Monday, April 30, 2012

Wilson Betemit's Walk-Off Homer Keeps Orioles Tied for First; Joey Votto Powers Reds Past Astros

Players of the Day for Sunday, April 29, 2012

American League

Oakland's Bartolo Colon was cruising along, pitching into the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead over the home-standing Baltimore Orioles in the rubber game of their three-game series.

After a leadoff single to J.J. Hardy, Colon struck out Nick Markakis and appeared on his way to a complete game and his fourth win of the season.

Wilson Betemit
The Orioles, though, had other ideas. Adam Jones chopped a grounder between the mound and third, which Colon fielded, whirled and threw into right field, allowing Hardy and Jones to reach second and third. All of a sudden, the 2-0 lead wasn't so safe.

In came Grant Balfour to quell the uprising, but the O's were having none of it, as Matt Wieters tied the game, banging a double off the wall in left-center. After intentionally walking Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit - 0-for-3 on the afternoon - had his turn at the plate with the winning run in scoring position in the form of Endy Chavez, inserted to run for the slow-footed Wieters.

Betemit took a Balfour offering over the wall in right field, a three-run, walk off homer for a 5-2 win that kept the Orioles tied for first place in the AL East with the Rays, after Tampa Bay knocked off Texas by the same score, Sunday night.

The smash was Betemit's third of the season, but easily his most memorable. The Orioles open a three game series with the Yankees in New York on Monday.

National League

Joey Votto
Joey Votto hasn't gotten off to a very good start, but his Reds were still in second place in the NL Central entering Sunday's rubber game with the visiting Astros. In the division, nly the Cardinals had a record over .500, and they'd built a four game lead on the rest of their rivals.

With St. Louis falling to the Brewers, 3-2, Cincinnati managed to pick up a game and get to 11-11 after Votto drove in four runs in the Reds' 6-5 win over the Astros.

Votto socked a two-run homer - his second of the season - in the fourth inning and drove home two more with a double in the seventh which tied the score at 5-all. Jay Bruce's solo shot - his 7th - in the 8th provided the winning margin.

The Reds have the day off Monday before starting a three-game series with the Cubs which will finish their home-stand. After that, they head to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee for six games on the road.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lucas Duda, David Wright Even Series with Rockies; Chris Davis Leads O's into AL East First Place

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 28, 2012

American League

Manager Buck Schowalter has his young Orioles just about where he wants them: tied for first place in the AL East with Tampa Bay. While the Rays were losing to Texas, 7-2, on Saturday, the O's were taking batting practice against the A's, banging out 14 hits in a 10-1 win at Camden Yards.

Chris Davis
The Orioles struck early, scoring five times in the second inning, adding a single run in the third, three in the fifth and another run in the seventh on Chris Davis' fourth home run of the season.

Davis had already inflicted some pain on the A's staff, driving in a run in the second and two more in the fifth with a pair of singles. His homer capped a 3-for-4 outing with four RBI and two touches of home plate.

Coming to the Orioles by way of the Rangers, Davis is getting regular playing time at first base, David is making the most of it, batting .313 with four homers and 11 RBI.

The O's and A's wrap up their three-game set with the rubber game Sunday afternoon in Baltimore.

National League

After being pounded, 18-9, by the Rockies on Friday, the Mets got their share of revenge, evening the series at a game apiece with a 7-5 win in Colorado.

David Wright
Lucas Duda
With the two through five hitters going a combined 11-for-18, the Mets knocked out 13 hits. Lucas Duda snapped a 4-4 tie in the fifth inning with a two-run single after David Wright had knotted the score with an RBI single. Wright and Duda accounted for six of the Mets' seven RBI.

Wright went 3-for-4, with a double and two singles, drove in three runs and scored twice, raising his team best batting average to a robust .385. Duda socked his fourth homer of the year in the second inning - a two-run shot that got the Mets on the board. He went 2-for-4 with four RBI.

The Mets and Rockies will complete their three-game series Sunday afternoon at Coors Field.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Carlos Gonzalez Drives in Six as Rockies Dump Mets, 18-9; Seattle's Michael Saunders Slams Blue Jays

Players of the Day for Friday, April 27, 2012

American League

Seattle may not be a match for the Rangers in the AL West division race, but thus far in the season, they've shown a bit of spunk, like the way they handled the Blue Jays in the opener of a three game series in Toronto.

Saunders: 2HR, 5RBI
Michael Saunders hit a pair of homers in the 9-5, 10-inning victory, including a grand slam in the extra inning that got the Mariners over the .500 mark (11-10) and into a tie with Oakland for second place, 4 1/2 games behind Texas.

Entering the ninth, Seattle trailed, 5-3, but put together a couple of runs on Saunders' solo shot and John Jaso's RBI single. Dustin Ackley was thrown out at the plate trying to score the go-ahead run, setting up Saunders' heroic slam in the 10th.

Saunders has been with the Mariners organization since 2005, getting his first taste of the big league in 2009. This year, as the regular center fielder, he's batting .254 with three homers and 11 RBI.

National League

Baseballs were flying all over Coors field Friday night, as the NY Mets and Colorado Rockies opened a three-game series by wearing out each others' bullpens.
Gonzalez: HR, 6RBI

The Mets banged out 17 hits off six Colorado pitchers, but the Rockies proved much more efficient, turning their 19 hits into 18 runs (also off six pitchers) - including 11 in the fifth inning alone - doubling up the Mets, 18-9.

