Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mike Trout Leads Angels Over Mariners; Halladay Wins 16th for Phillies

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 30, 2011

American League

Trout: 5 RBI
In the AL West, every game for the two front-runners - the Angels and Rangers - is critical as the days and number of games dwindle down toward the end of the season.

After dropping two of three to the Rangers over the weekend, the Angels promptly lost one of those critical contests at Seattle on Monday, 5-3, but came back strong with a 13-6 romp over the division's cellar dweller.

The offense came mainly from rookie call-up Mike Trout, who drove in five runs with a pair of homers and a bases loaded walk.

Trout got the Angels on the board with a solo home run - his 4th - in the 2nd inning, then increased the lead to 4-0 with a 3-run blast in the 4th. When he came to the plate in the 5th inning with the bases loaded and three runs already in, Jeff Gray, who had come on in relief of starter Anthony Vasquez, issued his third walk to as many batters, forcing in Trout's 5th RBI.

Trout would eventually cross the plate for the third time on a sac fly as the Angles plated eight in the frame.

The win left the Angels still chasing the Rangers, 3 1/2 games back. The Rangers beat Tampa Bay, 2-0, maintaining their division lead.

National League

Halladay: 16-5
With the assortment of bats in the Philadelphia lineup, Roy Halladay normally doesn't have to do much hitting when he's working the mound as part of the regular rotation, but he helped his own cause on Tuesday with a bases-loaded double that turned a 3-0 lead into 6-0 with one swing.

Not that Halladay needed to clear the bases. His 6th-inning hit came as he was en route to going 16-5 on the year, holding the Reds to two hits while walking two and fanning nine over seven innings in Philly's 9-0 rout.

The win improved the Phillies' lead in the NL East to 7 1/2 games over the Braves, who have lost two straight while the Phillies have put together back-to-back wins over the Reds.

Halladay is third best in the NL in three major categories: Wins (16), ERA (2.47) and Ks (191).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Buehrle Blanks Twins as Sox Advance; Wells, Cubs Put Giants Down 5 in NL West

Players of the Day for Monday, August 29, 2011

American League

Mark Buehrle
On Sunday, the Chicago White Sox slipped past Cleveland into second place in the AL Central, finding themselves six games behind division-leading Detroit. On Monday, they inched closer.

As the Tigers were being pounded, 9-5, by Kansas City, Chicago was shutting down the Twins, with Mark Buehrle blanked Minnesota for 7 2/3 innings in a 3-0 White Sox victory.

Buehrle (11-6) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out four, eventually being lifted with two out and a man on second in the 8th inning. Jesse Crain came on to get Michael Cuddyer to end the inning, and Sergio Santos worked a perfect 9th for his 27th save.

That left the Sox, winners of four straight, five out in the division, with Cleveland 1/2 game behind. The White Sox play two more with the Twins, while Detroit has three games left in their series with the Royals. After a day off Thursday, the White Sox head to Detroit for a three-day weekend series that will help sort out the division. The two teams meet again in Chicago on September 12, 13 and 14.

National League

Randy Wells
In order to return to the World Series, the reigning champion San Francisco Giants will have a long, uphill climb in September. After falling to the Cubs, 7-0, on Monday, San Francisco has dropped five games back of Arizona, winners of seven straight.

The Cubs beat up on Giants' starter Tim Lincecum, who pitched into the 7th inning, but allowed three home runs - two of them with none out in the 7th - before being pulled. His mound opponent, Randy Wells (6-4), had no such issues, blanking the Giants with a two-hit complete game shutout, the first of his major league career.

Wells, a Chicago favorite from Belleville, IL, allowed his only walk of the game to leadoff hitter Andres Torres, but settled in to pitch the game of his life, striking out seven Giants' batters in the process.

Later, the Arizona Diamondbacks won their seventh straight, stretching their lead over second place San Francisco with a 5-1 win over Colorado. Both the Giants and D'Backs will complete their three game series on Wednesday, then meet up in San Francisco for a crucial three game series beginning Friday.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Granderson Gone Wild; Jennings, Price Power Relentless Rays; Diamondbacks Win 6th Straight

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 28, 2011

American League

Curtis Granderson
How special a season is Curtis Granderson having?

