Saturday, July 31, 2010

David Wright Belts a Pair, but Mets Lose Again; Jose Bautista Slams for MLB-Leading 31st Homer

Players of the Day for Friday, July 30, 2010 American League One of the names being bandied about in last-minute trade rumors is that of Blue Jay outfielder/third baseman Jose Bautista, and with good reason. Bautista has come from seemingly nowhere this season to lead the majors in home runs. In Toronto's 8-1 romp over Cleveland, Bautista was at it again, delivering a 4th inning grand slam that put the Blue Jays up 7-0. It was Bautista's 31st homer of the season and the four RBI upped his total to 79, tied for 4th in the AL with Minnesota's Delmon Young. Bautista went 3-for-3 on the night, adding a pair of inconsequential singles, but raising his batting average to .262, 20 points above his career mark. He's set personal bests in all three categories and is currently carrying a bat some contending teams would love to have in their lineups. National League The Mets fell to Arizona, 9-6, on Friday, but the score might have been a little different if a few players besides Jose Reyes and David Wright had shown up for the game. Wright and Reyes each had three hits, accounting for all but one of the team's total and Wright drove in all but one of the Mets' runs with a pair of homers - a three-run blast in the 1st inning and a two-run shot in the 3rd. Angel Pagan had the other hit and drove in the only run besides those produced by Wright. Wright's homers were his 16th and 17th and the five RBI moved him into second place in the NL RBI race with 74, trailing only Ryan Howard, who has 81. Struggling mightily since the all star break, the Mets can't seem to match up good pitching with good hitting, having now dropped 11 of their last 15 and falling into a tie for 3rd place with the Florida Marlins, 7 1/2 behind Atlanta in the NL East. The Braves hold a 3 1/2 game lead over Philadelphia.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Anibal Sanchez 1-Hits Giants, Ends Posey Streak; Carlos Pena Stars as Rays Win 6th Straight

Players of the Day for Thursday, June 29, 2010 American League When the Detroit Tigers traveled to play the Tampa Bay Rays in a four-game series, it was supposed to have been a showdown between two of the top AL contenders. By the time it was all over, some fans were wondering why only one team showed up as the Rays swept the slumping Tigers, finishing them off with a 4-2 win Thursday night. After taking the first three games handily, by scores of 5-0, 3-2 and 7-4, game four was all Carlos Pena, the slugging first baseman who's struggled to keep his batting average over .200 all year. Pena drove in all four runs for the Rays, going 3-for-4, with a solo homer in the 2nd inning, a singled that plated a pair of run in the 3rd and another RBI single in the 8th. Despite the low batting average (.216), Pena is among the league leaders in home runs (23) and RBI (68). The four straight home wins by the Rays bettered the Yankees' output in Cleveland, where they won three of four, keeping the AL East race a tight, 2-game lead for New York. The Tigers, meanwhile, have all but fallen out of contention in the AL Central, dropping four straight and 12 of 15 since the all star break, dropping six games off the pace of the Chicago White Sox, winners of four straight. Minnesota remains comfortably in second place, 1 1/2 games out, having won their last five. National League San Francisco catcher Buster Posey was looking to tie Willie McCovey's franchise mark for rookies of 22 straight games with a hit when he and his Giant teammates ran into Anibal Sanchez and the Florida Marlins. Sanchez (8-6) had all of the Giants' would-be hitters off-balance as he twirled a one-hit shutout, his first complete game of the season, retiring the first 13 in order before Jose Uribe reached with one out in the 5th on an error by first baseman Jorge Cantu and Pablo Sandoval followed that up with a bloop single to center. Sanchez got out of the inning without suffering further damage and didn't allow another hit the rest of the way, finishing with 8 strikeouts and one walk in Florida's 5-0 win. Posey had just three cracks at Sanchez, but he struck out in his first two plate appearances and grounded into a double play after Aubrey Huff had walked to lead off the 7th inning. His piece of immortality will have to wait, though it seems certain to come at some point. Posey is batting .358 and is the leading candidate for NL rookie of the year. For Sanchez, his first shutout and complete game since his rookie season of 2006 has him believing in himself again and adding to the Marlins' hopes of running down the Braves in the NL East. The win put Florida at .500 (51-51), 7 1/2 games behind Atlanta, in 4th place. The Phillies are 2 1/2 back, the Mets trail the Braves by 6 1/2. The Giants lost a game to the Padres, 3-2 winners over LA, but are still alone in second place, 3 1/2 games out.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Phillips, Votto Smash Brewers; Trevor Cahill Shuts Down Rangers

Players of the Day for Wednesday, July 28, 2010 American League With a 7 1/2 game lead in the AL West, deep in the heart of Texas many are thinking that the divisional race is all but over. Don't tell that to the Oakland A's. The A's evened their three-game series with the Rangers by taking the second game, 3-1, exactly the score they were beaten by in the opener. Trevor Cahill came up big against the Rangers, blanking them on two hits over eight innings, walking three and fanning four. Coupled with the Angels' 7-3 loss to Boston, it's now the A's, not the Angels, in second place. Since the all star break, Oakland has kept pace with the Rangers, going 8-3 while the Rangers were 9-4. The Angels have fallen on hard times, with a 5-8 record over the same span, losing their last four straight and have fallen into third place 8 1/2 games out. Cahill (10-4) has started three times against Texas this season and has recorded two wins and one no decision, though the A's won that game. On Wednesday, he allowed just one hit until the 4th inning, when Josh Hamilton singled, sending Vlaimir Guerrero, who had earlier walked, to third base, but Cahill stuck out Nelson Cruz to get out of the inning. He didn't allow a hit after that, turning the ball over to the bullpen after eight innings. The Rangers scored their only run of the game off reliever Michael Wuertz in the 9th, but Craig Breslow came in and fanned Hamilton and Cruz to end the game. National League St. Louis and Cincinnati are dead even again in the NL Central... almost. The Reds have played two more games than the Cardinals, and have one more win and one extra loss, so technically, the Cards lead the division by .001. While St. Louis was busy blowing leads to the Mets, finally winning in 13 innings on (who else?) Albert Pujols' RBI single, Brandon Phillips (left) and Joey Votto (right) were taking care of business in Milwaukee with a 10-2 win. The Brewers were leading until the top of the 6th, when Phillips singled, stole second and scored on Votto's single to right. The Reds would score four more in the frame, and their bullpen wouldn't allow another Milwaukee run. In the 8th, the Reds scored five more runs, four of them on Phillips' grand slam, his 14th homer of the year. Votto put his stamp on the game with his league-leading 26th homer, a solo shot to center. The Cardinals and reds have been locked into this duel pretty much all season, leaving the rest of the division in their dust. The two next meet for a three-game series in Cincinnati on August 9, 10 and 11. Still Streaking: Absolutely the hottest rookie in either league, Buster Posey extended his hitting streak to 21 straight with a single in the third inning of San Francisco's 10-9, 10-inning win over the Marlins. Posey has now matched Josh Hamilton and Jose Guillen for the longest streak in the majors this season and is within one of tying Willie McCovey's franchise record of 22 straight. The San Francisco catcher will have his chance on Thursday night when the Giants seek to sweep their three-game set with the Marlins.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ryan Howard Keeping Phillies in NL East Race; Jose Bautista Socks a Pair, Leads Majors

