Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cano, Swisher Propel Yankees to Twin Bird Kill; Howard Slashes Pirates with 21st Homer

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 30, 2011

American League

Robinson Cano
The Yankees made a mockery of the Baltimore pitching staff, pounding O's hurlers for 24 hits in a 17-3 victory in which they nearly batted around twice and scored a team record of 12 runs in the first inning.

Nick Swisher
Once the Yanks had their fill of first inning batting practice, the game devolved into a drawn out exercise in getting through nine innings without further embarrassment or injury.

Robinson Cano was having fun, however, at the Orioles' expense, going 5-for-5 with two doubles, five RBI and two runs scored. After his last hit, a single in the 6th inning which plated Curtis Granderson with the final Yankee run, he was mercifully replaced by pinch-runner Francisco Cervelli, taking his .295 batting average and 68 RBI on the season to the bench for the final three innings of the slaughter.

The Yanks took both ends of a day-night double-header from the Orioles, winning the first game by the relatively-modest score of 8-3. Nick Swisher had the big blow in game one, a 4th inning, two-run homer which broke a 2-2 tie and put the Yankees ahead for good. In the twin killing, Swisher homered in each game, going 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI in the day game and 3-for-6 with two runs and three RBI in the nightcap.

The two wins shaved 1/2 game off Boston's lead in the AL East, trimming the edge to two games as the Red Sox beat the White Sox, 10-2. The Yankees will have an opportunity to take back first place when they travel to Boston for a three game series, August 5, 6 and 7, following a four-game series in Chicago with the White Sox.

National League

Ryan Howard
The Philadelphia Phillies maintained their 5-game advantage over the Atlanta Braves in the NL East with a 7-4 victory over the upstart Pirates, taking the first two games of their three-game set with Pittsburgh.

Ryan Howard went 4-for-4, smacking his 21st home run and driving in three runs, to give him 81 on the year, one behind LA's Matt Kemp, who leads the league. It's the seventh straight season that Howard has hit at least 20 homers, dating back to 2005, when he hit 22 in 88 games. In 2004, Howard played in just 19 games with the Phillies, but managed a pair of bombs in those games, prior to becoming the Phillies' full time first baseman and winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2005.

The Phillies will look to complete the sweep of the Pirates Sunday afternoon, before embarking on a 10-day, 10-game road trip which includes four games at World Series champion San Francisco.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Niemann Whiffs 11 in Tampa Win; Kemp Has Five RBI, Overtakes Howard for NL Lead

Players of the Day for Friday, July 29, 2011

American League

Niemann: 11 Ks
Tampa Bay scored all eight of its runs in the second inning and Jeff Niemann fanned 11 in 6 2/3 innings as the Rays topped the lowly Mariners, 8-0.

Improving to 5-4, Niemann allowed three hits and surrendered three walks without allowing a run for this third win of July without a loss. Niemann came off the DL on June 20, and has won four of his last seven starts. In his five July starts, the 6'9" hurler has allowed only four earned runs for an ERA of 1.06. His 11 Ks were a career high.

The victory was much-needed for the Rays, who have fallen 9 1/2 behind Boston in the AL East and trail the Yankees - the current wild card leader - by 7 games. Seattle, which ended its 17-game losing streak with a win over the Yankees on Wednesday, returned home Friday only to begin losing again.

National League

Kemp: 80 RBI
Even though the Dodgers are playing sub-.500 ball (48-57) and are 12 1/2 games back in the NL West, Matt Kemp keeps knocking balls out of the park and driving in runs.

Kemp hit his 25th home run of the season and drove in five runs as the Dodgers out-slugged the Diamondbacks, 9-5.

Kemp's three-run home in the 2nd inning put the Dodgers up 3-1, and even though Arizona notched single runs in the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th innings, they could not catch the Dodgers. Kemp added two more RBI in the 3rd inning with a bases-loaded single that gave him the outright NL lead in RBI with 80, two better than Philadelphia's Ryan Howard.

His 25 home runs are second in the league only to Lance Berkman's 27. Kemp is batting .313 on the year.

STREAKS: Emilio Bonifacio's 26-game hitting streak was ended as he went 0-for-4 in Florida's 5-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves. In Chicago, Dustin Pedroia's 25-game streak came to an abrupt end as the Red Sox fell to the White Sox, 3-1. Pedroia went 0-for-4.

The Mets currently have the longest winning streak in the majors, winning their fifth straight by topping Washington, 8-5. The Nationals have the longest current losing streak in the majors, having lost six in a row.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mark Trumbo Eyeing AL Rookie Honors; Mets Complete 4-Game Sweep of Reds

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 28, 2011

American League

Mark Trumbo
Mark Trumbo went 3-for-5, missing hitting for the cycle for the absence of a single, as the LA Angels continued their relentless pursuit of the Texas Rangers with a 12-7 win at Detroit.

Trumbo, quietly having a smashing year (.256, 19, 53) as the Angels' rookie first baseman, socked his 19th homer in the 2nd inning to get the Angels on the board, then followed up with an RBI triple in the 4th and a run-scoring double in the 7th. He scored three times and drove in five runs.

The race in the AL west has come down to a contentious battle between the top two teams. The Angls have won three straight and seven of their last ten to pull to within two games of the front-running Rangers. Trumbo is looking more and more like the choice for AL Rookie of the Year.

National League

David Wright
Defending champions of the NL Central, the Cincinnati Red are looking less likely to repeat in the most competitive division in the majors, especially now that they've dropped a four-game home series to the NY Mets.

Angel Pagan
Playing without Carlos Beltran - traded to the Giants - the past two games, the middle of the Mets lineup quickly picked up the slack, taking the final two games of the series without much help from their pitching staff.