Pretty special, it appears, as Granderson homered twice in the nightcap of the Yankees' double-header at Baltimore, socking a three-run homer in the 3rd inning to erase an early 2-0 Baltimore lead, then smashing an opposite field shot in the 7th inning to complete the scoring in New York's 8-3 victory at Camden Yards.

Price: 14 Ks
The first homer tied him with Toronto's Jose Bautista for the AL and major league lead in home runs, the second gave the 185-pound center fielder the outright lead in that category. His four RBI put him ahead of all others with 107. He also leads the majors in runs with 121 and has stolen 24 bases this season.

Granderson's HR and RBI totals are already career bests for the 7-year pro. He's one shy of matching his 2007 total for runs and he'll match his personal best for swipes with two more stolen bases.

With the Yankees splitting with the O's and Boston idle, David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays were keeping pace, 8 1/2 games back, but just 6 1/2 behind the Yankees for the wild card spot.

Desmond Jennings
Price (12-11) set a personal high mark with 14 Ks, shutting out the Blue Jays over seven innings on three hits and two walks as the Rays hammered Toronto, 12-0. Rookie outfielder Desmond Jennings provided early offense, homering to lead off the game and smacking another seat-finder in the 3rd to put the Rays up 5-0.

Jennings also walked and stole second in the 4th and singled home a run and scored in the 9th as the Rays piled on six more runs.

Kennedy: 17-4
National League

Arizona's Ian Kennedy topped all National League pitchers with his 17th win as the Diamondbacks won their 6th straight, defeating the Padres, 6-1.

Kennedy allowed just one run on seven hits over seven stellar innings. He fanned seven and did not issue any walks.

Aaron Hill
While Kennedy was mowing down the opposition, recently acquired second baseman Aaron Hill singled, tripled and homered, driving in three run in five at-bats.
Collin Cowgill

Rookie Collin Cowgill hit his first double and home run, going 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI and two runs.

The Arizona win pushed them to a four-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West. The Giants dropped a 4-3 decision to Houston in 11 innings.

Arizona is one of just three NL teams to have winning records at home, on the road and against all three divisions. The other two both hail from the East: Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Verlander Wins 20th; Danks Keep White Sox in Hunt; Gallardo, Brewers Steaming Toward Playoffs

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 27, 2011

Verlander: 20-5
American League

Justin Verlander became the first pitcher in the majors to reach 20 wins, as the Tigers fought to a 6-4 win over the pesky Minnesota Twins.

Danks: 3-hitter
Not pitching particularly well, Verlander allowed eight hits, three walks and four runs over six full innings, fanning six. His teammates picked him up with two runs in the 7th to snap a 4-4 tie and hold on for the win. Verlander is 20-5; the win kept Detroit 6 1/2 in front of Cleveland and 7 better than Chicago in the AL Central. Verlander is the quickest pitcher to 20 wins since 2002.

The White Sox got the pitching performance of the day from John Danks, who tossed his second complete game and first shutout of the season, a three-hit, 3-0, gem over Seattle, striking out 10 to match his career high.

Danks, who started the season 0-8, has won six of his last seven decisions.

Gallardo: 15-8
National League

Their magic number to capture the NL Central division at 19, the Milwaukee Brewers are cruising into September and on into the playoffs.

Yovani Gallardo improved to 15-8, striking out 10 over seven innings in which he allowed six hits. two walks and no earned runs, leading the Brewers to a 6-4 win over the Cubs.

The Brewers have the best home record in the majors, an astonishing 49-16 and lead the second place Cardinals by 10 1/2 games, the largest lead in any major league division.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Capuano 2-Hit Shutout Stops Braves; Cruz, Murphy Lead Rangers over Angels

Players of the Day for Friday, August 26, 2011

American League

After losing three straight and four of their last six, the Texas Rangers were in desperate need of a win, especially with the Angels, winners of their last six games, in town for a three game visit.