Players of the Day for Tuesday, July 28, 2010 American League Even though the Blue Jays are 12 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, they are still over .500 (52-49) and night after night put a solid team n the field. One of the reasons Toronto has been successful is the number of home run hitters on their roster, led by Jose Bautista, who is having a career year. The Blue Jays lead the majors with 154 homers, well ahead of 2nd place Milwaukee, with 132. In Tuesday's 8-2 drubbing of Baltimore, Bautista smacked his 29th and 30th round-trippers of the season, giving him a comfortable lead not only in the American League, but the entire majors. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is chasing him in the AL, with 24 dingers, and Joey Votto's 25 leads the NL. Bautista's 75 RBI are fifth-best in the AL. Bautista drove in five of Toronto's eight runs with the two blasts, a three-run shot in the 1st inning and a two-run drive in the 8th. He also singled twice and was walked once, going 4-for-4 on the night with three runs scored. National League The Atlanta Braves may be taking a few too many peeks in the rear view mirror, because their lead in the NL East has been shrinking fast and the Philadelphia Phillies appear larger with every look. As the Braves were losing their second straight and fourth of their last six in a 2-0 loss at Washington, the Phillies clubbed their way to their sixth straight win, a 9-5 laugher over the Diamondbacks. The Phillies have been closing the gap on the Braves and now trail them by just 3 1/2 games with the Mets 6 1/2 back and the Marlins 7 1/2 behind. Even though the Phillies haven't had great pitching outside of Roy Halladay, their hitters seem to be hitting their stride, especially Ryan Howard, who has been a model of consistency all season, but has lately pushed his game to another level. Howard smashed his 23rd home run of the season and drove in three runs, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. He singled in a run in the 3rd inning and walked and scored on Jayson Werth's home run in the 5th. After a rare throwing error in the top of the 6th that helped Arizona grab a 5-4 lead, Howard untied the 5-5 game with his two-run shot after which the Phillies never again trailed. Hoawrd's numbers are the stuff of MVP honors. His 23 homers are tied with Albert Pujols and Adam Dunn for 4th on the NL list, but his 81 RBI are tops in the National League. Pujols and Milwaukee's Corey Hart each have 70. Streak Notes: San Francisco's Buster Posey has really helped the Giants since joining the club in late May, but he's also on the verge of making some history in his rookie season. Posey singled home Aubrey Huff in the 4th inning of the Giants' 6-4 win over the Marlins, extending his hitting streak to 20 games and helping the Giants cut San Diego's division lead down to just 2 1/2 games. Posey has now tied Milwaukee's Corey Hart for the longest streak in the NL, and is one shy of tying for the longest streak in the majors, held jointly by Jose Guillen of KC and Texas slugger Josh Hamilton at 21 games, but Posey's is the only current streak of them all. He's also just two games shy of tying the Giant's franchise record of 22, held by immortal swatter Willie McCovey. One of the nice aspects of the streak is that they Giants have won 16 times in those 20 games. Posey is batting .366, but doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify as the official league leader, though he's well ahead of the current leader, Rafael Furcal, at .322. Posey would need about 4.5 plate appearances per game for the remainder of the season to qualify, but since he's young and durable, he might just make it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Matt Garza No-Hits Tigers; Joe Mauer Goes 5-for-5 with 7 RBI; Dan Uggla Leads Surging Marlins

Players of the Day for Monday, July 26, 2010 American League Tampa Bay has been relentless in their pursuit of the NY Yankees since being overtaken by them prior to the all star break. The Rays remained three games behind New York in the AL East on Monday thanks to the first no-hitter in Tampa franchise history, twirled by their ace Matt Garza in a 5-0 win over Detroit. While the Yankees were wrapping up a 3-2 win at Cleveland, down in Tampa, Garza was putting the finishing touches on a splendid pitching performance in which - thanks to a 5-4-3 double play that erased the only Tiger baserunner of the night, Brennan Boesch, who walked with one out in the second inning. After that Garza was the picture of perfection, setting down the next 21 straight batters for the fifth no-hitter in the major leagues this season. Garza (11-5) threw 120 pitches, of which 80 went for strikes. Striking out six, the only flaw was that 2nd inning free pass. In Kansas City, the Royals and Twins were playing an entirely different kind of game as the Twins sought to keep the pressure on front-running Chicago in the AL Central. Minnesota amassed 20 hits - including 7 doubles, 2 triples and 2 homers - in a 19-1 rout. A double and a three-run homer were part of the package Joe Mauer brought to the plate, going 5-for-5 with seven RBI and three runs, raising his batting average to somewhat pedestrian - for him, a three-time AL batting champ - .305. The Twins remained one game behind the White Sox, 6-1 victors over Seattle. National League The Florida Marlins hit a mid-season soft patch, but are putting together a nice second half run, winning their second straight and 8th of their last 11 since the all star break with a 4-3 win at San Francisco. The victory pulled the Marlins above the .500 mark - at 50-49 - and tied them with the Mets for 3rd place in the NL East, 7 1/2 games behind the Braves. Dan Uggla was instrumental in the win, banging his 19th home run of the season in the 4th inning and scoring on a sac fly in the 6th. Uggla went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs. The Marlins used six different pitchers to fend off the Giants in the first of a fur game series.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Kubel Slam Lifts Twins over Orioles; Kershaw Blanks Mets

