Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cruz, Rangers Bash Mariners; Gwynn Stars in 16-14 Slugfest

Players of the Day for Wednesday, March 17, 2010 American League The Texas Rangers are already at it. Banging out 4 homers in their 8-1 beating of Seattle, the Rangers put on a power display that's become commonplace over the past couple of years. Nelson Cruz smashed a pair of blasts, plus a single, drove in three runs and scored three. Chris Davis and Josh Hamilton also provided yard work, each hitting their second home runs of the Spring. A favorite of Texas fans and fantasy players alike, Cruz delivered 33 home runs and 76 RBI in 2009. He also swiped 20 bases, a bonus. National League Spearheading a 15-hit, 16-run assault on Kansas City pitching, Tony Gwynn singled, doubled and tripled in 4 at-bats, scoring 3 runs and driving in 3 from his leadoff position. San Diego held on to win, 16-14. One of the more recognizable names on the Padres roster, Gwynn, son of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn (so shouldn't he be called Jr.?), will be the padres' regular center fielder in 2010, hoping to bring some speed to the top of the order. Notes: 30 Runs and No Homers? Yesterday's titanic struggle between the Royals and Padres, ending in a 16-14 win for San Diego (the Padres avoided blowing a 12-run lead by only allowing 3 runs in the 7th and 7 in the 8th), points up two distinct problems with both teams: no pitching and no power. Between the two teams there were 30 hits allowed, but no homers. They did combine for 10 doubles and 3 triples, however. MLB Preview: Philadelphia Phillies Finishing their season by falling to the Yankees in the World Series was not exactly the ending the Phillies had in mind, but it wasn't all that bad, either. Over the past three seasons, the Phillies have been the best the National League has to offer. They captured the NL East flag three consecutive seasons and have gone on to the World Series each of the past two years, winning it all in 2008, beating the Rays in five games. The usual cast of characters returns pretty much intact for Philadelphia. Ryan Howard at first, Chase Utley at second and shortstop Jimmy Rollins will welcome Placido Polanco to complete the infield at third base. Polanco came over from Detroit as a free agent. His addition gives Philly the best infield in the National League. With an abundance of power in the infield, Philadelphia's outfield also ranks among the best in the majors. Raul Ibanez in left and right fielder Jayson Werth - fast becoming one of the league's most fearsome power hitters - flank center fielder Shane Victorino, who, despite his diminutive stature, plays with a big heart and can track down almost anything hit his way. Not satisfied with just an explosive offense, the Philly pitching staff also ranks as one of the best in the league. After getting Cliff Lee to augment the rotation in 2009, they shipped him off to make room for one of baseball's pre-eminent power pitchers, Roy Halladay, whom they acquired via free agency in the off-season. Halladay, a Cy Young winner in 2003, has spent the past 11 seasons toiling in the relative obscurity of Toronto, never reaching the post-season. With the Phillies, he now has the opportunity to shine under the big lights of the playoffs. Halladay leads a very capable rotation of Cole Hamels, JA Happ, Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick. The bullpen has exceptional depth, including middle relievers J.C. Romero and Danys Baez in addition to set-up men, Ryan Madsen and Chad Durbin. All of that pitching leads inexorably to Brad Lidge, who was lights out in 2008, but suffered some setbacks in 2009. A rebound in his form would make the Phillies almost a certain lock to not only capture their division for a 4th straight year, but a good bet to return to the fall classic. The additions of Halladay and Polanco show how serious the front office is about putting a high-quality product on the field. There is no weakness anywhere, and that strength come through in the future book, where the Phillies are at 6-1 odds to finish the 2010 season as world champs.

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