Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cardinals Clinch NL Central Behind Tyler Lyons and Jason Heyward; Marcus Stroman, Ryan Goins Help Blue Jays Clinch AL East

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 30, 2015

American League

Goins: 5-for-5
Stroman: 4-0 in Sept.
With a 15-2 hammering of the Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore, the Toronto Blue Jays cliched the AL East and assured that they will have home field advantage in a divisional playoff series beginning October 8.

Marcus Stroman delivered eight solid innings for the Jays, allowing one earned run on five hits, walking two and fanning eight. Streams is 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts after being recalled from AAA Buffalo in September.

Each of the Toronto starters had at least one hit. Ryan Goins went 5-for-5, scored three times and drove in a run. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista homered for the Jays, who battered seven Baltimore pitchers for 18 hits.

Toronto dropped the nightcap of the day-night double-header, 8-1, necessitated due to Tuesday night's rainout.

National League

Heyward: Grand Slam
Lyons pitches clincher
The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the NL Central with an 11-1 win at Pittsburgh and will proceed to the playoffs with the best record in baseball.

Tyler Lyons held the Pirates scoreless on one hit through six innings and survived through the seventh, when he allowed three hits, but did not surrender a run. Lyons, who spent much of the season in Memphis of the Pacific Coast League (AAA) where he was 9-5 with a 3.14 ERA, struck out five and took the win, improving to 3-1 on the season.

Lyons split time with the Cardinals between the bullpen and eight spot starts, working 57 innings during the regular season.

Jason Heyward rocked a third inning grand slam and finished the night 3-for-4 with two runs, fueling the rout.

The Cardinals dropped the opener of a day-night double bill with the Pirates, 8-2. The win assured Pittsburgh of at least a tie with the Cubs for home field in the wild card game.

St. Louis will enter the post-season as the only team with 100 or more wins. Their 100 win against 59 losses takes the division with three games left. The Pirates will almost certainly finish with the second-best record in the majors. At the end of the last day in September, Pittsburgh has 96 wins with three games left, the Cubs are 92-55, and the Blue Jays, 92-56.

After starting the season 3-3, the Cardinals went on a 17-3 tear their next 20 games, taking control of the NL Central division and never looking back.

Dodgers Clinch NL West Behind Clayton Kershaw 1-Hitter; Blake Swihart Homers Twice, Leads Red Sox Past Yanks

Editor's Note: Apologies to regular readers for the lateness of this post. A localized internet outage prevented a timely posting.

Kershaw: 1-Hitter
Swihart: 2HR, 5RBI
Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 29, 2015

American League

The Yankees lost their second straight in the second of a four-game series with visiting Boston, losing 10-4, as Blake Swihart belted a three-run homer in the first inning as the Red Sox took a 6-0 lead, and blasted a two-run shot in the eighth to put the game away.

Boston, eliminated from the playoffs, whipped the Yanks 5-1 on Monday night and hope to play spoiler against their most fierce rival.

The Yankees still lead the wild card hunt by a good measure over the Angels, Houston and Minnesota, but are desperate for a win, still hoping to catch the Blue Jays in the AL East. Toronto needs just one more win to take the division outright.

Boston and New York renew acquaintances in game three of the series Wednesday night at 7:05 pm EDT.

National League

Behind the one-hit pitching of Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles blanked San Francisco, 8-0, to capture the NL West and head into the post-season.

Kershaw (16-7) allowed the one hit in the third inning to Kevin Frandsen with one out. After getting opposing starter, Madison Bumgarner, on a pop out to second, he uncorked a wild pitch and then walked Angel Pagan to put runners on first and second, but got Kelby Tomlinson on a routine grounder to the mound, ending the inning.

The rest of the way, Kershaw was untouchable, fanning six straight through the fifth and sixth inning, and whiffing the side in the eighth, finishing with 13 strikeouts.

Kershaw struck out each of the Giant regulars at least once, except for Buster Posey, who went 0-for-3. The three-time Cy Young award winner will finish the season well ahead of the rest of MLB in strikeouts, with 294. Chris Sale of the White Sox leads the AL with 267. The closest National Leaguer is Max Scherzer of the Nationals, who has 259.

The Dodgers, with a record of 88-69, trail the Mets by one game in the league standings. The team that finishes with the better record will be the home team in the opening round of the playoffs, as St. Louis has already wrapped up the best record in the league and will get home field against the wild card in the divisional round.

A coast-to-coast series is now a certainty with the Dodgers representing the West and the Mets the East. The series will open on Friday, October 9 in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Marco Estrada Settles in for Blue Jays Win over Orioles; Chris Denorfia Homer Sends Cubs over Royals

Players of the Day for Monday, September 28, 2013

American League

Estrada: hurler hangs in
Denorfia: Game-winner
Amid news that star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would soon return to the lineup, the Toronto Blue Jays took another step towards capturing the AL East with a 4-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

After John Flaherty dinged Toronto starter, Marco Estrada, for a three-run belt in the second, the rookie hurler settled in and shut down the Orioles on one hit for the remaining six innings, setting down the last 12 batters in order until he was lifted with one out in the eighth. Brett Cecil took over for Estrada and worked into ninth. Cecil was awarded the win when the Blue Jays tied the game in the eighth and put up the winning run in the top of the ninth on Justin Smoak's ground out with runners on first and second.

Jose Osuna completed the comeback, getting the final two outs. The win, coupled with a 5-1 loss by the Yankees to the Red Sox, left the Jays with a magic number of two to clinch the division title.

Earlier in the day, Tulowitzki took batting practice and announced that all went well. The shortstop, acquired from Colorado prior to the July 31 trading deadline, has been out since September 12 with a cracked shoulder blade after colliding with center fielder, Kevin Pillar.

Manager John Gibbons was hopeful that Tulowitzki could be back in the starting lineup before the playoffs, possibly returning during the current series in Baltimore.

Toronto meets Baltimore in game two of the four-game series Tuesday night at 7:05 pm EDT.

