Monday, May 31, 2010
Players of the Day for Sunday, May 30, 2010 American League Just a day after Kendry Morales suffered a potential season-ending broken leg celebrating his walk-off, grand slam homer, the LA Angels had reason to jam home plate again, as Howie Kendrick connected for a ninth inning, three-run shot to trip up the visiting Mariners, 9-7. This time the players waiting for the home run hero were a bit more subdued, allowing kendrick to touch home plate unmolested, then surrounding him with hugs and high fives. The blast was the second of the game for Kenrdick and only his 4th of the season. He connected earlier in the game with a solo homer in the 7th, going 2-for-5 with 4 RBI as the Angels battled back from a 7-2 deficit. Starter Joe Saunders allowed all seven runs in 4 1/3 innings, but the bullpen came on and shut the M's out the rest of the way. By winning while the Rangers were losing to Minnesota, 6-3, and the A's were being blown out in Detroit, 10-2, the Angels - still under .500 at 25-27 - crept to within 2 1/2 games of first place in the AL West. Oakland leads Texas by 1/2 game in the contentious division. National League It was just a matter of time before Albert Pujols would join the home run race in the National League, and who better to do it against than division rival and long-standing enemy of the Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs. Albert, "The Machine" had only 2 long balls in his last 31 games, a pretty serious drought for a guy who's rung up 374 in his 10-year career, but he made up for lost time by banging two balls over the left field bleachers and onto Waveland Avenue. The first was a solo shot in the opening frame, the second a two-run dinger in the 5th, that put the Cards ahead 4-0. Albert finished things off with a monstrous drive to dead center in the 9th for his third homer of the day, capping the 9-1 road win by the Cardinals. Pujols had what many ordinary men would consider a good week, going 3-for-3 with 4 RBI and 4 runs. The other two times he stepped to the plate, Cubs pitchers walked him. The three homers gave Pujols 12 on the season, tying him for the league lead with some unlikely characters: Kelly Johnson and Mark Reynolds of Arizona; Florida's Dan Uggla; and, Milwakuee's Corey Hart. His 38 RBI are good for third place in that department, 3 behind Casey McGahee of the Brewers. With the win, St. Louis got to within one game of division-leading Cincinnati. Those two teams hook up in St. Louis beginning Monday.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Players of the Day for Satuday, May 29, 2010 American League Kendry Morales smacked a game-ending grand slam as the Angels beat the Mariners in 10 innings, 5-1, but what happened during the celebration at home plate was surely nothing to cheer about. After Bobby Abreu tied the game with his 6th homer of the season in the bottom of the 8th, the Angles loaded the bases with one out in the 10th on a double, an intentional walk and a error by former Angel, Chone Figgins. Morales drove a Brandon League offering to the deepest part of the ballpark, clearing the wall in dead center field. As teammates mobbed him at home plate, Morales leaped and landed awkwardly on his left ankle, resulting in a lower leg fracture and a trip to the DL. After a solid start to the season, with 11 home runs and 39 RBI, he is expected to have surgery on Sunday and will likely miss at least the next two months. The best Angels' power hitter, Morales' loss will be a blow to the struggling Angels, who are still under .500, at 24-27, and trail the division-leading A's by 3 1/2 games. Texas is in second place, just 1/2 game out. National League Having just been shut out three straight game by the Mets and getting just enough offense to beat Florida in the first of their four-game series Thursday, 3-2, Roy Halladay knew he'd have to be sharp to keep his team in the game and in first place in the NL East. Not only was Halladay sharp, he was perfect, tossing the 20th perfect game in major league history and second this season as the Phils squeaked past Florida, 1-0. Working the corners of the plate, Halladay threw 115 pitches, of which only 72 were strikes, but he fanned 11 Marlins, got eight on ground outs and another eight on fly balls. The win was Halladay's 7th against just three losses, his fifth complete game and third shutout of the season. The second no-hitter in the National League this season (Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado had the first, back on April 17 at Atlanta) and third in the majors this season (Oakland's Dallas Braden threw a perfect game against Tampa on May 9 in Oakland). The last time a Phillies' pitcher threw a perfect game was back on June 21, 1964, when now-Seantor Jim Bunning turned the trick against the NY Mets, who were in their third year of existence after expansion. Will Halladay follow Bunning into politics when he retires? That won't be known for some time, as Halladay, just 33, should have another 7-10 years ahead of him. At 155-79, Halladay is currently tied for 5th place among active pitchers in career wins with Kevin Millwood. Ahead of him are teammate Jamie Moyer (263), 14 years his senior; Andy Pettitte at 235; Time Wakefield with 190; and Livan Hernandez, who has 160. With the Braves also winning on Saturday, the Phillies maintained their 1 1/2 game lead in the division and look for the sweep over the Marlins Sunday afternoon.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Players of the Day for Friday, May 28, 2010 American League With Alex Rodriguez getting a day off, manager Joe Girardi decided to put Robinson Cano in the cleanup spot as the Yankees welcomed Cleveland to the Bronx for the first of a four-game weekend series. It turned out to be the right move as Cano responded with a pair of singles and his 10th home run of the season, a seventh-inning grand slam which turned a contentious 4-2 game into an 8-2 rout and another win for Phil Hughes, who improved to 6-1. Derek Jeter singled to open the 7th and wound up at third base on Curtis Granderson's double. Mark Teixeira walked, loading the bases for Cano, who delivered with a blast into the right field seats. Looking every bit like a possible starter at second base for the all star game, Cano leads the Yankees in four offensive categories with a .351 batting average, his 10 homers, 34 RBI and 34 runs. In Detroit, Miguel Cabrera (left) socked three homers - a two run blast and a pair of solo shots, but that was all the offense the Tigers could produce in a 5-4 loss to the A's. Cabrera's homers were his 11th, 12th and 13th, good for third in the league in that department. His four RBI extended his league - and major league - best to 44. National League Arizona's Mark Reynolds doubled off Matt Cain with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. The next time he was at the plate, Cain plunked him. Next time, he struck him out. Reynolds' second-inning double was the only hit the Diamondbacks could produce of Cain, who - other than hitting Reynolds - set down the next 22 batters in a row for a 1-hit, complete game, 5-0 shutout. Cain was nearly perfect, throwing 83 of 122 pitches for strikes, fanning 9 in all without walking any. With a 2.05 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP, Cain's record is still only 3-4, largely due to lack of run support. Cain has started ten games for the Giants this season. In five of those outings, his teammates have managed to score two runs or less, resulting in 4 losses and a no decision. With San Diego falling to Washington, 5-3, the Giants climbed closer to the top of the NL West, currently 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Padres and a game behind second place Los Angeles.