Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rios 5-for-6 in White Sox Win; Heyward Powers Braves as Kuroda Stops Phillies

Players of the Day for Monday, August 30, 2010 American League Obtaining the rights to Manny Ramirez, the White Sox figure to put the former Indian, Red Sox and Dodger player into the DH spot, but judging by the ferocity of Chicgo's bats in their 10-6, 11-inning win over the Indians, there isn't a player who wants to be replaced by the newcomer. Paul Konerko was the DH in Monday's conquest, but there's no way Big Paul will be ousted from the day-to-day lineup. The players most affected are going to be Andruw Jones and Carlos Quentin, both of whom played a bit in right field on Monday. Jones is the odd-man out, so it seems, as Quentin carries a more productive bat. The big slugger in for the White Sox was Alex Rios, who's recently broken out of a month-long slump in which his batting average fell from .311 to .288. Rios had five hits in six at-bats, socked a solo homer (his 19th), scored three times, drove in four runs and stole his 28th base of the season. Rios may not reach the hallowed 30-30 mark for homers and steals, though he may drive in 100 runs (currently at 78). Winning over the tribe pushed the White Sox to 4 games behind idle AL Central division leader, Minnesota. The Sox face the Indians Tuesday and Wednesday while the Twins host the Tigers. National League By beating up on the struggling Mets, 9-3, the Atlanta Braves picked up another game on second-place Philadelphia as Hiroki Kuroda (left) took a no-hitter into the 8th inning in a 3-0 Dodger win. Kuroda was lifted with two outs in the 8th after allowing the only Philly hit of the night to Shane Victorino. Hong-Shih Kuo came on to record the final four outs for his 7th save of the season. The Braves got a huge night from rookie Jason Heyward (right), who went 4-for-5 with a 3-run homer, four RBI and three runs. Heyward was originally considered a shoo-in for the NL Rookie of the Year, but he's got plenty of company in the likes of Chicago's Starlin Castro, San Fran's Buster Posey and others. Heyward is batting .278 with 16 homers and 62 RBI, and is currently riding a five-game hitting streak. Atlanta leads Philadelphia by three games in the NL East.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Raburn Swats a Pair for Tigers; McCann's Shot Saves Braves

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 29, 2010 American League Both the Tigers and Blue Jays have dropped out of their respective division races and neither team has much chance of making it into the playoffs as a wild card, but the players soldier on, looking to win as many games as possible down the stretch. Completing a four-game series in Toronto with a split, thanks to a 10-4 win on Sunday, the Tigers can look forward to having a nice, young outfield in coming years. Rookie Austin Jackson looks like a keeper in center, and fellow first-year man Brennan Boesch was hot earlier and just needs more seasoning. Complementing them is Ryan Raburn, currently on a seven-game hitting streak which reached a crescendo Sunday when he belted a pair of homer runs and drove in four. Batting .414 (12-for-29) over that seven game span, Raburn's homers were his 9th and 10th. He's upped his RBI total to 44 in just 260 at-bats. The Tigers are 10 games behind Minnesota in the division. Toronto dropped back to 11 1/2 off the pace in the AL East. National League Atlanta keeps finding new ways to win, their most recent being scoring six runs in the final two innings to take out the Marlins, 7-6. Lulling Florida into a false sense of security by scoring just a single run in the first inning and nothing thereafter, the Braves cam to life against the Marlins' bullpen, scoring three runs in the 8th and three more in the ninth, concluding with a two-run homer by Matt Diaz and a solo game-winner by catcher Brian McCann. McCann went 3-for-4 on the night and only drove in the one run, though it was the most important run of the night. His solo blast gave the Braves a 2-1 split of their three-game series with the Marlins and kept them two games ahead of the Phillies, who have won the division three straight years. Atlanta will host the Mets next and won't see the pursuing Phillies until late September, when they play them three times in Philly, September 20, 21 and 22, and host them for the final three games of the season, October 1, 2 and 3. Stay tuned. This one could go down to the wire.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hudson, Prado Lift Braves; Braden Shuts Out Rangers

Players of the Day for August 28, 2010 American League If the Oakland A's are going to run down the Texas Rangers in the AL West, they're probably going to need the kind of pitching provided by Dallas Braden in Saturday's 5-0 blanking of the division leaders. Braden, who tossed a perfect game against Tampa earlier in the year, evened his record at 9-9 with a powerful performance from the mound, throwing 86 of 120 pitches for strikes, allowing just four hits without walking a batter and striking out one. It was Braden's fifth complete game of the season and second shutout. The Rangers were never able to put more than one runner aboard in any inning and went down in order in five of the nine frames, From the 4th through 7th innings, Braden set down 13 straight potential hitters. The win evened the series at Texas at a game apiece. The two will settle their score on Sunday. With the win, Oakland moved back to 8 1/2 games behind, but time is slipping away. Texas hasn't played well of late, going 9-9 since August 10, but the Athletics have not taken advantage, going 8-9 over the same span. National League In the NL East, the race has boiled down to two teams, the Braves and the Phillies. After both teams notched wins on Saturday, it's still Atlanta in the driver's seat, two games to the good over Philly. Atlanta continues to get timely hitting and outstanding pitching. In beating the Marlins brains out, 14-3, Tim Hudson (left) did the hurling, while Martin Prado (right) did the hurting. Making his own case for Cy Young consideration, Hudson improved to 15-5 with seven powerful innings, silencing the Florida bats on six hits and a walk, fanning a season-high 13 batters. He allowed just one earned run. The Braves gave Hudson more support than he needed, scoring six times in the second inning, including a walk to Prado which forced in a run. Prado singled in two more in the 3rd and socked his 15th home run of the season in the 7th. Overall, Prodo went 2-for-5 with five RBI. The Phillies gutted out a 3-1 win in San Diego to keep pace.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lester, Martinez Keep Red Sox in Hunt; Bruce Blasts Three Homers for Reds

