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.

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