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Players of the Day for Thursday, May 27, 2010 American League Now that the Minnesota Twins have settled into their new outdoor stadium at Target Field, the next step would probably be to actually take a series from the Yankees. New York took the first two games of their three-game set in Minnesota, but the Twins avoided being swept with an 8-2 win over the Bronx Boys, thanks largely to a well-timed burst of offense from Jason Kubel. Off to a very slow start, Kubel has been swinging the bat better of late, though still without consistency. In Thursday's win, he went 3-for-4, with two homers and a double, scored three times and drive in five runs. His double in the second inning put the Twins up 2-0 and he scored later in the inning for a 3-0 lead. In the sixth inning, Kubel launched a solo homer to right and came up big again in the 7th, with a three-run blast that put the game completely out of reach. Kubel's batting average is still a sub-par .233, but he's hit three homers and driven in 16 runs over the past 10 games. As the weather heats up, it appears Jason Kubel will also. National League Mets' pitchers have to be feeling good about their just-completed sweep of Philadelphia, in which they combined to keep the Phillies off the scoreboard for the entire 27 innings. After beating the first-place Phils, 8-0 and 5-0, Mike Pelfrey took command of the mound for his 7th win against just one loss, tossing seven scoreless innings in a 3-0 win. Pelfrey wasn't exactly overpowering, but he was effective, allowing three hits and five walks while striking out 5. The Mets' infield turned three double plays to get their starter out of jams in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings. Pedro Feliciano worked the 8th and Francisco Rodriguez picked up his ninth save with a perfect 9th inning. The sweep helped everybody else in the division close the gap on the Phillies, who have lost five straight. Atlanta is all of a sudden just 1 1/2 back, the Mets are 2 behind, with the Nationals and Marlins in the hunt, three games out.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Players of the Day for Wednesday, May 26, 2010 American League When the Red Sox reached out and grabbed Adrian Beltre from Seattle in the off-season, nobody doubted that the acquisition would pay big benefits for Boston. Fitting right in from the start, Beltre's provided solid defense and an important bat so far this season. The slugging veteran had his best game as a Boston regular in Wednesday's 11-3 win over Tampa Bay, cracking a pair of homers a triple and a single in 6 at-bats as the Red Sox completed their three-game, on-the-road sweep of the first place Rays. Beltre got things started with a solo homer in the 2nd inning, added a 3-run blast in the 3rd, singled in the 7th and capped off his night with a triple in the 9th, plating two more Red Sox runs. The homers were only his 4th and 5th of the season, but the 6 RBI put him at 33 for the year, tops on the team. Beltre also leads the Sox with a .341 batting average, third in the league. Boston moved past Toronto into third place, 5 1/2 games behind the Rays and just 2 back of the Yankees. National League Roy Oswalt hasn't gotten much run support in his 10 starts this season, but made sure he didn't need much as he blanked the Brewers over 8 innings, allowing just 4 hits and 1 walk while fanning 9, as the Astros won, 4-0. Oswalt struck out every regular in the Milwaukee lineup one time and added a K on reliever Claudio Vargas for good measure. He threw 74 of 109 pitches for strikes in upping his record to 3-6. Oswalt's poor record is undeserved considering the way he's pitched. In 69 innings, he's allowed just 53 hits, has an ERA of 2.35, 69 Ks and a 1.01 WHIP, among the best in the league. With a little support at the plate, Oswalt could easily be 6-3.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Players of the Day for Tuesday, May 25, 2010 American League Rolling right along, the Texas Rangers widened their lead in the AL West to three games over the A's, with an 8-7 win at Kansas City. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz both bashed solo homers, but Vladimir Guerrero belted a pair of two-run bombs and doubled home Ian Kinsler with what would prove to be the winning run in the 7th inning. Guerrero tallied five RBI, which vaulted him past Evan Longoria, Jose Bautista and Miguel Cabrera into first place in that category with 42 on the year. He's also batting a robust .347, second in the league (Justin Morneau leads at .381) and his 12 homers are good for 4th on that list. The Rangers acquired Vlad via free agency from the Angels during the off-season and haven't regretted the move for a moment. A big-time slugger who's become a fairly permanent DH, Guerrero, at 35, is quietly creeping up the career home run list. With 419, he's sixth among active players and 42nd all-time. League MVP in 2004, Guerrero has never led the league in homers, RBI or batting average, but he's putting up Triple Crown-like numbers this season. National League Ryan Dempster (left) allowed just three singles and a base on balls over 8 scoreless innings and Derrek Lee (right) went 3-for-3 and accounted for all of the Cubs' runs with a 6th-inning RBI single and a two-run homer in the 8th as Chicago won their third straight, downing the visiting Dodgers, 3-0. Dempster needed just 104 pitches (64 for strikes) to keep the usually-potent LA lineup in check, fanning seven and never allowing anyone past second base. From the 4th through the 8th inning, Dempster was untouchable, retiring the final 13 batters he faced in order. Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect 9th inning for his 10th save of the season. Dempster is 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA. For Lee, it was one of his best games in what otherwise has been a disappointing season. He entered the game batting just .218, and the home run was just his 6th of the season. Lee has only 23 RBI, which is still third best on the team. Alfonso Soriano leads the Cubs with 27; Marlon Byrd is second with 26. That kind of underperforming offense and spotty pitching has the Cubs still under .500, though at 22-24, they are actually just 4 games behind NL Central co-leaders, Cincinnati and St. Louis. QUICK HITS: Jon Lester allowed Tampa Bay just one hit over 6 innings, striking out 9 and walking 5, and a trio of relievers didn't give them as much as a single over the final three innings, as the Red Sox took the measure of Tampa Bay for the second straight night with a 2-0 win. Boston downed the Rays 6-1 on Monday and will go for the sweep of the AL East leaders on Wednesday. Willy Aybar had the only hit of the game for the Rays.