Players of the Day for Friday, August 27, 2010 American League Injuries have piled up for the Boston Red Sox, but that hasn't kept them from winning and staying in the Al East race. Jacoby Ellesberry, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis all have gone down and probably are lost for the season. On top of that, their ace, Josh Beckett, hasn't been himself, with a 4-3 record and a 6.50 ERA. A couple of guys who've managed to remain healthy have been carrying the team of late, and in Friday's 3-1 win at Tampa Bay, Victor Martinez (left) and Jon Lester (right) got the better of the Rays and crept to within 4 1/2 games of co-leading Tampa and New York. Lester (14-8) tossed seven innings of 2-hit ball, striking out 10 while walking five. The only run the Rays were able to produce was unearned. Lester has produced wins in three of his last four starts. Martinez got in a couple of good swings, going 3-for-4 with two solo homers, giving the Red Sox just enough offense to get the win. Having missed some time himself this season, Martinez is heating up, batting .385 (9-for-24) and driving in seven runs over his last six games. National League Manager Dusty Baker has tried a lot of different players in the leadoff spot since Orlando Cabrera was sidelined earlier this month, but his latest maneuver proved to be a stroke of genius. Baker put outfielder Jay Bruce at the top of the lineup card in Friday's contest with the Cubs, as the Reds sought to expand their lead over the Cardinals in the NL Central. Bruce was an unlikely fit for the leadoff spot. In his three-year major league career, he's only swiped 12 bases and been thrown out 13 times. So, since Bruce probably wasn't going to be a basepath threat, he took it upon himself to just hit the ball over the fences - three times - pounding three homers into the right field stands at the Great American Ball Park. His first was a solo shot in the 3rd, followed by a three-run blast in the 5th and another solo jack in the 7th, which proved to be more than enough for Johnny Cueto to record his 12th win against 4 losses as the Reds cruised to a 7-1 win. With the Cardinals winning 4-2 over Washington, Cincinnati didn't increase its lead, but remained a relatively comfortable four games ahead of the redbirds.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jackson, Rios Keep White Sox in Race; Pujols Smacks #400

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 26, 2010 American League With roughly 35 games left in the regular season, teams in chase mode know that time is not on their side and they need to start stringing together wins in a hurry. One such team in just that situation is the Chicago White Sox. Trailing the Twins by 3 1/2 games, the Sox know they need to win now and got maximum effort from starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (left) and outfielder Alex Rios (right) bouncing back from two straight defeats by the Orioles with an 8-0 triumph over the feisty birds. Jackson, acquired from Arizona prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, won for the second time in a Chicago uniform, though he has pitched well enough to win all four of his starts for the Sox. Working eight strong innings, Jackson didn't allow a run while giving up just three hits and a pair of free passes. While Jackson was piling up a 10 strikeouts (he had 11 in his previous start), Alex Rios broke out of his slump with his 18th home run and a pair of singles in four at-bats. Rios scored twice and drove in three runs, one on a single in the 4th inning, the other two on his left field blast in the 8th which completed the White Sox scoring. With the Twins beating Texas, 6-3, Chicago remained in hunt mode as they make their way to the Big Apple for a three-game set with the Yankees. National League The St. Louis Cardinals may not make it to the post-season, dropping another close one Thursday night to the Washington Nationals, 11-10, in 13 innings, but it won't be because Albert Pujols hasn't tried his best every time he's stepped onto the field. In four at-bats, Pujols doubled and hit a solo home run - the 400th of his already legendary career - but starter Chris carpenter and six Cardinal relievers could not keep the Nats off the basepaths, eventually succumbing to Ian desmaond's walk-off single in the 13th inning. Albert the Great upped his home run and RBI lead to three in each category over Joey Votto, who is having a career year for the Reds, who were idle. The St. Louis loss shuffled the Cards back to four games behind the Reds in the NL Central, where they will only have one more head-to-head meeting with Cincinnati, a three-game series in St. Louis, the first week of September.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Joey Votto Challenges Pujols' Triple Crown Bid; Napoli Slams Rays

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 25, 2010 National League A few days ago, it was mentioned here that Albert Pujols could be on the way to winning the NL Triple Crown. After what Joey Votto did Wednesday night in Cincinnati's 12-11, 12-inning win at San Francisco, it appears that he has taken notice and has a legitimate shot himself. The Reds had built an 8-1 lead after scoring in the top of the 5th, but began the process of blowing that when the Giants plated two in the bottom of the 5th and two more in the 6th. After a six-run 8th inning, it was the Giants with the 11-10 lead, the Reds' bullpen unable to hold down the Giants after they chased starter, Homer Bailey. Votto, who had helped build the lead with a two-run, first inning homer and a solo blast in the 4th (his 31st), hung in with his teammates, and when Paul Janish singled home Drew Stubbs in the 9th, the game was tied. In the 12th, it was Votto again, with his 4th hit of the night, singling in Miguel Cairo with the go-ahead run. Francicso Cordero nailed down the final three outs in the bottom of the inning, salvaging a much-needed win for the Reds which almost turned into a disaster. Votto finished the night 4-for-7 with two hoers and four RBI. He is leading the league in batting average, at .326, and is two behind Pujols in the other categories. Pujols leads in homers, 33-31 and RBI, 92-90. It is apparent that either man could get hot and take all three departments for the first triple crown since 1967. While the Reds won, the Cardinals lost, so Cincy upped its lead in the division to 3 1/2 games. The Giants remained in a dead heat for the wild card with the Phillies, also losers on the night. American League The LA Angels are probably not going to win the AL West this season. They trail the Rangers by ten full games in the standings. Even the A's have passed them by and are now 1 1/2 games ahead. But that doesn't mean anything to Mike Napoli, who has quietly put together a fine season in the absence of the Angels' main slugger, Kendry Morales. After Morales went down with a broken leg in June, Napoli was called upon to fill the void, and he's responded with 21 homers and 60 RBI, both career-high marks. In the Angels' 12-3 win over Tampa Bay, Napoli led the charge with a run-scoring double in the first inning, a grand slam in the 3rd and a bases-loaded walk in the 4th inning, forcing home another run. He finished the game 2-for-4 with six RBI, helping the Angels avoid being swept after the Rays had won the first two games of the series. The Rays' loss didn't hurt them, as the Yankees also fell, to the Blue Jays, 6-3, in Toronto. Those two remain tied for the AL East lead, with Boston looming, 5 1/2 games back.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Teixeira Lead Yankees Past Blue Jays; Sandoval, Giants Hammer Reds