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As usual, Carlos Gonzalez was right in the middle of the action, going 3-for-6, driving in six runs with a three run homer and a couple of singles. Four of Gonzalez's RBI came in the fateful fifth, when the Rockiea 6-2 deficit into a 13-6 advantage. The Rockies sent 16 men to the plate in the frame, including Gonzalez twice, who delivered a three-run homer and a two-run single. Gonzalez had produced the Rockies' first run of the game with a ground-out RBI in the first inning.

The win put the Rockies in second place, 3 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. Gonzalez upped his RBI total to 15, good for a tie for sixth with Atlanta's Freddie Freeman.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Jerrod Saltalamacchia, Kevin Youkilis Humble Humber, White Sox; Kirk Nieuwenhuis Rallies Mets for Sweep of Marlins

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 26, 2012

American League

Jerrod Saltalamacchia
The baseball gods can be a fickle bunch. One day you're throwing a perfect game in Seattle and the next time you're on the mound, you get roughed up by Red Sox on your home field.

Kevin Youkilis
Such was the fate of Philip Humber, who returned to a hero's welcome in Chicago after twirling el perfecto this past Saturday.

It didn't take long for exhortations of adulation to turn into jeers of derision, however, as Boston humbled Humber with eight hits and nine runs over five innings of work. Most of the carnage was supplied by Kevin Youkilis, who went 3-for-4 with a grand slam and Jerrod Saltalamacchia, who belted a solo homer in the third inning and a two-run blast in the fifth.

Boston rolled to their fourth straight win, the 10-3 victory opening a four-game series in the Windy City.

National League

This current Mets team may turn out to be more amazing than the originals from the halcyon 1969 season.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Starting a squad consisting entirely of farm-team-produced players, the 2012 version of the Amazins' completed a three game series sweep of the Marlins, much to the dismay of one Jose Reyes, who skipped town during the off-season to hook up with the newly-minted Miami team, fresh, new stadium, flamingos and all.

Reyes had a miserable time at Citi Field, going 1-for-12, dropping his batting average to a ridiculous .205, as the Marlins lost their fifth straight, the Mets rallying for a 3-2, walk-off win.

The bulk of the thrills were produced by rookie center fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who led off the Mets' first with a triple and scored to give the New Yorkers a quick, 1-0, lead, only to come back with the bases loaded and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth to deliver a rope into the right field corner, driving in the winning run.

In between, Nieuwenhuis singled, going 3-for-5 for the game, upping his average to .333. His heroic moment was set up by Miami closer Heath Bell, who threw 46 pitches in the 2/3rd of an inning he worked, walking four of the first five batters he faced, including walking in the tying run when he could not get Justin Turner out with 13 pitches. Nieuwenhuis stroked a 1-0 high fastball down the line and over the head of Giancarlo Stanton for the game-winner. Bell (0-3) blew his third save opportunity in five chances.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Royals Snap 12-Game Losing Streak as Billy Butler, Alex Gordon Star; Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel Hurl Braves Past Dodgers

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 25, 2012

American League

Kansas City is still in last place in the AL Central, but at least they've stopped losing, for now.

Billy Butler
The Royals - which started the season 3-2 - snapped a 12-game losing streak with a convincing 8-2 win over Cleveland, avoiding being swept for a fourth straight series.

Kansas City's losing streak took no particular form. When they scored a lot of runs, the pitching didn't hold up, and when the pitching was solid, the hitters had an off day.
Alex Gordon

On Wednesday, the Royals put together timely hitting - getting eight runs from 11 hits - as Billy Butler led the charge with a pair of homers, his third and fourth of the season, socking a two run shot in the first inning to start the scoring and smacking a solo blast in the ninth to complete it.

Alex Gordon also played a key role, going 3-for-5 with a couple of singles and a three-run, ninth-inning home run that put the game on ice. Gordon had three RBI and scored twice.

The Royals finish their series in Cleveland on Thursday before heading to Minnesota for a three game weekend set.

National League

Atlanta scored three runs in the top of the ninth to upend the LA Dodgers for the second straight time, winning by a 4-2 score and taking the final two games of their three-game series.

Criag Kimbrel
Jonny Venters
The Braves didn't have much luck against Ted Lilly, the Dodger starter who went seven innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run, but the Atlanta bullpen did their job. Jonny Venters (2-0) got the win after striking out the side in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel picked up his seventh save - tying him for the NL lead with LA's Javy Guerra, who was victimized by the Braves, allowing five hits and three runs in just a third of an inning - his second blown save opportunity of the season.

After the Braves took the lead, Kimbrel struck out the first two batters in the ninth, then got Dee Gordon to ground to third for the game-ending out. Kimbrel has appeared in eight games, allowing only one earned run on six hits overall, striking out 14 in eight full innings. Venters has been even better in the set-up role, fanning 15 batters in 7 2/3 innings without surrendering a run.

The Braves have won seven of their last nine, but continue to chase the Nationals in the NL East. They remained 2 1/2 back, as Washington won their fourth straight, beating San Diego, 7-2.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

David Price Blanks Angels; Carlos Gonzalez Bangs a Pair in Colorado Loss

Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 24, 2012

American League

Excepting the West, where the Rangers have a 5 1/2 game lead, the American League division races are up for grabs.

David Price
In the East, the Yankees, Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays are all tied for first place with 10-7 records, while in the Central, there are no games separating Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, though technically, the Indians have the percentage edge at 9-6 over the 10-7 Tigers and White Sox.

