Monday, November 1, 2010

Renteria, Lincecum Finish Off Rangers; Giants Take World Series

Players of the Day for Monday, November 1, 2010

World Series Game Five: Giants 3, Rangers 1

Break out the confetti! The Giants are world champions!

Edgar Renteria (left) drove a seventh inning Cliff Lee offering just over the wall in left center field, and the Giants were on their way to clinching the World Series with a 3-1 win over Texas, beating the Rangers four games to one.

The homer by Renteria, his second of the World Series, came with two aboard and two outs in the top of the 7th. Lee and Tim Lincecum (right) had dueled in a scoreless tie up until that point.

In the bottom of the frame, Nelson Cruz got one back for the Rangers with a solo homer to left field. Lincecum walked the next batter, Ian Kinsler, but regained his composure and struck out David Murphy and Bengie Molina to end the inning. After setting down the Rangers in order in the 8th, Lincecum turned the ball over to Brian Wilson, who struck out Josh Hamilton, got Vlad Guerrero to ground harmlessly to short and then fanned Cruz for the final out and the first Giants' World Series championship since 1954.

Lincecum won games one and five, and Renteria had key homers in games two and five. In game two, which the Giants won 9-0, Renteria again broke a scoreless tie with the long ball, a solo shot in the 5th inning.

While Lincecum didn't pitch his best in game one, an 11-7 hit-fest, he was on the money in game five, allowing just the one run on three hits, waling two and striking out ten.

Renteria was named the MVP of the series. The Giants' shortstop, who had the game winning hit for the Marlins when they beat the Cleveland Indians in seven games in 1997, batted .412 for the series, going 7-for-17 with six RBI and two homers.

So ends another season of baseball and another season for Baseball On Deck's Players of the Day. We'll see you back here in about four and a half months, when the boys of summer start stretching in Florida and Arizona.

Enjoy the off-season. This one's been fun.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bumgarner Ties Rangers in Knots; Giants Lead Series, 3-1

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 31, 2010

World Series Game Four: Giants 4, Rangers 0

Unable to solve the left-handed wizardry of rookie Madison Bumgarner (left), the Texas Rangers find themselves on the brink of elimination as the San Francisco Giants took a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series with a 4-0 win Sunday night.

Bumgarner, throwing a dizzying array of fastballs, sliders and curves, kept the Rangers so off-balance they didn't get a runner to second base until there were two outs in the 7th inning. even at that juncture, Bumgarner was cool, casually putting down Ian Kinsler with runners on first and second to end the inning.

As has been the case this season, with their starting pitcher throwing up goose-eggs for the opposition, the Giants managed to forge a lead and add to it late. Aubrey Huff's (right) crushing blow to the right field corner put the Giants up 2-0 in the 3rd inning, and they added a run in the 7th and another in the 8th, when Buster Posey lifted one out to center field.

In total control all night, Bumgarner allowed just three hits (all singles) and a pair of walks over eight innings, throwing 106 pitches, 69 for strikes. Closer Brian Wilson worked a perfect 9th inning, getting Josh Hamilton on strikes to end the game.

The Giants can wrap up their first World Series win since 1954 with a win in Game Five, slated to start at 7:57 pm Monday night in Arlington. Game one starters Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee have been named starters. Lincecum took the win in Game One, handing Lee the first post-season loss of his career. He had won seven straight prior to that.

Lewis, Moreland Power Rangers to Home Win; Trail Giants, 2-1

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 30, 2010

World Series Game Three: Rangers 4, Giants 2

Colby Lewis (left) pitched in the 8th inning and rookie first baseman Mitch Moreland (right) came through with a three-run homer to lead the Rangers to victory in Game Three of the World Series.

Though entering the game down 2-0 to the Giants, the Rangers were a looser, more confident team on Saturday night at the Ballpark in Arlington where they compiled a 51-30 record during the regular season. Starter Colby Lewis was exceptional until the 7th inning, when he gave up a solo home run to red-hot Cody Ross, who extended his post-season hitting streak to 10 games.

Through six innings, Lewis had allowed just three hits and two walks, good enough for the Rangers to forge a 4-run lead. Moreland pounded a three-run shot to right in the second inning off Giants' starter Jonathan Sanchez, and Josh Hamilton added a solo shot in the 5th.

Lewis continued into the 8th, getting two outs, but giving up another solo homer - this one by center fielder Andres Torres. When he plunked Aubrey Huff, manager Ron Washington replaced him with Darren O'Day, who got the final out of the inning, retiring Buster Posey on a ground ball to short.

Fanning two of the three batters he faced, rookie closer, Neftali Felix, worked a perfect 9th inning for his first post-season save.

Game four offers the Rangers an opportunity to tie up the series at two games apiece, though they'll have to rely on the arm of Tommy Hunter, who has not fared well in the playoffs. Hunter is 0-1 with a 6.11 ERA in two starts, his longest stint lasting only four innings. He'll match up with Madison Bumgarner, who is 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in three playoff appearances. Game time for the Sunday start is 8:20 pm ET.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

World Series: Cain Rains on Rangers, Renteria Rakes, Giants Take Game Two

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 28, 2010

World Series Game Two: Giants 9, Rangers 0

Edgar Renteria (left) creased a 5th=inning, letter-high fastball from Texas starter C.J. Wilson into the left field bleachers and Matt Cain (right) made it hold up, with 7 2/3 innings of 4-hit, shutout ball, sending the Giants off to Texas for game three with a 2-0 lead in the series.

The Rangers threatened in the top of the 6th when Michael Young and Josh Hamilton delivered back-to-back one-out singles, but Cain reared back and got both Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler to pop out, ending the inning.

Kinsler was part of the most unusual play of the evening, driving a ball to dead center field to lead off the 5th inning. The ball hit the top of the wall and bounded up and back into the waiting glove of Giant center fielder Andres Torres. Kinsler stood dumbfounded at second base as Torres relayed the ball back into the infield and was eventually stranded.

San Fran added another run in the 7th when Cody Ross walked leading off the inning, took second on Aubrey Huff's ground out to first and came home on Jose Uribe's flare to short right center.

In the top of the 8th, Cain walked Elvis Andrus with one out. Andrus stole second, but Cain retired Michael Young for the second out and Cain's final batter of the night. Javier Lopez threw one pitch, getting Josh Hamilton to lift a fly ball to center, ending the inning.

The Giants brooke the game fully open in the bottom of the 8th. Buster Posey singled with two outs off reliever Darren O'Day. Derek Holland relieved O'Day, walking the next three batters, Nick Schierholtz, Cody Ross and finally, Aubrey Huff, forcing home Posey from third. Mark Lowe relieved Holland and walked Jose Uribe, bringing home another run. Edgar Renteria then ended all doubts with a scratch single to left, scoring Schierholtz and Ross.

The Giants weren't done, though. Aaron Rowand drove a ball into deep center field, bringing around Ross and Renteria with a triple. Andres Torres got into the act, doubling down the left field line to bring home Rowand with the seventh run of the inning.

Cain picked up his second post-season win and first of the World Series. He has not allowed an earned run in the post-season, a span of 21 1/3 innings.

After a day off Friday, the series resumes at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on Saturday night. Game time is 6:57 pm ET.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Giants Rout Rangers In WS Game One, 11-7

Player of the Day for Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Series Game 1: Giants 11, Rangers 7

So much for the expected pitching duel between Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee. So much for the feirce Texas ball-strikers. So much for the formidability of Lee's 7-0 post-season record. Game one was a tour de force by the gritty hitters in the Giants' lineup, not the Texas bashers who were supposed to fly balls out of the park.

Game One had an ominous beginning for the Giants, as Lincecum got into trouble in the very first inning, but survived, allowing just one run. The Rangers tacked on another run in the second, but things began to turn quickly as the Giants tied it with a pair in the third.

