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.

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