National League

The Cubs and Royals played scoreless ball through 10 1/2 innings, until Chris Denorfia connected on a Miguel Almonte offering for a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 11th and end the contest with a 1-0 Cubs win.

Denorfia was pinch-hitting for reliever Fernando Rodney, who had worked a perfect 11th inning and took the win.

By winning the make-up game from a May rainout, the Cubs clinched a wild card spot, but, while the Cardinals were blanking the Pirates, 3-0, Chicago was eliminated from the NL Central division race.

Chicago trails Pittsburgh by 3 1/2 games in the wild card standings and appears to be set to be the road team in the wild card game slated for Wednesday, October 7.

With just six games remaining in the regular season, the Cubs have seen the last of Wrigley Field until perhaps returning in the post-season. They travel to Cincinnati to meet the Reds in a three-game series starting Tuesday, then head to Milwaukee for three to close out the season.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jake Arrieta Improves to 21-6 with 7-Inning 1-Hitter; Josh Donaldson Belts Walk-Off Homer as Jays Down Rays, 5-4

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 27, 2015

American League

Donaldson: 41st HR
Josh Donaldson finished the final home game for the Toronto Blue Jays with a flourish, belting a solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to give the Blue Jays a 5-4 win over Tampa Bay, completing the three-game sweep of the Rays while inching closer to the AL East crown.

Donalson's 41st home run is third in the league behind Seattle's Nelson Cruz and Baltimore's Chris Davis, each with 43, but Donalson leads the league in RBI with 122, and the majors in runs, at 121.

With the Yankees beating the White Sox, 6-1, Toronto remains four games to the good over the second-place Yankees. With seven games remaining in the regular season, Toronto's magic number is four.

The Blue Jays open a four-game series in Baltimore on Monday, then head to Tampa to close out the season with the Rays. New York starts a four-game series with Boston at Yankee Stadium Monday and finishes up in Baltimore with a three game set against the Orioles.

Toronto has already clinched a playoff spot. The Yankees have a 4 1/2 game lead on Houston in the wild card.

National League

That man was at it again.

Arrieta: 21-6
Jake Arrieta shut down the Pirates on one hit over seven innings, helping to avoid a sweep by Pittsburgh, putting the Cubs into the playoffs with a 4-0 win.

Not only did Arrieta record his 10th straight win, he also homered in the second inning, fanned nine and improved his record to a stunning, 21-6, easily the best in the majors. He's the only 20-game winner thus far. In the AL, only Houston's Dallas Keuchel has a shot to win 20. He currently is 19-8. In the National League, it appears only Arrieta will reach the 20-win plateau. the Giants' Madison Bumgarner, Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole, and LA's Zack Greinke each have 18, but likely have only one start remaining as the season draws quickly to a close this week.

In the strikeout department, Arrieta moved past Bumgarner into third, with 229 Ks. Max Scherzer is second at 249. Clayton kershaw leads the majors with 281.

Chicago's win assured the Cubs that they would be in the playoffs, most likely as the second wild card. They trail Pittsburgh by 4 1/2 games with only seven left on the schedule. Pittsburgh still has a shot at winning the NL Central. They are three games behind the Cardinals and open a three-game series with the Cards in Pittsburgh beginning Monday. Both the Cardinals and Pirates have six games left to play.

The Cubs will play a make-up game of a May rainout with the Royals at Wrigley Field on Monday. The final six games for the Cubs are all on the road: three at Cincinnati and three at Milwaukee.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mets Grab NL East as Lucas Duda Blasts Grand Slam; Jose Bautista Homers Twice as Jays Drop Rays

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 26, 2015

American League

Duda: Grand Slam
Bautista: 2HR, 4RBI
Jose Bautista belted a first-inning, three-run homer off Tampa Bay starter, Chris Archer, and added a solo shot in the eighth to up his home run total to 39 and lead the Blue Jays to a 10-8 win over the visiting Rays.

With the Yankees winning, 2-1, over the White Sox in New York, Toronto's lead in the AL East remained at four games, the magic number to clinch the division crown down to five for the Blue Jays.

Bautista, fifth in the league in home runs, tied Baltimore's Chris Davis for second in the RBI tally, at 110. Fellow Blue Jay, Josh Donaldson leads the league with 121, and teammate Edwin Encarnacion completes the trio of Toronto players with more than 100 RBI, at 105, tied for fourth with Kansas City's Kendrys Morales.

The Blue Jays, winners of three straight, will look to sweep the Rays on Sunday afternoon and take another step closer to the division title. Game time is 1:07 pm EDT at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

National League

Closing the deal on the NL East with a rousing, 10-2, victory over the Reds, the NY Mets head to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Lucas Duda, who homered twice on Friday and drove in six runs, belted a first inning grand slam to get the Mets started before the Reds even got to bat.

Curtis Grandson added a solo shot in the second and David Wright ripped a three-run blast in the ninth for good measure. Starter Matt Havey scattered nine hits, allowing the Reds two runs over 6 2/3 innings. Harvey struck out six, improving to 13-7. Getting the division clincher over and done means that Harvey - and the rest of the pitching staff - will be fully rested for the opening game of the divisional round, whichever team emerges as a playoff opponent.

The Mets have an 8 1/2 game lead over the second-place Nationals and just seven games to play.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Lucas Duda Homers Twice as Mets Approach NL East Crown; Carlos Carrasco One-Hits Royals, Fans 15

Players of the Day for Friday, September 25, 2015

American League

Duda: 2HR, 6RBI
Carracso: 1-hitter
Kansas City clinched the AL Central on Thursday, but on Friday they were nearly no-hit as Carlos Carrasco went the distance, tossing a one-hit shutout in a 6-0 Cleveland victory.

Carrasco walked two and fanned 15, improving to 14-10 on the year.

It was his third complete game and first shutout of 2015.

The Royals will try to get back on track when they host the Indians in game two of their three-game series at 7:10 pm EDT Saturday night.

