Monday, September 12, 2011

Behind James Shields, Rays Sweep Red Sox as Upton Slams; Hundley, Padres Halt AZ Home Win Streak at 15

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 11, 2011

American League

BJ Upton's 5th inning grand slam capped off a three-game sweep of the Red Sox by Tampa Bay, beating Boston, 9-1, in the final game of their series and putting the Red Sox hold on the wild card lead in serious jeopardy.

With the Rays already up 4-1, Upton's bases-loaded blast - his 20th homer of the season - gave starter James Shields a more comfortable working margin that helped the right-hander win his 15th game against 10 losses, scattering seven hits and three walks over eight and a third innings. Shields struck out five, making his only big mistake of the game in the third inning, when Marco Scutaro touched him up for a solo home run.

Upton: Grand Slam
Upton's slam was part of a 4-for-4 effort at the plate for the Tampa outfielder. Upton, batting a sub-par .234, singled twice, doubled and scored three times while getting all of his RBI via the home run.

With the sweep of Boston, the Rays now trail the Red Sox in the wild card by just 3 1/2 games with 17 left to play. Boston has lost five straight while the Rays have reeled off four consecutive wins. The Yankees nipped the Angels, 6-5, to increase their lead in the AL East to 3 1/2 games. Texas pounded Oakland, 8-1, improving their AL West lead to 2 1/2 games over the Angels.

In the Central, Detroit got another quality start from Doug Fister (7 innings, 3 hits, 0 ER), beating the Twins, 2-1, as Cleveland downed the White Sox, 7-3. The Tigers lead the Sox by 10 1/2 games and the Indians by 11. Their magic number is down to just seven.

National League

Despite a 7-6 loss to San Diego that ended the Arizona Diamondback's home winning streak at 15 straight, the D-Backs have little reason for concern, holding an 8 1/2 game lead over the second place Giants in the NL West.

Nick Hundley
Arizona's loss was the result of timely hitting by the Padres early in the game, especially by Nick Hundley, who went 3-for-4 and smacked a two-run homer n the 5th inning to put the Padres up 6-0. Arizona battled back with five runs in the 6th, but the Padres had already added another run in the top half of the frame and held on for the win.

The Giants took advantage of Arizona's misfortune, beating the Dodgers, 8-1, picking up a game on the D'Backs in the process, though the lead in the division seems a bit too big for the reigning world champions to overcome. Arizona has just 15 games remaining on the schedule - the Giants, 16 - and the schedule favors the Diamondbacks in a big way.

Arizona hosts a three-game set with San Fran on September 23, 24 and 25, but the rest of their games are against second tier foes. Arizona has six games on the schedule with the Dodgers, three with the Padres and three ore against Pittsburgh.

In the Central, the Milwaukee Brewers halted their five game slide with a 3-2 home win over Philadelphia, keeping St. Louis - 6-3 winners over the Braves - locked in second place, six games back. The Brewers and Cardinals do not play each other again this season.

By taking three straight from Atlanta, however, the Cardinals have gotten back into the wild card race, trailing the Braves by a 4 1/2 games. St. Louis has won five straight, while Atlanta three straight losses have made life easy for the Phillies, as they cruise toward another NL East title with a 12 game edge. The Phillies' magic number is six.

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