Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dan Haren Wins Duel with Nats' Zimmermann; Angel Pagan Leads Mets in 16-9 Triumph

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 29, 2011

American League

Dan Haren
Yes, there is a pennant race in the AL West and the Angels are right in the thick of it, especially after winning their third straight over the Washington Nationals in a 1-0 nail-biter.

Dan Haren outdueled the most luckless starter in the majors, Jordan Zimmermann, who pitches eight innings without giving up an earned run. The game's only run was scored by LA in the 4th inning, ironically set up by a wild throw by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Zimmermann, the pitcher, is 5-7 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.

As for Haren, his 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball were enough to produce his 8th win against 5 loess. Haren allowed just two hits, walking one batter while striking out six.

The Angels trail Texas by 1 1/2 games.

National League

There were so many stars in the Mets' 16-9 thumping of Detroit, it was hard to single out one player, but Angel Pagan fit the bill.

Angel Pagan
The Mets hammered out 20 hits, four of them credited to Pagan, who had two singles and two doubles in six at-bats, drove in four runs, stole a base and scored three times.

Pagan has been instrumental the recent Mets' power surge, which has resulted in a team record 52 runs over their last four games, all wins. Oddly enough, there were four homers in the game, all hit by Detroit players.

While the Mets have climbed back over .500 (41-39), they still are playing in one of the toughest divisions in the majors, the NL East, where they trail the Phillies by 9 1/2 games, with Atlanta in second place, 4 1/2 out.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: With each league winning seven games on Wednesday, the overall tally after 202 games is all even at 101 wins apiece.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gonzalez Downs Marlins on One Hit over 8; Cliff Lee Hurls Third Straight Shutout

Players of the Day for Tuesday, June 28, 2011

American League

Emilio Bonifacio led off the game for Florida with a single against Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez, but that was the last hit the Marlins would produce in a 1-0 win for the A's.
Gio Gonzalez

Gonzalez would cruise through the remaining innings, allowing just one hit and three walks until leaving the mound after finishing the 8th.

Bonifacio was also the first batter closer Andrew Bailey would face in the 9th, reaching on an error, but Bailey made quick work of the next three batters, getting Omar Infante, Greg Dobbs and Hanley Ramirez swing at third strikes.

Gonzalez was staked to a one-run lead on Kurt Suzuki's sac fly in the 2nd, which plated Hideki Matsui with the game's only score, and the lefty made it hold up with one of the best outings of his career. Gonzalez improved to 7-5, fanning nine in the process.

The win was just the second in the last six outings for the A's, who have fallen six games off the pace in last place in the hotly contested AL West. For the Marlins, it was just another loss in a summer of discontent.

National League

As amazing as the Philadelphia rotation has been this season, Cliff Lee has added superlatives for June, throwing his third consecutive shutout in a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

Cliff Lee: 32 straight
scoreless innings
Ever the model of efficiency and control, Lee allowed just two hits and two walks in the whitewash, extending his streak of scoreless innings to 32, and ending June with an ERA of 0.21. He fanned five, increasing his season total to 119, third in the AL.

Lee threw 71 of 112 pitches for strikes, completely stifling the Boston batters who missed the presence of their DH, David Ortiz, who was held out of the lineup because the game was being played in a National League city.

Lee has not allowed a run since the Cubs' Starlin Castro scored in the third inning of a 7-1 Phillies' triumph on June 11. Since then, Lee - who has won five straight - shut out Florida, 3-0, on June 16 and St. Louis, 4-0, on June 22.

Over the 32-inning scoreless span, Lee has given up just 12 hits and issued five walks.

The Phillies maintained their 4 1/2 game lead over Atlanta in the NL East with the victory, while the Red Sox fell 1 1/2 behind the Yankees in the AL East.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: With five days left to interleague play (July 3), the National League tied it back up again at 94 wins for each league, winning eight games while the AL won six.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kemp, Gwynn, Oeltjen Combine for 12 Hits in Dodger Rout; Cabreras Make Indians a Winner

Players of the Day for Monday, June 27, 2011

American League

Asdrubal Cabrera
Although unrelated, the Cabrera boys, Asdrubal and Orlando, have been a lethal combination in the middle infield for the Cleveland Indians.

Orlando Cabrera
If Monday's 5-4 win over Arizona was made into a Hollywood movie, they would be credited as producers, directors and stars of the film.

Asdrubal got the Indians started with a two-run homer in the first inning and Orlando finished off the show with a solo home run in the top of the 9th for the winning run.

The win left Cleveland a game behind the Tigers in the AL Central, while sending the Diamondbacks to their third straight loss, two games behind the Giants, who have won five straight, in the NL West.

National League

Matt Kemp
Even though the Dodgers filed for bankruptcy on Monday, that did not diminish the desire of the players on the field.

Tony Gwynn Jr.
Chad Billingsley tossed six innings of 4-hit, shutout ball, the bullpen blanked the Twins the rest of the way and the position players banged out 25 hits, in a 15-0 on-field, statement victory over Minnesota, who have now lost six straight.

Three different Dodgers - Tony Gwynn Jr., Matt Kemp and Trent Oeltjen - collected four hits apiece as the team attempted to retain some sense of dignity even though they are nine games behind the Giants in the NL West and eight game under .500, at 36-44.