Freddy Sanchez knocked in the first Giant run with his second double of the night. In the fifth inning, Sanchez doubled again, breaking the 2-2 tie and starting a Giant uprising that would be the undoing of Lee and eventually see six players cross the plate. Juan Uribe's three-run homer capped it off, putting the Giants ahead 8-2 and essentially ending any argument right there.

Sanchez was the hitting star of the night, with his three doubles, a run-producing single in the 8th, three RBI and two runs scored in five at-bats. The winner of the 2006 NL batting crown, Sanchez hit .344 that season and also led the league with 53 doubles, so his World Series accomplishment was by no means a fluke. He's a bona fide professional hitter.

Lee, taking his first ever post-season loss, lasted only 4 2/3 innings, allowing six earned runs on eight hits and a walk. Lincecum took the win, though he was barely better, allowing four runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings.

Texas rallied back with two runs in the 6th, and tallied three times in the 9th, but simply were too far behind at both points to make any difference.

The Giants banged out 14 hits, six of them doubles. Sanchez set a World Series mark by becoming the first player ever to have three doubles in his first three World series at-bats.

Game Two is set for Thursday night in San Francisco at 7:57 pm ET.

World Series Preview: San Francisco Giants vs. Texas Rangers

World Series Preview

American League

The Texas Rangers represent the American League in this year's version of the Fall Classic. Built upon a base of power and speed, the Rangers led the majors in batting with a .276 team average, and hits (1556) and were fifth in the AL with 123 stolen bases. They have never won a World Series in 49 years of the franchise, which began as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.

How they got here: Texas won the AL West by nine games over the Oakland A's with a record of 90-72 (4th best in the league). They beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, three games to two, winning all of their road games - 1, 2 and 5 - while losing their two home appearances - games 3 and 4. In the championship series with the Yankees, the Rangers had home field advantage, but lost game one, 6-5. Following that mishap, the Rangers took four of the next five, winning game two in Arlington, games three and four in New York, losing game five at Yankee Stadium, eventually capturing the AL pennant with a 6-1 home win.

Players to watch:

Josh Hamilton, CF: Led the AL in batting with a .359 average, 31 points higher than his closest pursuer, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera. Hamilton stroked 32 homers, drove in 100 runs and scored 95 times. He was named MVP of the ALCS.

Vladimir Guerrero, DH/RF: The best-known power hitter in the lineup, Guerrero will be the DH in games played in Texas (3, 4 and 5, if necessary) and probably spend time in right field when in San Francisco. Guerrero batted an even .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBI.

Michael Young, 3B: The longest-tenured Ranger, having spent all ten years of his major league career with the team, Young normally bats second, behind leadoff hitter and shortstop Elvis Andrus. A former batting champion himself, Young is a solid contact hitter who drove in 91 runs with 21 homers and a .284 batting average during the regular season.

Nelson Cruz, LF: Having missed some time due to injury during the regular season may be the reason Cruz is often overlooked. In 108 games this season, he batted .318 with 22 homers and 78 RBI. Cruz also swiped 17 bases and was caught only four times. His numbers in the 11 playoff games are outstanding: .375 (15-for-40), five doubles, five homers, eight RBI, 11 runs.

Cliff Lee, SP: The ace of the staff, Lee was acquired from Seattle mid-season and started 15 games for the Rangers during the regular season, going 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA. In the post-season, Lee is unparalleled, having never lost an October game. Lee won games one and five against Tampa Bay in the ALDS and game three against the Yankees in the ALCS, putting together an ERA of 0.75 on two earned runs over 24 innings, striking out 34 batters. He's allowed just 13 hits and one walk during Texas' playoff run. He's 7-0 all-time in the post-season.

National League

The San Francisco Giants will be trying to win their first World Series since they moved from New York to the West coast after the 1957 season. They last captured all the glory as the New York Giants in 1954. A team built on pitching and more pitching, Giants' hitters try to scratch out a couple of runs a game in support of their outstanding starters and highly effective bullpen.

How they got here: The Giants won the NL West by two games over the San Diego Padres, with a record of 92-70, second best in the NL. Beating the Atlanta Braves three games to one in the NLDS, the Giants won games one, three and four. every game was decided by a one-run margin. In the NLCS, the Giants took out the reigning NL champion Phillies, four games to two, winning game one in Philadelphia, games three and four at home and game six, back in Philly. In their seven playoff wins, the Giants scored just 23 runs, or an average of 3.3 runs per game.

Players to Watch:

Tim Lincecum, SP: Lincecum, who won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009, went 16-10 with a 3.43 ERA, striking out 231 to lead all National League pitchers. In three playoff starts and a 1/3 inning relief stint, he went 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 23 1/3 innings, allowing just 14 hits and five earned runs, fanning 30 while walking five. He will face Cliff Lee in game one.

Matt Cain, SP: The #3 starter behind Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, Cain compiled a 13-10 record in 2010, but was plagued by a lack of run support. His 3.14 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 177 Ks are testimony to his tenacity. In the playoffs, Cain started two games, won one and recieved no decision in the other. Over 13 2/3 innings, he allowed nine hits and no earned runs. Cain will be moved to the #2 spot in the rotation, pushing Sanchez back to #3.

Brian Wilson, Closer: If the Giants are ahead heading into the 8th or 9th inning, one might as well turn out the lights, because Brian Wilson has been spectacular as a closer all season and into the playoffs. He led the majors with 48 saves, putting down a 1.81 ERA and 93 Ks in the process. Wilson blew only five save opportunities during the regular season, and began the playoffs with one, but was exceptional after that. In seven relief appearances, Wilson had five saves, a win and a blown save. In nine innings of playoff baseball, he allowed four hits, four walks and no earned runs, fanning 12.

Buster Posey, C: Arriving from the minors on May 29, Posey was an instant sensation, going 6-for-9 with 4 RBI in his first two games as a Giant rookie. After 11 games, Posey was hitting .450, prompting the release of Bengie Molina, now with the Rangers. Posey finished the regular season batting .305, with 18 home runs and 67 RBI in 108 games. He's the likely NL Rookie of the Year. The playoffs were not witness to Posey's best, however, as he hit no homers and drove in just three runs, batting .282.

Aubrey Huff, 1B: As for power hitters, Huff is it for the Giants, leading the team with 26 home runs during the regular season with 86 RBI and a .290 batting average. Huff didn't do much damage in the playoffs, batting .264 with just four RBI and no homers.

Cody Ross, RF: In what may turn out to be the deal of the year, Ross was picked up from the Florida Marlins after the July 31 trading deadline, clear waivers and played in 33 games for San Francisco. Ross was unimpressive in the regular season, batting .288 with just three homers and seven RBI, but he became Mr. October in the playoffs. Ross belted four homers and drove in eight runs, batting .324 in 10 playoff games and was awarded the NLCS MVP.

World Series Schedule: All games televised by FOX; All starting times Eastern

Game One: at San Francisco, Lee (AL) vs. Lincecum (NL), Wednesday, 10/27, 7:57 pm
Game Two: at San Francisco, Wilson (AL) vs. Cain (NL), Thursday, 10/28, 7:57 pm
Game Three: at Arlington, TX, Sanchez (NL) vs. Lewis (AL), Saturday, 10/30, 6:57 pm
Game Four: at Arlington, TX, Bumgarner (NL) vs. Hunter (AL), Sunday, 10/31, 8:20 pm
Game Five*: at Arlington, TX, Monday, 11/1, 7:57 pm
Game Six*: at San Francisco, Wednesday. 11/3, 7:57 pm
Game Seven*: at San Francisco, Thursday, 11/4, 7:57 pm

* if necessary

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Giants Down Phillies in Six; To Face Rangers in World Series

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 23, 2010

National League

In the top of the 8th inning, Juan Uribe lifted a fly ball deep to right field, close to the line. Jayson Werth raced to the edge of the warning track, waited, turned and looked up just in time to watch the ball sail into the third of of seats above the high outfield wall.

