Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hunter, Abreu Lead Angels; Upton, Johnson, Montero Star in D-Backs 15-4 Defeat of Marlins

Players of the Day for Monday, May 30, 2011

American League

Bobby Abreu
The importance of winning early in the season is often understated, but to the veteran players around the league, every game is meaningful.

Torii Hunter
That sentiment is surely not lost on Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter, as they try to keep the Angels within striking distance of defending AL West champion, Texas.

In the Angels' 10-8 triumph at Kansas City Monday, both players had big games and important hits. Abreau went 4-for-5 - two doubles, two singles - scored twice and drove in a pair of runs, while Hunter was 3-for-5, with a pair of homers, the second of which came in the 9th inning with the Angels down a run. His two-run blast turned an 8-7 Royals' lead into a 9-8 advantage for the Angels. Hunter drove in four runs, giving him 31 on the year.

LA has managed to keep the Rangers within view, as Texas is just one game in front of the Angels, but the rest of the division is right in the mix, with Seattle 1 1/2 back and the A's 2 1/2 off the pace.
Justin Upton

National League

Kelly Johnson
The hottest team in the majors has to be the Arizona Diamondbacks, winners of seven straight, including Monday's 15-4 pasting of the Florida Marlins.

Arizona has surged from the back of the pack to the top of the NL Western division, with a 1/2 game lead over the Giants. This incredible 14-2 run began on May 14, after the Diamondbacks had lost five straight and fallen into the division basement.

Miguel Montero
In Monday's road fest, Arizona banged out 19 hits. Leadoff hitter, Kelly Johnson could have hit for the cycle as he needed only a single to do so, but instead hammered a pair of homer runs, a double, a triple, scored three times and drove in three runs. Catcher Miguel Montero drove in five runs, going 3-for-5 at the plate, including a three-run homer, but Justin Upton was unstoppable, going 5-for-5 with four singles and his 10th home run of the season. He scored three runs, drove in three and stole a base for good measure.

The game was the first of three with Florida. The Marlins find themselves in the usual position of looking up the standing at Philadelphia. They trail the Phillies by three games in the East.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Patterson Stays Hot as Jays win 3rd Straight; Kershaw Blanks Marlins

Players of the Day for Sunday, May 29, 2011

American League

There are hot streaks, and then there's Corey Patterson.

Corey Patterson
Following his five-hit game on Saturday, Patterson went out Sunday and made it a weekend to remember, going 4-for-5 with three RBI in Toronto's 13-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Patterson picked up where he left off, singling and scoring in the first inning, popping his 4th home run of the season - with one aboard - in the 4th, driving home another run in the 5th with a single and singling one more time in the 7th.

Over the past two games, Patterson has nine hits in 12 at-bats (.750) and has raised his batting average from a pedestrian .268 to all-star level .301. The Blue Jays, after dropping the opening game of their home series, took three straight from the Sox, and trail Boston in the AL East by three games, though they remain in fourth place. The Yankees are one game back of the Red Sox and the Rays 1 1/2 out.

National League

Most National League teams have been trying to figure out ways to cool off the Florida Marlins. The LA Dodgers seem to have at least part of the solution as they took the rubber game of their three-game series from the Marlins, by an 8-0 score, Sunday.

Clayton Kershaw
Rafael Furcal's first home run of the season - a two-run shot in the 3rd - was more than enough cushion for Clayton Kershaw, who went the distance, allowing just two hits while fanning 10 for his first shutout of the year.

In complete command, Kershaw struck out four of the first six batters he faced, gave up a leadoff single to Omar Infante in the 3rd and then allowed just a 4th inning walk and a 7th inning double the rest of the way.

While the Dodgers are 5 1/2 out in the NL West and six games under .500 (24-30), Kershaw is putting together a fine season. He's 6-3, with a 2.62 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. He needed just 116 pitches to notch his second career shutout. His 87 strikeouts leads the NL, one better than the Phillies' pair of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, who each have 86 punch-outs.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Corey Patterson Stars for Blue Jays; Chris Iannetta Exacts Rockies Revenge

Players of the Day for Saturday, May 28, 2011

American League

As a guy with 212 steals and a lifetime batting average of .254, Corey Patterson has found himself batting in just about every slot - from leadoff to the bottom of the order - in his 11-year major league career. Now with his sixth different team, the speedy outfielder may have found the sweetest spot of all, batting second, right in front of Toronto's Jose Bautista, and on Saturday he made the most of it.
Corey Patterson

In Toronto's 9-8, 14-inning win over the White Sox, Bautista did his part, going 3-for-4 with three RBI and three runs, including his 20th home run of the season, a three-run, 1st inning blast.

Patterson was seeing the best pitches, however, going 5-for-7 and scoring four times. The first four hits off Patterson's bats were all singles; the last one came in the 14th, a leadoff, walk-off solo homer hit deep into the right field seats, giving the Blue Jays their second straight win over the still-struggling Sox.

With the win, the Blue Jays hung in the AL East race, 3 1/2 games behind Boston. The White Sox have much work to do in order to get back into contention in the Central, however. They are in 4th place, trailing Cleveland by 9 1/2 games.

Patterson, by the way, is having possibly his best years at the plate, batting .287 with 21 RBI and 25 runs.

National League

Chris Iannetta
After being pounded by the Cardinals, 10-3, on Friday, the Colorado Rockies were looking for a little payback on Saturday in the second of their three game series with St. Louis.