Cruz: 2 HR, 6 RBI
The secret for the Rangers was that they'd handed the Angels three straight losses just a week ago, before dropping the final game of their four game series in Anaheim, so, as if it were all planned out, the Rangers got big efforts from Nelson Cruz and David Murphy, resulting in an 11-7 win over their top rival in the AL West.
Grand Slam Murphy

Cruz, dealing with a slump entering the contest, was dropped to the #7 slot in the order by manager Ron Washington. His response was a 4-for-5 night at the plate, with a solo homer in the 4th inning, a three-run blast in the 6th, a double, a single, three runs and six RBI.

Murphy, playing as DH and batting right behind Cruz, went 3-for-5, including a 5th inning grand slam off Angels' starter Dan Haren, sending the LA hurler to an early shower.

Texas increased its lead over the Angels to three games with the victory and face them twice more over the weekend. The two teams match up again in Arlington on September 26, 27 and 28, the final three games of the regular season.

National League

Capuano: 2-Hitter
Better late than never, as the saying goes.

Mets' pitcher, Chris Capuano (10-11), who hadn't gone deeper than six innings in any of his last six starts and had only pitched into the 7th inning five times in 25 starts this season, shut down the Atlanta Braves on two hits for a 6-0 Mets win, pitching his first complete game shutout since blanking the Cubs, 2-0, on July 6, 2006, when he was a starter for the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Braves came to visit the Mets as winners of seven of their last eight games, but ran into a buzz saw, as Capuano had all his pitches working, setting down the first 12 batters in order, striking out a career high 13 without surrendering a walk in a dominating performance.

Capuano allowed only a 5th inning single by Dan Uggla and an 8th inning double by David Ross, throwing 79 of 122 pitches for strikes. He ended the game with a flourish, fanning the final two Atlanta batters, including the last out against Micheal Bourne, who struck out all four times he went to the plate.

Unfortunately for the Mets, they are still 21 1/2 games back in the NL East and 15 1/2 games behind the Braves in the wild card race. The teams decided to postpone the next two games of the series, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, in the face of oncoming Hurricane Irene, which is expected to deliver heavy rains and damaging winds to the New York area over the next two days.

The games will be made up as a doubleheader on September 8 at Citi Field.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yankees Set MLB Record with Three Slams; McCann Homers Twice for Red-Hot Braves

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 25, 2011

American League

The New York Yankees are the stuff of legends. The Bambino, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle are the names associated with baseball's most prolific and storied franchise.

Robinson Cano
Curtis Granderson
Add three more names to the list: Russell Martin, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, each of whom rocked grand slam home runs in the Yankees' most recent slaughter, a 22-9 blowout over the Oakland A's.

Over the first few innings, few in the stands or watching on TV would have suspected that history was about to be made. Rich Harden was on the mound for Oakland, and by the third inning the A's had raced out to a 7-1 lead.

But then Martin slashed a solo homer to right, just over the scoreboard and into the first rwo of patrons, giving the Yanks some hope.

In the 5th, Cano blasted his granny, cutting the A's lead to 7-6. Then, in the 6th, Martin delivered again, this time with the bases chucked. Two inning, two grand slams, a 10-7 lead for the aptly-nicknamed Bombers.

Exploding for six runs in the 7th, the Yankees put the game away without the aid of any homers. Cano, Martin and Granderson each added an RBI.

Russell Martin
After Brett Gardner singled in a run in the 8th, the bases were loaded for Granderson, and history was made, when he bopped his 36th of the season into the right-center stands, the third grand slam of the day for the Yankees, a major league record. Andruw Jones obliged with a solo shot, a fitting tribute to the Yankees' largesse.

Martin finished the day with a stat line that read: 5-for-5, three runs, six RBI, two homers, including a grand slam, a double and two singles. Dano went 2-for-5, with five RBI, and Granderson took over the major lead RBI lead with 103, going 2-for-4, knocking in five and scoring four times.

Despite the enormous win, the Yankees didn't gain any ground on the Red Sox, who flummoxed the Rangers, 6-0, and maintained their one-game edge in the division.

National League

These days, most National League teams just don't measure up well against the Atlanta Braves, who finished their four-game set with the Cubs by taking three of four, including Thursday's 8-1 triumph.

