a toss-up at the all star break has been all St. Louis since. The Cardinals went 8-7 in the last half of July, but are putting everything together in August, with a 14-5 record thus far. The addition of Matt Holliday to the regular lineup and the continued solid pitching of Carpenter and Wainwright have virtually assured St. Louis of the division title.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Matsui, Yankees Bomb Red Sox, 20-11; Wolf Does It All in Dodger Win

Players of the Day for Friday, August 21, 2009 American League There were so many stars in the Yankees' 20-11 win over Boston (no, that's not a football score), it might have been difficult to find just one player to feature as POTD. Considering that the Yanks banged out 23 hits (11 for extra bases), scored multiple runs in the 1st, 2nd, 5th 6th and 9th innings, and won their 5th straight over Boston, the stats were amazing. A-Rod was 4-for-4 with a triple, Derek Jeter went 3-for-6 and scored three times, Mark Teixeira was 3-for-5, with 3 RBI and 3 runs, but it was Mr Monster Mash himself, Hideki Matsui, who wielded the biggest bat of the night, going 2-for-6, both hits being 3-run home runs to right. Matsui also grounded out in the 7th inning, getting Rodriguez home after his triple, giving him 7 RBI on the night. The game was the highest-scoring one in the long history of these two teams, surpassing the previous high score, when the New York Highlanders topped the Boston Americans, 15-14, back in 1903. With that history in tow, the Yankees continued their drive to the AL East crown, taking a 7 1/2 game lead over the Sox and leading the third place Rays by 10 1/2. The teams renew the rivalry twice more this weekend at Fenway. National League At 8-6, with a 3.34 ERA, LA's Randy Wolf is having a pretty good season with the first-place Dodgers. Wolf, who turns 33 today, got his birthday celebration started a little early, winning a 2-1 contest with the Cubs almost all by himself. On the mound, Wolf was nearly untouchable, allowing just one earned run on one hit and two walks over 7 innings, fanning five. At the plate, he was perfect, doubling in both of the Dodger runs in the second inning and walking in the 4th. When he came to bat in the 7th, his job done, he was pinch hit for by Juan Pierre. George Sherrill held the Cubs hitless in the 8th and Jonathan Broxton picked up his 27th save with a perfect 9th.The win was the second straight for LA, and provided a little breathing room as Colorado was losing to the Giants, 6-3. The Rockies are 4 1/2 back of LA, the Giants trail the leaders by 5 1/2. NOTES: With so much focus on the Yankees-Red Sox series, it's hard to get excited about the other divisional races, but they are still not close to being decided. The Angels have lost two straight and lead the Rangers by 5 1/2. Texas would like to run down the Angels, but they are locked into a wild card battle with the Red Sox and Rays. Boston is one up on the Rangers and 3 ahead of Tampa Bay. The Tigers continue to be hounded by the White Sox in the Central, with a 3 1/2 game lead. Chicago's path to the playoffs is probably through Detroit, as they are 7 1/2 back in the wild card. Over in the NL, Philly still leads the Marlins by 5 1/2 and the Braves by one more. The Central looks to be a one-team race, as the Cardinals have taken control, 7 games to the good over the Cubs. In August, the Cards have amassed a 13-5 record while the Cubs have wilted, going a pathetic 7-12 thus far.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Howard Powering Phils In NL East; Bryd's Homers Lift Rangers

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 20, 2009 American League The chase continued for the Texas Rangers on Thursday, as they notched an 11-1 win over Minnesota, earning a 2-2 split in their 4-game series. Continuing what looks to be a battle to the finish with Boston for the wild card, the Rangers remain a game behind, as Marlon Byrd led the way with a pair of homers - a solo shot in the second and a two-run bomb in the 3rd - and a sac fly in the 6th. The Rangers get their runs from a variety of contributors, and Byrd's been a player lately, driving in 7 runs in his last four games. National League Is it all over in the NL East? Well, according to the way the Phillies are playing, it certainly looks that way. The Phils won their 4th straight and 8th in their last 10, blasting Arizona by a 12-3 score as Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and Carlos Ruiz all homered. The Phillies have been knocking balls out of parks with increasing regularity, led by their biggest bopper, Howard, who opening the scoring onslaught with an RBI double in the first and pretty much ended it when he launched a 3-run shot (his 32nd) in the 6th inning. Howard's 4 RBI gave him 98 on the season and he also scored three times. Howard has been a terror of late, smashing 6 homers in his last 7 games and driving in at least one run in 9 of his last ten games, with 19 overall during that span. The win upped Philadelphia's lead to 6 1/2 games over the suddenly-struggling Marlins, who have lost two straight. The Braves, with their second straight win, are now tied with Florida in second place.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weaver Stops Indians, 3-0; Werth On Fire As Phillies Race to NL East Crown

