Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ryan Howard Has Grand Time vs. Mets; Matt Wieters Breaks Out for Orioles

Players of the Day for Friday, April 29, 2011

American League

Matt Wieters
Manager Buck Showalter has his hands full in Baltimore.

Since taking over late last season, Showalter has the team playing better baseball, but there are lots of moving parts and the AL East is an unfriendly environment overall. The O's started out hot, then lost seven straight, but have since played more consistently.

With Friday's 10-4 shearing of the White Sox, the O's have won three of their last four and are out of last place in the division.

Catcher Matt Wieters had the key hits in Friday's win. With the game tied at three, Wieters blasted his 4th home run of the season, a two-run shot off White Sox starter John Danks that put the O's up 5-3. After Chicago responded with a run in the bottom of the inning, Wieters pretty much finished them off with a two-run double in the 7th, part of a five-run rally in which he also scored Baltimore's 10th run.

Weithers went 2-for-5 with four RBI and two runs. He's driven in 16 this season, but still hasn't quite found his groove, batting .260, generally out of the eight hole.

National League

Ryan Howard
The Phillies have had to play at a high level just to stay ahead of the streaking Florida Marlins. On Friday, they won for the seventh time in their last nine games with a 10-3 whipping of the Mets in New York.

The win kept them just 1/2 game ahead of Florida in the NL East, as Ryan Howard delivered with a pair of home runs - his 5th and 6th of the season.

Howard got the Phillies started with a two-run shot in the 4th and followed it up with a grand slam in the 6th that put the game out of reach as the Phillies built an 8-0 lead.

Besides guiding Philadelphia into first place, Howard his having his usual, exceptional time at the plate, batting .302 with six home runs and 27 RBI which leads not just the National League, but the entire majors.

DIAMOND NOTES: It wasn't supposed to work out this way, but Washington's Jason Marquis outdueld the Giants' Tim Linceum, shutting down San Francisco on five hits for a 3-0 Nationals' win. Marquis fanned seven and went the distance, driving in a run with a single in the 6th. He's now 3-0, while Lincecum faded to 2-3.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ten RBI for Ben Zobrist in Double Header; Berkman Adds Depth to Cardinal Attack

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 28, 2011

American League

Ben Zobrist
Ballplayers live for driving in runs. Getting hits is nice, but hitting with runners on base, in scoring position, is what it's all about.

An RBI per game would break records. Getting three or four in a game is outstanding, but what Ben Zobrist of the the Tampa Bay Rays did on Thursday was off the charts.

Zobrist drove in eight runs in the first game of a double header and, for an encore, knocked in two more as the Rays took a pair from the struggling Twins, 15-3 and 6-1.

The start of the first game was fairly routine, though the Rays hit home plate twice, one run driven in by Zobrist on a single to right. But that was just the beginning of the onslaught and Zobrist's record day.

He hit a three-run homer in the sixth, doubled in two more in the 8th and doubled again in the 9th, driving in two more runs, finishing with an amazing line stat: 4-for-6, with a home run, two doubles, two runs and eight RBI.

After that, one would think Minnesota might have chosen to pitch around Zobrist, but he went 3-for-4 in the second game, with another homer and a double, scored twice and drove in two more runs, pushing his RBI total for the day to 10 and vaulting himself into the league lead with 25 on the season and into a tie for second in home runs with seven, one behind Toronto's Jose Bautista.

The two Tampa wins extended their winning streak to five straight, putting them 1 1/2 games behind the division-leading Yankees in the AL East. The Twins dropped into a tie with the White Sox for last place in the Central, seven games behind the streaking Cleveland Indians.

National League

Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman spent most of his major league career toiling in the relative obscurity of Houston. Last season, he took the free agency route to New York in late July, though the Yankees didn't use him very much and eventually shuffled him off to the National League's Cardinals.

Manager Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis brass have been more than content with the slugger's performance thus far. Berkman is batting over .400 and, together with Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, creates a pitcher's nightmare in the middle of the Cardinal lineup.

The Cardinals took a one-game lead in the NL Central with an 11-7 win at Houston, and Berkman made sure his former team would regret letting him go.

Berkman went 4-for-5, crashed a pair of homers, doubled, scored three times and drove in five runs. In the just-completed three-game series at Houston, Berkman went 8-for-14 and drove in seven runs. It's safe to say he made his point to his former team.

Berkman's .410 batting average is second in the NL to teammate Matt Holliday (.433). He's also second in home runs with 8, and RBI with 22.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stubbs, Votto Star for Reds in 7-6 Win; Justin Smoak Socks Detroit

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 27, 2011

American League

Justin Smoak
After losing the opener of their three-game home series with Seattle, 7-3, the Detroit Tigers brought out their ace, Justin Verlander, for game two, but another the hard-throwing righty was no match for Seattle's Justin Smoak, who smoked a Verlander first inning offering into the stands in left center to give the Seahawks a 3-0 lead before most fans had even settled into their seats.

Working with the lead, Seattle's Erik Bedard cruised to his first win in nearly two years, allowing a solitary run over seven solid innings. Bedard's last win was June 7, 2009.

Verlander departed after six innings, but the Tiger bullpen fell apart in the ninth, allowing Seattle six more runs. Smoak was in the middle of that rally with a two run single, and later scored Seattle's final run in the 10-1 victory. Smoak finished 2-for-5 with five RBI and two runs.

Seattle remains in last place in the AL West, but will still be looking for the road sweep on Thursday.

Smoak, who was traded from Texas to Seattle last season as part of the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the Rangers, had a promising rookie year, hitting 14 home runs and driving in 48 runs in 100 games. This season, he's batting .302 with 4 bombs and 14 ribbies.