McCann: 2 HR, 4 RBI
The Braves dispatched Cubs' starter Matt Garza in five innings, getting eight hits and six runs (three earned) against the Chicago hurler. Atlanta catcher Brian McCann did most of the damage, giving the Braves the lead with a 3-run homer in the opening inning. He added a solo shot (his 22nd) in the 7th inning.

Atlanta cut down idle Philly's lead in the NL East to six games, and increase their wild card bulge to 9 1/2 over the Giants and 10 1/2 over the Cardinals, both losers on Thursday.

The Braves have been so hot, it's hard to imagine them not catching the Phillies. They're 14-4 since August 7, as the Phillies have gone 9-6 over the same span.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Crisp Homers Twice, Drives in Five to Down Yanks; Nick Evans Helps Mets End Five-Game Slide

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 24, 2011

American League

Coco Crisp is not a power hitter, but it would be difficult to convince the NY Yankees of that after what he accomplished in Oakland's 6-4 win Wednesday night.

Coco Crisp
In ten seasons of major league ball, Crisp has hit 74 home runs, and up until Wednesday he had only hit two in one game once.

Make that twice. Crisp launched a solo shot in the opening inning against C.C. Sabathia, to start a perfect night at the plate - 4-for-4 with a walk - which ended with Crisp's second home run, a booming, 3-run, game winning stroke to right field in the top of the 10th.

Crisp drove in five of the A's six runs, including the go-ahead run in the 8th with a single, though the 3-2 lead was quickly erased when Mark Teixeira belted his 35th home run in the bottom half of the inning.

Sabathia was seeking his 18th win, but did not earn a decision. The loss dropped the Yankees a full game behind Boston in the AL East devision. The Red Sox pounded the Rangers, 13-2.

National League
Nick Evans

The New York Mets scored four runs in the first inning and seven over the first five innings to avoid being swept by the Phillies, winning the series finale, 7-4.

Wracked by injuries all season long, the Mets have had to go deep into their bench and farm system to field a competitive team. The latest star is first baseman Nick Evans, who has played in only 27 games this season, but went 3-for-4 with four RBI to lead the victory.

After Lucas Duda got the Mets started with a run in the first inning on a bases-loaded fielder's choice, Evans picked up the remaining baserunners with a three-run homer, just his second of the season and drove in another run with a double in the fifth.

Still, the win snapped a five-game losing streak and left the Mets hopelessly out of any pennant race, 22 1/2 games behind Philadelphia in the NL East.

The Phillies maintained their 6 1/2 game lead over the Braves in the division, as Atlanta fell to the Cubs, 3-2.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Gonzalez Leads Red Sox Back to 1st; Kershaw, Kennedy 16-Game NL Winners; Fielder First to 100 RBI

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 23, 2011

American League

Adrian Gonzalez
With David Ortiz sitting out the last nine games with bursitis in his right heel and Kevin Youkilis on the DL with back stiffness since August 17, the Boston Red Sox haven't had their full complement of players and recently relinquished their AL East lead to the Yankees.

With a little help from the Oakland A's, who barely outlasted the Yankees for a 6-5 win Tuesday night, Boston has - despite a recent 5-5 record - regained a tie for the top spot in the division, as Adrian Gonzalez picked up his teammates with two homers and a single in four at-bats, leading to an 11-5 victory over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers.

Connecting for a two-run job in the opening inning, Gonzalez cracked his 20th home run as a Red Sox - a solo shot - in the 4th, singled, but was stranded in the 7th and was intentionally walked and scored in the 8th inning.

Gonzalez leads the majors with a .346 batting average and is second in the AL in RBI with 97, one behind the Yankees' Curtis Granderson.

Ian Kennedy
Boston and Texas have split the first two games of their series, which continues Wednesday and Thursday in Arlington.

National League

Clayton Kershaw
Despite the best pitching staff in the majors belonging to the Phillies, Clayton Kershaw and Ian Kennedy both became 16-game winners on Tuesday to top the National League's win column.

