Friday, July 8, 2011

Hafner Grand Slam Produces 5-4 Win for Tribe; Freeman Leads Braves; Jeter at 2998

Players of the Day for Thursday, July 7, 2011

American League

Toronto pitchers kept Indians' hitters in check through the first eight innings of their game in Cleveland; unfortunately, a ball game lasts nine.

Travis Hafner
Entering the bottom of the 9th down 4-0, the Indians put together a rally, loading the bases on a single, double and a walk before Asdrubal Cabrera drove in the Indians' first run of the game with a single to shallow left. That left the table set for Travis Hafner, who went to the plate with two singles in four previous at-bats, but had no RBI or runs to show for his efforts.

All that changed when Hafner lauched a massive drive into the night air, driving the ball deep into the right field stands for his 12th career grand slam, and, more importantly, a stunning, walk-off, 5-4, victory.

Hafner, playing exclusively as a DH, is batting .347, though the number of at-bats fall short of qualifying him for inclusion in the batting title statistics. Because of minor injuries and interleague play, Hafner has only participated in 48 games and has only 150 at-bats, though he's got eight home runs and 35 RBI. The Indians maintained their 1 1/2 game lead over the Tigers in the AL Central. Detroit beat KC, 3-1, on Thursday.

National League
Freddie Freeman (R)

Atlanta has won four straight, nine of their last ten, and fresh Freddie Freeman is showing the way.

Freeman, a rookie first baseman, went 3-for-4, including his 13th home run of the season, a three-run, 3rd inning blast that erased a 2-0 Colorado lead as the Braves touched home five times in the inning.

Atlanta scored another run in the 5th, and Tim Hudson and a trio of relievers held the Rockies in check for the 6-3 win and a series sweep of the four games in Atlanta in which Colorado stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez were sidelined with injuries.

Batting .279 with 13 homers and 42 RBI, Freeman is putting in a solid bid for NL rookie of the year, while providing much-needed power for the Braves, who trail Philly by just 2 1/2 games in the torrid NL East. While chasing the Phillies, the Braves have built a 5-game lead over Arizona in the wild card standings.

JETER 3000 WATCH: Finally back in Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter wasted no time in his quest for 3000 hits, taking the first pitch he saw from Tampa starter Jeff Niemann into the left-center gap for a leadoff double. That hit put Jeter just two shy of the mark, but it also turned out to be his only hit of the game, as the Rays dominated the Yankees in a 5-1 win.

Jeter finished 1-for-5, but will have three more cracks at Tampa pitching before the squads set down for the all star break. With New York buzzing and Jeter's penchant for the dramatic, this should turn into a memorable weekend in the Big Apple.

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