Sunday, October 10, 2010

Carlos Pena Keeps Rays Alive; Phil Hughes Leads Yankees to Sweep of Twins

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 9, 2010

American League

Deep in the heart of Texas, the Rays faced elimination from the playoffs just a week after winning the AL East with the best record in the league.

After dropping two straight in Tampa, the Rays found themselves staring at the wrong side of a 2-1 score as they batted in the top of the 8th inning.

With one out, Dan Johnson doubled and was replaced at second by pinch-runner Desmond Jennings. His team five outs away from being swept, Carlos Pena stepped to the plate, and delivered the biggest hit of the series for the Rays, a line single to right filed that sent Jennings home with the tying run.

After an out and a walk to Jason Bartlett, Pena eventually came around to score the go-ahead run on John Jaso's single up the middle.

In the top of the 9th, the Rays added insurance to their lead on a solo homer by Carl Crawford and a two-run shot by Pena.

Juaquin Benoit, who took the mound with one out in the 7th, held the Rangers hitless in the bottom of the 8th, recording five straight outs. Rafael Soriano gave up a solo shot to Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the 9th, but managed to avoid further damage, sealing the Rays' 6-3 win.

The series resumes Sunday with the Rays still on the brink of elimination, but with at least the confidence of having won a game. Wade Davis takes the mound for the Rays against Texas' Tommy Hunter at 1:07 pm ET.

It's got to be tough for the Twins, having to face the Yankees just about every time they reach the playoffs. This year was exceptionally brutal, as the Bombers took out the Twinkies three straight, adding insult to injury by winning the first two games in Minnesota.

Phil Hughes became the Twins' hangman du jour, blanking Minnesota for seven innings, allowing just four hits and a walk while fanning six, leading to a 6-1 Yankee win.

Minnesota did finally get on the scoreboard, but it was in the 8th inning off Kerry Wood, who took the ball from Hughes to start the inning. After they scored their run, Minnesota loaded the bases, but Boone Logan and David Robinson got Jason Kubel and Delmon Young on routine fly balls to end the threat, the inning and all hope for a Twins revival. The loss was the Twins' 12th straight in post-season play, the second most in MLB history. Nine of those losses have been to the Yankees, who also swept them last season.

The Twins were swept by Oakland in the divisional series in 2006. In 2004, the Twins took the first game of the ALDS from the Yankees, but then dropped the next three, which began their streak of post-season failure.

As the wild card, the Yankees will travel to either Tampa or Texas, depending on the outcome of their series, on Friday, October 15, for the start of the AL Championship Series.

There were no National League games on Saturday. On Sunday, the Braves host the Giants at 4:37 pm ET. That series is tied at a game apiece. The Phillies will be looking for the sweep when they play at Cincinnati at 8:07 pm ET.

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