Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oswalt Blanks Braves, Phillies Win 10th Straight; Ortiz Bangs for Boston

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 22, 2010 American League The Red Sox are probably going to have to live with the fact that they'll have the best record of any team in the AL that didn't make the playoffs. With the Yankees and Rays conspiring against them by beating each other, Boston has been unable to gain ground. Despite beating the Orioles, 6-1, they remain eight games behind the first-place Yankees and 6 1/2 back of Tampa Bay, the current wild card leader. Instrumental in Boston's relative success (they've managed to remain somewhat relevant despite numerous injuries) has been David Ortiz and the potent bat which he carries routinely to the plate. In Boston's Wednesday victory at Fenway Park, Ortiz launched his 31st home run of the season in the 4th inning, driving in three runs and putting Boston - and starter John Lackey - ahead by a 3-1 score. Ortiz also singled home another run for the Red Sox in their 2-run 6th, finishing the night with four RBI, giving him 96 on the year. Ortiz, who got off to his usual slow start, didn't his his first home run until April 23rd and finished the initial month of the season batting .143, with just four RBI. Finally reaching the .200 mark on May 12, Ortiz has played well since, getting his average up to a respectable .261. Boston faces New York six times over the span of the last ten days of the season. Even if Boston were to win all six games, they would still trail the Yankees by two games at season's end. National League It's a safe bet that the Phillies will win the NL East for the 4th straight season, now that they've extinguished the flame that had been burning in Atlanta most of the year. The Phillies won their 10th straight game, completing a three-game sweep of the Braves with a 1-0 win and now lead the division by six games. With just nine games remaining on Philly's regular season slate, their magic number is a solid four. In their Wednesday win, Roy Oswalt dominated from the mound, allowing one hit over seven full innings. Oswalt took perfection into the 4th inning, when Martin Prado doubled with two outs. Unfazed, Oswalt retired the next batter to close out the inning and allowed no more hits and just one walk through seven, fanning eight. Despite pitching brilliantly, Oswalt received no decision, pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 7th, Ryan Madson took his place on the mound and eventually got the win when Raul Ibanez doubled home Jayson Werth with the only run of the game in the bottom of the 8th. Brad Lidge came on for the 9th, and, like Madsen, didn't allow a hit, for his 26th save. Lidge earned saves in each of the three straight wins over Atlanta and appears ready for the playoffs, with eight saves in the month of September. PENNANT NOTES: The Rays got one back in the Bronx, whipping the first place Yankees, 7-2, to pull back to 1 1/2 games back. The Yanks and Rays complete their four-game series Thursday night. In the AL West, Texas downed the Angels, 2-1, in 12 innings, and the A's lost to the White Sox, 4-3, so the magic number for Texas drops to four. They lead the A's by eight games. San Diego took back the lead in the NL West, beating the Dodgers, 3-1, while the Cubs knocked off the Giants, 2-0, giving the Padres a 1/2 game lead. Colorado lost its third straight and have fallen three back. The Reds and Cardinals were both pounded, Cincinnati losing, 13-1, to Milwaukee, and St. Louis finishing on the wrong end of an 11-6 score with Pittsburgh. The Reds still lead by eight games and probably don't have to win any more, as their magic number is down to just three, and the Cardinals have all but thrown in the towel.

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