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Players of the Day for Monday, May 24, 2010 American League The Toronto Blue Jays took their slugging showcase to Anaheim Monday night, put got a win of a different color as Brett Cecil, Jason Frason and Scott Downs combined for a 3-hit shutout and a 6-0 win over the Angels. Cecil did the bulk of the work, allowing just 2 hits and two walks over 7 1/3 innings, as he improved to 4-2 on the season and the Jays picked up a game on the division-leading Rays, who were being beaten, 6-1, by the visiting Red Sox. The Blue Jays are 6 games behind Tampa Bay, but only 1/2 back of the second place Yankees. The victory was also their 16th road win of the year against just 9 losses, second in the majors to the Rays, who have won 19 away from home. Cecil has been a big part of the road warrior attitude, with all four of his wins coming on the road. Toronto only was able to scratch out 6 hits in the win, but benefitted from the generosity of 8 walks allowed by Angel pitching. While the Jays continue to cruise along, the Angels are still struggling at 21-26, five games off the pace set by the Rangers in the AL West. National League With the rest of the league taking a day off, the Reds took advantage of the opportunity to get back into a tie with St. Louis for first place in the NL Central, beating the visiting Pirates, 7-5. Leading off the game with a bunt single was Orlando Cabrera, who's hitting a solid .326 over his last ten games, helping the Reds run down the Cards and - for a while - take sole control of the division lead. Cabrera - one of a handful of players in the majors who can say he played for the Montreal Expos - was forced out on a double play ball, but it wasn't the last the Pirate infielders would see of him. In fact, Cabrera became well-acquainted with everybody around the horn, reaching base in all four of his plate appearances, with two singles, a double, a walk, a stolen base, an RBI and a run. That kind of evening is becoming routine for the 35-year-old Cincinnati shortstop, who's been very steady throughout his 13-year career, especially over the past three. Despite playing for four different teams from 2007-2009 (Angels, White Sox, A's, Twins), Cabrera's numbers have not suffered, averaging 188 hits and a .288 average over that span. Now back in the National League, Cabrera appears to be the perfect fit for the up-and-coming Reds.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Players of the Day for Sunday, May 23, 2010 American League Quick, who's leading the American League in Home Runs? A-Rod? Nope. Carlos Pena? Not even close. It's Tornoto's Jose Bautista and Paul Konerko of the White Sox, each with 14 dingers. While Konerko registered only a harmless single in Sunday's 13-0 rout by Florida (the Marlins blast 5 long balls), Bautista cranked out #14 for the Blue Jays, as they avoided being swept in Arizona with a 12-4 win. Bautista first got the Jays on the board with a two-run single in the 3rd inning, then helped put the game away, smacking a two-run bomb to start off a 5-run 5th inning for Toronto. Teammate Edgar Encarnacion - for whom Bautista moved from 3rd base to right field - hit his fifth in the past three game, a two-run shot. With all the home runs coming off of Toronto bats, interleague play is posing a pleasant problem for manager Cito Gaston. He just doesn't have enough spots in the lineup for all his bashers. With Encarnacion encamped at third base, Adam Lind in left, Bautista in right, Gaston sat Vernon Wells, the regular center fielder, for recently-acquired Fred Lewis, who has more speed and can handle the leadoff spot. Wells has 11 homers already, so a day off might not be a bad thing, but Gaston will have a veritable murderer's row once the Jays get back to regular play and the use of a DH, which is likely to be either Bautista, Wells or Lyle Overbay. Bautista's 4 RBI got him to 38, within two of league-leader, Miguel Cabrera. On pace for his best season ever, Bautista has developed a penchant for clearing the fences (and the bases) this season. His best years were 2006, when he hit 16 home runs, and 2007, when he drove in 63. At his pace, those marks will be obliterated by the all-star break. National League Jason Giambi has gotten into only 21 games this season, and, with just 45 at-bats for the Rockies, he hasn't had much of a chance to groove his swing. Sunday's outing at Kansas City gave him the opportunity to DH, and he made the most of his six at-bats with a pair of singles, a home run and four RBI as the Rockies out-slugged the Royals, 11-7. Somewhat of a forgotten figure in Colorado, Giambi still can be a force, either as a DH (interleague road games only for the Rockies) or a pinch hitter, which is how he's been employed most of this season. With Todd Helton a fixture at first and Giambi's fielding and lack of speed obstacles for the outfield, he's probably not going to get many more chances like he did on Sunday. At 39, Giambi is still a long ball threat any time he steps to the plate. His 411 home runs and 1339 RBI have him ranked 7th and 8th, respectively, for active players.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Players of the Day for Saturday, May 22, 2010 American League ESPN's Sportscenter anchors may have been oohing and aahing over Daisuke Matsuzaka's one-hit over 8 innings performance, but why didn't they give the same kind of notice to the 2-hitter over 8 innings thrown by Oakland's Gio González in a 1-0 win over Matt Cain and the visiting San Francisco Giants. Bias? Sure Matsuzaka pitches for the well-loved Red Sox, but where's the love for the boys by the Bay? Gonzalez actually out-pitched Dice-K and had to protect a 1-run lead from the third inning on. While Dice-K did give up just the one hit, he walked four batters and struck out five. Gonzalez allowed 2 hits, just one walk and also struck out five, which he had to do, because Matt Cain only allowed the solitary run. Matsuzaka had the benefit of a 5-0 lead after the 5th inning. Besides, the A's are just three games behind the AL West-leading Rangers, while the Sox are mired in 4th place in the AL East, 8 1/2 games back. Give Gio Gonzalez credit for a truly well-pitched game in a tight situation and a continuation of a very nice season. Thus far, the third-year starter is 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.19. National League After giving up six solo homers but still winning the game, 8-6, the Arizona Diamondbacks didn't want to see any balls flying out of the stadium unless they were hit by the home team on Saturday. As it turned out, neither team had any homers, but Chris Young did have a couple of run-producing hits which helped propel the D-Backs to an 8-5 win. Young did all the raking he'd need to in the first two innings, as Arizona pummeled Toronto pitching for 4 runs in each of the first two frames. Young doubled in a pair in the first and singled home two more in the second. Done deal. Arizona starter Edwin Jackson kept the Jays in the park, holding them to a solitary run over six innings before being touched up a bit in the 7th. For a team which is largely criticized for being devoid of offense, the Diamondbacks have been putting up some impressive numbers. Young's 4 RBI moved him closer to team-leader Mark Reynolds. Young has 34 on the year, Reynolds, 36. Right behind them is 1st baseman Adam LaRoche with 32. Those figures are good for 3rd, 4th and 8th in the league. The Diamondbacks go for the sweep Sunday afternoon.