Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Boston Backs in; Lind Homers Thrice; Molina Rocks Arizona

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 29, 2009 American League The Boston Red Sox dropped their fifth straight, losing an 8-7 decision to Toronto, but earned the AL wild card spot as the Rangers lost to the Angels, 5-2. Boston has a six game lead in the wild card race with just 5 games left. While the Red Sox are flailing their way into the playoffs, Toronto players are simply padding their stats and looking forward to the off-season. One fellow who's had an outstanding season North of the border is Adam Lind, who launched 3 long balls in the win over the Red Sox, a two-run deal in the 1st followed by solo shots in the 5th and 7th innings. Lind leads the Blue Jays with 114 RBI and is second on the team in homers, with 35. He also ranks 3rd in RBI and 4th in homers in the AL. Along with a .305 batting average, Lind has produced a break-out season, more than doubling his career RBI and home run totals. National League Now 8 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and 5 behind the Rockies in the wild card race, the San Francisco Giants aren't going to make any post-season noise, but that didn't stop Bengie Molina from roughing up Doug Davis and the Arizona relievers that followed. Molina went 4-for-5 with a pair of homers, two singles, four RBI and 2 runs. The batter directly in front of Molina in the lineup, Pablo Sandoval, also had 4 hits in 5 at-bats (2 singles, double, homer), drove in two runs and scored 4 times. Between them the two accounted for more than half of the Giants' 15 hits in their 8-4 win over the Diamondbacks. NOTES: With Florida toping the Braves, 5-4, the Rockies took advantage of the rare Atlanta loss to put a little distance between themselves and their closest pursuer in the wild card hunt. It took 11 innings, but the Rockies finally did away with the pesky Brewers, winning 7-5 on Chris Iannetta's 2-run, pinch hit homer in the bottom of the inning. That put the Rockies three games ahead with 5 left to play, so they still have some work to do. They have two more with the Brewers in Colorado before heading to LA for a season-ending series with the Dodgers. The Braves, who lost for only the 3rd time in their last 17 games, play Florida once more and end at home with four games against the Nationals. The Phillies and Dodgers can each clinch with wins on Wednesday. LA faces the Padres in San Diego, while the Phillies have Houston at home. Every spot except the Central has been decided in the AL, and there was no change in the standings as the Twins and Tigers split a double-header Tuesday. The two play two more head-to-head before the Tigers host the White Sox and the Twins the Royals in three-game series to finish the regular season. Detroit can clinch the division with two wins over the Twins.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Angels Best in West; Jurrjens Keeps Braves on Warpath

Players of the Day for Monday, September 28, 2009 American League The LA Angels captured their third straight AL west crown - and 4th in 5 years - and did it in style, with an 11-0 trouncing of second-place Texas, as Ervin Santana pitched a complete-game shutout to even his record at 8-8. Santana allowed 7 hits and one walk while striking out 2. The native of the dominican Republic came up big when it counted. After missing starts in April and most of June, Santana strung together 4 straight wins in August, but was winless since August 22nd. Kendry Morales hit his 33rd home run of the season and drove in 3 runs. Bobby Abreu singled, doubled and tripled in five at-bats. During the clubhouse celebration, the Angels toasted their fallen teammate, Nick Adenhart, the 22-year-old pitcher who died in an April car accident, by dousing his #34 jersey in champagne and beer. LA has three more games with Texas, who is facing elimination in the wild card race as well. They trail Boston by six games with six to play. National League Keeping their playoff hopes alive, the Atlanta Braves downed the Florida Marlins, 4-0, in the opener of their 3-game series in Atlanta for their 7th straight win and 15th victory in their last 17 outings. The win moved the Braves to within 2 games of idle Colorado in the wild card race and put them just 4 behind the Phillies in the NL East. Philadelphia has been inconsistent of late, winning just 4 times in their last 9 games, including Monday's 8-2 defeat to Houston. The Phillies' magic number remained stuck at 3, thanks largely to the red-hot Braves. Jair Jurrjens kept the Marlins in check over the first seven innings, allowing just 5 hits and a walk while on the mound before turning the ball over to Atlanta's capable bullpen. Jurrjens improved to 14-10 with his 4th straight win. Over the last 29 innings, Jurrjens has been nearly untouchable, allowing a mere 2 earned runs.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yankees Clinch; Quentin Halts Tigers; Street Saves Rockies

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 27, 2009 American League With the AL Central still being contested, the Tigers and Twins have to win as many games as they can to capture the flag. On Sunday, both teams lost, keeping Detroit 2 games ahead with a four-game Minnesota at Detroit series beginning Monday. While the Twins fell victim to the Royals' Zack Greinke (7 innings, 1 earned run), the Tiger pitching staff was feeling the wrath of Carlos Quentin, who singled home a run with a double in the 1st, then put the game away with his 19th homer of the season, a three-run shot which led to an easy, 8-4 victory for the spoiler White Sox. Quentin missed all of June and most of July, but he's had a productive second half. After driving in 100 runs in 2008, he's got 53 RBI this season, though he's played in just 95 games. The White Sox have been eliminated from the playoffs, but aren't done with the Tigers just yet. They travel to Detroit for the final series of the season, three games on October 2, 3 and 4. National League St. Louis clinched the NL Central on Saturday, but Sunday it was back to work for the Rockies at Coors Field, finishing up the three-game series with the Cardinals. After Albert Pujols gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead in the 3rd inning with a bases-loaded double, the Rockies re-took the lead with a pair of runs in the 5th and turned the ball over to their capable bullpen. After Randy Flores, Matt Belisle and Matt Daley held the Cardinals hitless through the 6th and 7th, closer Huston Street was called on for the 2-inning save. Pitching the 8th and 9th, Street allowed two hits and a walk, but managed to preserve the 4-3 Colorado win with his 34th save of the season. With that, the Rockies maintained their 2 1/2-game edge over Atlanta in the wild card race. The Rockies will be tested the final six games of the season. They host Milwaukee for three games beginning Tuesday, and play at Los Angeles October 2, 3, and 4. The Braves, meanwhile, have it a little easier, with all of their games at home. They host Florida for three beginning Monday and then close out the season with four games against the Nationals. NOTES: The NY Yankees swept their three-game series with Boston, winning on Sunday by a 4-2 score, clinching the AL East pennant while becoming the first - and only - team to register 100 wins. They will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs and, if they reach the World Series, they will be the home team. Next up in the clinching department are the Dodgers, Angels and Phillies, whose magic numbers are 1, 2, and 3, respectively.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cards Clinch Central; Span Lights Up KC; Escobar, Braves Keep Winning