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 19, 2009 American League On the strength of Jered Weaver's 7-hit, complete game shutout, the California Angels moved another step closer to their third straight AL West title. With the Angels winning, 3-0, at Cleveland and the Rangers losing at home, 5-4, to the Twins, LA has assumed a 6 1/2 game lead in the division and appears to be ready to shift to cruise control for the remainder of the season. Picking up their 5th straight win, the Angels have only 44 games left to play, though they do play the Rangers 6 times in September, in addition to key dates with the Yankees and Red Sox. For Weaver (13-4, 3.89), it was the second shutout and 4th complete game of the season and his 4-year career. On pace for 16-18 wins this season, Weaver may emerge as a dark horse candidate for the Cy Young award. In Wednesday's outing, Weaver issued only one walk and struck out 3, throwing 72 of 116 pitches for strikes. National League With the Marlins losing to the Astro, 6-3, the Phillies trounced the Diamondbacks, 8-1, for their third straight win and a 5 1/2 game lead in the NL East. Gunning for their third straight division crown, the Phillies got home runs from the middle of their lineup, as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both went yard and Jayson Werth cleared the fences with solo shots twice and added a single in 4 at-bats. Werth has been swinging a big bat for Philadelphia of late, homering in three of his last four games, upping his season totals to 27 and 74 RBI. In addition to the power stroke, Werth also has employed his speed to steal 13 bases in 16 attempts this year.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mauer Leads Twins, Batting .383; Garko Delivers for Giants

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 18, 2009 American League Losers of 9 of their last 12 entering Tuesday's meeting with the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota Twins were in desperate need of a win to just remain in the wild card and AL Central conversation, and it was their best hitter, Joe Mauer, who delivered for Minnesota, with a pair of solo home runs and an RBI single in five at-bats that led to a 9-6 Twins win at Texas. Mauer, who is sizzling once again, upped his batting average to a league-leading .383, extending his hitting streak - which began on August 2nd - to 15 games with his 24th and 25th homers and 7th this month. He also has 20 RBI in August and has raised his batting average 30 points. Even with the win, the Twins are languishing in 3rd place in the division, 7 1/2 games behind the Tigers, and are even further back - 9 1/2 games - of the Red Sox and Rangers, co-leaders in the wild card hunt. National League Continuing to hang tough in both the wild card and NL West, the Giants send ace Tim Lincecum to the mound Tuesday, seeking a win in their series opener at Cincinnati. The Reds knocked Lincecum around for 5 runs in 6 innings, but Ryan Garko and the Giants' regulars came through with their bats and an 8-5 win in 10 innings. Garko had just 2 hits in 5 at-bats, but they were both key to the victory. His single in the 6th inning plated a pair of runs, tying the game at 5-5, and later, in the 10th inning, he doubled home two more and scored the final run on Jose Uribe's sac fly. Coming over from the Indians in a trade deadline deal, Garko has played in 18 games for the Giants and has been feeling his way around the National League with a .224 batting average thus far, though the Giants are pleased with his work at first base and he seems to have taken the regular job from Travis Ishikawa. A career .280 hitter, Garko is expected to find his stroke with enough time left for the Giants to make a run at the post-season. The Giants are 5 1/2 behind the Dodgers in the West and 1 game back of Colorado in both the division and wild card standings. NOTES: With the rest of the division stumbling of late (all but the Brewers went 3-7 over their last 10, except the Brewers, who were 4-6), the St. Louis Cardinals have seized control of the NL Central, winning 8 of their last 10 and now lead by 6 games over the floundering Cubs. In the East, the Phillies remain 4 1/2 ahead of the Marlins, despite their 8-2 mark of late, and 6 1/2 better than the Braves. In the AL, the Yankees have all but wrapped up the East, leading Boston by 7 games and the Rays by 10. Detroit continues to hold of the White Sox, with a 3 game lead, and the Angels remain best in the West, 4 1/2 better than the Rangers. The Mariners have all but dropped out, 12 games back.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guerrero Drives in 5 Over O's; Rowand, Giants Continue Hot Pursuit