When Uribe hit the ball, it looked innocent enough, like another routine fly out in a game full of them, but it kept carrying and carrying until it finally left the park and gave the Giants the slim, one-run lead, which, an inning and a half later, became a game six, 3-2 victory over the Phillies, granting the Giants a pass to their first World Series since 2002.

Though it took a trip back to Philadelphia to finish off the NL champs, it was eventually the Giants' pitching that prevailed over the team that had taken the last two NL pennants. The Phillies scored a pair of quick runs in the first on a walk, three hits and a sacrifice fly off starter Jonathan Sanchez, but after that could muster only five more base hits as a string of five San Francisco relievers - including Tim Lincecum in the 8th - frustrated them the rest of the way.

Roy Oswalt, the Phillies' starter, pitched well enough to win in most circumstances, but he was gone after six innings with the game tied at 2-2. Both teams squandered chances; each left 11 men stranded.

The series was dominated by pitching. The cumulative score was Phillies 20, Giants 19, which works out to just over three runs per game for each team. The highest run total by the Phillies was 6, in game two, the same as the Giants scored in their game four win.

Cody Ross, acquired from the Marlins late in the regular season, took the MVP award for the series, batting .350 (7-for-20), with three home runs and five RBI. Ross had a hit in each of the six games. His two in game one were both homers.

By virtue of the National League winning the All-Star Game, San Francisco will host the Texas Rangers in the World Series. The Giants have not captured a world championship since 1954. Texas has never won one in its 49-year existence.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rangers Snuff Yankees in Six, Head to First World Series

Players of the Day for Friday, October 22, 2010

American League

Back on their home field at the Ballpark in Arlington, the Texas Rangers eliminated the reigning world champion Yankees and are headed to the World Series for the first time in franchise history with a 6-1 victory in front of a stadium packed with excited fans.

Vladimir Guerrero, traded from the Angles to the Rangers following the 2009 season, paid huge dividends, driving in the first Ranger run on a fielder's choice ground out in the first, and delivered a 2-out double that broke a 1-1 tie and plated two runs in a decisive 5th inning. When Nelson Crus followed with a line drive two-run homer to left center, the Rangers led 5-1 and were on their way.

While the Rangers were piling up the runs, Colby Lewis was calmly working over the Yankee lineup. Lewis worked eight innings, gave up three hits and three walks, striking out seven. The lone run scored off Lewis was sketchy. After Alex Rodriguez doubled to lead off the 3rd inning and moved to third of Lance Berkman's fly to deep right center, the Yankee third baseman trotted home on what was called a wild pitch, though replays clearly showed that the pitch had hit Nick Swisher, who should have been awarded first, keeping Rodriguez at third. There was no umpire meeting or discussion on the field of what was certainly a blown call.

In the end, it amounted to nothing except a slight rise in Lewis' ERA.

The Yankees were out-gunned in the series, displaying a pitching staff about an arm and a half short of championship caliber. Texas outscored them, 38-19, and the Rangers won their four games by margins of 5, 8, 7 and 5 runs.

Texas will have sufficient time to ready their roster and rest their pitchers. The first game of the World series isn't until Wednesday, October 27, to be played at home of the National League champions.

Josh Hamilton, who singled and scored in the first, intentionally walked the next three times he went to the plate in game six, was awarded the MVP. The Texas center fielder batted .350, drove in seven runs and homered four times in the series.

National League

The Phillies and Giants renew acquaintances on Saturday afternoon, 3:57 pm ET, at Philadelphia for game six of the NLCS. San Francisco leads the Phillies, three games to two.

Phillies Bullpen Staves Off Elimination; Giants Lead 3-2

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 21, 2010

National League

Needing to take game five, the third game in San Francisco, to stay alive in the NLCS, the reigning NL champion Phillies lived up to their billing and sent the series back to Philadelphia for game six and a possible game seven with a 4-2 win over the Giants.

Roy Halladay, the Philly starter, wasn't as sharp as he usually is, but still managed to hold the Giants to two runs over the initial six innings. Leaving with a 3-2 lead, Halladay watched as the bullpen made the lead stand up, allowing just one more hit, by Jose Contreras in the 7th, snuffing out even a hint of San Francisco offense.

Contreras got two outs in the 7th and turned the ball over to J.C. Romero, who finished the inning without incident. Ryan Madson (left) tossed a splendid 8th, fanning all three batters he faced. Brad Lidge (right) needed just 17 pitches to retire the side in the 9th for his first save of the series.

The Phillies were aided by a 3rd inning Halladay bunt that bounced off the plate and appeared to be foul, but both runners - Raul Ibanez (2-for-4) and Carlos Ruiz - moved up a base when Pablo Sandoval missed the bag at third. Halladay, who did not even leave the batter's box, was thrown out at first. Next, a boot on Shane Victorino's slashing grounder by first baseman Aubrey Huff, which caromed off his glove, knee and into center field, allowed both baserunners to score.

When Placido Polanco singled home Victorino, who wound up at second on the previous play, the Phillies had a 3-1 lead.

Jayson Werth tied a NL post-season record with his 13th career home run, a solo shot in the 9th.

The teams head back to Philadelphia for game six, slated for 3:57 pm ET on Saturday.

American League

The Rangers and Yankees meet for game six of the ALDS on Friday night at Arlington. Texas leads the series 3 games to 2.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sabathia the Master of Stymie; Yanks Claw Back; Posey, Uribe Lead Giants to 3-1 Series Lead

Players of the Day for Wednesday, October 20, 2010

American League

C.C. Sabathia didn't throw a no-hitter, a two-hitter or even a four-hitter. Sabathia allowed 11 hits over six innings but limited the Texas Rangers to two runs, a feat so mind-bogglingly obtuse as to stun the senses. In no single inning did Sabathia not allow a hit, yet he held the Ranges scoreless through the first four innings, allowed a home run in the 5th and one more run in the 6th, giving up three base hits, yet retiring the final two batters and leaving runners stranded on second and third before departing the game.

Sabathia reminded the assembled baseball community that one doesn't have to be perfect nor even merely close in order to be effective. The man simply bore down to get the big outs when they counted. His teammates, in addition to building a working lead with three runs in the 2nd and two more in the 3rd, turned two double plays behind him. Sabathia struck out 7 and didn't issue any walks.

A few runs to work with and a craftsman on the mound; all of a sudden the Yankees are only down 3 games to 2 after a well-played, 7-2 win.

Game six is Friday night, 8:07 pm ET in Arlington.

National League

Jose Uribe drove a Roy Owalt offering to deep left field. Ben Francisco had no trouble fielding the ball, but it was deep enough to afford him no throw to the plate, where Aubrey Huff, tagging at third, would soon cross with the winning run and a 6-5 Giants' win.

Huff, who singled to lead off the inning, had gone from first to third on Buster Posey's fourth hit of the night, a sharp single to right field that Jayson Werth had to slide to stop from going all the way to the wall. Werth's play probably prevented Huff from scoring all the way from first, but Phillies fielders stood helpless a batter later when Oswalt, pitching on two days rest, couldn't retire Uribe.

Game four was a see-saw affair. San Francisco took an early two-run lead, but the Phillies struck for four runs in the 5th. The Giants came back with a run in the bottom of the 5th and two more in the 6th for a 5-4 lead. Werth tied the game when he delivered Ryan Howard to the plate in the 8th. Both doubled to lead off the inning, but the Phillies could get no more.

Manager Charlie Manuel had both closer Brad Lidge and Oswalt warming up in the 9th and made the choice of Oswalt, a move that will be questioned throughut the baseball universe. Normally a starter, Oswalt had twirled a masterpiece in game two, allowing 3 hits in 8 innings on Sunday night, throwing 111 pitches. Maneul apparently thought he would have good stuff. The results will forever refute his theory.

