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.

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