Thanks to catcher Chris Iannetta, they got plenty of it.

The five year veteran led an 18 hit attack with two homers as the Rockies buried the Cardinals, 15-4, but just two home runs doesn't tell Iannetta's entire story. He also had two singles, going 4-for-5 at the plate, driving in six runs.

His 1st inning single highlighted a six run uprising, bringing around two runs, and both homers were two run shots, his 6th in the 4th inning and his 7th of the season in the 8th, completing the Colorado scoring.

The Cards are probably not going to take it too hard as they still lead the NL Central by 2 1/2 games, though the Brewers did get one game closer by topping the Giants, 3-2. The Rockies are in third place, 3 back in the West, though Arizona has sliced San Francisco's lead to a mere 1/2 game. The Diamondbacks hammered Houston, 11-3.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rasmus Triples Twice for Cardinals; Eric Hosmer Leads KC Past Rangers

Players of the Day for Friday, May 27, 2011

American League

Eric Hosmer
Before Eric Hosmer even stepped foot onto a major league diamond, the raves were already coming. Judged the best prospect in the Royals' farm system, the KC brass could not keep him in AAA ball as he was hitting .439 with a 1.107 OPS with Omaha in the Pacific Coast League.

Since joining the Royals as their everyday first baseman, the 6'4", 230-lb. rookie has done nothing but impress. In Friday's 12-7, 14-inning win at Texas, Hosmer made yet another statement that he's here to stay, going 4-for-7 with a home run, double, two singles, four RBI and two runs. About the only thing he didn't do was sell hot dogs in the stands.

Since joining the Royals earlier this month, Hosmer is batting .284 with 4 homers and 11 RBI and has made the Royals respectable. Although Cleveland has a six-game lead in the division, Kansas City is hanging on in third place, 8 games back with Detroit is two games ahead of them.

Should the Indians stumble, Hosmer and the Royals will be there to pick up the pieces.

National League

This is probably not the best time for the Rockies to be hosting a three-game series with St. Louis.

Colby Rasmus
Once holding a healthy lead in the NL West, Colorado has hit the skids hard, losing seven of their last eight and the Cardinals made it four straight, beating the Rockies 10-3 win to open the series.

St. Louis jumped all over starter Ubaldo Jiminez, dropping him to 0-5 with 12 hits and six runs over six innings. The chief tormentor was center fielder Colby Rasmus, who singled twice and tripled off Jimenez, then added a two-run triple in the seventh to cap a 4-for-5 night with three RBI, two runs and a steal.

Rasmus has five triples already this season and is batting .287. The win put the Cardinals 3 1/2 up on Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Rockies continued slide has them four games behind San Francisco in the NL West. Arizona has taken over second place, 1 1/2 out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Crawford Stays Hot, Red Sox Win 14-1; Marlins Sweep Giants on Sanchez Shutout

Players of the Day for Thursday, May 26, 2011

American League

Carl Crawford
Mother Nature imposed her own form of the Mercy Rule, stopping the Boston onslaught after eight full innings, granting the Red Sox a 14-1 victory at Detroit.

Just a day pounding out 20 hits in a 14-2 win over the Indians, the Red Sox punched out 16 more hits against another AL Central squad and once again, it was Carl Crawford leading the charge.

Crawford, 4-for-4 on Wednesday, went 4-for-5 on Thursday with a pair of triples, two singles, three RBI and two runs. In the past two games, Crawford's batting average has gone from .212 to .244.

Better yet, by winning 11 of their last 13 games, the Red Sox have run down the Yankees and are tied with them for first place in the AL East. The Yankees were idle on Thursday.

For Detroit, it was another setback in the quest to catch the runaway White Sox. Prior to Thursday's outing, they had drawn to within five games of Chicago, but fell back to six out as the White Sox defeated Toronto, 3-1.

National League

Anibal Sanchez
Pennant races in both the NL East and NL West just got a whole lot more interesting as Anibal Sanchez and the Florida Marlins stopped the Giants 1-0, completing a sweep of their three-game series.

The Giants were without catcher Buster Posey, who is likely out for the season after suffering multiple injuries in a home plate collision on Wednesday. Without him in the lineup, the Giants could muster just five hits off Sanchez, who walked two but struck out eight for his second complete game and first shutout of the season. Ryan Vogelsong allowed eight hits over eight innings for the Giants, the Marlins breaking through for the only run of the game in the 6th inning.

The Phillies beat Cincinnati, 10-4, to maintain their slim, one-game edge over the Marlins in the East, while Arizona won for the 9th time in their last 10 games, topping the Rockies, 6-3, and have drawn to within 1 1/2 of the suddenly-vulnerable Giants in the West.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crawford 4-for-4 in BoSox 14-2 Win at Cleveland; Ian Kennedy Goes to 6-1

Players of the Day for Wednesday, May 25, 2011

American League

Carl Crawford
Just in case anyone was thinking that Boston's three-game series at Cleveland was a preview of the playoffs, the Beantown boys made sure they had the last word, humbling the current AL Central division leaders with a 14-2 beat-down for a 2-1 series win.

Boston batters doled out 20 hits, led by Carl Crawford's 4-for-4 effort, which included his third home run of the season, two doubles, three runs and a pair of RBI.

Crawford, who entered the game batting just .212, hasn't quite lived up to Boston's expectations since being acquired in the off-season from the Rays, but showed definite signs of heating up along with the weather.