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 24, 2010 American League At least the Yankees don't have to worry about the Toronto Blue Jays nipping at their heels. But they still have to beat them in order to keep in touch with Tampa Bay in the race for the AL East. The Blue Jays dropped an 11-5 decision and fell 12 1/2 games behind the Bombers, as Mark Teixeira and four of his teammates sent balls over the high walls of the Rogers Centre, temporarily turning the tables on the team that leads the majors in home runs. Teixeira managed to scratch out three additional singles, score twice and drive in two runs as the Yankees built up an 11-1 lead in the first six innings. the homer was Teixeira's 28th of the year, which leads the team. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames and Jorge Posada also homered. Posada, like Teixeira, collected four hits in the game. The win kept the Yankees tied with Tampa for the lead in the division. Boston is 6 games back. The Yankees and Rays play each seven times in September. New York has six games scheduled with Boston, including the final three games of the season at Fenway Park. National League Pablo Sandoval looks like he's starting to heat up and that could spell trouble for opposing pitchers. Just ask the Reds' hurlers who've been victimized by Sandoval's bat the past two nights. On Monday, Sandoval went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI in an 11-2 win. Tuesday night, he did it again, throwing in his 12th home run of the season for good measure, a solo shot in the 6th inning which completed the Giants' scoring in a 16-5 runaway. Sandoval drove in four runs and scored twice during the rout. San Francisco's second straight win kept them 5 1/2 behind the Padres in the division, but, coupled with losses by the Cardinals and Phillies, have them tied with Philadelphia for the wild card lead with the Cardinals a game behind. Cincinnati still leads St. Louis by 2 1/2 games in the Central.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bautista Busts Yanks with Two Homers; Pujols Approaching Triple Crown

Players of the Day for Monday, August 23, 2010 American League Jose Bautista is having a career year at the plate, but the NY Yankees aren't very happy for him. In the opener of their three-game series in Toronto, Bautista provided all the runs the Blue Jays would need to down the New Yorkers, 3-2. The major-league leader in home runs, Bautista upped the ante by belting a pair of bombs to left field, the first a two-run shot in the 3rd inning and the second a game-winning solo jack in the 8th, his 39th and 40th of the season. Brandon Morrow, the Toronto starter, struck out 12 over six innings and allowed the only Yankee runs but received no decision. Bautista added three RBI to his total, giving him 95, putting him in a position to possibly challenge for league leadership in that category. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera leads the majors with 102 and Alex Rodriguez is second with 97, though A-Rod is currently doing a stint on the disabled list. That gives Bautista the opportunity to pass him by while Alex can only sit in the dugout and watch. By beating the Yankees, the Blue Jays picked up a game, but are still trailing both New York and Tampa Bay by 11 1/2 games. Tampa Bay gutted out a 4-3 win at the LA Angels to tie the Yanks for AL East leadership. National League If there was just one player in the majors you could choose as a possible candidate for earning a triple crown, that player would most likely be Albert Pujols, the slugging first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, and this season, you might be right. Pujols launched his NL-leading 33rd home run in the first inning of St. Louis' 10-2 slashing of the Pirates. The blast was good for 3 RBI as well, upping Pujols' total to 92 on the year, six better than Cincinnati's Joey Votto. In the 5th inning, Pujols hit a ground rule double and later scored, and singled in the 6th as part of a 3-for-5 night at the plate, raising his batting average to .319, third in the league behind Votto (.323) and Atlanta's Martin Prado (.320). With less than 50 games and six weeks remaining in the season, Pujols appears to have everything going his way. The win was the Cardinals' third straight, trimming Cincy's lead in the NL Central to 2 1/2 games, as the Reds were hammered 11-2 in San Francisco. Currently riding a 9-game hit streak in which he's gone 15-for-35 (.429), Pujols has belted five homers and driven in eight runs. The Monday night smash was #399 in his 10-year career. The ultimate mark of the all-purpose hitter, the triple crown was last achieved in the American League in back-to-back seasons by Frank Robinson in 1966 and Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. American Leaguers have accomplished the feat nine times. Six National League triple crowns have been recorded, the last in 1937 by another Cardinal great, Joe Medwick. Hall of Famer, Rogers Hornsby, who played second base on the great "Gas House Gang" in St. Louis, did it twice, in 1922 and again in 1925. The only other player to accomplish the feat twice was Boston's Ted Williams, in 1942 and 1947. For Pujols, his chance to join the elite list of triple crown champs is there for the taking.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cano, Sabathia Lead Yanks; Garcia's 3-Hit Shutout Great for Cardinals

