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.

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