Thursday, September 25, 2014

Clayton Kershaw, Carl Crawford, Dodgers Reach Playoffs with 9-1 Win over Giants; Toronto's Mark Buehrle Leaves Seattle Sleepless in 1-0 Victory

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 24, 2014

American League

Strong-armed Mark Buehrle nearly ended Seattle's post-season chances with eight shutout innings in a 1-0 win by Toronto.

Buehrle: 200+ IP
Reaching a milestone of 14 consecutive seasons with 200 or more innings pitched, Wednesday's effort was vintage Buehrle, allowing three hits, fanning ten and issuing one walk before turning over the ball to Aaron Sanchez, who picked up his third save with a perfect ninth inning.

From 1966 to 1980, Don Sutton and Gaylord Perry each had 14 consecutive seasons of 200 innings or more, but the streaks of both pitchers were snapped by the 1981 player's strike.

Buehrle went past the 200-inning mark in the sixth. Now finished for the season, Buehrle logged 202 innings for the Blue Jays with a 13-10 record, an ERA of 3.39. His career mark stands at 199-152, a record achieved over 15 seasons with the White Sox, Marlins and Blue Jays.

Seattle's loss, their fifth in a row, did not officially finish off the Mariners, though it might as well have. Seattle still trails the A's and Kansas City by three games in the wild card race, but there are only four games left to play. Both Kansas City and Oakland lost on Wednesday, putting any celebration of clinching a wild card temporarily on hold. Kansas City lost to Cleveland (also just barely alive in the wild card race, 3 1/2 games behind the co-wild card leaders), 6-4, while the A's fell, 5-4, to the Angels.

Looking ahead, Oakland and Kansas City can each clinch a wild card on Thursday. The A's are at Texas, while the Royals open a four-game series in Chicago with the White Sox.

National League

Kershaw: 21-3
The Dodgers clinched the NL West Wednesday night and did it in style, pounding their fiercest adversary, the San Francisco Giants, 9-1, in the final game of their three-game series, taken by the Dodgers, two games to one.
Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford punished the Giants with a 2-for-2 effort, singling, doubling, driving in two runs, scoring three times with a stolen base. Starter Clayton Kershaw became the major league's only 21-game winner, holding the Giants to one run on eight hits, striking out 11 without issuing any walks.

Kershaw is almost certain to win the league's Cy Young award, which would be his third (2011, 2013). He is 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA. His win over the Giants put the Dodgers into the post-season. In one of the most remarkable seasons ever compiled by a pitcher, Kershaw has won his last seven starts, and has 239 strikeouts, the fifth straight season he's fanned 200 or more.

Kershaw leads the NL in Ks, with four more than Johnny Cueto and Stephen Strasberg. Cueto, who has 19 wins, is slated to pitch on Sunday, while Strasberg is scheduled to start for the Nationals on Saturday, but, with the post-season looming and Washington 2 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers for the league's best record, Strasburg could be rested.

Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, currently 20-9, could tie Kershaw with wins if he appears as scheduled, on Sunday, at Arizona, in the final game of the season for the Cardinals, but he also could be benched, especially if the Cardinals wrap up the NL Central, which they currently lead by 1 1/2 over the Pirates.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nick Markakis, Orioles Eliminate Yankees; KC, Oakland Even in Wild Card; Justin Turner Gets Dodgers Closer to NL West Title

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 23, 2013

American League

The race in the Central division and AL wild card got a whole lot more interesting Tuesday night, except for the Yankees, who were eliminated from post-season contention in a 5-4 loss to the Orioles.

Nick Markakis
The Orioles banged out 17 hits against five New York hurlers, including 11 off starter Brandon McCarthy. Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Kelly Johnson each homered for the O's. Cruz's solo shot in the fifth inning was his 40th of the season, which lead the majors. Houston's Chris Carter has 37; Miami's Giancarlo Stanton lead the National league with 37.

Markakis was the slugging star of the night, though, with a two-run, fourth-inning blast that put the Orioles up, 4-0. In the second inning, he singled home a run and later added two more singles to go 4-for-5 with three RBI. Other than the home runs, all of the other Oriole hits were singles, 14 of them.

The important action elsewhere in the league took place in Detroit, where the Tigers held their one-game lead in the Central with a 4-3 win over the White Sox; in Cleveland, the Royals topped Cleveland 7-1 to reach a tie for the wild card spots with Oakland, 2-0 losers to the Angels.

In Toronto, the Blue Jays walloped the Mariners for the second straight night, with a 10-2 win. Seattle is just three games behind the wild card leaders, but there are only five games left to play. Cleveland is 4 1/2 back and could be eliminated as early as Wednesday night, when they meet the Royals in the conclusion of their three-game series.
Justin Turner

National League

With a 4-2 win over second place San Francisco, the LA Dodgers are within a hairs-breath of capturing the NL West division.

LA leadoff hitter, Justin Turner, belted a pair of solo homers off Giants' starter Madison Bumgarner (18-10) to propel the Dodgers to victory, their 90th of the season, against 68 losses. Turner led off the game with his first belt, then finished Bumgarner's night on the mound with his second solo with one down in the eighth. Zack Greinke (16-8) went eight innings for the Dodgers to earn the win.

Kenley Jansen worked the ninth to pick up the save, his 44th, tying him with St. Louis' Trevor Rosenthal and Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel for the league lead.

LA can wrap up the division with a win Wednesday night in the final of their three-game series with the Giants. They may meet their Norther California rival again in the playoffs, however, as the Giants and Pirates both have qualified for the playoffs, and are the likely wild card teams. Pittsburgh holds a one-game edge over San Francisco in the wild card and are 1 1/2 behind St. Louis in the NL Central.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jose Bautista, Toronto Put Dent in Seattle Post-Season Hope in 14-4 Win; Francisco Liriano Wins 4th Straight for Pirates

Players of the Day for Monday, September 22, 2014

American League

Bautista: 35 HRs
Denied a chance at the post-season, the Toronto Blue Jays - an offensive juggernaut - may be putting an end to the hopes of the Seattle mariners, one of the weakest-hitting teams in the league, and still in contention for a wild card spot.

Jose Bautista and his Toronto teammates combined for 16 hits in a 14-4 rousting of the Mariners in the opener of a four-game series north of the border.