Giants' catcher Buster Posey continued to blister Philadelphia pitching. His 4-for-5 effort included two doubles and two RBI.

With a 3-1 lead in the series, the Giants have the opportunity to end it at home Thursday night. Game time is 7:57 pm ET. Starting pitchers are Roy Hallady for the Phillies and Tim lincecum for the Giants.

Cain Proves Able as Giants Win, 3-0; Molina's 3-Run Blast Lifts Rangers

Players of the Day for Tuesday, October 19, 2010

National League

Relishing being back on their home field, the San Francisco Giants rode the arm of Matt Cain to a 3-0 win in game three of the NLCS, taking a 2-to-1 lead over the defending national league champion Phillies.

Cain was tough as nails over his seven innings on the mound, allowing just two hits and three walks, fanning five without allowing a run. Cole Hamels pitched will for the Phillies, just not good enough. He only allowed five hits but the Giants made them count, scoring two runs in the 4th and another in the 5th.

That was all Cain needed to keep the potent Phillie lineup in check, working out of situations with one or more men aboard in four of his seven innings. Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson, quickly becoming known as the dynamic duo of the playoffs, worked the 8th and 9th without incident, sealing the win and giving the Giants a huge boost heading into game four.

The two teams are back on the diamond at 7:57 pm ET for game four on Wednesday.

American League

As expected, Yankee starter A.J. Burnett gave up the big hit at the crucial moment, as he's been doing all season long, and the Texas Rangers took their second straight at Yankee Stadium with a 10-3 win for a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS.

Burnett took a 3-2 lead into the 6th, but gave up a leadoff single to Vladimir Guerrero. After Guerrero moved to second on a fielder's choice and an Ian Kinsler fly out, the Yanks decided to walk David Murphy in order to get to Bengie Molina, who already had been hit by a pitch in the 3rd and scored and singled in his next at bat, leading off the 5th.

Molina turned on the first offering by Burnett, depositing the baseball into the stands just inside the left field foul pole for a three-run homer and a 5-3 lead.

Texas added a pair in the next inning on a Josh Hamilton solo shot and an RBI single by Kinsler to up the lead to four runs and tacked on three more on Hamilton's secnd solo blast and a 2-run smash to left by Nelson Cruz.

The Rangers outhit the Yankees 13-6. Guerrero had four hits in five at-bats, a double and four singles. Molina finished 3-for-4, with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored.

Game five starts at 4:07 pm on Wednesday, with game one starters, C.J. Wilson and C.C. Sabathia the starters. After giving away game one, the Rangers have taken the last three, outscoring the Yankees by a combined 25-5 score.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rangers Ravage Yanks, 8-0; Take 2-1 Lead in ALCS

Players of the Day for Monday June 18, 2010

American League

Andy Pettitte's 20th post-season win will have to wait another start, maybe another year.

With the record for most wins in post-season play secure, Andy Pettitte took the mound for the Yankees in game three of the NLCS. He pitched well, but, unfortunately for him, the guy on the mound for the Rangers pitched better, much, much better.

Cliff Lee extended his unbeaten post-season streak to seven games with a 2-hit shutout performance over eight innings for the 8-0 win and a 2-game-to-1 lead in the series. Lee has never lost a playoff or World Series game. The way he pitched last night, the streak looks very much like it will be extended even further.

New York couldn't even get a man to first base until lee walked Mark Teixeira with two outs in the 4th inning and didn't get a hit until Jorge Posada stroked a single with one out an inning later. By then, Lee had already fanned 10 Yankees en route to 13.

Brett Gardner led of the 6th inning with the only other hit off Lee. He stole second and advanced to third on a Nick Swisher ground-out, but was stranded when Teixeira grounded out to short. Lee finished his eight innings getting the last nine batters he faced in order.

Texas struck for two first-inning runs on Josh Hamilton's homer, but Pettitte didn't crack. That was all he'd allow through his seven innings. Texas finally broke through in the 9th, scorching Yankee relievers Boone Logan and David Robinson for six runs, allowing Lee to retire and leave the mop-up to Neftali Feliz, who worked a perfect inning in a non-save situation.

With a 2-1 lead heading into game four, the Rangers appear a confident bunch, and well they should be with the prospect of A.J. Burnett getting the start for the Yankees on Tuesday.

After a 6-2 start through the end of May, Burnett pitched the rest of the season like he was being paid on the sly by the Red Sox, going 4-13 the rest of the way. From the start of June, the Yankees won just five of Burnett's 22 starts as his ERA ballooned from 3.28 to 5.26. In 10 of those starts, Burnett never made it to the sixth inning.

The Ranges will send up Tommy Hunter, who was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA during the regular season. Hunter gives the Yankees hope. He didn't start his season until June, but recorded wins in his first eight decisions. Since then, he's tailed off, going 5-4. He only made it into the 6th inning in two of his final seen starts, plus he only lasted four innings in the Rangers' 5-2 less in game four of the NLDS against Tampa Bay.

The redeeming quality for the Rangers is that their bullpen is well-rested should Hunter falter early. First pitch is slated for 8:07 pm ET Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

National League

The Phillies and Giants will untie their deadlock beginning 4:19 pm ET in game three of the NLCS at San Francisco. Strong pitching performances are expected from both starters, Cole Hamel for Philadelphia and Matt Cain for the Giants.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oswalt, Rollins Lead Phillies over Giants, Tie NLCS at 1-1

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 17, 2010

National League

Roy Oswalt (left) allowed three hits and one earned run over 8 strong innings and Jimmy Rollins (right) drove in four runs as the Phillies evened the NLCS with the Giants at a game apiece with a 6-1 victory.

The Phillies got on the board in the first inning as Giant starter Jonathan Sanchez allowed the bases to be loaded before issuing a walk to Rollins. Sanchez was able to escape with just the one run, but Oswalt was hammer-tough on the mound, not allowing a hit until Cody Ross' solo homer in the 5th.

That turned out to be the only run the Giants could push across. In fact, Oswalt only allowed one runner past first, that being Pablo Sandoval, with two out in the 8th, but Oswalt finished his stint by getting Aubrey Huff on a line out to center. In addition to the three hits, Oswalt walked three but struck out nine Giants, including leadoff hitter, Andres Torres, four times.

Rollins, who went 2-for-3, completed the scoring with a bases-loaded double in the 7th, which put the game pretty much out of reach. His other hit was a 4th-inning pop-up which landed between the pitcher's mound and home plate as none of the Giant infielders made a commitment to catch it.

The series takes a day off Monday, resuming Tuesday in San Francisco, at 4:19 pm ET. Matt Cain goes up the bump for the Giants against Cole Hamels.

American League

The best-of-seven ALCS resumes Monday night in New York with the series tied 1-1. Texas sends Cliff Lee to the mound against Andy Pettitte, who will be looking to extend his post-season record for wins to 20. Lee, however, has never lost a post-season start, with six wins to his credit. Game time is 8:07 pm ET.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rangers Even Series, Beat Yanks, 7-2; Giants Take Game One in Philly, 4-3

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 16, 2010

American League

After blowing a 5-0 lead and giving away game one on Friday, the Texas Rangers came back Saturday to take game two of the ALCS with a no-doubt-about-it, 7-2 win over the Yankees.

Starter Phil Hughes was banged around for 10 hits and all seven runs over four innings of work, finally excused after allowing a Nelson Cruz double and a triple by Ian Kinsler to lead off the 5th inning.

Left fielder David Murphy did the most damage to Hughes, however, whacking a solo homer in the second inning and doubling in a run and scoring in the 3rd. Murphy's two hits in four at-bats both came against Hughes and proved the catalyst for a Texas win.

Evening the series at a game apiece, the Rangers head to New York for game three on Monday, with a scheduled 8:07 pm ET start time. Cliff Lee goes for the Rangers against the Yankees' Andy Pettitte.