The Red Sox scored their runs in bunches, getting seven in the 1st inning and plating five more in the 6th. The win moved them into sole possession of second place in the AL East, just a half game behind - you guessed it - the NY Yankees.

National League

Ian Kennedy
All of a sudden, everybody in the NL West is paying attention to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In the scrambled race to keep pace with the reigning world champion Giants, the Diamondbacks have shown up in second place. After losing five straight earlier in the month, Arizona has gone red-hot, winning nine of their last eleven, including Wednesday's 2-1 victory over Colorado, displacing the Rockies in second place in the division.

One reason for Arizona's success has been the performance of starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, who won his third straight, improving to 6-1, as he limited the Rockies to seven hits over eight innings. Kennedy walked two and struck out three, throwing 74 of 104 pitches for strikes. He was definitely not fooling anybody as he lowered his ERA to 3.01 to go with a 1.02 WHIP. J.J. Putz worked a perfect ninth inning for his 12th save.

Arizona will attempt to leave Colorado on a winning note when the two teams complete their four-game series Thursday. The Diamondbacks lost the first encounter, but have come back with two straight wins. They trail the Giants by 2 1/2 games and are over .500 (25-24) for the first time this season.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Night of the Carlos: Quentin Socks Three for Sox; Gonzalez Blasts a Pair for Rockies

Players of the Day for Tuesday, May 24, 2011

American League

Carlos Quentin had his first three-homer game as a major leaguer and the Chicago White Sox took the middle game of their series with the Texas Rangers, 8-6.

Carlos Quentin
Quentin hit solo shots in the 1st and 9th innings, and belted a three-run shot in the 3rd, minutes before the game was halted for nearly three hours due to heavy rain and hail in Arlington.

Despite the loss, Texas retained its 1/2 game lead in the West, as the Angels were dominated by Oakland, 6-1. Chicago, winners in six of their last eight games, still have plenty of work ahead of them. They trail the Indians by nine games in the AL Central.

The White Sox and Rangers complete their series on Wednesday afternoon. Chicago will head off to Toronto for three games and then three more at Boston to finish out the month of May. The Rangers will host Kansas City for three games after a day off Thursday.

National League

Carlos Gonzalez
In the NL West, everybody's chasing the Giants, but the Colorado Rockies aren't worried about being three games back in second place, especially since Carlos Gonzalez seems to be hitting his best stride.

Gonzalez belted two home runs in Colorado's 12-2 win over the Diamondbacks, a solo shot in the 4th inning and a two-run blast in the 7th. He also walked and scored a run in the 5th inning and drove in another on a fielder's choice in the 6th.

The Rockies dropped the nightcap, 5-2. Gonzalez has hit safely in eight of his last nine games, raising his batting average, from horrible (.234), to only slightly embarrassing (.251). Over that nine-game span, however, the Colorado outfielder has hit four homers and driven in 11 runs.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alexi Ogando Shutout Keeps Rangers in Front; Corey Hart Blasts Three Homers for Surging Brewers

Players of the Day for Monday, May 23, 2011

American League

Alexi Ogando
Missing two of their biggest and best bats for the past month, the Texas Rangers had not given up much in the AL West. In fact, heading into Monday's game with the White Sox, they still held a 1/2 game lead in the division with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz both returning to the lineup.

Hamilton and Cruz pitched right in, with both players hitting home runs in support of Alexi Ogando's five-hit shutout, the first of his major league career. Ogando improved to 5-0 with the effort, and the Rangers maintained their slim lead in the tightly-packed division where all four teams are separated by just three games.

A first-year starter, Ogando has given the Rangers a boost in the pitching department. After going 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA in 41 2/3 innings last season - all in relief - Ogando replaced injured Tommy Hunter in the rotation and has delivered, compiling his perfect record along with a stunning 1.81 ERA and WHIP of 0.87. He struck out six and walked three in the 4-0 win.

National League

Corey Hart
Milwaukee didn't spend last weekend playing interleague games; they were busy taking three straight from the Rockies instead and moving up in the standings.

With their 11-3 home win over the Nationals, they've now won four straight and have caught the Reds for second place in the NL Central. Both teams trail St. Louis by 3 1/2 games, but the Brewers seem to be headed in the right direction.

Monday's win featured the usual performance by ace hurler Yovani Galardo, who cruised through seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits while fanning nine. The unusual came off the bat of Corey Hart, who went 3-for-5, all of his hits being of the over-the-fence variety, and drove in seven runs.

What made Hart's feat even more sensational, was the fact that he hadn't homered since September 28th of last season. And it's not like he doesn't hit homers with regularity; he smashed 31 dingers in 2010 and has averaged 25 per year since 2007.

With Hart heating up in the #2 hole, the Brewers are already on a roll that may take them to the top of the division before long.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Asdrubal Cabrera Goes 5-for-5 for Indians; Hunter Pence Gets Houston a Series Win

Players of the Day for Sunday, May 22, 2011

American League

Asdrubal Cabrera
Having already inflicted severe psychological damage on most of the American League, the Cleveland Indians spent the weekend focused on the National League, specifically, making sure that everyone understood that the pride of Ohio was not to be found in Cincinnati, but along the shores of Lake Erie.

After beating the Reds, 5-4, on Friday and 2-1 on Saturday, the Indians took them out behind the woodshed on Sunday and delivered a rough, 12-4, beating.

Chief among the Cleveland offensive marvels was shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who went 5-for-5, punched out a pair of home runs, stole a base, scored twice and drove in five runs. Reds' hurlers couldn't keep Cabrera off the bases. Except for the 6th inning, there were men aboard every time he stepped to the plate. Cabrera's response to leading off the 6th was his second home run of the game.