Bautista went 3-for-3 with two singles, scored three times, drove in two, and stroked his 35th home run of the season.

Seattle's loss left them two games behind Kansas City for the final wild card position, with just six games left in the regular season. Unless the Mariners can find some runs and stop the Blue Jays from scoring at will, the season may be over sooner than they wish. Toronto is fifth in RBI (2231) in the league and fourth in runs (699). Seattle is 13th in RBI (1971) and 12th in runs (615).

National League

Liriano wins 4th
straight
After a 3-10 start, Francisco Liriano has found his good stuff and the rest of the league simply can't hit it. The resurgence of Liriano in the Pittsburgh rotation has come at the most opportune time, as the Pirates are putting it all together, and, with a combination of two more wins or two Milwaukee losses will qualify for the post season as a wild card.

Following Monday's 1-0 win over the Braves, Pittsburgh is tied with the Giants for the two wild card spots. Milwaukee is a fading five games back.

Giving up three hits, Lirano tossed six innings of shutout ball in the game for his fourth straight win, lifted when Andrew McCutchen launched his 24th home run of the season off loser Aaron Harang in the top of the frame for the game's only run.

In his last four starts, Liriano has been nothing short of electric, allowing 13 hits and just one earned run over 26 innings.

Pittsburgh plays at Atlanta in the second game of their four-game series Tuesday at 7:10 pm EDT.

In related news, the NY Mets won their third straight and tied Atlanta for second place in the East division. Atlanta has lost four in a row and nine of their last 10.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Josh Donaldson Crushes 2-Run Walk-Off Homer in 10th; Matt Kemp Tearing It Up as Dodgers Seek NL West Pennant

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 21, 2014

American League

Josh Donaldson cracked a two-run homer in Oakland's 8-6, 10-inning, walk off win over the Phillies.

Donaldson: MVP?
The game-winner came with one out off Philly reliever Miguel Gonzalez (0-1), after Nate Freiman singled and was replaced by pinch runner Billy Burns. Donaldson's blast was a no-doubter, traveling 444 feet, over the center field wall.

Donaldson finished the game 3-for-5 with three runs and the two RBI from the homer, giving him 97 ribbies on the season, to go with his 28 home runs and .255 batting average. Should Oakland make the playoffs - a distinct possibility - Donaldson would be a viable MVP candidate.

Oakland's win put them 1/2 game in front of Kansas City in the wild card race. The A's are in line for the top wild card spot as Kansas City beat Detroit, 5-2.

On Monday, the A's open a three-game home series against the Angels, who need just a few more wins to wrap up the best record in the American League. Oakland closes out the season with a four-game series at Texas on September 25-28.

Kemp: 4-5, HR, 4RBI
National League

Matt Kemp has been on a tear as the Dodgers streak toward the NL West division title.

Including Sunday's 4-for-5 effort, Kemp has stroked four homers and driven in 15 runs in his last nine games, securing his spot in the Dodgers' crowded outfield roster.

In the 8-5 Dodger win over the Cubs, Kemp singled three times and smacked a two-run homer in the third inning - his 23rd - driving in four runs to give him 84 on the year.

LA scored 37 runs in the four-game series at Chicago, winning three of four, the lone loss an 8-7 decision for the Cubs on Saturday.

The Dodgers have a 4 1/2 game lead over the Giants, who have lost three straight. LA has six games remaining in the regular season; San Francisco has seven, making the Dodgers' magic number to clinch the division, three.

Finishing out the season at home, the Dodgers host the Giants in a three-game series starting Monday, before finishing up against Colorado on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chris Coghlan, Cubs Drop Dodgers, 8-7; Baltimore Beats Boston, 7-2, as Adam Jones Belts a Pair of Homers

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 20, 2014

American League

Adam Jones
Increasingly, it appears that the Baltimore Orioles will finish with the second-best record in the American League and wind up hosting a first-round playoff series with the winner of the Central division, presumably the Detroit Tigers.

This is all falling into place as the Angels continue to hold a 2 1/2 game edge on the O's for the league's best record. Even after dropping a few games to the Mariners and the first game of their weekend series with the Rangers, the Angels rebounded with an 8-5 win over Texas on Saturday, while the Orioles punished the Red Sox, 7-2.

Adam Jones socked a pair of two run homers - one in the third and another in the fifth inning - for the win, with just eight games left on the regular season schedule.

Elsewhere, the Tigers extended their lead in the Central division with a 3-2 win over Kansas City, their second straight in the three-game series, giving Detroit a 2 1/2 game edge. All three of the main contenders for the two wild card spots lost, as the A's and Mariners also were losers on Saturday, giving Cleveland a boost with a 7-3 win over the Twins. The Indians trail Kansas City by 3 1/2 games.

Chris Coghlan
National League

In the first two games of the four-game series between the Dodgers and Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the two teams combined to score 29 runs in a pair of Dodger wins. On Saturday, they added 15 more, as the Cubs took the win, 8-7, as Chris Coghlan went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers, a single, double, three RBI and three runs, topping the two-homer, five RBI output of LA's Adrian Gonzalez.

The Dodger loss had little affect on the NL West race, as the Giants were downed by San Diego, 3-2, keeping LA's lead in the division at 3 1/2 games.

The Cubs and Dodgers wrap up the series Sunday afternoon at Wrigley. Game time is 2:20 pm EDT.

In the Central, the Pirates were cooled off by the Brewers, 1-0, while the Cardinals took an 8-4 decision from the Reds and lead the division by 3 1/2 games with eight left to play.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ian Kinsler Leads Tigers in Win over Kansas City; AL Wild Card Tight ; Michael Cuddyer Drives in Seven for Rockies

Players of the Day for Friday, September 19, 2014

American League

Ian Kinsler
In his years with the Texas Rangers, Ian Kinsler gained valuable first-hand experience of pennant races and post-season play, so it was no surprise that he was batting in the leadoff spot when the Tigers opened an important three-game series at Kansas City on Friday.

The scrappy second baseman wasted no time getting the Tigers into gear, singling and scoring in the first inning, as Detroit forged a 3-0 lead. Kinsler went on to double and homer in four subsequent at-bats, driving in three runs as the Tigers routed the Royals, 10-1.