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 22, 2010 American League The Yankees put slugger Alex Rodriguez on the DL, but they probably won't miss him much since Robinson Cano (left) appears intent on winning the AL MVP award this year. Cano went 2-for-5 in Sunday's 10-0 win over Seattle, but both of his hits came when he appeared at the plate with the bases loaded. In the 5th inning, Seattle walked Mark Teixeira to load 'em up for Cano, who crushed a grand slam home run. It was the third time this season that Teixeira was walked to load the bases and the next batter hit a grand slam. The other two times, that batter was Alex Rodriguez. In the very next inning, Cano came up again with the bases juiced, this time delivering a single which plated two more runs. Cano finished with six RBI, a career high, raising his total to 86 and making him part of the conversation for post-season trophies. He is tied for 8th in the AL in RBI, is 4th in batting with a .325 average, and his 25 home runs are good for 7th in the league. While the Triple Crown seems out of reach, 30 homers, 100 RBI and a batting average North of .320 all seem good bets. While Cano was racking up ribbies, C.C. Sabathia (right) threw six innings of shutout ball, winning his 15th straight decision at Yankee Stadium. He allowed just 3 hits while punching out 8 on strikes without allowing a walk. His 17-5 record ties him with National Leaguers Adam Wainwright and Ubaldo Jimenez for the most wins in the majors. Sabathia's 3.02 ERA and 1.22 WHIP are among the best in the league and his 151 strikeouts are 8th-best in the AL. The Yanks stayed a game ahead of Tampa Bay in the tight AL East race. National League The Cardinals snapped their 5-game losing streak with a 5-1 win over the Giants on Saturday, and finished up by taking two of three in the series with a 9-0 victory on Sunday. With a pair of aces in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, anything the Cards get from Jamie Garcia is a huge plus, but the rookie left-hander has been delivering all season. On Sunday, Garcia put on his best performance of the season, blanking the Giants on three hits for his first career complete game and shutout. Garcia was on top of hitters all night, throwing 65 of just 89 pitches for strikes, fanning six and getting most of his outs on ground balls. The Cards turned a pair of double plays allowing Garcia to face just one batter more than the minimum. He improved to 11-6, with an ERA of 2.42 in 24 starts. The Cardinals remain 3 1/2 games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central, and two games behind the Phillies in the wild card.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bell Rings up a Pair as O's Win; Carpenter Keeps Giants Quiet

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 21, 2010 American League Since Buck Schowalter took over as manager of the Baltimore Orioles, there have been signs of life in Charm City. The O's are 12-7 with Buck at the helm and part of the reason for their success is that he allows players to play for extended stints, rather than constantly adjusting the lineup. One such player getting a chance is rookie third baseman Josh Bell, who pounded a pair of homers in Baltimore's 8-6 win over the Texas Rangers. Bell cracked a two-run shot in the 3rd inning and a three-run jack in the 4th, which put the O's up 7-2, and they never looked back. Bell has played in just 24 games this season, and is batting .244 with 2 homers (both hit on Saturday) and 9 RBI. National League With San Diego and Cincinnati both losing, the Cardinals and Giants each had equal opportunity to gain ground on their respective division leaders. The problem was that they were playing each other, and the Cardinals had ace starter Chris Carpenter on the mound. Carpenter did his thing, allowing just 5 hits and one earned run over 7 1/3 innings in a 5-1 St. Louis victory. Carpenter improved to 14-4 on the year, and the Cardinals moved back to within 3 1/2 games of the Reds. The loss kept the Giants five games behind the front-running Padres.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Overbay's Two Homers, 7 RBI Crush Red Sox; Homer Bailey Extends Reds' Lead

Players of the Day for Friday, August 20, 2010 American League The hits just keep coming from the Toronto Blue Jays. On Friday, the Jays made the Jon Lester and the Red Sox the latest victims in their batting assault through the American League, pounding out 20 hits in a 16-2 romp at Fenway Park. Lester pitched only into the 3rd inning, as he gave up five runs in the first, one in the second and was credited with three more in the third. He gave up eight hits, three walks and nine runs, his chief torment being Lyle Overbay, who smacked a pair of three-run homers off the Boston lefty. Overbay wasn't done after Lester departed. He singled and scored in the 6th inning and singled home another run in the 8th. His line for the night, 4-for-5, 3 runs, 7 RBI, with a pair of dingers. Not too shabby. The Jays continue to terrorize opposing pitchers, leading the majors with 187 home runs and a .458 slugging percentage. With 121 games already in the book (64-57), the Jays probably won't crack the major league mark of 264 home runs in a season, set by the Seattle Mariners in 1999, though they are on pace to come pretty close. They should finish up with about 250, though nobody is ruling out that they could hit two per game on average, setting a new standard. National League It was just a week ago that St. Louis took three straight from the Reds and wrested control of the NL Central, leaving Cincinnati with a one-game lead in the divisional race. Since then, the two teams have gone in opposite directions, however, with the Cardinals losing five straight while the Reds have put together a seven -game win streak. The Cards, who have had three days off in the past nine, haven't responded well to the extra rest. After taking the opener of their three-game series against Chicago, they lost the next two, then dropped two straight to the Brewers and on Friday were on the losing end of a 6-3 score against the Giants. Making matters more troubling is the fact that all of the losses have come at home. While the Cardinals were trying to figure out what happened, the Reds took three straight from the Marlins at home, then went on the road and swept three from Arizona, and on Friday went into Dodger Stadium - where they had lost 12 straight - and came away with a 3-1 win, mostly on the strength of Homer Bailey's seven solid innings. Bailey, pitching in place of suspended starter Johnny Cueto for the second time in a week, allowed four hits and one earned run. He struck out six and walked a pair of batters. Bailey, who hadn't pitched since May 23, shut out Florida on Sunday for siz innings and returned with another strong performance Friday night. Cueto's suspension has ended, and the Red's fiery right-hander will go to the mound on Saturday against the Dodgers. The Reds' have put together their longest win streak of the season at just the right time, with the Cardinals struggling and the top spot in the division theirs for the taking. In just a week they've opened up a 4 1/2 game lead on the Cards, after a grueling three months in which neither team could establish anything better than a three game lead.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Konerko Goes 5-for-5 as Sox Blast Twins; Lilly Tosses 2-Hitter vs. Rockies