National League

Lucas Duda crushed a pair of three-run home runs as the Mets inched closer to capturing the NL East pennant with a 12-5 win at Cincinnati.

Duda socked his 23rd homer of the season in the third inning and his 24th in the seventh, both coming with two men aboard.

With the win and the Nationals' 8-2 loss to Washington, the Mets' magic number is down to one.

New York could grab the title as early as Saturday, when the Mets look to win their third straight over the Reds. Game time for the third of the four-game series is 4:10 pm EDT.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mike Moustakas 3-for-3 with HR as Royals Clinch AL Central; Cardinals Streak at 5 as Stephen Piscotty Stars

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 24, 2015

American League

Kansas City became the first team to clinch a division title, wrapping up the AL Central with a 10-4 victory over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Moustakas: 3-3, HR, 3RBI
With their win and the second-place Twins losing to Cleveland, 6-3, Kansas City is 11 games up in the division with just 10 left to play.

Mike Moustakas, who reached base on all five of his plate appearances, broke a 1-1 tie in the second inning with his 21st home run of the season, a solo shot to right field. Moustakas walked in the third, doubled in the fifth, walked and scored in the seventh, and singled in a pair of runs in the eighth, scoring the Royals' final run on a triple by Alex Rios.

The powerful third baseman finished 3-for-3 with three runs and three RBI, raising his season total to 76 and his batting average to a robust .282.

Kansas City currently has the best record in the league at 89-63. Toronto is next, with a 87-65 mark. The team with the best record would have home field through the divisional and championship rounds and would also face the wild card in the first round of the playoffs.
Productive Rookie Piscotty

Winners of their last two, the Royals open a three-game series with Cleveland at Kauffman Stadium, in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday.

National League

St. Louis extended its late-season winning streak to five straight with a 7-3 win over visiting division rival Milwaukee Thursday night.

The Cardinals continue to remain four games up on the Pirates, winners of six straight with a 5-4 win over the Rockies. A team with the utmost in balance, St. Louis keeps finding new heroes every night. In their latest victory, Stephen Piscotty, a part-time rookie who has played in 58 games this season, took the spotlight by going 3-for-4 and driving in the final four runs for the Cardinals with his 6th home run and a pair of RBI singles.

After Jhonny Peralta tied the game at 3-all with a three-run homer in the fourth, Piscotty unknotted it with a solo shot into the left field seats, then proceeded to drive in a pair of runs in the fifth and one more in the seventh. Piscatory has, in his short time in the big leagues, distinguished himself with 37 RBI and a .313 batting average with 14 doubles and four triples. He was promoted from AAA Memphis earlier this season and is also an excellent fielder at a variety of positions. He played both first base and left field in Thursday's contest.

St. Louis needs a combination of six wins or six losses by Pittsburgh to clinch the division title. Both teams have nine games remaining in the regular season and will meet this coming Monday for a three-game series in Pittsburgh with will likely determine the division crown.

The Cardinals play game two of their four-game set with the Brewers Friday night at Busch Stadium. Game time is 8:15 pm EDT.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pirates Clinch Playoff Spot as Neil Walker Drives Home 6; Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre Lead Texas over A's

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 23, 2015

American League

Elvis Andrus
Adrian Beltre
With an assist from division foe, Los Angeles, the Texas Rangers expanded their lead to three games over the Houston Astros, downing the Oakland A's, 10-4, Wednesday night.

Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre led the charge for Texas, Beltre singling and scoring in the fourth inning to tie the game at one, before Elvis Andrus unloaded a three-run shot to put the A's down 4-1. Beltre delivered his 16th homer of the season the following inning, another three-run belt that put the game out of reach.

Texas has a magic number of eight to lock up the AL West. The Angels are 4 1/2 back and still looking to get into the playoffs, likely via the wild card. Houston is currently in line for the second wild card, trailing the Yankees (1st wild card) by four games. Minnesota is also in the mix. The Twins are a game behind Houston, 1/2 game ahead of the Angels.

With the third game of the series in Oakland slated for a 3:35 pm EDT start, the Rangers will be looking for the sweep before heading to Houston for a showdown, three-game series with the Astros. On Monday they return home to finish up: three games with the Tigers, followed by four against the Angels, October 1-4.

National League

Walker: HR, 6 RBI
Neil Walker went 4-for-5 and drove in six runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates hammered the Colorado Rockies, 13-7, the win assuring themselves of another trip to the post-season.

The Pirates are the second National League team to qualify for the playoffs. Pittsburgh is assured of at least a wild card spot, but still are eyeing the NL Central crown. They trail the Cardinals (the other NL team to have already qualified for the playoffs) by four games, with 10 left to play. St. Louis was a 10-2 winner over Cincinnati Wednesday night.

In the wild card, Pittsburgh picked up a game over the Cubs, now leading them by three. By most accounts, the Pirates and Cubs will be the wild card, St. Louis the Central division winner, though things could change as the season winds to a close.

The win was Pittsburgh's fifth straight. St. Louis has won four in a row.

Walker connected for his 15th homer of the season in the third inning, his three-run blast upping Pittsburgh's lead over the host Rockies to 5-0. Walker had put the Pirates on the board in the first with a two-run single. Later, he completed the scoring for Pittsburgh with an RBI single in the ninth as Pittsburgh piled on the runs.

The Pirates will be seeking a sweep of the four-game series at Colorado when they conclude this afternoon. Game time is set for 3:10 pm EDT.

On Friday, the Pirates open a three-game series in Chicago, then head home to host the Cardinals for three which will likely decide the division. Pittsburgh finishes up at home with three games versus the Reds on October 2, 3 and 4.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Greg Bird Lifts Yanks over Jays as Yogi Berra Passes Away; Cubs' Jake Arrieta Becomes 1st 20-Game Winner

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 22, 2015

American League

Arrieta: 20-6, 1.88 ERA
Bird: Game winning HR
With two on and nobody out in the top of the 10th inning, Greg Bird, who's been playing in place of Mark Teixeira after the all-star first baseman suffered a season-ending injury in August, socked a three-run home run that propelled the NY Yankees to a 6-4 victory over the first place Toronto Blue Jays.