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Players of the Day for Friday, May 21, 2010 American League For most of the years he spent with the Kansas City Royals, Mike Sweeney was regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the game. But then came the back problems after 2002, which began to limit both his playing time and overall effectveness at the plate. The condition worsened, to the point that, beginning with the 2006 season, Sweeney has played in less than half the games he could have. After the 2007 season, Sweeney was shuffled off to Oakland, and then, a year later, to Seattle. Sweeney's played in just 19 games this season, but has been in the lineup regularly since May 13. In that game he hit a home run, and another the next game and another in the game after that. In Friday's 15-8 slaughter of the visiting San Diego Padres, Sweeney rekindled some of that old fire, blasting a pair of homers and two singles for a 4-for-5 night at the plate with 6 RBI. Since that May 13 start, Sweeney is batting .417 (10-for-24), with 5 home runs and 10 RBI. The mariners have not taken advantage of Sweeney's hot bat, going 3-6 during that span, 3-3 in the games he has started. National League Brad Penny didn't pitch very well, but his grand slam in the third inning helped propel the St. Louis Cardinals to a 9-5 win over the LA Angels and the pitcher Penny replaced on the Cardinal roster, Joel Pineiro. Penny allowed four runs over three complete innings, but was forced to leave the game suffering from back problems. That wasn't until after manager Tony LaRussa decided to let the big man hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the third. Penny launched a drive into the left field seats that put the Cardinals up, 9-4, and pretty much finished off Pineiro, who was released by the Cardinals after winning 15 games for them in 2009. Pineiro had entered the game with a scoreless streak of 17 1/3 innings, but Penny and the St. Louis regulars put that to an early end, scoring twice in each of the first two innings before tacking on five more in the third. After Penny's blast, Pineiro gave up a solo shot to Felipe Lopez, walked Ryan Ludwick, but got out of the inning by getting Holliday to ground into a fielder's choice. He was lifted for a pinch hitter in the 4th after being tagged for nine hits and nine runs. Penny tried to start the fourth inning, but was relieved after throwing just a few warmup pitches. His homer was the thrid of his career, and his first grand slam. QUICK HITS: Andre Ethier, the Dodger slugger who has been putting up Triple Crown-worthy stats, was placed on the 15-day disabled list and will miss between two to six weeks with a broken finger. Edwin Encarnacion, recently returned from the DL, blasted three sol homers for the Blue Jays - who hit six as a team - in their 8-6 loss to Arizona.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Players of the Day for Thursday, May 20, 2010 American League Quickly establishing a reputation as a ferocious hitter, Texas outfielder, Nelson Cruz, has been feasting upon American League pitching all season long. After belting 33 homers and driving in 76 runs in 2009, Cruz is well on his way to surpassing those figures this season. Cruz got his fill of Oriole starter Brian Matusz, dining him for a first inning, three-run homer that put Texas up early en route to a 13-7 win over Baltimore. Matusz lasted only 2 1/3 innings - allowing 8 hits and 7 earned runs - but Cruz and the Rangers were just getting started. Texas batters eventually banged out 20 hits. Cruz had four of them. After his 8th homer of the season, Cruz raked three singles, drove in another run and scored two more times. He's batting .330 and has driven in 30 runs. The Rangers 4th straight win kept them in first place in the AL West, four games better than the A's and 4 1/2 ahead of the Angels. Baltimore remains mired in last place in the AL East, with the worst record in the majors, at 13-29. National League Mark Reynolds keyed a 5-run Arizona 5th inning with his 11th homer of the season, a two-run blast, that chased Giants' starter, Tim Lincecum, in the Diamondbacks' 8-7 win over San Francisco. Those runs proved to be not enough, as the Giants rallied back for five of their own in the top of the sixth, putting them ahead, 7-5. Arizona responded, tying the game when Reynolds doubled in a run and came home on Chris Young's double. Reynolds was again at the plate with runners on first and third in the bottom of the 8th, when Giants' reliever Jeremy Affeldt uncorked a wild pitch, sending Conor Jackson home with what proved to be the winning run. Even though Reynolds is batting just .221, he's tied for second in the league in home runs and his 33 RBI are enough for third place in that category. The win was Arizona's second straight over the Giants, but the D-Backs remain in last place in the NL West, 6 1/2 games behind the Padres.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Players of the Day for Wednesday, May 19, 2010 American League With their 5-1 win at Oakland on Thursday, the Detroit Tigers have clawed their way to within one game of first place in the AL Central division. While Boston was topping division-leading Minnesota by a 3-2 score, Tiger fans were cheering on their ace, Justin Verlander, pitching what appears to have been his best outing of the season. Improving his record to 5-2, Verlander mowed down all but five A's batters, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out five in a complete game victory, his first of the season. Verlander threw 114 pitches, 80 for strikes and wasn't touched up for a run until the bottom of the 8th inning, after his teammates had already put a five-spot on the scoreboard. He finished strong, retiring the side in the 9th inning in order, getting Ryan Sweeney on strikes to end the game. Following a 1-2 start, Verlander has converted his last four starts into victories, allowing just five earned runs in 30 innings during that span. National League Winners of nine straight, the LA Dodgers welcomed the first-place Padres into Chavez Ravine with a shot at taking over first place at the conclusion of their 2-game series, but those hopes were dashed as the Padres took advantage of weak LA pitching, posting a one-sided, 10-5 win which kept San Diego two games in front of the Los Angelinos. The Padres jumped on LA starter Ramon Ortiz quickly, scoring a run in the first inning, 2 more in the third and 5 in the