Players of the Day for Sunday, July 25, 2010 American League In what has become the best divisional race of the summer, the Minnesota Twins clawed back to within one game of the White Sox in the AL Central with a 10-2 pasting of the Orioles in Baltimore. Taking full advantage of the band-box dimensions of Camden Yards, the Twins banged out 19 hits against a quartet of Oriole hurlers, with every player getting at least one base knock. Jason Kubel the the home run parade with his 12th of the year, a 3rd inning grand slam that put the Twins up 4-1 and ahead for the duration. Kubel added a pair of singles, but did not figure further in the scoring. Also homering were Jim Thome, who launched the 576th of his career, red-hot Delmon Young (14) and Jason Repko, who had his first of the season in the 9th inning. Other than Kubel's slam, the homers were all solo shots. The AL Central race continues to attract three teams. The Detroit Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak with a 6-5 win over Toronto in the back end of their day-night double header and are now just two behind the White Sox. National League Clayton Kershaw kept the Mets from touching home plate for eight innings, lifting the LA Dodgers to a 1-0 win as the Dodgers took three of four from the punchless New Yorkers. Kershaw allowed the Mets seven hits, but worked out of trouble in the 5th, 6th and 7th innings after setting them down in order in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The Dodger starter was aided by a double play and catcher Russell Martin, who gunned down Jose Reyes on his attempt to steal second base. The Dodgers had even fewer hits - four - but capitalized in the 8th inning when Martin doubled, sending Casey Blake around from first to score the game's only run for the 1-0 victory. Kershaw was relieved in the 9th by flame-throwing Kenley Jansen, who earned his first major league save with a perfect 9th inning which included a pair of strikeouts. The Mets took only the second game of the four-game set, 6-1. They were shut out, 2-0, in the series opener and lost, 3-2, in 13 innings on Saturday. The Dodgers continue to try to keep pace with the Padres, who lead the NL West by 3 games over the Giants. The Dodgers are 6 back, and the Rockies, losers of five in a row, have fallen 7 1/2 games off the pace. In the NL East, the Mets have lost eight of their last ten and are 7 1/2 behind Atlanta, with Philadelphia in second place, 5 games out. Florida is just 1/2 game behind the Mets.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

YDelmon Young 4-for-4 in Twins Win; Johnny Cueto Pitches Reds Back Into First

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 24, 2010 American League Along with Detroit, Minnesota continues to pursue the first place White Sox in the AL Central, and the Twins got a little bit closer Saturday as the Sox lost to Oakland, 10-2, while the Twins produced a 7-2 win at Baltimore. As he's been doing over the past few weeks, Delmon Young provided the spark with a 4-for-4 effort, including a two-run homer and a sac fly for 3 RBI in the win. Young has been on a tear, picking up the slack for the injured Justin Morneau. His home run was his 12th of the season, and he's moving up the leader board in RBI, with 73. He's had multiple hits in seven of his last ten games. The Twins closed the gap on the White Sox to two games. With the Tigers dropping a 3-2 decision to Toronto, the Twins took over second place by 1/2 game. National League When the Astros and Reds took the field Saturday in Houston, a lot of eyes were trained on Roy Oswalt, but once the action got started, Houston hitters were frustrated trying to locate Reds' starter Johnny Cueto's sliders and sinkers. With the trade deadline just a week on the horizon, a number of teams are looking at Oswalt as a possible addition, but he was roughed up by the Reds, who banged out nine hits and scored six runs in just five innings off the Houston hurler. Cueto, meanwhile was mowing down the Astros, allowing four hits and a walk while striking out six over 8 innings, improving his record to 10-2 and pushing the Reds back into first place in the NL Central with a 7-0 win. The Cardinals lost their third straight, a 6-5 decision to the Cubs, to fall 1/2 game behind the Reds.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Kelly Johnson Hits for Cycle, but D-Backs Lose; C.J. Wilson Extends Rangers AL West Lead

Players of the Day for Friday, July 23, 2010 American League The Texas Rangers are in first place in the AL West, and for a number of good reasons. First, they snatched up free agent Vladimir Guerrero from their chief rival, the LA Angels, in the off-season, depriving the Angels of a powerful bat in their lineup while adding it to their own. Second, the Angels can't keep up, partly because they also lost the only other power hitter in their lineup, Kendry Morales, in a freak June home plate celebration in which Morales broke his leg. Morales is out for the season. Third, they already had the nucleus of a solid batting order heading into the season and only needed some pitching to help bring home the AL West flag. And that brings us to reason number four, their pitching staff. Especially now that they've acquired Cliff lee from Seattle and Tommy Hunter (7-0) is back from the DL, they have a quality rotation which can match up with the best in the league. Proof of the Rangers' emergence in the pitching department is starter C.J. Wilson, who blanked the Angels Friday on four hits over 8 innings in a 1-0 triumph that extended the Rangers' lead to seven games. Wilson allowed hits in each of the first three innings, but settled into a groove after that, protecting the 1-0 lead provided by Michael Young's 1st inning solo homer. From the 3rd through the 8th innings, Wilson set down 15 straight Angels and did not walk a batter. Neftali Perez came on for the 9th, setting down the Angels in order for his 27th save, tops in the AL. Wilson has been the glue for the Rangers' pitching staff all season, never missing a start (20) and piling on the innings (127 2/3), while keeping the opposition at bay. Wilson picked up his 9th win against 5 losses in the win over the Angels, dropping his ERA to 3.03, which matches up nicely with his 1.20 WHIP. A converted reliever and closer, Wilson became a full-time starter this season and has flourished in the role, allowing opposing hitters a meager .203 batting average. The Rangers have taken the first two games of their series against the Angels and have two more, Saturday and Sunday. Should they sweep, the AL West race could be effectively over, with the Rangers up by what would be nine games. Unless the Angels come up with some answers, and in a hurry, they look to be second best in a division they've dominated for years. National League You know it's not your year when one of your players hits for the cycle and you still lose the game. Such was the case for the hopeless Arizona Diamondbacks in Friday's 7-4 loss to the Giants, as Kelly Johnson turned the trick with a 4-for-4 effort with 3 RBI and 2 runs. Johnson was the third player this season to hit for the cycle, following Milwaukee's Jody Gerut (May 8) and Texas' Bengie Molina, who did it exactly seven days ago. Getting the tough stuff out of the way with a solo home run in the first inning, Johnson was hit by a pitch and thrown out trying to swipe second base in the 3rd. After a ground rule double in the 5th and a two-run triple in the 6th, Johnson got the needed single leading off the 8th in his final at-bat, but was erased by a double play one batter later. The Diamondbacks are 20 games out in the NL West, but the Giants, 13-3 since July 5th, have taken over sole possession of second place, trailing the Padres by 3 games.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A-Rod Swats 599th; Hamels 1-Hits Cards as Phils Win in 11