Pitching is a heightened concern for the Yankees. Ace C.C. Sabathia, like Hughes, only lasted four innings, though due to his short stint may be available for game four. Sabathia is usually lights out at Yankee Stadium, though A.J. Burnett is still scheduled to go on Tuesday.

National League

With Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum sharing the mound, game one of the NLCS was supposed to be all about pitching, and while there was plenty of that from the pair of aces, it was Cody Ross' two solo home runs which provided cover for Lincecum and a 4-3 win for the Giants.

Ross got the first hit off Halladay of the game, coming with one out in the 3rd inning, blasting a shot to left center. Carlos Ruiz answered in the bottom of the frame with his own sol homer off Lincecum to tie the game.

Ross rode another ball out to left field in the 5th inning, putting the Giants ahead 2-1, and they added two more in the 6th for a 4-1 lead. Jayson Werth got the Phillies back to within one with a two-run bomb to right in the bottom of the 6th, but Lincecum got through the 7th without further damage and then handed the ball to the Giants' bullpen.

Javier Lopez got the first two outs in the 8th and Brian Wilson came on to finish. After giving up a single to Werth, he fanned Jimmy Rollins to end the inning. In the 9th, Wilson got Raul Ibanez looking at strike three, then grazed Ruiz with a pitch, but got Ross Gload and Shane Victorino swinging to end the game and pick up his first post-season save. Lincecum got the win; Halladay was saddled with the loss.

Game two starts Sunday night at 8:19 pm ET at Philly. Jonathan Sanchez faces the Phillies' Roy Oswalt.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Yankees Rally to Steal Game One from Rangers

Players of the Day for Friday, October 15, 2010

American League

Texas isn't likely to get many better changes at beating the Yankees than the one they had in Game One of the ALCS Friday night in Arlington.

After getting to C.C. Sabathia with three runs in the first inning and two more in the 4th, the Rangers had everything in Game One going their way. C.J. wilson was working a shutout and there was no way the Yankees were going to come back from a 5-run deficit.

Oh, no? Think again. After Robinson Cano's solo homer in the 7th cut the lead to four, the Yankees rallied for five runs in a wild 8th inning which sent Wilson to the shower and went through four more Ranger hurlers before it was over, with the Yankees coming out on top of a 6-5 score.

It all started with Brett Gardner's head-first slide into first base, beating the toss from Jorge Cantu to Wilson, covering on the play. Wilson would later say he stepped on Gardner's hand as the two converged on the base.

Derek Jeter doubled home Gardner with the Yankees' second run, and that was it for Wilson. Then the floodgates opened. Walks to Nick Swisher and Mark Teixiera loaded the bases for Alex Rodriguez, who singled home a pair. After Cano singled home Teixeira with the tying run, Marcus Thames muscled a broken bat single to left, driving in Rodriguez from third with what proved to be the game winner.

Cano finished the night 3-for-4, with a homer and two ribbies. The Yankee bullpen deserves a great deal of credit for keeping the game within reach, limiting the Rangers to one hit over the final five innings, that off Mariano Rivera in the desperate 9th inning which came to no avail.

The Rangers must regroup quickly for Game Two, which starts at 4:07 pm ET. Colby Lewis goes to the mound for Texas, while Phil Hughes gets the nod for the Yankees.

Following that game, the Phillis and Giants open the NLCS in Philadelphia. The Gaints' Tim Lincecum faces off with Philly's fabulous Roy Halladay in what may prove to be a pitching match-up for the ages. Game time is 7:37 pm ET.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lee Delivers Complete Game as Rangers Advance to ALCS

Players of the Day for Tuesday, October 12, 2010

American League

Cliff Lee turned in a complete game and the Texas Rangers advanced to their first AL Championship Series in franchise history with a 5-1 victory over Tampa Bay in a decisive game five Tuesday night.

Acquired from Seattle in July, the lefty needed 120 pitches - 90 thrown for strikes - to get the Rangers one step closer to the AL pennant and a possible trip to the World Series. Lee allowed just six hits and walked none. Finishing strong, Lee retired the final nine batters he faced and struck out 11 Rays.

Texas built their lead one run at a time, putting up single runs in the 1st, 4th and 6th inning. Ian Kinsler's two-run homer in the top of the 9th sent Lee back to the mound for the final three outs with a comfortable lead and an abundance of confidence. He plowed through the heart of the Rays' order, striking out Evan Longoria, inducing a ground-out from Carlos Pena and getting B.J. Upton on a short pop-up to end the game.

The Rangers will host the NY Yankees on Friday night, October 15, for game one of the best-of-seven championship series. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 pm ET in Arlington, Texas.

Philadelphia and San Francisco open the National League equivalent on Saturday, October 16.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ross leads Giants to Showdown in Philly

Players of the Day for Monday, October 11, 2010

National League

Cody Ross has been a player for the San Francisco Giants for less than two months, but his solo home run in the 6th inning and game-winning RBI in the 7th should endear him to fans for some time to come.

Ross was acquired from the Florida Marlins on August 29 to provide a little more pop to a lineup devoid of a bona fide power hitter. Though Ross isn't exactly Ryan Howard or Prince Fielder, he did hit 22 and 24 homers in 2008 and 2009, respectively, as a Marlin.

In Monday's elimination of the Braves, advancing the Giants to the championship series with the Phillies, Ross' power poke in the 6th inning tied the game at 1-1 en route to a 3-2 win.

In the decisive 7th inning, the Giants loaded the bases on a Buster Posey single sandwiched between a pair of walks (to Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell). After Juan Uribe reached on Alex Gonzalez's throwing error and Huff scored, Aaron Rowand struck out. With two outs, Ross singled to left, scoring Posey from third. Burrell was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

Santiago Casilla held the Braves scoreless in the 7th and got two outs in the 8th, with Javier Lopez getting the third out. After walking Rick Ankiel and Eric Hinske, Brian Wilson finally ended the game when Melky Cabrera grounded out to third base.

The Giants will open the best-of-seven series on Saturday in Philadelphia for the right to advance to the World Series. The Phillies swept the Reds three straight and earned home field advantage by having the best regular season record in the league. The series promises plenty of great pitching. The Giants led the majors with the lowest staff ERA at 3.36. The Phillies were 5th in the NL and 6th overall, at 3.67.

American League

The ALDS series between the Rays and Rangers will be decided on Tuesday at 8:07 pm at Tropicana Field in Tampa. The series is tied at two games apiece.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Longoria Forces Game Five; Phillies Complete Sweep; Giants Take 2-1 Edge

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 10, 2010

American League

Ardent fans of the Tampa Bay Rays knew they would not go down without a fight, even after dropping the first two games of the best-of-five ALDS to the Rangers, and so, with Evan Longoria going 3-for-4 and powering a two-run homer in Sunday's 5-2 triumph at Texas, it's on to a decisive Game Five, Tuesday, back at Tropicana Field in Tampa.

The Rays jumped on Texas starter, Tommy Hunter, early, when Carlos Pena tripled and scored on an Ian Kinsler error. In the 4th, Hunter was knocked out on two earned runs. Again it was Pena, doubling in Longoria, who had himself doubled to lead off the inning. Pena later scored on B.J. Upton's double.

Hunter finished the inning, but was replaced by Derek Holland in the fifth, who sandwiched two outs around a Ben Zobrist single before giving up Longoria's homer, his first of the series.

Tampa's Wade Davis held the Rangers scoreless through five, but surrendered two runs without getting anybody out in the 6th. However, the Tampa Bay bullpen made certain that was all the Rangers would get, allowing one hit and no runs getting the final 12 outs.

Game Five is set for Tuesday at 8:07 ET. Starters are a rematch of Game One: Cliff Lee for the Rangers vs. David Price of the Rays. The winner will host the Yankees in the best-of-seven league championship series, slated to begin Friday, October 15.

National League

The Phillies are headed back to the NL Championship Series for the third straight season, hoping to make their third consecutive World Series appearance.

