Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A-Rod, Thames Crush Red Sox in 9th; Ryan Howard Getting Into the Swing

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.

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