Trent Oeltjen
Gwynn was 4-for-6, all singles, but stole two bases, scored twice and drove in a run. Matt Kemp continued his assault on pitchers of all types, from either league, going 4-for-5, including his league-leading 22nd home run, a double, two runs and two RBI.

Oeltjen, the rookie outfielder, had a pair of singles, a triple and a solo home run, drove in a pair of runs and scored three times.

Twelve hits by the Dodger outfield says more about the team than the financial fiasco of the ownership.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: There were just six interleague games on Monday, and the National League won four of them, trimming the AL lead to just two games, at 88-86.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Romero Shuts Out Cards; Longoria Bangs a Pair; Reyes Runs Wild; Halladay Gets 10th Win

Players of the Day for Sunday, June 26, 2011

American League

Evan Longoria
Tampa Bay pounded out 19 hits and scored 7 runs in the final two innings as they grounded the Houston Astros, 14-10. The top three hitters in the lineup, Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria had 11 hits between them with Longoria going 4-for-6 with a double, two homers - his 8th and 9th - three runs and five RBI.

Longoria's numbers (.253, 9, 33) are down this season due to having missed almost all of April due to injury, but he's coming around fine, with 8 hits, 3 homers and 10 RI in his last three games.
Ricky Romero

The Rays trail the Yankees by two games in the AL East and Boston by 1 1/2.

In St. Louis, Ricky Romero evened his record at 7-7 with a four-hit, 5-0, shutout of the Cardinals. It was Romero's sixth career complete game and second shutout. He walked two and struck out five, using 106 pitches to get the much-needed win for the Blue Jays, who have fallen seven games off the pace in the AL East, though they are playing .500 ball, at 30=9-39.

National League

Roy Halladay picked up his 10th win of the season against three losses, leading the first place Phillies to a 3-1 win over Oakland. It was Hallady's fifth complete game of the season, despite not having thrown a shutout.

Roy Halladay
It wasn't the prettiest performance by the two-time Cy Young award winner, who scattered eight hits and only struck out four batters, though he did not issue any walks. Halladay is second in the NL in strikeouts, with 123, behind Clayton Kershaw's 128. He is also tied for wins with Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens.

Jose Reyes
The Phillies have the largest lead in the majors, a five-game bulge over Atlanta.

Down in Texas, the Mets won their second straight after dropping the opener of the series, whipping the Rangers, 8-5. Jose Reyes continued his remarkable season, going 4-for-5 with an RBI a stolen base, three runs and his 14th triple of the year, easily tops in the majors.

Reyes leads the NL not only in triples, but also in hits (113), runs (61) and batting average (.341).

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: The AL continued to stretch its narrow lead on the NL, winning eight, while the NL won six, putting the AL up by four, at 86-82.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Verlander Mows Down 14 in Tiger Win; Lucas Duda, Joey Votto Star for Mets, Reds

Players of the Day for Saturday, June 25, 2011

American League

Justin Verlander
In the odd twist that is interleague play, the Detroit Tigers knocked the Arizona Diamondbacks out of first place in the NL West with a 6-0 win, courtesy of Justin Verlander's right arm and a 1-0 win by San Francisco over Cleveland.

In conjunction with that same San Fran win, the Tigers got back into a tie for first place in the AL Central with the Indians.

Verlander tied C.C. Sabathia as the first pitchers to win 10 games this season in the AL. They were joined by Jair Jurrjens of Atlanta, who won his 10th for the NL Atlanta Braves.

As usual, Verlander was in complete control from the mound, allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out a season-high 14 batters, improving to 10-3 on the year.

Approaching the all star break, Verlander's stats are worthy of a start in the midseason classic, with an ERA of 2.38, 124 Ks (leads the majors) and an 0.84 WHIP.

National League

Lucas Duda
The New York Mets scored a season-high for runs in their 14-5 victory over the Texas Rangers as rookie Lucas Duda went 4-for-5 with three doubles and drove in four of the Mets' runs.

Joey Votto
Duda was the most unlikely of heroes. He entered the game batting just .173, sharing time at first base and in left field with Daniel Murphy and the struggling Jason Bay.

Equalling Duda's performance for NL POTD was Cincinnati's Joey Votto, who displayed some of the spark that made him the NL MVP last season.

In the Reds' 10-5 romp in Baltimore Votto was 3-for-5, blasting his 10th and 11th home runs of the season - a three run homer in the 3rd inning and a 5th inning, two-run job. Votto also singled and scored another run on Scott Rolen's homer in the 7th.

The Reds remained tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates for third place in the NL Central, three games behind Milwaukee. The second place Cardinals are two games back of the Brewers.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: After the two leagues ended up tied at 70 on Friday, the American League narrowly took back the lead in interleague play, winning 8 and losing 6, to put them ahead 78-76.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bautista Leads Jays to Win at St. Louis; Fielder Powers Brewers Past Twins

Players of the Day for Friday, June 24, 2011

American League

Jose Bautista
Toronto hasn't been winning much of late, but they're getting plenty of mileage out of their superstar slugger, right fielder Jose Bautista.

Playing in St. Louis, Bautista doubled and scored in the 1st inning, was intentionally walked and eventually scored again in the 5th, and belted his major-league-leading 23rd home run in the 9th inning, a solo shot that broke a 4-4 tie and ensured a 5-4 win for the Blue Jays.