Justin Verlander held Kansas City to one earned run on seven hits over seven innings for his 14th win against 12 losses.

The result moved Detroit 1 1/2 games up on the Royals in the AL Central and made the wild card chase the closest it has been all season, with three teams - Oakland, Kansas City and Seattle - all within one game of each other.

The A's and Mariners were both winners on Friday, putting Oakland up by 1/2 game over the Royals, with Seattle another 1/2 game back. Oakland and Seattle have just nine games remaining in the regular season (Kansas City, 10), meaning there are no days off until the season ends on Sunday, September 28. Two teams will be wild cards, playing a one-game playoff at the home of the team with the better record.

The Yankees, winners of four straight, are 4 1/2 behind KC, but are quickly running out of time.

Game two of Detroit's series at Kansas City is slated for 1:05 pm EDT on Saturday.

National League

Cuddyer: GS, 7RBI
At the start of the season, Michael Cuddyer was one of the hottest hitters in the National League, until suffering a hamstring injury that had him on and off the DL through the summer. Just about 12 days ago, the hamstring healed, he began playing regularly in right field, and Cuddyer has picked up right where he left off, riding a six-game hitting streak through Colorado's 15-3 pasting of Arizona Friday night.

Going 3-for-5 with two doubles and a grand slam, Cuddyer drove in seven runs and scored three runs as the Rockies and Diamondbacks play out the string, both teams long since having fallen out of post-season contention.

Elsewhere, the Dodgers improved their lead in the NL West to 3 1/2 games with a 14-5 slaughter of the Cubs in Chicago, while the Giants lost at San Diego, 5-0. In the Central, St. Louis squeezed out another close win, taking a 2-1 decision over Cincinnati. St. Louis leads Pittsburgh by 2 1/2 games in the division. Washington has already clinched the East.

The wild card is all but decided, that only matters remaining being what teams will be in which positions. Currently, the Giants have a one-game lead over Pittsburgh, but the Pirates are red-hot, having won five in a row, including Friday's 4-2 victory over the Brewers, which left Milwaukee 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates and with little chance of catching up.

Naturally, all positions could change, but the four remaining playoff spots appear to be split between St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Logan Morrison Homers in Ninth for Mariners; Dodgers Rally to Whip Cubs, Lead NL West

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 18, 2014

American League

Logan Morrison
Felix Hernandez tolled seven scoreless innings for the Mariners to no avail, as his teammates could muster but four hits against Angel pitching through eight innings.

Hernandez would receive no decision, but the Mariners eventually broke through for a 3-1 victory, on Logan Morrison's three-run homer in the top of the ninth, getting Seattle to within one game of Oakland in the quest for the second wild card.

Called on to pitch the ninth for the Angels, Kevin Jepsen managed to get the first two outs of the inning on routine ground balls, but surrendered a single to Kendrys Morales. An intentional walk to Kyle Seager after pinch-runner James Jones took second on a Jepsen pick-off attempt set the stage for Morrison, who delivered the ball to the right field stands, his ninth homer of the year.

With Oakland losing 7-2 to Texas and the Royals on a day off, the race for both wild cards has the Royals, A's, and Mariners all within 1 1/2 games. With only two spots available and 10 games left (KC has 11 remaining), it's put up or go home time in the American League.

Yasiel Puig
National League

The LA Dodgers opened their four-game series in Chicago with the Cubs with a come-from-behind, 8-4 win, picking up 1/2 game on the idle Giants in the race for the NL West.

Down 4-1, Yasiel Puig finished the scoring of a five-run seventh inning with an RBI single, putting the Dodgers up by a run. Puig was 3-for-5 on the night and scored the Dodgers' final run on a sac fly in the ninth.

LA's lead over San Francisco is 2 1/2 games. The Dodgers have nine remaining on the schedule, their magic number to clinch the division is now eight. With three games remaining at Wrigley Field this weekend, the Dodgers should make hay against the Cubs before returning home for a three-game series with the Giants. After that, they host the Rockies for three to close out the regular season.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

CJ Wilson Blanks Mariners, Angels Clinch AL West; Charlie Blackmon, Justin Morneau Bury Dodgers in 16-2 Rout

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 17, 2014

American League

CJ Wilson
Struggling to keep pace with Oakland and Kansas City - the co-leaders in the wild card race - the Seattle Mariners managed just one hit off Angels' starter, CJ Wilson, and two relievers in a 5-0 Angels win that clinched the AL West division.

Wilson (13-9) worked over the Mariners' lineup for the first seven innings, allowing the one hit - a two-out single in the fifth by Justin Smoak - walking two and fanning seven.

Having thrown 95 pitches, Wilson turned the ball over to reliever Joe Smith for a perfect eighth inning. Huston Street closed out the game by getting the Mariners in order in the ninth, sparking a celebration over the West division title, the team's first since 2009, breaking a string of four years in which the Angels, longtime leaders in the division, did not make it to the post-season.

LA has a three-game edge over Baltimore for the best record in the AL, which, if they maintain it, would give them home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

In the wild card race, Kansas City won, 6-2, over the White Sox, while the Oakland A's fell to Texas, 6-1, creating a tie for the league's two wild card spots. Seattle is two games back and the only team with a realistic chance of catching either of the two current leaders. Cleveland is five games out; the Yankees and Blue jays are six games back. All of the teams still in contention have 11 games remaining on the regular season schedule.

The Royals are just 1/2 game behind the Tigers in the Central, so Detroit and the Royals could swap places any number of times during the rest of the season.

National League

Charlie Blackmon
Justin Morneau
Clinging to a slim lead in the division, the LA Dodgers' road to the NL West title hit something of a speed bump Wednesday in Denver, as the Colorado Rockies banged out 21 hits in a 16-2 win.

Leadoff hitter, Charlie Blackmon, went 5-for-5 (all singles), scored four times and drove in a pair of runs. First baseman, Justin Morneau, was 3-for-4, with a double, home run, single and a sac fly, driving in six runs.

On the season, Blackmon has 18 home runs and 70 RBI. Morneau has 16 dingers and 79 RBI.

The defeat was the second straight for the Dodgers, and cut their lead in the division to just two games over the Giants, who took a 4-2 win at Arizona.

It's too early to start looking at magic numbers for the Dodgers, as they could still be caught by the Giants and pushed into the wild card maze. The same is true for St. Louis, which holds a 2 1/2 game lead over the Pirates in the Central.

San Francisco holds a 2 1/2 game edge on the Pirates for the first wild card. Likewise, Pittsburgh leads Milwaukee by 2 1/2 games for the second, and final, wild card spot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Steve Pearce Homers, Orioles Clinch AL East; Tanner Roark, Ian Desmond Lead Nationals to Clinch NL East

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 16, 2014

American League

Steve Pearce
The Baltimore Orioles are champions of the American League East for the first time since 1997.

Steve Pearce socked a three-run homer in the first inning, which turned out to be all the O's needed as Ubaldo Jimenez and four relievers held the Blue Jays to four hits and a pair of runs in an 8-2 rout.

The win was Baltimore's third straight and ninth in their last 10, as they streak toward their second playoff appearance in the last three years. They've taken the first two from Toronto at Camden Yards and will play the final game of the series on Wednesday, beginning at 7:05 pm EDT at Camden Yards.

The O's finish their regular season at the Rogers Center in Toronto with three games against the Blue Jays, but, prior to that, they will get to take victory laps against the Red Sox in Baltimore (three games), followed by a four-game series in New York with the Yankees.

Baltimore has a chance to finish with the best record in the league, though they trail the Angels in that department by three games. LA can clinch the West with a win over Seattle, Wednesday night.

National League

Ian Desmond
Tanner Roark
Champions of the National League East after a 3-0 blanking of second-place Atlanta, the Washington Nationals present an splendid blend of speed, power, and pitching to whomever they'll oppose in the post-season.

Ian Desmond doubled and homered, drove in two runs and scored twice while Tanner Roark blanked the Braves over seven innings in the pennant-clincher.

Roark (14-10) allowed five hits, did not issue any walks and struck out four. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen finished up with perfect eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Storen picked up his seventh save.

The first NL team to claim a playoff spot, the Nationals currently have the best record in the league, which would assure them of home field throughout their playoff run. They lead the Dodgers - currently on top in the NL West by three games over the Giants - by 1 1/2 game.

With eight wins in their last ten games and winners of four straight, the Nationals finish up with the Braves for the year in game three of their series in Atlanta, Wednesday night at 7:00 pm EDT.

A quirky schedule has the Nationals playing Miami eight times in the final two weeks, starting with four games in Miami this week, and four to close out the season in Washington. Sandwiched in between is a three-game series with the Mets at home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Homers by Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera Power Tigers over Twins; Andrew Cashner Tosses 2-Hit Shutout over Phillies

Players of the Day for Monday, September 15, 2014

American League

Miguel Cabrera
Torii Hunter
Breaking a 6-6 tie in the top of the ninth inning, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera socked back-to-back homers to give Detroit a 8-6 win at Minnesota in the opener of a three-game series with the Twins.

The win was the fourth in a row for the Tigers, who have regained control of the AL Central after yielding the lead to Kansas City in August. Coupled with the Royals' 4-3 win over the White Sox, Detroit holds a 1 1/2 game edge in the division.

Game two is Tuesday at 8:10 pm EDT.

The other two divisions of the AL are nearly decided as both the Angels and Orioles won on Monday, the Angels topping Seattle - and sending the Mariners further down the standings in the wild card hunt - 8-1, while Baltimore took care of second-place Toronto with a 5-2 win over the Blue Jays at Camden Yards. Baltimore's victory opened a three-game series with Toronto and set the stage for a possible clinching of the division on Tuesday, when the two teams meet for game two at 7:05 pm EDT. Baltimore's magic number is now one; LA's is three, as the A's are 10 1/2 back and were idle on Monday.

The A's have a one-game edge over KC for the first wild card. Seattle trails KC for the second wild card by two games. Toronto, Cleveland and New York are further back with fading hopes of reaching the post-season. The Yankees - 1-0 losers at Tampa Bay Monday - were officially eliminated from the AL EAst race.

National League

Cashner: 2H ShO
Andrew Cashner (4-7, 2.20) took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, eventually settling for a two-hit shutout for the Padres in a 1-0 win over the visiting Phillies Monday night.

Cashner walked one (Chase Utley in the fourth), fanned seven and threw 68 of 92 pitches for strikes. Domonic Brown bunted his way on with one out in the fifth, but was quickly erased on an inning-ending double play. Marlon Byrd's leadoff single in the eighth inning was the only other hit for the flat-lining Phillies.

The shutout was the second of the season for the San Diego hurler. Cashner shut out the Tigers on one hit back on April 11.

Elsewhere, division leaders LA and Washington were both winners; the Cardinals maintained a 3 1/2 game lead over the Pirates in the Central. Both the Cards and Pirates were idle on Monday.

In the only significant wild card action, San Francisco dropped its third straight, losing, 6-2, at Arizona. The Giants still hold a 2 1/2 game edge over the Pirates in the wild card. Pittsburgh is 1 1/2 in front of Milwaukee for the second wild card slot. The Brewers were also off Monday.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Boston's Xander Bogaerts, Daniel Nava Rough Up Royals; Neil Walker Rallies Pirates Past Cubs

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 14, 2014

American League

Nava: Grand Slam
Two home runs was all it took for the Boston Red Sox to play the role of spoiler, sending the host Royals to an 8-4 loss and pushing them 1 1/2 back of the Tigers in the AL Central.

Bogaerts: 3-4, 4RBI
Xander Bogaerts connected for a three-run shot in the third inning and was 3-for-4 for the game, but the Sox still trailed, 4-3, at that time. Daniel Nava's grand slam in the sixth put the Red Sox up 7-4 and in the lead for good. Bogaerts completed the scoring with a sac fly for his fourth RBI of he game.

Coupled with Detroit's 6-4 win over Cleveland, the Tigers have a 1 1/2 game edge in the central, but the Royals are only down one in the loss column and retained their position as the second wild card, though they are a mere one game ahead of Seattle for that spot.

Boston took it to the Royals over the weekend, winning three of four in Kansas City.

The Royals remain home for a three-game series with the White Sox, starting on Monday. After a day off Thursday, they host the Tigers for a three-game weekend series that should go a long way toward determining the Central division title.