Kennedy, dueling with Washington ace, Jordan Zimmerman, tossed seven innings of shutout ball against the Nationals, with Arizona breaking through in the 7th on Sean Burroughs' two run homer for the 2-0 win, snapping a six-game Diamondback losing streak that had trimmed their lead over the Giants to a single game.

Kennedy scattered six hits and two walks, fanning eight.

Fielder: 100 RBI
During Arizona's slide, the Giants were more than accommodating, dropping four of six themselves, including Tuesday's 7-5 loss to San Diego.

For Kershaw, getting win #16 was a bit easier.

In three innings, the Dodgers had eight hits and scored eight runs off St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse. Kershaw cruised through six innings of shutout ball, giving up six hits and two walks while striking out eight in the 13-2 Dodger win. Kershaw also leads the NL with 207 Ks.

Elsewhere, Prince Fielder became the first player in the majors to reach the 100-RBI mark, doubling home Ryan Braun in the sixth inning of Milwaukee's 11-4 win over the Pirates.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Verlander Wins 7th Straight, Now 19-5; Carlos Gonzalez on a Rocky Mountain Tear

Players of the Day for Monday, August 22, 2011

American League

Justin Verlander, meet Cy Young.

Verlander: First to 19
Well, not exactly. Meet the award named after the winningest pitcher in major league baseball history, because you are on a Cy Young-like path this season. Unless Verlander absolutely collapses over his next five or six starts, the battle for the Cy Young award in the American League is essentially over.

Verlander became the first pitcher to notch 19 wins this season, as the Tigers downed Tampa Bay, 5-2. After giving up a leadoff home run to Matt Joyce in the bottom of the first inning, it was lights out from then on, with Verlander allowing just two more hits, three walks and no runs over seven full innings, striking out eight Tampa batters.

The numbers the detroit ace has put up thus far have him well ahead of the rest of the field. Verlander's ERA of 2.28 is second only to LA's Jered Weaver at 2.10. Verlander leads the baseball universe with 212 strikeouts. The next closest in the AL is Seattle's Felix Hernandez with 185 and his 19 wins are two better than C.C. Sabathia's 17. By comparison, no pitcher in the NL has more than 15 wins.

Detroit's triumph over the Rays was their fourth straight win, while Cleveland has lost four straight - three of them to the Tigers - and fallen into a second place tie with the White Sox in the AL Central, 5 1/2 games behind the Tigers.

Verlander has won his last seven starts and is 19-5 on the season.

National League

Gonzalez: 22 HRs
Carlos Gonzalez is back hitting in the three-hole and opposing pitchers are hating it.

In Colorado's 9-5 win over Houston, Gonzalez collected two hits in five at-bats - a double and his 22nd home run - to energize the Rockies as the season slowly turns toward the final month of the regular season.

Since returning from a short stint on the DL, Gonzalez has hit seven home runs and driven in 23 RBI over a 16-game stretch. He's hit safely in ten straight games and has driven in at least one run in each of his last seven.

The Rockies, notable for making late-season runs, won its third straight while Arizona, in first place in the NL West, lost their sixth straight. The Rockies are 8 1/2 games back, but, for Gonzalez and his Colorado teammates, the season is just beginning to get interesting.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Floyd, Lillibridge Lead White Sox over Rangers; Red-Hot Braves Sweep Arizona

Players of the Day for Sunday, August 22, 2011

American League

Floyd has 5 Wins
in last 7 starts.
The Detroit Tigers spent the weekend solidifying their lead in the AL Central by taking three straight from second place Cleveland to establish a 4 1/2 game working margin while the White Sox became a viable contender, taking two of three from Texas - including Sunday's smashing 10-0 victory - to close to within five games of the lead.

Lillibridge: 11 HRs
Chicago starter Gavin Floyd (11-10, 4.45) has come alive at the right time for the charging Sox, earning decisions in six of his last seven starts - five of them wins. His latest trip to the mound resulted in seven innings of shutout work, allowing the Rangers just three hits and a walk, fanning six.

Brent Lillibridge, who, since 2009, has played every position except catcher and pitcher for the White Sox, went 3-for-5 with his 11th home run, driving in two runs and scoring twice to pace the Chicago offense.