Three teams were held scoreless on Wednesday night. The White Sox were blanked, 2-0, by the A's, and the Yankees were kept from crossing the plate by Texas' Yu Darvish, who fanned 10 in 8 1/3 innings for the 2-0 win, but Tampa Bay's David Price outdid all hurlers, blanking the Angels on five hits for a 5-0 victory.

Price improved to 3-1 with his complete game shutout, the second of his career. He walked one while striking out six, throwing 80 of 119 pitches for strikes. Four Rays - Desmond Jennings, Luke Scott, Carlos Pena and BJ Upton - hit solo homers. Upton added a sac fly RBI in the sixth to complete the Rays' scoring.

National League

Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez is stinging the ball for Colorado, but even his first two homers of the season were not enough to beat the Pirates, as Casey McGahee drove in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth, giving Pittsburgh a 5-4 win over the visiting Rockies.

Gonzalez hit a pair of two-run homers, providing all the offense the Rockies could muster, belting his first of the season in the opening frame, then putting the Rockies up 4-3 in the eighth with a bomb to center field.

The Pirates, however, scored twice in the bottom of the inning to retake the advantage and Joel Hanrahan worked a perfect top of the ninth for his third save.

Pittsburgh improved to 7-9, while dropping the Rockies back to an 8-8 record. Both teams are struggling to keep pace in their respective divisions. Colorado is tied for third in the West, four games behind the Dodgers, while Pittsburgh is three games back of St. Louis, in 4th place in the Central.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jake Peavy's Shutout of A's Gets White Sox to First Place; Jason Kubel leads D-Backs over Struggling Phillies

Players of the Day for Monday, April 23, 2012

American League

Since being traded from San Diego to the White Sox, it's been a bumpy road for Jake Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young award winner. Acquired in 2009, prior to the trading deadline, Peavy won three games for Chicago that year, but the White So did not make the playoffs.

Jake Peavy: 3-0
The following two years were typified by various injuries, allowing Peavy to start just 33 games, roughly the amount a healthy starter would get in just one season.

2012 seems to be moving in the right direction, however. After tossing a 3-hit, 4-0, shutout against the A's, Peavy is 3-0 and the White Sox are tied with Detroit for the lead in the AL Central.

Peavy set down the first nine Oakland batters he faced in order and got some help from Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, who hit back-to-back solo homers for a 2-0, fourth inning lead. Peavy got out of a two-on, no outs jam in the bottom of the frame with a double play and cruised to the victory, striking out five and walking two on 107 pitches.

It was the third time Peavy's gone the distance with a shutout for the White Sox, accomplishing the feat once each in 2010 and 2011. His 3-0 record has him tied for the AL lead in wins with six other starters. His 1.88 ERA is among the best in the league, while a WHIP of 0.73 is the best among AL starters.

National League

Jason Kubel
When the Diamondbacks went shopping for more offense during the off-season, they found their way to Minnesota and acquired Jason Kubel, who had played for the Twins since being called up in 2004.

Kubel went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a solo homer in Arizona's 9-5 win over Philadelphia, driving in two and scoring twice, sending the Phillies to their third straight loss and the NL East cellar.

Arizona improved to 9-8 with the victory, just 1/2 game out of second place in the NL West, though everybody in the division is chasing the 13-4 Dodgers.

Kubel's home run was his second of the season, but his .294 batting average portends more good things to come.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Nick Hundley Drives Padres Past Phillies; Alex Rios Helps ChiSox Sweep Mariners

Players of the Day for Sunday, April 22, 2012

American League

Alex Rios
After Philip Humber's perfect game on Saturday, the series finale between the White Sox and Mariners in Seattle was almost certain to be anti-climactic, but Alex Rios did his best to provide some thrills as the Sox swept the series with a 7-4 victory.

Rios went 3-for-4 with a single, double and a triple, driving in three runs. Down 4-2 in the top of the sixth, Rios tripled to center, driving in two runs to tie the game and then scooted home with the go-ahead run on a sac fly by Kosuke Fukudome.

In the eighth, Rios singled home an insurance run and the Sox added another to complete the scoring.

The sweep was helpful to the White Sox in their pursuit of Central-division-leading Detroit, which lost, 3-2, in 10 innings to Texas on a blown call, leaving the Tigers a mere 1/2 hame ahead of Chicago.

National League

The San Diego Padres got some satisfaction winning the final two games of their home series with the Phillies by taking the final two games to earn a split.

Nick Hundley
Winning 5-1 on Saturday, the Padres worked out a 6-1 win on Sunday as Nick Hundley provided almost all of the offense with a triple, home run and a sac fly to drive in four runs, going 2-for-3 for the game.

Hundley's first inning sac fly put the Padres up 2-0, which proved to be more than enough for starter Anthony Bass (1-2) and a trio of Padre relievers.

In the third, Hundley legged out a triple, driving in Chase Headley and scored on Jim Thome's throwing error. Hundley's two-run blast in the fifth inning completed the San Diego scoring. It was his second homer of the season.

Despite winning two straight, the Padres are still languishing in last place in the NL West. After their 3-12 start, winning a pair of home games has upped their record to 5-13, just a little better than the 4-12 Cubs, the 3-12 Royals and the 4-10 Red Sox.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Philip Humber Hurls 21st MLB Perfect Game; Cory Luebke Gets Win for Padres over Phillies

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 21, 2012

American League

In the regular flow of life, perfection is often the aim, but seldom the target achieved.

Philip Humber
In baseball, perfect games have been thrown only 20 times in the lengthy annals of the American pastime... until Saturday, April 21, when Chicago's Philip Humber set down all 27 Mariner batters in order, making him the 21st pitcher to enter the history books with baseball's rarest of rarities with a 4-0 White Sox win at Seattle.

