Friday, April 30, 2010
Players of the Day for Thursday, April 29, 2010 American League Keeping up with the red-hot Rays has become an ongoing task for the rest of the AL East, but A.J. Burnett and the NY Yankees aren't about to let them get too far in front. Burnett improved to 3-0 on the season with 8 innings of shutout ball against the worst team in the majors, the 4-18 Baltimore Orioles, allowing 3 hits and a walk while striking out 4 in a 4-0 Yankee whitewash. The 14-7 Yankees have the second-best record in the American League. Unfortunately, the team that sports the best record in the majors is 2 1/2 games ahead of them. Tampa Bay is 17-5 and has won their last five. Burnett was in control of the weak-hitting O's all night, throwing 77 of 117 pitches for strikes and put down the O's in order in the 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th innings. Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless non-save ninth. Robinson Cano provided more than enough offense with a pair of solo homers. He also doubled and scored on Marcus Thames' double in the 6th. National League Yesterday, there were two outstanding AL performances. Today, the NL showcases a pair. St. Louis completed a 4-game sweep of the slumbering Atlanta Braves, whose losing streak has now reached crisis proportions: 9 straight, as rookie 3rd baseman David Freese (left) wowed the hometown crowd with his first major league homer - a three-run shot in the 1st inning - and a bases-clearing, 3-RBI double in the 5th for a 6-RBI night. He also added a single and scored twice, his 3-for-3 night at the plate improving his average to .328. Adam Wainwright got his 4th win against just one loss as the Cards won, 10-4. St. Louis has opened up a 4-game lead in the NL Central and, at 15-7, are the only team in the division over .500. The Reds are at 11-11 in second place. Across the field was another rookie, Jason Heyward, who has received tremendous adulation early in the season. Heyward launched his 5th homer of the season and has 17 RBI, but a .237 batting average. Freese has just one homer, but now shows 14 RBI. Let the comparisons for rookie of the year begin. In Chicago, Adam LaRoche (right) doubled and smacked a pair of home runs, driving in 5 runs and scoring 3 times as the Diamondbacks thumped the Cubs, 13-5. His 3-for-4 effort pushed his batting average to .299 and the 5 RBI upped his total to 17. LaRoche, who spent last season playing in Pittsburgh, then Boston and eventually Atlanta, was acquired by the D-Backs in the off-season and has been a steady producer in the 5-spot. Arizona has won 3 straight and is 3 games behind the Padres in the NL West. NOTES: The LA Dodgers have unexpectedly experienced a sudden power outage and are in the throes of a 5-game losing streak, dropping to the bottom of the NL West standings at 8-14, six games out of first place. LA has lost 7 of their last 8 games, were swept by the Mets and have scored just 14 runs in those 7 losses, 3 of them shutouts. It was just a week ago that the Dodgers led the majors with a team batting average over .300. After Thursday's 2-0 loss to the Pirates, they're down to a pedestrian .273.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 28, 2010 American League Two players turned in outstanding AL performances Wednesday night, both instrumental to their team's victory. In Toronto, the Boston Red Sox completed their three-game sweep of the Blue Jays, as Jon Lester (left) picked up his first win of the season. After allowing a leadoff walk to start the game and a leadoff double in the second inning, Lester settled in and set down the next 14 straight batters and 18 of 19 before retiring after 7 full innings. It was Lester's longest outing of the season and by far his best. In four previous starts he had allowed 25 hits and 15 earned runs over 21 2/3 innings. Lester was in complete control, allowing only the 2nd inning double by Vernon Wells and a pair of walks to leadoff hitter, Mike McCoy, while fanning 11. The Red Sox managed to score a couple of runs for the 2-0 win, moving past the Blue Jays into 3rd place in the AL East. The 11-11 Sox are 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Rays and trail 2nd place New York by 3 games. Torii Hunter (right) made sure the Angels kept the heat on the A's in the AL West, as he drove in 3 runs and scored the game-winner as LA topped Cleveland, 4-3. Hunter, who was 3-for-4 for the game, tied the score with his 2nd home run of the year, a 3-run shot in the 6th. He doubled to lead off the bottom of the 9th for the Angels, and advanced to third after an intentional walk to Hideki Matsui and a double play. Another intentional walk to Juan Rivera set the stage for Howie Kendrick, who, with the Cleveland infield playing back, laid down a perfect bunt which sent Hunter homeward with the game-winner. The Angels are now just 1/2 game behind the A's, who have led the division most of the season. National League You won't see him doing endorsements for major brands, and you probably won't hear his named mentioned by many sportscasters, but Washington reliever Tyler Clippard may be the best set-up man and long reliever in the business. Clippard came on in the 8th inning of Washington's 3-2 win over the Cubs, holding Chicago scoreless despite allowing a hit and a walk. Matt Capps came on in the 9th to record his league-leading 10th save of the season for the surprising Nationals, who are 12-10 and just a game behind the Mets in the NL East. Clippard's numbers have been mind-blowing so far in 2010. He's appeared in 11 games, working 16 2/3 innings. He's allowed just one earned run on 7 hits overall, striking out 20 while walking 7. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 7 appearances, a span of 9 1/3 innings. Hitters are batting just .132 against him. Amazingly, his 0.54 ERA is better than his impressive 0.84 WHIP. With Clippard (3-0, 5 Holds) and Capps at the back end of the Nationals' bullpen, if they're ahead after 7 innings, it's usually game over.