Cabrera's two homers gave him nine on the season, and upped his RBI total to 32. Cleveland continues to dominate the AL Central standings. They maintained a seven-game lead, the largest in the majors.

National League

Upon completion of the first weekend of interleague play, the Houston Astros can celebrate having taken two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Hunter Pence

That may not be saying much, but for the last place Astros, winning a series against anyone is a step in the right direction.

Hunter Pence broke a 1-1 tie in the 5th inning with his 6th home run of the season, a two-run poke to left that gave Houston a lead they would not relinquish in their 3-2 win.

Pence also scored the Astros' first run, reaching on a fielder's choice and coming around to score in the third inning. In the 7th, he singled, completing a 2-for-5 day.

DIAMOND NOTES: After taking it on the chin the first two days of interleague play, the American League came back with a vengeance on Sunday, winning 10 and losing four, That left the two leagues dead even after 42 games this weekend, each league winning 21.

Overshadowed, but surely not to be forgotten: Rick Porcello had a no-hitter through five innings and finished with a 1-hitter over 8 innings as the Tigers dropped the Pirates, 2-0. Ronny Cedeno had Pittsburgh's only hit off Porcello, who improved to 4-2.

Tampa Bay remained tied with the Yankees in the AL East as James Shields threw a three-hit shutout in the Rays' 4-0 win over the Marlins. Shields (5-2) struck out 13 batters and issued only one walk.

Alexei Ramirez went 4-for-5 with two doubles and a home run as the White Sox whacked the Dodgers, 8-3. Ramirez scored twice and drove in a season-high five runs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lincecum Goes Distance in 3-0 Win; Bautista Homers Twice for Toronto

Players of the Day for Saturday, May 21, 2011

American League
Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista isn't exactly on record-setting pace, though he's awfully close.

With two more homers in Toronto's 7-5 victory over Houston, Bautista blasted numbers 17 and 18, which would translate into 61-65 homers, depending on how healthy he remains and how many games he plays.

Trailing 4-0, Bustista's three-run shot in the 6th inning got the Blue Jays back within striking distance. In the 7th, Toronto added three more runs to take the lead for good, punctuated by Bautista's second homer of the game, a trademark solo shot to left in the 8th inning. He also singled and stole a base, raising his league-leading average to .364.

The win kept the Blue Jays in the hunt for the AL East lead. Tampa Bay and the Yankees are tied for first with Boston 1/2 game back, as their seven-game win streak was ended in a 9-3 loss to the Cubs. Toronto is 1 1/2 out of first place, at 23-22. Baltimore trails in the division, but are only four games off the pace.

National League

Tim Lincecum
After giving up nine hits, six walks and seven runs (three earned) in 5 2/3 innings in Monday's 7-4 loss to Colorado, Tim Lincecum was looking to bounce back with a better performance against crosstown rival Oakland as the two Bay-area teams matched up in an interleague series.

The Giants took the first of the three-game set Friday, 2-1, in 10 innings, on stingy pitching and Aubrey Huff's walk-off RBI single. In Saturday's 3-0 win, Lincecum displayed the determination that has made him one of baseball's premiere power pitchers.

Lincecum yielded only three harmless singles - in the 1st, 8th and 9th innings - putting down 21 straight batters in between - going the route to even his record at 4-4. It was his first complete game and first shutout of 2011, equalling last season's totals.

Throwing 133 pitches (84 for strikes), Lincecum did not allow a walk and fanned six. Better yet, it was the Giants' fourth straight win and put them up 2 1/2 games on Colorado, 3-2 losers at Milwaukee.

DIAMOND NOTES: The National League won eight of the 14 interleague games on Saturday, keeping them in the lead, 17-11, over the American League. A consideration for MLB: how about interleague games counting for home field advantage in the World Series, instead of basing it on just one game - the All-Star game - as it is now?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gonzalez, Youkilis Lead Boston to 7th Straight; Werth, Espinosa Crush Orioles

Players of the Day for Friday, May 20, 2011

American League

Adrian Gonzalez
Interleague games began on Friday, and the National took little time to establish its dominance, taking nine of the 14 cross-league contests.

Kevin Youkilis
One which defied the trend in a rather large way was Boston's smashing, 15-5, victory over the Cubs at Fenway Park, where Boston batters combined for 19 hits and the middle of the lineup - Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis - accounted for nearly half the runs.

Gonzalez, normally known as a doubles and homers type of guy, scratched out four singles in six at-bats, producing four RBI, while Youkilis took care of the extra-bases department, going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a two run homer, driving in three runs.

The Red Sox have gone from last place in the AL East just a week ago to 1/2 game behind first place Tampa Bay with their 7th consecutive win. The streak began last weekend when they swept three games from the Yankees in New York.

National League

Jayson Werth
While the Washington Nationals are currently positioned in last place in the NL East, they're only two games under .500, at 21-23, which is real progress at this point for the young franchise.

Traveling the 30-odd miles up I-95 to play the Baltimore Orioles, Washington bats hammered out 19 hits against five Oriole pitchers in a 17-5 victory.

Danny Espinosa
Jayson Werth, acquired from Philadelphia in the off-season, blasted a pair of home runs for the Nats, a two-run shot in the 5th and a solo smack in the 7th. He also singled and was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, giving him four RBI on his 3-for-4 night.