Bird's second hit of the night in five at-bats was the blow that kept the Yanks from falling further behind the Jays in the race for the AL East division crown. New York trails Toronto by 2 1/2 games, with the rubber game of the three-game series in Toronto slated for a 7:00 pm EDT start, Wednesday night.

The Yankees jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but were tied by the Jays, who scored single runs in the third and fourth. New York seemed to have the game in hand after scoring a run n the eighth, but closer Andrew Miller gave up a solo homer to Toronto catcher, Dioner Navarro, sending the contest to extra innings and setting up Bird's dramatic moment.

Wednesday night's game will be the last time the Ynaks play the Blue Jays this season unless they meet in the playoffs. Both teams are virtual locks for the post-season. What still needs to be settled is which will be the AL East champ and which will be a wild card.

NOTE: A sad note, on a night of Yankee exuberance, was learned after the game that Yogi Berra, the three time MVP and hero of many Yankee triumphs - including being on the winning side in 10 World Series - had passed away. The Yankee legend, famous for odd and amusing one-liners, was 90.

National League

Chicago's Jake Arrieta became the first 20-game winner in the majors with a three-hit shutout over Milwaukee, the Cubs taking their second straight from the Brew Crew, 4-0.

Arrieta (20-6) gave up a game-opening double to Milwaukee leadoff hitter, Scotter Gennett, but settled in and set down the next 14 batters in order until Hernan Perez singled in the fifth inning. From there, he allowed just one more hit - a single by Khris Davis - and a walk to Martin Maldonado, twirling his fourth complete game and third shutout of the season.

A strong candidate for the Cy Young Award, not only does Arrieta lead the majors in wins, he's also second in the majors in ERA, at 1.88, trailing LA's Zack Greinke's 1.65, and third in the NL in strikeouts (6th in the majors), with 220, including the 11 he fanned in Tuesday's victory.

The Cubs didn't gain any ground, as both the Cardinal and Pirates both won, but, with 11 games left to play in the regular season, Chicago is close to clinching a playoff spot. They trail the Cardinals by six in the NL Central and the Pirates by two in both the division ad the wild card hunt.

Chicago will look for a sweep of the Brewers when the teams take the field for game three, Wednesday night at Wrigley Field (8:05 pn EDT).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Jeff Samardzija 1-Hits Tigers as White Sox Sweep Twin Bill; Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer Keep Pirates in NL Hunt

Players of the Day for Monday, September 21, 2015
Samardzija: Near-perfect

American League

A leadoff single by Victor Martinez in the fifth inning was the only offense the Tigers could muster off Jeff Samardzija (10-13) as the Chicago White Sox took the measure of Detroit in a 2-0 win.

Samardzija's one-hitter - his second complete game shutout of the season - came in the opener of a split double-header, Chicago prevailing in the nightcap, 3-2, sending the Tigers deeper into the basement of the AL Central, three games behind the Sox and 18 1/2 back of the division-leading Royals.

Around the plate all game long, Samaardzija needed just 88 pitches for the win, throwing 60 for strikes, walking none and fanning six.

Jordy Mercer
Starling Marte
The Tigers will try to get a win over their Central division foes in the third of the four-game series, Tuesday at 7:08 pm EDT.

National League

With a 9-3 win at Colorado, the Pittsburgh Pirates held their position, four game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and two games ahead of Chicago in the wild card race.

Starling Marte and Jordy Mercer each went 4-for-5 with two runs and two RBI, Mercer doubling twice with two singles. Marte had a solo homer, double and two singles.

Pittsburgh's win was their third straight and the opener in a four-game series with the Rockies. Both the Cardinals and Cubs were winners Monday, keeping the order in the NL the same as the previous day, only with one less game remaining in the regular season.

St. Louis has already been assured a playoff spot. The Pirates and Cubs will likely secure a place in the post-season this week, though the exact order of finish will determine participants and home field for the wild card playoff game and division winner.

Pittsburgh hopes to continue their win streak when they meet the Rockies on Tuesday for the second of their four-game set. Game time is 8:40 pm EDT.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Kendrys Morales Sets Royals Record in Romp over Tigers; Yunel Escobar Helps Nationals Keep Pressure on Mets

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 20, 2015

American League

Break open the Kansas City record book, because Kendrys Morales socked three home runs and tripled, sliding George Brett to the side with a team record 15 total bases as the Royals hammered the Tigers, 10-3.

Escobar: 4-for-4, 4 RBI
Morales: 3B, 3HR, 15 TB
KC amassed 19 hits in the romp, with Morales going 4-for-4, with five runs and three RBI. All of his homers - one each in the third, fourth and eighth innings - were of the solo variety. His triple came in the sixth inning, Morales scoring on a wild pitch from Tiger reliever, Jose Valdez.

Morales is a big reason the Royals are looking good heading down the homestretch. The big slugger, acquired from Seattle in the off-season, is batting .293 with 41 doubles, 21 home runs, and, with 105 RBI, is approaching his career-best in that category. He drove in 108 in 2009, then with the LA Angels.

The victory put the Royals within an arm's length of clinching the AL Central pennant outright, their magic number down to just three. They have an 11-game lead over second-place Minnesota with just 13 games left on the regular season schedule.

After a day off on Monday, KC opens a six-game homestead Tuesday, beginning with a three-game series against Seattle, follow by three with the Indians, so it's almost certain that the hometown fans will be on hand to engage in the clinching celebration.

National League

With their 13-3 triumph over Miami, taking the series three games to one, the Washington Nationals tied the Giants for third place n the wild card standings, though that's an unlikely scenario for proceeding to the playoffs since the Cubs have the second spot virtually locked up with a nine-game lead and just 13 games to play.

What the Nationals are making more interesting is the race in the NL East, where, thanks to the Yankees taking two of three from the Mets over the weekend, they've closed to within six games of the division leaders.

