Thursday, August 6, 2009

Two Thome Homers Lift Sox Past Angels; Happ Stops Rockies on 4 Hits

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 5, 2009 American League The Chicago White Sox is the most enigmatic team in the American League, maybe in all of the majors. Just about the time one would think they're about to fold up their tents and fade into the sunset, they come back and win games they're supposed to lose. Consider that since the all star break the Sox have taken 2 of 3 from Baltimore, 3 of 4 from the Rays, lost 3 of 4 at Detroit, lost 3 straight at Minnesota, and lately have taken 3 of 4 from the Yankees and two in a row from the LA Angels, a team that had won 5 straight and 14 of 17 since the all star break. On Wednesday, it was veteran Jim Thome doing the dirty work for the Sox, crushing a pair of home runs, a solo shot in the 4th inning and a 3-run blast in the 6th that ostensibly put the game away and secured a 6-2 win for Chicago, keeping them one game behind AL Central leader, Detroit. Thome's pair gave him 20 on the year, the 15th time he's hit 20 or more homers in a season. The only year since since 1994 that he did not put 20 or more balls out of major league parks was in 2005, when he was saddled with injuries, played in just 53 games and launched a mere 7 round-trippers. Thome now has 561 career home runs, just two behind Reggie Jackson at #12 on the all time list. He turns 39 on August 27 and has made no mention of retirement. 600 long balls seems to be within his reach should he stay in good health. National League Despite their six-game bulge in the NL East, the Phillies haven't been playing all that well, losing three straight and five of their last six entering Wednesday's meeting with Colorado, but J.A. Happ got the Phillies back on the winning track with his second complete game shutout this season, stopping the Rockies on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out a career high 10 for a 7-0 Phillies whitewash. Happ, a rookie, won his 8th against just 2 losses in 14 starts this season. His ERA continues to flirt with the best in the league, at 2.74, and he's carrying a WHIP of just 1.12, putting him at an elite level in that category for starters. The rebound for the Phillies also was one for Happ, who suffered his only losses in his previous two starts. With the Phillies cruising toward another NL East crown, fans are certain to see more of Mr. Happ this fall. NOTES: The Cardinals and Cubs remain knotted atop the NL Central, both being shut out on Wednesday - St. Louis by the Mets and Chicago by the Reds.two teams that have fallen off the pace since the break. Milwaukee got back at the Dodgers with a 4-1 win while the Giants retook 2nd place in the division - 6 games back - and the top spot in the wild card chase. In the AL, the Angels continue to lead by 4 1/2 over the Rangers despite losing two straight to Chicago, and the Yankees opened up a 2 1/2 game lead on the Red Sox thanks to the Rays, who have taken two in a row from Boston. The Rays are right in the thick of it again, having won three straight and five of their last six. Tampa gets Thursday off as they travel to the coast for three each with Seattle and LA. Meanwhile, the Red Sox head to Yankee Stadium for a four-game showdown with the Bombers. New York has yet to beat the Red Sox in 8 tries this season.

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