Listed at 5'11", 185 pounds, one would not expect Lillibridge to offer much in the way of power, but this season's homers have come off of 159 at-bats. He's having a banner year statistically, with a .346 on base percentage, .509 slugging percentage and an .856 OPS.

The White Sox don't face the Tigers until September 2nd, when they open a three game series in Detroit. Chicago hosts Detroit in another three game set, September 12-14.

National League

Gonzalez: Solo HR
Hudson: 7 scoreless
Milwaukee continued to be the hottest team in the majors, completing a three game sweep of the Mets with a 6-2 win in New York - the 22nd win their last 25 games - but the Atlanta Braves have been putting together a nice run of their own, completing a weekend, three game sweep of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, sending the Arizonans to their fifth straight loss, in a 1-0 nail-biter.

Tim Hudson scattered three hits and three walks over seven scoreless innings, striking out seven for his 13th win against seven losses. Jonny Venters gave up a hit in the eighth, but kept the lead for his 27th hold, and Craig Kimbrel earned his MLB-Best 39th save, giving up a hit and a walk in the ninth, but striking out the three other batters he faced. Kimbrel's three Ks gave him 101 on the season, in 62 2/3 innings.

Kimbrel: 39 Saves
The Braves' exceptional pitching made the third inning, solo homer off the bat of Alex Gonzalez stand up for Atlanta's fourth straight win and 11th in their last 14 outings.

Venters: 27 Holds
Atlanta has cut slightly into Philadelphia's NL East lead, closing to within 5 1/2 games and maintaining a nearly insurmountable eight-game lead over the Giants and 8 1/2 over the Cardinals in the wild card race.

The Diamondback loss cut the lead over the Giants to just 1 1/2 games, but the Giants haven't exactly helped themselves, losing three of their last five and five of their last seven.

Atlanta will have every opportunity to catch the Phillies over the next two weeks, as they play their next 13 games against the Cubs, Mets, Nationals and Dodgers prior to a three game series with the Phillies beginning September 5th.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Longoria Drives in Five for Streaky Rays; Fielder, Brewers Win Wild One over Mets

Players of the Day for Saturday, August 20, 2011

American League

Longoria: 4 RBI
Hellickson: 8 scoreless
Winning their fourth straight, the Tampa Bay Rays are acting as though the AL East and wild card races are still up for grabs. Despite trailing the Yankees by eight games in the division and the Red Sox by 7 1/2 in the wild card, the Rays pounded Seattle, 8-0, while the two teams they're chasing lost by identical 9-4 scores.

Evan Longoria delivered the opening salvo for Tampa, belting his 20th home run of the season with one aboard in the first inning. The Rays scored three more in the third, and Longoria completed the Tampa scoring with a two-run single in the three-run eighth.

The Rays banged out 13 hits in supports of Jeremy Hellickson's eight innings of shutout work. Hellickson allowed six hits and a walk, punching out five on strikes as he improved his record to 11-9 and lowered his ERA to 3.02.

The Rays will go for the sweep of Seattle Sunday afternoon in Tampa.

National League

The hottest team in baseball right now is the Milwaukee Brewers, who have won eight of their last 10 and 21 of their last 24, an amazing run, but what may be equally amazing is how they managed to blow a 7-1 lead to the Mets, then came back to win it in the ninth inning.
Fielder: 96 RBI

The Brewers built their big lead on home runs off Mets' starter Chris Capuano, who surrendered seven runs - five earned - over 5 2/3 innings. Ryan Braun got things started with a two-run blast in the first, followed by Prince Fielder's 28th of the season, a three-run shot in the third, and added two more in the 6th off Yunieski Betancourt's two-run job.

The six-run lead was not enough to stave off a two inning rally by the Mets, who put up five runs in the 7th - three of them off former Met Francisco Rodriguez - and three more in the 8th to forge a 9-7 lead.

Striking back in the top of the ninth, Milwaukee loaded the bases off Jason Isringhausen, who walked mark Kotsay to force in a run, then Fielder followed with a seeing-eye single to right, which tied the game. Casey McGehee cued a ball between second and first for two more runs, producing the 11-9 final score.