Following Wednesday's 8-2 romp, New York came through with a 9-8 squeaker, souring the local Reds fans with the sweep. David Wright, Angel Pagan and Jason Bay each collected three hits in the victory, sending the Reds to a 50-55 record, good for fourth place in the Central, 6 1/2 games behind Milwaukee with the Cardinals and Pirates tied for second, 1 1/2 back.
Jason Bay

Catching one team in a divisional race is hard enough, but rallying past three teams in August and September would amount to a Herculean achievement. Meanwhile the Mets continue to chase Atlanta and Philly in the East, though they remain 6 1/2 back of Atlanta and 11 1/2 behind the Phillies.

Wright and Pagan both went 3-for-5, all singles, and drove in a run apiece. Wright scored twice and Pagan three times. Bay was 3-for-4, with two doubles and a single, and drove in three runs.

STREAKS: Florida's Emilio Bonifacio extended his hitting streak to 26 games, going 2-for-4 with a run, an RBI and his 24th steal of the season as the Marlins topped the Nationals, 5-2.

In Boston, Dustin Peroia socked an 8th inning home run to extend his hitting streak to 25 games, though it was not enough to overcome the Royals, who won, 4-3.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ervin Santana Throws No-Hitter for Angels; David Wright Leads Mets to 3rd Straight Over Reds

Players of the Day for Wednesday, July 27, 2011

American League

Santana: No Hits
The LA Angels keep nipping the heels of the Texas Rangers in the AL West. On Wednesday, they had something more to cheer about than being in second place.

Ervin Santana threw a no-hitter at the Cleveland Indians, in their home park, a place and a team against which he had never won.

The game began in dubious fashion, after the Angels had gone down in order in the top of the first inning. Santana got leadoff hitter Ezequiel Carrera to ground to short, only to have shortstop Erick Aybar throw wildly to first. Carrera stole second and after an out, went to third on Asdrubal Cabrera's ground out to second. Then Santana uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Carrera to trot home with a run, despite the Indians getting no hits.

After that, however, Santana was all business, getting Travis Hafner to strike out to end the inning, then putting down the next 19 batters he faced before allowing a walk with one out in the 8th. He struck out the next two batters and got the side in order for his first career no-hitter and the third this season in the majors.

Santana struck out 10, issued the one walk and improved to 6-8. The other no-hitters thrown this year were by Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano, against the White Sox on May 3 and Detroit's Justin Verlander against Toronto on May 7.

Santana's 3-1 win got the Angels to within two games of the Rangers, who were beaten at home, 7-2, by the Twins.

National League

Wright: Lots of hits
With Carlos Beltran traded to the Giants earlier in the day, the Mets weren't supposed to beat up on the Reds. Then again, they weren't supposed to beat them in the first two games of the series - with Beltran - but they did.

Recently returned from a long stint on the DL, David Wright came through with a single, a sac fly and a three-run homer in four at-bats, driving in four runs as the Mets cruised to their third straight win at the Great American Ball Park, beating the Reds, 8-2.

Wright, an all star third baseman who went to the DL on May 15, returned on July 22 and has been scorching the ball, hitting safely in six straight games, going 12-for-28 (.429) over that span with two home runs and 11 RBI.

The loss knocked the 4th-place Reds 5 1/2 back of the new leader in the NL Central, Milwaukee. The Cardinals are 1/2 game out and the Pirates are hanging tough, just 1 1/2 behind the Brewers. The Mets are 12 1/2 behind the Phillies in the East and trail Atlanta by 7 games in the wild card race.

STREAKS: Seattle ended the mid-summer nightmare of 17 straight losses with a 9-2 win against the Yankees. emilio Bonifacio extended his MLB-best hitting streak to 25 games. Boston's Dustin Pedrioa has the longest in the American League this season, at 24 straight.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yanks Ties Ks Record, 1-Hit Seattle for 17th Straight Loss; Greg Dobbs Powers Streaky Marlins

Players of the Day for Tuesday, July 26, 2011

American League

Sabathia: 14 Ks
Sending the Seattle Mariners to their 17th straight loss, Yankees' pitching was at its finest Tuesday night in the Bronx. Starter C.C. Sabathia struck out 14 and took a perfect game into the 7th inning, spoiled by Seattle's only hit of the game, a one-out, seeing-eye single to left by Brendan Ryan.

Robertson: 20th Hold
In the 8th, Sabathia returned to the mound for the second time following a rain delay and this time could not locate the plate, walking the first three batters he faced. Enter David Robertson, who gave up a sac fly but struck out a pair of Mariners and got out of the jam, allowing just the one run for his 20th hold of the season.

In the 9th, Mariano Rivera put the M's down in order, also blazing two Seattle would-be hitters to tie the Yankee mark for Ks in a game at 18. The original total was set by Ron Guidry, back in 1978.

Rivera: 585 saves
The Mariners are four shy of matching Baltimore's AL-record 21-game losing streak which started the 1988 season. The 1961 Phillies dropped 23 straight for the modern major league mark.

Sabathia became the first major leaguer with 15 wins this season, improving to 15-5 with the 4-1 win. It was Rivera's 26th save of the year and the 585th of his career, just 16 saves away from the all-time saves record of 601 held by Trevor Hoffman. Rivera has recorded 25 or more saves in 15 consecutive seasons.

The Yankees won their third straight to remain two back of Boston in the AL East. The Red Sox outlasted Kansas City, 13-9.

National League

Greg Dobbs was just plain trouble for Nationals' hurlers in Florida's 11-2 win at Washington.
Greg Dobbs

The part-time first baseman started out slowly, but built his way to a 3-for-5 effort at the plate, getting runs home with each at-bat.