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 26, 2009 American League The Minnesota Twins continued their heated pursuit of Detroit in the AL Central on Saturday with an 11-6 win at Kansas City, the 11th Twins' win in their last 12 games. Minnesota trails Detroit by 2 games in the division thanks to inspired play from a bevy of young, talented players, such as leadoff hitter and center fielder Denard Span. A second-year player, Span broke open a 2-2 game with a bases-loaded triple in the 3rd inning and was just getting warmed up. He eventually finished his day 4-for-5, with 6 RBI and a run scored. The 6 ribbies are a career best for Span, a .311 hitter this season, who's scored 88 runs and swiped 22 bases. The Twins finish off their series with Kansas City tonight before heading to Detroit for a crucial four-game series that will decide the division. National League The hottest team in the National League over the past three weeks has been the Atlanta Braves, now just 2 1/2 games behind the Colorado Rockies in the wild card race and 5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East. Atlanta won for the 13th time in their last 15 games on Saturday, knocking of the Nats, 11-5 for their 5th straight win. The Braves gained a game in both races as the Rockies and Phillies were losers on the day. Leading the way for the Braves was Yunel Escobar, the slick-fielding shortstop, who singled home the first two runs of the game in the first inning and added an RBI double in the 9th as the Braves erupted for five runs to put the game away. Escobar, a 26-year-old, from Havana, Cuba, is batting a respectable .299 with 14 home runs and 74 RBI. The Braves should manage to keep the wild card race interesting until the final games of the season. After they finish their series with the Nationals on Sunday, they head back to Atlanta for a 7-game stand to close out the season. Three games with the Marlins precede four with the last-place Nationals. NOTES: The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the Central Division with a 6-3 win over Colorado and can now play spoiler as they face the Rockies once more on Sunday. The Cardinals are the first in the majors to clinch a division title, their first since 2006, when they went on to win the World Series. Adam Wainwright took the win, his 19th of the season. He and the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia, who beat the Red Sox, 3-0, each have 19 winas and are the only pitchers with a chance to win 20. Sabathia's effort - 1 hit, 2 walks and 8 Ks over 7 innings - was good enough to put the Yankees within 1 game of clinching the AL East pennant and 100 wins for the season, tops in the majors. The Yanks can do both against their most hated rivals, the Red Sox, tonight in the Bronx. The game was originally scheduled for the afternoon, but was switched to an 8:00 pm start and a national broadcast on ESPN when it appeared to be a game which would draw great interest. The Yankees haven't won their division since 2006.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A-Rod, Yankees Slug Boston; Zambrano Blanks Giants on 2 Hits

Players of the Day for Friday, September 25, 2009 American League Both the Yankees and the Red Sox are pretty much assured of making the playoffs, but the question of which team deserves the AL East title was answered emphatically by Alex Rodriguez, as the two teams opened a three-game series at Yankees Stadium. Rodrguez, seeking to drive in 100 or more runs for the 12th straight season, took some big strides in that direction with one of his best individual efforts of the season. A-Rod started the scoring with a single in the first, driving in Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead against Boston starter Jon Lester. He started a 4-run third inning with a 2-run homer - his 28th - and added a double in the 6th to plate another run. In his other two trips to the plate, in the 4th and 7th, Rodriguez walked, finishing 3-for-3 with 4 runs and 3 runs scored. He stole three bases, as the Yankees ran off with a 9-5 win. A-Rod now has 93 RBI on the year with 8 games left, two of which are this weekend against the Red Sox. The Yankees, after dropping their first 8 against Boston this season, have responded by winning 7 of the last 8 against their ancient nemesis. A Yankee sweep would clinch the AL East and also give New York 100 wins. With a 6 1/2 game lead, New York's magic number is 3, the same as the Red Sox need to clinch the wild card. National League The Cubs aren't going to the playoffs this season, but they may have gotten some satisfaction Friday night as Carlos Zambrano shut out the Giants on 2 hits, pushing San Francisco further behind the Rockies in the wild card race. Zambrano needed only 96 pitches to earn his 9th win against 6 losses and his first complete game and shutout of the season. Walking just one and striking out 8, Zambrano also drove in two runs on a fielder's choice in the 7th and a double in the top of the 9th. The Cubs took the game, 3-0. Tied with the Marlins, the Giants fell 5 behind Colorado in the wild card race. Atlanta is 3 1/2 back. NOTES: The Cardinals magic number remained stuck at 1 after the Cubs won and St. Louis fell to Colorado. The Cards look to clinch the NL Central tonight in Colorado. Five different teams failed to score runs last night. In addition to Zambrano's complete game, Roy Halladay (16-10) added another shutout to his resume with a 7-hit blanking of Seattle. Kevin Correia also went the distance with a 6-hitter in San Diego's 4-0 win over Arizona. Gio Gonzalez went 6 1/3 as the A's zeroed the Angels, 3-0, and Jake Peavy improved to 2-0 for the White Sox as Chicago shut out the Tigers, 2-0. Peavy allowed 6 hits, struck out 8 and walked 2, keeping the Tigers within hailing distance of the 2nd place Twins, 9-4 winners at Kansas City. The White Sox play 5 more times against the Tigers, plus, Detroit hosts Minnesota for 4 games beginning Monday. The Al Central is the closest race in the majors, and should be decided in the head-to-head series.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ortiz Heating Up for October; Rollins Leads Phillies Over Brewers

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 24, 2009 American League If there's one single player the Red Sox need swinging the bat well in the post-season, it's David Ortiz, and, from the looks of what he's been doing lately, "Big Papi" is getting ready to launch balls out of any yard. Boston moved closer to clinching the wild card - they lead Texas by 8 games with only 10 remaining - with a 10-3 win over the Royals as Ortiz blasted his 26th home run of the season, doubled, singled and drove in three runs. It was the second straight game in which Ortiz has homered. In Wednesday's game he left the park with his 25th and drove in four. National League Another player who appears ready for some October baseball is Philly's Jimmy Rollins, who belted his 20th home run of the year - a three run shot - to cap off a 6-run Philadelphia uprising in the 5th inning of their 9-4 win over Milwaukee. Rollins, who got off to a very slow start, has picked up his game over the course of the last three months while remaining one of the steadiest defensive shortstops in the game. Despite a batting average (.246) that is nearly 30 points below his career mark (.274), Rollins has quietly contributed to the Phillies' success, with 30 steals, 94 runs, 75 RBI and those 20 dingers. The win moved Philly closer to the NL East crown. Their magic number is now 4.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lidge Wastes Howard's Heroics; Guillen, Tigers Rock Cleveland

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 23, 2009 American League The Detroit Tigers don't seem too concerned about Minnesota being only 2 1/2 games back in the AL Central race, as long as they're playing the pushover Cleveland Indians. Detroit maintained their lead in the division with their second straight win ovr the Indians, a lopsided 11-3 victory which the Tigers led from start to finish. Leading the hit parade was Carlos Guillen, who had 3 of the Tigers' 15 hits. Guillen's knocks were all of the extra-base variety - a double and two homers in four at-bats. After reaching on an error in the Tigers' four-run 1st, Guillen cracked a two-run homer in the 3rd, balted a solo shot in the 5th and doubled in another run in the 6th, finishing with 4 RBI and a pair of runs. Guillen, who played in only 12 games from may through July due to injury, has been a fairly steady bat in the Tiger lineup, hitting 9 homers and driving in 24 runs since returning to regular play August 1st. National League As long as Ryan Howard is anchoring the lineup, it's very likely that the Phillies will clinch the NL East before the calendar flips over to October, though the slugger and Philadelphia's starting pitchers surey aren't getting any help from the bullpen. Howard doubled and homered in 4 at-bats Wednesday at Florida, driving in 4 runs, but his heroics were overshadowed and wasted by the continuing saga of 0-8 closer Brad Lidge, who blew his 11th save in Philadephia's 7-6 loss to the Marlins. After Cole Hamels left the game in the 7th with a 6-4 lead, thanks to Howard's 3rd inning 2-run double and 7th inning 2-run homer (his 42nd), the Phillies' bullpen once again managed to give away the game. Ryan Madsen allowed a run in the 8th and Lidge managed to get just 2 outs in the 9th while allowing a walk and 3 hits, the last of which - Brett Carroll's single to left - plated Hanley Ramirez with the winning run. Howard moved into 2nd place in the RBI race with 130, sandwiched in between Prince Fielder (131) and Albert Pujols (129). His 42 homers are third behind Pujols (47) and Arizona's Mark Reynolds who has hit 43 bombs this season. The Florida win meant that Phialdephia's magic number remained stuck at 5. They have a 6 1/2 game lead on the Marlins as the number of remaining games dwindles down to single digits. NOTES: The Cardinals lost, 3-0, to Houston, but the Cubs also were on the wrong end of the score in a 3-2 loss to the Brewers, so St. Louis can clinch the NL Central with a win tonight or a Cubs loss. The Yankees won their first series in Anaheim since 2004, taking two of three from the Angels and improving to 97-56. The Wednesday 3-2 win puts the Yankees in position for home field advantage throughout the playoffs as their record is the best in the AL. Should the Yankees make the World Series, they would also have the home edge, since the AL won the All-Star game. Even though Colorado lost and the Marlins, Giants and Braves all won, the Rockies still hold a 4-game edge on San Fran and Atlanta, with Florida another half game back.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Greinke Slows Red Sox; Furcal Leads Dodgers Closer to Division Crown

