Monday, October 11, 2010

Longoria Forces Game Five; Phillies Complete Sweep; Giants Take 2-1 Edge

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 10, 2010

American League

Ardent fans of the Tampa Bay Rays knew they would not go down without a fight, even after dropping the first two games of the best-of-five ALDS to the Rangers, and so, with Evan Longoria going 3-for-4 and powering a two-run homer in Sunday's 5-2 triumph at Texas, it's on to a decisive Game Five, Tuesday, back at Tropicana Field in Tampa.

The Rays jumped on Texas starter, Tommy Hunter, early, when Carlos Pena tripled and scored on an Ian Kinsler error. In the 4th, Hunter was knocked out on two earned runs. Again it was Pena, doubling in Longoria, who had himself doubled to lead off the inning. Pena later scored on B.J. Upton's double.

Hunter finished the inning, but was replaced by Derek Holland in the fifth, who sandwiched two outs around a Ben Zobrist single before giving up Longoria's homer, his first of the series.

Tampa's Wade Davis held the Rangers scoreless through five, but surrendered two runs without getting anybody out in the 6th. However, the Tampa Bay bullpen made certain that was all the Rangers would get, allowing one hit and no runs getting the final 12 outs.

Game Five is set for Tuesday at 8:07 ET. Starters are a rematch of Game One: Cliff Lee for the Rangers vs. David Price of the Rays. The winner will host the Yankees in the best-of-seven league championship series, slated to begin Friday, October 15.

National League

The Phillies are headed back to the NL Championship Series for the third straight season, hoping to make their third consecutive World Series appearance.

After knocking off the Reds in three straight, Philly looks to be the team to beat as their trio of starters - Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels - are easily the best three starters of any team remaining.

On Sunday, Hamels dusted off the Reds with a 5-hit, complete game shutout that finished off the sweep with a 2-0 win.

Hamels wasn't as good as Halladay, who pitched a series-opening no-hitter, but he came close, allowing five hits and no walks while whiffing nine Reds batters, including Scott Rolen three times.

The Phils got their two runs on an unearned run in the second inning and a 5th inning solo homer by Chase Utley off Reds' starter Johnny Cueto, who pitched well in defeat.

Hamels threw 119 pitches, but will have plenty of time to rest up for his next start, which is certain to be at least a week from Sunday, as the NLCS will begin in Philadelphia on Saturday, October 16, against either the Braves or Giants.

The San Francisco Giants took a two-games-to-one lead over the Atlanta Braves in the best-of-five National League Division Series Sunday, topping the Braves, 3-2, on a game marred by three costly errors by Atlanta second baseman Brooks Conrad.

Eric Hinske's two-run homer in the 8th, Aubrey Huff getting the only RBI by a Giant in the 9th to tie the game and Conrad's final foul-up to allow the winning run overshadowed a stellar pitching performance by the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez.

Sanchez held the Braves scoreless for 7 1/3 innings, when he was lifted for reliever Sergio Romo after allowing just his second hit of the game, a one-out single to Alex Gonzalez. Romo proceeded to nearly lose the game, giving up a two-run shot to pinch-hitter Hinske.

Sanchez worked a no-hitter into the 6th, when Brian McAnn singled, but finished with no decision, despite allowing just one run on two hits and a walk, striking out 11 Braves in the process.

Conrad, forced into duty due to season-ending injuries to both Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, bobbled a grounder in the first, dropped a pop-up in the fifth and eventually let the winning run score by allowing a Buster Posey ground ball through his legs with two out in the 9th inning.

The Braves, one out away from taking a 2-1 lead in the series, now find themselves facing elimination with a roster decimated by injuries. Besides Prado and Jones being long gone, closer Billy Wagner is also kaput, after he suffered a strained left oblique in Saturday's 5-4 win. Wagner has been taken off the playoff roster, so, if the Braves win the series, he will not be eligible for the best-of-seven series against Philly, though he would be eligible to return if the Braves reach the World Series, though that's a scenario in serious doubt.

Wagner had already stated that this season would be his last, joining manager Bobby Cox in retirement at the end of this season, which, for the Braves, could be Monday night, when they host the Giants in Game 4 of the series at 7:37 pm ET, facing elimination.

No comments: