Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cardinals Advance Past Braves as Matt Holliday Homers; Joe Saunders Stifles Rangers, Orioles Move On in Playoffs

Players of the Day for Friday, October 5, 2011

American League

The collapse of 2010 and 2011 AL champion Texas Rangers was completed Friday night when the Baltimore Orioles eliminated them in a one-game wild card playoff,5-1, at Arlington, Texas.

Joe Saunders
Losing eight of their final ten games, the Rangers blew a lead in the AL West to the Oakland A's, who came on to win six straight - including the final three games of the regular season against the Rangers - to capture the division title and force Texas into the one-game wild-card format with the Orioles.

Baltimore scored their five runs on eight hits, while the Rangers squandered their few opportunities, getting nine hits in the contest. Oriole starter Joe Saunders kept the Rangers in check, allowing one earned run on six hits over 5 2/3 innings. Earning his first post-season victory in five starts, Saunders walked one and struck out four, working into and out of trouble in each inning. The Rangers had base runners in every inning in which he worked, except the sixth, when he was lifted for reliever Darren O'Day with two out and nobody on, to face Nelson Cruz, who popped out to end the inning.

O'Day worked two innings before handing the ball over to Brian Matusz, who got the final out of the eighth. The Orioles tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the ninth, setting up a non-save situation for closer Jim Johnson.

Providing one final bit of drama, the Rangers sent the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth after Johnson loaded the bases by allowing a pair of singles and a walk, but then got David Murphy on a harmless pop out to right, ending the game.

Baltimore will host the New York Yankees in the first two of a best-of-five series beginning Sunday. The other divisional series opens Saturday in Detroit between West division champion Oakland and the Tigers, winners of the Central division.

National League

Controversy and an embarrassing display by Atlanta fans aside, the St. Louis Cardinals moved on in the playoffs, eliminating the Braves in a one-game playoff, 6-3, at Turner Field.

Matt Holliday
With the Cards leading 6-3 in the eighth inning, Atlanta had runners on first and second with one out when left field umpire Sam Holbrook called an infield fly rule on a deep pop-up into left field. Shortstop Pete Kozma was settling under the ball, but darted away at the last moment, the ball falling harmlessly between himself and left fielder Matt Holliday.

Because of the call, instead of having the bases loaded and one out, the Braves were left with runners on second and third with two outs. That's when bottles and other debris came flying from the stands, causing a 19-minute delay and Braves' manager Fredi Gonzalez protesting the game. Once play resumed, Brian McCann walked to load the bases, but Cardinal reliever Jason Motte struck out Michael Bourn to end the inning and the threat.

The Braves were their own worst enemy, wasting 12 hits and stranding ten base runners. St. Louis cashed in six hits for six runs, aided by three Atlanta errors. Holliday went 2-for-3, with a single and a solo home run, scoring twice, to lead the Cardinals offensively.

St. Louis advances to the division round against the Washington Nationals starting Sunday. The five game series begins with two games in St. Louis, followed by three in Washington, D.C., if necessary, in the best-of-five series.

The Giants and Reds begin their five-game series on Saturday in San Francisco.

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