Fielder's four RBI gave him 96, tying him with Ryan Howard for the NL lead. His 28 homers have him in the midst of a four-way battle for the HR crown. Albert Pujols leads the NL with 30, followed by Dan Uggla and Mike Stanton, each with 29.

Coupled with the Cardinals' 3-0 loss to the Cubs, the Brewers are cruising to the title in the NL Central with an 8 1/2 game lead.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hunter, Moreland Each Homer Twice as Angels, Rangers Win; Rodriguez Blanks Giants

Players of the Day for Friday, August 19, 2011

American League

Mitch Moreland
The race in the AL West between the Rangers and Angels was pretty close until this week, when the Rangers went to LA and took three of four, upping their lead to a solid six games.

Torii Hunter
There's still a lot of baseball to be played, however, and the two teams meet again for a three-game series in Texas, August 26-28, and again at the very end of the season, with three games in Anaheim, on September 26-28.

On Friday, the Rangers maintained their advantage with a 7-4 win over the White Sox in which Mitch Moreland socked a pair of home runs and drove in five runs for the Rangers.

Not to be outdone, Torii Hunter did the same - two homers and five RBI - as the Angels knocked off Baltimore, 8-3.

The race bears watching, with the Angels having to make up significant ground on the Rangers, who lost in the World Series last season to the Giants. Only one team will likely make the playoffs, as LA is currently nine game behind Boston in the wild card race.

National League

Wandy Rodriguez
As the trading deadline approached last month, three Astro names were being bandied about as possible free agents: Michael Bourne, Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez. Bourne got a ticket to Atlanta, Pence ended up with the Phillies, but there were no takers on Rodriguez, leaving the Astros with a load of young talent and nary a veteran.

Rodriguez proved skeptics wrong again Friday, when he blanked the San Francisco Giants for eight innings, evening his record at 9-9 in a 6-0 Houston victory.

Allowing five hits and a couple of walks, Rodriguez struck out eight before turning the ball over the bullpen for the final inning, his second win in his last three starts.

The loss left the Giants 2 1/2 games behind Arizona in the West, as the Diamondbacks also lost, 4-2, to a red-hot Atlanta squad.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ricky Romero Goes Distance, Shuts Out Oakland; MIke Minor, Craig Kimbrel Shut Down Giants

Players of the Day for Thursday, August 18, 2011

American League

Another season of frustration in Toronto heads into the final stretch, as the Blue Jays once again find themselves in the lower tier of the AL East division, 12 games behind the first place Yankees despite riding a three-game win streak that has them at 64-60.

Ricky Romero
Opening a four game series in Oakland, Ricky Romero was on the mound for the Jays, displaying his enormous talent with a three-hit shutout of the A's, as Toronto built him a sizable lead and eventually prevailed, 7-0.

Improving to 12-9 with his fifth straight win, Romero gave up a couple of walks and struck out six A's. It was his fourth complete game and second shutout of the season, needing just 111 pitches to go the distance.

With an ERA of 2.73, Romero give the Blue Jays hope for the future. Just three years into his major league career, Romero is poised to possibly become one of baseball's elite hurlers.

His emergence would be a boost, since Toronto has plenty of power in its lineup. Their 145 homers have them tied with Texas with the third most in the AL. The Yankees lead the league with 163 bombs; the Red Sox are second, at 150.

National League

Minor: 9 Ks
Chipper Jones' 5th inning solo homer off San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum was all the Atlanta pitching staff needed to take the finale of their four game series against the Giants, 1-0, winning three of four and cementing themselves as the front-runner in the wild card race and a formidable foe come the playoffs.

Kimbrel: 37 Saves
Atlanta starter Mike Minor out-dueled Lincecum, delivering six scoreless innings before giving the ball over to the bullpen, which blanked the Giants on one hit the rest of the way.

Minor allowed four hits and a walk, striking out nine Giants. The Braves fanned 12 would-be hitters in the game.