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 27, 2010 American League Austin Kearns has been kicking around the majors since 2002, mostly to little fanfare, and over the past two years was barely able to get into half the games for the Washington Nationals. During the off-season, Kearns connected in Cleveland, making the roster as an extra outfielder on a team that's in the midst of a multi-year rebuilding effort. Proving himself still a capable hitter during Spring training, Kearns has worked his way into the starting lineup of late and has been putting it together pretty nicely, pumping up his batting average to a team-high .386. He's still about 15 plate appearances short of qualifying for the league leaders, but he'd be second in the AL right now if he did. Apparently, Kearns likes playing on the West coast, as he went 3-for-4 with a homer and a steal against the Angels on Monday, and followed that up with a 3-for-6 effort and 5 RBI as the Indians roughed up the Halos, 9-2 on Tuesday. Kearns was the proverbial one-man gang, doubling in a run in the 3rd, hitting a solo homer in the 5th and delivering the big blow in the 8th: a bases loaded double which plated three more runs. Cleveland's win helped the Indians escape from last place. They are 9-11, a game ahead of the Royals and the White Sox, both of which lost on Tuesday. National League "Amazing" is a word often associated with the NY Mets, and many a die-hard fan was amazed last night as the Mets dumped the LA Dodgers twice to took over first place in the NL East, winning their sixth straight while the Phillies have been stumbling, posting a 3-7 record and losing their last 3 straight. Johan Santana (left) was the story of the first game, 4-0, win, allowing just 3 hits and 3 walks while punching out 6 on strikes over 6 solid innings of work. Santana left with a 2-0 lead, but his teammates slated the lead away with a pair of runs in the 7th. He improved to 3-1, with a 2.12 ERA. The nightcap belonged to third baseman David Wright (right), going 3-for-3 at the plate, with a pair of singles, a triple and 4 RBI, leading to a runaway, 10-5 win for the New Yorkers. Wright's RBI single in the 5th broke a 3-3 tie and was his 1000th hit as a major leaguer, all with the Mets. An inning later, his bases-loaded triple put the game away for good, making the score 10-3 at the time. The 12-9 Mets lead Philly by 1/2 game with Florida and Washington both lurking, one game back.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Players of the Day for Monday, April 26, 2010 American League Boston headed North of the border to begin a three-game series with the Blue Jays, but both teams are likely feeling worn out after they battled through a 4-hour marathon, won by the Red Sox, 13-12. The two teams combined to use 13 pitchers, who surrendered 34 hits and 20 bases on balls, but in the bottom of the 9th, Jonathan Papelbon came on to set down the side in order and record his 6th save of the season. Five different Red Sox batters had three hits, including catcher Jason Varitek, who made the most of his 5 at-bats, singling in a pair of runs and scoring in the 3rd inning, driving home two more in the 4th, and singling and scoring again in the 6th, as the Red Sox built a 13-9 lead. The Blue Jays battled back to make the game a one-run affair, but Daniel Bard pitched out of a troublesome 8th before Papelbon came on to shut the door. Still under .500, at 9-11, the Red Sox crept to within one game of Toronto (10-10), though Boston still trails AL East-leading Tampa Bay by 5 1/2 games. Varitek is off to a swell start, leading the Red Sox regulars with a .357 average. National League Milwaukee catcher Gregg Zaun hasn't exactly been tearing the cover off the ball, entering Monday night's fracas with the Pirates batting .157, but he came through in big fashion as the Brewers downed the Pirates, 17-3. In 4 at-bats, Zaun socked a three-run double in the 3rd and a two-run double in the 6th, added two singles, drove in 5 runs and scored 3 times as the Brewers devastated the Pittsburgh bullpen once again. Milwaukee swept the Pirates just last week, 8-1, 8-0 and 20-0. Including Monday's win, they've outscored the Pirates 53-4 over their last four games. Sandwiched in between, the Brewers managed to get swept at home by the Cubs, losing the trio of games by a combined score of 25-4. Should the Pirates be afraid to face the Cubs? Probably. They host Chicago for three games the first week of May.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Players of the Day for Sunday, April 25, 2010 American League For the Tampa Bay Rays, the wait for David Price to mature into a quality starter was a short one. Just two years into his major league career (he only pitched 14 innings in 2007 before his World Series heroics), Price is off to a 3-1 start and the Rays have a tight grip on first place in the AL East, 1 1/2 in front of the world champion Yankees. Price had all the goods on Sunday, hurling his first complete game shutout, a 4-hit, 9 K, 6-0 gem over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of the home crowd in Tampa. The 6'6" Nashville native needed just 109 pitches to shut down the Jays, throwing 76 strikes and walking just one batter. After some early struggles, Price settled in, get 12 straight outs from the 3rd inning into the 7th and finishing with a perfect 9th. The win dropped his ERA down to 2.20, along with a 1.05 WHIP. The 6-0 score could have been worse, were it not for the arm of Jose Molina, who threw out 4 runners at second, including the speedy Carl Crawford, twice. Molina's four throw-outs were the most in a single game since 2002. National League Though they are just 9-10, the Cubs find themselves in second place in the NL Central, 2 1/2 back of the Cardinals, the only team in the division with a winning record. Chicago completed a three-game sweep of division-rival Milwaukee, taking the series-ender by a 12-2 score, scoring in each of the first five innings and adding one more run in the 7th. Brewers infielders got to know leadoff hitter, Ryan Theriot, very well, as he went 5-for-6, with 4 singles and a double, scored twice and drove in three runs. Theriot also stole his 5th base of the season, swiping second in the 2nd inning. By the time Theriot and his teammates were through wearing out Milwaukee's pitchers, the game was completely in the hands of the Cubs. Making matters worse for Milwaukee was that they were swept on their home turf, and the scores were embarrassing: 8-1, 5-1 and 12-2. Theriot has had multiple hits in each of his last five games, going 14-for-25 (.560) over that span. Oddly enough, the Brewers had just beaten up on Pittsburgh, 8-0 and 20-0, prior to their series with Chicago.