The win ended a four-game losing skid for the Jays, but they've fallen 7 1/2 games behind in the AL East, a division in which it is difficult to gain on the contenders. The consolation for Toronto was that their win cost the Cardinals a tie for first place in the NL Central, where the Brewers now lead by a game.

Baustista will be mentioned as an MVP candidate. His .326 batting average is third in the AL, and he has 48 RBI to go with those 23 homers.

National League

Prince Fielder
The Milwaukee Brewers are back in sole possession of first place in the NL Central after Prince Fielder drove in the game-tying and game-winning runs in a 4-3 win over Minnesota.

Like most teams, the Twins tried pitching around Fielder, walking him in the 4th and 5th innings. It didn't work out so well in the 4th, as Fielder scored the Brewers' first run, though with first base open with runners on second and third in the 5th, it was the right move, as struggling Casey McGehee flied out to end the inning.

In the seventh, however, after Danny Valencia's three-run homer in the 6th had put the Twins up by a 3-2 score, Fielder came to the plate with runners on first and third, there was no choice but to pitch to him and the result was a two-run game-winning double to right field, driving home both Ricky Weeks from third and Nyger Morgan, who streaked around from score from first.

Fielder is having a monster year, second in the league with 20 home runs and leading the RBI race with 65. Being in first place is its own reward for Fielder and the Brew crew.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: The National League won eight games, the American League, six, which eliminated the once-burgeoning AL advantage. The two leagues are now tied for the season in interleague play, each with 70 wins.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lincecum Fans 12 as Giants Slip Past Minnesota, 2-1

Players of the Day for Thursday, June 23, 2011

American League

There were four interleague games on Thursday, and the National Leaguers won them all, limiting their AL opponents to just five runs, so there was no AL Player of the Day.

National League

How do you stay in the race in the NL West?

Tim Lincecum
Simple. Put Tim Lincecum on the mound and let him do his thing, which is exactly what the San Francisco Giants did Thursday afternoon, and Lincecum surely didn't disappoint, hurling seven innings of shutout ball at the Twins in a 2-1 win for the Giants, their second straight against the previously-streaking Twins.

The 2008 and 2009 NL Cy Young award winner stopped the Twins cold, allowing just three hits and two walks while fanning 12. Lincecum struck out six straight form the 4th through 6th innings, including the side in order in the 5th. He has 113 strikeouts on the year, currently good for 4th in the NL.

Minnesota pushed across a run in the 9th off closer Brian Wilson, who picked up his 21st save.

Lincecum improved to 6-6, and the Giants remained 1/2 game behind the Diamondbacks in the division race.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: The four wins by the National League cut the AL lead down to just two, with the score now 64 for the American and 62 for the National. With a full slate on tap for the weekend, anything can happen, though neither league can claim dominance at this point.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lillibridge Shows Savvy in White Sox Win; Heisey, Cueto Lead Reds Past Yanks

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 22, 2011

American League

Brent Lillibridge
We've heard of taking one for the team, but when a player takes one that turns out to be a game-winner, that's something special.

Since arriving from the minors to the White Sox, Brent Lillibridge has been a sensation in the outfield and solid at the plate. In Wednesday's rubber match with the Cubs, he proved that baseball is often more guile than power, more a game of inches, rather than feet.

Lillibridge went 2-for-3 with a most unusual pair of RBI, the first on a bunt single, the second without his bat even touching the ball. The remarkable sub showed the gamesmanship of a veteran when he bunted for a single in the 4th inning, getting A.J. Pierzynski - not the fleetest of foot - home from third base to put the White Sox up 2-0. Then, in the 5th, he was hit by a Doug Davis pitch with the bases loaded to make it 4-1, and, yes, it counts as an RBI.

It turned out to be a fortuitous bruising, as the Cobs plated two more in the top of the 6th, before the White Sox bullpen closed the door, resulting in a 4-3 White Sox win and a 2-1 edge in the crosstown series.

Lillibridge is batting .278 with seven home runs, 15 RBI, 20 runs and six steals in just 97 at-bats.

National League

Heisey: 3 Homers
Cueto: 7 IP, 2 Hits
After dropping the first game of their day-night double-header to the Yankees, the Reds needed a win in the nightcap to avoid being swept at home, so they turned to their #2 starter, Johnny Cueto, who didn't have to be as good as he was, as the Reds registered a 10-2 romp over the New Yorkers.

Cueto improved to 5-2 allowing two hits over seven innings, one of which was a solo homer by Nick Swisher, producing the only run he'd give up.

While Cueto was all arms and elbows on the mound, fanning six while walking three, Chris Heisey was raking at the plate, going 3-for-5, all of his hits homers, driving in five runs, prompting more questions to manager Dusty Baker about why the kid isn't in the starting lineup permanently.

The Reds' win moved them to within two games of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central, with the Cardinals in between, 1/2 game out, but Heisey's heroics may land him a full-time job in the end. He's batting .273 with 8 homers and 28 RBI in just 123 at-bats.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: The National League took 9 out of 15 played on Wednesday, cutting further into the big lead the AL had been building. The tally stands at 64 for the AL and 58 wins for the NL.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ryan Sweeney Helps A's to 6th Straight; Seth Smith Powers Rockies to 4-3 Win

Players of the Day for Tuesday, June 21, 2011

American League

The hottest team in the American League right now is Minnesota, who won their eighth straight by blasting the Giants, 9-2, but right next to them on the heat map are the Oakland A's, who took their sixth straight with a 6-2 win in New York over the up-and-down Mets.

