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.

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