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 22, 2009 American League Whatever the reason, the Kansas City Royals have become one of the fiercest teams in the American League of late. Since September 7, the perennial cellar-dwellers have played like a contender fighting for a playoff spot, compiling a 12-3 record, including taking 5 of 6 from Detroit, 2 of 3 from Cleveland and Chicago and now two straight over the Red Sox. After outslugging Boston, 12-9, on Monday, the Royals sent their ace, Zack Greinke, to the mound in search of his 15th win. After the Royals put a five-spot on Red Sox starter Paul Byrd in the first inning, Greinke shifted to cruise control, limiting the Red Sox to just 2 hits and no earned runs over 6 innings in a 5-1 Royals triumph. Barely breaking a sweat, Greinke threw just 91 pitches, walking 3 while fanning 5. At 15-8, Greinke is one of the favorites for the Cy Young award. His 2.08 ERA is tops in the majors, while his 2.06 WHIP leads starting pitchers in the AL. His 229 strikeouts are second in the AL behind Justin Verlander (245) and he's tied for 4th in the league in innings pitched at 216 1/3. Besides those solid numbers, Greinke has allowed just one earned run over his past 35 innings. While the Red Sox are trying to clinch the wild card spot in the playoffs, the Royals have become a royal pain. Boston has two more games in KC before heading to New York for a three-game series with the Yankees. National League The LA Dodgers are so close to clinhing the NL West they can taste it. Following their 14-2 pasting of the Nationals, the Dodgers maintained their 5-game edge over second-place Colorado, with just 11 games left on the schedule. Their magic number is down to 7, meaning that the Dodgers will likely clinch the division before meeting Colorado for three games to end the regular season on October 2, 3 and 4. Leading the charge on Tuesday was Rafael Furcal, who delivered a 4-for-5 effort from his leadoff position in the lineup, driving in 4 runs and scoring twice. Furcal is having a hot September, riding a six-game hitting streak and having a hit in 16 of 18 games thus far in the month. NOTES: In the only divisional race worth mentioning, the Twins and Tigers each won on Tuesday, keeping the Tiger 2 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota for the AL Central title. The Cardinals won again; their magic number is down to just 2, but despite the potential for the Cards to clinch early, there's still going to be a battle for home field in the National League. Currently, the Cardinals are third (89-63), behind the Phillies (88-62) and Dodgers (91-60). The Yankees are nearly assured of winning the AL East and home field advantage throughout the playoffs after they dropped the Angels 6-5. At 96-56, the Yankees look like the only team in the majors that will achieve 100 wins this season. Their win on Tuesday assured them of a playoff spot, the first team in the majors to earn that distinction. Alex Rodriquez belted a 2-run homer and his 9th inning sac fly proved to be the game-winner. With 89 RBI in the books, A-Rod needs to keep producing in order to keep his string of 100+ RBI seasons intact, a feat the slugger has accomplished the last 11 years in a row. With just 10 games left, Rodriguez will have to be at his best without much rest.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blackburn Buzzes ChiSox; DeRosa Hammers Astros

Players of the Day for Monday, September 20, 2009 American League The Minnesota Twins got another win and 1/2 game closer to the idle Detroit Tigers in their relentless chase for the AL Central title. Nick Blackburn (11-11) blanked the White Sox over 7 innings, scattering 8 hits while fanning 6 without issuing a walk as the Twins opened their three-game series in Chicago with a 7-0 win. Blackburn had good command, setting down the side in order in the 1st and 7th innings. In between he allowed at least one base hit in each inning, but worked out of each situation by inducing ground outs and, in one instance, was aided by his infield turning a double play. Of the 102 pitches thrown, 72 were for strikes. Blackburn got 12 batters to ground out; 5 flew out. The win pushed the Twins to within 2 1/2 games of Detroit which begins a six game road trip with three games each against Cleveland and Chicago. After that, the Twins and Tigers hook up for a pivotal 4 game series in Detroit which will likely decide the division, September 28 through October 1. National League Mark DeRosa doubled in a pair of runs in the first inning, then belted solo homers in the 3rd and 5th, leading the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-3 win over the Houston Astros. DeRosa, acquired from Cleveland in June, has proven to be a worthwhile pick-up for the Cardinals, both for his defense and his bat. It was his second 2-homer night since joining St. Louis and his 4 RBI his best effort in a Cardinal uniform. The win shaved another digit off the Cardinals' magic number, now down to 3. St. Louis leads the Cubs by 10 games in the NL Central, the largest lead in either league.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kendrick, Angels End Rangers' Season; Jimenez Gives Rockies a Boost

