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.

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