Among the reasons for the A's recent success is Ryan Sweeney, who probably isn't getting all the playing time he deserves. Sweeney went 4-for-5 and drove in only one run, but he was right in the middle of the A's big innings, leading to their victory.

Sweeney's key RBI single in the 3rd put the A's up 4-0, and another single, in the 5th, set the stage for two more Oakland runs, effectively putting the game out of reach, at 6-1.

Batting .291, Sweeney has been used primarily in right field and he has had some key pinch-hits. While his stats aren't anything close to mind-boggling, he's only had 117 at-bats this season.

The A's, in last place in the AL West but only 5 1/2 games back, hope to keep their win streak running in New York on Wednesday and Thursday.

National League

Seth Smith crunched a pair of home runs to lead the Colorado Rockies to a second straight one-run win at Cleveland, 4-3, Tuesday night.

Smith hit his seventh home run in the 6th inning, putting the Rockies up, 3-0, but the Indians battled back to tie the game heading into the 9th. His second homer of the contest turned out to be the game-winner, as Smith led off the inning with a solo bomb to right-center off Cleveland closer, Chris Perez.

Huston Street slammed the door shut on the Indians in the bottom of the frame, earning his NL-leading 22nd save.

Batting .316, Smith has been a large part of the Rockies' winning four of their last five. In the four wins, he's gone 8-for-18, including his 3-for-4 effort on Tuesday. The Rockies remain in the hunt for the NL West title, trailing Arizona by 2 1/2 games and just two back of second place San Francisco.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: The National Leaguers made a bit of a comeback on Tuesday, winning nine of the 13 games played. Those wins cut the AL lead to 58-49.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Longoria Provides Power for Rays; Kershaw, Hudson Are Mound Kings

Players of the Day for Monday, June 20, 2011

American League

Evan Longoria
Even though they've won four straight, Tampa Bay can't seem to pick up any ground on the Yankees or Red Sox, remaining 4 1/2 behind the front-running Sox and three games back of their New York rivals.

Still, Tampa has gotten itself into a contending position since the return of their all-star thrid baseman, Evan Longoria, who missed much of April, and has struggled to regain his award-winning form.

In Monday's 8-4 win at Milwaukee, some of that old spark showed up, as Longoria singled in a run and scored in the 7th inning, then proceeded to belt a three-run homer that completed Tampa's scoring and put the game out of reach.

The homer was only Longoria's 6th of the season and just his second in June. The power outage has been a concern for the Rays, because Longoria average 27 homers in his first three seasons.

National League

Kershaw's 2-hitter
tamed Tigers
Clayton Kershaw notched his seventh win against three losses, hurling a masterful 2-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over Detroit.

Kershaw didn't allow a hit after the 4th inning, setting down 17 of the last 18 batters he faced, walking one. He ended the game with a flourish, striking out the side in the 9th. Kershaw fanned 11 for the game, giving him the NL lead in Ks, with 117, leading Roy Halladay (114) and Cliff Lee (111), but his was only one of two impressive performances by National League starters.

Hudson's 2-run
homer won the game
In Atlanta, Tim Hudson shut out the Toronto Blue Jays for eight innings, allowing only two hits, walking one and striking out eight.

While Hudson's mound heroics were worthy of note, his plate appearance in the bottom of the 7th inning provided the winning runs for the Braves, as he blasted a two-run homer for the 2-0 Atlanta win.

Hudson retired 20 straight batters from the 2nd inning through the 8th, but walked the leadoff hitter, Mike McCoy, in the 9th and then gave up his second hit of the game, a single by Yunel Escobar. That's when closer Craig Kimbrel was summoned from the bullpen. He promptly struck out the next three batters, getting his 20th save of the season, tying him with Brian Wilson of the Giants for the second most in the league. Colorado's Huston Street leads with 21.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: The National League managed to pick up four wins on Monday, but fell further behind as the AL teams won six, expanding their lead to 54-40.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shields Tosses 5th CG as Marlins Sink Deeper; Arroyo Keeps Reds Close

Players of the Day for Sunday, June 19, 2011

American League

James Shields
Just when it looked like things couldn't get any worse for the Florida Marlins, along came the Tampa Bay Rays and starting pitcher James Shields to put the final nail in the coffin that is the month of June.

Florida had been rolling along in May, but have won just one game in June - and they've been beaten in just about every imaginable way - but Shields and the Rays did it by shutting down the Florida hitters in a 2-1 win, Florida's 10th straight loss.

The Marlins got on the board in the first inning, scoring an unearned run on a Gaby Sanchez sac fly, but that was all they would get off Shields, who tossed his fifth complete game of the season, limiting the Marlins to a mere four hits while fanning 10.

Including the sac fly, Shields didn't allow another base hit until the 5th inning, setting down 12 straight. He issued no walks, and threw 79 of 110 pitches for strikes, extending his record to 7-4. Having an amazing season, Shields is tied for second with Seattle's Felix Hernandez in strikeouts with 108, both trailing Justin Verlander, who has 110. Shields is also third in ERA, at 2.40 and he has the sixth-best WHIP in the AL, at an even 1.00.