Yunel Escobar provided more than enough offense all by himself on Sunday, going 4-for-4, with three singles and a double, three runs and four RBI.

Stephen Strasberg (10-7) took the win with seven innings of work, allowing two runs (one earned) and striking out 10.

If the Nationals are going to make a race of it, they'll have to pick up three games before their regular season-ending three-game series at Citi Field with the Mets. They should have ample opportunity, unless the Mets go on an extended winning streak, as the Nats face Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, plus a make-up date with the Red, before heading to New York on October 2nd.

The Nationals open a three-game home series with the Orioles on Monday. Game time is 7:05 pm EDT.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Carlos Beltran Powers Yankees to 5-0 Win over Mets; Kris Bryant Leads Cubs Past Cardinals, 5-4

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 19, 2015

American League

Bryant: 2B, HR, 2 RBI
Beltran: 3-run HR
Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann each homered and manager Joe Girardi called upon six relievers as the Yankees evened their series with the Mets at a game apiece with a 5-0 shutout.

Betran set the tone early with a three-run shot off Mets' starter, Noah Syndergaard, before many of the 43,000-plus fans had even settled into their seat. Beltran's blast came with no outs in the top of the first inning, and the Mets could not find a way to score off Yankee starter Michael Pineda (5 1/3 innings, 4 hits, 4 Ks) and a parade of bullpen help.

Beltran was also on base when McCann homered off Syndergaard in the sixth, sending him to the showers after six innings, seven hits and five earned runs.

With the win, the Yankees tightened their grip on the first wild card spot and picked up a game on ALeast leading-Toronto, defeated by the Red Sox, 7-6. The Blue Jays have a 3 1/2 game advantage on the Yankees in the division, while New York holds a four-game lead over Houston and a re 5 1/2 better than the Angels, who have moved back into contention with three straight wins, including Saturday's 4-3 victory at Minnesota.

The Twins, losers of five straight, have faded to 6 1/2 back.

The Mets-Yankees subway series concludes with the rubber game Sunday night, 8:00 pm EDT at Cit Field.

National League

Kris Bryant solidified his standing as the front-runner for NL rookie of the year by going 2-for-4 with a double, homer, two runs and two RBI in the Cubs' 5-4 win over the Cardinals, Saturday in Chicago.

Bryant doubled home the Cubs first run of the game in the first, then went back-to-back with Jorge Soler, socking his 25th homer of the season in the fifth inning.

In addition to the impressive home run total, Bryant is batting a solid .275 and has 95 RBI, tied for fourth in the league with Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen and the Nationals' Bryce Harper.

The win kept the Cubs a game behind Pittsburgh in the wild card race as the Pirates defeated the Dodgers, 3-2, later in the evening.

However, Chicago has made the NL Central race interesting as the regular season enters its final two weeks. The Cardinals' lead is down to four games over the Pirates, with the Cubs five back. Each of the three contending teams has 14 games left on the schedule.

Chicago will be looking to sweep the Cardinals on Sunday and also seek their fifth straight win. Game time at wrigley Field is 2:20 pm EDT.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Starlin Castro Deals Cards Loss with 6 RBI in Cubs Win; Carlos Santana's Slam Keeps Cleveland Playoff Hopes Alive

Players of the Day for Friday, September 18, 2015

American League

Castro: 2 HR, 6 RBI
Santana: Grand Slam
With the chance of reaching the playoffs still alive and well, the Cleveland Indians pounded White Sox starter, Chris Sale, with a six-run third inning, all of the runs unearned, capped by a grand slam by Carlos Santana.

Sale eventually worked seven innings and took the loss (12-10), as the Tribe cruised to a 12-1 win in the opener of a three-game series in Cleveland.

The win left the Indians three games behind Houston for the second wild card spot, and just two games behind the twins, the three teams vying for the final post-season berth in the AL.

The Yankees, despite a 5-1 loss to the Mets in the opener of their three-game subway series at Citi Field, have the first wild card in sight, leading Houston by four games.

Cleveland returned to .500 with the victory, at 73-73, and will face the White Sox at Progressive Field in game two, Saturday at 7:10 pm EDT.

National League

Beware the Cubs.

After taking three of four in Pittsburgh, winning the final three games of their four-game series, the Chicago Cubs returned home to welcome in their next victim, the St. Louis Cardinals, greeting the current NL Central leaders with an 8-3 stomping, courtesy of six RBI from second baseman, Starlin Castro.

Helping the Cubs to a 3-0 lead with an RBI single in the first, Castro later broke a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning with a two-run homer, followed the next inning with a three-run blast that put the game away, the Cubs winning their fourth straight, in the process, closing the gap on the Pirates in the wild card race to a mere one game as Pittsburgh lost to Zack Greinke and the Dodgers, 6-2.

The Cubs are just six games behind the Cardinals, the Pirates, five out, though time is of the essence, with just 15 games remaining on the regular season schedule.

The Cardinals used eight pitchers in the game, the Cubs, seven, even though only 15 hits were produced by both teams, the Cardinals getting only five base hits.

Game two of the three-game series will start Saturday at 1:05 pm EDT, the Cubs hoping that later in the day the Dodgers will knock down the Pirates once again, and, with a win, Chicago will be tied for second place in the division and for the wild card.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Marco Estrada Tosses Eight Scoreless as Blue Jays Down Braves; Anthony Rizzo Homers, Cubs Take Third Straight in Pittsburgh

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 17, 2015

American League

Estrada: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER
With the Yankees idle, the Toronto Blue Jays took the opportunity to increase their lead in the AL East by 1/2 game, thanks largely to eight scoreless innings from starter, Marco Estrada, who shut down the Braves on three hits for a 5-0 Toronto victory.

Estrada allowed a pair of walks, struck out four, and the Blue Jay infield turned double plays in the third and fourth innings to end mild scoring threats. No Atlanta runner reached second base safely as Estrada allowed only singles and Roberto Osuna tossed a perfect ninth inning to complete the whiteout.