Dobbs got the Marlins on the board with a 1st inning ground out that plated Omar Infante. In the third, he hit into a double play, but another Marlin run scored. Dobbs smacked a solo homer in the 5th, singled home a run in the 7th and drove in two more with a single in the 9th, giving him five RBI for the game.

The Marlins, the streakiest team in the majors, won their third straight after dropping four in a row, but remain 15 1/2 games out of first place in the rugged NL East. The win got hem out of last place, 1/2 game ahead of the Nationals.

STREAKS: Seattle lost #17 in a row and will go for #18 in Wednesday's series wrap-up against the Yankees. Florida's Emilio Bonifacio extended his hitting streak to 24 games, going 2-for-4 in the Marlins' win over Washington.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rangers Score 20 Runs in Win over Twins; Yadier Molina Keeps Cards Tied for First

Players of the Day for Monday, July 25, 2011

American League

Ian Kinsler
When all of their position players are healthy, the Texas Rangers have undoubtedly one of the most potent offensive attacks in the majors. To prove their point, the Rangers knocked out 27 hits in a devastating display of hitting, defeating the visiting Minnesota Twins, 20-7, in the first of a three-game series.

The hits and runs were the most by any major league team this season. Every starting player had at least two hits, except for third baseman Chris Davis, who went 0-for-6.

Playing as DH, Ian Kinsler led the assault from the top of the order, going 4-for-6 with a double, home run, four RBI and two runs. Nelson Cruz and catcher Mike Napoli also collected four hits.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire had the most erudite quote, saying, “the first five innings looked like a ZIP code, that will tell you how it went…33354.”

The only innings in which the Rangers did not scare were the 6th and 8th, the latter pitched by Twins' outfielder Michael Cuddyer, though he loaded the bases with one out before setting down the last two Texas batters the Twins needed to face.

The win put the Rangers four games to the good over the Angels in the West. The Twins, who have been trying to get to .500 after a horrible April, remained in fourth place in the tightening Central division, seven game behind the Detroit Tigers.

National League

Yadier Molina
The St. Louis Cardinals are in the fight of their lives for the lead in the NL Central, having to fend off the surprising Pirates, along with the defending division champion Reds and the hard-hitting Brewers.

On Monday night, the Cards did what they do best, bludgeoning the Houston Astros, 10-5, to remained tied with Pittsburgh atop the division. The Pirates dumped Atlanta, 3-1.

Yadier Molina showed off his power stroke, going 3-for-4 with a double and his 8th home run, driving in two runs and scoring three times.

The idle Brewers dropped 1/2 game behind the dual division leaders, while the Reds were stymied by the Mets, 4-2, falling four games off the pace.

STREAKS: Seattle lost their 16th consecutive game, a 10-3 laugher by the Yankees to open a three-game series in New York.

Monday, July 25, 2011

5-for-5 Matsui Falls Short; Cecil Guns Down Rangers; Billingsley Fans 10

Players of the Day for Sunday, July 24, 2011

American League

Matsui: 5-for-5
Hideki Matsui did everything he could to beat his old team. Unfortunately, going 5-for-5 - three singles, two doubles - scoring a run and driving in one was not enough as the Yankees took the rubber game of the three-game series, 7-5.

After going 0-for-3 in the first game, Matsui completed the series by going 7-for-10 in the last two games. The A's have fallen out to the AL West race, trailing Texas by 13 1/2 games, while the Yankees are desperate to keep pace with red-hot Boston, winners of their last four straight, who lead New York by three games.

Cecil: 4-hit Shutout
In Texas, two teams known for scoring plenty of runs were subdued by pitching, as Toronto's Brett Cecil tossed a complete game, 3-0, shutout to avoid being swept by the Rangers.

Allowing four hits and two walks while fanning seven, Cecil earned just his third win of the season, against four losses. Cecil spent all of May and most of June on the DL, but has won two of his last three starts. It was his first career shutout.

Toronto remained 12 1/2 games out in the AL East, while the Rangers saw their lead slip to 3 games over the Angels in the West.

National League

Billingsley: 10 Ks
Out of last place in the NL West - the basement now belongs to the Padres - the LA Dodgers took the final two games of a three-game set from the Washington Nationals, culminating in a 2-1 win Sunday.

Starter Chad Billingsley (9-8) stymied the Nats on two hits over seven innings, allowing just the one earned run while striking out 10 and walking two. Billingsley did most of his damage on the middle of the order, registering 8 Ks on the 4th through 7th hitters, including getting Rick Ankiel three separate times.

STREAKS: Seattle set a new club record for failure, losing their 15th straight game, 12-8, in Boston.

Emilio Bonifacio extended his MLB-best hitting streak to 23 games, going 2-for-5 as the Marlins dropped the Mets, 5-4.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Rookie Eric Hosmer Brings Home Game-Winner in 10th; Justin Upton, Miguel Montero Scorch Rockies

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 23, 2011

American League

Eric Hosmer
After a promising start, the situation is back to normal in Kansas City, with the team in last place in the AL Central, 11 games behind Detroit and 16 games under .500 (42-56).

To Eric Hosmer, however, it's a chance to prove he belongs in the big leagues, and in Saturday's 10-inning, 5-4 win over the Rays, he strengthened his case, going 3-for-5, scoring two runs and driving in the game-winner.

In the 4th inning, Hosmer tied the game at 2-2 when he raced around the bases from first on Mike Moustakas' double to center. Hosmer scored again in the 6th, singling, advancing to third and coming home on a sac fly to get the Royals within one, at 4-3.

The big moment came in the 10th, after KC had tied the game, when Hosmer doubled home the winning run as pinch runner Mike Aviles motered home from first.