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 22, 2010 American League Looking to open up some breathing room in the AL East, the Yankees opened a four game series in New York against the Kansas City Royals. By the end of the game, the Bombers had accomplished their aim, adding a 1/2 game to their lead over the Rays (now 3 games back) with a 10-4 win over their powerless AL Central opponent. Additionally, starter C.C. Sabathia, who struggled through 6 1/3 innings (11 hits, 3 ER), became the top winner in the AL, posting this 13th W of the season against just 3 losses. But it was Alex Rodriguez stealing the spotlight, belting his 599th career home run with none aboard in the 7th inning, putting him on the cusp of an historic mark and upping the Yankee lead to 6-4. Rodriguez had already knocked in a pair of runs with a ground rule double in the 2nd inning prior to his homer, and added another RBI in the bottom of the 8th with a double to the right-center gap as the Yankees tacked on four more runs. It was the 16th homer of the season for A-Rod, who went 3-for-5 with 4 RBI on the night. His four ribbies put him in second place in the AL RBI race, seven behind leader Miguel Cabrera of Detroit. Rodriguez, seeking to become only the 7th player all-time to reach the 600-homer plateau, will have ample opportunity to do it in front of the NY fans with three more games against the Royals this weekend. National League The St. Louis Cardinals are trying to hold onto first place in the NL Central. The Philadelphia Phillies are just trying to remain relevant in the NL East. Matching up Cole Hamels against St. Louis' Adam Wainwright Thursday night, neither team could find a way to the scoreboard while the two starters battled. Wainwright lasted just six innings, though he didn't allow a run while giving up six hits without a walk, fanning six. Hamels, however, twirled a gem over 8 solid innings, allowing only Matt Holliday's leadoff single in the 4th and a walk to Yadier Molina in the 8th before being lifted for reliever Ryan Madsen to start the 9th. Hamels struck out 8, including the first five batters he faced, set down the first 12 in order, but despite his awesome performance, did not receive a decision. Scoreless into the 11th, the Phillies finally broke through when Placido Polanco led off the inning with a solo homer. Jayson Werth drove in Raul Ibanez with an insurance run later in the frame. The 2-0 win kept the Phillies seven games behind the Atlanta Braves, 8-0 winners over San Diego. St. Louis maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over the Reds, who were outclassed by Washington, 7-1. Notes: The AL Central got a little bit tighter as both the Tigers and Twins won while the White Sox took a day off. Carl Pavano pitched a 5-hit complete game shutout for Minnesota's 5-0 win over the Orioles. Detroit stopped Toronto, 5-2. Both trail the White Sox by 2 games.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Billingsley Blanks Giants; Delmon Young Powers Twins Past Indians

Players of the Day for Wednesday, July 21, 2010 American League There's hot, and then there's Delmon Young, the Minnesota outfielder who has had six multiple-hit games over his last eight. As the Twins try to keep pace with the White sox and Tigers in the AL Central race, Young has provided better than a fair share of timely hits as Justin Morneau recovers from the concussion which has had him on the DL since July 8. In the series finale against the Indians Wednesday, Francisco Liriano and Young helped the Twins avoid being swept as the starter shut out the Indians for seven innings and Young drove in three runs with a double and two singles in five at-bats for the 6-0 victory. The win moved both the Twins and Tigers a little closer to the White Sox, who were stymied, 2-1, in Seattle while Detroit took care of business by dropping the Rangers, 4-1. Both are 2 1/2 behind the front-running Sox. Young's numbers over the past eight games have been terrific, batting .412 (14-for-34) with one homer and nine RBI. National League There is grumbling in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are five games over .500 (50-45), have a 24-8 record against the rest of the division, yet find themselves down in 4th place in the NL West, 6 games behind the San Diego Padres. Somehow, it just doesn't seem fair. With the Padres winning a 6-4 decision in Atlanta in 12 innings, the best the Dodgers could hope for was to just keep pace, as they entered the final game of their three-game home stand against the Giants, who had already taken the first two. LA got everything they wanted out of starter Chad Billingsley, who blanked the visitors on five hits for his first complete game shutout since 2008. Facing off against Giants' starter Barry Zito, Billingsley got little support in the 2-0 win, all of it courtesy of Casey Blake's solo home in the 2nd and RBI single in the 8th. Billingsley improved his record to 8-5, throwing 125 pitches to get the job done. The Dodgers remain home to start a four-game set with the Mets on Thursday, seeking to avenge a 3-game sweep by the New Yorkers back in April.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jose Bautista Belts MLB-Leading 26th; Aramis Ramirez Homers Three Times for Cubs

Players of the Day for Tuesday, July 20, 2010 American League Before the Kansas City Royals even had a chance, the Toronto Blue Jays had already put up a couple of runs, courtesy of Jose Bautista's two-run poke in the 1st, his major league-leading 26th of the year. Toronto added two more runs in each of the next two innings, making the score 6-0, as they cruised their way to a 13-1 triumph at Kansas City. Bautista singled in one of the runs in the 2nd, then plated two more and scored in the 8th with a double, finishing a 3-for-6. 5 RBI night, including the home run and two runs scored. Already well over his career best in the long ball department (previous best was 16 in 2006), Bautista's 5 RBI pushed him beyond his highest season total of 63 in 2007. The only thing not well above normal is his batting average, down at .241, just two points higher than his career mark of .239. The Jays picked up a game on the Yankees, who were losing to the Angels, 10-2, but are still well back, 11 1/2 games off the pace. National League On Tuesday, Cubs' manager Lou Piniella announced that this season would be his last, and maybe that inspired his squad to give a little extra effort. All of the position player had at least one hit in their 13-6 conquest at Houston, but Aramis Ramirez really put on quite a show, belting three home runs - a solo shot in the 4th and 3-run blasts in the 5th and 8th innings. The three drives accounted for 7 RBI. Ramirez struck out in his other two at-bats, but the Cubs mangled the Houston staff, one of the worst in the NL, with a 4.56 ERA, though Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Arizona are worse, at 4.83, 5.07 and 5.33, respectively. Having missed some time with injuries, Ramirez is still putting up respectable numbers, with 15 homers and 47 RBI in just 68 games. The Cubs are still keeping hope alive for their long-suffering fans and Sweet Lou, though they still trail the Cardinals by 10 1/2 games in the NL Central. They are tied with the Brewers, in third place, with the second place Reds just a 1/2 game behind St. Louis.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nelson Cruz Delivers for Rangers in 14th; Mark Reynolds Knocks Around Mets Pitching