The Rays continue to chase Boston and NY in the AL East, trailing the Red Sox by 4 1/2 and the Yankees by three games. As for the Marlins, manager Edwin Rodriguez tendered his resignation before the game, which was the 18th loss in 19 tries in June.

Rumor has it that 80-year-old Jack McKeon will return to manage the Marlins while a full-time manager is sought. McKeon took a struggling Marlins squad all the way to the World Series in 2003, beating the Yankees to claim the world championship.

National League

Bronson Arroyo
Cincinnati keeps hanging around in the NL Central, looking for their opportunity to take over the division they won last season. The Reds trail the Brewers and Cardinals by two games after beating Toronto, 2-1, at home on Sunday.

Getting nine hits but scoring just two runs was all the Reds' hitters could produce, but it was enough for Bronson Arroyo to even his record at 6-6, as he went eight innings, allowing only an Aaron Hill 5th inning solo homer to blemish the scoreboard.

Arroyo gave up five hits total, walked one and struck out five as the Reds avoided the sweep in their interleague series with the Blue Jays. Toronto took the first two games of the series, 3-2 and 4-0.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: Winning only three games on Sunday, the National League fell well behind the AL, which won 11 out of 14 games to take a 48-36 advantage on the season. Teams will be moving to new locales on Monday, with a few taking a day off. Some of the more interesting match-ups include the Yankees at Cincinnati, the Cubs at the White Sox and Tampa Bay at Milwaukee.

On Tuesday, Minnesota opens a three-game series at San Francisco. The Giants are clining to a 1/2 game advantage in the NL West, while the Twins are finally out of last place in the AL Central, having won seven in a row.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Baker Goes 8 Scoreless for Streaking Twins; Victorino Powers Phils to 6-Game Lead

Players of the Day for Saturday, June 18, 2011

American League

Baker: 8 Scoreless
Slowly but surely, the Minnesota Twins are getting themselves back into the AL Central race. On Friday, they got all-star catcher Joe Mauer back from the DL after he missed 56 games, and on Saturday, Scott Baker ruled the bump, delivering eight innings of shutout ball for a 1-0 Minnesota win, their sixth straight.

Baker batted with San Diego's Tim Stauffer, whose only mistake was to Danny Valencia, who deposited one of Stauffer's pitches into the stands beyond left-center field, producing the only run of the game.

Meanwhile, Baker was chucking peas, allowing just four hits and one walk while striking out 10 Padres.

Minnesota's win did not get them out of last place, but, combined with Kansas City's 5-4 loss at St. Louis, left them tied for the bottom spot with the Royals, eight games out. The Twins will go for the sweep of San Diego, Sunday in Minnesota.

National League

Arguably carrying the best pitching staff in the majors, the Phillies have opened up the largest lead in the bigs - six games - over Atlanta in the NL East.

And not only do the Phillies boast prodigious pitching, but they can also have their bats do the talking, as Shane Victorino proved in their 5-1 win over the Mariners.

Victorino: a single
short of the cycle.
Victorino went 3-for-4 on the day, driving in all but one of the Philly runs, as he nearly went for the cycle.

After walking in his first at-bat, the center-fielder tripled with two outs in the 3rd inning, but was stranded. After grounding out in the 5th, Victorino came back with a bases-loaded, ground rule double in the seventh, plating a pair of runs, and then smacked his 8th home run of the season, accounting for two more runs.

His effort was more than enough for emergency starter Vance Worley and a trio of relievers.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: The AL took eight of the 14 interleague games on Saturday, expanding their lead of the NL to 37-33.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Interleague: Gonzalez, Rockies Bomb Tigers; Hamilton Leads Rangers Past Braves

Players of the Day for Friday, June 17, 2011

American League

Josh Hamilton
Interleague play is on again, this time for an extended period. The Texas Rangers kicked things off with a trip to Atlanta for a three-game series with the Braves, taking game one by a 6-2 score.

Leading the Rangers was Josh Hamilton, who has been making up for last time after missing six weeks earlier this year. Hamilton stroked his 5th homer of the season in a 4-for-5 effort, a two-run blast that broke a 1-1 tie in the 5th inning. He drove in another run with a single in the 9th, giving him 3 RBI on the night.

Hamilton is batting .302 and has the Rangers in first place in the AL West, leading the surprising Seattle Mariners by 1/2 game.

National League

Batting leadoff,
Gonzalez has 10-
game hit streak.
It may be unusual for some fans to see Carlos Gonzalez batting leadoff for the Rockies, since the star outfielder was among the league leaders in home runs and RBI last season, but the move seems to be working.

The Rockies won their third straight to pull to within one game of .500, at 34-35, with a 13-6 pounding of the Tigers in the opener of a three game series in Colorado.

Every position player had at least one hit for the Rockies as they banged out 13 base knocks, and while Charlie Blackmon had four hits, Gonzalez had two, one of them his 10th home run of the season, a 5th inning solo shot. Gonzalez also drove in a run with a sac fly in the Rockies' six-run 2nd and two more on a double in the 3rd.

Four RBI from your leadoff spot may not be the prescription for success, but with "Car-Go" going like he is, one can't really argue with the results.

