Friday, September 7, 2012

Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Mark Reynolds Bomb Yanks, Baltimore Ties for AL East Lead; Kurt Suzuki Leads Nats to 5th Straight Win

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 6, 2012

American League

The Yankees are stumbling. The Orioles are soaring.

Since August 24, the O's have put together a 10-4 record. The Yankees have been not so hot, going 5-8 over the same period, right after being swept by the White Sox in a three-game series at Chicago.

Beginning a four-game series in Baltimore with a slim, one game lead in the AL East, the Yankees were trying desperately to hold off the charging Orioles and retain their edge, which back on July 18 was a ten game bulge.

It didn't happen. Before a sellout crowd at Camden Yards, on a night honoring hall of famer Cal Ripken Jr., the Orioles smashed six homers in a 10-6 win to tie the Yankees for first place in the division.

Adam Jones
Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Mark Reynolds, who has been on a breathtaking tear of late, were the chief antagonists. Weiters got the Orioles on the board quickly, socking a three-run blast in the first inning as Baltimore put up a four-spot after Jones had singled home J.J. Hardy.

Mark Reynolds
In the sixth, Reynolds hit the first of two homers, putting the O's up, 6-1, but the Yanks rallied to tie the game with five runs in the top of the eighth.

Responding in the bottom of the frame, Jones belted a solo shot, Wieters singled and came home on Reynolds' two-run blast and Chris Davis completed the scoring with a solo bomb to right.

Reynolds has hit eight homers in his last seven games and driven in 16 runs as the O's have run down the Yanks.

Matt Wieters
Baltimore has taken three of the last four head-to-head with the Yankees, taking two of three last weekend in New York and there are three games at Camden Yards yet to play this weekend.

The Yankees are walking wounded. Mark Teixeira has been out of the lineup since August 27, nursing a sore left calf, though not on the disabled list. He could return this weekend. Starting pitchers Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte are also currently out with injuries. Regular outfielder Brett Gardner was lost for the season since April, as was closer Mariano Rivera.

Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup September 3rd after missing 45 games with a broken wrist. He's gone 4-for-16, but has only driven in one run.

Age and injuries are catching up to the Yankees, and the youthful Orioles - and Tampa Bay, just two games back - are taking full advantage.

National League

On Thursday, Atlanta took its second straight 1-0 game from Colorado, winning three of four in the series, but they can't make up any ground on the Nationals, as Washington took four straight from the Cubs, completing the series sweep with a 9-2 victory that left them up 7 1/2 up on the Braves in the NL East.

Kurt Suzuki
The Nats outscored the Cubs, 31-9, over the four games, getting a boost from catcher Kurt Suzuki in the finale. Suzuki went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer, two singles and scored twice.

It was the fifth straight win for Washington, which continues with the best record in the majors, at 85-52, 2 1/2 games better than Central division leader, Cincinnati. If the Nats and Reds finish in that order, the result could mean home field advantage should the top two teams meet in the NL Championship series.

The Nationals open a three-game series with the Marlins on Friday. 15-6 Stephen Strasburg has been penciled in as the starter for Washington, in what could be his final start of the season. The controversial plan to sit the young ace after 160 to 170 innings is on the cusp of completion. Strasburg enters Friday's contest having thrown 156 1/3 innings.

Nationals' management has maintained all along that Strasburg would be shut down for the season at some point whether the team was in a pennant race or not, but has not disclosed exactly when the star would see the mound for the last time.

There is speculation that the Nationals, with their commanding lead in the division, might hedge their position a bit, having Strasburg skip a start or two down the stretch, saving him for the post-season. Players, fans, broadcasters and other managers have been critical of the innings limit, but the Washington front office has been steadfast in their commitment to shut the hurler down at some point.

The situation could become a lot more interesting Friday night, especially if Strasburg goes six innings or more.

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