Humber's gem was the first instance of "27 up, 27 down" since Roy Halladay shut down the then-Florida Marlins on May 28, 2010, in a 1-0 duel with Marlin starter Josh Johnson.

This was not only Humber's first no-hitter, it was also the first complete game shutout of his brief major league career. Humber pitched in eight games for the Royals in 2010, was traded to the white Sox in the off-season and started 26 games for Chicago in 2011, earning a 9-9 record with a 3.75 ERA.

His start in Seattle was just his second this season, after going 5 1/3 without a decision, April 14 against Baltimore, allowing six hits and one earned run.

The tension rising with every pitch as the final inning came to pass, FOX Sports switched coverage from their broadcast of the Yankees-Red Sox game at Fenway over to the developing drama. With a nationwide TV audience locked in, Humber started the ninth by striking out Michael Saunders swinging, then induced a pop-up from pinch-hitter John Jaso.

Getting the final out was perhaps the most difficult task, as pinch-hitter Brendan Ryan worked the count to 3-2. Humber delivered a low, outside slider that surely looked like ball four. Though Ryan checked his swing, it wasn't enough to convince home plate umpire Brian Runge, who signaled him out. The ball had skipped off catcher A. J. Pierzynski's glove, bounding about 20 feet from home plate between first base and the dugout, but, by the time Ryan stopped arguing the call and running to first, Pierzynski had thrown a bullet to first baseman Paul Konerko for the final out.

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Humber's teammates mobbed the field, knocking the 29-year-old to the ground in a wild celebration. Humber regained his feet in short order to receive congratulations from his team.

Humber struck out nine, got five ground outs and 13 outs via fly balls. Throwing 67 of 96 pitches for strikes, Humber's effort was the first perfect game with under 100 pitches since David Cone turned the trick for the Yankees on July 18, 1999, a 6-0 interleague win over the Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals.

The perfect game overshadowed what was one heck of a ball game at Fenway. The Red Sox had a commanding 9-0 lead on the Yankees after five innings, but scored one in the sixth on Mark Teixeira's solo shot, and then erupted for seven runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings for the 15-9 final score. Teixeira and Nick Swisher each went 3-for-6 with six RBI. Swisher hit a grand slam in the 7th; Teixeira followed that with a three run blast of his own. Both players drove in two runs with doubles in the eighth inning.

National League

Cory Luebke
Not quite perfection, but San Diego's Cory Leubke turned in a solid performance as the Padres upended Roy Halladay and the Phillies, 5-1.

Improving to 2-1, Luebke allowed just two hits and surrenders a pair of walks, shutting out the Phillies for eight innings, striking out five. Huston Street worked the ninth, allowing the only run of the game by Philadelphia.

Like Humber, Luebke is another starter with plenty of upside. A product of Ohio State, Luebke has just 24 starts under his belt and a 9-12 record, all with San Diego.

The Padres dropped the first two of their four-game series with Philadelphia before turning the tables on Saturday, and will try to even things up in the Sunday finale.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Adam Dunn Socks a Pair, Drives in Five; Matt Kemp, Dodgers Stay Hot with 3-1 Win

Players of the Day for Friday, April 20, 2012

American League

Adam Dunn
Adam Dunn worked hard during the off-season to correct a swing that produced a .159 batting average and just 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 122 games, easily the worst season of his career, now in its 12th year.

Dunn's work has been paying off. The batting average is up and in Chicago's 7-3 win over Seattle the 6'6" slugger drove in five runs with a pair of homers and a double in four at-bats.

Dunn got the White Sox on the board in the first inning with an RBI double (his 6th), then followed up with a three-run homer in the second inning, capping a four run outburst by the Sox. His second home run of the game came in the eighth inning, completing Chicago's scoring.

The White Sox improved to 7-6 with the victory, claiming third place in the AL Central, 1/2 games behind Cleveland and two back of front-running Detroit.

National League

Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp and the LA Dodgers continued their torrid paces with a 3-1 win over the Astros, in the first of a three game series in Houston. The 11-3 Dodgers have the best record in the National League and lead the West division by 4 1/2 games.

Kemp went 3-for-3, smacking his eighth home run of the season in the first inning to stake winning pitcher (2-0) Ted Lilly to an early 2-0 lead.

In his subsequent three trips to the plate, Kemp rapped out a couple of singles and took a walk, raising his batting average to .481, second to David Wright's .486. The two are well ahead of Chris Young's .410, third in the league.

Kemp leads the league in almost every other important category, including hits (26), runs (16), RBI (20) and, of course, home runs. His slugging percentage and OPS are off the charts, at 1.000 and 1.525, respectively.

MILESTONES: Alex Rodriguez lofted a fifth-inning solo shot over Fenway's Green Monster, on an historic day for Boston and the Yankee slugger. Fenway Park turned 100 years old on Friday, while Rodriguez passed up Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place on the all-time career home run list with his 631st, putting him behind Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. The Yankees spoiled the Red Sox' fun with a 6-2 win. A-Rod needs 29 more homers to tie Willie Mays at 660.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Curtis Granderson's 3 Homers, 5-for-5 Game Sinks Twins; Freddie Freeman Drives in Five as Atlanta Blasts Arizona

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 19, 2012

American League

In 2011, Curtis Granderson spent most of the season vying for AL home run leadership, eventually finishing second with 41 long balls to Toronto's Jose Bautista's 43.

