Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Twins Clinch; Santana Denies Rangers; Halladay Wins 20th

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 21, 2010 American League This hasn't been the Angels' year. As they play out the string, watching as the Texas Rangers take the division title that has been exclusive property of the Angels the past three seasons, the players do their best to delay the inevitable, not willing to go down without putting up a fight. Plenty of that fighting spirit is apparently left in Ervin Santana, who recorded his 17th win of the season with a 2-0 shutout of the first-place Rangers. even though Texas holds a seven game lead over the A's and 8 1/2 over the Angels, Santana delayed the celebration of winning the AL West by at least another day, allowing just five hits and a walk while fanning eight Texas would-be hitters. The win was the third straight for the Angels and got them to within a game of .500, at 75-76. They go for the sweep of the Rangers on Wednesday, still hoping to deny Texas, whose magic number is stalled at six. Coupled with Chicago's loss to the A's, the Twins captured the AL Central with a 6-4 win over Cleveland, becoming the first team in the majors to clinch a post-season slot. Minnesota may still be looking for more wins, as they are just one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the league. Having the best record would pit the Twins against the wild card, though it may be a moot point since the wild card will come out of the AL East, and since - according the major league rules - two teams from the same division cannot face each other in the opening playoff round, the Twins are destined to get the wild card team no matter what. Having the best record in the league, however, would assure them of home field advantage should they advance to the championship series. National League Like his 20-win counterpart in the American League, C.C. Sabathia, Roy Halladay wasn't overpowering in notching win #20, just good enough, holding the second-place Braves to three earned runs over seven innings, while his teammates were putting up five against Atlanta pitching. Philly's 5-3 win was their ninth straight, the season-high win streak coming at a nearly perfect time of year, as the Phillies drive toward their 4th consecutive NL East championship. Jayson Werth hit a three-run homer in the 3rd inning and Raul Ibanez accounted for the other two Philadelphia runs with a single in the 6th. After Halladay gave up singel runs in each of the 5th, 6th and 7th innings, he was lifted for Ryan Madsen, who completed the 8th. Brad Lidge came on in the 9th for his 25th save. Halladay allowed seven hits, walked two and only struck out three. Even though the Philly ace has earned wins in his last four starts, there's some reason for concern. He's allowed at least three earned runs in each of his last six starts, dating back to August 25th. Leading the major leagues in innings pitched, at 241.2, the long campaign may be taking a toll. Halladay (20-10) will likely get some time off should the Phillies clinch shortly. Their magic number stands at six. Not only are the Phillies' streaking into the post-season, over the past two games they've done it against their closest pursuer in the division. Atlanta came to Philly with hopes of slicing into the three-game lead, but, after two straight losses, find themselves five games behind and now looking at the wild card as their path to the playoffs. PENNANT NOTES: Cincinnati won their second straight while the Cardinals dropped their second in a row, so, over the course of two days, hope has turned to despair and anxiety to anticipation as the Cards fold and the reds churn toward the NL Central crown. The Reds have a eight-game lead over St. Louis; their magic number is six. In the West, the Giants maintained their hold on first place by 1/2 game over the Padres with a 1-0 win over the Cubs. Buster Posey homered in the top of the 8th for the game's only run. Carlos Zambrano had blanked the Giants for 6 innings, but Matt Cain was equal to the task, shutting out the Cubs for six. Neither starter earned a decision. San Diego breezed past the Dodgers, 6-0, as Clayton Richard scattered eight hits for the complete game shutout. Colorado lost their second straight and dropped back to 2 1/2 games off the pace. In the AL East, the Yankees took the measure of the Rays for the second straight night, beating Tampa, 8-3, and assuring themselves of first place even if Tampa wins the next two games of their four-game showdown series. The Yankees are up by 2 1/2 games over the Rays and have the best record in the majors, with 92 wins and 59 losses.

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