National League

Drew Stubbs
Drew Stubbs' 10-inning homer to dead center field gave the Cincinnati Reds a 7-6, 10th-inning win over the Brewers, but they wouldn't have made it to the extra frame were it not for Joey Votto.

Joey Votto
Votto hit is fifth home run of the season in the first inning, a three-run blast off Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers' starter. He also singled in the sixth inning for his fourth RBI of the game, but Milwaukee tied the game at six with two runs in the bottom of the inning.

The teams went scoreless for the next three innings, until Stubbs hit his game winner, a mammoth shot that left the Reds 1/2 game behind St. Louis in the NL Central and the Brewers another 1/2 game behind them. Stubbs, batting leadoff, went 2-for-5 with the lone RBI, but scored three times.

To say that the division is tight would be a sublime understatement. All six teams are within four games of each other.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Homer Pairs: David Ross Blasts Two for Braves, Adam Lind Doubles Toronto Pleasure

Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 26, 2011

American League

Adam Lind
Just 20-odd games into the season, it's business as usual in the AL East, with four teams chasing the Yankees, who happen to be the only unit in the division with a record above .500.

One of those "other" teams on the chase is the Toronto Blue Jays, who have compiled a 10-11 record thus far, including Tuesday's 10-3 win at Texas.

Yankee fans may disagree, but Toronto has the nucleus of a very solid ball team, capable of winning the division or at least contending for it. One of the players who will have to perform at a high level is 6th-year pro Adam Lind, who connected for a pair of homers in the victory.

Lind blossomed in 2009, smashing 35 home runs with 114 RBI, but the numbers were down significantly last season (23 and 72). Toronto's success lies largely with Lind's level of production.

Getting the Blue Jays on the board early, Lind ignited a 5-run, first inning rally with an RBI single and later scored. He knocked a solo homer in the 3rd inning and put the game away with a three-run blast in the 4th. The five RBI gave him a team-leading 17, three behind league leader, Adrian Beltre.

National League

David Ross
With their 8-2 road win, Atlanta delivered the padres' their seventh loss in their last eight games, keeping them mired in last place in the NL West. The Braves also hung the first loss of the season on starter Aaron Harang (4-1).

Jair Jurrjens (2-0) went the distance for the Braves, allowing both earned runs on nine hits, but the Padres were mostly undone by catcher David Ross, who homered twice off Harang with a solo shot in the second inning and a three-run job in the 6th, which finished off the starter and the Braves' scoring for the night.

It wasn't supposed to go that way. Ross was in the lineup to give regular backstop Brian McCann a night off. It was just his fifth game this season, but he made the most of it.

The Braves could use more consistent production. At 12-13, they're 4 games back of the Marlins in the division and though they're second in the league in homers, with 27, their team batting average of .228 is third-worst in the NL.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Stifling Shutouts: Jered Weaver Stops A's; Ian Kennedy 3-Hits Phillies

Players of the Day for Monday, April 25, 2011

American League

Jered Weaver
Jered Weaver is on a roll and the rest of the American League isn't happy about it.

Weaver kept his record perfect, winning his sixth game in as many starts with a 5-0 shutout over the A's.

The ace of the Angels stopped Oakland on seven hits, walking one and striking out 10 for his third career shutout and sixth career complete game. In 45 2/3 innings this season, Weaver's allowed a measly five runs and his strikeout total - now at 49 - is the most in the majors. In the AL he leads Justin Verlander (35) and Ricky Romero (34) by a solid margin.

LA scored twice in the second inning, adding a single run in the third and two more in the fourth to give Weaver a working lead that he used to his advantage.

The Angels trail Texas in the AL West by 1 1/2 games.

National League

Ian Kennedy
Normally, it's the Phillies doing the shutting out.

On Monday, Arizona's Ian Kennedy turned the tables on the AL East leaders with a 3-hit shutout and a 4-0 win for the Diamondbacks.

Matched up against Philly's Cliff Lee, Kennedy didn't flinch, while Lee - who fanned 12 - allowed all of Arizona's scores in his seven innings of work.

Kennedy, meanwhile, was busy working through the Philadelphia lineup. He gave up a double in the first inning to Placido Polanco, a Jimmy Rollins single in the 4th and a single by Polanco in the 6th. After that, no Phillie reached base for the duration of the contest.

Improving to 3-1, Kennedy fanned Rollins, Lee, Shane Victorino and Ryan Howard twice each, ending the game with a swinging strikeout of Rollins, which brought his total for the game to 10.

It was Kennedy's initial complete game and shutout. His 10 Ks are a season high.

Monday, April 25, 2011

James Shields Throws 2nd Straight Complete Game; Halladay Fans 14 in Philly Win

Players of the Day for Sunday, April 24, 2011

American League

James Shields
Just in case anyone thought James Shields' complete game, 4-1 win over the White Sox last week was a fluke, "Big Game James" put that notion to rest with a sizzling, 4-hit, 2-0, shutout win on the road in Toronto.

Given a 2-0 lead - courtesy of a Ben Zobrist home run - before he even threw a pitch, Shields responded by not allowing a hit until the 5th inning, working over the Blue Jays for the full nine innings, walking two and striking out seven.

With back-to-back complete games, Shields (2-1) lowered his ERA to 2.35 and his WHIP to 0.93.

After a 1-8 start, the Rays have reeled off 10 wins in their last 13 games and moved into second place in the AL East, 3 games back of the Yankees.

