Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wilson Tosses 5 No-Hit Innings; Holliday's 4 RBI Lift Cards

Players of the Day for Friday, April 2, 2010 American League Do the Texas Rangers have another pitching on the verge of a breakout season? Last year, it was Scott Feldman, who turned around a lackluster career 7-13 mark into a 17-8 season. This year's phenom could be converted reliever C.J. Wilson, who has some similarity to Feldman, in that his record over 5 seasons is 12-20 and he's breaking into the starting rotation in 2010 with the Rangers. Where he differs is that he's had extensive experience as a closer, converting 50 of 60 save opportunities for the Rangers over the past three seasons. Wilson's had a OK Spring, showing flashes of brilliance, like Friday's 5 no-hit innings against the Kansas City Royals. While he didn't record a decision, the Rangers went on to win the game, 2-1, on David Murphy's 2-run homer in the 7th. Wilson walked 2 and struck out 4 in his final tune-up for the regular season. Wilson made 6 appearances this Spring - 4 of them starts - and finished up with an 0-2 record with 22 Ks, 8 BBs, and a 3.24 ERA. National League The Twins opened their new stadium - Target Field - to a wide-eyed exhibition game crowd on Friday, but Matt Holiday and the St. Louis Cardinals soured the celebration by beating Minnesota, 8-4. The official crowd, measured at 32,995, saw the Cardinals get all of their runs in two innings, with Holliday a major contributor. The Cardinals got 3 runs in the 4th, when Holliday belted a two-run homer off Twins' starter Carl Pavano, followed by a Colby Rasmus solo shot, and then hammered a pair of relievers in the 8th, scoring 5 times. Holliday delivered a two-run double in the midst of that outburst. The slugging St. Louis outfielder added a single to go 3-for-4 with 4 RBI, upping his average to .356, with 3 homers and 11 RBI. MLB Preview: San Francisco Giants The Giants appear poised to make another run at the NL West title this season, after a near-miss in 2009. San Francisco is leading the Cactus league as of this writing with a 22-11 record, and, while those games don't count for much, they may give the team an added boost of confidence when they open their regular season Monday at Houston. The home opener is slated for Friday, April 9, with the first of three games against the Braves. San Fran finished 2009 with an 88-74 record, their best performance since 2004, when they finished just 2 games behind the Dodgers, but missed out on the playoffs. Last year, they chased the Dodgers for the entire season, but stumbled down the stretch, ending up 7 back, and 4 behind the wild card Rockies. The Giants had the best record of any team in the major which didn't make the post-season, so there's reason to believe they'll be in the hunt again. Pitching is the Giants' major strength, with a starting rotation that ranks among the top 2 or 3 in the majors. Tim Lincecum. 33-12 over the past two season, notched his second straight Cy Young award in 2009. Following him are Matt Cain (14-8, 2.89), Barry Zito (10-13, 4.03) and Jonathan Sanchez (8-12, 4.24). Fifth starter Todd Wellemeyer (from St. Louis) pitched well enough in Spring training to complete the rotation. The Keys are Zito and Sanchez. If they perform well, the Giants could string together some nice win streaks through the season. If they don't, the team will struggle. In the bullpen, closer Brian Wilson should have an abundance of save opportunities this season. He had 38 saves in 2009, and will have a solid pair of set-up men in Jeremy Affeldt (a former closer himself) and Brandon Medders, who may also get a number of spot starts. Affeldt was outstanding last year, recording 33 holds and a 1.73 ERA over 62 1/3 innings. Two big free agent additions were Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, who will likely bat fourth and fifth, respectively, behind slugging 3rd baseman Pablo Sandoval (.330, 25, 90). Huff has a good measure of power, while DeRosa has demonstrated that he can play a variety of positions and handle the bat quite well. Huff had a down year in the home run department, swatting just 15, though he did produce 85 RBI between Baltimore and Detroit. The well-traveled DeRosa will begin 2010 with his 6th different team. In 2009, he had possibly his best year yet, batting .250 with 23 homers and 78 RBI for the Indians and Cardinals. With DeRosa in left field, Aaron Rowand will play center and bat in the leadoff spot, but the biggest surprise may be right fielder John Bowker, who's had an outstanding Spring, batting .310 with 5 homers and 22 RBI. Veterans Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria man second and short, respectively, and besides being solid defensively, can each provide timely hits, though Uribe will likely give way to Freddy Sanchez, who is expected to remain on the DL until mid-May. Bengie Molina returns as the starting catcher after an excellent 2009 campaign in which he hit 20 homers and drove in 80 runs. The Giants should be in the thick of the division race until the end, along with the Dodgers and Rockies. If the pitching holds up and their free agency hires perform, they could get into the playoffs for the first time since the end of the Barry Bonds era. The Las Vegas future book has them at 84.5 wins and a 30-1 shot to become world champions.

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