Gonzalez moved to the leadoff spot with the start of a series in San Diego, June 6. After an 0-for-4 opening performance, Gonzalez has adjusted, and is currently on a 10-game hitting streak, which has raised his batting average from .249 to .280. The Rockies are 7-4 since the move.

After taking two of three from Cleveland and reaching first place in the AL Central, the loss by the Tigers, coupled with Cleveland's 5-1 win over Pittsburgh, put the two back into a tie atop the division.

INTERLEAGUE TALLY: Following the multiple mid-May three-game series, the two leagues ended up tied with 21 wins apiece. On Friday, the American League took eight of the 14 games, and now lead the seasonal series 29-27.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nick Blackburn Wins for Twins; Cliff Lee Hurls Two-Hitter; Jones, Schafer Lead Braves

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 16, 2011

American League

Nick Blackburn
Atop the Central division, the Tigers scored a 6-2 decision over Cleveland to take over first place by one game, while at the lower end, Minnesota topped the White Sox, 1-0, furthering the Twins' desire to get back into the race after a forgettable first two months of the season.

Starter Nick Blackburn worked out of repeated jams, allowing eight hits but no runs over eight innings for the Twins, riding Michael Cuddyer's 3rd inning solo home run to his sixth victory over four losses.

Blackburn walked one and struck out just one batter, and Matt Capps earned his ninth save, allowing a hit, but fanning two in a scoreless 9th.

The Twins remain in last place in the division, but are just nine games behind the Tigers. A game in front of them are the Royals, while the White Sox hold third place, 5 1/2 out.

National League

Cliff Lee: Two-Hitter
What's better, a two-hit shutout, five RBI or five hits in a game?
Jones: five RBI

Since the answer is a matter of subjective preference, we present all three, from an entertaining evening in the NL East.

In Philadelphia, Cliff Lee sent the Florida Marlins to their 15th loss in their last 16 games, hurling a two-hit, two-walk complete game shutout in a 3-0 Phillies' win.

Lee threw an incredible 117 pitches for his seventh career shutout, fanning four as he improved to 7-5 on the season.

The win kept the Phillies five clear of the Atlanta Braves, who survived a see-saw battle with the Mets, 9-8, eventually scoring the game-winner on a 10th-inning balk by Mets' pitcher D.J. Carrasco, sending Diory Hernandez, who had replaced Chipper Jones in the 9th inning, to the platter.
Schafer: five hits

Prior to the melodramatic ending, Jones had driven in five runs for the Braves with a first inning ground out, a third inning three-run homer and an RBI single in the 4th. Jones left the game after leaping to field a high chopped by Angel Pagan and throwing wildly to first in the 8th inning. Pagan would eventually score, putting the Mets up 8-6 at the time.

Atlanta tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on Brooks Conrad's two-run homer.

Jordan Schafer had five hits for the Braves, all singles, including his 10th-inning hit that sent Hernandez to third, setting him up to score the winning run.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beckett Throws One-Hitter at Rays; Hernandez, Morse Lead Nats to 10-0 Win over Cards

Players of the Day for Wednesday, June 15, 2011

American League

Josh Beckett has his old stuff back and the Boston Red Sox could not be happier.

Beckett's one-hitter
was a real gem.
Beckett tossed a one-hitter at the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday night in Tampa, setting down the first eight batters in order before surrendering the game's only hit to Reed Brignac with two outs in the 3rd inning.

After that, Beckett was truly unhittable, putting away the next 19 batters in order to close out the game.

Going just 6-6 with a 5.78 ERA in 2010, Boston fans were worried that their ace had lost his good stuff, but the 2003 World Series MVP (then with Florida) has silenced his critics and assuaged the doubters by going 6-2 this season with a 1.86 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP.

Facing one over the minimum, Beckett didn't issue any walks while striking out six, needing only 96 pitches for the 3-0 win, his first complete game shutout of 2011.

Locked into a pitcher's duel with the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson, Beckett got all the runs he would need on Kevin Youkilis' 7th-inning, three-run homer.

Boston maintained its 1 1/2 game lead over the Yankees in the AL East. The Rays dropped 4 1/2 games off the pace.

National League

Michael Morse
Livan Hernandez
At 36, Livan Hernandez still seems to have plenty of giddy-up in his right arm. The veteran starter, who has played on eight different teams, stymied the St. Louis Cardinals on three hits to the delight of the Washington fans.

Hernandez, always an inning-eater, recorded the 50th complete game and 9th shutout of his career in Washington's 10-0 whitewash.

Hernandez threw 105 pitches (71 strikes) without walking a batter while fanning six. Michael Morse blasted a pair of homers in support - a solo shot in the 2nd and a two-run job in the 7th - while also singling and scoring in the 4th, going 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBI.

The win, combined with Philadelphia's twin killing of the collapsing Marlins, losers of 14 of their last 15, got the Nationals into a tie for last place in the NL East, rather than holding it on their own. At 32-36, the Nationals are actually not that bad a team.

For the Cardinals, the setback left them trailing the Brewers by one game in the wide-open Central division, with Cincinnati closing in, just 2 1/2 off the pace.

NOTES: The Phillies have opened up a commanding five-game lead on the Braves in the NL East after dumping the marlins twice on Wednesday, 8-1 and 5-4, in 10 innings. In the NL West, the Giants enhanced their lead with a 5-2 win over second place Arizona, now 2 1/2 back.