Players of the Day for Monday, August 17, 2009 American League Racing to what appears to be their third straight NL West title, and 5th in the last 6 years, the LA Angels finished off their 4-game series in Baltimore, maintaining their 4 1/2 game lead over the Texas Rangers by beating the O's for the third straight night, 8-5. Driving in 5 runs with a pair of home runs - the 5th and 6th bombs in his last 10 games - Vladimir Guerrero continues to drive the Angels to wins. With the Angels up, 3-2 in the 6th inning, Guerrero launched his first moon shot of the night with one aboard to deep center off starter David Hernandez to put the Halos ahead 5-2. In the next inning, after Nick Markakis narrowed the lead to 5-3, Guerrero teed off again, this time with two on base, sealing the deal for the Angels and a 3-game-to-1 series win. National League While the Dodgers were losing at home to the Cardinals, 3-2, San Fran took advantage, notching a 10-1 win over the injury-ridden NY Mets. Spearheading the attack was Aaron Rowand, who has done everything ask of him for the Giants this season, including leading off the order on many occasions and playing a very steady center field. In this outing, the last of a 4-game series which ended in a 2-2 split, Rowand was down in the 7-hole, though that by no means diminished his effort, as he went 4-for-5, including a solo homer in the 4th, driving in two runs and scoring twice. Rowand and the Giants drew to within 1 game of second place Colorado and 5 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cabrera Leads Tigers over Royals; Molina's 10th Inning Shot Lifts Giants

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 15, 2009 American League The Detroit Tigers (7-4 over their last 11 games) continue to hold off the pesky White Sox in the AL Central. Detroit maintained their 2 1/2 game lead over Chicago with their third straight win, beating the Royals, 10-3, as Miguel Cabrera slugged his 28th home run - a two-run shot in the 8th - and added 3 singles in 5 total at-bats, scoring 3 times and driving in 3. Carbrera, getting better pitches to hit now that Carlos Guillen is back in the lineup and batting behind him, has 70 RBI and a .329 batting average, good for 4th in the American League. Detroit wraps up a three-game series Sunday, then hosts the struggling Mariners for three, Tuesday-Thursday. National League Colorado keeps making progress against the Dodgers in the NL West, but the Giants - who have been up and down recently, going 7-6 in August - continue to hang tough, thanks to their mix of veterans and youngsters. San Fran is nipping at the Rockies' heels, one game back of Colorado in the wild card and the division standings, but 5 1/2 behind the Dodgers. Colorado has pulled to within just 4 1/2 of LA, the closest anyone has been since May 12. The Giants got a 5-4 win over the Mets Saturday, as Benjie Molina stroked his 15th homer to lead off the top of the 10th. Molina earlier singled and doubled home a run in the 6th, going 3-for-4, with a pair of RBI and 2 scores. Just getting started on an 11-game road trip, the Giants are 1-1 against the Mets, with two more games scheduled before heading to Cincy for three and Colorado for a showdown four-game series, August 21-24.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

