Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pena, Baldelli Lead Rays into Playoffs as AL East Champs; Sanchez, Giants Take NL West

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 3, 2010

American League

With one down in the top of the 12th, pinch-hitter Rocco Baldelli (left) singled, stole second and scored the game winner when Kelly Shoppach grounded a ball through the legs of third baseman Wilson Betemit for a 3-2 win over Kansas City.

The AL East Pennant already assured, the Rays fought back in the 9th inning, when Carlos Pena (right), struggling with a batting average around .200 almost all season, doubled in two runs to tie the game in the 9th.

Hearing that the Yankees had lost to Boston before their at-bat in the 9th, thus making the Rays AL East champs by virtue of beating the Yankees head-to-head, Tampa went out and won a game that didn't matter, for the sake of ending the season with a win.

Tampa, with the best record in the AL, heads back to Tampa, where they will take on the Texas Rangers in a best-of-five series. The wild card Yankees play at Minnesota, also beginning Wednesday.

National League

Jonathan Sanchez (13-9) pitched five innings of shutout ball, singled and scored the game's first run, as the Giants topped the Padres in the winner-take-the-West season finale, 3-0. Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his 48th save of the season, edging out Heath Bell, who could only sit and watch as the Padres' season ended. Bell had saved each of the previous two games of the series - both Padres' wins over the Giants to tie Wilson in saves and force the showdown in the season's final game.

It was the culmination of a slow collapse which began in late August for the Padres, who went from leading the NL West by seven games to missing the playoffs entirely in the course of just over a month. San Francisco never gave up, knowing they had enough talent on their pitching staff that they could reach the post-season with less than an explosive offensive team.

The Giants captured the West for the first time since 2003 and will open a best-of-five series with the wild card  Braves on Thursday at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Tim Lincecum is expected to start for the Giants.

In order to keep on playing, no matter what the Padres did, the Braves knew they had to win and they seemed to be on a glide path to the post-season when their bullpen allowed a 6th inning 8-2 lead shrink to 8-7 by the middle of the 8th. Philadelphia rallied for two runs in the 7th and three more in the 8th.

Billy Wagner pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for the Braves, and despite allowing a run on two hits and a walk, he got the last four outs by strikeout, as the Braves won, 8-7, and hours later- when the Giants beat San Diego - learned that they would be the wild card team.

Philadelphia will host Central-division champion Cincinnati in a similar best-of-five series.

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