Hosmer has credentials for rookie of the year, toting a .277 batting average with nine homers and 40 RBI... and his second walk-off hit of the season.

National League

Miguel Montero
Justin Upton and Miguel Montero absolutely torched the Colorado Rockies, sparking the Diamondbacks to a lopsided, 12-3 win.

Justin Upton
The Arizona pair combined for five hits and 11 of the D-Backs' 12 runs. Both doubled in two runs in the first inning, and they both had homers - Upton's a grand slam and Montero's a two-run job. Montero also was awarded an RBI when he walked with the bases loaded in the 6th inning.

Upton went 3-for-5 with six RBI; Montero was 2-for-4 with five ribbies.

The win helped Arizona stay within range of the NL West-leading Giants at four games out. San Fran beat Milwaukee, 4-2, on Saturday. The Diamondbacks also trail Altanta by five games in the wild card race.

STREAKS: Florida Marlins third baseman Emilio Bonifacio went 2-or-4, extending his career-best hitting streak to 22 games, as the Marlins downed the Mets, 8-5. Seattle equalled the franchise record for futility, losing their 14th straight, as Boston downed the Mariners, 3-1.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cruz Delivers 8 RBI in 12-2 Rout; Hamels Wins 12th for Phillies

Players of the Day for Friday, July 22, 2011

American League

Cruz: 8 RBI
Entering Friday's fracas with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rangers' Nelson Cruz had been in a serious RBI drought. Cruz had driven in exactly one run in his last 11 games, despite the fact that Texas had won nine straight during that time.

With Michael Young going 4-for-4 in front of him, the Toronto pitching staff was to be unwilling victims of the wrath of Cruz, helping Young score four times.

Beginning with his first at-bat, Cruz proved impossible to get out. In the 2nd he got the Rangers rolling with an RBI double. Then, in the 4th, he hit a three-run homer, following that up with a single in the 5th that plated two more runs.

Cruz finished up with a two-run single in the 6th inning, completing a 4-for-4 night with eight RBI as Cruz and the Rangers punished the Blue Jays 12-2.

While eight RBI in a game is unusual, Cruz is notable for big run-producing games. On July 1, he drove in six runs in a 15-5 win over the Marlins. Cruz has 21 RBI in the month of July.

The Texas win kept them three games ahed of the relentless Angels in the AL West.

National League

Hamels: 12-5
If not for the special play of the Atlanta Braves the Philadelphia Phillies would be impossible to catch in the NL East. Atlanta looks like a shoo-in for the wild card. Their 59-41 record would give them the lead in either of the other two divisions, but they trail Philly by four games.

Philadelphia maintained their lead with Cole Hamels on the mound, who tossed another sensational game in the Phillies' 3-1 win over the Padres.

Hamels allowed three hits and one earned run over eight innings, giving up one walk while whiffing 10. Hamels improved to 12-5 with his third win in his last four starts. Hamels is carrying around some gaudy numbers this season, especially considering the exploits of teammates Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. His ERA is an impressive 2.62, along with a 0.96 WHIP and 134 strikeouts.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson Lock into 1-0 Duel; Jayson Heyward Leads Braves Past Rockies

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 21, 2011

American League

Wilson: hard luck
Baseball is essentially a fair game to all, but sometimes great efforts go unrewarded.

Weaver leads AL
with 1.81 ERA
Such was the case as C.J. Wilson matched up in a pitching duel with Jered Weaver as the Angels and Rangers played the rubber game of a three-game series.

Wilson threw eight innings of two-hit ball, giving up one walk and striking out eight batters.

The critical play came in the 2nd inning, as Howie Kendrick was hit by a pitch and took second on Wilson's wild pitch, which struck out Mark Trumbo. The next batter, Mike Trout, lifted a fly ball into shallow center field which should have ended the inning, but was dropped by the Rangers' Endy Chavez, allowing Kendrick to easily score from second.

It turned out to be the only run of the game -unearned - giving the Angels and Weaver the series win. Weaver improved to 13-4 by pitching seven shutout innings, scattering seven hits and two walks while whiffing six in the Angels' 1-0 victory.

The decision left the Rangers with a shrinking, three-game lead over the tenacious Angels, who hung tough in the division race while the Rangers went on a twelve game winning streak which ended when the Angles won Wednesday's game, 9-8.

National League

Jason Hayward
Atlanta's Jason Heyward isn't having the kind of season many expected, though in Thursday's 9-6 comeback win over the Rockies, he provided enough of a spark for fans to believe that he's coming around at the right time.

Heyward, batting only .229, homered and doubled in five at-bats, scoring once and driving in three runs. His two-run home run in the 3rd inning helped cut into a 4-0 Braves lead, and his double in the 7th drove in the game's final run as the Braves scored four times, turning a 6-5 deficit into a 9-6 victory.

The Atlanta win got them 1/2 game closer to the idle Phillies in the NL East. The Braves trail the Phillies by four games but lead the wild card by five games over Arizona.

Colorado dropped to 47-52, 10 games off the pace set by the Giants in the NL West.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kershaw Tops Lincecum as Dodgers Win, 1-0; Encarnacion, Snider Pace Blue Jay Rout

Players of the Day for Wednesday, July 20, 2011

American League

Snider: 5 RBI
Toronto may or may not be out of either the AL East or the wild card race, but, whatever the case, the offense remains one of the best in the American League. Ranking fourth in batting average (.259), runs (469), home runs (111) and RBI (442), the unfortunate reality is that the three teams ahead of the Blue Jays in those departments are all likely to reach the post season - Boston, Texas and the Yankees.