Players of the Day for Monday, July 19, 2010 American League For 14 innings, the Tigers and Rangers - two teams with distinct possibilities for post-season play - battled over the first game of their three-game series in Detroit. 32 hits, 12 walks and five errors all culminated in one blast off the bat of Nelson Cruz, who delivered a two-run homer - his 12th of the year - in the top of the 14th, for an 8-6 Texas victory. Cruz had put the Rangers up 6-5 in the 7th inning with an RBI single, only to have the Tigers tie the game back up in the bottom of the 8th. He finished 3-for-6 with 4 RBI and also stole his 11th base of the season. The two contenders used a total of 13 pitchers in the marathon event, seven by the Rangers and six for the Tigers. The late-night finish put the Rangers five games ahead of the idle LA Angels in the AL West, while the Tigers dropped to 2 1/2 behind the sprinting White Sox, who hammered Seattle, 8-1. Minnesota fell to red-hot Cleveland (5 straight wins), 10-4, remaining tied with the Tigers in second place in the Central division. National League Poor Arizona. While the other four teams in the NL West are all above .500, the Diamondbacks have struggled down in last place, 20 games behind the division-leading Padres. Still, a few Arizona players are having excellent years, like Mark Reynolds. In Arizona's 13-2 defeat of the visiting Mets, the third baseman singled, tripled and homered, driving in four runs and scoring three times, as the Diamondbacks collected 18 hits off Mets' starter, Mike Pelfrey and four relievers. While the win did nothing for Arizona's prospects, the loss vy the Mets dropped them another 1/2 game behind idle NL East leader, Atlanta, now 5 1/2 clear of the second place New Yorkers, with Philadelphia another 1/2 game behind. In a development worth watching, Reynolds may become a prime trade candidate, especially in the case of the Reds, who might lose Scott Rolen shortly to the DL, as he took a cortisone shot in his right hamstring before the Monday's 7-2 win over the Nationals. The Reds' brain trust will decide within a few of days whether to put him on the 15-day DL or allow the All Star to play through whatever pain he might be suffering.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Paul Maholm Shuts Out Astros, 9-0; Yunel Escobar Slams for Toronto

Players of the Day for Sunday, July 18, 2010 American League As has been their style in recent years, the Toronto Blue Jays fell out of the AL East race as soon as the calendar turned from Spring to Summer, and are now 11 1/2 games out, in 4th place and fading. That the Jays can't compete in the heady division is no shame, though. The top three teams - Yankees, Rays and Red Sox - have the best combined record for any 1-2-3 teams in any division and the Yanks and Rays respectively have the two best records in the majors. Toronto battles on, winning Sunday's series finale in Baltimore with a 10-1 win and a sweep of the three games in Charm City. The Blue Jays lead the majors in home runs (140) by a healthy margin (Boston is second, with 122), and they had one on Sunday, but it came off the bat of the player least likely to send one over the fence, shortstop Yunel Escobar. The shot was not only his first of the year, but it happened with the bases loaded and put the Jays up by a 5-1 count in the second inning, essentially ending the contest right there. It's not like the 6'2", 200 lb. Escobar can't hit homers. He had 14 in 2009 after going yard 10 times in 2008 with the Braves. He was traded just days ago to the Blue Jays for their own starting shortstop, Alex Gonzalez in a five-player deal. In three games with the Jays, Escobar is batting .462, has 5 RBI and now, a homer, something he failed to do in 75 games with Atlanta this year. National League At 32-59, Pittsburgh has the worst record in the National League, but over their past two games - both wins against the Astros - you wouldn't know it. On Saturday, they out-slugged Houston, 12-9, and on Sunday, took the series, 2-1 with a 9-0 win on 19 hits and the arm of Paul Maholm (6-7). Every batter except Maholm had at least one hit, led by Ronnie Cedeno, who went 4-for-4 with three doubles. Paul Maholm tossed his first complete game since 2008 and first shutout since 2007, allowing three hits and no walks. He struck out just one batter, Angel Sanchez, who, oddly enough, had two hits off Maholm. The lefty needed just 102 pitches (70 strikes) to mow down the feckless Astros.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reid Brignac Stuns Yanks; Edinson Volquez Returns for Reds

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 17, 2010 American League Reid Brignac wasn't supposed to be in the lineup for the second of a three-game tilt with the Yankees, but his two homers and five RBI from the #9 spot in the order provided Tampa Bay with some surprise offense and a 10-5 win at New York. After Carlos Pena drove in evan Longoria with a double in the first, Brignac kept things going for the Rays in the 2nd inning with the first of his two bombs to right field, a two-run shot off Yankee starter A.J. Burnett, which did more damage than just the pair of runs. Following the inning, an angry Burnett slammed into a double door leading to the Yankee clubhouse, cutting both hands on the plastic lineup card holders attached to the doors. He was bandaged to start the third, but plunked Longoria, who scored again on a Pena single. Burnett was removed by manager Joe Girardi, the misfortune exacerbated by the fact that the Yankees had pulled to within one run (3-2) on Brett Gardner's 2-RBI single in the 2nd. After B.J. Upton made the score 5-2 with a sac fly in the 5th, Brignac put the game away with his second homer, this one a three-one belt, upping the lead to 8-2. Brignac was inserted in the lineup due to the absence of regular second baseman, Sean Rodriguez, who was a late arrival, attending to matters related to the flooding of his Redington Beach condo. It was Brignac's best game as a pro, going 3-for-5 with the two homrs, 5 RBI and 2 rruns. The win sliced the Yankee lead in the AL East to just two games over the Rays. After winning Friday's game in dramatic fashion, the teams will play the rubber game of the series Sunday. National League Finally returning after Tommy Jorn surgery to make his first start of the season, Edinson Volquez sparkled for the Reds as they rode his 6 innings of 3-hit work to an 8-1 win over Colorado. There was some skepticism after Volquez allowed a leadoff double to Dexter Fowler and an RBI single by Carlos Gonzalez in the first inning, but he retained composure, got out of the inning without further damage and proceeded to mow down the Rockies, striking out fur of the next six batters he faced, an fanning nine overall. After a two-out single by Clint Barmes, Volquez didn't allow another hit, yielding only a pair of walks to Rockies' second baseman, Jonathan Herrera. With Volquez slcing through the Colorado batting order, the Reds regulars were doing what they do best, piling up the runs. Though they only had five hits for the entire game, four of them were home runs, one each by Brandon Phillips and Jonny Gomes, and two by Drew Stubbs. All but Gomes' solo shot came off Rockies' starter Jorge De La Rosa, who walked five and surrendered seven runs, six of them earned. The return of Volquez to the Cincinnati rotation could not have come at a more opportune time for the Reds as they try to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals, reigning champs in the NL Central. St. Louis trails Cincinnati by just 1/2 game. The Reds have won two straight, but the Cardinals have won four in a row.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bengie Molina Slams, Hits for Cycle; Zito Shuts Out Mets on 2 Hits