National League

Neil Walker
Holding onto the second wild card spot, the Pirates had to come from behind against the Cubs on Sunday.

Down 3-0 in the fourth, Neil Walker got Pittsburgh on the board with a solo homer, his 20th of the season.

In the fifth, Walker socked a double to center, plating another run as the Pirated scored six times in the inning, en route to a 7-3 victory over the visiting Cubs and a 2-1 win of the three-game series.

The win kept Pittsburgh 1 1/2 ahead of the Brewers, who topped Cincinnati, 9-2, in the wild card race. Pittsburgh picked up a game on the Giants for the #1 wild card, as San Francisco fell to LA, 4-2, but are still three games clear of the Pirates.

In the West, the Dodgers lead by three games over the Giants. The Cardinals won their third straight, keeping their lead at 3 1/2 over Pittsburgh, while the Nationals dropped their magic number to clinch the East to four, winning, 3-0, over the Mets. Washington has an 11 1/2 game lead over Atlanta in the division.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jered Weaver, Mike Trout Help Angels Reduce Magic Number to 4; Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke Lead Dodgers Past Giants, 17-0

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 13, 2014

American League

Mike Trout
Jered Weaver
With 14 games left to play in their regular season, the LA Angels have the best record in the majors and are looking squarely at the AL West title and home field throughout their stay in the playoffs.

In Saturday's 5-2 win over Houston, two of the players most responsible for the success of the Angels - and their current 10-game winning streak - provided the keys to victory.

Starter Jered Weaver became the AL's first 17-game winner, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk, while Mike Trout belted a pair of homers and a double in three at-bats, and drove in two runs, boosting his RBI total to 107, which leads the majors. Trout's two solo homers gave him 34 on the year, tying him for third in the AL with Chicago's Jose Abreu.

The win pushed the Angels' magic number for clinching the division down to four, their lead over the A's remaining at 11 games, as Oakland dropped Seattle 3-2 in 10 innings.

Zack Greinke
The A's remain in line for the first wild card spot, though their lead over Kansas City is just 1/2 game. Seattle fell to 1 1/2 off the pace.

Seeking a sweep of the three-game series and their 11th straight win, the Angels host the Astros, Sunday at 3:35 pm EDT.

National League

Matt Kemp
After being embarrassed, 9-0, in Friday's opener of the three game series in San Francisco, the LA Dodgers calmly slipped the shoe onto the other foot and mashed out 24 hits in a 17-0 slaughter of the Giants on Saturday, re-establishing a two-game lead in the division over their northern California rivals.

Hanley Ramirez
Matt Kemp was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a single, driving in three runs in the rout. Hanley Ramirez went 4-for-5 - a double and three singles - drove in a pair of runs and scored one.

Starting pitcher, Zack Grienke, worked six innings of scoreless ball, allowing four hits without a walk, fanning five, and also went 2-for-3 at the plate with a double, homer, two RBI and two runs.

To say the least, the game was out of hand by the middle of the second inning, when the Dodgers had alredy put eight runs on the scoreboard. Giants' starter, Tim Hudson, worked into the second inning but didn't record an out in that frame, allowing six runs on eight hits.

While the loss was a setback for the Giants in the division race, they managed to keep a four-game edge in the wild card, as Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Atlanta all lost.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Orioles, Angels Magic Numbers: 5; Mike Trout Leads Angels to Ninth Straight; Madison Bumgarner Stifles Dodgers, Giants within One

Players of the Day for Friday, September 12, 2014

American League

While the East and West became nearly sorted out on Friday, the Central division and two wild card sport remain up for grabs in the American League.

Mike Trout
Baltimore took both ends of a day-night double-header, winning the first game by a 2-1 score in 11 innings and taking the second with a 5-0 skunking of the power-deficient Yankees, who saw their slim hopes of reaching the post-season take a dismal turn for the worse. The Orioles have won six straight, have an 11 1/2 game lead over Toronto and a magic number for clinching the division of five.

In LA, the Angels dropped their magic number to five as well, cruising to their ninth straight win, an 11-3 spanking of the Astros, to take an 11-game division lead.

The Angels were led by potential league MVP, Mike Trout, who doubled and tripled in four at-bats, scored twice and drove in two runs, expanding his AL RBI lead to four over Nelson Cruz and Miguel Cabrera. Trout has 105 RBI on the season and is tied with Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins for the MLB lead.

Detroit won and Kansas City lost, putting the Tigers 1/2 game ahead in the topsy-turvy Central division. The wild card scenario continued to tighten, as the A's lost and Seattle won, leaving Oakland 1/2 game ahead of both Seattle and Kansas City. Cleveland and Toronto are another four back, the Yankees five away from the second wild card.

National League

Bumgarner: 18-9
Opening a three-game series in San Francisco, the white-hot Giants pounded their West coast rivals, the LA Dodgers, with a 9-0 beating, led by home runs from Brandon Crawford and Travis Ishikawa and seven innings of shutout ball from Madison Bumgarner, who became the fourth NL pitcher to notch 18 wins.

Bumgarner (18-9) allowed just three hits and walked two for the win. He struck out nine, giving him 208 Ks on the year, trailing Stephen Strasburg (223), Johnny Cueto (220), and Clayton Kershaw (210).

Along with Bumgarner, Kershaw, Cueto and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright also have 18 wins for the year.

Juan Gutierrez finished the whitewash of the Dodgers with two perfect innings in relief.

The win pushed the Giants to within one game of the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West. San Francisco, winners of four straight, is well-positioned for the post-season, with a four-game lead over Pittsburgh in the wild card race. The Pirates have won three in a row and lead Milwaukee by 1 1/2 and Atlanta by 3 1/2 for the final wild card berth.

The Dodgers and Giants take the field for game two of their series at 6:05 pm PDT on Saturday.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chris Young's Walk-Off Homer Lifts Yankees over Rays; Pirates Win Behind Francisco Liriano's Eight Scoreless Innings

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 11, 2014

American League

Chris Young:
newest Yankee star
Aside from seven games in triple-A on a rehab assignment, Chris Young has spent the entire 2014 season in New York. Until just last week, he was a member of the Mets' organization, but, earlier this month, he was traded to the Yankees and now does his job in the Bronx rather than Queens.