Encarnacion: 4 Runs
Even on nights in which Jose Bautista isn't banging them over the fences, the Blue Jays have potent bats, as evidence by Wednesday's 11-6 bombing of Seattle.

Travis Snider drove in five runs for the Jays, getting them on the board with a sac fly to start a four-run 2nd, then singling in one more in the 3rd before socking a three-run, 4th inning home run.

While Snider was racking up the ribbies, Edwin Encarnacion was getting around the bases, going 3-for-5 with a double and two singles, a pair of steals and scoring four times. Encarnacion played most of the game at third, but spent the 8th and 9th innings holding down first base.

The Jays got back to .500 (49-49), though they remain in fourth place in the AL East, 11 games behind Boston. They are only three games behind the slumping, third place Rays, however, with some important series against key rivals upcoming.

National League

Kershaw: 11-4
When the Giants play the Dodgers, it's usually a pitched battle, though when the starting pitchers are Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw, the battle is usually engaged around the corners of home plate, as both pitchers are adept at keeping hitters off balance and runs off the scoreboard.

In the matchup of the of the top NL pitchers, it was Kershaw and the Dodgers who came away with the 1-0 road victory, as Lincecum was victimized by a 7th-inning Dioner Navarro home run blasted into McCovey Cove.

Other the one mistake, Lincecum was at his usual best, allowing just five hits while fanning seven over seven innings. Kershaw was better, going eight full innings, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out 12 to up his league-leading total to 167.

Kershaw improved to 11-4, while Lincecum fell to 8-8. The kicker is that Lincecum's team, the Giants, have a 4 1/2 game lead in the NL West while the Dodgers are tied with the Padres in last place, 13 1/2 out.

Notable: The 12-game winning streak by the Texas Rangers was violently snapped as the Angels came back from an 8-3 deficit with a 6-run 6th inning to defeat the Rangers, 9-8. The win trimmed Texas' AL West lead over the Angels to four games.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ogando Leads Rangers to 12th Straight Win; Betancourt Homers Twice in Brewers Victory

Players of the Day for Tuesday, July 19, 2011

American League

Last year, the Texas Rangers made their first ever trip to the World Series. By the way they're going right now, it looks like they want to go back and maybe win it all this season.

Alexi Ogando
Rookie starter Alexi Ogando tossed eight innings of scoreless ball at the home-standing, second place Angels as the Rangers won their 12th straight, whipping LA by a 7-0 score.

Ogando (10-4) came within one inning of his second career shutout, but was lifted after eight innings due to a high pitch count (116). He allowed just four hits, walked three and struck out five, including Bobby Abreu three times.

While the Rangers are threatening to make a joke out of the pennant race in the AL East, the Angles have dropped four of their last five since the all star break and are currently five games behind the Rangers.

The Rangers' win was the first of a three-game series in LA, a crucial test for both teams which proceeds Wednesday and Thursday in Anaheim.

National League

Yunieski Betancourt
Pittsburgh shut out the Reds for the second straight day, 1-0, and remain atop the NL Central. The Reds have fallen five games back. St. Louis dropped a 4-2 decision to the Mets and now trail the Pirates by 1 1/2, but the Milwaukee Brewers kept the pressure on with an 11-3 win over Arizona, remaining 1/2 game back.

The Brewers belted out 14 hits, nine of them from the 6, 7, and 8 hitters in the lineup, but shortstop Yunieski Betancourt, batting seventh, went 3-for-5, smashed a pair of home runs, scored three times and drove in four of Milwaukee's runs.

Betancourt came over to the Brewers from Kansas City in the off-season and has solidified a shaky infield with his steady glove, though on Tuesday he did his damage at the plate.

Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart also homered for the Brewers, who have split the first two games of a four game set at Arizona.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pedroia Extends Hitting Streak to 16 Games; Freddie Freeman Powers Atlanta Past Rockies

Players of the Day for Monday, July 18, 2011

American League

Dustin Pedroia
With David Ortiz and Kevin Gregg serving suspensions for a fighting incident prior to the all star break, there were no punches thrown as the Orioles and Red Sox opened a three-game series in Baltimore, but there was plenty of hitting.

The two teams combined for 28 hits; the Red Sox coming away with a 15-10 victory.

Boston Didn't have Big Papi, but they got Carl Crawford back from the DL to provide a couple of hits. Dustin Pedroia continued his hot streak, going 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. Pedroia singled and doubled, driving in three runs and scoring once.

Prior to his 16-game streak, Pedroia had an 11-game hitting streak interrupted by a 0-for-3 effort June 28 at Philadelphia. Over his past 28 games, Pedroia has raised his batting average from .258 to .295 and the Red Sox have won 13 of the 16 games in his current hitting streak.

National League

Freddie Freeman
Freddie Freeman is having one heck of a rookie season with the Atlanta Braves.

Freeman went 3-for-5 with three RBI - two of them on a 3rd inning home run - and scored twice as the Braves continued to pressure the Phillies in the NL East with a 7-4 win at Colorado.

The three ribbies gave Freeman an even 50 for the year and his home run was #14 for the Atlanta first baseman.

Atlanta's win pushed them to within 2 1/2 games of the first place Phillies, as the Cubs beat Roy Halladay, 6-1, in Chicago.

NOTABLE: The Pittsburgh Pirates survived a 90-minute delay in the 1st inning and knocked off the Reds, 2-0, to take sole possession of first place in the contentious NL Central. The Pirates lead Milwaukee and St. Louis by 1/2 game, with the Reds four games out.