Players of the Day for Friday, July 16, 2010 American League When Bengie Molina was traded by Seattle to Texas - making room on the Giants' roster for super prospect Buster Posey - nobody made much of the deal. Like his two brothers, Yadier and Jose, Bengie is a solid defensive catcher, but hardly a bog-time threat at the plate. Since joining the Rangers, Molina has proven to be just what he's supposed to be, an experienced receiver with limited plate potential, until Friday's 8-4 win at Boston, when he helped the Rangers maintain their 4 1/2 game lead over the Angels by hitting for the cycle. Molina's 4-for-4 night included the requisite single, double and triple, all of which proved inconsequential, but his 5th inning grand slam turned a 3-3 tie into a Ranger rout. It was only the 8th time in major league history that a player hit for the cycle and had a grand slam in the same game. The triple, completing the feat, didn't come until Molina's last at-bat, in the 8th inning. Slow of foot, Molina legged out onlythe 6th three-bagger of his 11-year career. National League Barry Zito had it going on Friday night. After striking out five of the first nine batters he faced - retiring all of them - Zito surrendered a leadoff single to Mets' shortstop Ruben Tejada, but only allowed one more hit for the remainder of his 8 stellar innings, a 7th-inning double by Carlos Beltran. Brian Wilson came on for the save in the 9th, and the Giants shut the Mets out for the second straight night, 1-0. On Thursday, Tim Lincecum twirled a six-hit complete game in a 2-0 win. It was the third time the Mets have been shut out in the last four games. Zito fanned 10 overall, walked two and allowed just the two hits, improving his record to 8-4 while keeping the Giants nestled snugly in third place in the torrid NL West. San Diego leads Colorado by 3 games, with the Giants and Dodgers both 3 1/2 back. In terms of the wild card, the Cardinals, Giants and Dodgers all trail the Rockies by 1/2 game. Notable: In their first game back after the All Star break, the NY Yankees paid tribute to deceased owner George Steinbrenner and public address announced Bob Sheppard, both of whom passed away in the past week, Nick Swisher paid tribute in his own special way. Swisher clubbed an 8th-inning solo homer to right field, tying the game with the Rays at 4-4, then singled home Curtis Granderson with two outs in the 9th for the 5-4 walk-off win. The Yankees improved their lead over the Rays to 3 games. The two teams play Saturday and Sunday and Yankee stadium. Minnesota slowed down the first place White Sox, ending their 9-game win streak with a 7-4 win. The Tigers could have tied the Sox for first place in the AL Central with a win, but dropped an 8-2 decision in Cleveland. Chicago leads the Tigers by a single game, and Minnesota by 3 1/2. Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a single in three at-bats.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Aybar Keeps Angles in Pursuit; Howard's 2 HRs to No Avail

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 15, 2010 American League In what's become a desperate chase of the Texas Rangers in the AL West, the LA Angels continue winning without making up any ground. After the Rangers won, 7-2, in Boston, the Angels took care of business at home, smacking the Mariners by an 8-3 score. Shortstop Erick Aybar got the Angels off to a quick start, singling and scoring in the first and sparking a three-run rally in the second inning by singling home a pair of runs, leading to a quick 4-0 lead. After the Mariners scored three times in the top of the 5th to close the gap to one run, Aybar again delivered a key blow, driving home another run, and then scoring on Bobby Abreu's double, finishing up 3-for-5 with 3 RBI and two runs scored. The Angels remain 4 1/2 behind the front-running Rangers. National League Getting his second half off to a rousing start, even if his teammates aren't yet on board, Ryan Howard belted a pair of homers and drove in four runs in a 12-6 loss to the Cubs. Howard started the scoring for the Phillies with a two-run blast in the 1st inning, but starter Jamie Moyer couldn't hold the lead, allowing two runs in the bottom of the 1st, another in the 2nd and three more in the 3rd. Chicago piled on 16 hits overall, and it wasn't until the 9th inning that the Phillies showed any life, scoring fur times in the frame, ending with Howard's second two-run bomb of the game. Howard has 19 homers to go with 69 RBI and a .298 batting average. The Phillies lost ground to the NL East-leading Braves, who won, 2-1, over Milwaukee, but remained 1/2 game behind the second place Mets, losers to Tim Lincecum and the Giants, 2-0. The Braves lead the Mets by 5 full games and Philly by 5 1/2. The Cubs are trying to get back into the NL Central race. They are tied for 3rd place with the Brewers, both teams 9 behind Cincinnati. Second place St. Louis is only 1/2 back of the Reds.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

At the Break: All-MLB All Stars

With another day off for all of baseball, it's time to announce Baseball On Deck's All-MLB All Stars, highlighting the players at each position who had the best first half. First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (.346, 22 HR, 77 RBI) Second Base: Robinson Cano, NY Yankees (.336, 16, 58) Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins (.301, 13, 53, 18 SB) Third Base: David Wright, NY Mets (.314, 14, 65, 15 SB) Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins (.288, 4, 35) Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers (.346, 22, 64) Outfield: Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays (.321, 11, 50, 70 R, 31 SB) Outfield: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (.314, 17, 60) Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jiminez, Colorado Rockies (15-1, 2.20 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 113 K) Middle Reliever: Luke Gregerson, San Diego Padres (43 1/3 IP, 2.91 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 53 K, 9 BB, 19 HLD) Closer: Mariano Rivera, NY Yankees (34 1/3 IP, 1.05 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 20 SV, 33 K, 6 BB)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Atlanta's Brain McCann Gives NL First Win in 13 Years

Players of the Day for Tuesday, July 13, 2010 ALL STAR GAME When Atlanta catcher Brian McCann stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and his National League team down 1-0 in the 7th inning, there was no thought of pinch-hitting for the all star reserve by manager Charlie Manuel. McCann was one of just two catchers on the team, and the fan selection, Yadier Molina, was already done for the night as McCann replaced him in the 5th, flying out to right field in his first at-bat. Now, with a chance to end the National League's lengthy losing streak to the American League - they hadn't won since 1996 - McCann was either going to be the man of the hour or just another footnote in the annals of National League frustration. There were two outs. The inning would either be extended or ended on his at-bat. Scott Rolen and Matt Holliday had already singled in the inning, and, after a walk to Chicago's Marlon Byrd, there was no place to put McCann for reliever Matt Thornton, on the mound in relief of Phil Hughes. On a 0-1 count, McCann got a pitch he could handle, about waist high, and drilled it down the right field line, clearing the bases, with Byrd motoring all the way from first base with the third run. All of a sudden, there was hope, and maybe a smattering of joy in National League cities around the country, as McCann came through with the most important hit - a two-out double - in over a decade. That McCann was even in the game to begin with was something of a fluke. There simply aren't that many good catchers in either league. Starter Molina's stats were barely better than McCann's, who entered the game batting .267, with 10 homers and 37 RBI, but his 3-RBI double earned him MVP honors and a warm place in the heart of many a National League fan. With the 3-1 victory, the eventual National League champion will have home field advantage in this year's World Series.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

