Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Anibal Sanchez Tosses 3-Hit Shutout, Tigers Tied with White Sox; Freddie Freeman's 9th-Inning Blast Propels Braves into Playoffs

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 25, 2012

American League

Acquired by the Tigers from the Marlins just prior to the July 31 trading deadline,Anibal Sanchez fired a three-hit shutout over the Kansas City Royals, propelling Detroit into a tie for first place in the AL Central division with the Chicago white Sox.

Sanchez, who had not pitched particularly well since coming over to Detroit (11 starts, 4-6, 3.95 ERA), was in complete control throughout his nine innings on the mound, needing only 105 pitches (77 strikes) to shut down the Royals for the 2-0 win.

Sanchez: 3-hit shutout
Only one Royal reached second base, that coming in the sixth inning, when Alcides Escobar reached on a bunt single with two down and stole second. Alex Gordon was issued the only walk by Sanchez in the game, but the inning was ended when Sanzhez fanned Billy Butler.

After that, Sanchez was lights out, putting away the Royals in order through the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, fanning four along the way and finishing with 10 strikeouts, the most he's recorded as a Tiger.

With Cleveland taking down the White Sox, 4-3, earlier in the day, the result has the Tigers and White Sox dead even at 82-72 with eight games remaining. Unless both the Tigers and Sox get red hot down the stretch and either Baltimore or Oakland goes into a funk, only one team from the Central will qualify for the playoffs, that being the division winner. Earning a wild card spot has long been off the table for both squads.

Having won the first two, the Tigers continue their four game series with the Royals Wednesday and Thursday in Detroit while the White Sox play the rubber game of their three game set with the Indians in Chicago before hosting a four game series with the Rays starting Thursday. Chicago's final three games are at Cleveland.

Detroit finishes up the regular season on the road, with three at Minnesota and three at Kansas City. Detroit is 34-41 on the road, but has two of the weaker AL teams ahead, while Chicago will face a stern test from the Rays, who still entertain post-season fantasies, resting three back of Oakland for the second wild card spot.

National League

Freeman: Walk-off HR
Freddie Freeman's ninth inning, two-run homer lifted Atlanta to a 4-3 walk-off win over visiting Miami and into the playoffs, clinching at least a wild card spot, while shaving a game off Washington's lead in the NL East to just four back.

Freeman's blast came with none out in the ninth, after Chipper Jones reached on a leadoff double off reliever Mike Dunn, who has one save but five blown opportunities. Dunn came on to pitch the ninth, but did not retire a batter and took the loss.

Atlanta will most likely earn the first wild card, as Washington's magic number is down to four with just eight games left.

The Braves have two more games with the Marlins in Atlanta, then hosts the Mets for three before finishing the regular season with three in Pittsburgh.

Washington may have a tough time closing out the season atop the division, which they have led for the bulk of the year. With two more games in Philadelphia, where they lost, 6-3, on Tuesday, the Nationals play three at St. Louis, currently in position for the second wild card, before ending the regular season at home with the Phillies, a dangerous team with plenty of pitching and solid hitting, and probably more than a little upset that the first half more or less eliminated them from contention because of injuries to a number of their star players.

Eight games against a playoff contender and and angry bunch of Phillies while Atlanta plays also-rans bodes ill for the Nationals down the stretch.

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