It appears that the Yankees made a deft move in acquiring Young, since outfielder Brett Gardner is likely a part-time player for the better part of the remainder of the season with an abdominal strain. In his last three games, Young has started in left field, handled the position well and delivered at the plate like a man on a mission, going 6-for-11 with two home runs and seven RBI.

In Thursday's 5-4 victory over the Rays, Young broke up a no-hit bid by Rays' starter, Alex Cobb, slicing a double to the right-center gap with one out in the eighth, later scoring on Martin Prado's two-run homer.

But it was in the bottom of the ninth inning that Young earned his pinstripes, blasting a fastball from reliever Jake McGee over the fence in left field with two aboard and the Yankees down 4-2, for a walk-off win.

The Yankee win kept alive the slim hopes of making the playoffs. New York trails Detroit by four games for the final wild card spot, but Cleveland and Toronto are 1/2 game ahead of the Yankees and Seattle has a 3 1/2 game edge.

The Yankees open a four-game series in Baltimore, including a day-night double-header on Friday, with the AL East-leading Orioles, who could, if they sweep the Yankees and Toronto loses two of three over the weekend, clinch a tie with the Blue Jays for the division title.

A more likely scenario is that the Orioles will clinch the division outright during their three-game series with the Blue Jays, which begins Monday. The O's have a 10-game lead over the Blue Jays and are 10 1/2 in front of the Yankees, making their magic number to clinch the division outright, eight.

Toronto and the Yankees are still in the wild card hunt, so the next six to eight games will go a long way toward separating playoff contenders from pretenders.

National League

Liriano:
8IP 4H 0ER 12K
Francisco Liriano has regained top form and the Pittsburgh Pirates couldn't have asked for it to come back at a more opportune time.

Thursday night, Liriano notched his second straight win in a 4-1 defeat of the Phillies, giving up four hits and no runs over eight innings.

The strong-armed lefty from the Dominican Republic walked a pair of batters but struck out a season high 12, including Ryan Howard twice. He struck out at least one batter in each of his eight innings, throwing 69 of 106 pitches for strikes before turning the ball over to the bullpen.

Marc Melancon picked up his 29th save after Jared Hughes allowed a hit and a walk without retiring any batters in the ninth. Carlos Ruiz singled home Marlon Byrd with the Phillies only run before Melancon settled down and mopped up the win.

Pittsburgh continues to hold onto the final wild card spot with a 1 1/2 game edge over Milwaukee and a two-game lead over the Braves.

Liriano improved to 5-10.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Big Game James Shields Stops Tigers, KC Re-Takes 1st in AL Central; Dan Haren, Carl Crawford Lead Dodgers over Padres

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 10, 2014

American League

James Shields
Game three of the showdown series between Kansas City and Detroit was going to be decisive, as the Tigers had taken the first two games on their home field and tied the Royals for the lead in the AL Central.

Detroit trotted out another of their ace hurlers, Rick Porcello, the 15-game winner that had been so effective during the first half of the season, while the Royals sent "Big Game" James Shields to the mound.

At the end of seven innings, it was obvious why Shields had earned his moniker. That's when Shields took a seat on the bench, after throwing seven innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits, walking one and fanning nine en route to a 3-0 Royals win and first place in the division.

Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis pitched hitless eighth and ninth innings, respectively, leaving the Detroit hitters wondering whether their bats had holes in them.

Though the Tigers are a game behind KC in the division, they still qualify currently as the #2 wild card, 1 1/2 games behind the A's in the top spot and just 1/2 game better than Seattle. Working against the Tigers is the schedule. They have just 16 games remaining, while the A's and Mariners each have 17 left. Kansas City still has 18 to play and has a two-game bulge in the loss column.

National League
Dan Haren

Carl Crawford
Not about to be caught by the San Francisco Giants, the LA Dodgers took the rubber game of their series with the Padres by a 4-0 score, thanks to seven shutout innings from Dan Haren and a 4-for-4 performance by Carl Crawford.

Haren improved to 13-10 on the season, notching his fifth win in his last seven starts. He allowed just fur hits, walked one and fanned five.

Crawford was perfect at the plate, stroking three doubles and a single, driving in a pair of runs and scoring one.

The result, coupled with the Giants' 5-0 win over Arizona left the two teams fighting for first place in the NL West, the Dodgers holding a 2 1/2 game advantage as the teams head to AT&T Park in San Francisco for a three-game weekend showdown. In the penultimate series for both teams, the Giants will travel to Los Angels for a three-game series on September 22, 23 and 24.

Currently holding firmly to the top wild card spot, the Giants have a four-game lead over #2 wild card, Pittsburgh, with Atlanta and Milwaukee both another 1 1/2 back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Josh Donaldson Sets A's Straight with Five Hits in 11-2 Win; Giants Close Gap on Dodgers as Yusmeiro Petit Hurls Complete GameD

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 9, 2014

American League

Donaldson: 5-for-6
Despite having won just three times in their last 12 games, the Oakland A's have maintained their hold on the first wild card spot, though their grip has been tenuous of late, at best.

Winning, 11-2 over the White Sox in Chicago on Tuesday, the A's managed to hammer out 18 hits, five of them coming off the bat of third baseman, Josh Donaldson, who was also responsible for driving in four runs and scoring twice in his six at-bats.

Donaldson's hits were all singles, except for a fifth-inning double that plated two teammates and put the A's up 4-0. His two other RBI came in the ninth inning off a single, when the A's added five runs.

With a .257 batting average, Donaldson leads the team in RBI with 93.

The A's win came at an opportune time, as Seattle had closed to within one game in the wild card race. As of Tuesday's results, Oakland leads either Detroit or Kansas City (the two are tied for first place in the Central) by 1 1/2 games with Seattle two back. Further back, six games out, is Toronto, winners of three straight, having bypassed the Yankees and Cleveland in the race for the wild card spots.

Petit: 4H, CG, W
With the four-game series tied at a game apiece, Oakland and the White Sox go at it Wednesday at 8:10 pm EDT and finish up Thursday with a day game, scheduled for 2:10 pm EDT.

National League

Winners of 10 of their last 13 games, the San Francisco Giants continue to hound the first-place Dodgers in the NL West, their 5-1 victory over Arizona Tuesday, combined with LA's 6-3 loss to San Diego, has them just 2 1/2 games off the front-runner's pace.