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 20, 2009 American League In the rubber game of their three-game weekend series, the LA Angles, led by 2nd baseman Howie Kendrick, put an end to any post-season aspirations that may still have been considered by the Texas Rangers. After splitting the first two games, the Angles blasted their AL West rivals by a 10-5 score, opening up a 7 1/2 game lead in the division. With 13 games left on the schedule (Texas still has 14 to play), the Angels' lead now certainly looks insurmountable. Even if the Rangers were to win all of their games - including 4 at Anaheim at the end of the month - the Angels would only have to win 7 times. That's the magic number now for LA - 7 - to capture their third straight, and 4th in 5 years - divisional crown. Kendrick provided the pivotal hits which led to the Angel win. Trailing 5-3 entering the 6th inning, Kendrick tied the game with his 10th home run of the season, bringing home Vlad Guerrero. One out later Gary Matthews Jr. smashed a solo shot to give the Angels a 6-5 lead. In the next inning, Kendrick came to the plate with the bases full of Angels and drove a ball to the right-center gap that cleared them. Kendrick, one of the key players in LA's success, drove in five runs, tying his season-high, set July 29 against the indians. National League While their three closest pursuers all losing, Ubaldo Jimenez worked a dominant 7 innings for the Rockies, leading them to a 5-1 win over Dan Haren and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and a comfortable 4 1/2 game lead in the wild card race. Jimenez (14-11), allowed five hits and one earned run on Sunday, punching out 8 Arizona batters on strikes. After the Rockies scored three in the top of the 7th for a 3-1 lead, Jimenez worked another scoreless frame in the bottom of the inning. When Colorado added two more to start the 8th, Jimenez was done, and two relievers mopped up. The Rockies are once again proving to be a solid September contender, posting a 13-6 record thus far in the month. Following a 4-game losing streak last week, Colorado has won 3 of 4 to regain command in the race for the last playoff spot. San Francisco lost to LA on Sunday, dropping the Giants 4 1/2 behind the Rockies. The Marlins lost to Cincinnati, putting them 5 back. Atlanta was topped by the Phillies. The Braves are 5 1/2 out. NOTES: It looks as though the divisional races are all but over, except in the AL Central, where the Tigers regained a 3-game edge over the Twins with a 6-2 win over Minnesota on Sunday. The Cardinals are stuck with a magic number of 4 after dropping their Sunday night decision to the Cubs. The Philles lead the East by 8 and the Dodgers are 5 to the good in the West. In the AL, the Red Sox may be the first team to clinch a post-season berth as they have an 8-game bulge over Texas in the wild card, putting their wild magic number at 6. They are still within striking distance of the Yankees, who are just 5 ahead in the AL East. The Sox head to the Bronx this weekend - 9/25-9/27 - for three decisive games with the Yanks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Garland Stops Giants; Teixeira Pounds Two in Yankee Win

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 19, 2009 American League Is the race for the AL East pennant over? If Mark Teixeira has anything to do with it, it is all but a done deal. In Saturday's 10-1 thumping of Seattle, Teixeira blasted his 36th and 37th home runs of the season, single and tripled in 5 at-bats, drove in 5 runs and scored twice while C.C. Sabathia was on the mound, grinding down the Mariners on 4 hits for his 18th win against 7 losses. Sabathia worked 7 innings and did not allow an earned run. Tsixeira is two homers behind league-leader Tony Pena, who is out for the season, and his 118 RBI lead the AL. He has a solid lead over Evan Longoria (108) and Boston's Jason Bay (107). The Yankees lowered their magic number to 9, but the Red Sox are still lurking, just 6 games back. With the wild card pretty much assured, Boston can play loose and take aim at their long-standing rival over the final two weeks of the season, and the schedule says they have a shot to catch New York. After the Yanks close out their series in Seattle Sunday, they head to LA for three games with the Angels, who have a history of beating even the best Yankee teams. After that, the Yanks head back to the Bronx, for three game with Boston and then three with the Royals. They close out the season in Tampa for 3 games in October. The Red Sox have it a little easier. Once they close out in Baltimore Sunday, it's 4 games in Kansas City, then the Yankee series, followed by a 7-game home stand: three against Toronto and four with Cleveland. National League The Dodgers took another step closer to the NL West title with a resounding 12-1 win over the Giants, as Rafael Belliard slugged a first-inning grand slam and Jon Garland evened his record at 11-11 with 8 solid innings on the mound. Garland was on his game, allowing just 7 hits while fanning 3. The Gaints' only run came in the first inning and was unearned. The win kept the Dodgers 5 games ahead of Colorado in the division, dropping their magic number to 9. Once the Dodgers are done with the Giants - their series ends tonight in Chavez Ravine - it gets a lot easier for LA, with their next 9 games at Washington, Pittsburgh and San Diego before they finish up at home with Colorado for three games. The Dodgers hope that by the time October rolls around and the Rockies come to town, those games will have no meaning in the divisional race. NOTES: The Rockies continue to press closer to the wild card spot, beating up on Arizona Saturday, with a 10-4 win. That win, coupled with the Giants' loss, has them 3 1/2 up in the wild card. The Rockies play their next nine games at home, hosting the Padres, Cards and Brewers. In the AL, the Twins beat Detroit for the second straight game, winning 6-2, to pull to within 2 games of the division-leading Tigers. Michael Cuddyer's 3-run homer in the 8th provided insurance as Minnesota rallied for 5 runs in the inning. The Tigers and Twins finish their series at the Metrodome on Sunday

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kansas City Stars; Howard's 40 Homers

Players of the Day for Friday, September 18, 2009 American League It's been a while since the Kansas City Royals have played October baseball, and it's going to be at least another year before the lowly Royals get a taste of post-season fun, but they've been doing some damage to other teams in their division lately, Heading into the final two weeks of the season, the goals for the Royals seem to be: a. Avoid losing 100 games (87 currently), b. get out of last place (only a game behind Cleveland), and, c. damage the reputations of as many AL Central teams as possible. On that last count, the Royals seem to be up to the task this September. Since the 8th of the month, they've gone 8-2, including taking 2 of 3 from Cleveland and 5 of 6 from division-leading Detroit. On Friday, they made the White Sox their latest victim, pounding the former division contender into pretender status with an 11-0 whitewash. Leading the charge was starting pitcher Luke Hochevar (left), who hurled the second complete-game and first shutout of his major league career. Hochevar, though only 7-10 with a 5.79 ERA, nevertheless had the stuff to down the White Sox on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 5. Besides handling his young battery-mate behind the plate, catcher Miguel Olivo (right) mashed White Sox pitching for 6 RBI, on a bases-loaded walk, two 2-run homers and a sac fly. A .251 hitter, Olivo went 2-for-4, upping his home run and RBI totals for the year to 23 and 64, respectively, both career highs. National League Ryan Howard blasted his 39th and 40th home runs, putting him in the 40+ homer club for the 4th straight year (out of five that he's been in the bigs), as the Phillies topped the Braves, 9-4, abruptly ending their 7-game win streak and dropping them into third place in the NL East and 4th place in the wild card. Howard went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI. Howard's heroics kept the big man in the hunt for both the home run and RBI title, though a guy named Pujols will probably be taking home most of the iron this fall. Howard trails Pujols by 7 in the dinger category (Mark Reynolds has 42) and his 121 RBI trail only Prince Fielder (126) and Pujols (127). The power struggle won't end with the regular season, however, as both the Phillies and Cardinals are fast approaching clinching their respective divisions. Philly's magic number is down to 8, while the Crds reduced theirs to 6 with a wolk-off homer by Matt Holliday getting them past the Cubs, 3-2. NOTES: It's nice to clinch at home, but the Cardinals will almost certainly make their NL Central crown official on the road. Following their three-game series with the Cubs which ends Sunday in St. Louis, the Cardinals don't return home until October 2nd, for a season-ending three-game set with the Brewers. Prior dates include three games each in Houston, Colorado and Cincinnati. The Phillies also will probably do their celebrating on the road, as they don't return to the City of Brotherly Love until the 28th of this month. Currently in Atlanta, their next stop is Florida for three with the Marlins and then a 4-game stop in Milwaukee. Their magic number is 8. As for pennant races, the closest one is in the AL Central, as the Tigers seem to be struggling to get to the wire after leading the division for most of the season. Detroit has dropped 8 of their last 11, the latest Friday night in Minnesota, where the Twins dumped them, 3-0, closing the gap to just 3 games. Minnesota can get closer as the two teams play Saturday and Sunday in the Metrodome. The Tigers may get a little bit road-weary this week. Following the Minnesota series, they have three games each in Cleveland and Chicago this week. When they return home on the 28th, waiting for them will be the pesky Twins again, for a 4-game series, and if that's not enough, the Tigers close out at home with a three-game series with Chicago, currently 6 1/2 back. Boston is cementing their lead in the wild card - now at 7 games - mostly thanks to the Rangers, who have dropped five in a row. The NL wild card is much more interesting, with the Giants now just 2 1/2 behind the Rockies and the Marlins and Braves trailing by 4 and 4 1/2.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Davis Shuts Out Orioles; Hamels Improving As Playoffs Approach