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 19, 2010 American League Facing a sweep at the hands of their main rival, the Minnesota Twins, the Chicago White Sox would not go quietly. Paul Konerko went 5-for-5, with a home run, double, three singles, four RBI and three runs, as the White Sox pounded out 21 hits for an 11-0 rout of the Twins. About the only thing Konerko didn't do was head into the stands to sell some bags of peanuts. Jumping all over Minnesota starter, Carl Pavano, the Sox scored two runs in each of the 1st and 3rd innings, added another in the 5th and two more in the 7th, which Pavano started, but could not retire a batter. The next four runs all came in the 8th, off reliever Glen Perkins, two of them by Konerko, who doubled in a pair. The win got the White Sox back to within four games of Central division-leading Minnesota, which had won six straight prior to Thursday's game. The Twins have owned the division with a 33-18 record, and have taken four of the last six from the White Sox. Konerko's home run was his 31st of the year, tying him with Miguel Cabrera for second, behing Jose Bautista's 37. Konerko ranks 7th in the league in RBI, with 85. National League The LA Dodgers may have fallen out of the division race in the NL West, but they're not about to slide out of contention in the wild card, at least if Ted Lilly can help it. Lilly gave the LA bullpen a needed day off and the Dodgers a boost of confidence with a complete-game, two-hit shutout over the Colorado Rockies. The 2-0 win left them seven games behind the Phillies in the wild card race, though there are three other teams - Colorado, St. Louis and San Francisco - ahead of them. Lilly won his fourth straight start as a Dodger, joining the team just prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline along with former Cub teammate Ryan Theriot. He threw 79 of 110 pitches for strikes, fanned a season-high 11 and walked two, recording his first complete game and shutout since 2004, when he was a starter with the Blue Jays. After a 1st inning double by Dexter Fowler, the Rockies didn't get another hit until Troy Tulowitski's single in the 7th. In his four Dodger starts, Lilly's ERA is 1.29 and his WHIP a minuscule 0.57. He's allowed just 12 hits and four earned runs over his last 28 innings.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Longoria Batters Rangers as Rays Sweep; Rollins Rips Giants

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 18, 2010 American League Visiting Tampa Bay did not turn out to be a walk on the beach for the Texas Rangers, though the pitching staff and most of the infielders got to know Tampa's third baseman, Evan Longoria, a whole lot better. Longoria absolutely wore out the Rangers over their three game series, all wins by the Rays, going 7-for-12 (.583) with a home run, three doubles, a triple and eight RBI. After beating the Rangers two straight, Longoria made sure of the sweep by going 3-for-4 with a homer, two doubles, a sac fly and four RBI, helping lead the way to an 8-6 victory. The home run was his 16th of the season and Longoria's RBI total has now reached 80, good for 10th in the league, one behind Josh Hamilton and two ahead of Minnesota's Jason Kubel. Longoria is also batting .293 and has swiped 15 bases in 18 attempts. While the Rangers could afford the three straight losses, remaining eight games in front of both the Angels and the A's in the AL West, the Rays continue to battle the Yankees for control of the AL East. Tampa has won five straight and remain tied with New York atop the division, 5 1/2 in front of Boston. National League Even though the Atlanta Braves won their fourth straight Wednesday night, topping Washington, 3-2, the Phillies aren't letting them get too far ahead in the NL East standings. Philadelphia won its fourth straight with an 8-2 beating of the Giants, to remain 2 1/2 games behind the division leaders and seem to have their sights set on taking the division for the fourth straight season. At the top of Philly's batting order, Jimmy Rollins continues to be a catalyst for winning in the city of brotherly love. Rollins went 3-for-5 against the Giants, smacking a three-run homer and a triple, stealing two bases, driving in three runs and scoring twice. His three-run blast in the 4th inning put the Phillies up 5-1. Starter Joe Blanton managed 6 1/3 innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen, which made quick work of the Giants in the latter innings. Three relievers no-hit San Francisco over the final 2 2/3 frames. The Phillies have taken the first two of their three-game set from the visiting Giants, winning the opener, 9-3, and, with Wednesday's win, assuming a two game lead over San Fran in the wild card race, but Philly's aims reach well beyond second best in their division. The Braves and Phillies will not meet until September 20, when the Braves head to Philadelphia for a three-game showdown. The two also meet on the final three days of the regular season in Atlanta, beginning October 1st. As for the Giants, their loss dropped them six games behind the Padres in the NL West, making the wild card the preferred path to the playoffs for the Bay area team.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thome Blast Tears Sox; Garland Extends Scoreless Streak to 17 as Padres Top Cubs