Rookie shortstop Danny Espinosa went 3-for-5, with a triple, a three-run homer, five RBI and three runs. Despite a .209 batting average, Espinosa has six home runs and 27 RBI, making han early case for rookie of the year consideration.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jason Giambi Homers Three Times; Justin Morneau Leads Twins to Win

Players of the Day for Thursday, May 19, 2011

American League

Justin Morneau
Things have not exactly gone the way the Twins would have liked in 2011, but they managed to take two games at Oakland, beating the A's 4-3 in 10 innings on Wednesday, then winning, 12-1, for the two-game series sweep on Thursday.

With Joe Mauer on the disabled list for an extended period, production has been well off the usual pace for the regulars, but the Twins unloaded 16 hits on a quintet of A's pitchers, with Justin Morneau leading the way.

Struggling with a .245 batting average, Morneau socked just his second home run - a two-run shot - of the season in the third inning, and also singled, doubled and scored twice in the rout.

At 15-27, the Twins still have the worst record in the AL, and remain 11 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the Central division.

National League

Jason Giambi
At the age of 41, Jason Giambi doesn't get much playing time, but he appears to be gearing up for an extended trip as the DH once interleague play gets underway, beginning - on a limited basis - on Friday.

Giambi belted three home runs and drove in all of the Rockies' run in a 7-1 victory at Philadelphia.

A three-run shot in the first was followed by two-run homers in the 3rd and 5th innings, as the Rockies earned a split in their brief, two-game series with the front-running Phillies.

Colorado continues to dog the Giants in the NL West, who remain 1/2 game in front of the Rockies after defeating the Dodgers, 3-1.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Jake Peavy Blanks Cleveland, 1-0; Charlie Morton Silences Reds in 5-0 Win

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 18, 2011

American League

Jake Peavy
After leaving the mound in agony with a detached muscle in his right shoulder nearly a year ago, Jake Peavy made his first home start in nearly a year for the Chicago White Sox Wednesday night and amazingly looked as good as new.

The NL 2007 Cy Young award winner, traded from San Diego to the Sox late in 2009, blanked AL Central-leading Cleveland on three hits, going the distance in the 1-0 win. Peavy allowed a first inning single, but, after Adam Dunn got the White Sox the lead on a sac fly - scoring Juan Pierre - the righty hurler put down 18 of the next 19 batters, maintaining the slim edge his teammates had established.

Peavy looked strong even in the final innings, striking out eight without issuing a walk. He threw 111 pitches, 78 of them for strikes.

He previously went six inning in LA, surrendering four runs on seven hits in a loss to the Angels, though Peavy did not get a decision in that May 11 contest. He is 1-0 and will remain a part of the White Sox rotation.

Even with the win, the White Sox have a long way to go before getting themselves back into contention. The Indians still hold a five game lead over the Tigers, with Kansas City seven back and the Sox nine games out. Minnesota has virtually self-destructed, 12 1/2 out.

National League

Charlie Morton
Even though they're 19-23, the Pittsburgh Pirates are still only 5 1/2 games off the pace in the NL Central, and proved notice that they are not about to go away, whipping the Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, as Charlie Morton improved to 5-1, his second complete game and first shutout of the season.

Morton has been nothing but special for the Pirates this season and in this outing he was completely in control throughout, limiting a solid Reds' lineup to just five hits, walking two and fanning five.

Needing only 106 pitches, Morton dropped his ERA to 2.62 and is one of the players that have revived hopes of a return to winning baseball in the Steel City.

One of the best turn-around stories of the season thus far, Morton has been a pleasant surprise. In 2007, he was 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA.

The Reds dropped a game off their lead, as St. Louis won their third straight, beating Houston, 5-1. Cincinnati leads the Cardinals by 1/2 game. Milwaukee is four games out with the Pirates another 1 1/2 behind them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gio Gonzalez, Mark Ellis Lead Athletics; Kuroda Blanks Brewers; Harmon Killebrew Gone at 74

Players of the Day for Tuesday, May 17, 2011

American League

Gio Gonzalez
Rain washed out four games on Tuesday, but the weather was just fine as the Oakland A's hosted the LA Angels in Northern California. While the Angels and Rangers are the favorites to win the AL West division, Oakland keeps hanging around and their 14-0 victory proves they are a contender with plenty to offer.

Mark Ellis
Gio Gonzalez kept LA in check, giving up one solitary hit over seven scoreless innings. Perfect through the first three innings, Gonzalez walked Macias Izturis in the 4th and surrendered a leadoff single in the 5th to Howie Kendrick, but that was it. No Angel even made it to second base the entire game as reliever Craig Breslow worked a perfect 8th inning and Trystan Magnuson gave up a hit in the 9th, but turned a pair of fielder's choices and a strikeout into a fitting closing.

While Gonzalez and his bullpen mates were baffling the LA batters, Oakland hitters knocked out 15 hits. Mark Ellis collected three of them, doubling in Oakland's first run in the second inning, singling in two more in the 3rd and singling another run home in the 6th. Ellis finished the game 3-for-4 with four RBI, scoring three times.

The win put the A's 1/2 game behind the Rangers and Angels, who are tied for the division lead.

National League

Hiroki Kuroda
Working his second straight strong outing, Hiroki Kuroda blanked the Milwaukee Brewers over 7 2/3 innings Tuesday in LA, helping the Dodgers remain relevant in the NL West.