National League

The Phillies have won five straight, keeping the red-hot Florida Marlins at bay in the NL East. Their latest victory was a not-so-subtle reminder to the rest of the league that they can beat you with hitting or pitching.
Roy Halladay

Sunday's sensational effort by Roy Halladay didn't result in a complete game as the Padres finally broke through for a run in the 9th inning. With two down in the inning, Wes Venable singled in Jason Bartlett and Halladay gave way to Antonio Bastardo, who promptly retired Nick Hundley for the 3-1 Philadelphia win.

The drama came after Halladay had already punched out 14 Padres on strikes, allowed just five hits and a walk over 8 2/3 innings for his third win of the season against one loss.

Halladay, a known workhorse, threw 130 pitches. His 14 strikeouts tied his career high.

The Philly pitching staff recorded two shutouts in the four game sweep of the flailing Padres and allowed just 3 runs over 36 innings. They lead the Marlins by 1 1/2 games in the division.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A-Rod Slam, 6 RBI Grounds Orioles; Castro Goes 4-for-5, Ups Average to .393

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 23, 2011

American League

Alex Rodriguez
Managers and pitchers around the American League know there's one rule when playing the Yankees that must be heeded: Don't walk Mark Teixeira! And especially don't walk him to load the bases.

This simple rule prevents one from having to pitch to Alex Rodriguez, which is generally not a good thing.

Well, the Orioles broke the rule and the result was as expected. Reliever Jason Berken had already given up back-to-back homers to Jorge Posada and Rod Martin (his second of the game) and the Yankees were killing the Orioles at Camden Yards, 9-3, so in came Clay Rapada, who issued a walk to Derek Jeter, a single to Curtis Granderson and then - oh, no! - walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases.

Manager Buck Schowalter, sensing what was coming, replaced Rapada on the mound with Josh Rupe, who offered to A-Rod a fat meatball of a pitch in the form of a high fastball. The result was a deposit of one baseball into the left field stands, four runs and A-Rod's 22nd career grand slam, breaking a tie with the now-retired Manny Ramirez and one behind the late, great Lou Gehrig, the all-time grand master of the grand slam.

Rodriguez had already driven in two runs with a double in the first inning, so the slam gave him six RBI on the night, pushing him past Carl Yastrzemski into #12 all-time, with 1847. The rest of the club chimed in, hitting five homers total, for a 15-3 spanking of the fast fading (8-11) O's.

National League

Starlin Castro
The Cubs really have something in their second-year shortstop, Starlin Castro.

That he would become a regular - and a good one - was apparent after his rookie season, in which he batted .300, stole 10 bases and scored 53 runs in 125 games.

So far this year, Castro's making 2010 look like a warm-up to the real deal.

In Chicago's 10-8 home win over the Dodgers, Castro collected four more hits - three singles and a double - drove in three runs, scored twice and swiped his third base of the season.

Going 4-for-5 boosted his batting average to .393, amazingly good for only third in the National League. Matt Holliday leads the league at .412 and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp is second at .402, but Castro's hit a cool .422 over the last 10 games with his second 4-hit game in a week. He's had three hits in a game five times already.

His hot play has helped the Cubs back to a 10-10 record, just 1/2 game behind the Cardinals and Reds in the NL Central.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Anibal Sanchez 1-Hits Rockies; Michael Young Raking for Rangers

Players of the Day for Friday, April 22, 2011

American League

Michael Young
Michael Young is one of the best pure hitters in the game and proof of that has been his red-hot start to the 2011 season. He's batting .359, good for third in the AL and he's helped the Texas Rangers to first place in the AL West.

After losing six of their last eight and briefly giving up the division lead, Young and his Ranger teammates were happy to see the Royals visiting for a three-game series on Friday, and welcomed them to the Lone Star state with a five home run, 15 hit, 11-6 beating.

Young was not one of the five Rangers who homered, but he did get things started by singling in Ian Kinsler in the first and tripling him home in the second and scoring as the Rangers built a 5-0 lead.

Another single put Young at 3-for-5 for the night and gave him 28 hits, two behind league leader Alex Gordon, who went 2-for-4 in the same game. Meanwhile, the Angles lost to Boston, 4-3, and the Rangers assumed a 1/2 game lead.

Young won the AL batting championship in 2005 and also led the league in hits that season with 221.

National League

The Florida Marlins won their 4th straight game and kept pressure on the Phillies in the NL East, remaining 1/2 game behind the division leader.

Anibal Sanchez
Anibal Sanchez took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, spoiled on the first pitch to Dexter Fowler, who snapped a single into right field. Fowler had also walked to lead off the game, took second on a passed ball, moved to third on a ground out and scored when Gaby Sanchez threw errantly on Troy Tulowitzki's grounder.

The run was unearned, but gave the Rockies a short-lived 1-0 lead. Little did anyone know that it would be all they would get.

Sanchez cruised through the Rockies' lineup, at one point getting 12 straight outs, including four consecutive strikeouts. He finished allowing only Fowler's ninth inning single and three walks while fanning nine in the 4-1 Florida win.

Sanchez tossed a no-hitter last season, and flirted with another Friday. He is 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts this season.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Felix Hernandez silences A's; Kyle Lohse Tosses 2-Hitter at Nationals

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 21, 2011

American League

Felix Hernandez
At this juncture, a four-game series with the Oakland A's might not seem so important, but the Seattle Mariners need to get something started as they are already mired in last place in the AL West.

The solution, it seems, is to hand the ball to your ace starter, Felix Hernandez, and send him out to the mound.

Sounds simple enough, but Hernandez had to hold the A's scoreless for 7 2/3 innings in order to get the desired result, a 1-0 win, to open the four-game set at Seattle.