As good as the Jays' acquisition of David Price has worked out, Estrada has been a pretty solid #2 in Toronto's run to first place in the division, going 6-2, starting with a July 30 win over Kansas City.

The win for Estrada was his 13th against eight losses, his ERA gradually declining over the past two months, now down to 3.14 on the year.

Toronto's win has them 3 1/2 games in front of the Yankees with 16 games left on the schedule, all against AL East opposition, but just three against the Yankees, the lone threat in the division race. The Red Sox open a three game series in Toronto on Friday, then the Yankees come in for three games in the final meeting of the year for the two playoff-bound clubs.

The Blue Jays are 10-5 in September.

National League

Rizzo: 30th HR
Thanks to the Cubs taking three straight from the Pirates (and three of four in their just-finished series), St. Louis now has a more comfortable five-game lead in the NL Central.

The Cubs' 9-6 win at Pittsburgh left Chicago just two games behind the Pirates in the wild card scenario, with just 16 games remaining in the regular season.

Both the Pirates and Cubs are virtual locks for the post-season; Chicago has an eight game edge over the Giants for the second wild card slot.

Turning the game around for Chicago in the fifth inning was Anthony Rizzo, who belted his 30th home run - a two-run shot - to ignite a six-run uprising and turn what was a 4-3 Pittsburgh lead into a 9-4 Chicago advantage.

Rizzo's two RBI gave him 92 on the year, one behind teammate - and likely Rookie of the Year - Kris Bryant, who was 3-for-4 in the game and scored a run but had no RBI. Bryant is tied for fourth in the league's RBI stats with Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen. Rizzo is currently 6th.

With the Cubs closing fast on the Pirates, the schedule gets very interesting right away. Chicago opens a three-game series with the Cardinals in Chicago starting Friday, followed by a three-game visit from the Brewers. Next Friday, the Cubs host the Pirates at Wrigley Field in their final meeting of the regular season.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will open a three-game series in LA with the Dodgers, followed by four in Colorado before heading to Chicago. After that, Pittsburgh hosts the Cardinals for three games before ending the season with the visiting Reds (three games).

The schedule favors the Cardinals winning the division. Besides the two road series at Chicago and Pittsburgh, the Cards play the other ten games against the Reds (3), Milwaukee (4) and Atlanta (3).

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Alex Wood Shackles Rockies as Dodgers Eye NL West Crown; Prince Fielder, Rangers Bomb Houston Again

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 16, 2013

American League

Fielder: On fire!
Timing is important in all aspects of life, but the Texas Rangers may want to bottle whatever it is that has gotten the team - and especially Prince Fielder - red-hot at the right time of the season.

The Rangers took their third straight from Houston with a rollicking, 14-3, victory, extending their lead in the AL West to 1 1/2 over the former first place Astros.

Finding perfect timing at the plate was Prince Fielder, who homered twice and drove in five runs for the Rangers. Fielder got things started right away, singling home the Rangers' first run in the bottom of the first, then scoring on Mike Napoli's three-run homer as the Rangers put up a six-spot on Houston starter, Dallas Keuchel.

The rout was on.

Fielder belted a solo shot in the third inning and unloaded a three-run homer in the sixth, making the score at the end of the frame, 12-1.

With his 3-for-5 effort in Wednesday's rout, Fielder has absolutely shot the Astros down from the sky. In the three games - all Ranger wins - he's 8-for-13 (.615), with three homers, eight RBI and eight runs. Houston pitchers would have been better off just walking him whenever he made it to the plate, but it's too late for that.

The series concludes with the Rangers looking for the four-game sweep Thursday at 8:05 pm EDT.

National League

Wood: Another LA ace?
Heading toward the playoffs, if there was anything the Dodgers didn't need to add to their roster it was another dominant starting pitcher. They already have Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, who've been treating opposing hitters like trifling playthings, so along comes Alex Wood, shutting out the Rockies for eight innings on one hit Wednesday night in a 2-0 Dodger win.

Just what the Cardinals, Pirates, Mets and Cubs wanted to see, another shutout (almost) by another Dodger hurler.

Wood (11-10) allowed a two-out, second-inning single to Kyle Parker, and then proceeded to set down the next 19 Colorado batters in order. No walks, one hit, five strikeouts, no runs, game over. Greinke and Kershaw may actually have been jealous.

The remaining playoff contenders should be paying close attention, because they're probably going to have to match up with the Dodger pitching staff at some point, and that's not going to look very promising.

Wood was acquired from Atlanta prior to the July 31 trade deadline. He is 4-4 for the Dodgers as a starter but has recently shown signs of coming around. On September 5th, he shut out San Diego for seven innings on three hits. He was shelled in Arizona his next start, but Wednesday's outing suggests that he's put that game behind him.

Taking two of three from the Rockies, the Dodgers maintain their 7 1/2 game lead over the Giants in the West. With 17 games to play, their magic number to clinch the division is 10.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jason Hayward Gives Cardinals Win with 10th Inning Homer; Adrian Beltre Leads Rangers to First in AL West

Players of the Day for Tuesday, September 15, 2015

American League

Beltre: 4-for-5, 2 RBI
Texas took over first place in the AL west with a spirited, come-form behind, 6-5, win over the Houston Astros on Mitch Moreland's sac fly in the bottom of the ninth, but, once again, it was the play of third baseman Adrian Beltre that put the Rangers in position to win.

Beltre went 4-for-5 with three singles and a double, scored a run and drove in two, including the game-tying run in the fourth inning, which knotted the score at 5-all.

Starters Derek Holland for Texas and Collin McHugh were both roughed up early, but the relief staffs of both teams kept the score tied until Moreland drove in Drew Stubbs (who was running for Prince Fielder) from third with a fly ball to center with no outs. Fielder led off the inning with a single, and Beltre singled pinch-runner Stubbs to third before Moreland delivered.