Kuroda (5-3) last stymied Pittsburgh on May 11, holding the Pirates to three hits over seven innings. With the conclusion of the Milwaukee win, Kuroda has not allowed a run in 14 2/3 innings and has dropped his ERA to 2.80.

Scattering six Brewer hits and giving up a couple of walks, Kuroda was effective in tight situations, getting seven hitters on strikes.

The 3-0 win put the Dodgers 3 1/2 games behind the Rockies in the division. Colorado took their second straight from the Giants, 5-3, to reclaim the division lead by 1/2 game.

Harmon Killebrew
This One is Gone: The baseball world mourns the loss of one of the all-time greats as Harmon Killebrew passed away at the age of 74 on Tuesday. Killebrew began his playing career with the Washington Senators in 1954, but was best known for his 14 seasons with the Minnesota Twins. He finished his major league career in 1975, playing one season with the Kansas City Royals.

One of the top players of all time, Killebrew was a slugger with extraordinary power. A 13-time All Star, he led the American League in home runs six times and finished with 573 homers and 1584 RBI. He ranks 11th in career home runs and will forever remain tied with Rogers Hornsby in RBI, currently 36th all-time.

In 1969, Killebrew earned the AL MVP award, belting 49 home runs and driving in 140 runs.

Killebrew was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. His #3 uniform was retired by the Minnesota Twins in 1975. Known as "Killer" at the plate, Killebrew was nothing like his nickname, a mild-mannered gentleman who commanded respect wherever he went.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Matt LaPorta 4-for-4 in 19-1 Cleveland Win; Gonzalez Blasts Lincecum, Giants

Players of the Day for Monday, May 16, 2011

American League

Thus far, the Cleveland Indians have been ripping apart the AL Central and the rest of the American League.

Matt LaPorta
Already at or near the top of most of the offensive categories and leading the division by 3 1/2 games, the Indians went off against Kansas City Monday night, amassing 20 hits in a smashing, 19-1, victory.

Every position starter had at least one hit, but first baseman Matt LaPorta topped them all, going 4-for-4, with two doubles, two singles, four RBI and a run scored.

In his second full season with the Indians, LaPorta is beginning to flourish at the plate. Along with catcher Carlos Santana, the Indians have the nucleus of a division contender for years to come. LaPorta has four homers and 21 RBI on the season, along with a .274 batting average.

Combined with Detroit's 4-2 loss to Toronto, the Indians stretched their lead to 4 1/2 games.

National League

Despite having to face Tim Lincecum on Monday, the Colorado Rockies were looking to reclaim their lost lead in the NL West with a pair of games with the Giants in Colorado.

Carlos Gonzalez
Coming into the game, San Francisco held a 1 1/2 game lead in the division, but the Rockies knew that taking both would put them back atop the NL West.

Lincecum banked the Rockies for the first four innings, but Troy Tulowitzki singled home a pair of runs in the bottom of the 5th for a short-lived, 2-1 lead. Homers in the 6th by Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz put the Giants back on top, 4-2, but the Rockies struck right back in the bottom of the inning with five runs, capped by a three run homer by Carlos Gonzalez that sent Lincecum in one of his worst starts of the season.

Lincecum lasted just 5 2/3 innings, and even though only 3 of the 7 runs Colorado scored, Lincecum certainly didn't help matters, allowing nine hits and issuing six walks.

The homer by Gonzalez was his 5th of the season and provided all the offense the Rockies' bullpen would need as a parade of five relievers shut out the Giants over the final three innings for the 7-4 win, leaving the Giants with a slim 1/2 game lead.

The second and final game of the series is Tuesday in Colorado. A win by the Rockies puts them back on top of the division.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bautista Socks Three Homers in Blue Jay Win;

Players of the Day for Sunday, May 15, 2011

American League

Jose Bautista
Prior to last season, Jose Bautista had never hit more than 16 home runs in a season, yet he shocked the baseball world in 2010 by leading the majors in homers.

A subtle change in his stance and approach at the plate turned Bautista into a wall-crashing dynamo, making a shambles of the home run "race." By the time he was done, there was a huge gulf between Bautista and his nearest competitor. In the AL, Paul Konerko finished second in homers with 39. Albert Pujols led the NL with 42, both well short of Bautista's 54.

To the surprise of many, Bautista is at it again, socking three more long flies to up his MLB-best total to 16, as the Blue Jays topped the Twins, 11-3.

Bautista went 3-for-5 - all homers - drove in four runs and scored three times. His lead in the AL home run race is three better than the Yankees' Curtis Granderson, who also seems to have found his power stroke later in life.

Riding a seven-game hitting streak, Bautista is hitting .462 (12-for-26) with six dingers and 12 RBI over that span.

With Boston taking three straight from the Yankees, Toronto has benefitted. The Blue Jays are tied with Baltimore, just three games behind division-leading Tampa Bay and a game behind New York. Boston trails the division, but the Red Sox are only 3 1/2 off the pace.

National League
Ryan Braun

Over the weekend, the Cincinnati Reds swept three games from the St. Louis Cardinals, reclaiming first place in the NL Central.

With the Reds tearing up the top of the division, Milwaukee kept pace with a three-game sweep over the Pirates, culminating in Sunday's 9-6 win.

At the center of the action, as usual, was the Brewers' slugging left fielder, Ryan Braun, who socked his league-leading 13th home run and also tripled in three at-bats. Braun's first inning, three run homer got the Brewers off to a fast start and his triple in the second extended the early lead.