After knocking off the Reds in three straight, Philly looks to be the team to beat as their trio of starters - Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels - are easily the best three starters of any team remaining.

On Sunday, Hamels dusted off the Reds with a 5-hit, complete game shutout that finished off the sweep with a 2-0 win.

Hamels wasn't as good as Halladay, who pitched a series-opening no-hitter, but he came close, allowing five hits and no walks while whiffing nine Reds batters, including Scott Rolen three times.

The Phils got their two runs on an unearned run in the second inning and a 5th inning solo homer by Chase Utley off Reds' starter Johnny Cueto, who pitched well in defeat.

Hamels threw 119 pitches, but will have plenty of time to rest up for his next start, which is certain to be at least a week from Sunday, as the NLCS will begin in Philadelphia on Saturday, October 16, against either the Braves or Giants.

The San Francisco Giants took a two-games-to-one lead over the Atlanta Braves in the best-of-five National League Division Series Sunday, topping the Braves, 3-2, on a game marred by three costly errors by Atlanta second baseman Brooks Conrad.

Eric Hinske's two-run homer in the 8th, Aubrey Huff getting the only RBI by a Giant in the 9th to tie the game and Conrad's final foul-up to allow the winning run overshadowed a stellar pitching performance by the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez.

Sanchez held the Braves scoreless for 7 1/3 innings, when he was lifted for reliever Sergio Romo after allowing just his second hit of the game, a one-out single to Alex Gonzalez. Romo proceeded to nearly lose the game, giving up a two-run shot to pinch-hitter Hinske.

Sanchez worked a no-hitter into the 6th, when Brian McAnn singled, but finished with no decision, despite allowing just one run on two hits and a walk, striking out 11 Braves in the process.

Conrad, forced into duty due to season-ending injuries to both Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, bobbled a grounder in the first, dropped a pop-up in the fifth and eventually let the winning run score by allowing a Buster Posey ground ball through his legs with two out in the 9th inning.

The Braves, one out away from taking a 2-1 lead in the series, now find themselves facing elimination with a roster decimated by injuries. Besides Prado and Jones being long gone, closer Billy Wagner is also kaput, after he suffered a strained left oblique in Saturday's 5-4 win. Wagner has been taken off the playoff roster, so, if the Braves win the series, he will not be eligible for the best-of-seven series against Philly, though he would be eligible to return if the Braves reach the World Series, though that's a scenario in serious doubt.

Wagner had already stated that this season would be his last, joining manager Bobby Cox in retirement at the end of this season, which, for the Braves, could be Monday night, when they host the Giants in Game 4 of the series at 7:37 pm ET, facing elimination.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Carlos Pena Keeps Rays Alive; Phil Hughes Leads Yankees to Sweep of Twins

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 9, 2010

American League

Deep in the heart of Texas, the Rays faced elimination from the playoffs just a week after winning the AL East with the best record in the league.

After dropping two straight in Tampa, the Rays found themselves staring at the wrong side of a 2-1 score as they batted in the top of the 8th inning.

With one out, Dan Johnson doubled and was replaced at second by pinch-runner Desmond Jennings. His team five outs away from being swept, Carlos Pena stepped to the plate, and delivered the biggest hit of the series for the Rays, a line single to right filed that sent Jennings home with the tying run.

After an out and a walk to Jason Bartlett, Pena eventually came around to score the go-ahead run on John Jaso's single up the middle.

In the top of the 9th, the Rays added insurance to their lead on a solo homer by Carl Crawford and a two-run shot by Pena.

Juaquin Benoit, who took the mound with one out in the 7th, held the Rangers hitless in the bottom of the 8th, recording five straight outs. Rafael Soriano gave up a solo shot to Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the 9th, but managed to avoid further damage, sealing the Rays' 6-3 win.

The series resumes Sunday with the Rays still on the brink of elimination, but with at least the confidence of having won a game. Wade Davis takes the mound for the Rays against Texas' Tommy Hunter at 1:07 pm ET.

It's got to be tough for the Twins, having to face the Yankees just about every time they reach the playoffs. This year was exceptionally brutal, as the Bombers took out the Twinkies three straight, adding insult to injury by winning the first two games in Minnesota.

Phil Hughes became the Twins' hangman du jour, blanking Minnesota for seven innings, allowing just four hits and a walk while fanning six, leading to a 6-1 Yankee win.

Minnesota did finally get on the scoreboard, but it was in the 8th inning off Kerry Wood, who took the ball from Hughes to start the inning. After they scored their run, Minnesota loaded the bases, but Boone Logan and David Robinson got Jason Kubel and Delmon Young on routine fly balls to end the threat, the inning and all hope for a Twins revival. The loss was the Twins' 12th straight in post-season play, the second most in MLB history. Nine of those losses have been to the Yankees, who also swept them last season.

The Twins were swept by Oakland in the divisional series in 2006. In 2004, the Twins took the first game of the ALDS from the Yankees, but then dropped the next three, which began their streak of post-season failure.

As the wild card, the Yankees will travel to either Tampa or Texas, depending on the outcome of their series, on Friday, October 15, for the start of the AL Championship Series.

There were no National League games on Saturday. On Sunday, the Braves host the Giants at 4:37 pm ET. That series is tied at a game apiece. The Phillies will be looking for the sweep when they play at Cincinnati at 8:07 pm ET.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reds Errors, Chase Utley Give Phillies 2-0 Lead in NLDS; Rick Ankiel Gets Braves Even with Giants

Players of the Day for Friday, October 8, 2010

National League

Cincinnati seemed to have everything going their way as they tried to even the NLDS with the Phillies after dropping Game 1 on Thursday. Cruising into the bottom of the 5th inning with a 4-0 lead, Brandon Arroyo had kept the Phillies in check and seemed to be in control.

And then the errors began. Brandon Phillips couldn't handle a Shane Victorino grounder. Same for Scott Rolen on Placido Polanco's ground ball to third. All of a sudden, the bases were loaded for Chase Utley, who delivered a single that plated two runs.

It got worse. In the sixth, Arroyo walked Jayson Werth and was relieved by Arthur Rhodes, who plunked Carlos Ruiz. Then Logan Ondrusek hit Ben Francisco on the bill of his batter's helmet, loading the bases, setting up a walk to Victorino that made the score 4-3. No hits, two walks, two hit batsmen and a run.

In the 7th, it all came apart. Utley Walked. Werth reached on a fielder's choice, Ytley advancing to second. Jimmy Rollins laced a drive to right center that Jay Bruce lost in the lights. Utley scored. Phillips bobbled the relay throw and Werth scored. Rollins advanced to third on Raul Ibanez's single and scored on a fielder's choice to short by Carlos Ruiz. The lead was gone. The Phillies led 6-4.

Philadelphia added another run in the 8th, Ryan Madsen and Brad Lidge mopped up from the mound and the Phillies took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series with a 7-4 win in which only two of the Philly runs were earned as the Reds committed four errors.

The Phillies had no extra base hits, but Utley finished 2-for-4 with two runs, two RBI and a stolen base.

The series heads to Cincinnati on Sunday at 7:07 pm, where the Phillies hope to finish the proceedings, while the Reds search for a win.

Rick Ankiel blasted a homer into McCovey's Cove, capping an improbable Atlanta comeback that evened the series with San Francisco at a game apiece.

The Braves rallied from a 4-0 Giants' lead with a run in the 6th and three more in the 8th to send the game to extra innings, setting the stage for Ankiel's 11th-inning solo shot.

Ankiel, playing center field, went 2-for-5 on the night, his one big hit providing the margin of victory in the 5-4 Atlanta win. The former pitcher, turned slugger, joined the Braves on August 1, coming over from Kansas City to provide more offense, and on Friday night, the move proved out.

Game three of the NLDS best-of-five will be played in Atlanta, Sunday, at 4:37 pm ET.