Proving that 2011 was no fluke, Granderson is back at it again, taking over the AL lead in homers after going 5-fo-r with three balls over the wall in right field in New York's 7-6 victory over the visiting Minnesota Twins.

Curtis Granderson
Granderson, batting second in the order behind Derek Jeter, got the Yankees on the board with a solo jack in the first inning and followed that up with a two-run bolt in the second, which put New York on top of a 6-4 score.

In the fourth, Granderson sent a bases-empty line shot into the right field stands, his third homer of the game in his first three at-bats, and a 7-4 Yankee lead.

The Twins managed two more runs in the sixth off starter Phil Hughes, who struggled, but got the win, as the Yankee bullpen slammed the door shut. Granderson singled in his next two at bats, scorching a clean single to right field and beating out a dribbler between the mound and first base for his fifth and final hit of the evening.

The three donks gave Granderson six on the season, one ahead of a trio of pursuers. It was the first time in his career that he's hit three in a game and the third time he's had five hits. His effort was also the first for any player to hit three homers in a game at the new Yankee Stadium.

Having split the series with Minnesota, two games apiece, the Yankees head to Boston on Friday, to help in the celebration of Fenway's 100th anniversary. The Yanks take on the Red Sox at 3:15 pm.

National League

Freddie Freeman
After a slow start, Atlanta's Freddie Freeman is beginning to heat up.

Freeman had a homer and three RBI in Atlanta's win over the Mets on Wednesday, and in Thursday's opener of a four-game series in Arizona, he slugged two two-run shots and delivered an RBI double, going 3-for-5 with five RBI, leading the Braves to a 10-2 win.

The recent homer barrage were the first three of the season for Freeman, who belted 21 with 76 RBI as an Atlanta rookie last season.

Atlanta's win shaved a game off Washington's lead in the NL East, where the Braves are now in second place, at 8-5, after Houston bombed the Nationals, 11-4, handing them their fourth loss of the season against 10 wins. Atlanta has won three straight.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Morneau Blasts a Pair to Defeat Yankees; Matt Cain Runs Scoreless Streak to 18 Innings, Giants Win in 11

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 18, 2012

American League

Justin Morneau spent most of last season on the DL, playing in just 69 games and hitting only four homers, by far his lowest total since becoming a full-time player in 2004.

Justin Morneau
The time off seems to have been worthwhile, because in Minnesota's 6-5 road win over the Yankees, Morneau delivered two balls into the right field seats, helping build a lead that led to victory.

In the first inning, Morneau capped a four-run inning off starter Hiroki Kuroda with a two-run blast and followed up with a solo shot in the fifth - again off Kuroda - that put the Twins up, 6-4. Derek Jeter's ninth inning solo homer saved the lead, but was not enough, sending the Yanks to their second loss in three games against Minnesota.

Morneau finished 3-for-4, scored three times and drove in three. His pair of homers gives him four on the season, the same number he hit all of last year.

The Twins and Yankees conclude their four game series Thursday night.

National League

Cain: 2 hits over 9
innings, no decision
Cliff Lee and Matt Cain were locked into an outstanding pitching duel, neither hurler allowing a run in the Giants' 1-0, 11-inning win over visiting Philadelphia. Lee went 10 innings, allowing seven hits while striking out seven without a walk, but Cain (1-0) was even better over nine innings, giving up just two hits and a walk, fanning four.

The Giants, without bullpen ace Brian Wilson, who has been lost for the season with ligament damage to his right elbow, used four relievers in the 10th and 11th, Clay Hensley picking up the win with 1/3 of an inning to close out the Phillies in the 11th before Melky Cabrera drove home Brandon Belt with one out in the bottom of the inning.

Cain's mound command could not have been better, even though he received no decision for his work. After the fifth inning, which ended in a double play, Cain did not allow a hit or walk a batter. It was his second straight shutout performance, running his string of scoreless innings to 18. On Friday the 13th, Cain pitched a one-hitter for a 5-0 win over Pittsburgh. Over the past two games, Cain has allowed just three hits and one walk, striking out 15.

The Giants took two of three from the Phillies in the three-game series, improving to 6-6. The Phillies, last year's NL East champs, are 5-7, last in the division, 4 1/2 games behind streaking, 10-3, Washington.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rangers Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli Batter Boston, 18-3; Gio Gonzalez Gets 1st NL Win, 1-0 over Astros

Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 17, 2012

American League

Hamilton: HR, 5RBI
The Texas Rangers thundered into Beantown for a quick two-game series, and, like their lawmen namesakes, delivered quick and crushing Texas justice to the home-standers, routing the Red Sox by an 18-3 score.

Napoli: 2HR, 4RBI
Banging out 21 hits, seven of the nine Texas starters had at least two hits. Josh Hamilton was chief among the run-producers, going 3-for-5, with a pair of singles and a three-run homer to start off an eight-run uprising in the 8th. Hamilton's homer was his fifth of the year as he tallied five RBI for the game.

Mike Napoli added to Boston's woes, also going 3-for-5, with a single, a couple of home runs and four RBI.

The win was the fifth straight for Texas. Their 9-2 mark has them 3 1/2 games in front of Seattle in the AL West and is tied with the LA Dodgers for the best record in the majors.

National League

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Your eyes aren't deceiving you; those are the Washington Nationals atop the NL East, with a 1 1/2 game lead over the Mets after topping the Houston Astros, 1-0, in D.C.

Gonzalez: 7IP 2H 8K
The Nats have a throng of good young hitters, but they've been getting the job done mostly from the mound. On Tuesday, Gio Gonzalez out-dueled Houston's Wandy Rodriguez over seven innings, for their fifth win in six home games.

