Friday, September 23, 2011

BJ Upton, Rays Pound Yankees, 15-8, Trial Boston by 2; Matt Kemp Close to Triple Crown Season

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 22, 2011

American League

After their near-death experience, losing the first three games of their series in New York, the Tampa Bay Rays finally put one in the win column, smashing Yankee starter Bartolo Colon for seven hits and seven runs (5 earned) in a 15-8 blowout in the Bronx.

Colon, who had a decent first half, going 8-6 through the end of July, has had no luck since, losing four of nine starts and getting no decision in the other five. In his last two, including Thursday's disaster, Colon had gone just seven innings, giving up 14 hits and 13 runs, putting the 38-year-old right-hander on the post-season roster bubble. The Yankees, who clinched the AL East on Wednesday, will go into the playoffs with an uncertain pitching staff. After C.C. Sabathia and rookie Ivan Nova, there simply isn't any quality there.

B.J. Upton
In Thursday's onslaught, the Rays followed the bat of B.J. Upton, who singled, tripled and homered in four at-bats, scoring four times and driving in three. While Upton wasn't exactly the proximate cause for Colon's pain, he was certainly a contributor to it, scoring in the first inning after being hit by a Colon pitch, then tripling in a run and scoring another in the second inning. By the time Upton reached the plate again in the 4th, Colon had departed, but Upton, for good measure, delivered a two-run homer off reliever Scott Proctor. By the end of the inning it was 12-0 Rays and the game essentially over.

The Yankees added their runs in the later innings, making the score a bit better, though the result was the Rays trailing the idle Red Sox by two games in the wild card race.

The pinstriped Yankees will be front and center for the remainder of the wild card doings. They host Boston for three games over the weekend and then travle to Tampa Bay on Monday to complete the regular season with a three game set.

In the West, both Texas and the LA Angels lost, leaving the Rangers' lead in the division unchanged at five games. LA trails Boston in the wild card by three games and is one behind Tampa Bay. While the Rays will spend the weekend at home against the Blue Jays, the Angels host Oakland and finish with a three game series against visiting Texas. That season-ending series may be immaterial to the AL West title - the Texas magic number is just two - the Angles may still be alive in the wild card.

National League

Matt Kemp and the LA Dodgers may have just ended San Francisco's hopes for a return to the post-season. The Dodgers knocked off their arch-rivals, 8-2, on Thursday, as Kemp, a leading MVP candidate went 4-for-5 with two singles, a double and his 36th home run, a two-run job off Barry Zito that completed the Dodger scoring.

Kemp: Triple Crown?
Kemp scored three times and had two RBI, upping his total for the season to 118, which leads the NL. His 36 homers are one fewer than NL leader Albert Pujols and his .326 batting average is third, behind Milwaukee's Ryan Braun (.330) and the Mets' Jose Reyes (.329). With six games left - three at San diego and then three at Arizona, games which will likely be of no consequence - Kemp is staring right at a Triple Crown, a feat which hasn't been accomplished in either league since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967. Joe Medwick was the last NL triple crown winner in 1937. A few more hits and homers down the stretch for Kemp could be epic.

As for the reigning champion Giants, their plans to return to the World Series seem to have fallen short. They trail the Diamondbacks by 5 1/2 games in the division and are four games behind Atlanta in the wild card, with just six games remaining. Arizona, idle on Thursday, has its magic number down to one.

The wild card chase will likely come down to the Braves and Cardinals, though St. Louis lost an opportunity to get to within one of Altanta, when their bullpen blew a 6-1 lead, giving up a run in the 8th and six in the ninth to the NY Mets for a heart-wrenching, 8-6 loss.

The Braves begin a three game series in Washington on Friday and return home for three with the Phillies in the final series of the season. St. Louis has three home games with the Cubs beginning on Friday and finishes the season with three at Houston, the worst team in the majors, at 54-102.

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