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 17, 2010 American League Maybe it's time to move Jim Thome a little higher up in the batting order, though considering how he's done recently, even batting in the #7 spot Tuesday night, just keeping him in the lineup - anywhere - is probably a good idea. Thome mashed his 17th home run of the season - and 581st of his career (two behind Mark McGwire) - with a man aboard and no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to provide the Twins with their fifth straight win, especially sweet because it was against AL Central rival Chicago. Trailing 6-5 after the White Sox's Alexi Ramirez homered to tie the game in the 9th and put Chicago ahead with an RBI single in the 10th, Delmon Young singled to lead off the Twins' half of the inning. Thome followed with his rip to right, a two-run shot that put the Twins four games to the good over the White Sox and sent the partisan crowd home happy with the 7-6 extra-inning win. One of the hottest hitters in either league right now, Thome has homered in four of his last six games, all wins for the Twins. Over that span he's 9-for-21 (.429), with 13 RBI. Tuesday night's 3-for-5 effort was good for 3 RBI, tying him with Goose Goslin at #30 on the career RBI list, with 1609. Thome singled twice before hitting the game-winner, his first inning hit bringing home Jason Kubel with the 4th run of the inning, though Minnesota was unable to hold their early lead. The Twins and White Sox go at it twice more before parting company. The Sox need to win at least one of the remaining two games of the series or risk falling out of the race. National League With the rest of the division in one kind of funk or another, the San Diego Padres are threatening to run away with the NL West. Jon Garland hurled seven inning of shutout ball at the Chicago Cubs Tuesday for the Padres' third straight win and eighth of the last nine, taking a commanding five game lead over second place San Francisco. Mike Adams allowed a hit in the 8th for his 27th hold of the year and Heath Bell gave up a leadoff single in the 9th, but fanned two and got Blake DeWitt on a long fly that Ryan Ludwick caught in the right field ivy at the wall for his league-leading 36th save in the Padres' 1-0 win over the Cubs. Garland allowed just four hits while walking three in his seven shutout innings, extending his scoreless streak to 17 innings. In his last start, he allowed the Pirates just one hit in six scoreless innings of a 3-0 San Diego win August 12. Garland is 12-8 with a 3.25 ERA. His three strikeouts against the Cubs gave him 100 on the year, the first time he's reached that level since 2006.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marcum 1-Hits A's; Tejada Boosts Padres' Post-Season Hopes

Players of the Day for Monday, August 16, 2010 American League It may be too late this year, but the rest of the AL should be wary of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays have a heck of a team, leading the majors in home runs with 183. Even their top power hitter, Jose Bautista, who leads the majors with 37, does it in unconventional ways. On Monday in Oakland, Bautista hit what appeared at first to be an inside-the-park job, but was later ruled a conventional homer. Bautista already has one inside-the-park homer this season; he did it on July 7 against the Twins. But the Jays aren't just about hitting homers. Their pitching staff is loaded with live, young arms, like that of Shaun Marcum, who tossed a 1-hitter in Toronto's 3-1 win, the lone Oakland hit being a 7th inning leadoff homer by Conor Jackson. Marcum retired the final nine batters in order following Jackson's spoiler, for his first complete game in the majors. He walked one and hit a batter, throwing 103 pitches, 73 of which were strikes. While Marcum improved to 11-6, the Blue Jays are still stuck in 4th place in the AL East, nine games behind co-leaders New York and Tampa Bay, but their 63-55 record shows that they have some things working in the right direction. Of course, playing in the same division as the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays makes contending for a division title difficult. National League Just before the trading deadline, the Padres snatched up Miguel Tejada from the Orioles, knowing they were getting a solid veteran with excellent bat skills. Turns out that Tejada may be the best pickup of the season, as the slick-fielding shortstop has settled into the #2 spot in the batting order and has begun hitting the ball all over the place. In his last three games, Tejada is 9-for-14 (.643) after going 4-for-5 in the Padres' 9-5 triumph at Chicago. Tejada doubled and singled three times, drove in a pair of runs and scored twice as the Padres extended their NL West lead to 4 games over the idle Giants. At 70-47, the Padres have the best record in the National League and appear to be on their way to the playoffs. Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, acquired from the Cardinals at the same time, have bolstered the lineup, so now San Diego has multiple ways of winning games, either with their bats or with their stellar pitching staff, which leads the majors with a 3.23 ERA and has allowed the fewest hits in either league, 916. San Diego only has to put away the Giants, as Colorado and Los Angels are respectively 9 and 11 games back, seemingly out of contention.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slowey, Thome Lead Twins to 3-Game Edge; Glaus Powers Braves Past Dodgers

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 15, 2010 American League It isn't often that a pitcher gets yanked when he throwing a no-hitter, but there are sometimes more important matters which need to be addressed, such as a hurler's health and the implications of a pennant race. Such was the case with Kevin Slowey (left) of the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, who tossed seven innings of on-hit ball, allowing only three walks and a hit batsman, before manager Ron Gardenhire decided his man had done enough. Slowey was up to 106 pitches and had missed his last start, due to elbow tendonitis, so Gardenhire didn't want to cause any recurrence of inflammation. Besides, the Twins had just recently managed to secure a little space between themselves and the White Sox, and the team could certainly use the win. When Slowey finished the 7th inning, the score was 1-0, in favor of the Twins. In the bottom of the inning, Jim Thome (right) jacked a three-run homer to put the Twins up 4-0, which added to the angst of pulling the starter. Twins' relievers allowed two runs, but the Twins came away with the 4-2 victory over the A's and a 3-game cushion over the White Sox in the AL Central, as Chicago was outhit by Detroit, 13-8. Slowey improved to 11-5, and Thome's homer was his 16th this season and the 580th of his career. He is 10th on the all-time list, having passed Rafael Palmiero and Harmon Killebrew earlier this season, and is just three long balls shy of Mark McGwire. National League The Braves just keep on winning, clinging to their slim, 2-game lead over the three-time defending NL East champion Phillies. On Sunday, Atlanta's bats did the heavy lifting, pounding four Dodger pitchers for 16 hits in a 13-1 romp. All of the starting players had at least one hit, including starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens, Troy Glaus went 2-for-5, including a three-run homer and an RBI single. Glaus is probably not everybody's fantasy first baseman, but he's had a solid year for the Braves, with 16 homers and 69 RBI, despite a .242 batting average. The Braves have taken two of three from the Dodgers and will wrap up the series on Monday. Philadelphia has been dogging Atlanta for months, and remained two games behind with a 3-1 win over the Mets. The Dodgers have lost four of six on their road trip, which ends Monday, and have fallen out of contention in the NL West and the wild card race. They trail San Diego by 10 games in the division and are 6 1/2 behind the Giants and Phillies, with the Cards and Rockies also ahead of them for the wild card.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Rodriguez Blasts Three Homers in KC; Halladay Blanks Mets