Gonzalez allowed only two hits in his seven innings of work, fanning eight with two walks. Rodriguez was victimized in the fourth inning for the only run of the game when Jayson Werth doubled and Adam LaRoche singled him home. Rodriguez, despite a 1.96 ERA, is 2-0. Gonzalez, acquired from Oakland after the end of last season, earned his first win in the National League in his third start for Washington. Ty Clippard worked the ninth and Brad Lidge picked up the save, getting the final three outs.

The Nationals have two more games with the Astros, Wednesday and Thursday. They are 7-2 against the NL Central.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chase Headley, Nick Hundley Power Padres Past Rockies; Matt Wieters Homers Twice for Orioles

Players of the Day for Monday, April 16, 2012

American League

Could this be the year that Matt Wieters lives up to his potential and becomes of the baseball's premier catchers?

Matt Wieters
With a blazing start to the 2012 campaign, this appears to be Wieters' year to shine.

The fourth-year pro capped a six-run 10th inning in Baltimore's 10-4 road win over the White Sox with a grand slam, his fourth homer of the season and his second long ball of the game.

Wieters finished 3-for-4 - his other hit a single - five RBI and a couple of runs as the Orioles took sole possession of first place in the AL East, 1/2 game ahead of the Blue Jays.

The numbers continue to improve. In 2010, Wieters hit .249, with 11 homers and 55 RBI. 2011 was better, at .262, 22 and 68. This season's .344, four homers and nine RBI has him on pace for a breakout season.

National League

With a 2-8 start, Padres' fans haven't had much to cheer about, and, even after Monday night's 7-1 win at Colorado, San Diego still trails the 9-1 Dodgers by 6 1/2 games, the largest deficit in the majors.

Nick Hundley
Chase Headley
If the Padres are going to be competitive, they'll need solid campaigns from two of their better hitters, third baseman Chase Headley and catcher Nick Hundley, who together produced six of San Diego's 14 hits, both players going 3-for-5.

Headley's hits were all doubles, and each time he arrived at second base, Hundley drove him in, with a double and two singles, collecting three RBI for the game.

San Diego's win snapped a four-game losing streak. The Padres continue their three-game series at Colorado Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home for four straight with the visiting Phillies.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Matt Carpenter 4-for-4 for Cards; Casey Kotchman Leads Cleveland Sweep of Royals

Players of the Day for Sunday, April 15, 2012

American League

Casey Kotchman
Cleveland's pitching hasn't been anything special during their three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals, but their bats have had extra sauce, putting up 32 runs on the road against their AL Central foes. After topping KC 8-3 and 11-9 on Friday and Saturday, the Indians put together a 13-7 win on Sunday to even their record at 4-4.

Well-traveled Casey Kotchman spearheaded the Indians' assault, going 3-for-4 with a couple of singles and a two-run homer - his second of the season - as the Cleveland hitters teed off on the Royals. Kotchman rounded the bases for three scores and his two RBI gave him four on the year.

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Cleveland is Kotchman's sixth team since breaking in with the Angels in 2004. He spent 2010 with Seattle and 2011 in Tampa Bay, where he batted .306.

National League

Matt Carpenter
After dropping the opener of their three-game home series with Chicago, 9-5, St. Louis came back with wins on Saturday and Sunday to take the series two games to one maintaining their lead in the NL Central by 2 1/2 games with a 7-3 record.

Sunday's event was highlighted by a breakout performance by rookie first baseman Matt Carpenter who, along with Yadier Molina, filled in for Lance Berkamn. Carpenter did his best Albert Pujols impression, going 4-for-4 with a triple, home run, two singles and five RBI. The Cardinals totaled the 3-7 Cubs, 10-3.

A product of TCU, Carpenter - no relation to Cardinal ace Chris Carpenter - has played a total of 15 major league games, but appears to be a prospect deserving of attention.

Matt Kemp, Ted Lilly Lead Dodgers to 8-1; David Ortiz Breaks Out for Red Sox

Players of the Day for Saturday, April 14, 2012

American League

David Ortiz
Last place in the AL East is not where Boston wants to be, but they won't be there for long if they continue hitting the way they did against Tampa Bay on Saturday, banging out 15 hits with five home runs in a 13-5 rout of the Rays at Fenway Park.

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One of those hitters, the perennially-slow-starting David Ortiz, led the charge of the Red Sox, going 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a double and his first homer of the year, driving in five runs and twice touching home plate.

Ortiz upped his batting average to .406, fourth-best in the league, and upped his RBI total to nine, which is tied for tops in the AL with four other players.

The 3-5 Red Sox trail the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays by a game. All are chasing the 5-3 Orioles, who, over the past two seasons, have developed the nasty habit of leading the division in April before fading in May.

National League

Matt Kemp
Matt Kemp is going to make another run at the triple crown which barely eluded him last season and the Dodger outfielder sent a couple of loud messages in LA's fifth straight win, a 6-1 rip over San Diego.
Ted Lilly

Kemp homered in his first two at-bats, launching a pair of two-run shots, to stake started Ted Lilly to an early lead. The Padres got an unearned run off Lilly in the first inning, but the Dodgers responded with four in the first and two more in the second, and Lilly shut the door, allowing just two hits over seven innings. Lilly struck out four and issued one walk for his first win of the season.