Milwaukee was up 6-0 before the Pirates rallied for five run in the 5th inning, but the Brewers notched two more in the bottom half of the frame and cruised to victory. Braun is batting .309 with 13 home runs and 33 RBI (3rd in the NL). The Brewers are in third place, four games behind the Reds, who lead the Cardinals by 1 1/2.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Brad and Chad: Bergesen Blanks Rays on Four Hits; Billingsley Loses One-Hitter

Players of the Day for Saturday, May 14, 2011

American League

Brad Bergesen
Saturday was a day of pitching domination. Six of the twelve games played finished with shutouts on one side of the scoreboard, including a rain-shortened, 7-inning win by the Giants over the Cubs.

The finest AL performance was delivered by Baltimore's Brad Bergesen, who entered the Orioles' game with Tampa Bay sporting an 0-4 record, but emerged with his first victory of the season and first career shutout. In his third major league season, Bergesen now has four complete games to his credit.

The Orioles supported their starter with 11 hits, resulting in a 6-0 win, halting Tampa's three-game winning streak. Bergesen allowed just four hits and one walk, striking out six. He threw 103 pitches, 68 of them for strikes.

The result didn't change the standing much in the densely-packed AL East. Tampa Bay still leads the Yankees by 2 games and the O's remained in last place, 4 1/2 games out, though only 1/2 behind Toronto and Boston.

National League

Chad Billingsley
Every now and again, we all have those moments in which we exceed expectations and still come away unsatisfied. For Chad Billingsley, his one-hit loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks marks a new level of frustration for the Dodgers.

The LA story had its moment of drama in the second inning, when Billingsley, who allowed a leadoff double by Stephen Drew, wheeled and threw to second on a pickoff attempt, but Jamey Carroll, who was supposed to be covering, was nowhere to be found. The ball skipped into center field as Drew narrowly beat Matt Kemp's throw to third base.

After a walk to Miguel Montero, Melvin Mora lifted a sac fly, resulting in the game's only run. Billingsley then proceeded to retire the next 15 batters in a row, eventually walking Drew in the 7th inning. He worked through the 8th, replaced for a pinch hitter in the Dodgers' half of the 9th inning.

The Dodgers managed only two hits off Josh Collmenter (2-0), who went six innings, and two more hits off a trio of relievers.

Drew's run held up in one of the more bizarre shutouts of the season and a 1-0 Arizona win.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Rays Alone in 1st on Hellickson Shutout; Tulowitzki Leads Rockies Back to First Place

Players of the Day for Friday, May 13, 2011

American League

Jeremy Hellickson
Both the Baltimore and Tampa Bay bullpens got a game's worth of rest on Friday as Tampa's Jeremy Hellickson and Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie locked into a heated pitching duel, eventually won by Hellickson and the Rays, 3-0.

The Rays, who surged into sole possession of first place on Thursday after they dropped Cleveland, 7-4, while the Yankees were hammered by Kansas City, 11-5, took a two-game lead in the division as Boston sent the Yanks to their third straight loss, 5-4.

Both Guthrie and Hellickson went the full route for their teams, but Hellickson proved better, giving up four hits and a walk while fanning three.

A rookie, having thrown just 38 innings in 2010, Hellickson recorded his first complete game shutout and boosted his career record to 8-2 and is 4-2 this season.

With a 2.98 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, Hellickson rounds out a very capable Tampa Bay starting rotation. Tampa Bay has the second-lowest ERA in the American League, at 3.16

National League

The National League West division is shaping up into what may be one of the best three-way pennant races in years.
Troy Tulowitzki

After giving up their dominance in the division on Thursday, Colorado re-tied the Giants for first place with a 12-7 win over San Diego while the Giants took an 11-4 beating from the Cubs on Friday. Los Angeles, meanwhile, snuck to within 2 1/2 games of the leaders with a 4-3 win over Arizona.

The Rockies' bats did the talking in their win over the Padres, banging out 16 hits against four San Diego hurlers. The Rockies scored in six of their eight innings at the plate.

Troy Tulowitzki singled home two runs in the first inning and added his 10th home run of the season in the 4th, a solo shot to left field. Tulowitzki finished 3-for-5 with three RBI, two runs and a stolen base, his third of the season.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beltran Blasts Three Homers at Colorado; Royals Swamp Yanks as Butler Goes 4-for-6

Players of the Day for Thursday, May 12, 2011

American League
Billy Butler

Young Ivan Nova had a nice start to his season with the Yankees, going 3-2, but the second inning of his start against Kansas City was one he would rather forget.

The Royals roughed up Nova for five hits and six runs in the inning, aided by a pair of Yankee errors and a passed ball, leading to an 11-5 Royal flush of the Bombers, guided by Billy Butler's four hits in six at-bats.

Butler singled three times and added a double, drove in a pair of runs and scored on Eric Hosmer's double in the 6th inning.

Batting .298 with 16 RBI, Butler has been a key element in the Royals' rise from the dregs of the AL Central to second place in the division, 3 1/2 games behind the high-flying Cleveland Indians.

After dropping the opener in NY on Tuesday, the Royals won, 4-3, in 11 innings on Wednesday and completed their series win Thursday night.

National League

Carlos Beltran
Any number of people had written Carlos Beltran off prior to the beginning of the 2011 season, but the Mets stuck with their franchise player, despite frequent trips to the DL over the past two seasons.