Hernandez dueled with the A's Brandon McCarthy, who pitched a whale of a game himself, going the full nine innings, and allowing just four hits, though one was a solo homer by Adam Kennedy in the 4th inning that proved to be the game-winner.

As for Hernandez (2-2), he allowed four hits and three walks over 7 2/3 innings and left with two on and two out in the 8th. Jamey Wright slammed the door on the A's by getting the final out of the inning and Brandon League locked it and threw away the key, working a scoreless ninth inning for his 4th save.

National League

Kyle Lohse
With Adam Wainwright lost for the season, the St. Louis Cardinals were looking for another starter to step up and pick up the slack.

At 3-1, Kyle Lohse has heard the call and answered it, throwing a 2-hit shutout Thursday night against the Washington Nationals.

Lohse, who started off the game by setting down the first eleven men he faced in order, finished with just the two hits and two walks against him, all of the damage spread over the 4th, 5th and 6th innings. After walking Rick Ankiel with two outs in the 6th, that was it, except for Lohse plunking Danny Espinosa to lead off the 9th inning, as he finished the game getting ten of eleven in a row.

Loshe threw 72 of 111 pitches for strikes, fanning six in the 5-0 Cardinal win that kept them tied for first place with Cincinnati in the tight NL Central.

Lohse is 3-1 with a 2.01 ERA and a WHIP of 0.73.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jered Weaver Goes to 5-0, Angels Lead AL West; Nolasco Solid in 6-0 Marlins Win

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 20, 2011

American League

Jered Weaver
There's a new leader in the AL West, but it's a familiar face, that of the LA Angels, who took the final two games of their three-game series with the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.

As ace hurler Jered Weaver improved his record to 5-0, the Angels left Texas with a one-game lead in the division and the Texas team out of first place for the first time this season.

Weaver was far from perfect, but managed a complete game, 4-1, win, allowing just six hits while punching out 8 batters on strikes. The only Ranger run came in the 6th inning, when Michael Young doubled home Elvis Andrus.

That was it, however, as Weaver set down ten of the next 11 men to finish the game. He did not walk a batter.

A model of consistency has been Weaver's trademark this season. In 36 2/3 innings, he's allowed just five earned runs, resulting in an ERA of 1.23 and a 0.76 WHIP. His 39 strikeouts are tops in the American League.

National League

Ricky Nolasco
Keeping the pressure on the Phillies in the NL East, the Florida Marlins remained 1/2 game back of the division leaders with a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh.

Starter Ricky Nolasco delivered seven scoreless innings to go to 2-0 on the season, his teammates giving him an early working margin after scoring four times in the second and twice more in the third inning.

Nolasco set down nine straight in the middle innings, including fanning five in a row - setting the side down in the 4th and the first two batters in the 5th on strikes. He finished with eight Ks and one walk before heading to the bench after seven innings.

It was the second straight 6-0 win for Florida over Pittsburgh. Josh Johnson shut down the Pirates on Tuesday and Florida can cmplete the sweep when the teams take the field Thursday night in Miami.

DIAMOND NOTES: It has to be a little disconcerting for the players, but the LA Dodgers are soon going to be operated by MLB, according to statements made Wednesday afternoon by the Office of commissioner Bud Selig.

It appears to be the first step in fixing the franchise's finances, which have run afoul of late. Revealed during divorce negotiations with his wife Jamie, owner Frank McCourt appears to have put the Dodgers under a $400 million debt burden. MLB will investigate the owner and likely will seek a sale of the team and restructuring of its finances.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ichiro Heats Up in Win over Tigers; Josh Johnson Leads Marlins to 6-0 Victory

Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American League

People who are recognizable by just one name - like Madonna, Gaga, Prince or Michael - are that way because they are unique. Baseball has it's own, a player known to most simply as "Ichiro."

That's the first name of Mariners' outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, the Japanese import who's won two batting titles, led the AL in hits seven times and has had over 200 hits every season - 10 of them - that he's played.

Ichiro got off to something of a slow start this season. Entering last night's game with Detroit, the batting average was just .250, far below his career .331 mark, so Ichiro spent little time correcting that, going 4-for-5 (all singles) in Seattle's 13-3 victory.

The hitting isn't Ichiro's whole game, though. He also averages 38 steals per season. He swiped two in the Seattle win, scored three times and drove in two runs. Not a bad night for him; a good week for lesser players.

National League

Josh Johnson
Being way down at the tip of the Florida panhandle, people forget that Miami is home to the Florida Marlins. The games are sparsely attended, but the Marlins put a solid product out on the field year in, year out.

On Tuesday, they rode the arm of Josh Johnson to a 6-0 win over Pittsburgh, clawing to within 1/2 game of the Phillies in the NL East.

Johnson, who holds a lifetime ERA of 3.02, lowered it a bit with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk, fanning nine batters along the way. The pitcher drove in the first two runs of the game with a single in the second; his teammates added four more in the 4th and the bullpen mopped up with two hitless innings in relief.

The win improved the Marlins' record to 9-6 and Johnson's to 3-0 on the season. A Cy young candidate the past two seasons, this could be the one for the 6'7" righty. He won 15 games in 2009, but dropped to 11-6 in 2010, despite a ridiculous 2.30 ERA.

So far this season, he's allowed just 10 hits in 27 innings, holding opposing batters to a .112 batting average. The WHIP is 0.59 and his ERA is an even 1.00. Johnson has rung up 27 strikeouts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jed Lowrie Powers Red Sox Past Rays; Zambrano Sharp in Cubs Win

Players of the Day for Monday, April 18, 2011

American League

Jed Lowrie
The Boston Red Sox took the final three games of their four game series against the Blue Jays - including Monday's 9-1 win - but are still only a 5-10 ball club mired in last place, trailing the Yankees by 4 1/2 games in the AL East.