fourth, capped by an Adrian Gonzalez (left) three-run homer after the Dodgers had replaced on Ramon for another. The Gonzalez homer came off Ramon Troncoso, who didn't retire a batter, allowing a single to David Ecksein, Gonzo's stroke and another homer by third baseman Chase Headley. Ortiz was tagged for 5 runs in 3 1/2 innings; Troncoso credited for allowing three. Gonzalez accounted for the two runs in the second with a single which plated a pair, and finished the scoring in the 9th by driving home Will Venable (right), who went 4-for-4, scored 4 times and drove in a run with a single, two doubles and a triple. The six RBI by Gonzalez gave him 25 for the season, well behind league-leader Andre Ethier, who has 38, but missed the game due to a broken bone in his right pinky finger. Ethier has already lost one third of his triple crown lead, as Kelly Johnson hit his 12th homer (Ethier has 11) in Arizona's 13-1 stampede over the Giants. The Gonzalez homer was his 9th of the season. The Dodgers host the Padres again on Thursday, before the two part ways for inter-league play beginning Friday. The Giants remain sandwiched between them, 1 1/2 games behind San Diego in the division.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Players of the Day for Tuesday, May 18, 2010 American League After losing a season-high 5 straight games, the Oakland A's needed something to shake them out of the doldrums. A brief visit from Northern rival Seattle provided the perfect tonic to get them back on track. Seattle, in Oakland for a two-game series prior to inter-league play, dropped the first game on Monday, 8-4, but battled to a 4-3 lead in the 7th. In the bottom of the frame, however, A's catcher Kurt Suzuki - who had already singled in a run in the first and doubled and scored in the third inning - reached base by being hit by a pitch, advanced to third on Kevin Kouzmanoff's single that scored Ryan Sweeney, and trotted home with the leading run on an Eric Chavez sac fly. The lead didn't hold up, as the Mariners re-tied the game in the 8th. It stayed that way until the bottom of the 10th, when Cliff Pennington walked, took second on a long floy out and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After an intentional walk to Ryan Sweeney, with the winning run 90 feet away, Suzuki delivered again, poking a single up the middle to plate Pennington for the 6-5, 10th-inning win. Suzuki has only played in 20 games this season, but his steady leadership should help the A's through the long summer months. Oakland has managed to hold onto second place in the AL West, trailing the Rangers by 2 games. The A's retuned to .500 ball. They are 20-20. National League Florida's Josh Johnson wasn't about to let the circus atmosphere affect him after the benching of star shortstop Hanley Ramirez has incited clubhouse squabbles and fan irritation. Instead, he focused himself on the task at hand, producing seven innings of shutout ball on just 2 hits for an 8-0 Marlins win over the visiting Diamondbacks. Johnson gave up the two hits and also walked a pair and hit a batter over the first five innings, but induced a double play to end the fifth and finished strong, setting down the next six in a row. With the game's result no longer in doubt after the marlins scored five times in the 6th, Johnson was lifted after completing seven innings and 104 pitches. Working over the Arizona lineup, Johnson recorded 9 strikeouts, including Kelly Johnson twice and slugger Mark Reynolds three times. His seasonal total of 63 is second only to San Fran's Tim Lincecum in the National League. Johnson's been phenomenal this season, going 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 9 starts. His performances have helped the Marlins to second place in the NL East, 4 games behind the Phillies. As for the feud between Hanley Ramirez - who was benched after not hustling after a ball he had kicked down the left field line - and manager Fredi Gonzalez, that situation has to be simmered, and quickly. After all, it's early in the season and the Marlins are playing well. Anybody who's seen Ramirez play this season has to sense an attitude of nonchalance about him, even though his play has been nothing special (.293, 7 HR, 20 RBI). He deserved to be benched for not just that play, but other times in which he has appeared to not be giving it his all. Sniping back at the manager isn't exactly going to win him any awards for tactfulness, and he needs to man up and apologize to Gonzalez, his teammates and the fans, who deserve better. Ramirez is the highest-paid player on the roster, and he should consider that status an honor, act like a team leader and maybe just grow up a bit. QUICK HITS: The LA Dodgers won their 9th straight on Tuesday, topping the visiting Astros by a 7-3 score. Their re-emergence has significantly tightened the NL West race. The stubborn Padres are still on top, though their lead is only 1/2 game over San Francisco with the Dodgers another 1/2 game behind them. LA will have a chance to take first place away from San Diego when the Padres visit on Wednesday and Thursday prior to both teams heading into inter-league play on Friday.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Players of the Day for Monday, May 17, 2010 American League When the Yankees and Red Sox get together, fans normally expect something of a wild time, so the opening of a two-game series at New York - a highly-anticipated event - did not disappoint as the hitters had their way with starting pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and New York's Phil Hughes. Matsuzaka lasted only 4 2/3 innings, while Hughes managed to get through five, with neither earning a decision. The Red Sox forged an early 6-1 lead and eventually knocked out 5 homers against Yankee pitching, but it was the home team's two home runs - both coming in the 9th inning off closer Jonathan Papelbon - which carried the day and extended the Yankee home winning streak over the Sox to eight straight with an 11-9 victory. With Boston clinging to a 9-7 lead, Alex Rodriguez (left), who had singled in a pair of runs earlier, tied the game with his 5th home run of the season, a 2-run shot to the deepest part of the park. Papelbon managed to get Robbie Cano, but plunked Fancisco Cervelli, setting the stage for Marcus Thames (right), who did what he does best, hammering a Pepelbon offering into the left field stands for a 2-run, walk-off homer. The blast was Thames' second of the season, in limited playing time. Both Thames and Rodriguez collected 4 RBI on the night. The Yanks kept pace with Tampa Bay, who also won, maintaining their 2-game lead on New York. Boston dropped 8 1/2 off the pace, mired in 4th place in the division. National League Ryan Howard hasn't been lighting up opposing pitchers too often this season, though he'd been having a decent year heading into the opener of a quick, two-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates. On Monday, Howard broke out the good wood, singling twice - one driving in a pair of runs - before putting the game on ice with his 7th bomb of the year, a grand slam that completed the final score of 12-2, and another Philadelphia win, their 4th straight and 8th of their last 10. Howard, the 2006 NL MVP and a candidate for the award every year, is beginning to pick up the leaders in the power categories, with little doubt that he'll be among the top three or four in RBI and home runs by season's end. He's four behind Andre Ethier and Kelly Johnson in the HR race, and his 29 RBI have him tied with another power player, St. Louis' Albert Pujols. Both are chasing Ethier, who has amassed 38 in an early display of West coast domination. Ethier and the Dodgers have won 8 straight and are within 2 games of division-leading San Diego, with the Giants sandwiched in between, 1 1/2 out. The Phillies, meanwhile, are threatening to turn the NL East into their own private show, leading the rest of the division by 5 games. They've won the division three straight years.