Yusmeiro Petit threw his first complete game of the season, having started just nine times this year. Petit allowed four hits and one run - that coming on a fourth-inning solo homer by Arizona's Ender Inciarte - struck out nine and issued no walks, completing the nine innings with a judicious 84 pitches, 68 of them thrown for strikes. Petit improved to 5-3.

The Giants got most of their production from the top of the order. Leadoff hitter, Angel Pagan, was 4-for-5 with three runs. Joe Panic went 5-for-5 but only kept rallies going, neither scoring nor driving in any runs. Buster Posey went 0-for-4 but drove in two, increasing his RBI total to 81 on the year.

San Francisco hosts Arizona in the second of their three-game series on Wednesday, 7:00 pm PDT, and hosts the Dodgers in a crucial three-game series over the coming weekend.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Marcus Stroman's 3-Hit Shutout Lifts Blue Jays over Cubs; Doug Fister Blanks Braves over Seven in Nationals' Win

Players of the Day for Monday, September 8, 2014

American League

Marcus Stroman twirled a three-hit shutout over the visiting Cubs Monday, as the Blue Jays tied the yankees for second place in the AL East with an 8-0 whitewash over Chicago.

Marcus Stroman
Stroman, a rookie out of Medford, NY, allowed just three harmless singles, struck out eight and didn't issue any walks. After giving up a leadoff single in the second inning - subsequently erased by a double play - Stroman didn't allow another hit until there were two out in the eighth, retiring 19 straight batters. A one-out single in the ninth was the only other hit.

At 10-5, Stroman appears to be one of the better young pitchers in the majors. With a 3.53 ERA, he's struck out 97 in 114 2/3 innings.

The Jays trail the Orioles - 4-0 winners at Boston Monday - by 10 games in the division and are five games behind Seattle for the second wild card spot, but it's a crowded bunch chasing Oakland (the #1 wild card) and Seattle. Detroit and Cleveland are ahead of the Blue Jays and the Yankees are tied with them. The remaining schedule is interesting for Toronto. Despite six games against the Orioles, they play four at New York, followed by hosting the Mariners for four straight, September 22-25.

The Jays host the Cubs in game two of their three-game series Tuesday at 7:07 pm EDT at the Rogers Center in Toronto.

National League

Doug Fister
The Washington Nationals are streaking toward the post-season, taking down second place Atlanta, 2-1, Monday, in the opener of a three-game series in the nation's capitol.

Doug Fister (13-6, 2.53) blanked the Braves over seven innings before taking a seat on the bench. Fister allowed just two hits and three walks, striking out three. He threw 71 of 104 pitches for strikes.

Ty Clippard and Matt Thornton combined to allow the Braves a run in the eighth inning, but Drew Storen made sure they would get no more, striking out the side in the ninth inning for his third save of the season. Storen, who was the Nationals' closer in 2011, appears poised to take back his former role heading toward the post-season, having earned saves in each of his last two outings.

The Nats now have an eight-game lead on the Braves in the NL East, their magic number down to 12. They are also one game behind the Dodgers for the best record in the league, which would give them home field throughout the playoffs.

Game two of the series is Tuesday, at 7:05 pm EDT.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bird Is the Word: Orioles, Cardinals Cruising as Nelson Cruz, Adam Wainwright Dominate

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 7, 2014

American League

Look in any recent dictionary and under the word "streaky," you're likely to find a photo of one Nelson Cruz, the standout DH and left fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

Cruz:
7 RBI, Streaky
With a history of huge games and runs of brilliance, Cruz fortified his image on Sunday, driving in all of the Orioles runs in a 7-5, 11-inning victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Baltimore's win avoided the indignity of being swept in Tampa's air-conditioned Tropicana Field; Cruz's mastery of the art of hitting assuring that the Orioles would improve upon their lead in the AL East, as the Yankees - on Derek Jeter Day, no less - dropped a 2-0 decision to the Kansas City Royals. Baltimore's lead is back to 9 1/2 games, their magic number reduced to 12.

Cruz provided the power to boost the O's with a 4-for-5 effort, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning, a bases-loaded double in the ninth, which gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead (only to see Tampa tie it in the bottom of the frame) and another two-run homer in the 11th, which proved to be game-winning. The two home runs increased Cruz's major league leading figure to 39, the seven RBI giving him 101 on the season, leaving him one behind league leader, Mike Trout, and one head of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera.

Including Sunday's performance, Cruz has five home runs and 13 RBI in his last eight games. Over that span, he's 12-for-31, for a .387 average.
Wainwright: 17-9

Streaky.

National League

Adam Wainwright threw his fourth complete game of the season, improving his record to 17-9 in a 9-1 win over fading Milwaukee.

The win put the Cardinals in a commanding position in the NL Central, with a 4 1/2 game lead over the Pirates, dropping the Brewers into third place, 1/2 game behind Pittsburgh. Pleased with the Cardinals' win, the Pirates socked four homers in their 10-4 victory of the Cubs, putting them in sole possession of the second wild card spot, 1/2 game to the good over both Atlanta and Milwaukee.

Wainwright allowed only a ninth-inning run, spoiling what could have been his third shoutout of the season, instead setting for the single run and complete game, dropping his ERA to 2.62, fourth-best amongst NL starters.

Striking out three and issuing just one walk, Wainwright threw 71 of 100 pitches for strikes and got first-pitch strikes on 22 of the 32 batters he faced. The Cardinals turned three double plays, one of which was started by Wainwright.

His 17 wins tied Wainwright with Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner for the NL and major league lead.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Albert Pujols Reaches Hits, Runs, Milestones, Buries Twins, 8-5; Francisco Liriano Leads Pirates in Wild Card Hunt

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 6, 2014

American League

Streaking toward the AL West title, including Saturday's 8-5 win at Minnesota, the LA Angels have gone 18-6 since August 12, and hold a six-game lead over second place Oakland in the division, along with the best record in the majors, at 86-55.

Albert Pujols
While LA's pitching has been top-shelf through the recent run, their hitters have certainly done their part, especially slugging Albert Pujols, who marked two milestones on Saturday in his sure-thing, future hall of fame career.