There were no games in the American League, where the Yankees and Rangers hold 2-0 leads over the Twins and rays, respectively. Games 3 will be played on Saturday, with the Rays hosted by the Rangers at 5:07 pm ET and the Twins visiting Yankee stadium at 8:37 pm ET.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Young Puts Texas Up 2-0; Berkman Drives Yanks past Twins; Lincecum 2-Hits Braves

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 7, 2010

American League

Michael Young broke open a close game with a 3-run homer in the top of the fifth inning, leading the Texas Rangers to a 6-0 win and a two-games-to-none lead in their best-of-five series with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rangers had already scored a run in each of the 3rd and 4th innings to grab a 2-0 lead, but Young's blast off Chad Qualls, who had just entered the game in relief of Rays' starter James Shields, essentially put the game away right there.

Tampa Bay has been unable to get to Ranger pitching. In the two games - both played at Tropicana Field - Rays' hitters have produced only one run on eight hits, getting only two on Thursday off starter C.J. Wilson and a pair of relievers.

Needing just one more win to move to the championship round, the Rangers host the Rays for game three on Saturday, starting at 5:07 pm ET.

Even though the Twins keep making the playoffs with some degree of regularity, they continue to disappoint in terms of wins.

The Yankees sent the Twins to their 11th straight post-season loss with a 5-2 win at Minnesota, erasing their home field advantage by sweeping the two games at spacious Target Field.

Andy Pettitte delivered seven solid innings for the Yankees, allowing two runs on five hits. The Yankees' mid-season acquisition, Lance Berkman, who came over from the Houston Astros in late July, provided the fireworks with a solo homer in the 5th inning that put the Yankees up 2-1.

After Orlando Hudson tied the game at 2-2 with his own solo shot, Berkman doubled home Jorge Posada with a double off his shoe-tops and later came in to score on Derek Jeter's scratch single to right.

The Yankee win was their 8th straight over the Twins. New York can wrap up the series with a win in game three, scheduled for Saturday at 8:37 pm at Yankee Stadium.

National League

Giants' pitching is what got them through the regular season, and it was on full display in the opener of the best-of-five NLDS with Atlanta.

Tim Lincecum, who took home the Cy Young award in the NL the past two seasons, was in exceptional form as he masterfully mowed through the Atlanta lineup, allowing just two hits while fanning 14 in a complete game, 1-0 shutout.

Braves batters were no match for Lincecum's changing speeds and wide-armed delivery. Known as the "freak" for his whirling moound movement, he struck out every batter in the starting lineup except leadoff hitter Oman Infante at least once, including Derek Lee three times.

The Giants scored their only run of the contest in the 4th inning when Buster Posey walked, stole second and came around on Cody Ross's single to left.

Lincecum threw 119 pitches and walked just one batter in his first post-season appearance, giving the Giants a 1-0 lead in the series which resumes Friday at 9:37 pm ET at San Francisco's AT&T Park.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Playoff Players: No-Hit Halladay; Lee's 10 Ks Down Rays: Teixeira Drives Yankee Win

Players of the Day for Wednesday, October 6, 2010

National League

In the most dazzling post-season pitching performance since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Philadelphia's Roy Halladay entirely shut down the National League's most prolific offense with a no-hitter in game one of the best-of-five divisional series in a 4-0 win over the Reds.

Facing just one batter over the minimum, the likely NL Cy Young award winner's only misstep was a 5th inning walk issued to Jay Bruce. Beyond that, Halladay was magnificent, hitting the corners with all of his pitches and keeping batters off-balance by changing speeds and throwing to spots.

Halladay struck out eight, and got 12 more outs on ground balls. He threw only 104 pitches, 79 of which went for strikes. Hardly any balls were hard-hit, and the most difficult play was probably on the shortest hit ball of the game, which also resulted in the final out, when Brandon Phillips pounded a pitch into the dirt in front of home plate. The ball traveled no more than seven feet, but Carlos Ruiz, who Halladay credited for calling a great game, pounced and threw a strike to Ryan Howard, planted on first base 90 feet away.

The no-hitter was the first in post-season play since the Yankees' Don Larsen threw a perfect game in the 1956 world Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Halladay also became the first pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter (actually a perfect game against Florida on May 29) in the regular season and the post-season in the same year.

The Phillies, who took the NL East for the fourth straight season, relied heavily on Halladay's arm to catch and overtake the Braves. The ace went 11-2 from the end of June to the end of the season.

Halladay also aided his own cause, driving in a run in the second inning and scoring on Shane Victorino's 2-RBI single. The Phillies took a 1-0 lead in the series, which resumes Friday at 6:07 pm ET in Philadelphia.

American League

Tampa Bay battled all the way to the final game of the season to secure home field advantage in the playoffs by winning the AL East, then squandered it in the opening innings of their playoff game with the visiting Rangers.

Texas scored a pair of runs in the second inning and single runs in the 3rd, 4th and 5th, chasing Rays' starter David Price on nine hits over 6 2/3 innings. While Price was stumbling, Ranger starter Cliff Lee was stunning, fanning 10 over seven innings without walking a batter, allowing only five hits and a solitary run in the 7th inning on Ben Zobrist's solo homer, which proved to be far too little as the Rangers took game one, 5-1.

Lee was most in trouble in the bottom of the first inning, when he gave up three singles to load the bases with one out, but then got Carlos Pena looking at a called third strike and Rocko Baldelli with a swinging strikeout to finish the inning unscathed.

Catcher Benji Molina was the hitting star, going 3-for-4 with a solo home run and two RBI as the Rangers took a 1-0 lead in the series. Game two is scheduled for 2:37 pm ET on Thursday.

The Yankees rallied from a 3-0 deficit with four runs in the top of the sixth, and after Minnesota tied the game with a run in the bottom of the inning, Mark Teixeira blasted a 2-run homer to right field in the 7th, putting the Yankees ahead in a 6-4 win over the Twins to open the best-of-five series in Minnesota.

Teixeira, who led the Yankees during the regular season with 33 homers, delivered the clutch blow an inning after he had singled and scored the Yankees' first run, driven in by second baseman Robinson Cano. Jorge Posada drove in another run in the inning and Curtis Granderson capped the 4-run rally with a 2-run triple.

Teixeira finished with a 2-for-5 effort at the plate with two runs and two RBI. In 20 post-season games (4 with the Angels in 2008), Teixeira has a .247 average with 3 homers and 11 RBI. In the 2009 run to the world championship, Teixeira batted .282 with 4 homers, 8 RBI, scoring 10 runs.

Game two of the series is Thursday at 6:07 pm ET in Minnesota.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pena, Baldelli Lead Rays into Playoffs as AL East Champs; Sanchez, Giants Take NL West

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 3, 2010

American League

With one down in the top of the 12th, pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli (left) singled, stole second and scored the game winner when Kelly Shoppach grounded a ball through the legs of third baseman Wilson Betemit for a 3-2 win over Kansas City.

The AL East Pennant already assured, the Rays fought back in the 9th inning, when Carlos Pena (right), struggling with a batting average around .200 almost all season, doubled in two runs to tie the game in the 9th.

Hearing that the Yankees had lost to Boston before their at-bat in the 9th, thus making the Rays AL East champs by virtue of beating the Yankees head-to-head, Tampa went out and won a game that didn't matter, for the sake of ending the season with a win.

Tampa, with the best record in the AL, heads back to Tampa, where they will take on the Texas Rangers in a best-of-five series. The wild card Yankees play at Minnesota, also beginning Wednesday.

National League

Jonathan Sanchez (13-9) pitched five innings of shutout ball, singled and scored the game's first run, as the Giants topped the Padres in the winner-take-the-West season finale, 3-0. Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his 48th save of the season, edging out Heath Bell, who could only sit and watch as the Padres' season ended. Bell had saved each of the previous two games of the series - both Padres' wins over the Giants to tie Wilson in saves and force the showdown in the season's final game.