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 14, 2010 American League With the pressure off Alex Rodriguez since cracking his 600th career home run back on August 4, the Yankees' slugger has been more fluid and relaxed at the plate, able to concentrate on winning games rather than reaching milestones. The Yankee third baseman was in all star form on Saturday, smacking three homers and driving in five runs in an 8-3 win at Kansas City. Rodriguez singled in the second inning, but really didn't get going until the 6th, when he launched a leadoff homer to dead center field. He followed that up with a pair of two-run shots, one in the 7th and another in the 9th, going 4-for-5 for the game and raising his RBI total to 97, which was enough to skip past Miguel Cabrera (94) and into the AL lead. A-Rod needs 9 more home runs and just 3 RBI to have 30 homers and 100 RBI in 13 straight seasons. The Yankees maintained their two game lead over Tampa Bay in the division with the win. National League Frustrated at Citi Field, where they've been shut out four straight times, the Phillies finally turned the tables on the NY Mets by bringing their their very own shutout master, Roy Halladay. Halladay even helped out in the hitting department, going 1-for-3 and scoring the Phillies' first run. He was his usual magnificent self on the mound, blanking the Mets over 8 innings while his teammates scored three more times for a 4-1 win, breaking the schneid while picking up a game on the NL East leaders, Atlanta, 2-1 losers to the Dodgers. The Phillies trial Atlanta by two games. Halladay allowed just 4 hits while striking out 7 in his 8 innings of work, improving to 15-8 on the year.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hamilton, Cruz Batter Boston Bullpen; Dickey 1-Hits Luckless Phillies

Players of the Day for Friday, August 13, 2010 American League The Texas Rangers probably don't need any help in order to win the AL West division, but they'll take it when offered, like they did Friday night, from the imploding Boston pitching staff and bullpen. The Red Sox traveled to Arlington a night after blowing a 9th-inning, 5-2 lead in a 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays, evidence that Red Sox arms are tiring in the heat of the summer, but they got no rest in Texas, using eight pitchers in a 10-9, 11-inning loss to the Rangers. Boston scored seven times in the top of the 4th to take an early 8-2 lead, but starter Josh Becket, who hasn't been his usual self all season (3-2, 6.51 ERA), lasted only five innings, allowing single runs in the 1st and 2nd, two in the 4th and two more in the 5th as the Rangers began their rally. Boston scored another run in the top of the 7th, but Texas countered with two more in the bottom of the frame and eventually tied the game when Vlaimir Guerrero singled home Josh Hamilton (left), who crossed the plate for the 4th time in the 8th. Hamilton went 4-for-5 with a solo home run, two singles and a double, raising his outrageous league-leading batting average to .362. There was no further scoring by either team until the bottom of the 11th, when Nelson Cruz (right) took the first offering from Tim Wakefield into the seats in left field for a walk-off, game-winning home run, his 16th of the year. Cruz had been an earlier contributor as well, finishing the night 3-for-6 with two RBI and two runs. The Rangers banged out 17 hits against the worn-out Boston staff, who face Texas twice more this weekend before getting a day off. Boston didn't lose any ground to the Yankees or Rays, both losers Friday. They trail New York by six games and are four behind the second-place Rays. Texas sports an 8 1/2 game lead over the Angels, with the A's another 1/2 game back in the AL West. National League Playing in New York at Citi field simply does not agree with Phillies' hitters. Pitcher Cole Hamels would rather not see the Mets again soon either. Hamels, who had the only hit off Mets' starter R.A. Dickey, lost his second straight 1-0 decision to the Mets. Last Saturday, he struck out 11 and allowed just one run over seven innings but was victimized by Johan Santana. On Friday, Dickey allowed only a 3rd inning walk to Wilson Valdez and Hamels' 6th inning single as the Mats blanked the Phillies for the 4th straight time at Citi Field. Back in May they shut them out three straight, outscoring them 16-0. Dickey, a knuckleballer, had the Phillies completely off-balance, striking out seven and getting eight groundouts and eight more outs on fly balls, mostly pop-ups and weak fliers. The Mets scored their only run on back-to-back doubles by David Wright and Carlos Beltran in the 6th inning and regained third place in the NL East, nine games behind front-running Atlanta. The Phillies dropped three games off the pace as the Braves topped the Dodgers, 1-0 in Atlanta. Dickey (8-5, 2.43) recorded his first shutout and complete game since 2003, when he was a starter for the Texas Rangers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kubel Launches Twins Over White Sox; Ruiz Caps Wild Comeback as Dodgers Blow 7-Run Lead