With the talent they have, it's unlikely the Sox will be down in the dumps for long, especially if some of the players start emulating shortstop Jed Lowrie's level of play.

Lowrie went 4-for-5 in Monday's win, launching his second home run of the season - a 5th inning, two-run shot that sent Blue Jay starter Ricky Romero to an early shower - after greeting Romero with a two-run single in the first inning.

Lowrie's four RBI gave him nine for the year, and his four hits upped his average to a blistering .516, and that's after 11 games.

National League

Carlos Zambrano
Carlos Zambrano didn't get a decision, but he did pave the way for the Cubs' 1-0, 10th-inning win over San Diego.

Widely considered one of the top hurlers in the game, Zambrano allowed just three hits over eight scoreless innings before turning the ball over to the bullpen. Already 2-0 on the season, it was Zambrano's best effort thus far, a hopeful sign for the Cubs, who suddenly find themselves just a game behind Cincinnati in the NL Central. Chicago is stuck in a logjam at 8-8 with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.

Zambrano struggled a bit in a the early going, allowing two hits and his only walk of the game in the first two innings, but settled in and finished strong, setting down the last ten in order, including striking out the side in the 7th inning. He finished with 10 Ks on 110 pitches.

Diamond Notes: Tim Lincecum took a no hitter into the 7th inning, but was touched up for four hits and didn't last through the 8th, as the Giants roughed up Colorado, 8-1, but remain in second place, three games behind the streaky Rockies.

The two top teams in the AL Central - Cleveland and Kansas City - squared off in the first of a four game series in KC, with the Indians finally putting the Royals away with four runs in the top of the 10th for a 7-3 win and a two-game lead in the division. The surprising Indians have the best record in the majors, tied with Colorado at 12-4, thanks to a reinvigorated lineup which includes a healthy Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner, who appears to have rediscovered his power stroke.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Carlos Gonzalez Goes 4-for-5, Rockies Win; Trevor Cahill Stumps Tigers

Players of the Day for Sunday, April 17, 20101

American League

Trevor Cahill
The Detroit Tigers started out well in their 4-game series at Oakland, winning the first two games, but since then the A's have had their way taking their second straight from the Tigers Sunday, as Trevor Cahill shut Detroit down on 4 hits in a 5-1 A's win.

The win was Cahill's second of the season without a loss, going 8 innings, fanning 9 and allowing one run, which came in the 6th inning, after the A's had already forged a 4-0 lead.

Cahill was strong, throwing 80 of 112 pitches for strikes as the A's moved back to .500, at 8-8, five games behind NL West leader, Texas.

Carlos Gonzalez
National League

The Cubs may have snapped Colorado's win streak on Saturday, but the Rockies went right back to starting another one with a 9-5 win at Coors Field on Sunday.

Doing his fair share to keep Colorado in first place in the NL West, Carlos Gonzalez went 4-for-5 (all singles), scored a run, stole a base and drove in two runs.

Gonzalez has 12 RBI on the season, and has hit only one home run thus far, but it's not a worry as the Rockies lead the Giants by 3 1/2 games in the division.

Cabrera Leads Cleveland over Baltimore; Cubs, Castro Snap Colorado Streak at Seven

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 16, 2011

American League

Orlando Cabrera
As reported here yesterday, Cleveland and Kansas City are locked into a battle for first place in the upside-down AL Central.

On Saturday, the story got even better as both the Royals and Indians won, while the rest of the division - Detroit, Minnesota and Chicago - all took losses. The co-leaders improved to 10-4 as Kansas City blanked Seattle, 7-0, and the Indians pounded Baltimore for the second straight day, 8-3.

Cleveland was powered by second baseman Orlando Cabrera, who went 2-for-4 with four RBI and three runs. Cabrera got things started in the second inning, driving in the first Cleveland run on a fielder's choice and coming around to score on Matt LaPorta's double.

In the 3rd inning, Cabrera singled home another run and scored and capped off his performance with a two-run blast in the 7th.

The Indians amassed 13 hits overall and seek to sweep the three-game series on Sunday. Likewise, the Royals are looking for a sweep of the Mariners.

National League

Starlin Castro
Starlin Castro had a pair of singles, a double, a home run and drove in three runs as the Chicaco Cubs ended the Rockies' win streak at seven games with a 17-hit assault.

The Cubs haven't had much to cheer about this season, but the 8-3 win over the NL West leader got them back to .500, at 7-7, and into the thick of the NL Central race.

Castro has been solid all along, his 4-for-5 effort boosting his team-leading batting average to .397. Called up early in 2010, Castro made a bid for rookie of the year by batting .300 over 125 games.

The Cubs are just two games behind the Reds in the division with St. Louis and Milwaukee tied for second place 1 1/2 back. Chicago will try to take the series at Colorado with a win Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Francoeur Keeps Royals in First Place; Rolling Rockies Rack Up 7th Straight

Players of the Day for Friday, April 15, 2011

American League

Jeff Francoeur
Right now, the AL Central is completely upside down from the way the division finished in 2010. The Minnesota Twins are in last place, five games out, the Tigers 2 1/2 back and the White Sox trail Kansas City and Cleveland by two games.

Kansas City and Cleveland? Yes, that's right. The two teams that finished at the bottom last season are on top this time. The Indians topped the Orioles, 8-2, and Kansas City slipped by Seattle, 6-5, to keep the two teams knotted with identical 9-4 records.