Jim Thome socked his 596th home run on Sunday, a three-run blast that gave the Twins a 4-3 win over the Royals. Thome is four shy of becoming the 8th player in major league history to reach the 600 home run mark, and his shot against the Royals was his 500th as an American Leaguer, making him the 11th player to achieve that lofty plateau.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Roger Bernadina, Danny Espinosa Leading Rookies; Brett Gardner a Man on the Move

Players of the Day for Sunday, July 17, 2011

American League

Brett Gardner
With Derek Jeter in and out of the lineup now that he's gone beyond 3000 hits, Brett Gardner is getting more chances to bat leadoff for the Yankees. In Sunday's 7-3 win at Toronto, that is where Gardner was found, stroking three singles in four at-bats, scoring three times and swiping a couple of bases - his 25th and 26th of the year.

Gardner got the Yankees on the scoreboard in the 1st, leading off the game with a single, stealing second and scoring on Nick Swisher's two-out base knock.

After the Blue Jays tied the game at 1-1, Gardner got his second hit of the game and came around to score the 4th Yankee run of the 4th inning on Curtis Granderson's double.

And, just in case the Blue Jays thought about a comeback, Gardner singled in the 9th, stole second again and scored his third run of the contest in the top of the 9th.

The scrappy outfielder has been on a tear since the all star break, going 10-for-16 in the four game series with Toronto, raising his batting average to a solid .286. The Yankees split the series, 2-2, and remain 1 1/2 games behind Boston in the AL East.

National League

Danny Espinosa
Looking for the NL Rookie of the Year?

Look no further than the top of the Washington lineup, where center fielder Roger Bernadina and second baseman Danny Espinosa are regularly creating havoc for opposing pitchers.

Roger Bernadina
In Sunday's 9-8 loss to Atlanta, the pair combined for five hits, five runs and four RBI. Bernadina stole second twice, giving him 15 since getting regular playing time in early May. Espinosa socked his 17th home run and his three RBI gave him 55 on the year. He leads the Nationals in home runs, RBI and runs.

While the big free agent signing of Jayson Werth hasn't panned out - Werth is batting just .213, with 10 home runs and 31 RBI - the two rookies at the top of the order presage goof times ahead for the Nats, who are sandwiched between the third place Mets and last place Marlins, at 47-48 in the ultra-competitive NL East.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hairston Drives in Five as Mets Roll Phillies; Edwin Jackson Hurls 9-Hit Shutout

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 16, 2011

American League

Jackson: 9-Hitter
For obvious reasons, one doesn't see too many 9-hit shutouts, but that's exactly what White Sox starter Edwin Jackson threw at the Detroit Tigers in a battle for supremacy in the AL Central.

Jackson worked into and out of trouble all game long, allowing runners on base in every inning except the 1st and 5th, protecting a 2-0 lead until the Sox finally broke through for three runs in the top of the 9th for the 5-0 final score.

Despite the multiple hits and a pair of walks surrendered, Jackson needed only 101 pitches to notch his first complete game shutout of the season, getting 18 outs on ground balls and being aided by two double plays turned by the White Sox infield.

The win was the second straight for Chicago over Detroit. The White Sox have taken back first place in the division by a game over the Tigers and will be seeking the series sweep Sunday afternoon.

Hairston: 5 Ribbies
National League

Even though they're 11 games back of the front-running Phillies in the NL East, the Mets aren't intimidated by their division rivals, showing them up in both the hitting and pitching departments in an 11-3 rout.

Jonathan Niese allowed six hits and one earned run over seven innings, striking out six, while his teammates piled on Cole Hamels, rocking the Philly starter for eight hits, four walks and seven runs over 4 1/3 innings.

Scott Hairston took advantage of a rare start - playing in place of Carlos Beltran, who was held out of the game with the flu - to rack up five RBI with a pair of doubles and a three-run homer in five at-bats.

Hairston has only 89 at-bats for the year, but has managed to smack five homers and drive in 18 runs, mostly as a pinch-hitter.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zobrist Slam Downs Red Sox; Karstens Shuts Out Astros, 4-0; Pirates Take First Place

Players of the Day for Friday, July 15, 2011

American League

Ben Zobrist
If there's one thing the Tampa Bay Rays don't want, it's to become irrelevant to the outcome of the AL East race, especially with first place Boston in town for a three game series, so, with David Price on the bump, they looked to open the second half with a home win.

Iy didn't exactly turn out as planned, but the Rays got their win, despite four Red Sox homers, offset mostly by a Ben Zobrist grand slam.

The Rays jumped all over Boston starter Andrew Miller, scoring seven runs over the course of the first three innings, all charged to Miller.

Zobrist got things started when he and Evan Longoria walked in the 1st, with Zobrist scoring on B.J. Upton's one- out single.

In the 2nd, Zobrist came to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, unloading off Miller with the grand slam to left, putting the Rays up, 5-1. In the 3rd, Zobrist again got to the plate with nowhere to put him, but reliever Alfredo Aceves walked him, was Zobrist walked in his 5th RBI of the night.

Tampa would survive the four home runs (all solo shots except for Marco Scutero's 2-run blast in the 7th) for the 9-6 win, getting to within five games of the Sox, with the Yankees failing to take advantage, remaining 1 1/2 back after two consecutive losses in Toronto.

National League

Jeff Karstens
There were at least two things well known about the NL Central this season. One was that the division was likely to be a multiple-team scramble; the second was that the pirates were loaded with young talent, but that's been the case for most of the past decade of discomfort in Pittsburgh.

Normally, the Pirates would win some, lose more, and finish near or at the bottom of baseball's most competitive division. This is not a normal season, however, as the 48-43 Pirates took over first place by percentage points over the 49-44 Cardinals, thanks to Brandon Phillips' 9th inning homer, which gave the Reds a 6-5 win, and Jeff Karstens' 5-hit, complete game shutout, as the Pirates beat Houston, 4-0, the seventh win in their last nine outings.