With a .457 batting average, five homers and 15 RBI, Kemp is currently leading all three triple crown categories and has the Dodgers at 8-1, in first place by 2 1/2 games over Arizona in the NL West.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Matt Cain One Hit from Perfection in Win over Pirates; Bartolo Colon Goes Seven Scoreless for A's

Players of the Day for Friday, April 13, 2012

American League

38-year-old Bartolo Colon used to be one of baseball's most dominant pitchers. In what appears to be his second coming, he's not quite as overwhelming, but he is winning.

Bartolo Colon
Colon, who made only 19 starts in 2008 and 2009 (seven with Boston and 12 with the White Sox) and missed all of 2012, spent last season on the mound for the Yankees, where he went 8-10 in 26 starts. Having switched coasts in the off-season, Colon has gone 2-1 in three starts with the A's, getting seven solid innings of shutout work in against the Mariners in Friday's 4-0 victory at Seattle.

Colon allowed just three hits - all singles - and a walk, while striking out five, finishing strong by retiring the last ten batters he faced before being lifted after his seven-inning stint.

A pair of relievers - Ryan Cook and Grant Balfour - worked the 8th and 9th to preserve the shutout. The win got the A's to .500 (4-4) and into second place in the AL West, two games behind the Texas Rangers.

National League

San Francisco started the season 1-4, but has won two straight after Matt Cain tossed a one-hit shutout over the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates in a 5-0 Bay area win.
Cain: 1-Hitter

Cain took a perfect game into the sixth inning, but was foiled by James MacDonald's two-out single. Unfazed, Cain struck out the next batter to end the inning and proceeded to get the final nine outs in order after starting the game by putting down the first 17 batters he faced for the complete game shutout.

Without surrendering a walk and striking out 11, Cain earned his first win of the season after allowing six hits and five earned runs in a no-decision loss at Arizona this past Sunday.

Notes: The Giants and everyone else in the division are chasing the Dodgers, who are off to a flying start for their new owners, at 7-1 and in first place in the NL West. Winning their fourth straight - a 9-8 win over San Diego - was record-setting for starter Aaron Harang, who started the game by allowing a leadoff single to Cameron Maybin, but then proceeded to fan the next nine batters he faced, setting a Dodger franchise record for consecutive strikeouts. The previous record of eight had been held by Johnny Podres. Harang lasted 6 1/3 innings, struck out 13, walked two and allowed four runs, but did not receive the decision even though he left with the lead. After the Padres tied the fame with two runs in the ninth, Andre Ethier's bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the inning forced home Mark ellis with the winning score.

One doesn't often see four-way ties for first place in any of baseball's six divisions, but the AL East is currently a four-team deadlock between the Yankees, Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays, all sporting 4-3 records. Left out of the mix is Boston, trailing everybody by two games, with a 2-5 mark.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ian Kinsler and Michael Young Power Rangers; Matt Garza Shuts Out Brewers for 8 2/3

Players of the Day for Thursday, April 12, 2012

American League

The Texas Rangers are loaded with great hitters - think Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz - but in Thursday's 5-3 win over Seattle, Texas needed only the first two guys in their lineup in order to get the job done, which was putting some distance between themselves and the second place Mariners.

Ian Kinsler
Michael Young
Ian Kinsler and Michael Young both went 3-for-4 and combined to score four of the Rangers' five runs and drive in all of them. Kinsler, batting in his usual leadoff position, had a pair of singles and a double, stole a base, scored three times and drove in a run, while Young, batting right behind him and playing DH for the day, drove in Kinsler each time he was on the basepaths with a couple of singles and and a two-run homer, tallying four RBI and scoring once.

While the rest of the lineup was apparently taking the day off - going a combined 3-for-24 - starter Derrick Holland picked up his first win of 2012, allowing two runs over seven innings. Mike Adams gave up another run in the ninth, but still picked up the save.

The Rangers are 1 1/2 games to the good over Seattle, having concluded the series in Arlington by taking three of four.

National League

The Cubs haven't had much to cheer about thus far, and, heading into the finale of their four-game series at Milwaukee were staring at being swept and starting off the season 1-6.

Matt Garza
Matt Garza came to the rescue with an outstanding job from the mound, throwing 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball on three hits to silence the Brewer bats, earning Chicago's second win of the season against five losses.

Garza allowed two base runners in the first inning on a single and a walk and issued a one-out walk in the second, but after that was lights out. From the third to the ninth inning, he didn't walk another batter and allowed just a pair of harmless singles, fanning nine while nearly going the distance in an 8-0 Cubs' romp.

Garza could have had the complete game shutout, but his own error (and a pitch count at 119), with two down in the ninth prevented him from finishing. Steve Camp came on to get the final out and send the Cubs out of Milwaukee with a much-needed win.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

AJ Pierzynski Leads White Sox Past Indians; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies Pound Lincecum, Giants

Players of the Day for Wednesday, April 11, 2012

American League

The Chicago White Sox are hoping to rebound from a disappointing 2011 campaign, and, though it's far too early to tell, the early results are positive. At 3-2, they are a game behind the Tigers in the the AL Central, and even Adam Dunn is getting some hits.

AJ Piersynski
In Wednesday's 10-6 drubbing of Cleveland, one of their steadiest players, catcher A.J. Pierzynski came up with a big effort, going 3-for-4 with a pair of singles and a sixth-inning, three-run homer that broke open a close game.

Pierzynski, a real grinder and clutch hitter in his 12th full year in the majors, is a prototype for the kind of team player every squad wishes to have. A career .287 player, he's played in 128 games or more 10 straight season, which is saying something for a catcher.

With him behind the plate, the Sox stand a good chance of competing in the Central division and have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.