Beltran played in just 81 games in 2009 and only 64 in 2010. so far this season, despite many thinking he'd need time off, Beltran has played in 36 of the Mets' 37 games and on Thursday in Colorado, he lifted three balls into the stands, for the first three-homer game of the season for any player.

Beltran blasted two-run homers in the 1st, 7th and 9th innings, plating willie Harris in front of him each time, accounting for six RBI as the Mets dumped the Rockies, 9-5.

With 8 home runs, 24 RBI and a .295 batting average, Carlos Beltran looks like the 30-homer, 100 RBI guy from 1999 through 2008 and even though the Mets are in the NL East basement, it's not because he's missed time or isn't playing well.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Padres Rip Brewers for 23 Hits; Adam Dunn Leads White Sox Past Angels

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 11, 2011

American League

When people think of Adam Dunn, they usually envision a huge, lumbering hulk of a man with a big swing who hits lots of home runs and strikes out even more frequently.

Adam Dunn
Well, Adam Dunn was lumbering all right in Chicago's 10-inning, 6-4 win over the LA Angels. He was lumbering around the bases, mostly, going 4-for-6 with a home run (yeah, had one of those), a double, two singles, a walk and yes, one strikeout, scoring three times and driving in one run.

Dunn's four-hit game was punctuated by a 10th-inning double which sent Alexei Ramirez around to third base with one out. Ramirez scored on a wild pitch and Dunn followed him home with an insurance run on Brent Lillibridge's scratch single.

A third inning solo home run was Dunn's 4th of the season and briefly tied the game at 1-1.

The win gave the White Sox a 2-1 series win at LA, and it was the fourth win in their last five games, though Chicago remains well back in the AL Central, 9 1/2 games behind the division-leading Indians. The Royals and Tigers, both winners on the night, picked up a game on the Indians - who had their home win streak snapped at 14 in an 8-2 loss to the Rays - and are 4 1/2 back.

National League

Jason Bartlett
With the team decimated by trades over the past three seasons, there isn't much noise coming from the San Diego Padres, but every now and then the crack of the bat punctures the silence, as it was in their 13-6 win at Milwaukee.

San Diego punched out 23 hits off six Milwaukee pitchers, 12 of them off starter Randy Wolf, who lasted just 3 1/3 inning. Doing his fair share of the damage was Jason Bartlett, who went 4-for-6, with a double and three singles, scored twice, drove in two runs and, for good measure, stole a pair of bases.

The baker's dozen put up on the Brewers was the most runs in a single game by the Padres this season, topping the 11 they scored on St. Louis on opening day. Despite the offensive outburst, the Padres remain in last place in the NL West, but, even though they are just 15-22, they are only 5 1/2 games behind co-leaders San Fran and Colorado.

Hope springs eternal, or at least in early May.

Rappin': Rajai Davis went 4-for-4 (all singles), scored twice, drove in a pair of runs and stole two bases as the Blue Jays knocked off Boston, 9-3. With the Red Sox scuffling along in last place (actually tied with Baltimore and Toronto, 4 1/2 games out), the upcoming weekend series with the Yankees is an opportunity for every team in the AL East to make a move. Tampa Bay is already tied with the Yanks and hosts Baltimore for three games, while the Jays head to Minnesota for three with the Twins, who have the unique distinction - at 12-23 - of having the worst record in the majors. Minnesota has lost five straight.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Victor Martinez Leading Tiger Surge; Lincecum, Wilson Combine for 1-0 SF Win

Players of the Day for Tuesday, May 10, 2011

American League

After going 12-14 in April and starting off 0-2 in May, the Detroit Tigers are beginning to put it all together, winning for the seventh time in their last eight games with a 10-2 whipping of Minnesota on Tuesday.

Victor Martinez
Part of the reason for the sudden turn of fortune for the Tigers is the return of Victor Martinez, who has a hit in each of his seven games since returning from the DL with six extra-base hits and 10 RBI.

In the opener of their three-game series at Minnesota, Martinez extended his hitting streak to ten games (three straight before entering the DL) with a 3-for-4 effort, including a pair of doubles, four RBI and two runs scored.

The win boosted the Tigers back over .500 at 19-18 and into a tie for second place in the AL Central with the Royals, 5 1/2 games behind Cleveland. Martinez is hitting at a .462 (12-26) clip since returning from the DL.

National League

Tim Lincecum pitched about as well as he could, going eight innings against the Diamondbacks without allowing a run on four hits and two walks while striking out nine batters.

Brian Wilson
The problem was that Ian Kennedy, fast becoming Arizona's ace, was equally strong, also going eight scoreless innings on four hits, with three walks and eight Ks.

Tim Lincecum
But, after Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless 9th inning, and as David Hernandez relieved Kennedy the Giants struck. Buster Posey worked a walk to lead off the inning. Darren Ford, pinch-running for Posey stole second and, after Aubrey Huff struck out swinging, came around to score the game's only run when Cody Ross singled to left for the 1-0 win.

Wilson got the win, which happened to be his third in his last four appearances, improving his record to 3-1. After a somewhat shaky start, Wilson, in addition to the three recent wins, has reeled off six consecutive saves (a 33.75 ERA after his first two appearances) and has converted his last 11 save opportunities.

Lincecum received no decision, and remained at 3-3, but is sporting some nice figures, including a 2.11 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and 66 Ks, good for a tie with Roy Halladay, topping all NL hurlers.

Personal records aside, the Giants won their fourth straight and have nearly run down the Rockies in the NL West. Colorado's lead is now a mere 1/2 game.