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.

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