The Royals were led by off-season acquisition Jeff Francoeur, who singled home a run in the first inning, then homered - with Billy Butler aboard - in the 3rd, and later singled and scored another run in the 5th.

It was a very productive night for the transferee, who went from the Mets to Texas in September and wound up on the Royal roster this season. He went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI and scored twice. The utility outfielder is batting .327 with 11 RBI.

National League

Jhoulys Chacin
At 11-2, the Colorado Rockies are off o the best start in franchise history and hold a 4-game lead over the rest of the NL West.

On Friday, they won their 7th in a row, getting a six-hit shutout from Jhoulys Chacin, who improved to 3-0 as the Rockies topped the Cubs, 5-0.

For Chacin, who became a starter just last season, posting a 9-11 record, it was his first complete game and initial shutout of his brief career, scattering six hits while fanning seven and walking two.

It was also the first complete game shutout at Coors Field since July of 2008. The Rockies are 4-1 at home and an astounding 7-1 on the road. Chacin has a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Markakis Alone Not Enough to Stop Yanks; Cliff Lee Shuts Out Nationals, Fans 12

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 14, 2011

American League

Nick Markakis
Nick Markakis singled, doubled, homered, drove in three runs and scored twice, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Yankees from taking their second straight over the Orioles, as New York rallied for a 10-inning, 6-5, victory.

Baltimore, thanks mostly to Markakis, had built a 5-0 lead after 4 1/2 innings, but the Yankees scored a run in the bottom of the 5th, two more in the 6th and another in the 7th, cutting the lead to a single run. When Jorge Posada homered in the bottom of the ninth, the O's were caught and the Yanks overtook them with a Nick Swisher sac fly in the bottom of the 10th, plating Mark Teixeira with the game winner.

The loss exposed the weakness of Baltimore's bullpen, which allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings, and the strength of the Yankees', which gave up just four hits and no runs over the final 5 2/3 after starter Phil Hughes lasted only 4 1/3 innings.

With the win, the Yankees assume the position they feel is rightfully theirs, forever and for all time, atop the AL East, with a one game lead over the O's and 1 1/2 edge over Toronto.

Now that the Yankees are in first place, they host the top representative from the AL West, the Texas Rangers, who hold a two-game bulge over the Angels, for a three-game weekend series beginning Friday night.

National League

Cliff Lee
OK, seriously, barring injuries, the Philadelphia Phillies are already the de facto champions of the NL East. They've assembled a powerful lineup, but also have what appears to be the best starting pitching staff the league has seen in many years.

Proof of how good the Philly starters are was on display Thursday as Cliff Lee took to the mound against the Washington Nationals. All Lee did was toss a complete-game, three-hit shutout, strike out 12 batters - including a string of 7 of 8 in succession between the 6th and 8th innings - for a 4-0 Philadelphia win, his sixth shutout in the last four years.

After losing their first meeting, 7-4, the Phillies came back to take the remaining two games of the series at Washington and now head home to face another divisional foe, the Florida Marlins, in a three-game series beginning Friday.

Lee walked one batter as he improved to 2-1 on the season.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Berkman Slam Dumps D-Backs, 15-5; Rodriguez, Rivera Key Yankee Surge to 1st

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 13, 2011

American League

Alex Rodriguez
It didn't take long for the Yankees to figure out that they needed to do something about the upstart Orioles, which took off with an early lead in the AL East.

With a 7-4 win at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks have caught the O's in the standings, with both teams holding a 6-4 record, tied for first place in the division.

Mariano Rivera
After the Orioles failed to score in the first, despite getting Brian Roberts over to third base with one out, the Bombers responded with a three-run blast off the bat of Alex Rodriguez, building the lead after that until they led 7-0, before Baltimore finally got to starter A.J. Burnett for four run in the 7th. Rodriguez added a single later to complete a 2-for-3 night.

A-Rod's homer was his fourth of the season, Burnett won his third game without a loss and Mariano Rivera picked up his fifth save of the season with a perfect ninth inning. The Yankee closer has allowed just 2 hits in 5 1/3 innings, and has not allowed a run.

National League

The St. Louis Cardinals scored in each of the first five innings, cruising to a 15-5 slaughter at Arizona.

Lance Berkman
After Colby Rasmus scored the first run of the game on a wild pitch, Lance Berkman grounded out, but brought home Albert Pujols with the second run.

In the next inning, Berkman would have a better at-bat, smacking a grand slam homer to key a six-run inning. The shot was Berkman's only hit in five at-bats, but he did drive in five runs, increasing his total to 11 on the year.

By the time Arizona got on the board with a pair of runs in the 4th inning, the Cardinals had already plated a dozen and the contest was essentially no contest.

St. Louis has gotten off to a slow start, at 5-7, and their star, Pujols, who scored three times and drove in a pair of runs, has hit just one home run thus far, though nobody believes the Cardinal slugger will struggle for long.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Unhittable Haren Stymies Tribe; Bourn, Pence Lead Astros Past Cubs

Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 11, 2011

American League

Dan Haren
When the LA Angels plucked Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks prior to the trade deadline last season, he was supposed to help them catch the Rangers and win the AL West division. The plan didn't quite work out, though it was hardly Haren's fault, as he went 5-4 in 14 starts for the Halos.

Finding themselves in a similar situation to begin the 2011 campaign - chasing the Rangers - Haren is doing everything in his power to keep LA close to the top. On Tuesday, he won his third straight without a loss, tossing a one-hitter at the Cleveland Indians en route to a 2-0 win.