O's Pie Goes Cycling; Lee Cashes In 7 as Cubs Romp

Players of the Day for Friday, August 14, 2009 American League This was an upset bunch of birds. The Baltimore Orioles, stuck in their usual spot in last place n the AL East, took out some of their angst against the LA Angels on Friday, knuckling them, 16-6. Pounding Angels' starter Jered Weaver for 8 earned runs (6 in the 1st inning) on 9 hits and 3 walks, Weaver went to the showers after just 3 1/3, right after allowing a key element of Felix Pie's hitting for the cycle, a solo homer. Pie went 4-for-5, capping his day with a 2-run triple in the O's 7-run 7th inning. Pie, a lanky, (6'2", 170 lbs.), fleet-footed outfielder who joined the Orioles in the off-season after two years with the Cubs, isn't your typical hit-for-the-cycle kind of guy. He's batting only .254, with 3 home runs, 3 triples and 5 doubles and has played in just 68 games this season. The loss by the Angels didn't hurt, as they retained their 4 1/2 game lead over the Rangers in the West, as Texas fell to Boston, 1-0. While the Angels are almost a lock for the post-season, it looks like there may be better days ahead for Mr. Pie and the Orioles. National League Derrek Lee had a big day as the Cubs scored 4 runs in the 1st and 10 in the 2nd inning, completely outclassing the Pirates by a 17-2 score. In three official at-bats, Lee singled, walked home a run and twice delivered bases-loaded doubles to drive in 7 runs and lead the Cubs to the win, emphatically snapping a 5-game losing streak. The Cubs trail St. Louis by 4 1/2 games in the NL Central and are 4 back of Colorado in the wild card, so the players and coaches may have been feeling a bit of desperation. With two more games against the Pirates this weekend at Wrigley, the Cubs are still very much alive in both races.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Arroyo, Gomes Power Reds; Matsui Belts Two in Yankee Win

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 13, 2009 American League The Yankees have the look of a team itching to clinch their division title. They've won 3 straight, 10 of their last 11 and are 21-4 since the all star break. One of the reasons the Yankees are playing so well is the steady play of right fielder Hideki Matsui, who has 19 home runs and 58 RBI to go with his .268 batting average. After winning 6 of 7 on their most recent home stand, the Yanks headed to Seattle for a three-game set with the Mariners and started out in usual Yankee fashion with an 11-1 win. C.C. Sabathia improved to 13-7 with 8 innings of 3 hit work, allowing just the one run while fanning 10. Matsui delivered a healthy share of the offense, going 4-for-5 with a pair of two-run home runs, 5 RBI and 4 runs. The Yankees suddenly have opened up the largest divisional lead in the majors, at 6 1/2 games over the second place Red Sox, who are now being mentioned as the leader of the wild card race. Just half way through August and Yankee fans are starting to calculate magic numbers. (Incidentally, it's 41.) National League The Cincinnati Reds fell out of contention for any post-season play form July 20 to August 4, when they lost 14 out of 15 games to the Dodgers, Cubs, Rockies and Padres (the Cubs beat them 5 straight times in two separate series), but they can certainly play the spoiler role down the stretch with players like Bronson Arroyo (left) and Jonny Gomes (right). In Cincy's 7-0 win over the Nationals, Arroyo didn't need very much offense as he stymied the Nats on 2 hits, a walk and a hit batsmen. Arroyo struck out just 3, but didn't allow a single runner to reach second base and finished strong, getting the last nine batters in order for the complete game shutout, his second shutout and third complete game this season. Arroyo is 11-11 with a 4.74 ERA. With Arroyo in complete control of the Nationals' hitters, Gomes made the most of his 4 trips to the dish, whacking three home runs, one each in the 2nd, 4th and 6th innings, the first two, two run shots and the third a solo blast. Gomes' 5 RBI gave him 33 with 14 home runs in just 166 at-bats.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pence's Pair Leads Astros; Bay Helps BoSox to 3rd Straight