It was the culmination of a slow collapse which began in late August for the Padres, who went from leading the NL West by seven games to missing the playoffs entirely in the course of just over a month. San Francisco never gave up, knowing they had enough talent on their pitching staff that they could reach the post-season with less than an explosive offensive team.

The Giants captured the West for the first time since 2003 and will open a best-of-five series with the wild card  Braves on Thursday at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Tim Lincecum is expected to start for the Giants.

In order to keep on playing, no matter what the Padres did, the Braves knew they had to win and they seemed to be on a glide path to the post-season when their bullpen allowed a 6th inning 8-2 lead shrink to 8-7 by the middle of the 8th. Philadelphia rallied for two runs in the 7th and three more in the 8th.

Billy Wagner pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the Braves, and despite allowing a run on two hits and a walk, he got the last four outs by strikeout, as the Braves won, 8-7, and hours later- when the Giants beat San Diego - learned that they would be the wild card team.

Philadelphia will host Central-division champion Cincinnati in a similar best-of-five series.

Pena, Baldelli Lead Rays into Playoffs as AL East Champs; Sanchez, Giants Take NL West

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 3, 2010

American League

With one down in the top of the 12th, pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli (left) singled, stole second and scored the game winner when Kelly Shoppach grounded a ball through the legs of third baseman Wilson Betemit for a 3-2 win over Kansas City.

The AL East Pennant already assured, the Rays fought back in the 9th inning, when Carlos Pena (right), struggling with a batting average around .200 almost all season, doubled in two runs to tie the game in the 9th.

Hearing that the Yankees had lost to Boston before their at-bat in the 9th, thus making the Rays AL East champs by virtue of beating the Yankees head-to-head, Tampa went out and won a game that didn't matter, for the sake of ending the season with a win.

Tampa, with the best record in the AL, heads back to Tampa, where they will take on the Texas Rangers in a best-of-five series. The wild card Yankees play at Minnesota, also beginning Wednesday.

National League

Jonathan Sanchez (13-9) pitched five innings of shutout ball, singled and scored the game's first run, as the Giants topped the Padres in the winner-take-the-West season finale, 3-0. Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his 48th save of the season, edging out Heath Bell, who could only sit and watch as the Padres' season ended. Bell had saved each of the previous two games of the series - both Padres' wins over the Giants to tie Wilson in saves and force the showdown in the season's final game.

It was the culmination of a slow collapse which began in late August for the Padres, who went from leading the NL West by seven games to missing the playoffs entirely in the course of just over a month. San Francisco never gave up, knowing they had enough talent on their pitching staff that they could reach the post-season with less than an explosive offensive team.

The Giants captured the West for the first time since 2003 and will open a best-of-five series with the wild card  Braves on Thursday at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Tim Lincecum is expected to start for the Giants.

In order to keep on playing, no matter what the Padres did, the Braves knew they had to win and they seemed to be on a glide path to the post-season when their bullpen allowed a 6th inning 8-2 lead shrink to 8-7 by the middle of the 8th. Philadelphia rallied for two runs in the 7th and three more in the 8th.

Billy Wagner pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the Braves, and despite allowing a run on two hits and a walk, he got the last four outs by strikeout, as the Braves won, 8-7, and hours later- when the Giants beat San Diego - learned that they would be the wild card team.

Philadelphia will host Central-division champion Cincinnati in a similar best-of-five series.

Crawford Gets Rays into Tie with Yankees; Stauffer Delivers for Padres; NL West, Wild Card up for Grabs

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 2, 2010

American League

Jumping on the Royals in the first inning, B.J. Upton singled to lead off and moved to third on Carl Crawford's hit. Crawford then stole second before Matt Joyce tripled them both home for a 2-0 lead.

Crawford smashed his 19th homer of the season, a solo shot in the 3rd inning to put the Rays up, 3-0, and eight Tampa Bay pitchers combined for an eight-hit shutout and the 4-0 road win.

The Rays' victory, which snapped a three-game skid, combined with the Yankees' split with Boston at Fenway Park, left the two teams tied for the AL East lead with one game remaining.

Both games in New York's day/night doubled-header with Boston went to an extra inning, with the Yankees winning the day game, 6-5, but losing the nightcap, 7-6.

If the Rays and Yankees finish the regular season tied, Tampa Bay would take the division on the strength of winning the head-to-head season series 10-8. The Yankees would be the wild card.

In that scenario, the Rays would start the best-of-five division series at home Wednesday against Texas. If the Yankees win the division, the Rays would play the AL Central champion Twins beginning Wednesday, with the Yankees hosting Texas in New York.

National League

With some help from the Phillies, San Diego has made the NL West division and wild card race a one-day affair, with everything hinging on their final regular season date at San Francisco.

Tim Stauffer kept the Giants in check for 6 1/3 innings, allowing one earned run on three hits while his teammates scored four runs off Giants' starter Barry Zito. Padres' closer Heath Bell allowed the second Giants' run in the 9th, but still managed to pick up his 47th save as the Padres held on, 4-2.

That left San Diego a game behind the Giants with the division title on the line in the last game of the season, at San Francisco on Sunday. Thanks to the Phillies hammering the Braves for the second straight day, 7-0, San Diego and Atlanta are now tied for the wild card spot.

If the Padres and win and the Braves lose, both the Giants and Padres would advance to the playoffs. The Padres would be the West division winner, due to taking the season series with the Giants, but San Francisco would finish one game better than the Braves, and enter the post-season as the wild card.

If both the Padres and Braves win Sunday, San Francisco would play at San Diego on Monday to determine the West champion and the loser would play at Atlanta on Tuesday for the wild card.

If the Padres and Braves lose, there would be a one-game tiebreaker in Atlanta on Monday night for the wild card.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bruce Chen Blanks Rays; Idle Yanks Take Lead; Padres Stay Alive

Players of the Day for Friday, October 1, 2010

American League

In Kansas City, nothing was conceded as the Royals took their second straight game from the Tampa Bay Rays, sending them to their third straight loss and vaulting the Yankees into first place in the AL East.

Bruce Chen twirled a dazzling two-hitter against the feckless Rays, who never threatened to score, getting only a double from B.J. Upton and a bunt single by Sean Rodriguez as the Royals cruised to the 7-0 win.

Chen, who didn't allow a hit until Rodriguez's bunt single in the third inning, fanned five of the first eight batters he faced, walked two overall and retired the final six batters in order.

Nibbling at the corners, Chen threw just 67 of his 104 pitches for strikes, improving to 12-7 for the last place Royals.

The standings obviously don't matter to the Royals, as they play out the string against the Rays, already qualified for the playoffs, but still battling with the Yankees for the choice between winning the AL East and going to the post-season as the wild card.

Boston was deluged with rain, forcing Friday's contest with the Yankees into postponement. The two will play a day-night double-header at Fenway on Saturday, the first game at 4:10, the second scheduled to start at the unusual time of 9:05 pm.

New York leads Tampa in the standings by 1/2 game, with three left to play. Tampa Bay has one more loss than the Yankees, but only two games remaining.

National League

San Diego lives to play another day.

Adrian Gonzalez clubbed a three-run homer in the top of the 3rd inning off Giants' starter Matt Cain, and the Padres used five relievers to hold off San Francisco for a season-extending, 6-4 win.

The home run was Gonzalez's 31st of the season and his 3 ribbies gave him 101 for the year, the third time in the last four seasons in which he's topped 100 RBI. Last year, the Padres' first baseman finished with 99. He's hit 30 or more homers in four consecutive seasons.

Winning the opener of their three-game series in San Francisco kept the Padres alive in the division. The Giants need to win either Saturday or Sunday to clinch the division, but the Padres plan to win all three games and force a playoff.

San Diego also clawed closer to Atlanta in the wild card race, as the Braves were pummeled by the Phillies, 11-5, and hold a slim, one-game lead over San Diego.