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 17, 2009 American League When the calendar turned to September, the Tampa Bay Rays fell completely apart. Heading into the final game of their 4-game series with Baltimore, the Rays' record for the month stood at 2-11 and their record had fallen to the mediocre level of .500 (73-73). With the 2009 campaign winding down, the Rays must look ahead to next year. Some reason for optimism may have emerged in their 3-0 win over Baltimore as minor league prospect Wade Davis tossed a 4-hit shutout for his first win in just his third major league start. A 6'5" right-hander who was called up from AA Montgomery earlier this month, Davis walked 2 batters but struck out 10. He also was adept at inducing ground ball outs, recording 12 ground outs and just 5 fly ball outs. A native Floridian, Davis has the look of a bright rookie prospect for 2010. National League Philadelphia took another step closer to their third straight NL East pennant as Cole Hamels (10-9) dominated the Washington Nationals for a 4-2 Philly win. Hamels, who led the Phillies to World Series glory last season, appears to be rounding into championship form at just the right time. Joining Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez as experienced starters, a healthy Hamels solidifies the top of the rotation. Going 8 innings against Washington, Hamels allowed just one earned run on 5 hits while fanning 10 batters and walking one. The 10 Ks matched a season high. Brad Lidge came in to finish in the ninth, and despite allowing a run, earned his 30th save. Hamels has been on his game in September. In his last three wins, he's worded 23 2/3 innings and allowed just 2 earned runs while striking out 25. His lone September loss came against Houston in his only road start as he gave up 8 hits and 4 earned in 6 innings. The win dropped the Phillies' magic number to 10, as they are 7 1/2 games ahead of Atlanta - winners of 7 straight - in the East division. NOTES: Detroit dropped an 8-2 decision to Kansas City, as Zack Greinke improved to 14-8 for the Royals. That loss moved idle Minnesota closer to the Tigers, now just 4 games separating the top two in the Central. with Boston all but clinching the wild card as Texas has stumbled, the Central division may be the only race left in the American League. In the NL, Colorado still leads the Giants in the wild card hunt by 3 1/2 games. Atlanta is 4 1/2 back and the marlins 5 behind, so the race is not nearly over.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rockies Slip Past Giants; Rangers Folding Fast

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 17, 2009 American League The Texas Rangers have been hanging onto hopes of catching either the Red Sox for the wild card spot or the Angels in the AL West, but they have run into a slump lately that seems to be scuttling their post-season aspirations. Helping the Rangers fold into the September sunset is divisional rival Oakland, especially the pitching staff of the A's, which completed a three-game series sweep of the Rangers with a 4-0 whitewash in which A's starter Trevor Cahill gunned down the Rangers on one hit and a pair of walks over 7 innings, at one point retiring 16 consecutive Texas batsmen. Cahill (9-12) followed up the outstanding pitching of Brett Tomko, who delivered a 5-hit complete game shutout in the series opener for a 9-0 win, and Edgar Gonzalez and a parade of five relievers who engineered a 6-1 win in the middle game of the series. Cahill, a rookie, has posted wins in three of his last four starts, though Wednesday's effort was far and away his best. The 6'3" righty struck out 7 and needed only 94 pitches to keep the rangers in check. A pair of relievers - Michael Wuertz and Andrew Bailey - pitched perfect 8th and 9th innings, respectively. The Rangers have lost four of their last five and scored just one run in their three straight losses to the A's. With Boston beating the Angels, 9-8, Texas falls further behind - 6 1/2 games - Boston in the wild card race and remained 6 games shy of the Angels, against whom they begin a three-game series Friday in Arlington. The Rangers and Angles meet again in Anaheim later this month for a 4-game set from September 28 through October 1. By that time, however, depending upon the results from this weekend, the division and wild card may be out of reach for Texas. National League After four straight losses, the Colorado Rockies finally snapped out of their funk, but not before almost giving the game away in the 9th inning in a 4-3 win over the resurgent Giants. Jorge De La Rosa (15-9) hurled 8 shutout innings at the Giants, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while fanning 9 before turning the ball over to the Rockies' bullpen. Franklin Morales, who racked up six straight saves before a loss last week to San Diego, came on in the ninth and allowed three straight hits before giving way for Rafael Betancourt, who survived a Troy Tulowitzki error to earn his first save of the season. The Rockies' win boosted them back to a 3 1/2 game lead over the Giants in the wild card chase and 5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. Colorado's mini-losing streak helped the other wild card contenders. Florida is just 4 1/2 off the pace, the Braves are 5 back.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lee Shuts out Nats; Wieters Arrives with 5 RBI

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 15, 2009 American League When catcher Matt Wieters hit the bigs back in late May, he was all the rage in fantasy circles, as though the Oriole prospect was the second coming of Johnny Bench. To the dismay of many virtual managers, he was not an instant sensation, but, after some initial struggles, Wieters may finally be coming around, though it certainly appears that better days are ahead of him. In Tuesday's 10-5 win over Tampa Bay, Wieters showed what he could do, going 3-for-4 with a single, double, 3-run homer, 5 RBI and 2 scores. Though his numbers are still short of expectations (6 homers and 32 RBI in 78 games) and the O's completely out of playoff contention, Wieters may thrive in the no-pressure environment as Baltimore plays out the string. National League Want to win a divisional title? One thing you need to do is beat up on the weaker teams, like the Phillies did to the Nats all season long. It also helps to have a bona fide ace on the mound, like Cliff Lee, who stymied the Nationals on 6 hits for a complete game 5-0 shutout. Lee struck out 9 and walked 3, posting his 3rd shutout and 6th complete game of the year. Three of those complete games and two shutouts have come while a member of the Phillies, whom he joined at the end of July. The Phillies are 12-3 vs. the Nationals this season and have two games still to play with the worst team in the majors. At 50-94, the Nationals are virtually assured of recording another 100-loss season. Philadelphia is 7 games clear of second place Florida in the division. Their magic number is 12. NOTES: Time is running out on the Texas Rangers. They are in danger of becoming an afterthought - the best team to NOT make the playoffs - after losing their third straight in a 6-1 loss to the A's. Texas is now 6 games behind the Angles in the AL West and 5 1/2 behind Boston in the wild card race. The Red Sox topped the Angels, 4-1, for their 6th straight win. With just 18 games left in the regular season, the Rangers need to start winning almost every game. In the National League, the Giants don't have the look of a team that relishes being left behind as they blasted the Rockies for the second straight day. After Monday's 9-1 thumping, San Fran took Colorado out for a 10-2 whipping on Tuesday, creeping to within 2 1/2 games of the Rockies for the wild card lead. Seemingly unable to cope with prosperity, the Rockies have dropped four straight and gotten themselves back into contested waters. The Giants go for the series sweep tonight at home.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Huff Sends Tigers to Xtra Inning Win; Holliday a Cheery Cardinal