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 12, 2009 American League After losing four straight to the Yankees, the Red Sox have moved on, to Detroit, where they have taken the first three games of their four-game series with the AL Central-leading Tigers. In Wednesday's 8-2 triumph left fielder Jason Bay was dialed in, knocking a pair of doubles and a two-run home run to lead the Boston offense. Bay drove in two runs and scored twice as the Red Sox - 5 1/2 games back in the AL East - retained their 1 1/2 game lead in the wild card standings over Texas. Bay, added to the Red Sox last season in a deal which sent Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers, has had a solid season, batting .261 with 24 homers (tied for 8th in the AL) and 81 RBI (4th). Bay has hit safely in his last 7 games and has had multiple hits in his last two. National League Don't count the Houston Astros out of the wild card race just yet. After dropping the first tow of their four-game series in Miami, the Astros roared back for a 14-6 win on the strength of Hunter Pence's two 3-run homers. Pence walloped his first in Houston's 5-run 1st inning and followed that up with another blast in the 4th, when Houston chased Florida starter Ricky Nolasco, who allowed 8 hits and 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings. Pence's second home run came after Nolasco had given way to reliever Tim Wood, though Lance Berkman's run was charged to Nolasco. Pence's pair gave him 16 on the season, to go with his .291 batting average and 52 RBI. NOTES: Don't look now, but the Phillies, Cardinals and Yankees appear poised to run away with their respective division titles. The Cardinals have gone 12-6 since Matt Holliday joined the club on July 24 and have opened up a 4-game lead on the Cubs in the Central. The Cards got some help from the Phillies, who have taken 2 straight at Wrigley Field, including Wednesday's 12-5 spanking. While Philadelphia batters were feasting on Cubs pitching, scoring 2 runs in each of the 1st and 3rd innings and 8 in the 4th, Pedro Martinez was busy mowing down Chicago batters. Martinez tired in the fifth, allowing 2 of his 3 earned runs, but finished the inning to get his first win in nearly a year. The Phillies have a 4 1/2 game lead over the Braves and Marlins in the NL East. Maybe we should start calling the Yankee's "amazing" after another walk-off win Wednesday, beating Toronto, 4-3, in 11 innings. The Bombers won for the 9th time in their last 10 games and are 20-5 since the all-star break. Their 5 1/2 game lead over the Red Sox is tied with the Dodgers for the biggest bulge in the majors and they have the best record in baseball at 71-43.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gonzalez 6-for-6 in Padres' Win; Santana Blanks Rays on 3 Hits

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 11, 2009 American League Beginning to find the right stuff at the right time of year, Angels' starter Ervin Santana - who was 16-7 last season - pitched his best game of 2009, blanking the Rays on 3 hits for a complete-game, 6-0, Angels win. Santana (5-6, 6.38 ERA) faced just 29 batters, two over the minimum, thanks to three double plays turned in by the LA infield. He also issued just two walks while getting six hitters on strikes, including leadoff hitter Jason Bartlett three times. Of his 97 total pitches, 65 went for strikes as Santana cruised through the Rays lineup. The Rays, normally one of the AL's best-hitting teams, has been blanked 3 times since July 1, including Mark Buehrle's perfect game on July 23. All of the whitewashings have occurred on the road. Tampa, in danger of becoming irrelevant, has dropped 9 games behind the AL East leading Yankees and 3 1/2 behind Boston, the leaders of the wild card race. The Angels upped their lead over the Rangers to 5 games, as Texas was blanked by Cleveland, 5-0. National League The San Diego Padres haven't had much to get excited about in 2009, but Adrian Gonzalez provided some good cheer as he became the first major leaguer this season to knock out 6 hits in a game. Gonzalez, a .251 hitter coming into the game at Milwaukee - won by the Padres, 13-6 - singled every time he went to the plate, except in the third inning, in which hit laced a double to center, finished with a .262 batting average. San Diego remains anchored in last place in the NL West, but the loss by Milwaukee dropped them 2 games under .500 (55-57), 6 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the Central and the same number of games behind the Rockies in the wild card standings. The Brewers are a woeful 9-14 against NL West teams.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tulowitzki Hits for Cycle; Ellis 5-for-5 in A's Win