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Players of the Day for Saturday, April 24, 2010 American League If you wanted to design a baseball-hitting machine, you'd probably use Minnesota catcher, 3-time AL batting champion and 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer as a prototype. After spraying out 5 hits in 6 at-bats in Saturday's 12-inning, 9-7 win at Kansas City, Mauer's batting average stands at .381 and the 13-5 Twins have a 3-game lock on first place in the AL Central. Mauer's 5-hit night included a double, triple, three singles and a sac fly in the top of the 12th which added an insurance run for Minnesota. He drove in 2 runs and scored one, in addition to handling 6 different pitchers from behind the plate. Mauer will be hard pressed to repeat as MVP again - his 12 RBI are only third-best on his team, but the potential for another batting title looms large. He's currently third behind KC's Scott Podsednik (.382) and Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez (.397). National League San Francisco still trails San Diego by one game in the NL West, but, after Barry Zito out-dueled Adam Wainwright for a 2-0 win over St. Louis, the Giants have served notice that they almost surely have the best starting rotation in the majors. Zito worked a very strong 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits and 3 walks while fanning a season-high 10 St. Louis hitters, striking out every Cardinal starter except catcher Yadier Molina. Zito, who hasn't had a full-season winning record since his 2006 campaign with the A's, is off to a 3-0 start with a sparkling 1.32 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. Surrounded by the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jeffrey Sanchez, Zito has responded in the early stages of the season with some of the best pitching of his career. The Giants have taken two straight in their West coast weekend series with the Cards, with Sunday's finale pitting Brad Penny against the Giants' Matt Cain.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Players of the Day for Friday, April 23, 2010 American League The LA Angels have long been a thorn in the side of the Yankees, and Friday night was more of the same as Kendry Morales blasted a two-run, game-winning homer off reliever Joba Chamberlain in the bottom of the 8th. LA won the game 6-4. Morales was 3-for-3 on the night, driving in the first run of the game with a single in the 1st and scoring in the 3rd after being hit by a pitch prior to his heroic homer in the 8th. The drive was the first baseman's 3rd of the season and upped his RBI total to 13. His perfect night at the plate improved his batting average to .303. As for Chamberlain, the hard-throwing righty who's become a "project" again this season, it was his first loss of the year, but by far his worst performance. He allowed 3 hits and the game winning runs after coming on to start the 8th with the score tied. Chamberlain is carrying a 3.86 ERA and has 10 Ks in 9.1 innings. National League Upside-down would be the best way to describe the standings in the NL West. The Dodgers dropped into a tie for last place with the Diamondbacks while the surging San Diego Padres won their 7th straight, dropping the slumping Reds by a 10-4 tally in Cincinnati. The Padres jumped on the Reds early, scoring 4 runs in the 2nd and added two more in the 4th. Cincy starter Brendan Arroyo then left the game with no outs and two aboard. Micah Owings relieved, but allowed a Jerry Hairston Jr. single to load the bases for 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who cleared the bases with his 4th homer of the season, a grand slam that finished the Padres' scoring. Gonzalez added a single to go 2-for-4, with 4 RBI, giving him 11 on the year and a .327 batting average. It was the second grand slam of his career. San Diego leads the division by a game over the Giants, with Colorado 2 back and the Dodgers and D-Backs 3 out.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Players of the Day for Thursday, April 22, 2010 American League Look who's in first place in the AL East. No, it's not the Yankees or the Red Sox. It's the Tampa Bay Rays, who did a serious number on the Chicago White Sox Thursday night, knocking them off in a 10-1 road win. The 12-4 Rays not only have the best record in the majors (1/2 game better than the Yanks, who lost at Oakland, 4-2), but they've done much of their work on the road, putting up a 9-1 record to start off the season. What may have been most satisfying for the Rays in their romp past the home Sox was how they manhandled starter Jake Peavy, who put up a string of 7s - 7 hits, 7 earned runs, 7 walks - in 4 1/3 innings. Carlos Pena got things started for the Rays in the 3rd when Peavy set him up with the bases loaded, courtesy of two walks and a single. Pena took a free pass for his initial RBI, and added three more in the 8th when he cracked a bases-loaded double. Pena also singled and scored in the 5th. That's why Pena is tied for second in the league with 17 RBI. He delivers in clutch situations. National League It's official! The Pittsburgh Pirates have no pitching, as was amply proven by the Milwaukee Brewers, who pounded the swashbucklers, 20-0. Milwaukee - 2nd in the NL Central, 2 games behind St. Louis - hammered out 25 hits, 12 of them for extra bases, including 4 home runs - yes, Prince Fielder hit his first of the season. All of the starting position players had at least two hits except for 3rd baseman Casey McGahee. Jim Edmonds had 4, including his first homer of the season - a three-run shot, but Ryan Braun topped the charts with a single, double, his own three-run homer, 5 RBI and 3 runs in 4 at-bats. Braun was at his productive best, boosting his batting average to a hitter-friendly .417. The Brewers have won four straight, including a three game sweep of the Pirates, and return home for a three-game weekend series with the struggling Cubs, losers of 5 of their last 6. Milwaukee's win broke a tie in the division between themselves and the Pirates, both of which entered the game at 7-7. Pittsburgh dropped a game behind the Brewers and may be headed back where they seem to be most comfortable, in the basement of the NL Central.