It was Haren's 12th complete game and third shutout of his 9-year major league career, and it was a doozy, the only hit coming in the 4th inning when Shin-Soo Choo lifted a single to center field. After that, Haren set down 17 of the next 18 batters he faced, allowing only a 7th inning walk to Carlos Santana and finishing up by retiring the last eight batters he faced.

Haren walked two and struck out eight, giving him 21 on the year, good for third in the AL, behind teammate Jared Weaver (27) and Edwin Jackson (24) of the White Sox. Incidentally, Haren and Weaver have accounted for all six of the Angel wins.

The numbers for Haren are off-the-charts. In 24 2/3 innings, he's allowed 11 hits and just 2 earned runs, for an ERA of 0.73 and a 0.53 WHIP. Opposing batters are hitting .131 against him.

The Angles trail Texas by three games in the division.

National League

Hunter Pence
Michael Bourn
Michael Bourn went 2-for-5, stole two bases and scored four runs and Hunter Pence went 3-for-5 with four RBI to pace the Astros in just their third win of the season, an 11-2 scorching of the Chicago Cubs.

That the Astros are already five games back in the NL Central is hardly surprising. Beyond leadoff hitter Bourne and #3 man, Pence, Houston doesn't offer much in the way of punch on offense. Bourn leads the team in runs and steals, while Pence is Houston's RBI king, with 9. The Astros have the distinction of being last in the majors in home runs, with only one to their credit.

Making matters worse, their best starting pitcher appears to be Brett Myers, who earned the his first win of the season with seven innings of 1-run ball. The Astros could very well supplant the Pirates as this season's NL Central cellar dweller.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sam Fuld Misses Cycle by a Single; Tulowitzki an RBI Machine for Flying Rockies

Players of the Day for Monday, April 11, 2011

American League

Sam Fuld
Should Sam Fuld have stopped at first base?

After all, his Tampa Bay Rays were killing the Red Sox.

When he hit that 9th inning shot to left, the Rays were already ahead, 14-4, and Casey Kotchman was heading home with run #15 for the Rays. Fuld already had a double, triple and home run to his credit; stopping at first would have given him the cycle.

On to second base he ran. Rookie mistake. Call it the cycle, plus one. But there was no doubting the outcome of the game as Fuld and teammates absolutely battered Daisuke Matsuzaka for eight hits and seven runs over the first two innings. They weren't very kind to Tim Wakefield, either, pounding the aging knucklehaller for five more runs on seven hits.

Dennis Wheeler finished the game by allowing four more runs in the ninth. The only Red Sox pitcher to escape the barrage was Alfredo Aviles, ironically, a Yankee transplant, who went 2 2/3rds without allowing a hit. Tampa Bay won the laugher, 16-4, whacking Boston for 20 hits.

But Fuld, the rookie left fielder and leadoff hitter had a night to remember, scoring three times, driving in three runs and going 4-for-6. The cycle, plus one.

National League

Troy Tulowitzki
So far this season, Troy Tulowitzki is only batting at a .250 clip, but he's getting his hits when they count.

Tulowitzki has just 8 hits in 32 at-bats, but his nine RBI are good enough to tie him for fifth place in the National League. He added RBI 7, 8 and 9 in Colorado's 7-6 win over the Mets, going 2-for-4 with a run-producing single and a 2-run homer which completed the Rockies' scoring in the 8th inning.

The homer was his second of the season, helping the Rockies to one of their best starts in franchise history. Their 7-2 record matches their best 9-game start to a season, and they lead the NL West by 1 1/2 games.

Tulowitzki is a career .290 hitter. Last season he battled injuries but still put up a .315 average in 122 games. Expect the hits to keep on coming.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Becket Spectacular in Red Sox Win over Yanks; Hamels Rebounds for 3-0 Philly Victory

Players of the Day for Sunday, April 10, 2011

American League

Josh Beckett
It would appear that all the worries about Josh Beckett and the demise of the Boston Red Sox have been grossly overstated, especially since the BoSox ace shut down the mighty Yankees Sunday night, hurling a 2-hit shutout over eight innings, paving the way for a 4-0 Boston triumph.

Beckett, coming off a 6-6 season in 2010 and losing his first start, 3-1, just five days ago, had complete command of the mound, all his pitches and the opposing Yankees. He allowed two hits and a walk over the first four innings, but set down the final 14 batters he face in order, racking up 10 Ks along the way. Jonathan Papelbon worked the ninth - a non-save situation - and retired the Yankees in order.

The win was just the third of the season for Boston, but the second in three days over their arch-rivals, an important matter to both New York and Boston fans.

National League

Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels got roughed up in his first start of the season, allowing seven hits and six runs in a 7-1 loss to the Mets, lasting only 2 2/3 innings. But, like most quality starters, he came back strong for the Phillies, hurling seven solid shutout innings in a 3-0 win at Atlanta.

Hamels gave up just 4 hits, walked one and struck out 8 Atlanta batters, not allowing a hit until a one-out double by Nate McLouth in the 4th inning. After escaping from 2-out, 2-on jams in both the 6th and 7th innings, Hamels surrendered the ball to the Phillies' capable bullpen.

Ryan Madsen worked a scoreless 8th inning and Jose Contreras picked up his second save of the season with a perfect 9th inning.

The Phillies are off to a hot, 7-2, start, with a 2-game bulge over the Marlins in the NL East.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beltre Blasts Orioles; Broxton, Kuroda Lead Dodgers to Pair of Wins

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 9, 2011

American League

Adrian Beltre
It's probably too early to be thinking about possible playoff match-ups, but, since it's still only April, the weekend series between the Orioles and Rangers at Camden yards qualifies - for now - as a pairing of the top teams from the AL East and West and the result so far is a draw.