The Rangers have taken two straight over the Astros and forged a 1/2 game lead in the division. Houston is now in position for the 2nd wild card, 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees, but just 1 1/2 in front of the Twins and 3 1/2 better than the Angels.

Game three of the four-game series resumes Wednesday night at 8:05 pm EDT.

Heyward: 3-4, 2 2B, HR, SB
National League

For teams vying for playoff spots - be they wild cards or division titles - every game is big this time of year, so St. Louis fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when Jason Hayward delivered a 10th-inning, two-run homer to boost the Cardinals past Milwaukee, 3-1.

It was a timely win, considering that the Pirates have been lately breathing down the backs of the Cardinals, but Pittsburgh lost to Chicago, 2-1, evening their four-game series at a game apiece. Had the Cardinals lost and the Pirates won, the lead in the NL Central would have dropped to just one game, a little too close for comfort, with 18 games remaining in the regular season.

As it turns out, the Cardinals still lead by three over Pittsburgh, and probably don't have to worry about the Cubs, who are likely to be the second wild card, as they are four games behind the Pirates, but 7 1/2 up on the Giants.

Heyward, who's been as steady in right field as the Cardinals could have expected, was 3-for-4.

The Brewers couldn't keep Hayward off the bases, as he doubled in the first inning, walked and stole second in the fourth but was stranded at third, doubled again in the sixth and scored the tying run on Jhonny Peralta's single.

In the eighth, Heyward reached on a fielder's choice and went first-to-third on another Peralta single, but again did not score.

With his fifth plate appearance in the 10th, Heyward belted his 12th home run of the season. Closer Trevor Rosenthal allowed a hit in the bottom of the 10th, but fanned two for his 44th save, second in the majors behind Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon.

Heyward's importance to the Cardinals cannot be understated. Generally batting in the three-hole, he's hitting a solid .296 with 12 homers, 32 doubles, 55 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. He's been caught stealing just three times this season.

The Cardinals play game two of their three-game series at Milwaukee Wednesday, at 8:10 pm EDT.

NL Note: Stephen Strasberg took a no-hitter into the sixth, but allowed a lead-off single, finishing with eight innings of shutout ball, walking one and striking out 14. The Nationals won, 4-0.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Prince Fielder Sends Rangers over Astros; Clayton Kershaw Wins Ninth Straight for Dodgers

Players of the Day for Monday, September 14, 2015

American League
Fielder: Heroic Homer

Prince Fielder helped the Rangers take game one of their four-game series with the first-place Astros Monday night by scoring three runs and belting a two-run homer in the eighth inning that broke a 3-3 tie and sent the Rangers on to the 5-3 triumph.

Fielder's homer was his 19th of the season and the win put the Rangers a mere 1/2 game behind the Astros. Fielder was 2-for-4, with a single and the decisive blast. He's batting .309 (7th in the AL) with 77 RBI.

Starters Cole Hamels for the Rangers and the Astros' Scott Kasmir each went seven innings and allowed three runs (one of Kasmir's was unearned), but neither received a decision. Relievers Keone Kela took the win and Houston's Will Harris was saddled with the loss.

Game two of the crucial four-game series is Tuesday at 8:00 pm EDT.

National League

It's pretty much over in the NL West, the few questions remaining are by how much the Dodgers are going to take the division and whether they will beat the Mets and Cardinals for the league's best record, and thus, home field advantage at some point in the playoffs.

Kershaw: Absurd Stats
LA's 4-1 win in the opener of a three-game series (and 10 game homestead) featured another stellar performance by another Dodger ace (they have two), Clayton Kershaw, who snuffed the Rockies on three hits, allowing just one earned run over seven innings.

The Rockies scored their only run on a walk a hit and a groundout in the opening frame, but after that, Kershaw was nearly unhittable, striking out the side in the second and allowing just two hits and a walk over the next six innings.

Luis Avilan worked the eighth for the Dodgers and Chris Hatcher picked up the save - his third - holding the Rockies scoreless in the ninth.

The win was the Dodgers' third straight, keeping them 7 1/2 games in front of San Francisco, with 19 remaining. Their magic number to clinch the division is down to 12.

Kershaw (14-6) has won nine straight, with four no-decisions during the span that stretches back to July 3rd. His last loss was June 27th, and in the four no-decision games, he's allowed one earned run in two and no earned runs in the other two. He's allowed just four earned runs in his last 14 starts (108 innings) for an almost impossible ERA of 0.33 over that span.

On the year, he has three complete games, two shutouts and 264 strikeouts, a number that leads the majors. Washington's Max Scherzer is second in the NL with 231.

The Rockies will try to even the series Tuesday night. 7:10 pm PDT is the scheduled start time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Adrian Beltre Belts Two HR in Texas Victory; Zach Greinke Tosses Eight Scoreless as Dodgers Win

Players of the Day for Sunday, September 14, 2015

American League

Beltre: 2 HR, 5 RBI
Toronto helped itself to a larger lead in the AL East (now up by 3 1/2), taking three of four from the Yankees in New York over the weekend, but the Yanks rallied to avoid the sweep on Sunday with a 5-0 victory, but, those three prior losses have tightened up the wild card race considerably.

Texas downed Oakland, 12-4, staying 1 1/2 back of the Astros in the West, but now find themselves just four games behind the Yankees in the wild card, and one game ahead of Minnesota for the second wild card slot.

Adrian Beltre belted a pair of home runs in the win - a two-run and a three-run shot - tallying five RBI on the day and giving him 55 on the year. Beltre's sub-par stats may be a sign of him slowing down. He turned 36 in April of this year. His numbers suggest 2015 will be among the worst of his career, though he's been providing big at-bats for the Rangers recently.

Texas took the series against Oakland, two games to one, and open a pivotal, four-game series at home against the Astros starting Monday in Arlington. The series may go a long way toward determining not just the AL West winner, but also the wild card participants.

National League

Greinke: 17-3, 1.61 ERA
Continuing their run to the NL West championship, the LA Dodgers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-3, though the final score is hardly indicative of the kind of game pitched by Dodger hurler, Zach Greinke.