Players of the Day for Monday, August 10, 2009 American League Neither the A's nor the O's are going anywhere after September, but the players play on, through the dog days of August which are sometimes the hardest on veteran hitters. Apparently, the time of year doesn't matter to Oakland's Mark Ellis, who, despite batting in the #8 hole for the A's, produced a 5-for-5 night at the plate and drove in 4 runs with a double and 4 singles. The A's topped the Orioles, 9-1, for their second straight win and with a win Tuesday against the Orioles, will even their mark against the AL East to 20-20, somewhat of a feat for a last-place club. Ellis, a journeyman second baseman who has played every game of his 7-year major league career with the A's, has played in only 56 games this season, but is getting into a solid groove at the dish, having raised his batting average from .205 on July 19, to his current .270. Ellis has 12 RBI so far this month. National League Taking over sole possession of second place in the NL West, 5 1/2 behind the LA Dodgers, the Colorado Rockies bludgeoned the Chicago Cubs, 11-5, as Troy Tulowitzki went 5-for-5 at the plate and hit for the cycle, driving in 7 runs and scoring twice in the process. Tulowitzki got started early, cranking out a 2-run homer in the first inning, to give Colorado a lead they would never relinquish. The Rockies' shortstop then singled home a pair of runs in the second, doubled in another in the 4th, tripled and scored in the 7th and singled in two more in the 8th. With the Giants losing to the Dodgers, 4-2, the Rockies slipped by San Fran and appear poised to make a run at the Dodgers. If they fail to catch LA., they still have good prospects of making the post season, currently leading the wild card race by one game over the Giants and 3 games over both the Cubs and Marlins. Tulowitzki upped his batting average 10 points, from .266 to .276, and improved his slugging percentage to .530, 13th in the NL. NOTES: That big lead the Phillies used to have in the NL East has pretty much disappeared, since the Marlins continue to win, posting their 4th straight W with an 8-6 victory at Houston. Meanwhile, the Cardinals seem to be putting it all together at the right time, having won four straight as well, and opening up a 3 game lead over the Cubs. The Cards got a 4-1 win over the Reds, as Kyle Lohse (5-7) rebounded from a poor prior start to go 6 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 run without giving up a walk. In the AL, the Yankees had their 7-game win streak snapped in a 5-4 loss to Toronto, and Boston won for the first time in 7 games, topping the Tigers, 6-5. The White Sox continue to stumble along in second place in the Central, 3 games out, failing to take advantage of Detroit's loss, dropping a 6-4 decision at Seattle. Perhaps Alex Rios, whom the Sox acquired over the waiver wire on Monday, can give Chicago a boost. The Angels won, increasing their lead in the West to 4 games over the idle Rangers.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Holland's Shutout Boosts Rangers; Ramirez, Marlins Complete Phillies Sweep

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 9, 2009 American League After losing the middle game of their critical 3-game series with the Angels, 3-2, Saturday, the Texas Rangers were looking to at least leave Southern California with a 2-1 split in the series. To do so, however, would mean winning the matchup between veteran starter John Lackey and the Rangers' rookie hurler, Derek Holland. What they got was an impressive 3-hit shutout by the rookie, a 7-0 win and a reduction in LA's lead in the AL West to 3 1/2 games. Holland, who entered the game with a 4-7 record, completely baffled the tough Angels' batters, fanning 8 - including getting Vlad Geurrero twice on strikes - while walking just one. The 22-year-old lefty threw just 96 pitches in the complete game win, placing an incredible 73 for strikes. By contrast, Lackey, who lasted only 6 2/3 innings, threw 131 pitches, with only 83 going for strikes. Looking ahead, the Rangers head to Cleveland to complete their 10-game road trip, but then face a very tough stretch in which they play the Red Sox and Twins at home, then take to the road again, traveling to Tampa, New York and Minnesota for three-game sereis in each of those locales. The Angels get a huge break in the schedule after a three game series hosting the Rays. They travel to Baltimore for 4 games, then Cleveland for 3 and Toronto for 3 more before returning home to face the Tigers and A's. If the Angels are to win the division, this could be the time to open some space between themselves and the second place Rangers. National League As the weekend approached, the Phillies were feeling pretty good about themselves, sporting a 7 game lead in the division after taking two straight from the Rockies. That was Thursday. By Sunday, the Phillies weren't exactly beaming with confidence after dropping three straight at home to the Florida Marlins and watching their lead drop to 4 games and 4 1/2 in front of the third place Braves, who were busy taking three of four from the Dodgers in LA. Sunday's 12-3 splattering at the hands of Florida was a tour de force for the mystifying Marlins, who, before the Philadelphia series, had just dropped three straight to the last-place Nationals. Josh Johnson, perhaps the most overlooked pitcher in the majors, improved his record to 11-2 (30-13 lifetime), limiting the Phillies to 4 hits and one earned run over 6 solid innings. Meanwhile, the Marlins regulars were taking extended batting practice against Jamie Moyer (11 hits) and five relievers, mashing out 19 hits overall. As expected, shortstop Hanley Ramirez was leading the hit parade, going 4-for-6 with 3 RBI and 3 runs on a double and three singles, raising his batting average to a league-best .348. Ramirez has 137 hits in 103 games, and is on pace to challenge his career high of 212 hits in 2007. NOTES: The New York Yankees certainly made the most of their 4-game home series with second place Boston, sweeping the Red Sox and upping their lead in the AL East from 2 1/2 to 6 1/2 games. The third-place Rays could not take advantage, remaining 8 back after stumbling against the Mariners, dropping two of three in Seattle. Both the Rays and Red Sox have to be seriously looking at the wild card, in which the Sox are now tied with the Rangers, with Tampa 1 1/2 back. Dark horses, Chicago and Minnesota continue to chase the Tigers, who have a 3 game lead in the Central. Over in the National League, the Cardinals finally got some separation from the Cubs, as they won and the Cubs lost. St. Louis leads the Central by 2 games. Colorado and San Fran are tied for the wild card lead, but both trail the Dodgers by 5 1/2 with intentions of running down the division leader. The Giants host the Dodgers for three games beginning Monday night. The Cubs are two back in the wild card and the Marlins three behind.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fielder Carries Brewers; Span's 5-for-5 Paces Twins over Tigers