George Steinbrenner, Yankees Owner, Dead at 80

The man who changed the face of baseball, ushering in an era of high-priced free agents and salaries soaring into the tens of millions of dollars and beyond, George Steinbrenner, owner of the NY Yankees since 1973, has died at the age of 80. Steinbrenner purchased the team in 1973 as majority parter of a group which included John DeLorean, Nelson Bunker Hunt and others from CBS for a reported $10 million, ending a long stretch of sub-par Yankee teams and quickly produced a pair of World Series championships in 1977 and 1978 and won 5 more during his tenure as owner, making 11 World Series appearances overall. Nicknamed "the boss" for his hands-on executive style, he became well known for hiring and firing managers on a whim, especially Billy Martin, who was hired and fired five different times during the 70s and 80s. Steinbrenner had recently turned over day-to-day operations to his sons, Hank and Hal and had been in ill-health for some time, rarely venturing outside his Tampa headquarters. Pictured at right is the sports illustrated cover from 1993 featuring Steinbrenner atop a steed, dressed as a colonial general. Never shy with the press, Steinbrenner's flair for the dramatic and the unusual became a trademark in his 37 years of ownership, the longest tenure of any Yankee owner. Passing away just two days after 99-year-old announcer, Bob Sheppard, also known as the "voice of God" for his resonant introductions, not only but Yankee fans, but all of baseball mourns the passage of two giant figures.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Quentin Leads White Sox into First Place; Padilla Solidifies Dodger Staff

Players of the Day for Sunday, July 11, 2010 American League Less than a month ago - June 20, to be exact - Carlos Quentin was batting .216. He had only hit 9 home runs and driven in just 37 runs. Nearly three months into the season, the White Sox were staring up at the Twins and Tigers in the AL Central, even though they'd won six straight. But the Sox kept on winning and Quentin started hitting. Eventually, Chicago's streak would end at 11 straight, but they regrouped quickly. From June 15 to Sunday's 15-5 blasting of the Royals, the Sox have gone 21-4, finishing up at the break with an 8-game win streak and 1st place in the division, by 1/2 game over Detroit. Instrumental to their success was Quentin, who latched onto the new winning ways and soon was leading them. Since the 20th of June, Quentin's belted 11 homers and driven in 24 runs. His batting average has climbed 28 points, to .244, going 18-for-49 (.367) over that span. On Sunday, Quentin's bat did more damage, as he hot two homers - a solo shot in the 3rd inning and a grand slam in the 6th which put the game out of reach. Quentin didn't make the AL All Star roster as he did in 2008, though his numbers suggest he would have been a good fit. His slow start probably hurt his chances more than anything else. With the White Sox in first place, though, watching the game instead of participating in it, won't feel so bad. National League Another player who won't be on the field in this year's version of the Mid-Summer Classic is Vicente Padilla, who turned in his best performance of the season, hurling eight innings of shutout ball at the Chicago Cubs, as the Dodgers grabbed a share of second place in the NL West with a 7-0 win. LA head to the All Star break tied with Colorado, two games behind the Padres. Padilla, who had the benefit of an early lead as his teammates put up 6 runs in the first two innings, cruised through the Chicago lineup, allowing just two hits and a walk, striking out 6 in his longest outing of the season. Hong-Chih Kuo, who did make the NL All Star roster, allowed two hits in the mop-up 9th. After a 1-1 start, Padilla (4-2), missed nearly two months due to injury, but has come back well, posting wins in his last three starts. With him in the rotation, the Dodgers are poised to make a run at their third straight NL West flag.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Travis Wood's 1-Hitter for Naught; Rajai Davis Slams Angels

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 10, 2010 National League Philadelphia catcher, Carlos Ruiz, came off the disabled list just in time to ruin the weekend for the Cincinnati Reds. Ruiz, who hadn't been behind the plate or standing beside it with a bat since June 18, led off the 9th inning with a double, spoiling Reds' starter Travis Wood's bid for a perfect game. Wood retired the final three Philadelphia batters and finished with a one-hitter; the problem was that the score was still tied 0-0, after regulation as he and Roy Halladay locked into a death-match-like pitching duel. Halladay also went none full innings, allowing just five hits, one walk and struck out 9. Wood fanned 8 and walked nobody. Neither pitcher earned a decision, despite the outstanding mound work. In the 11th inning, Ruiz doubled again, this time with one out, and a few batters later scampered home with the game-winner on Jimmy Rollins' walk-off single to right for the 1-0 win, the Phillies' third straight victory over Cincinnati in their final at-bat. Despite dropping three in a row, the Reds have managed to remain in first place in the NL Central, two games better than the Cardinals, but Wood, a rookie who made his third start Saturday, his time in the majors has been bittersweet. Over 20 2/3 innings, he's allowed just 9 hits and 7 runs (5 earned), with a 2.18 ERA and 0.68 WHIP. While he's holding opponents to just a .127 batting average and has a 17-5 K-BB ratio, he's yet to earn a decision. The way he's throwing, a little patience may eventually turn into many Ws. American League Oakland's Rajai Davis had been struggling so badly at the plate that he was scratched out of the A's lineup the past two games and demoted to 9th in the batting order on Saturday. Since June 20th, he'd gone 2-for-31 (.064), but the three-day hiatus seemed to be just the tonic needed to get him back in the swing of things. in five at-bats, Davis smacked a grand slam off Angels' starter Matt Garza - who recorded what is probably the worst stat line of the season for a starting pitcher: 5 innings, 11 hits, 13 earned, 2 walks, 3 Ks, 3 homers - doubled twice, singled, drove in five runs, scored three and stole his 27th base of the season. Davis raised his batting average a whole 10 points with the effort, from .257 to .267. Slump? What slump? Oakland pounded the Angels, 15-1, and all of a sudden, the team that's been chasing Texas all season - the Angels - are beginning to feel a little heat from behind. The A's are 8 1/2 back, just 4 games behind the Angels as the two teams wrap up their three-game series and head to the break. At least the Angels didn't lose any more ground to the Rangers. A day after getting the guy they wanted, Cliff Lee, from Seattle, he was on the mound for Texas, though his first outing did not go as planned. The lowly Baltimore Orioles touched Lee up for 3 homers and 6 runs in a 6-1 win. Lee worked the entire 9 innings and took the loss.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dunn, Strasburg Topple Giants; Teixeira Powers Streaking Yankees