Pujols was 3-for-5 in the game, including a solo homer in the third inning (25) and a tie-breaking, two-run double in the ninth, which led to the Angels' victory. When he touched home plate after his third-inning belt to left field, Pujols recorded his 1500th run as a major league; and, with his double in the ninth, he reached the 2500-hit mark, fifth among active players (soon to be fourth, when Derek Jeter retires at the end of the season).

The Angels scored an additional run when Pujols was driven in by Howie Kendrick, who went 4-for-5 and drove in three runs. Pujols also scored in the eighth, on a Hendrick triple.

In addition to the huge runs and hits totals, Pujols, a veteran of 14 major league seasons - 11 with St. Louis, three with the Angels - has 517 home runs and 1585 RBI.

Francisco Liriano
The Angels will be seeking a sweep of their four-game series in Minnesota on Sunday, at 2:10 pm EDT.

National League

Hanging on at the fringes of the wild card race, the Pittsburgh Pirates got a much-needed boost from starter Francisco Liriano in Saturday's 5-0 whitewash of the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Liriano fanned nine, walked two and allowed just three hits in his six-inning stint, leaving the game with a 2-0 lead after completing six innings when he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh.

Pittsburgh added three more runs after Liriano's departure, recording their second straight win over the Cubs and leaving themselves just 1/2 game behind Atlanta and Milwaukee, who share the position for the second wild card in the National League. The Giants have a solid grip n the first wild card spot, with a four-game edge on both the Braves and Brewers.

The Pirates will be looking for their third straight win and a sweep when they meet the Cubs on Sunday. Game time is 2:20 pm EDT.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kendrys Morales Drives Mariners into 2nd Wild Card Spot; Marcell Ozuna's 4 RBI Buries Braves

Players of the Day for Friday, September 5, 2014

American League

Kendrys Morales
Winning their fourth in a row, the Seattle Mariners overtook Detroit, vaulting into the spot for the second wild card with 7-5 win at Texas.

Kendrys Morales smacked a pair of homers for the Mariners, a pair of two-run strokes - each time with third baseman Kyle Seager aboard - in the second and sixth innings.

Morales missed all of April and May, and has played just 76 games this season, only 37 of those with the Mariners, but he can provide an extra dose of power to the Seattle lineup. He has five homers and 21 RBI for the Mariners this season.

With seattle winning and the Tigers dropping an 8-2 decision to visiting San Francisco, Seattle has surged to a 1/2 game edge in the race for the second wild card. What's more, Seattle finds itself just two games behind the slumping Oakland A's - losers of three straight. The A's currently qualify as the #1 wild card but have won just twice in their last ten games.

Seattle will look to press its advantage when they play game three of their four-game set with Texas at 8:05 pm EDT Saturday night.

National League

Marcell Ozuna
With Milwaukee losing on Thursday while the Braves had the day off, Atlanta moved into a tie for the second wild card spot and had an opportunity to advance their post-season cause with the opening of a three-game series at Miami on Friday, but came up on the short end of an 11-3 score, falling a game back, as the Brewers snapped a nine-game losing streak and took down the Cardinals, 6-2.

Atlanta starter, Aaron Harang, was knocked around by the Marlins, allowing 10 hits and six earned runs over 3 2/3 innings, evening his record at 10-10.

Most of the damage was done by Miami center fielder, Marcell Ozuna, who was 4-for-5 with two singles and a pair of doubles, driving in four runs and scoring twice in the rout.

Overshadowed by teammate Giancarlo Stanton (which is no shame), Ozuna is having himself a splendid season in his first full year with the Marlins, batting .264 with 19 homers and 78 RBI. He's one of the reasons the Marlins are on the fringes of the wild card race, five games behind Milwaukee for the second spot.

The Braves and Marlins resume their NL East rivalry in game two of the series, at 7:10 pm EDT.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Yadier Molina Helps Cards Hand Brewers Ninth Straight Loss; Robinson Cano Leads Mariners Past Rangers, 10-2

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 4, 2013

American League

Cano: 4 RBI
Robinson Cano went 2-for-4 and drove in four runs as the Seattle Mariners opened a four game series in Texas with a 10-2 win over the Rangers.

Cano was right in the middle of a six-run Mariner uprising in the second inning, stroking a bases-loaded single up the middle, bringing home two runs. In the third, Cano drove in another pair of runs with a double, his 32nd of the season.

Having his usual solid season, Cano is tied for fourth in batting with Jose Abreu at .322. Cano has 12 homers and 75 RBI.

The victory kept Seattle 1/2 game behind Detroit for the second wild card, though the Mariners find themselves just three behind Oakland for the first wild card, which, until just a few weeks ago, was considered to be already sewn up.

Having just taken two of three from the A's in Oakland, the Mariners look forward to a three-game home series against the A's on September 12, 13 and 14. Of interest to the Mariners are also the seven remaining games they have against the Angels, who have a five-game lead in the division and are eight in front of Seattle. The Mariners begin an 11-game road trip with four games in Anaheim, but get the Angels in Seattle for three games to close out the regular season, a scenario which could benefit them should LA have clinched the division by then.

National League

Yadier Molina
There were only two games played in National League parks On Thursday, and only one of those was meaningful, but it was big, as the St. Louis Cardinals sent the Milwaukee Brewers to their ninth straight defeat, opening a crucial four-game series in Milwaukee with a 3-2 victory.

The Cardinals scored all of their runs in the first three innings, and used seven pitchers to keep Brewer bats at bay. Michael Wacha allowed a run in the first inning and Marco Gonzales gave up one in the sixth, but the St. Louis bullpen came up with the needed outs over the final three innings to seal the win. Trevor Rosenthal made it interesting by issuing two walks in the ninth, but did not give up a hit for his 42nd save of the year, tying him with Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel for the league lead.

Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday each had three hits and scored a run for the Cardinals. Yadier Molina drove in two runs with a single in the first inning.

The win put St. Louis up by four games in the NL Central, a division that was led by Milwaukee for almost he entirety of the season until last week, when the Brewers started a nine-game road trip with a win at San Diego, but followed up with eight straight losses - two to San Deigo, then three each to the Giants and Cubs.

Thursday's loss dropped the Brewers into a tie with Atlanta for the second wild card spot. Both teams trail San Francisco in the wild card standings by three games.