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 12, 2010 American League Jason Kubel socked a three-run homer in the top of the 7th inning, knocking out White Sox starter Gavin Floyd as the Twins beat Chicago, 6-1, to regain first place in the AL Central. Kubel's blast - his 17th of the season - came with two out in the inning and provided a cushion for Minnesota's relievers to finish the job Francisco Liriano (11-7) had started. Liriano lasted only 5 2/3 innings, but limited the Sox to just one run on seven hits. Kubel's home run was his only hit in five at-bats. The free-swinging right fielder is batting .266, but has knocked in 73 runs. Kubel hit career-highs last year when he had 28 home runs and 103 RBI. Over his last six games, he's hit four homers driven in eight runs and scored eight times. The Twins and White Sox were tied for first place in the division when the three-game series began. Taking two out of three, the Twins leave Chicago with a slim one-game lead. National League Just a few days ago, when the Dodgers topped the Phillies, 15-9, to open a three-game series in Philadelphia, there was reason for optimism in Los Angeles. On Thursday night in Philly, after blowing an 8th inning, 9-2 lead, the good feelings have faded to disgust and the Dodgers look like dead men walking in the NL West, now nine games behind the division-leading Padres. The Dodgers led the game 4-2 after five innings, added two runs in the 7th and three more in the 8th before handing the ball over to Ronnie Belisario to open the bottom of the 8th. Belisario failed to retire a single batter, allowing four straight hits. Two relievers and three outs later, the Dodgers still felt safe entering the 9th with a 9-6 lead, knowing the baseball would be in the reliable hands of closer Jonathan Broxton. They were sorely mistaken. Broxton started off the inning by plunking Placido Polanco, then issued back-to-back walks to Mike Sweeney and Jayson Werth. With the bases loaded and no outs, it got worse, when third baseman Casey Blake allowed Ben Francisco's ground ball between his legs and into left field, allowing Polanco and Sweeney to score. The next batter, catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had singled twice earlier, lashed a drive to the left field gap that plated both the tying and winning runs, capping a wild comeback and a crucial 10-9 win for the Phillies. Broxton, like Belisario, retired not a single batter, even though he gave up just one hit, Ruiz's game-ending double. While the Dodgers sink slowly into the West, the Phillies captured the final two games of the series and picked up half a game on the idle Braves, who lead the NL East and the Phillies by two games. The Dodgers fell 6 1/2 games behind the Giants in the wold card hunt, with Philly, the Reds and the Rockies also ahead of them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thames Delivers for Yankees; Wainwright, Rasmus Lead Cards Back to First Place

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 11, 2010 American League Marcus Thames must feel like the forgotten man. Seldom having had the opportunity to play full time - either with the Tigers or his current team, the Yankees - Thames doesn't make any noise about playing time; he just goes out and does his job. While the Yankees made moves to acquire Austin Kearns and Lance Berkman recently and amid talk that the Yanks are looking for yet another bat in their lineup, Thames quietly rode the bench and got his chance Wednesday night, replacing Mark Teixeira in the 3rd spot in the lineup while the regular first baseman was with his wife as she gave birth to the couples third child. Thames took the DH spot, while Berkman played first, and the slugging righty made the most of the opportunity, going 3-for-5 with a home run, two runs and two RBI, including the go-ahead RBI single in the 9th that won the game, 7-6. Having an excellent year at the plate despite getting only 114 at-bats this season, Thames upped his average to .321. The Yankees only need to look at Thames' stats from the two years he had the most playing time - both with Detroit. In 2006 he hit 26 homers and drove in 60 runs in 110 games. In 2008, he had 26 jacks and 56 RBI in 103 games. The win kept the Yankees 1 1/2 ahead of Tampa Bay and 5 up on the charging Red Sox, who have won three straight. National League St. Louis completed their sweep of the Reds in dominating fashion, taking over sole possession of first place in the NL Central, as Adam Wainwright (left) and Colby Rasmus (right) led them to a 6-1 win at Cincinnati. Wainwright was locked into a scoreless pitcher's duel with Brandon Arroyo when Rasmus provided a winning blast - a grand slam dead-center jack that put the Cards up 4-0. Rasmus also singled and scored the last of the Cardinal runs while Wainwright dominated the Reds, allowing just two hits over seven full innings without a walk, getting 14 of his 21 outs on ground balls. He struck out 4, improving his record to 17-6, tying Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez for the most wins in the majors. The win completed the three game sweep which brought the Cardinals from two games down in the standings to one game ahead of the Reds and in command of the division which they have dominated the past decade.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kubel Scores Four as Twins Re-take AL Central Lead; Ethier, Dodgers Pound Phillies

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 10, 2010 American League The AL Central has proven to be one of the more interesting races this season, and it got more interesting Tuesday night as the Minnesota Twins took the first game of their three-game series in Chicago, blasting the White Sox, 12-6. White Sox pitchers couldn't seem to hold Minnesota batters inside the yard, allowing five home runs, with ten of the Twins' 14 hits going for extra bases. One player they could not keep off the basepaths was Jason Kubel, who has been on a tear over his last ten games, going 13-for-31 (.419), with four homers and 12 RBI. On Tuesday, he reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances, walking three times and smacking a double and a two-run homer in his two official at-bats. Kubel scored four times in the game. The Twins took over first place in the division by one game with their third straight win and fourth win in their last five. Meanwhile, the White Sox have dropped three straight and four of their last five. National League In Philadelphia, the Dodgers piled on 18 hits off seven Philadelphia pitchers winning a 15-9 slug-fest over the Phillies. Andre Ethier had a sensational night at the plate, going 4-for-4 with three RBI, scoring four times as the Dodgers won the first of their three game series against the NL East-contending Phillies. With the effort, Ethier's batting average leapt eight points, from .296 to .304, putting him back into an elite group of 11 NL players with averages of at least .300 with the requisite number of plate appearances to qualify for league leadership. As for his team, the Dodgers are still breathing, though their prospects may be lowered to competing for the wild card. They trail the Padres in the NL West by seven games, but are just 4 1/2 behind the Reds and Giants in the wild card race with the Phillies in between, 3 1/2 ahead of the Dodgers, one game out. In order to remain relevant, the Dodgers need to play well on the road, where they are 23-30 on the year. Following two more games in Philly, they travel to Atlanta to face the division-leading Braves for three games before returning to LA. The Phillies fell 2 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the NL East, as the Braves took a 4-2 decision in Houston.