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 21, 2010 American League Winning their sixth straight and 9th of their last 10, the New York Yankees maintained their slim 1/2 game lead over Tampa Bay on the strength of Phil Hughes' 1-hit performance and a 3-1 win at Oakland. Hughes carried a no-hitter into the 8th inning, but lost it on a one-hop comebacker from Eric Chavezthat he could not handle. Instead of being called an error, the smash was labeled a hit. Had Hughes not stopped the ball, it almost certainly would have bounded untouched into center field. Hughes gathered himself and struck out the next batter, Kevin Kouzmanoff, but walked Gabe Gross to put runners on 1st and 2nd. That prompted manager Joe Girardi to bring in Joba Chamberlain, who allowed the sole A's run of the game on Jake Fox's 2-out single. The run, scored by Chavez, was charged to Hughes. Despite failing in the no-hit bid, Hughes had an awesome outing, giving up just the one hit over 7 1/3 innings, with 2 walks and 10 strikeouts, a career best. Hughes is 2-0 in 2 starts, with an ERA of 2.19. National League Sure, Roy Halladay was on the muscle in his 4-hit, 2-0 shutout over the Braves Wednesday night, earning his first National League shutout, but that's what he does. Besides, Halladay wasn't nearly as unhittable as the stats indicate. Shane Victorino stole a home run from Troy Glaus with a spectacular catch, and infielders Chase Utley and Ryan Howard also added highlight reel fielding gems to aid Halladay's cause. The real story of the day was in Cincinnati, where the LA Dodgers were pummeling the Reds, 14-6. The Dodgers are, after 14 games, still hitting an impossible .315 as a team. Their 18 hits last night were just another dose of reality for the rest of the league to absorb. At the top of the order, Rafael Furcal was banging away, going 3-for-5 with 4 RBI, 3 runs and a stolen base. Furcal is only batting .356. Teammates Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier are hitting .421 and .400, respectively, but Furcal is the guy who literally gets things started. His single, double and triple gave him 7 multi-hit games this season. The Dodgers are 1 1/2 back of the Padres, who hold a 1-game lead over the Giants at the top of the NL West.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 20, 2010 American League It's been a quiet Spring for Alex Rodriguez, but he's still putting up pretty good numbers, despite opposing hurlers pitching around him. In Tuesday's 7-3 Yankee win at Oakland, A-Rod probably only saw two or three hittable pitches, as A's throwers issued him three free passes to first. Reliever Craig Breslow could not work around Rodriguez when he came in with one out and two aboard in the 5th and A-Rod at the plate. Rodriguez delivered his only hit of the game, but it was a three-run homer, his second of the season, increasing the Yankee lead from 3-0 to 6-0 with one mighty swing. The three RBI gave Rodriguez 10 on the year, so, despite not hearing the usual oohs and aahs, he's actually on pace for his usual dose of 100+ RBI. That's pretty much assured, as A-Rod has topped the 100 mark in ribbies 12 straight years and 13 of the last 14. The Yankee slugger may also receive more walks than in any of his previous seasons. He's on pace for about 150 bases on balls, far beyond his average and many more than his highest total, in 2000, when he walked 100 times. National League The Mets are still in last place in the AL East, but it's surely not the fault of Mike Pelfrey, who improved to 3-0 (he owns half of the Mets' wins) with 7-innings of shutout ball over the struggling Cubs in a 4-0 New York win. Pelfrey threw 102 pitches, allowed only 3 hits, struck out 6 and walked three, lowering his already impressive ERA down to a microscopic 0.86. One can only guess what the media would be saying about the 6-8 Mets without Pelfrey in the rotation. Thanks to some degree of balance in the division, the Mets are just 2 games behind Atlanta and Philly, though they are the only team in the NL East with a losing record. The Cubs may be in worse shape at 5-9 in the Central, 4 games back of the Cardinals and just 1/2 game out of last place, currently occupied by the Astros. The lovable losers have dropped their last four straight, scoring a whopping 6 runs overall.
NOTES: All by himself, Carl Crawford ruined John Danks' no-hitter and his shutout bid. Danks and the White Sox beat the Rays, 4-1, but they didn't exactly stop Crawford, who hit a solo homer in the 2nd and singled in the sixth, both hits coming off Danks, and the only ones he gave up in his 8-inning, 9 K outing, earning him his second win of the season. Crawford, however, was not done after Danks gave way in the 9th to Bobby Jenks. He singled again, just to make sure the Sox remember him.
Maybe you thought the Orioles were going to be better this season, like many had hoped, but the birds are officially the worst team in the majors, and it's not even a close call. The 2-13 O's have lost 2 straight and 11 of the last 12. No other team in either league has more than 9 losses, and even the Astros, who started out 0-9, have 4 wins. Traditional cellar-dwellers KC and Washington are 5-9 and 7-7, respectively.