Players of the Day for Monday, September 14, 2009 American League After dropping the first two games of their series with Toronto, the Tigers came back to win the last two games, including Monday's 6-5, 10-inning triumph over the Jays. The Blue Jays pounded Tiger starter Justin Verlander for 5 runs in the 6th inning to take a 5-2 lead, but Aubrey Huff evened the score in the bottom of the 9th with a 3-run blast, and Detroit went on to win in the 10th when Marco Scutero mishandled a potential double-play ball, allowing Brandon Inge to score from second. Huff's homer was just his second as a Tiger since being acquired from Baltimore in mid-August. Used mostly as a replacement and pinch-hitter, Huff is batting just .197 in 24 games with Detroit. The Tigers shaved their magic number to capture the Central division down to 14 with the win. They lead the Twins by 5 1/2 and the White Sox by 6 1/2. National League Matt Holliday has proven to be an outstanding mid-season pick-up for the power-hungry Cardinals, providing a big bat behind superstar Albert Pujols. Hitting in the cleanup spot on Monday, Holliday singled and doubled in 5 at-bats, driving in 3 runs and scoring twice as the Cards banged out 17 hits in an 11-6 win over the fading Florida Marlins. Holliday has driven in 48 runs in 47 games with St. Louis, including 12 homers. He's batting a robust .371 as a Cardinal, with 12 home runs, 14 doubles and two triples. The win helped the Cardinals reduce their magic number to win the NL Central to 10, as they lead the Cubs by 9 1/2. The Marlins trail Philadelphia by 7 games in the East and Colorado by 5 1/2 in the wild card. With just 18 games left on the schedule, time is running out on Florida. NOTES: The Rockies aren't in the wild card sweet spot just yet. Dropping their third straight, a 9-1 loss at San Fran, Colorado's wild card edge is down to just 3 1/2 games over the Giants, who refuse to die. The two play two more games, Tuesday and Wednesday, in what could prove to be the pivotal series of the season. In the AL wild card hunt, the Red Sox, by virtue of a 5-game winning streak, have opened a 4 1/2 game edge over the Rangers. No other team is close enough for consideration.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Matsui Drives Yankees Past O's; Pedro Wins 5th Straight

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 13, 2009 American League For a player who usually bats in the 5 or 6-hole, Hideki Matsui is one tough out, and the Baltimore Orioles found out just how tough Sunday at Yankee Stadium. After taking the first two games of their series with the Yanks, the O's set out Sunday to sweep the AL East leaders in the finale, but with C.C. Sabathia on the hill for New York, it was going to be a tall order. By the time the O's and Yanks reached the bottom of the 8th, the O's still had hope, trailing by just 2 runs, 5-3, but Matsui ended their fantasy with a three-run yard job and the Yankees added 5 more in the inning for the 13-3 shellacking. Matsui earlier had singled in 2 runs and added another single, going 3-for-5 with 5 RBI, boosting his RBI total for the year to 81 with 24 homers in just 404 at-bats. He's had multiple-hit games i 4 of his last 5 starts, raising his batting average from .264 to .275. Sabathia picked up the win to go 17-7, and the Yankees' magic number dropped to 13, despite the second-place Red Sox taking a pair from Tampa Bay. National League Pedro Martinez got a little more revenge against one of his former teams pitching 8 scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Mets. After taking the first game of their double-header, 5-4, the Phillies called on the ancient one (37) for some magic, as Martinez dueled with Tim Redding, who lasted only 6 innings, but allowed the one Philly run on three hits. Martinez (5-0) threw 130 pitches (80 for strikes), allowing 6 hits and a pair of walks with 7 Ks. It was the longest outing of the season for him, an encouraging sign as the Phillies race toward their 3rd straight NL East crown. In seven starts, Martinez has garnered 5 wins with a 2.87 ERA and 34 Ks in 37.2 innings. The Phillies' magic number fell to 16, as the Marlins - 6 1/2 back - lost to the Nats.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wright's 6 RBI Lifts Mets; Roberts Slams Burnett, Yanks

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 12, 2009 American League With all the hoopla surrounding Derek Jeter becoming the Yankees' all-time hits leader, nobody seemed to notice that the lowly Baltimore Orioles absolutely outplayed the Yankees in two straight games, winning the opener of their 3-game series, 10-4 on Friday and taking the second game 7-3 on Saturday. With the focus on leadoff hitter Jeter, the O's spark plug, Brian Roberts, was not about to go quietly or without notice. After going 1-for-3 with 3 RBI and 2 runs Friday night, Roberts followed up with an even better effort on Saturday, hitting a single, double and his 15th home run - a second-inning grand slam off starter A. J. Burnett - to lead the rout with 4 RBI. For good measure, Roberts added his 29th steal of the season. The O's can go for the rare sweep at Yankee stadium on Sunday, attempting to keep the Yankee magic number at 14. National League 2009 has been a forgettable year for the NY Mets. A rash of injuries to key players all but scuttled their competitive chances by mid-season, though the players left standing did their best with limited resources. In an otherwise down year, the Mets got some level of revenge in Saturday's 10-9 win over probable NL East division winner Philly, as David Wright gave the Mets an early lead, then led a comeback in the late innings. Wright, batting .316 on the year, started the Mets off with a two-run single in the first, but after leading 4-0, Philadelphia stormed back to take a 9-5 lead after 7. In the 8th, Wright launched the first of his two 2-run homers to close the gap, and hit the game-winner in the 9th with his second bomb. The power numbers way down, Wright's homers were just his 9th and 10th of the season and the 6 RBI upped his total to only 66. In 2008, Wright mashed 33 homers and drove in 124 runs. The Mets' win kept Philly's magic number at 17, with the never-say-die Marlins closing to within 5 games of first place. 18 games back, the Mets have already been eliminated from the post-season. NOTES: Saturday was a day for the underdogs, as the only teams among the contenders to record wins were the Red Sox and Dodgers. Boston now holds a 3-game edge over Texas in the wild card race, while the Dodgers bumped their lead to the same level in the NL West. The Rockies, despite ending an 8-game win streak, still have a power lock on the NL wild card, leading the Giants and Marlins by 5 1/2 games. The Marlins probably have a better chance of catching the Phillies, as they are just 5 out and play 6 games with the division-leaders over the last two weeks of the season, the final three coming at the very end of the campaign on October 2, 3, and 4 in Philadelphia.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jeter Sets New Yankee Hits Mark; Torrealba Rallies Rockies