National League

The Colorado Rockies hammered Tim Lincecum and put up the biggest score of the young season, pounding the Giants, 17-8 at Coors Field.
Carlos Gonzalez

Lincecum lasted just 2 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career, surrendering six earned runs on eight hits and a couple of walks. He didn't get the loss, however, as the Giants got him off the hook with a seven-run fourth inning.

The Rockies scored in each of the first five innings, taking the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth with three runs that made the score 9-7. A seven-run outburst in the fifth left little doubt about the outcome of this particular slaughter.

Carlos Gonzalez got things started for the Rockies with an RBI triple in the first inning and tripled home another run in the third. A fourth inning ground out drove in another run and a fifth inning singles plated yet another teammate, all adding up to a 3-for-5 day at the dish with four runs scored and four RBI.

Off to a relatively slow start, Gonzalez is batting .283 and has not yet hit a home run, after five games. The Rockies and Giants play the rubber game of their three-game series Thursday afternoon. San Francisco is just 1-4, while the Rockies have posted a 2-3 record.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Danny Duffy One-Hits A's over Six; Jayson Werth, Ross Detwiler Send Mets to 1st Loss

Players of the Day for Tuesday, April 10, 2012

American League

Duffy: 1 hit over 6
There are some good, young ballplayers in Kansas City, like Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and pitcher Danny Duffy.

Danny Duffy?

Yes, Danny Duffy, who went 4-8 with a 5.64 ERA in 20 starts as a rookie last season for the Royals, but got his 2012 campaign off to a flying start with a one-hit effort over six innings Tuesday night.

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Duffy yielded four walks and struck out eight in the rain-shortened, eight-inning, 3-0 victory over the A's. The only Oakland hit off Duffy occurred in the third inning, when Chad Pennington doubled to the gap in right center, but was promptly picked off by the alert starter.
The Royals scored two runs in the top of the fourth, and added another on Mitch Maier's bases-empty blast, his first homer of the season.

The entire game was played in the midst of a steady drizzle, but when Eric Hosmer struck out in the top of the eighth during a downpour, umpires halted play and eventually called the game.

Reliever Aaron Crow replaced Duffy in the seventh and put down the A's in order for his first major league save.

National League

Ross Detwiler
After Ian Desmond had staked him to a 1-0 lead with a leadoff home run, Washington starter Ross Detwiler nearly gave it right back, allowing the first two Mets' hitters to reach on a double and single, putting runners on first and third with no outs.

But, that was as far as the Mets would go, as the side-winding lefty got the next three batters with a pair of Ks and a pop foul. After that, Detwiler, a 6'5" hurler, was lights out, eventually putting down 15 of 16 batters following the leadoff hits in the first, the only blemish a harmless, second inning, two-out walk.
Jayson Werth

Detwiler lasted only five innings, but picked up his first win of the season while sending the Mets to their first loss after four wins, fanning six and allowing only two hits.

Jayson Werth broke out of a season-starting slump with four hits in five at-bats - a double and three singles - scoring once and driving in a pair, helping the Nationals pad their lead with three runs and in the sixth and single scores in the seventh and eighth for the 6-2 win.

The 3-2 Nationals are a game back of the Mets, with a chance to tie for the NL East lead when the two teams square off Wednesday afternoon (1:10 pm EDT) at Citi Field in New York. Washington's Steven Strassberg and the Mets' Johan Santana are scheduled to start.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Nelson Cruz Helps Darvish Get First AL Win; Barry Zito Blanks Rockies on Four Hits

Players of the Day for Monday, April 9, 2011

American League

The Texas Rangers game against Seattle Monday was supposed to be all about the debut of Japanese import Yu Darvish making his first start in American baseball. Fans were geared up for the flame-chucking hurler, but, as games usually go in Texas, it was the hitters who carried the day.

Cruz: 3-4 HR 4RBI
While Darvish got the win, he wasn't particularly effective, allowing eight hits, four walks and five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings before being pulled, but the Rangers had already put eight runs on the board and Darvish would get the win as Texas belted Seattle, 11-5.

The Rangers hit four homers off three different Seattle pitchers, including the third-inning, three-run bomb by Nelson Cruz - his first of the year - that tied the game at five. An inning later, Mitch Moreland's two-run job and Josh Hamilton's solo shot put Texas ahead for good.

Cruz singled with two aboard in the first inning, driving in the second Texas run and singled again with two down in the seventh, but was left stranded. He finished up 3-for-4 with four RBI as the Rangers took sole possession of first place in the AL West at 3-1, 1/2 game better than the 3-2 Mariners.

National League

After being swept three straight by Arizona to open the season, the Giants needed a quality start from Barry Zito, and the big lefty delivered a sterling performance, tossing a complete-game, 7-0 shutout at Colorado.

Zito: complete game
Zito had a strong outing, giving up two singles in the third inning, another in the fourth and a two-out double to Ramon Hernandez in the the seventh inning, before cutting down the final seven Colorado batters in order. He struck out four, did not issue any bases on balls and no Colorado player advanced past second base.

Pablo Sandoval staked Zito to a 2-0 lead in the first with his second homer of the year and second year shortstop Brandon Crawford's bases-loaded double completed the scoring for the Giants in the fifth.

The Giants are 1-3, tied with the Rockies and Padres in the NL West cellar. The only winless team remaining in the National League is Atlanta, losing their fourth straight, an 8-3 road loss at Houston.

In the American League, Minnesota is 0-4 after losing their home opener, 5-1, to the Angels.