Karstens, 8-4, locked down the punchless Astros, getting 14 of the first 15 Houston batters in order and cruised to the victory without allowing a walk, fanning two, for his fourth straight win and fifth in his last six starts.

His teammates supported his mound efforts with a run in the 1st, two more in the third and another in the 8th. It was Karstens second career shutout and his first since 2008.

The Pirates lead in the division, their first after the all star break since 1997, is tenuous. They are tied in the standings with St. Louis, with Milwaukee 1/2 game off the pace and the Reds lurking, three games back.

Pittsburgh fans better enjoy it while it's there. After their three-game series with Houston ends, the Bucs close out July with 13 straight games against the Reds, Cardinals, Braves and Phillies. If they're still even close to the lead on August 1, that will be something to shout about.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spilborghs Leads Rockies in 12-3 Win; Derek Holland Throws Second Straight Shutout

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 14, 2011

American League

Derek Holland
Picking right up after the all star break where they left off, the Texas Rangers extended their winning streak to eight straight with a 5-0 win over the Seattle Mariners.

The Rangers scored single runs in each of the first three innings and starter Derek Holland made them stand up, tossing his second straight shutout, extending his personal scoreless streak to 18 innings.

Holland gave up just five hits, walked one and struck out eight en route to his eighth win against four losses. The Texas lefty was perfect through five innings and needed 119 pitches - 79 of them for strikes - to record his third complete game and third shutout of the season.

Oddly enough, Holland's scoreless streak began following his worst outing of the season, a July 2nd start against the Marlins in which he lasted only 2/3rds of an inning, surrendering four hits, two walks and five earned runs.

The Rangers have used their win streak to hold off the Angels, winners of four straight. Texas leads the AL West by 1 1/2 games. The Seattle loss was their sixth straight, dropping them 8 1/2 games off the division pace.

National League

Ryan Spilborghs
Ryan Spilborghs made the most of his start in center field for the Rockies, replacing Carlos Gonzalez, who has been sidelined with a deep bone bruise in his right wrist, though the Rockies' regular center fielder is not a candidate for the disabled list.

Spilborghs entered the game with only 152 at-bats and a .217 batting average, but his 4-for-6 performance improved him to .234. Spilborghs, batting in the leadoff spot, spearheaded a 12-3 Colorado win by homering in the 1st inning, singling in and scoring a run in the 4th, singling and scoring again in the 6th and knocking a bases-loaded double in the 7th to drive in two more runs. He also swiped second base in the 4th inning and led a 20-hit Colorado attack.

At 44-48, the Rockies can't waste any time in trying to make up ground in the NL West, where they are in third place, 8 1/2 games behind the Giants. Arizona holds second place, 3 1/2 back.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pitching and Prince Fielder Lead NL to Second Straight All Star Victory

Players of the Day for Tuesday, July 12, 2011

82nd All Star Game

The National League had boasted about its pitching, with good reason, but it was Prince Fielder's three-run homer in the 4th inning that boosted the NL to their second straight All Star win and home field for the NL entrant in this season's World Series.

Fielder's three-run
shot carries NL.
Roy Halladay set the tone for the Nationals, setting down all six of the batters he faced over the first two innings. His teammate, Cliff Lee, surrendered the only run of the game for the AL, a towering 4th inning solo shot off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez, who just a year ago would have been in an NL uniform.

Fielder did his damage in the bottom of the same inning, following singles by Carlos Beltran and Matt Kemp, with a booming belt to dead center field which hit the top of the wall and careened off a back wall of a private box and back onto the field. No doubt about it, Fielder's hit was a goner, and the NL never looked back.

The score could have been worse than the 5-1 final. Cubs' shortstop Starlin Castro stole second and third base in the bottom of the 5th, only to be gunned down at the plate on a nifty bare-handed snatch and throw by Jordan Walden on a Ricky Weeks chopper.

Walden could not get out of the inning unscathed, however, as Weeks stole second and scored on Andre Ethier's scratch single to right. The NL added another run in the 7th on Pablo Sandoval's screaming ground rule double into the left field corner, which plated Houston's Hunter Pence from second base.

The win was the the second in a row for the National League after losing 12 straight - plus one tie - from 1997 through 2009. The NL last strung together wins in 1994, '95 and '96. Fielder was named the All Star Game MVP, the first ever for a player from the Brewers. His homer was also a first in an All Star Game by a Milwaukee Brewer.

With World Series home field secured for the NL for a second straight season, maybe some of the defections on the AL side - like Justin Verlander, Derek Jeter, C.C. Sabathia and Felix Hernandez - will think twice next year about declining a fan vote or a roster selection.

In a related note, Mets' closer Francisco Rodriguez was dealt to Milwaukee for two players to be named later.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sabathia Tosses Four-Hit Shutout; Raul Ibanez Drives in Six as Phillies Hammer Braves

Players of the Day for Sunday, July 10, 2011

American League

C.C. Sabathia
Despite his sparkling 13-4 record and 2.72 ERA, C.C. Sabathia won't be going to the All-Star Game. He was not voted in by the fans and not picked as a substitute, though he was offered a position - ironically, to replace the man he beat on Sunday, 1-0, James Shields.

Sabathia will instead be taking his family to the Bahamas for a few days, which was his plan all along.

The two hurlers - Sabathia and Shields - locked into a scoreless duel from the start until throwing errors - one by outfielder B.J. Upton and the other by Shields himself - allowed Robinson Cano to score the game's only run in the bottom of the 7th inning.

Sabathia took advantage of the lonely run and shut the Rays down in order in the 8th and 9th innings, completing the four-hit shutout, the 16th of his career. Walking only one batter, Sabathia struck out nine and was in complete control throughout.