The O's are just plain bad. Their .223 team batting average is better than only two teams - Houston and Cleveland - and playing in the rugged AL East surely won't help their prospects. They've scored just 11 runs in the last six losses.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Players of the Day for Monday, April 19, 2010 American League In Toronto, hopes are usually high at the beginning of the season but fade as the long race heads into summer. This season appears to be no different. The Jays opened their 2010 campaign with a hot, 5-1 start, but since split a 4-game series with the White Sox and then were swept by the Angels before taking an 8-1 decision over Kansas City Monday. Keying the offense was sometimes super-slugger Jose Bautista, a player that usually makes a one-time appearance as Player of the Day each season. Bautista did so on Monday with a pair of bombs - a 5th inning 3-run shot and a 7th inning 2-run homer. His 5 RBI gave him 10 on the year, a good start. His best season was probably 2007, when he smacked 15 homers and drove in 63 runs for the Pirates. He became a Blue Jay late in 2008, and is steady at 3rd base, though he has issues at the plate. Striking out more often than he walks, Bautista is only a .238 lifetime hitter, but he'll turn 30 this year, so there may be better days ahead. If so, the Blue Jays might not be singing their usual swan song in September. National League Washington closer Matt Capps hasn't been exactly electric, but he's been positively steadfast in seven appearances this season for the Nationals. Capps notched his 6th straight save on Monday, tops in the NL, as the Nationals moved to 7-6 with a 5-2 win over the Rockies. He allowed just one hit in a scoreless 9th inning to get the Nationals above the .500 mark. It marked the latest point in a season they've had a winning record since Oct. 1, 2005, when they were 81-80. Capps has been an effective closer over the past four seasons, picking up 66 saves with the Pirates before joining the Nationals to begin his 2010 campaign. He hasn't blown an opportunity this season, a big reason the Nationals are where they are, just 1 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Philadelphia.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Players of the Day for Sunday, April 18, 2010 American League The Kansas City Royals have been high on Alberto Callaspo ever since he arrived from Arizona in 2008. The diminutive (5'8") Venezuelan is a slick fielder at second base and has amazing power for a guy his size. After suffering through injuries in 2008, Callaspo blossomed in 2009, batting an even .300 with 11 homers, 79 RBI and 73 runs. In Sunday's 10-5 win over the Twins, Callaspo banged out a pair of three-run homers and added a single for a 3-for-5 day at the plate. The Royals are still near the bottom of the AL Central, at 5-7, but taking a game from the division leaders was a positive sign for a team that regularly finishes with one of the worst records in the majors. Callaspo and his current teammates seek to change that tune in 2010. National League A night after the Cards went 20 innings with the Mets, St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright knew he'd probably have to pitch nine innings if his team was going to have any chance of winning, but prospects appeared dim after Angel Pagan delivered a bases-loaded single in the second inning, plating two runs, and then Wainwright (a 2009 Golden Glove recipient) committed his first error in two years, which allowed a third run to score. But wainwright was unfazed by the unfortunate turn of events, getting out of the inning without further damage and setting down the Mets the rest of the game on one hit. He retired 8 straight until Pagan singled again to lead off the 5th and then set down the last 11 in a row to finish the game. He walked 2 and stuck out 9 for his first complete game of 2010. Rewarded by his teammates with 3 runs in the fifth and 2 more in the 8th, Wainwright notched his 3rd win of the season without a loss, as the Cardinals finished up their series with the Mets with a clutch 5-3 win. Wainwright's numbers thus far have been outstanding. In 24 innings, he's recorded 22 Ks, allowed just 14 hits, 5 walks and 4 earned runs, for a 1.50 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Players of the Day for Saturday, April 17, 2010 National League Ubaldo Jimenez wasn't nearly perfect, but he was sure good enough, tossing the first no-hitter of the season in a 4-0 Rockies win over the Braves, in Atlanta. Jiminez walked six batters, but made up for it by striking out 7, and finishing strong, retiring the final 15 batters of the game. Jimenez issued all of his bases on balls in the first five innings, including walking the leadoff hitter in the 3rd, 4th and 5th. He got plenty of help from his infield, which turned a first inning double play, but produced two fielder's choices. A pick-off of Kenshin Kawakami by catcher Miguel Olivo helped him out of a rough 3rd inning, in which he walked two Atlanta hitters. Jimenez has been hot as a barbecue to start the season, the no-no improving his record to a sparkling 3-0, with an ERA of 1.29 and 20 Ks over 21 innings. The Colorado win moved them into sole possession of 2nd place in the NL West, 2 games behind the Giants, who hammered the Dodgers, 9-0, behind 6 shutout innings from Tim Lincecum (also 3-0). Lincecum had three singles himself, driving in three runs. American League Oakland won again on Sunday, beating the O's, 4-3, improving to 9-4 with a 2 1/2 game lead in the AL West. while still early in the season, could this start be an early-warning sign that Billy-ball and Sabremetrics are still alive and well? Whatever the case of that debate, Howie Kendrick and the Angels aren't about to take it lying down. Still mired in last place in the division, the Angels improved to a somewhat respectable 5-7 win a 6-3 win over the Blue Jays. Howie Kendrick had a break-out game, going 3-for-5 with a stolen base. Kendrick opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the 1st, singled, stole second and scored in the 8th and singled home another run in the 9th, for his third RBI of the day. Kendrick scored twice and upped his batting average to .317. The Angels go for the three-game road sweep Sunday afternoon in Toronto before returning home for a 10-game home stand with 4 games against Detroit, followed by three each with the Yankees and Indians. NOTES: The Mets and Cardinals played the longest game of the season, with the Mets prevailing, 2-1, in 20 innings. The game produced some stunning stats. The two teams used 19 pitchers, who produced 35 strikeouts while allowing just 24 hits. Albert Pujols actually had a fair night at the plate, going 2-for-5 and scoring a key run in the bottom of the 19th after the Mets had surged ahead 1-0, in the top of the inning. Not surprisingly, Pujols walked 4 times. Three Mets had rough nights at the plate: Jose Reyes, Jason Bay and Jeff Francoeur each went 0-7, though Reyes scored the Mets' first run (on Francoeur's sac fly), and drove in the game-winner with a sac fly in the 20th. The Mets and Cards played a 25-inning contest in 1974, won by St. Louis, 4-3.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Players of the Day for Friday, April 16, 2010 American League Vladimir Guerrero lifted a 1st inning fly ball to center fielder Curtis Granderson. Michael Young tagged up from thrid and scooted home with the Rangers' first run of the game. Unfortunately for them, it was also their last, as Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia allowed just one more hit over the next 5 1/3 innings to lead the Yankees to a rain-shortened 6-1 win over Texas. Following Guerrero's sacrifice fly, Sabathia struck out the next six batters he faced, totaling 9 Ks for the night. He also set down 11 in a row, before giving up the Rangers' last hit of the game, a harmless single with one out in the 5th. Sabathia improved to 2-0 and did not issue any bases on balls. Rain had been steadily falling from the beginning of the game, though it was just a drizzle through the first 3 innings. When the Yankees batted in the bottom of the 4th, it intensified, eventually becoming a torrential downpour by the end of the 6th, when the umpires called the game. With Toronto losing and Tampa Bay in a suspended (9th inning) 1-1 tie with Boston, the Yankees - at least temporarily - have a 1/2 game lead in the division. Should the Rays pull out a win when they resume play - likely on Saturday - they would be tied with New York at 7-3. National League After losing to the Dodgers, 10-8, Friday night, the San Francisco Giants are still two games ahead in the NL West, but they may be feeling a little pressure. Not only do they have to play at LA the next two days, but the Diamondbacks and Rockies are, like LA, just 2 games back. The NL West may be shaping into the four-way battle many expected. In Friday's game, the Dodgers proved that their amazing start at the plate was no fluke, as they banged out 12 hits against Giants' starter Todd Wellemeyer and two relievers. At the heart of LA's offense was Andre Ethier, who cracked a pair of homers - a solo shot in the 1st and a grand slam in the 2nd - to set the tone for the Dodgers.
