Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Suzuki Sends A's to 10th-Inning Win; Josh Johnson Rolls on for Marlins

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.

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