The win kept the Yankees within a game of the red hot Red Sox, who have won six straight, and dropped Tampa Bay six games off the pace in the AL East.

Have a nice time in the Bahamas, C.C. See you after the break.

National League

Raul Ibanez
After splitting the first two games of their NL East showdown series, the rubber game between the Braves and Philadelphia was all Phillies, all the time, as Raul Ibanez led a 20-hit attack in Philly's 14-1 slaughter of second place Atlanta.

Ibanez went 2-for-5, smashing his 8th home run to cap a six-RBI game. The three-run blast came after he was credited with an RBI in the 3rd inning on Dan Uggla's throwing error and had sinlged home two runs and scored in the Phillies' 6-run 7th.

For Ibanez, his big day was just part of a rebirth of sorts, having been moved to 5th in the batting order - behind Ryan Howard - after the Phillies let go of Jayson Werth in the off-season. With 47 RBI thus far, Ibanez is on track for one of his best seasons in years and the Phillies are happy to have his bat in the lineup on a regular basis.

As all major league teams break for the All Star Game, Philadelphia holds a 3 1/2 game lead over Atlanta in the division.

Jeter Goes 5-for-5, Rolls Past 3000 Hits; Harang, De La Rosa Shine in 1-0 Dodger Win

Players of the Day for Saturday, July 9, 2011

American League

At exactly 2:00 pm EDT, #2, Derek Jeter took a 3-2 pitch from Tampa Bay starter David Price and deposited it in the stands beyond the Yankee Stadium wall in right-center field for his second hit of the game.

Jeter joins 3000 club
There was nothing particularly special about the 3rd inning homer - Jeter had homered 236 times before - except that it was the sparkling shortstop's 3000th career hit, a level reached by only 27 players prior to him. The fans at Yankee Stadium were sent into delirium at the feat and his teammates mobbed him as he crossed home plate.

After singling to lead off the 1st inning with hit #2999, and having tied the game at 1-1, there seemed to be nothing more for Jeter to do that would make his special day any more meaningful, but the thrills were just beginning.

In the 5th, Jeter doubled to lead off the inning and came around to score on Curtis Granderson's single, tying the game again at 3-3. Later in the inning, Robinson Cano's sac fly put the Yankees up, 4-3, as Granderson touched home.

Jeter singled again in the 6th, but the Yankees failed to score. In the top of the 8th, Tampa tied the game again, at 4-4. In the bottom of the frame, Eduardo Nunez - the heir apparent to Jeter's shortstop position - doubled to lead off the inning and was advanced to third on Brett Gardner's sacrifice bunt.

Already having gone 4-for-4, Jeter stepped up to the plate and to the moment, delivering a signature ground single through the middle of the drawn-in infield for the 5-4 game winner after Mariano Rivera retired the Rays in routine 1-2-3 fashion in the 9th.

Five hits in five at-bats, plus a stolen base, two runs and two RBI, including the game winner, was how Derek Jeter signed him name into the 3000-hit club, tying Roberto Clemente at 3000 and surging past him into 27th on the all-time list at 3003.

It was not just a special day; it was an incredible day for Derek Jeter, the fans and for baseball, because there is no more a stand-up player in the game today than Jeter, the permanent Yankee, the modest, soft-spoken fellow who always seems to be in the thick of the action with the clutch hit or the fielding gem.

After all the great Yankees before him - Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson - Jeter stands alone as the only Yankee to ever reach the storied 3000-hit plateau. Further, Jeter becomes only the second shortstop to make the list, joining the legendary Honus Wagner (3420). Of players to homer for their 3000th hit, he joins Wade Boggs (a Yankee in his later years) as the only ones to do that, and Craig Biggio is the only other player to have gone 5-for-5 in the game in which 3000 hits was achieved.

Jeter is the 11th player to get all 3000 hits with one team, a list punctuated by Stan Musial, who had 3,630 hits for the St. Louis Cardinals, Carl Yastrzemski (3,419 for the Red Sox) and Cal Ripken (3,154 for the Orioles).

As he contends through the remainder of the season, Jeter will pass by some great hitters in the 3000-hit club. Al Kaline in next in line at 3007, followed by Wade Boggs (3010), Rafael Palmiero (3020), Lou Brock (3023), Rod Carew (3053), Ricky Henderson (3055) and Craig Biggio (3060). It's a stretch, but Jeter could pass Dave Winfield at 3110 for #19 on the career list, though that is maybe a story for next season.

Jeter has joined truly elite company with his milestone achievement. Hats off to number 2, the Yankee captain, shortstop Derek Jeter.

National League

Rubby De La Rosa
San Diego starter Aaron Harang was not at all pleased when he was pulled after six innings. After all, he was pitching a no hitter. The issue was the pitch count, which had already reached 95. Besides, the opposing pitcher, Rubby de La Rosa of the Dodgers, had only allowed one hit and the score was tied 0-0.

Harang sat, as did De La Rosa after six scoreless innings, allowing just the sole hit and four walks, while fanning eight. Harang had walked three and struck out six.

Aaron Harang
The relievers for the Padres and Dodgers each pitched no hit ball until the Dodgers went to bat in the 9th, still hitless, but, with two out in the frame, Luke Gregerson allowed the first Dodger hit of the game, a double by Jose Uribe, and then gave up the game winner, a single by Dioner Navarro, for the walk-off, 1-0, Dodger win, their third straight shutout victory.

The low-hit game - just three total - was the fewest allowed in a nine-inning game this season and harkens back to September 9, 1965, when Cubs LHP Bob Hendley pitched a one-hitter at Dodger Stadium and Sandy Koufax beat him, 1-0, with a perfect game.