Ethier's 5 RBI gave him 12 on the season, to go with 3 RBI, both of those numbers behind teammate Matt Kemp, who leads the Dodgers with 5 homers and 15 RBI. Kemp's 2-run homer in the first preceded the first Either bomb. Either is sporting a .371 batting average on a team with 8 players hitting at better than a .300 clip. As a team, the Dodgers are batting an incredible .320.
So why are the Dodgers just 5-5? Their pitching staff is struggling along with a 5.56 ERA, 12th of 16 NL teams.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Players of the Day for Thursday, April 15, 2010 American League It's been a long road back for Francisco Liriano, the Dominican Republic phenom who went 12-3 as a rookie with the Twins in 2006. Injury curtailed that season and completely cancelled the next, and Liriano has suffered setbacks each year hence, but in Thursday's 8-0 whitewash of the Boston Red Sox, Liriano looked more like that 2006 starter than the one who went 11-17 in 2008 and 2009. Over his seven innings of work, Liriano allowed just four Boston hits and two walks, and had Red sox batters flailing at fast balls and staring at sliders as he struck out 8 - 6 swinging and 2 looking. He threw 96 pitches, 64 for strikes and left the game looking as strong and fit as when he started. While Liriano was working over the Boston lineup, his teammates cranked out 15 hits against Red Sox starter Time Wakefield and two relief pitchers. Every starter had a hit except AL batting champ Joe Mauer, who may have been more focused on keeping his pitcher in a groove. Apparently, it worked well enough for Liriano to notch his first win of the season, lowering his ERA to 2.08 over 13 innings. National League The 3-6 Mets are off to a troubling start, but the first weeks of the season will be soon forgotten if they get more mound work like that done by starter Mike Pelfrey in his 5-0 win over Colorado. Pelphrey, who opened his campaign allowing 4 hits and 2 earned runs over six innings to earn an 8-2 win over Washington, was even better in the thin Colorado air, giving up 5 hits over 7 innings while fanning 6 without walking a batter. The only time the Mets have won this season when Pelfrey wasn't on the mound was April 5, when Johan Santana fired a 7-1 win over the Marlins. Pelfrey now sports an ERA of 1.38 and a WHIP of 1.00.
NOTES: In the better late than never department, the Houston Astros became the last team in the majors to find a win in 2010, knocking down the Cardinals, 5-1, in St. Louis. Houston had opened the season with 8 straight losing efforts prior to Thursday's breakthrough.
Houston's win means handing over the longest losing streak to the Baltimore Orioles, now 1-9 and losers of their last 7 straight. The O's fell victim to the surprising Oakland A's, who still lead the AL West, by a 6-2 score.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 14, 2010 American League White Sox batsmen took care of business on Wednesday, banging out 15 hits against 5 Toronto pitchers in an 11-1 pounding of the Blue Jays in Toronto. Leading the onslaught was Carlos Quentin, who had six RBI on a grand slam homer and two-run double in 5 at-bats, boosting his season's RBI total to 10. Quentin, who spent much of the 2009 season nursing injuries, seems to have regained the form that earned him All-Star status and the Silver Slugger Award in 2008, when he battered AL pitchers for 36 homers and 100 RBI. That's more good news for the power-laden White Sox, who may be fielding a team with as many as 6 20-homer guys, including Gordon Beckham, Andruw Jones, Paul Konerko, Mark Teahen, Alex Rios and Quentin. The Sox are 4-5, 2 games out of first place in the AL Central. National League Threatening to run away with the NL East division, the Philadelphia Phillies put on another offensive display with a 14-7 beating of the lowly Washington Nationals, banging out 14 hits, 10 of them by the first four batters in the lineup. Center fielder Shane Victorino, batting in the leadoff spot (usually reserved for Jimmy Rollins), appeared to enjoy the spotlight, as he banged out a couple of singles, a triple and a home run in 5 at-bats. Not only was Victorino getting on base, he was driving home runs (5 RBI) and scoring as well, crossing the plate 3 times. Off to a slow start, the move to the top of the order may have been just the tonic Victorino needed, boosting his batting average from .161 to .250. Victorino's homer came with one aboard, the triple was a bases-loaded job. Rollins was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game with a calf injury. The Phillies own the best record in the major leagues, at 7-1. They are 2 1/2 games in front of Florida in the division.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Baltimore rookie Brian Matusz was just cruising along, shutting out the Rays over 7 full innings, his teammates helping forge a 3-0 lead. Pitching into the 8th, Matusz got Willy Aybar swinging for his 8th strikeout for the first out of the inning. It would prove to be his last as he allowed four straight singles to Tampa batters and was pulled. Two more singles and a double later, the Rays finished up the top of the 8th leading 5-3.