The Tigers and Indians are back into a tie in the AL Central. Cleveland recovered from Justin Verlander's 4-0 shutout Tuesday to take a 6-4 decision on Wednesday. The two combatants will settle their differences Thursday afternoon in the rubber game of their three-game series.

Texas lost their 4th straight, dropping a 12-4 decision in New York to the Yankees. Seattle continue pursuit, one game back. In the Texas game, Mark Teixeira connected for two-run homers from both sides of the plate, the 11th time he's he's gone long ball as both a lefty and righty in the same game. That tied him with Eddie Murray and Chili Davis as leaders of that particular feat.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hamels Dominates Marlins; Verlander Super as Tigers Take 1st; Jeter on DL

Players of the Day for Tuesday, June 14, 2011

American League

9-2 Verlander Puts
Tigers in 1st Place
After two months of chasing, the Detroit Tigers have finally caught and passed the Clevelnd Indians for the lead in the AL Central, and they did it with style.

Hosting the Indians for the opener of a three-game series, the Tigers sent their ace, Justin Verlander, to the mound, and, boy, was he special. Taking a no-hitter into the 8th inning, Verlander completely shut down Cleveland's bats, until Orlando Cabrera stroked a single to center with one out in the 8th.

Verlander surrendered another hit in the 9th, to Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana, finishing with a superb two-hitter, surrendering one walk while fanning 12 in the 4-0 victory.

Not only did the Tigers finish with a one-game lead in the division, Verlander ended up with the AL lead in Ks, his 105 total two better than that of Seattle's Felix Hernandez. This was Verlander's third complete game and second shutout of the season. At 8-3, with a 2.66 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, put Verlander on the list of probable Cy Young award winners.

National League

8-3 Hamels has
Phillies rolling
When you have Cole Hamels on the mound and your team hits five home runs, you are probably going to win a lot of games.

That's exactly what the slumping Florida Marlins discovered as they lost for the 12th time in their last 13 games, falling to the Phillies, 9-1.

With the month of June nearly half over, the Marlins have only one win to show for their efforts. At the start of the month, they were 31-22 and challenging the Phillies for first place in the division. Today, they are 32-34, 8 1/2 games back in 4th place, their season almost shattered in the course of two weeks.

Meanwhile, the Phillies have opened up a 3 1/2 game lead on the second place Braves, who lost to the Mets (3rd, 8 games back), 4-3.

With homers by Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and two by Domonic Brown, Hamels had more than enough support to notch his 9th win - tying him for the league lead with teammate Roy Halladay - against just two losses. Hamels worked seven full innings, allowing only three hits and one earned run. He struck out six and walked one.

JETER 3000 WATCH: The New York Yankees placed Derek Jeter on the 15-day disabled list for the first time since 2003. Jeter suffered a strained right calf in Monday's game against Cleveland, leaving the contest after his at-bat in the 5th inning. Just six hits short of getting to 3000 for his career, Jeter will have to watch and wait for a chance to get back into the lineup. The injury is not severe

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Montero Doubles Three Times for Arizona; Vernon Wells Bangs Pair of Homers; Jeter within 6 of 3000, but Injured

Players of the Day for Monday, June 13, 2011

American League

With only three scheduled games, Monday was something of a slow day in the American League, though the LA Angels made the most of it by topping Seattle, 6-3, as the two teams opened a three-game series in the Pacific Northwest.

Vernon Wells,
a sub-.200 hitter?
There's still a pennant race in the West, but the Angels have recently fallen a bit behind. With their win on Monday, they are 32-36, 4 1/2 games back of the Rangers, who lead Seattle by two. Oakland, losers of nine of their last 10, have fallen out of it, now a full eight games off the pace.

Angels' hopes were buoyed by finally getting some production out of Vernon Wells, the erstwhile star from Toronto who is batting just .196 this season. Wells cashed a pair of home runs in the win, a solo shot in the 3rd and a two-run job in the 7th which broke a 3-3 tie and chased Seattle starter, Jason Vargas.

Granted, Wells has only played in 41 games this season, missing most of the month of May on the DL, but he's failed to crack the .200 mark since a 1-for-4 effort opening day against the Royals. His 2-for-4 output on Monday is the closest he's been to the .200 plateau since April 1.

National League

Miguel Montero
Arizona catcher Miguel Montero spanked doubles in his first three at-bats, leading the Diamondbacks to a 12-9 win at Florida.

Montero started off the game with a bases-loaded double in the first, clearing them for three of his four RBI. In the 3rd, he doubled home Stephen Drew and in the 4th he doubled and scored, putting the D-Backs up by an 11-3 score.

The Marlins tried to cut into the lead, but eventually came up just a little short, even though the Florida bullpen held Arizona scoreless after the 4th inning.

After losing the opener of the series on Friday, Arizona bounced back for three straight wins over the Marlins, cutting the Giants' lead in the NL West to 1/2 game. Florida, meanwhile, has gone from hot to not, following up a 6-3 road trip with a horrific 1-10 home stand, falling 7 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the East, and giving up second place to the Braves, who are just 2 1/2 behind.

JETER 3000 WATCH: Fans tracking Derek Jeter's path to 3000 hits will have to wait a little longer. After recording hit number 2994 with a first inning single in the Yankees' 1-0 loss to Cleveland on Monday, Jeter left the field in the 5th inning, limping down the first base line on a routine fly out, heading straight to the dugout in obvious pain.