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Players of the Day for Sunday, May 16, 2010 American League Here come the Angels, and there go the A's. After a rough start to the season, Joel Pineiro is getting his act together, and the Angels are loving it. Pineiro extended his scoreless streak to 18 innings, setting down the A's on 4 hits with a complete game 4-0 shutout. The win completed a 3-game sweep for the Angels, getting them to just 1/2 game back of the upstart - and fast-fading - Athletics. The A's have lost 5 straight and are 2 games behind AL West-leading Texas, looking over their shoulder at the onrushing Angels. Pineiro has been just short of brilliant over his last three starts, though this was the first win he's had in nearly a month. Sunday's outing was his best work of the season, needing just 98 pitches to get through the entire game, striking out 5 and giving up just one walk, which came in the 9th inning, the only frame in which he allowed more than one baserunner for the A's. His record improved to 3-4; the scoreless inning streak will likely continue when Pineiro next takes the mound at St. Louis this coming Friday as interleague play begins. The Cardinals let Pineiro go after posting a 15-12 record for them in 2009. National League As the month of April came to a close, the Atlanta Braves saw their season slipping away in an uncharacteristic 9-game losing streak. Outscored 44-17, the Braves were suffering from poor pitching and a lack of offense. Bobby Cox, in his final season managing the team, made a few minor adjustments and hoped for the best. One move was to push 2nd baseman Martin Prado up the lineup, from third to the second spot. That helped, and the Braves began winning again, to the tune of 10 of their last 15. The leadoff spot was still a problem, however, and this past Friday, Cox finally pulled the plug on Nate McLouth, who's batting average had sunk to .167. Prado moved into the leadoff spot and responded with a pair of hits, one a 9th inning, 2-RBI single that sent the Braves to a 6-5 win over Arizona. McLouth, delegated to the #8 spot, also responded with a 3-run homer. On Sunday, Prado is still adjusting to batting first in the order, but he seems to be getting the hang of it. In Atlanta's 13-1 pounding of the Diamondbacks, Prado led off with his 5th homer of the season, singled in the 3rd, led off the 6th inning with another solo shot, then finished the Atlanta scoring by singing home McLouth in the 8th. Prado's line for the day: 4-for-6, 2 homers, 3 RBI, 2 runs. He's batting .323, his 50 hits good for second in the NL, behind the Cubs' Marlon Byrd (51). Better yet, the Braves are winning again, now just one game under .500, at 18-19.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Players of the Day for Saturday, May 15, 2010 American League Having to face the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox repeatedly throughout the season, the Toronto Blue Jays seem to have figured out a way to hang in the rugged AL East: beat up on the Central and West division teams. While the Jays are just 5-7 in their own division, they are 10-4 against the Central and 7-5 against teams from the West, including their last two straight over the first place Rangers. Though the Rangers are atop their division and the Jays in 3rd in the East, Toronto has the better record - 22-16 vs. 20-17 - after beating up on Texas, 16-10, Friday, and dominating them Saturday in a 6-0 whitewash. Ricky Romero (left) did the blanking, winning for the third time in his last four starts, giving up 5 hits while fanning a career-high 12 batters. Romero dominated the top of the Texas order, allowing just 2 hits in 16 total at-bats and fanning Michael Young 3 times and all star outfielder Josh Hamilton 4 times on strikes. In just his second year in the majors, Romero is quickly becoming on of baseball's brightest young stars. After going 13-9 with Toronto in 2008, he's off to a 4-1 start this season with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. He's part of the reason the jays are just 4 games behind the streaking Rays and 3 behind the 2nd place Yankees. Providing all of the offense Romero would need was Jose Bautista (right), who blasted a pair of homers and an RBI single to tally 5 RBI on the day. Bautista whacked a solo shot in the 5th to put the Jays up 2-0, singled in a run in the 6th for a 3-0 lead, and put the game away for good in the 8th with his 9th homer of the season, a 3-run bomb to left center. Bautista is off to the best start of his career in the power department, with 28 RBI. His batting average, .237, continues to rise as the Blue Jays improve on the road, where they are 13.6. National League Philadelphia continues to keep a tight hold on first place in the NL East, leading the pesky Nats by 3 games after beating up Milwaukee pitching on Saturday in a 10-6 win. The Phillies are now 8-1 against Central division teams as they seek the sweep over the Brewers on Sunday. Leading the charge for Philly was Shane Victorino, who has adjusted to batting leadoff while Jimmy Rollins nurses on the DL. Victorino singled, doubled and hit a 2-run homer in 6 at-bats, driving in four runs and scoring twice. The outing was Victorino's 3rd multi-hit game in his last four, his homer the 8th of the year and his 32 RBI not only lead the team (which is saying something, with sluggers like Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth in the lineup), but it's good enough for second in the league, tied with Milwaukee's Casey McGahee, both of whom are following the Dodgers' Andre Ethier, who leads the known universe with 38.