Sunday, September 25, 2011

Damon Homer Helps Rays in Wild Card Chase; Cardinals Win With Dramatic Ninth

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 24, 2011

American League

With divisional races all decided, the focus for the remainder of the regular season will be on the wild card races, which are down to just a few teams in both leagues. In the AL, Tampa Bay improved their chances for post-season play with a 6-2 win over the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, while the imploding Red Sox got the Bronx treatment, pounded by the Yankees, 9-1.

The Rays fell behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning as Jose Bautista socked his major league-leading 43rd home run. Rays' starter Jeff Niemann was lifted after just one inning, having given up two run on two hits and two walks. Niemann had had his start pushed back due to a sore back and clearly was not at his best.

Johnny Damon
Tampa Bay battled right back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first and took the lead on a Ben Zobrist solo homer in the fourth. The Rays' bullpen set a team record, holding the Blue Jays scoreless for eight innings, and Johnny Damon sealed the win with an eighth-inning, three run home run. Gamon had doubled home Zobrist in the first inning and went 3-for-3, with four RBI.

Combined with the Red Sox loss to New York, the Rays trailed Boston by 1 1/2 at the end of the day. Tampa could tie the Red Sox for the wild card spot on Sunday if they beat Toronto and Boston drops both of their games to the Yankees. Boston plays a day-night double-dip due to a rain out of Friday's game.

The LA Angels remained relevant with a 4-2 win over the A's, 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. The Angels complete their series with the A's on Sunday.

National League

Blanked for eight innings, the St. Louis Cardinals kept their wild card hopes alive when they scored a pair of run in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win over the Cubs.

Starter Kyle Lohse kept St. Louis in the game, allowing six hits, but only one run over seven innings, striking out eight. Lohse didn't walk anyone, nor did he receive a decision, though the end result was a positive one, as the Cardinals inched to within two games of the Braves in the NL wild card race. Atlanta was defeated 4-1 at Washington.

Kyle Lohse
Carlos Marmol was on the mound in the ninth, looking to close things out for the Cubs, though it did not go well for him. Matt Holliday got things started for the Cardinals in the ninth with a one-out single and was replaced by pinch runner Tyler Greene. Greene stole second and moved up to third as Geovany Soto's throw sailed into center field. After a David Freese strikeout, Yadier Molina walked and was pinch run for by Adron Chambers, Skip Schumaker also walked, loading the bases for Ryan Theriot, who was also issued a free pass, forcing in Greene to tie the game.

When Marmol uncorked a wild pitch to Rafael Furcal, Chambers streaked home from third with the game winner and new life in St. Louis. Marmol (2-6) took the loss. It was his 10th blown save of the season, tops in the majors.

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