Players of the Day for Friday, September 11, 2009 American League On a night most Yankees would otherwise like to forget, losing to Baltimore, 10-4, shortstop Derek Jeter gave the franchise and its fans a memorable moment, becoming the all-time Yankee hits leader when he lashed a single down the first base line for the 2722nd hit of his career, every one of them while wearing a Yankee uniform. The game was delayed twice by rain and played mostly under a constant drizzle, but the gloomy weather didn't diminish the accomplishment. Jeter had tied Lou Gehrig for most hits by a Yankee on Wednesday night, but fans had to wait through a day off and a rain delay for their hero to shatter the mark and lift himself into pinstriped immortality. The loss sidetracked New York's stampede toward another AL East crown, leaving the Yankees' magic number at 14, as the Red Sox were rained out at home. At 91-51, the Yanks have the best record in the AL and an 8 1/2 game lead over the Red Sox. National League Stymied by a gaggle of five San Diego pitchers who kept the Rockies off the scoreboard for 8 innings, Colorado erupted for 4 runs in the ninth off closer Heath Bell, to win their 8th straight, 4-1, and remain 2 games behind the West division-leading Dodgers. Entering the game in the 7th inning as a replacement for catcher Chris Ianetta, Yorvit Torrealba made the most of his only plate appearance, delivering a bases-loaded double with one out in the top of the 9th to put the Rockies ahead to stay. Torrealba would later score on Paul Phillips' single, posting the Rockies' 4th run. By winning their 8th straight, the Rockies kept the pressure on the Dodgers, who were busily bashing the Giants, 10-3, to remain 2 games in the lead. The Giants continued to fade, now 7 1/2 behind the Dodgers and 5 1/2 back of Colorado in the wild card race. With just three weeks left in the regular season, it appears as if the NL West and wild card will be decided by the Rockies and Dodgers. One will win the division; the other will likely enter the playoffs as the wild card. The only other team with any kind of wild card chance is Florida, but they are 6 1/2 in back of Colorado. Since losing 5 straight to end the month of August, the Rockies have found new vigor in September, winning 10 of their 11 games thus far. Following their series with San Diego, Colorado plays at San Francisco Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. They don't play any other contenders until their final three games of the season, October 2nd, 3rd and 4th, at the Dodgers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lackey On Fire for Angels; McCann Keeps Braves' Hopes Alive

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 11, 2009 American League By just about any account, it looks as though the California Angels are going to win the AL West division, again. The Angels have won the division title four of the last five years (2nd in 2006) and are seeking their third straight. What the Angels continually demonstrate is a solid balance of great fielding, good hitting and often exceptional pitching, and the latter was what they got Thursday night as John Lackey shut down the Mariners on five hits for a complete game, 3-0 shutout. The win put the Angels' magic number at 19, 5 games ahead of the Texas Rangers. Lackey walked one batter and struck out 7, including getting Seattle's leadoff hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, twice. That's a rare accomplishment, as Ichiro, one of the best contact hitters in either league, has struck out only 60 times in 553 at-bats this year. Lackey improved to 10-7 with his second straight 9-inning performance. In his last start, on September 5, he allowed 6 hits and one earned run against the Royals, but did not receive a decision as the Angels won, 3-1, in 11 innings. The start prior to that, he gave up 5 hits and no earned runs in 8 innings in a 9-1 Angels win over Oakland. That's one earned run in his last 26 innings, or an ERA of 0.35. National League The Atlanta Braves continue their quest for the post-season, and even though it appears that they will simply run out of time, they carry on tenaciously. In their latest win, a 9-7 victory over Roy Oswalt and the Houston Astros, catcher Brian McCann delivered clutch hitting by going 4-for-5, driving in a pair of runs and scoring twice, including a ground-rule RBI double in the 2nd and a run-scoring single in the 5th, which completed the Braves' scoring. Oswalt (8-6), lasted only two innings against the Atlanta assault, giving up 10 hits and six earned. McCann is batting .277, with 18 home runs and 77 RBI, an integral part of the Atlanta offense, in addition to handling the fine Braves' pitching staff. The win kept Atlanta's wild card dreams alive, as they trail the Rockies by 8 1/2 games. At 72-68, the Braves will likely have a winning season, but they are also just as likely to be eliminated from post-season competition by the end of next week.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jeter Ties Gehrig As Yankee Hit Leader; Pujols, Wainwright Lead Cards

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 9, 2009 American League Derek Jeter Jeter didn't score any runs or drive in any in the Yankees' 4-2 win over Tampa Bay, but he did go 3-for-4 at the plate to tie Lou Gehrig with 2,721 hits as a Yankee, the most ever by any player in a Yankee uniform. Jeter, who was mired in an 0-for-12 slump entering the game, improvised for his first hit of a night, a leadoff bunt single, deftly placed down the third base line. After grounding out in the 3rd inning, Jeter got his second hit of the night in the 5th, a smash double to center field and then came to the plate with 2 out and nobody on in the 7th inning, with his chance to tie the 72-year-old team record. The result was classic Jeter, an opposite-field line drive down the first base line for hit 2,721, tying one of baseball's immortals and putting his own stamp on the record books. Jorge Posada won the game for the Yankees with a three-run homer in the next inning, putting the Yankees ahead to stay, at 4-2. Jeter came to the plate later in the inning with a chance to break the mark, but was walked in a 7-pitch at-bat off of reliever Grant Balfour. Jeter began his career as a Yankee in 1995, when hie played in just 15 games and had 12 hits in 48 at-bats. 14 years hence, he has achieved a status of which most players can only dream. Jeter will undeniably surpass Gehrig's mark and head for the next milestone - that of 3000 hits. As of Tuesday night, Jeter ranked tied for 53rd (with Gehrig) for hits in a career. He is 2nd, behind Ken Griffey Jr. (2751), among active players and should pass Griffey early next season. At 35, Jeter still has a good 3-4 years remaining in which he can still play shortstop and bat high in the Yankee lineup. He need 14 more hits this season to record another year with 200 or more, which will be the 7th time he's done that. Where will it end for the greatest Yankee shortstop of all time? Certainly, barring injuries, past 3000 hits and probably into the top 10 all time. He is less than 600 hits behind Eddie Collins, who ranks #10 with 3315. Beyond that, the sky's the limit. Incidentally, Jeter stole second in the first inning, for his 300th swipe. He is second the Yankee list behind Rickey Henderson in that department. Henderson stole 326 bases while playing for the Yankees. National League St. Louis cut its magic number down to 12, as Adam Wainwright (right) hurled 7 innings of 5-hit, shutout ball and Albert Pujols (left) smacked a pair of homers and added a single in five at-bats, driving in three runs and scoring twice in a 5-1 Cardinal win over the Brewers. Wainwright improved to 18-7, lowering his ERA to 2.57. He now stands alone atop the major league win list and will be strongly considered - along with teammate Chris Carpenter - for the Cy Young award. Pujols leads the majors with 47 homers, six better than Arizona's Mark Reynolds, and is one RBI Prince Fielder in the RBI race, with 124. The Cardinals hold the largest lead in any of the divisional races with an 11 1/2 game bulge over the Cubs. NOTES: The Rockies are cementing their wild card lead, now at 4 games ahead of the Giants, as they won their sixth straight, topping the Reds, 4-3. Colorado has also cut into the Dodgers' lead in the NL West. They trail by just 2 1/2 games.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Byrd 7-for-9 in Texas Two-Step; 5 Philly Homers Down Nats

