Players of the Day for Sunday, September 26, 2010
Having already clinched the AL West, the Texas Rangers let their subs have a go at it on Sunday, the result being a scary, 22-hit, 4 home run, 16-9 victory over the Oakland A's.
Mitch Moreland hit two homers and drove in five runs; David Murphy socked a homer and drove in four, but the best performance was by recently-acquired Jeff Francouer, who smacked a home run, went 4-for-6 and drove in four runs.
Francouer was a deft pick-up by the Rangers, who may need some extra help in the outfield or as a DH or pinch-hitter in the post-season. Josh Hamilton, the Rangers' regular left/center fielder, has been sidelined since the first week of September with back spasms, but is expected to make his return the last weekend of the regular season.
In the meantime, Francouer has played exceptionally well, batting .385 with two homers and 11 RBI in ten games. The Rangers will finish the season with the third-best record of the three division winners, which means they will likely end up playing the winner of the AL East - either the Yankees or Rays - in the first round of the playoffs.
The Padres are probably pleased to be see Cincinnati move on past San Diego. Even though the Padres took two of three from the likely NL Central champs, the wins were hard-earned, both by 4-3 scores, but Sunday produced a blowout for the Reds in a 12-2 rout.
Joey Votto, still slugging and vying for the NL MVP award, stroked his 37th home run in the first inning and singled home two more runs in the 8th, as the Reds clinched at least a tie with St. Louis in the division while dropping the Padres 1/2 game behind the Giants in the NL West.
Votto is still in the midst of a triple crown chase which nobody will win. He's batting .326 - second to Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez - his 37 homers are tied for second with Adam Dunn, both chasing Albert Pujols, who smacked his 42nd of the season on Sunday. Votto's 111 RBI are third-best in the league, behind Pujols (116) and Gonzalez (114).
Between these three top sluggers, the MVP vote figures to be one of the closest in memory. Even though Votto may not lead te league in any single category, he will have the advantage of playing for a playoff team, which Pujols and Gonzalez are unlikely to attain.
PENNANT NOTES: The Reds and Phillies are each guaranteed at least a tie for their respective divisions. The Phillies, despite losing on Sunday, also are assured a playoff spot. No team can match their record, even if they lose all of their remaining six games. They need one more win or an Atlanta loss to secure the division, same as the Reds, with the Cardinals chasing.
The Rockies are clinging to faint hope now, losing, 4-2, to the Giants and falling 4 1/2 games off the pace. San Diego has a four-game lead over them for the wild card, with Atlanta also seeking it, 1/2 game behind the Padres. The Rockies have seven left to play, but any combination of three losses or three wins by the Padres or Atlanta would eliminate them mathematically.
In the AL East, the Yankees may have ended the nightmare scenario with a 4-3, 10-inning win over the Red Sox Sunday night. The Sox had taken two straight from the Yanks and remained alive for the wild card, but Sunday's win turned those hopes into despair. The best the Red Sox can do now is tie for the wild card, but the Yankees would have to lose all six of their remaining games and the Red Sox would need to win seven straight, including the final three games of the season, against New York at Fenway, a scenario very unlikely to occur.
With the Yankee win and the Rays falling to Seattle, 6-2, Tampa leads by just 1/2 game in the division.