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Players of the Day for Friday, May 14, 2010 American League Here's an idea for American League managers. You should avoid pitching to Alex Rodriguez with either the game on the line or the bases loaded. If faced with a situation in which both conditions exist, walking him might be your best course of action. Praying for a sudden thunderstorm might also apply. A-Rod sent his own form of instant message to all managers last night as the Yankees downed the Twins, 8-4, extending New York's dominance over the Central division leaders. The Twins scored a pair of runs in the top of the 7th inning to forge a 4-3 lead, but in the bottom frame, the Yankees mounted a rally on a single by Francisco Cervelli and a Derek Jeter double. After getting Brett Gardner to fly out, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire made a manager's decision, to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira and pitch to A-Rod with the bases chucked. Bad move. Gardenhire must not have checked his stats, because he brought in righty Matt Guerrier to pitch to Rodriguez, who had lifetime stats of 4-for-6 with 3 homers against him. Rodriguez launched his 4th home run of the season and 587th of his career - moving him past Frank Robinson and into 7th place, all time - over the left field wall, putting the Yanks up, 7-4, and eventually extending their home win streak against the Twinkies to 9 straight and 24 of the last 27. Ouch! The slam was the 19th of Rodriguez' career, tying him with Eddie Murray and trailing only Manny Ramirez (21) and Lou Gehrig (23). Checking A-Rod's numbers, he's averaged 41 homers and 1.36 grand slams over 14 full seasons. Turning 35 this August, he's probably got at least 4 more good years left in that magnificent body, so he'll probably pass the 600 mark and catch Sammy Sosa (609) this year, slide past Ken Griffery Jr. (630) in 2011 and then launch an assault on 700 and the rarified air of Ruth, Aaron and the steroid-induced 762 of the delusional Barry Bonds, who, fittingly, eventually will end up in second place, many hope. He'll pass Gehrig for carrer slams somewhere along the line, especially if managers keep walking people to get to him. National League There hasn't been a lot of noise coming from South Florida this season, but everybody knows that it's just a matter of time before the Florida Marlins make their presence known in the NL East race. On Friday, the Marlins took a big step forward, tying the Mets at 18-18 for third place in the division, four games behind the Phillies, with the surprising Nationals holding second, 1 1/2 back. The Marlins took their second straight home game from the Mets, 7-2, having already won the 4-game series opener by a 2-1 score on Thursday. Florida did their damage early, scoring four runs in the 2nd inning and 3 more in the 3rd. Dan Uggla keyed both rallies, starting the scoring with a 3-run homer in the 3rd, and finishing it with a solo shot in the 4th. Uggla's homers were his 7th and 8th of the season. The 4 RBI gave him 23 on the year. Uggla's averaged 30 homers and 90 RBI in his 4 seasons in the majors, all with the Marlins. He's on pace for nearly 40 and 100 this time around and if the Marlins make their usual mid-season surge, he's sure to be right in the middle of the action.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Players of the Day for Thursday, May 13, 2010 American League Break up the O's! For the fourth time this season, the Orioles are on a winning streak (2 straight), courtesy of the visiting Seattle Mariners' generous bullpen. After the O's evened their 3-game series with a 5-2 win on Wednesday, Seattle ace Felix Hernandez seemed to have a win pretty well gift-wrapped after holding the O's to one run over 7 innings while his teammates were scoring 5 runs in support. With a 4-run lead, Brandon League came on to start the 8th and that's when the fireworks began. Corey Patterson lifted a fly over the scoreboard in right field to cut the lead to 3, but League came right back and struck out Adam Jones on a swinging third strike wild pitch. Jones scampered down the line, ending up safe at first. Then it really got interesting. Nick Markakis singled to left, with Jones advancing to second. Miguel Tejada grounded into a fielder's choice, with Markakis out at second. Ty Wigginton walked, loading the bases for Luke Scott, who cashed his 6th homer of the season to deep left center, putting to O's up by a run. League got the next two batters, but the damage had been done. Alfredo Simon came on in the 9th to record his 5th save as the O's won, 6-5. Scott's slam upped his RBI total to 14, well below his expectations at this point in the season. He hit 23 homers in 2007 and 25 in 2008, so he's on track to better those totals in 2009, but the batting average has suffered. Despite his homer and earlier single in 4 at-bats, Scott's average is still only .213, part of the reason the O's have struggled so mightily this season. Baltimore looks to extend their streak to 3 games when they host the first of a 3-game series with Cleveland on Friday. A win would equal their longest win streak of the season, when they swept Boston, April 30-May 2. National League Beating the Rockies, 14-6, in 8 innings, the Nationals posted what appears to be a mercy rule score, but the game was actually called due to rain before the final frame. Not that it mattered very much. Washington's back-end relievers have been absolutely nails this season, so the chances for the Rockies to get back into it were roughly slim to none. Colorado pitchers had a difficult time keeping Washington players off the basepaths, especially Ryan Zimmerman, who admittedly wasn't on them all that much, banging a 2-run and a 3-run homer in the 1st and 5th innings, respectively, before driving in another run and scoring as part of a 7-run uprising by the Nats in the top of the 8th. Zimmerman's 3-for-6, 6 RBI, 3 run effort gave the slugging 3rd baseman 8 dingers on the year with 22 RBI and a .319 batting average. Better yet, it kept the Nationals in second place in the NL East, just one game behind the idle Phillies. The Nats banged out 16 hits in the win, the first of a 4-game set at Colorado. Each of the starting position players had at least one hit, except catcher Ivan Rodriguez. San Diego's Mat Latos (right) twirled a 1-hit shutout and singled in the game's only run as the Padres topped the Giants, 1-0, completing the road sweep of their closest competitor in the NL West. with the three-fer, San Diego has opened up a 3 1/2 game lead on San Fran, with the dodgers looming in 3rd place, 5 games back. Latos (3-3) was nearly perfect, setting down the first 15 Giants in order before giving up just the lone single to Eli Whiteside, leading off the 6th inning. After getting the Gaints' catcher on a fielder's choice - which was almost a double play - Latos proceeded to put down the remaining 11 would-be hitters in order without walking a single batter and striking out six overall. QUICK HITS: The Yankees have probably seen enough of Detroit for this season, as the Tigers finished up their 4-game series by blanking them, 6-0, behind a strong 6 1/3 innings by starter Justin Verlander, who walked 4 and fanned 4 while keeping the Yanks off the scoreboard. Two relievers finished up the job, resulting in the Tigers taking 3 of 4 from the World Champs. That outcome pushed the Tigers to within 2 1/2 of Minnesota in the Central while dropping the Yankees 2 games back of Tampa Bay in the East. Both the Twins and Rays, respective division leaders, were idle on Thursday.