Sunday, June 27, 2010

Twins Blank Mets on Pavano 3-Hitter; Loney Delivers 4 RBI for Dodgers

Players of the Day for Saturday, June 26, 2010 American League With the Tigers and White Sox breathing down their backs, the Minnesota Twins could not allow their four-game losing streak to get any deeper, so a win against the Mets and their ace, Johan Santana, was a critical task for Saturday. Detroit was just 1/2 game back and the onrushing White Sox - winners of 10 straight - had drawn to within 1 1/2 games. Playing the Mets in New York wasn't exactly going to make matters any easier, as the Twins were 17-20 on the road. Minnesota's chances were quickly improved when the Twins busted out for four runs in the top of the first inning off Santana. After that, it was just a matter of starter Carl Pavano keeping the Mets' hitters in check, a task he performed with precision, blanking them. 6-0, for his first shutout of the season. It was Pavano's second straight complete game, and third this year. The Mets managed only three hits all day off Pavano, who has recorded wins in each of his last four starts. Throwing 75 of 110 pitches for strikes, he walked one and stuck out four, getting 12 more outs on ground balls and 7 on flies. Pavano improved to 9-6 and looms a solid choice for an All Star appearance. Better yet, the Tigers lost to the Braves, 4-3, though the White Sox extended their win streak to 11 - tying Texas for the longest in the majors this season - with a 3-2 win over the Cubs. Those results left Minnesota 1 1/2 ahead of both AL Central rivals. National League Considering all the attention usually focused around everything that happens in Los Angeles, the Dodgers haven't exactly been burning up the headlines lately. Part of the reason has to be the success of the teams to their South and North, the Padres and Giants, which currently control the top two spots in the NL West standings. The Padres lead San Fran by 3 1/2 games, and even though the Dodgers were just four games off the pace, their 9-4 win over the visiting NY Yankees on Saturday kept them in touch with the leaders. With much of the attention focused around Dodger manager Joe Torre coaching against his former team, center stage belonged to James Loney, who drove in four runs with a sac fly and a pair of well-timed singles, helping dispatch Yankee starter, A.J. Burnett, who pitched into the 4th inning but could not retire either of the first two batters he faced, as the Dodgers built an insurmountable 7-4 lead. Loney is quietly having what appears to be his best season since breaking in with the Dodgers in 2006. His two hits in four at-bats raised his batting average to .296 and he has 51 RBI, well on pace to better his total of 90, which he had in both 2008 and 2009. Though a big guy at 6'3", 220, Loney is not a power hitter. His five homers this season are about normal. His totals over the past three seasons were 15, 13 and 13. At the end of the day, the Dodgers were still in 3rd place in the division, 4 games back, with the Rockies another game behind them, though the Giants lost, improving San Diego's lead to 3 1/2 games.

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