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 8, 2009 American League Following a 10-8 win Friday night, the NL Central-leading Tigers were looking to take their second straight at home from the 3rd-place Twins. Justin Verlander sought his 13th win, but it was not to be, as Denard Span went 5-for-5, scored three times and drove in a run, in an 11-0 Minnesota rout. Span led off the game with a double and scored on Joe Mauer's 20th home run. The Twins roughed up Verlander and two relievers, with every batter getting at least one hit. Span, after his game-opening double, singled four more times, upping his average to an even .300. Span has rocked Detroit pitchers, going 10-for-11 in the first two games of the series. Carl Pavano (10-8), in his first start since joining the Twins, pitched brilliantly, allowing 5 hits and no runs over 7 innings, strking out 5 without allowing a walk. The Twins, who finish the 3-game set in Detroit Sunday afternoon, continue to hang in the NL Central race, 4 1/2 games behind the Tigers. Their win helped the White Sox close to within 2 games of Detroit after the Sox came from behind to defeat Cleveland, 8-5. National League Though the Milwaukee Brewers are only a .500 team (53-53), 5 games out in the NL Central and 6 back in the wild card chase, Prince Fielder isn't giving up. The burly first baseman is having his usual outstanding season, chasing Albert Pujols for the NL RBI title. In Saturday's 12-5 thrashing of the Astros, Fielder was on his game, mashing a single, double and his 27th homer of the season, driving in three runs and scoring twice over 6 at-bats. Fielder's 98 RBI are second in the majors behind Pujols, who reached the 100-mark for the season with a 3-RBI double in St. Louis' 5-3 win over Pittsburgh. Pujols becomes the only player in major league history to have 100 or more RBI in each of his first nine seasons. Fielder, only 25, can be proud of his numbers. In three full seasons and thus far in 2009, he has 141 home runs and 410 RBI. His .303 batting average this season is 20 points higher than his career mark. NOTES: The Yankees took their third straight from the Boston Red Sox, as C.C. Sabathia dominated Boston hitters. The Yankees have now blanked the Sox for the last two games, a total of 24 straight innings, after Friday's 15-inning marathon and Saturday's shutout. The series concludes with the Yanks looking for the sweep with Andy Pettitte on the mound to face Boston's Jon Lester Sunday night. New York has opened a 5 1/2 game bulge on the Red Sox, who are in jeopardy of losing second place to the Rays, who are just 1 1/2 behind them. The Angels beat Texas, 3-2, opening back up a 4 1/2 game edge over the Rangers. The Dodgers lost their second straight and San Francisco won, closing to within 5 1/2 games of LA, the closest anyone has been to the division leaders since May. Following Sunday's series-ender with Atlanta, the Dodgers head up the coast for a three-game set at San Francisco, which could mark a turning point in the division. Philadelphia lost their second straight to the Marlins, who are now 5 back, with Atlanta 1/2 game behind them, in the East. The Cardinals and Cubs both won, so St. Louis retains a 1-game lead in the Central.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A-Rod's 15th-inning Blast Drops Red Sox; Church Seals Win in LA