Players of the Day for Friday, July 9, 2010 American League Just in case you haven't noticed, the Yankees are leading Tampa Bay by 3 games and Boston by 5 in the AL East, winning their 7th straight as they storm through the lower half of the Western division, taking their second straight at Seattle, 6-1. Their 55-31 record is the best in the majors. Prior to their trip to the great Northwest, the Yankees swept three games at Oakland after taking the final two games of a three-game series with the Blue Jays. The seven game stretch is the longest current streak in the majors. Center stage for the Yanks in Seattle was Mark Teixeira, who supported Phil Hughes' 7-innings for his 11th win against 2 losses. Teixeira whacked a solo homer in the top of the first inning and bashed another in the 9th. In between, he walked and scored from first base on Robinson Cano's 6th inning triple, as the Yankees broke the game open with 4 runs. Teixeira's two homers gave him 17 on the year, 4 of which have come over the last five games. The burly first baseman has been the driving force for the Yankees' recent success. Over the last seven games, Teixeira has hit safely in all but one, going 10-for-27 (.370), with 4 homers, 4 doubles, 8 runs and 10 RBI. New York plays two more in Seattle prior to the All Star break. National League Amid all the excitement over Stephen Strasburg, fans may not have noticed that the Nationals have fallen back into their usual spot in the NL East standings, last place, 12 1/2 games behind the division-leading Braves, but that hasn't deterred their young starter or their top slugger. Strasberg (left) improved to 3-2, working 6 solid innings against the Giants in an 8-1 Washington win. The rookie hurler allowed just three hits, the only San Francisco run coming when Andres Torres' led off the contest with his 7th home run of the season. Unfazed, Strasburg sliced through the Giants after that, getting the next nine batters in order before walking Freddie Sanchez to open the 4th. Strasburgh finished with 8 Ks and just one walk. throwing 85 pitches before taking a seat. In the meantime, the Nats had forged a 4-1 lead, then turned the game into a laugher with 4 more in the 7th, highlighted by Adam Dunn's (right) second homer of the game, a two-run bomb to left center, giving him a National League best 22 (tied with Joey Votto) on the year. Dunn also doubled and scored in the 6th, going 3-for-4 with 3 runs and 3 RBI. Dunn, who homered three times just two days ago in a 6-5 win over San Diego, is having an awesome year, with 26 doubles, 22 homers, a .963 OPS and a .285 batting average, 31 points over his career mark.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Danks Blanks Angels on 2-Hitter; Oswalt in Form with 1-Hit Win over Pirates

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 8, 2010 American League The Tigers had the day off, so the Chicago White Sox knew they could not vault into first place in the AL Central, but they did the next best thing by sweeping the LA Angels four straight with a 1-0 win on the strength of John Danks' 2-hitter. Winning four in a row over the defending AL West champs was tribute to just how well the Sox are playing these days, and getting a complete game, two-hit shutout from Danks was simply icing on the cake. Danks (8-7) threw 81 of 111 pitches for strikes, meaning he was off the plate on 30 times as he sliced through the LA lineup without allowing a walk, fanning seven. Danks took a no-hitter to the seventh inning, the only frame in which he gave up a hit - actually two - as Reggie Willits and Howie Kendrick opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Undaunted, Danks got the following three outs in order and was perfect through the 8th and 9th, all the time protecting a one-run lead provided by Paul Konerko's first inning sac fly which plated Juan Pierre. The White sox have been the best team in baseball since mid-June. since June 15, they've gone 18-4, including a major-league best (tied with Texas) 11-game win streak last month. They currently are riding five straight wins and have closed to within 1/2 game of Detroit. The Twins, former holders of the division's top slot, have faded to third place, though only two games back. They lost their second straight to Toronto, on the wrong end of an 8-1 score, Thursday. National League At 35-51, and 13 1/2 games out in the NL Central, the Houston Astros seem to be going nowhere fast this season and that means they might just lose a few good men to trades before the month of July is out. One such man is starter Roy Oswalt, who has spent all of his 10-year career in a Houston uniform. Just to prove he's ready to go anywhere and perform, Oswalt fired off a one-hitter against the Pirates, his first complete game of the season and first shutout since 2008. Not that Roy hasn't been pitching well, despite his 6-10 record, he's toting around a 3.08 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP, the kind of numbers that get starters into the Hall of Fame. Oswalt had his no-hit bid spoiled in the first inning, when Neil Walker singled to right with two outs. After that, Oswalt just set down 25 of the next 28 batters, giving up just two walks and plunking one, striking out 8 en route to his best performance of the season. Providing support was Lance Berkman, another player who could be traded shortly, who belted a pair of solo homers for the 2-0 winning margin. Oswalt needs 4 more wins without a loss to get his record back to .500. A trade to a contender would virtually guarantee that he'd avoid the first losing season of his career. The Angles, Rangers, Tigers, Red Sox, Reds, Dodgers and Braves all could use his services down the stretch. Oswalt is 143-80 with 19 complete games and 7 shutouts over the course of his career. He's a two-time 20-game winner and maybe the best 10-year starter who's never won a Cy Young award. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Buster Posey Busts Up Brwers; Freddie Garcia Continues on Comeback Trail

Players of the Day for Wednesday, July 7, 2010 American League With the distinct possibility that they could be losing Jake Peavy for the remainder of the season, the Chicago White Sox know that every game is important as they attempt to keep pace with Minnesota and Detroit in the hotly-contested AL Central. After Peavy was forced to leave Tuesday's game after only 1 2/3 innings, the Sox patched together a 4-1 win thanks to yeoman work from their bullpen, getting the better of Angels' ace, Jered Weaver. Wednesday night, the mound belonged to Freddy Garcia, who stumped the Halos on 5 hits over six innings, walking two, striking out six. The Angels only run of the game came in the fifth, off Garcia, though it was unearned. The 5-2 victory earned Garcia his 9th win of the season, against 3 losses, looking more and more like the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Garcia was just 3-4 with the White Sox last season. With Detroit beating Baltimore, 4-2, and Minnesota losing to Toronto, 6-5, the White Sox took over second place, a game behind the Tigers, with Minnesota 1/2 game behind them. The Sox win was their 4th straight, and their third straight over the Angels, who continue to struggle along in second place in the AL West, now falling 5 1/2 behind the Rangers. National League While the media has dubbed 2010 "the year of the pitcher," others are calling it the "year of the rookie," as a slew of first-year players have made sizable impacts on the game. One such player is San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, who came into the league without nearly the fanfare of Jason Heyward or Stephen Strasburg, but is making his presence felt day by day. In Wednesday's 15-2 crushing of Milwaukee, Posey broke out the big wood, hitting a two-run homer and a grand slam, along with a pair of singles, going 4-for-4, with 3 runs and 6 RBI, making the win one of the easiest ever for starter Time Lincecum, who improved to 9-4, giving up 4 hits and one earned run over 7 innings, fanning 10. The Giants, in 4th place, five back of San Diego in the NL West, started July on the tail end of a seven-game losing streak, but since have won four of five, including their last three straight. The division still largely up for grabs with the Dodgers and Rockies tied for second, both three games behind the Padres, San Fran remains within striking distance. Posey, who got a late start to his inaugural season, has five homers and 19 RBI in 34 games, carrying a solid .331 batting average.