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Players of the Day for Wednesday, May 12, 2010 American League Could this be the beginning of the end for the Oakand A's? After knocking off the Rangers in the first game of their 3-game set on Tuesday, the A's ran smack into a tough lefty Wednesday afternoon in Arlington by the name of Derek Holland (left). Called up for his first major league start of the season after going 4-1 with a 0.93 ERA in six starts for Oklahoma City, Holland stymied the A's on 5 hits over 6 innings, striking out 7, allowing just one walk and no runs. Last season Holland went 8-13 with a 6.12 ERA in 33 games for Texas, but he's retooled his game to become part of the Rangers' starting rotation. With the 10-1 win, the Rangers snapped a tie for first place in the AL West with the upstart A's. Texas now owns a 1-game advantage, with the rubber game Thursday afternoon. On the offensive side of things, the Rangers racked up 5 homers against A's hurlers, including Josh Hamilton's (right) 7th of the season, a 2-run, 5th inning shot that put the Rangers ahead, 4-0, adding to the disdain for Oakland pitching. Hamilton added a couple of singles on the day, going 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and a couple of runs scored. Hamilton's off to a pretty steady start, batting .285 with the 7 homers and 23 RBI. National League Something's happening in Cincinnati, and it's affecting their pitching staff in wonderful ways. Maybe it has something to do with playing the Pirates, but a day after Johnny Cueto tosses a 1-hitter for a 9-0 Reds' win, Homer Bailey comes out and throws a 4-hit complete game for another Reds win, this one by a 5-0 score, sweeping the Pirates in Pittsburgh, and quietly creeping to within one game of Central division-leading St. Louis. Bailey picked up his first win of the season against 2 prior losses and notched the first complete game and first shutout of his brief career. Bailey has started just 44 games in four partial seasons with the Reds. Needing only 90 pitches, Bailey scattered the four hits without giving up a walk while fanning six different Pittsburgh would-be hitters. The Reds get a day off Thursday, as the Cardinals finish up their series with Houston before the two meet up for a crucial three-game series in Cincinnati beginning on Friday. If Cincy can manage to take two of three from the reigning division champs, they would be either 1/2-game ahead or behind, depending the outcome of the Cardinals' Thursday game. A Reds sweep would give them the outright lead regardless. Should be a fun weekend for NL Central fans. QUICK HITS: Might as well call him Andre the Giant (or Giant killer?). Andre Ethier is feasting on National League pitching early this season. Bashing his 11 home run this season in Wednesday's series-sweeping 6-3 win over Arizona, Ethier now leads the NL Triple Crown categories outright with a .385 batting average (his 1-for-4 effort dropped him down from .390), 11 dingers and an eye-popping 37 RBI. The sweep got the Dodgers back to a respectable 17-17 record, though they still trail the Padres by 4 1/2 games in the NL West.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Players of the Day for Tuesday, May 11, 2010 American League Some players get hot; others, like Evan Longoria, simply hit a certain stride and keep on going. After a pretty fair start, which had the 3rd baseman batting .297 with 3 homers and 13 RBI, Longoria has brought it up a notch against opposing pitchers. Over this last 16 games, he's hit .359, with 5 home runs and 16 RBI, getting his 8th home run of the season as the Rays improved their lead over the rained-out Yankees with a 7-3 win at LA. Already leading 2-0 in the 5th inning, Longoria knocked home Jason Bartlett with the Rays' 3rd run of the game. In the 6th, he launched home run #8, with two men aboard, upping his RBI total to 29, good for second place in the AL behind Miguel Cabrera (33). The Rays continue to hold onto the best record in the majors, at 23-10. They also have, by far, the best road record, 14-4, and will put that to the test Wednesday night in their rubber game against the Angels, who took the series opener by a 5-4 score in 11 innings. National League Other than a third inning single to Ronnie Cedeno, Johnny Cueto didn't give the Pittsburgh Pirates anything, twirling a 1-hit gem as the Reds topped their NL Central rivals by a 9-0 score. When Cedeno came to the plate again in the 6th inning, Cueto plunked him, making him not only the only Pirate to reach base, but the only one to do so twice. As luck would have it, Cedeno never made it to second base - nobody did - as he was thrown out attempting to steal by catcher Ramon Hernandez. (No wonder Cueto plunked him; who tries a two-out steal when you're down 3-0?) Cedeno led off the 9th inning, and this time, Cueto wasn't kidding around. The only batter with whom he had an issue, Cueto set him down on strikes, then proceeded to finish off the final two batters without incident. Of his 102 pitches, 67 went for strikes. Cueto was very judicious in getting his men out. He nailed down 8 on strikes, another 8 on ground balls and 11 by air. The win was only Cueto's second of the season, against one loss. He carries a 4.07 ERA, but what's important is that the win was the Reds' 4th straight, quietly inching them to within 2 games of division-leading St. Louis. At 18-15, the Reds join the Cards as the only NL Central teams with winning records. Cincy is 3 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Players of the Day for Monday, May 10, 2010 American League Rookie Brennan Boesch has been lighting it up for the Tigers of late, batting .340 with 14 RBI in just 47 at-bats, so it didn't come as much of a surprise to the Tiger faithful when the left fielder socked a triple in the 7th inning, knocking in teammate Miguel Cabrera, to put the Tigers ahead by a 5-2 score over the visiting Yankees, en route to a 5-4 win. Boesch had already singled home a couple of runs in the 1st inning, getting the Tigers off to a 2-0 lead. Following Boesch's 7th-inning triple, the Yankees rallied for a couple of runs in the 8th, but could not come all the way back, as reliever Jose Valverde truck out the side in the 9th for his 9th save of the season. Boesch fnished with 2 hits in 3 at-bats, with 3 RBI, looking - at this early juncture - very much like a viable candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. National League Things haven't been going too well for the Atlanta Braves early on, but they got a little bit of a lift from second baseman Martin Prado, who followed up a 5th-inning RBI with a 6th-inning grand slam to help the Braves knock off the Brewers, 8-2. Never one to be accused of swinging for the fences too often, the slam was the first of Prado's short career and only his 16th home run in just over 900 at-bats. The second baseman is a solid hitter, however, garnering an average of .302 last season and being promoted to the #2 spot in the lineup recently as the Braves have suffered from a lack of production. Unlike many of his teammates, Prado is off to a steady start in 2010, batting .315 with 14 RBI. He's scored 20 runs. The Braves have slumped to last place in the NL East, 6 games off the pace.