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.