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 8, 2009 American League The Texas Rangers continue to chase both the California Angels in the AL West and the Boston Red Sox in the wild card hunt. On Tuesday, the Rangers took both ends of a double-dip in Cleveland, taking the first game, 11-9, and the second by a score of 10-5, In the first game, Marlon Byrd, hitting in the cleanup spot, cashed a three-run homer in the 7th to break a 5-all tie, adding 3 singles for a perfect 4-for-4 appearance. In the nightcap, Byrd's bat remained red-hot, kicking in 3 more singles in 5 at bats, though he didn't drive in any runs, nor score, even though he was batting in the 3-hole and the Rangers put up 10 runs. Every regular had at least one hit in the second game, totaling 18 in all, and, with the 13 hits in game one, totaled 31. With the 7-for-9 day, Byrd's batting average leapt 10 points, to .286. His 16 homers and 72 RBI have been key to keeping the Rangers in the post-season chase. The pair of wins moved the Rangers to within 4 1/2 of the Angels and 2 games behind the Red Sox. Both of the teams the rangers pursue were also winners on Tuesday. The Rangers look for the sweep of the three-game set this afternoon. National League Continuing their quest for a third straight NL East pennant, the Philadelphia Phillies blasted five homers in their 5-3 win over the Washington Nationals, holding on in the 9th despite the reoccurrence of wildness from closer Brad Lidge. All of the homers were solo shots, with Jayson Werth, Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley each banging one out, while Raul Ibanez cranked out a pair, giving him 30 on the year. Along with Utley, Werth and Ryan Howard, the Phillies now have 4 players with at least 30 homers on the year, the 12th team to accomplish the feat. Ibanez also added an inconsequential single, to go 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI. Lidge almost gave the game away in the 9th, giving up a hit and a walk while only retiring one batter. Ryan Madsen was called on again to clean up the mess created by Lidge. Pedro Martinez picked up his 4th win as a Phillie without a loss, but it was Brett Myers, recently returned from the DL, who kept the Phils ahead and who may hold the key to the closer controversy. Myers relieved Pedro after Willie Harris homered to trim the lead to 4-3 with 2 out in the 7th. After giving up a single to Christian Guzman, Myers struck out Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning and cruised through the eighth unscathed. Myers, who has some experience as a closer, may emerge as the solution for Philadelphia's late-inning woes, as Lidge continues to struggle with his control and Madsen has been unreliable in the past.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teixeira Bombs Rays: Pena Out for Season; Carpenter Crafts One-Hitter

Players of the Day for Monday, September 7, 2009 American League After dropping three straight to Detroit, and falling almost completely out of the playoff race, the Tampa Bay Rays were officially pronounced dead after they dropped a double-header to the Yankees. Not only did their losing streak reach seven games, but their best power hitter, Carlos Pena, was lost for the season when he was hit by a C.C. Sabathia pitch in the first inning of game one, breaking two fingers. The Yankees, meanwhile took the first game, 4-1, as Mark Teixeira went 1-for-4, scoring half of the Yankee runs, and then put the final nail in Tampa's coffin with a 3-for-4 effort in the nightcap, blasting a pair of homers and a double, driving in four runs in an 11-1 Yankee triumph. Teixeira should be the biggest beneficiary from Pena being out for the remainder of 2009. Pena was leading the league in homers with 39; Teixeira's two on Monday ups his total to 35, second in the league, with dead aim on the lead. He also holds a 4 RBI edge over another Ray, Evan Longoria, with 106. Pena will finish with 100 RBI. With the two wins and a Boston loss, the Yankees increased their edge in the AL East to 9 games, with their magic number falling to 16. While it's pretty much a done deal for New York, the official clincher is very likely to occur against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium when the two division leaders meet for a three-game series, September 25-27. National League The hottest team in the National League over the past two weeks with a 12-3 record, the St. Louis Cardinals are streaking towards another Central division crown. Taking the mound on Monday was ace Chris Carpenter, in search of his 16th win against just 3 losses. Carpenter has not lost a game since June 30, and won his 12th straight decision (in 14 starts) with a 1-hit gem over the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-0. The only hit off Carpenter was a 5th inning double by Jody Gerut, as the St. Louis ace racked up 10 Ks, walking just 2 batters for his third complete game and first 2009 shutout. Carpenter needed only 99 pitches, facing just two over the minimum in the whitewash. A leading contender for his second Cy Young award (2005), Carpenter leads the league with a 2.16 ERA, is second to teammate Adam Wainwright (17) in wins and has struck out 129 batters while walking just 30, for a K-BB ratio of better than 4:1. The St. Louis win improved their lead to 11 1/2 over the Cubs in the division, the largest bulge in the majors. The Cardinals' magic number is now 14. NOTES: While the Cardinals are running away in the Central division, the East, West and wild card are far from settled. In the East, the Phillies still lead the Marlins by 6 games, though they have lost four in a row. Florida simply refuses to go away and if they can cut into Philly's lead a little over the next two weeks, things could get very interesting as the two teams play each other six times in the last two weeks. Philly visits Florida for a double-header on Sept. 22 and a single game the 23rd, and the Marlins close out the season with 3 at Philadelphia, October 2, 3 and 4. Florida still has hopes for the wild card as well, 5 1/2 behind Colorado. The Rockies, leading the wild card by 2 games over the Giants, may have designs on the NL West title, as they remain just 3 1/2 behind the Dodgers. The Giants seem to be the wildest of the wild card hopefuls with an important stretch just ahead. They began a 9-game homestand with a 9-4 win over the Padres yesterday, with newly-acquired Brad Penny picking up the win. This weekend, they host the Dodgers for three games and then the Rockies for three. After a day off on the 17th, they travel down the coast for their final series with the Dodgers, on September 18, 19 and 20. Should the Giants maintain their position or improve upon it over this testing stretch, they could find themselves in a garden spot, closing out the season with six games against Arizona, four with the Cubs and three more with the Padres. From all appearances, three of the four National League races are just about to get very, very interesting.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Inge Slams Rays' Post Season Hopes; Fielder KO's Giants in 12th

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 6, 2009 American League For all the ups and downs in the year following their first AL pennant, the Tampa Bay Rays will probably remember Labor Day weekend as a watershed moment in team history, for it was then that the Detroit Tigers took three straight from the Rays - in Tampa - and ended their hopes of repeating as AL champs. After losing the first two games of the series, 4-3 and 8-6, the Rays seemed to be on their way to salvaging a win in the final game of the set, taking a 3-1 lead into the ninth. Four relievers could not keep the Tigers off the basepaths, eventually loading them for Brandon Inge with one out in the inning. Inge did what all good power hitters like to do when the bases are jammed, he unloaded them with a grand slam to left-center, putting the Tigers in front, 5-3, securing the sweep and a 7-game lead in the Central division. Inge's homer - his fifth career grand slam and 27th of the 2009 campaign - was especially rewarding since he had struck out in his three previous trips to the plate. His late-inning blast was his only hit of the day. The loss dropped kept the Rays 7 games behind Boston in the wild card race, with only 26 games left in the regular season. National League Prince Fielder is a pretty big star in Milwaukee, but after what he did on Sunday, the citizens and fans may just want to give him the mayor's job. The Brewers aren't going to make the post-season, but it surely isn't because of Fielder's play. The big man is batting a solid .298 and entered Sunday's game with the Giants with 36 homers and 122 RBI, the most ribbies in the National League. Aided by a 6th-inning triple play turned by the Brewers' infield, the Giants and Brewers battled into the 12th, tied 1-1, when Fielder stepped into the batter's box with one out and the bases empty and untied it with a walk-off homer into the right field stands for the 2-1 win. The blast knocked the Giants 2 games back of the Rockies in the wild card and brought some joy to the Milwaukee fans. Fielder's 37th homer upped his RBI total to 123, just 3 shy of Cecil Cooper's franchise record of 126, set in 1983.