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.

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