Players of the Day for Friday, August 7, 2009 American League Alex Rodriguez hadn't hit a home run since July 19, and as the scoreless duel between the Red Sox and Yankees reached the 15th inning, he had gone 72 at-bats without sending a ball out of anyone's yard. Boston's Josh Beckett and New York's A.J. Burnett had long been relieved, with Beckett going 7 innings and Burnett, 7 2/3. When Derek Jeter opened with a single in the bottom half of the 15th - his only hit of the night - Rodriguez figured to get a chance to drive him home. After two outs by Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira, Rodriguez picked the right pitch and the right time to end the longest homerless drought of his career, sending the ball over the left field fence for his 20th home run and a 2-0 Yankee win. Rodriguez finished 2-for-7 with the only 2 RBI of the game, giving him 62 on the season. Rodriguez has now hit 20 or more home runs in 14 straight seasons. He will have to step up his RBI production, having played in only 75 games this season, to keep intact his 100-RBI-per-season streak, which currently stands at 11. The 20 homers in consecutive seasons mark puts A-Rod in a tie for 4th place (with Eddie Mathews, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez), behind Barry Bonds and Willie Mays, both at 15, Babe Ruth (18) and Henry Aaron (20). His 573rd career home run also tied A-Rod with Harmon Killebrew for 9th place on the all-time leaders list. The win boosted the Yankees edge in the AL East to 4 1/2 games over the Red Sox> Tampa Bay, which lost at Seattle, dropped 7 games off the pace. National League A dark horse to even make the playoffs this season, Ryan Church helped keep Atlanta's hopes alive as the Braves knocked off the Dodgers, 9-5, in 12 innings. Church went 3-for4, scored twice and drove in 4 runs, with a single, double and 3-run homer in the 12th that sealed the win. After Yunel Escobar singled home Garret Anderson with the go-ahead run, Church delivered 3 insurance runs with his 4th homer of the season. The win left the Braves in third place in the NL East, 6 1/2 behind the Phillies, but only 1/2 back of Florida and 4 1/2 behind the Giants and Rockies in the wild card race. After splitting the first two games in their series in LA, the Dodgers and Braves face off for two more, Saturday and Sunday. Both the Giants and Rockies trail the Dodgers by 6 1/2, so they are hoping for some help from the Braves. NOTES: The Texas Rangers just won't go away, opening their three-game series with the Angels with an 11-6 win. The Rangers banged out 15 hits and pulled to within 3 1/2 of LA for first place in the West. In the Central, the Tigers expanded their lead to 3 games over the White Sox and 4 1/2 over the Twins, as Detroit won their third straight and their two pursuers each lost on Friday. In the NL Central, the Cardinals grabbed a 1-game lead over the Cubs with a 6-4 win over Pittsburgh.while the Cubs were losing to Colorado, 6-2. The Cubs have one fewer loss than St. Louis (50-51), but have played 2 fewer games than the Cards.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Posada's 3-for-5 Lifts Yanks; Zimmerman Leads Nats to 5th Straight

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 6, 2009 American League The showdown in the AL East between the Red Sox and Yankees opened Thursday night at Yankee Stadium, but the rivalry qucikly turned into a laugher as the Yanks pounded Boston starter John Smoltz for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings to win going away, 13-6. Jorge Posada provided the Yankees with a boost, as he singled, doubled and homered in his first three at-bats, snapping out of a 1-for-14 skein, scoring twice and driving in 3 runs, all on his 4th inning homer to center field. Posada, sidelined most of May, has played in just 75 games this season, but walloped his 14th home run and upped his RBI total to 50. The Yankees increased their lead in the division to 3 1/2 games and play the Red Sox three more times this weekend. Idle Tampa Bay dropped another 1/2 game off the pace. They are 6 back. National League The Washington Nationals extended their season-high win streak to five games and Ryan Zimmerman hit safely for the 10th straight game, as the Nats hooked the Marlins, 12-8. Zimmerman finished just a double short of hitting for the cycle, going 4-for-4 with a pair of singles, a triple, and a 2-run homer as the Nationals rallied from a 6-0 deficit for the victory. Zimmerman finished with 3 RBI and 3 runs. He is batting an even .300 on the year, with 23 home runs and 73 RBI. Florida's loss dropped them to 7 games behind the NL East leading Phillies, who got their second straight quality effort from Cliff Lee, beating the Rockies, 3-1. Lee was acquired just before the trading deadline in late July and has already produced two wins for his new team. Florida is now just 1/2 game ahead of the Braves, who lost at LA, 5-4.