He failed to come out to the field in the Yankees' 6th and has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 (the least severe) strain of his right calf. He's already been scratched from the lineup for Tuesday's opener with the Rangers, the start of a three-game series, but, unfortunately, the end of the Yankees' current home stand. Jeter will not likely be placed on the DL, though there's no immediate timetable for his expected return to action.

The Yanks go on the road for six interleague games (Cubs, Reds) before returning to Yankee Stadium for a pair of three-game sets with the Rockies and Brewers, so it's conceivable that the rabid New York fans may get to see him crack the 3000-hit mark at home, should he miss, say, five or six of the next nine games.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Youkilis, Lester Lead Boston Rout of Toronto; Jordan Zimmerman Ks 10; Jeter Within 7 of 3000

Players of the Day for Sunday, June 11, 2011

American League

Kevin Youkilis
Francisco Liriano flirted with a no-hitter in Minnesota, eventually surrendering two hits and a run in the 8th in a 6-1 Minnesota win, their third in four games against the Rangers, but Keven Youkilis was a model of efficiency, driving in a run with each hit he had in Boston's 14-1 rout of Toronto.

Jon Lester
The Boston third baseman went 3-for-4, with an RBI single in the 3rd, walked and scored in the 5th, doubled in another run and scored in the 6th and belted a two-run homer in the 9th. That's a single, double, home run, three runs scored and four RBI, a manager's dream, even a fantasy manager's dream.

While "Youk" and the Sox were pounding the Blue Jays for the third straight day, starter John Lester was in his own little world, limiting the Jays to two hits - one of them a 4th inning Jose Bautista solo home run (21) - over eight innings, fanning eight, to go to 9-2 on the season.

The Red Sox maintained their two-game lead over the Yankees in the AL East with the three-game sweep of the Blue Jays, outscoring them by a combined score of 35-6.

National League

Jordan Zimmermann
Jordan Zimmermann might be the best 4-6 pitcher in the major leagues, and on Sunday, he might have pitched his best game of the season, but came away with nothing to show for it, despite the Nationals winning, 2-0.

Zimmermann worked seven scoreless inning for the Nats, allowing just four hits, walking one and striking out 10. Todd Coffey pitched a scoreless 8th inning and the Nationals pushed across two runs in the top of the 9th to give him the win. Drew Storen pitched the 9th for has 15th save.

For Zimmermann, nothing, except for extending a very nice string of games. In his last eight starts, he's gone at least six innings each time on the mound and allowed two or fewer runs in all but one of those starts. For that, three wins, but a seasonal ERA of 3.10 and a 1.08 WHIP.

If only the Nationals could score some runs...

JETER 3000 WATCH: The Yankees took their third straight from the Indians, by a 9-1 score, and Jeter added two more hits to his total, a couple of RBI singles, bringing his career total to 2993, seven hits shy of the haloed mark. The Yanks are home again against Cleveland on Monday, before taking on the Rangers for three games to complete the homestand. The rabid NY fans are hopeful that their favorite son can get hot in time to reach 3000 before the team hits the road.

Zobrist Leads Rays Past Orioles; Utley Rounding Into Form after DL Stint

Players of the Day for Saturday, June 11, 2011

American League

With all the hubbub over bean-ball between Boston and New York, the Tampa Bay Rays have managed to quietly stay just behind the two leaders of the AL East, in third place, two games behind the Yankees and four back of the Red Sox.
Ben Zobrist

After being shut out in Baltimore Friday night, the Rays struck back with a 7-5, 11-inning win over the O's on Saturday.

Of 15 hits collected by the Rays, four each came off the bats of Casey Kotchman and Ben Zobrist, and, while Kotchman drove in a pair of runs, Zobrist made the most of his three doubles and one single, scoring four times, including the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th.

His three two-baggers giving him 20 on the year, Zobrist is tied with Carlos Quentin of the White Sox for third in the AL, behind Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez, both of whom have 21.

National League

Chase Utley
The Phillies managed to maintain their two-game lead over the Braves in the NL East with a 7-1 home win over the Cubs, as Cliff Lee turned in one of his better performances of the season and Chase Utley, recently returned from the DL, went 2-for-5 with a double and his second home run of the year - a two-run shot - driving in four of Philadelphia's seven runs.

Cliff Lee
Utley's return to form has been a gradual one, though he seems to be coming around just fine, having hit safely in seven of his last eight games. With only 66 at-bats, his average is rising quickly, up to a fairly pedestrian .242, though just a week ago, it was at .195.

As for Lee, who improved to 6-5, he stymied the Cubs on four hits, issuing a pair of walks while striking out seven over eight innings, giving up one harmless run in the 3rd inning. With some hitting support, Lee's record could be better, as his ERA is a solid 3.41, to go with a 1.21 WHIP.

JETER 3000 WATCH: Going 0-for-5 in NY's 4-0 win over Cleveland, Jeter remains nine hits short of the 3000 plateau and with just five games remaining on the current home stand, may not get to the mark in front of Yankee fans.

The Yanks have two more against the Indians and then a three=game series with the Rangers before heading off to Chicago, then Cincinnati, for a pair of three-game, interleague series.