After Baltimore scored 2 to even the score at 5 in the bottom of the 8th, the two teams played a scoreless 9th before Carlos Pena uncorked his second home run of the year, a 3-run shot to right that put the Rays up for good. Baltimore managed only a single run in the bottom frame, coming out on the losing end of an 8-6 tally.
In addition to his game-winning blast, Pena had singled twice earlier, once in the crucial 8th, driving in a run. Pena finished up 3-for-5 with 4 RBI and a run. He has 7 RBI to go with his .308 average.
The Cincinnati Reds needed a Joey Votto RBI single and a bases-loaded walk to Scott Rolen to knock down the Marlins, 10-8, in 10 innings, but it was Brandon Phillips who had the big night at the plate, going 4-for-6 with a pair of singles, 2 doubles, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored.
Phillips doubled and scored in the 8th to put the Reds up 8-5 before the Marlins tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Cody Ross' 3-run blast. Phillips had also scored in the first on Jonny Gomes home run and his single in the 11th kept the inning alive.
Possibly the best pure hitter on the team, Phillips entered the game batting a woeful .185. After his four hits, his average shot up to .273.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Players of the Day for Monday, April 12, 2010 American League There was an Andruw Jones (left) sighting Monday night, and he was wearing a White Sox uniform. A Superman cape was tucked deftly underneath. Jones, who after twelve tumultuous years in Atlanta, has gone from the Braves to the Dodgers, to the Rangers, and now, to the White Sox. Still a hitter with power, Jones hasn't seen much action, though he's gotten into five games this season for the Sox. On Monday, Jones and fellow new arrival Mark Teahen (right, from KC) played a bit of tag-team, resulting in an 11-inning, 8-7, White Sox win at Toronto. Jones got the hit parade started with a 2-run homer in the 2nd, then an RBI single in the 3rd, followed by a solo homer in the sixth. Then he apparently touched Teahen on the dugout steps because the third baseman drove in Alex Rios with a single in the 6th, tied the game with a towering home run to left field in the ninth and won it with a triple in the 11th, sending Omar Vizquel plate-ward. By the numbers, Jones was 3-for-4, with 4 RBI and 2 runs; Teahen went 3-for-5, 3 RBI, a run, and a stolen base. National League The Giants tried to deal away Benjie Molina during the off-season, but found no takers, and they're probably considering themselves fairly fortunate considering the way Molina has handled the San Francisco pitching staff, to say nothing of his recent excellence at the plate. San Francisco continued to storm through the National League, winning for the 6th time in 7 outings by putting a 9-3 hurt on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Molina was the main catalyst, going 4-for-4 with a pair of singles, an RBI double and a 2 run homer, giving him 4 RBI and 2 runs scored on the day. In his only other plate appearance, he was issued a walk, not a bad idea considering his .421 batting average.
NOTES: The Houston Astros aren't having any fun yet, especially after dropping their 7th straight to open the season in a 5-0 whitewash by the St. Louis Cardinals. That loss was the third time this season the Astros have been shut out. San Fran's Barry Zito issued the first blanking, then J.A. Happ of the Phillies. The Cardinals' shutout stud was Adam Wainwright. In 7 games, Houston has scored just 13 runs. It doesn't take a genius to figur out that scoring less than 2 runs a game will not produce many wins.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Players of the Day for Sunday, April 11, 2010 American League Leading 3-1 through 6 innings, Joe Saunders and his LA Angel teammates were cruising along, seeking a win over the upstart Oakland A's, who have taken the AL West lead hostage in the opening week of the season. The Angels have won the division three years running, and were eager to resume their rightful place atop the standings. This was the third game of the series, and But then came the 7th inning and a little-known utility infielder named Adam Rosales, who had already made his mark, hitting a solo homer in his first at-bat of the game - and the season - in the 2nd inning. By the time Rosales came to the plate in the 7th, Saunders would be headed for the showers, allowing three straight hits without getting an out. Kevin Jepsen relieved the starter and got one out before Rosales came up and singled home two more runs, putting the A's ahead, 4-3. From there, the A's would tack on 5 more runs, including a walk to Rosales that forced in one run. For his first appearance this season, Rosales made the most of it, going 2-for-3 with a home run and 4 RBI, one which stemmed from the bonus base on balls. With the 9-4 win, the A's remained in first place with a 5-2 record. The Angels dropped to last, along with the Mariners, at 2-5.
Normally, choosing a Player of the Day isn't a very complicated matter... and then there are days like Sunday. Albert Pujols shows off on national TV with a pair of homers and a single, 4 RBI in 5 at-bats, but, the Cardinals lose to Milwaukee, 8-7.
Earlier in the day, Roy Halladay pitches his first complete game win as a National Leaguer, allowing 7 hits while fanning 8 as the Phillies slip by Roy Oswalt and the winless Astros, 2-1. The only run of the game is unearned, and it's Halladay's errant throw to first which causes it. Uh-uh.
Out in Arizona, the Diamondbacks score 13 runs in the 4th inning en route to a 15-6 win over the Pirates. Catcher Chris Snyder hits a two-run homer and a bases-loaded double, drives in 5, scores twice, but, it was, after all, a rout over one of the worst teams in the league.
Pablo Sandoval goes 3-for-4 with a triple and a homer, drives in 2 runs, scores three as the Giants improve to 5-1 with a 6-3 win over Atlanta. Now, we're getting somewhere.