After a rain-out Friday forced a Saturday double-dip, the Orioles took the opener by a 5-0 score behind the 4-hit pitching by Baltimore's Zach Britton, who blanked the Rangers for 7 2/3 innings. It was the first loss of the season by Texas, following a 6-0 start.

Taking an 0-for-4 collar in the first game, newly-acquired Texas 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre was batting just .148, but he and the Rangers would get their revenge in the nightcap,

Beltre, who socked 28 homers and drove in 102 runs in Boston last season, went 3-for-5, with a single, double, home run, three RBI and three runs as the Rangers
blasted the Orioles, 13-1.

Beltre doubled his hit total for the season, to six, and was at .182 with 7 RBI after the onslaught. The two teams conclude their series at 1:35 on Sunday.

National League

Hiroki Kuroda
Jonathan Broxton
2010 was a disappointing year for the Dodgers, watching their arch-rivals, the San francisco Giants, win the NL West and the World Series, so they're determined not to repeat the woes of last season, with a new manager, Don Mattingly, and a new attitude.

They're off to a 5-3 start, 1/2 game behind the Rockies, after they beat the Padres twice on Saturday, winning the resumption of Friday's suspended game, 4-2, in 11 innings and then winning again, 4-0, on the strength of Hiroki Kuroda's 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball.

Jonathan Broxton had the unique pleasure of getting two saves in one day, working a scoreless 11th inning in the suspended game and getting the final out in the regular contest after Kuroda left with runners on first and second.

Broxton issued a walk to load the bases, but then got Cameron Maybin to ground into a game-ending fielder's choice. Broxton also allowed a hit and a walk in the single inning save in the suspended game.

Kuroda, who walked two and fanned four, was nearly unhittable early, taking a one-hitter through six innings, but struggled through the latter stages, allowing six hits overall.

In two starts, both wins, Kuroda has a 1.72 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Pedroia, Sox Beat Yanks for 1st Win; Jose Tabata Stars in Pittsburgh Win Over Rockies

Players of the Day for Friday, April 8, 2011

American League

Dustin Pedroia
After opening the season with six straight losses, the Boston Red Sox finally put one in the win column, and it was especially pleasant coming as a 9-6 win over their lifelong nemesis, the New York Yankees.

It was a ty[ical Yankees-Red sox battle, with the two teams combining for 13 runs in the first five innings. Boston starter John Lackey lasted five innings. Phil Hughes, the Yankee starter, was shelled for six runs over the first two innings.

Dustin Pedroia delivered the money shots, with a solo homer in the first inning and a two-run single in the second. He came around to score as the Red Sox put up a five-spot and added a single later to complete a 3-for-5 night at the plate.

The two teams go to battle again at 1:10 pm EDT in Boston on Saturday.

National League

The Pittsburgh Pirates got their first home win of the season, outlasting Colorado, 4-3, in 14 innings.

Jose Tabata
The win kept Pittsburgh a mere half game behind the NL Central front-running Reds as the Pirates have displayed much more punch in their lineup this season than in years past.

Leadoff hitter Jose Tabata doubled home the winning run with two out in the bottom of the 14th after pinch-hitter Josh Rodriguez reached on a walk. Tabata's shot scored Rodriguez all the way from first, improving Pittsburgh's record to 5-3.

Tabata had earlier socked his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the 5th inning as the Pirates fought back from a 3-0 Colorado lead forged by Jason Giambi's 3-run blast in the first. Tabata finished 2-for-6 with two RBI, adding his third stolen base of the season in the seventh inning. His heroic night at the plate actually lowered his batting average slightly, from .346 to .344

The Pirates evened up their series with Colorado after a 7-1 loss on Thursday and conclude the series with games Saturday and Sunday.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jones Homers as Orioles Lead AL East; Valdez Goes 4-for-4 as Phillies Crush Mets, 11-0

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 7, 2011

American League

Adam Jones
Anybody thinking that Buck Showalter's Baltimore Orioles have been just lucky to start their season off with a 5-1 record, maybe better take a good look up and down their lineup.

During the off-season, the O's made a couple of valuable additions, in the form of Vladimir Guerrero from Texas and Mark Reynolds, who came over from Arizona. These quality players make up part of what's quickly becoming a modern day Murderer's Row.

Face it. Any team that has an Adam Jones batting sixth (followed by Reynolds and then, Matt Weiters) has to be pretty good, and Jones made his case for moving up a spot or two perfectly well with a 2-for-3 effort, which included a two-run homer off Detroit starter Brad Penny, that chased him from the mound and jump-started a 9-5 Baltimore win.

Jones' first homer of the season broke open a 2-2 tie, and the O's piled on Tiger relievers in the next frame, scoring 5 runs in the 7th inning. Jones contributed a sac fly, giving him three RBI for the game.

The Orioles sit comfortably in first place in the AL East, with the Yankees and Blue Jays a game back. Tampa Bay, last season's division champion, and Boston, are both 0-6.

National League
Wilson Valdez

No Chase Utley? No problem for the Phillies. Just put Roy Halladay on the mound and Wilson Valdez at second base.

Halladay tossed seven scoreless innings and Valdez pounded Mets' pitching as the Phillies romped, 11-0.

Normally a shortstop, Valdez has been filling in nicely in the field for the injured Utley, but let his bat do the talking on Thursday, going 4-for-4 with a pair of singles and a pair of doubles, three RBI and three runs. Every hitter in the Phillies' starting lineup - including Halladay - had at least one hit, as the Phils improved their lead in the NL East to 2 games over the Marlins and Mets.

Valdez has been tearing it up for Philly, knocking the rawhide around at a .429 clip after six games.