Eric O'Flaherty worked a solid 7th inning, allowing just one hit. Johnny Venters got through the 8th without surrendering a hit and Craig Kimbrel fanned two in a perfect 9th inning for his league-leading 37th save. Kimbrel has struck out 96 batters in 60 2/3 innings. Both he and Minor are rookies on a very youthful Atlanta staff.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

David Price Blanks BoSox for 8 as Tampa Wins; Gonzalez, Ianetta lead Rockies Rout

Players of the Day for Wednesday, August 17, 2011

American League

David Price
A week ago, the Boston Red Sox were just cruising along, fresh off taking two of three from the Yankees and looking unbeatable in the AL East.

Somebody must have collectively pinched the Boston players, awakening them to the fact that it's only the middle of August, because after taking two straight from the Twins, they lost the series finale and began a little skid in which they've now lost four of six and first place belongs to the Yankees.

With David Ortiz sitting, David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays took advantage of Boston's weakness, beating them 4-0, to pull to within 8 1/2 of New York and 8 games behind Boston, currently the wild card leader.

Price, in complete control throughout his eight scoreless innings, limited the Red Sox to three hits and three walks while fanning six. His mound work was rewarded by solo homers from Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton. Ben Zobrist bolstered the attack with two RBI.

The Yankees lost, 5-4, in Kansas City, but maintained their 1/2 game edge over Boston.

National League
Chris Iannetta

Carlos Gonzalez
Trailing Arizona by 12 games in the NL West, with the Giants sitting in second place, just 2 1/2 out, the Colorado Rockies probably don't have much chance of making the post-season this year, but they took no time to show the Florida Marlins the kind of offensive fireworks they can produce.

The Rockies scored five first inning runs and scored six more in the third, en route to a thorough, 12-5 rout of the visiting Marlins.

Chris Iannetta socked a bases-loaded double in the first inning for three RBI and singled home another run in the third inning. Carlos Gonzalez singled in a first inning run and scored, then smacked his 20th home run in the third inning, with two men aboard.

The Rockies took two of three from Florida. After a day off Thursday, they open a three-game home series with the LA Dodgers on Friday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Verlander Becomes First 18-Game Winner; Homers by McCutchen, Walker, Jones Fuel Pirate Victory

Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 16, 2011

American League

Verlander: 18 Wins
There was no shortage of runs across the American League on Tuesday, but the Minnesota Twins didn't exactly share in the bounty, as Detroit's Justin Verlander became the first 18-game winner in the majors as the Tigers retained their stranglehold on first place in the Central division with a 7-1 victory over the fading Twins.

Verlander didn't have his best stuff, but pitched well enough to hold Minnesota to one run over 7 1/3 innings of work, throwing 81 of 122 pitches for strikes as his teammates built a huge lead, scoring two in the 4th, three in the 5th and two more runs in the 6th.

The loss dropped Minnesota 11 1/2 back of Detroit and likely out of contention. The Tigers, meanwhile, increased their lead on Cleveland, losers to the White Sox, 8-7 in 14 innings, to 3 games. Chicago remained 3 1/2 out.

McCutchen: 3-run HR
Verlander struck out 8 and allowed seven hits and a walk. Looking more and more like a shoo-in for the AL Cy Young Award, he lowered his ERA to 2.31 and increased his league-leading strikeout total to 204.

National League

Walker tied it
in the 9th
Thanks in part to the Pittsburgh Pirates, life and the pursuit of the NL Central crown got a little bit easier for the first place Milwaukee Brewers.

While the Brewers were winning their fifth straight with a 2-1 win over the Dodgers, the Pirates, trying to remain relevant, took a swipe at second place St. Louis, beating them for the second time in two days, 5-4, in 11 innings.

Jones won it in 11th
Andrew McCutchen continued his impressive season for the Bucs, swatting a three-run homer - his 17th - in the 3rd inning of Cardinal starter Chris Carpenter, but, after Albert Pujols hit his 30th home run and David Freese drove in another, the game was tied at 3-3 in the 6th.

St. Louis took a 4-3 advantage in the top of the ninth, Niel Walker tied it back up with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning, setting the stage for Garrett Jones' game winner in the 11th, a leadoff, walk-off solo blast that left the Pirates 13 games back, but, more importantly for the Brewers, dropped the Cardinals to seven games off the pace.