In the end, it turned out to be a tie. Florida's Jorge Cantu (left), who belted a 3-run homer in the 4th inning, and capped off his night with a 7th inning two-run double which turned a 5-4 Dodger lead into a 6-5 Marlins win. Cantu was 2-for-4 with 5 RBI, including the game-winner.
We also tip our cap to Washington's Josh Willingham (right), who drove in all five runs in the Nationals' 5-2 win over the Mets. Willingham launched a grand slam in the 1st inning and doubled home another run in the 4th. Washington's pitching staff made his runs hold up. The Nationals - and this may be the last time this season this statement is valid - are one of 5 NL teams with winning road records.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Players of the Day for Saturday, April 10, 2010 American League The Yankees and Rays have each won the AL East over the past two years - the Rays in '08, the Yanks in '09 - so the rivalry produces some interesting games, but Saturday's 10-0 whitewash by the Yankees was no contest as C.C. Sabathia flirted with a no-hitter into the 8th inning. Sabathia, who walked 2 and struck out 5, set down the first 12 Rays in order before walking Evan Longoria to open the 5th. Longoria stole second and eventually advanced to third with two outs, but Sabathia struck out Pat Burrell to end the inning. It wasn't until there were two outs in the 8th that Sabathia finally gave up a hit, a line single to left by former teammate Kelly Shoppach. The burly lefty - perennially among the league leaders in innings pitched - was lifted for a reliever because of a high pitch count, it being only his second start of the season. In picking up his first win of the year, Sabathia threw 111 pitches, 69 of them for strikes.
On of the most-highly touted rookies to hit the big leagues this season is Atlanta right fielder Jason Heyward, who hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat and went 2-for-5 in his first game with the Braves. Since then, Heyward has had to adjust to reality, going just 1-for-12 over his next three games. Until Saturday, that is.
Facing the 4-0 Giants, Heyward and the Braves fell behind, 1-0, but tied it on Heyward's solo homer in the sixth. The rookie also singled home a run in the 7th and singled and scored in the 9th as Atlanta beat the Giants, 7-2.
His 3-for-3 performance, 2 runs and 2 RBI upped his batting average from an anemic .176 before the game, to a respectable .300 after it. This early in the season, Heyward is carrying rookie of the year credentials with 2 homers and 6 RBI.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Players of the Day for Friday, April 9, 2010 American League At 2-2, the Texas Rangers aren't exactly where they'd like to be, especially since the team in front of them in the AL West is the 4-1 Oakland A's, and not the Angels, who have started off 2010 with a 1-4 record. Texas has been trying to run down the Angels in the division for the past three years, to no avail, but they've got all the players in place to make a serious run at the division crown this season. One of those players is outfielder Nelson Cruz, who, after 3 years in the bigs, finally got a chance to play full time last season and produced 33 homers and 76 RBI. This season, he's off to a great start, batting .500 after gathering three hits in the Rangers' 6-2 win over Seattle. Cruz singled twice and hit his third homer of the season in the 4th inning - a solo shot which tied the game at one. His single in the 6th inning drove in another run, for a 3-for-4, 2-RBI, 2-run night at the plate.
Everybody in the NL West is chasing the 4-0 San Francisco Giants, but the Rockies got an exceptional outing from their #4 starter on Friday night as Jorge De La Rosa blanked the Padres on one hit over seven powerful innings.
De La Rosa, who walked just one batter and hit another, set down the first eight Padres in order and allowed the only runner to get past first base in the 4th inning when he plunked Kyle Blanks, gave up his only hit to Chase Headley, sending Blanks to third. He finished strong, however, retiring Scott Hairston to end the inning and then proceeded to mow down the next nine batters he faced before being lifted for a reliever to open the 8th.
The 7-0 win evened the Rockies' record at 2-2. Clint Barmes cracked a 3-run homer in the 8th inning for Colorado.
NOTES: It didn't take long for each team in the majors to lose at least one game, except for the San Francisco Giants, who are 4-0 out of the gate after Aaron Rowand knocked home Jose Uribe with the game-winner in San Francicsco's home opener against Atlanta, 5-4 in 13 innings.
Widely believed to have the best pitching staff in the majors, the Giants have allowed a cumulative 10 runs over 40 innings thus far in the season, for a sparking 2.25 ERA.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Players of the Day for Thursday, April 8, 2010 American League It didn't take long for Miguel Cabrera to forget about the sorry end to last season and begin bringing the big lumber to the plate. Already locked into what is shaping up to be one of the best pennant races in the majors, the Tigers are tied with the Indians in second place at 2-1, a half-game behind 3-1 Minnesota and the a game ahead of the White Sox, at 1-2. Cabrera had two hits in each of his first two games, and doubled his total with a 4-for-5 performance in Detroit's 7-3 win over Kansas City. After singling twice and being left stranded, Cabrera connected on his 2nd homer of the season in the 8th, a 3-run shot that turned a 2-1 Tiger deficit into a 4-2 lead that Detroit would not relinquish. He also singled home another run in the 9th, giving him 4 RBI on the night. Cabrera has 8 hits in 14 at-bats, for a splendid .571 batting average.
This season, the Dodgers aren't sporting the look of so many successful LA teams which won with pitching and defense. No, the 2010 Dodgers are built for power and they showed some of it off last night by hammering the Pirates, 10-2.
Pittsburgh took the first two games of the series from the Dodgers, so all they accomplished was not getting swept, but the rest of the league should take notice that they banged out 16 hits, 13 of them by the first five batters in the lineup.
Getting the most mileage from his plate appearances was Ronnie Belliard, batting 5th, who went 3-for-5, scored twice, drove in 4 runs and fell just a single short of hitting for the cycle. Belliard homered in the 5th with a man aboard, drove in another run in the 7th with a triple and plated one more with a double in the 9th.