Earning his third win in September, Grienke tossed eight innings of shutout ball on three hits, walking two and striking out eight. He needed just 93 pitches (59 thrown for strikes) before turning the ball over the Kenley Jansen for the ninth with a 4-0 lead. Jansen, in a non-save scenario, nearly mucked it up, walking Paul Goldschmidt and allowing a single by David Peralta, before surrendering a two-out home run to Jerrod Saltalamacchia, giving the D'Backs hope. Jansen did finally get the last out, and the win, leaving the Dodgers right where they were when the day started, 7 1/2 games better than the Giants in the division, albeit, with one less game to play.

With 20 games remaining in the regular season, LA is virtually assured of the division crown, and, with the way Greinke has been throwing, only he and Chicago's Jake Arrieta appear as solid candidates for the NL Cy Young award. Grinch leads the majors with a 1.61 ERA.

Greinke has won 12 of his last 14 starts, with one loss and one no-decision, boosting his record for the season to 17-3. Depending on when the Dodgers clinch the pennant and possible playoff scenarios, Greinke could squeeze in four starts, but most likely will get three, and a chance at winning 20 games.

The Dodgers took the series in Arizona, two games to one, and head home to begin a ten-game homestead, beginning with three against the Rockies, starting Monday.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Boston's David Ortiz Hits 500th Homer; Mike Moustakas Drives in 9 for Royals; Giants' Madison Bumgarner 1-Hits Padres

Players of the Day for Saturday, September 12, 2015

American League

Ortiz: 500 HR
There were some big games by some big names in the American League on Saturday, but none more deserving of attention than that of David Ortiz, who belted a pair of home runs in Boston's 10-4 win at Tampa Bay, giving him an even 500 for his career in the majors.

Moustakas: GS, 9 RBI
Big Papi, as Ortiz is well known, cranked a three-run blast in the first inning and followed up with a solo shot in the fifth, both off Tampa starter Matt Moore, who was shelled by the Sox for eight runs (six earned) on nine hits over five innings.

Ortiz also singled going 3-for-4 with four RBI on the night. The only downside to his historic feat (he's the 27th player to reach the 500-homer milestone) is that he didn't do it at Fenway Park. There surely will be a hero's welcome for Ortiz when the team returns to Beantown, though that won't be until next Monday (Sept. 21) when the Red Sox open a four-game series with the Rays.

Elsewhere, the Royals continued their slugfest series with the Orioles at tiny Camden Yards with a 14-6 victory after being out-gunned, 14-8, in Friday night's opener.

While the Royals managed to bang out another win, the bulk of the load was carried home by Mike Moustakas. The burly third baseman didn't really get going until the sixth inning, when he singled in a pair of runs, but then smacked a grand slam in the seventh inning and added a three-run belt in the ninth, giving hime nine RBI for the game.

Moustakas has 18 homers on the year, with 71 RBI and a .284 batting average. He turned 27 on Friday.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak and losses in six out of the Royals' last seven games, but they are still 11 games better than the Twins in the AL Central with just 21 games to play, putting their magic number to clinch the division at 10.
Bumgarner: 1-Hitter

The Royals evened the series, with game three set for Sunday night at 8:00 pm EDT.

National League

With almost no chance of reaching the playoffs, it hasn't been the greatest of seasons for the reigning world champion San Francisco Giants.

For starter Madison Bumgarner, however, it's been a full tilt joy ride.

Bumgarner tossed a near-perfect game against the San Diego Padres, allowing just one hit, resulting in an 8-0 win, the second straight in the series in San Francisco.

The Padres didn't get a player to first base until the eighth inning, Bumgarner tossing a perfect game until Melvin Upton Jr. slapped a single to center in his pinch-hitting role for reliever Frank Garces. Bumgarner took the break-up of his perfecto unfazed, getting the final four outs in order for a still-stellar one-hit shutout.

Throwing 75 of 111 pitches for strikes, Bumgarner fanned nine and didn't walk any batters, upping his strikeout total to 212 (third in the league), and improving his record to 18-7, chasing Chicago's Jake Arrieta, who has 19 victories on the year.

Arrieta and Bumgarner are the only pitchers in the league with 17 or more wins, leaving them as the only ones with a chance to reach 20 wins this season. In the AL, Seattle's Felix Hernandez and Houston's Dallas Keutchel each have 17 wins.

The Giants seek the sweep when they conclude their series with the Padres, Sunday at 1:05 pm PDT.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jake Arrieta Wins 19th as Cubs Take Double-Header in Philly; Texas Downs A's, 2-0, on Colby Lewis Two-Hitter

Players of the Day for Friday, September 11, 2015

American League

Lewis: 2-hit shutout
Arrieta: 19-6
Perfect through seven innings, Colby Lewis fired a two-hit shutout over the Oakland A's as Texas took the first of a three-game series at Globe Life Park in Arlington, 4-0.

Improving to 15-8 on the year, Lewis needed just 97 pitches to set down the Athletics, pitching to just two over the minimum.

Danny Valencia's double to open the eighth and a leadoff single by Josh Phegley in the ninth were the only blemishes on Lewis' pitching line, which included four strikeouts and no walks.

It was the second complete game and first shutout for Lewis this season. Since 2010, Lewis has nine complete games and three shutouts.

The Rangers, thanks to Houston's 3-2 loss to the Angels, are just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West. They also picked up a game on the Yankees in the wild card race, as Toronto handed the Bombers an 11-5 defeat. Texas trails the Yankees by 3 1/.2 games and is currently one game ahead of the Twins for the second wild card spot.

The Rangers continue their series with the A's Saturday at 8:05 pm EDT.

AL NOTE: Baltimore's Nolan Reimold and Steve Clevenger became the first teammates this season to club grand slam home runs in the same inning, as the Orioles came from behind with a 10-run eighth inning to defeat the Royals, 14-8. The O's are the first team to hit a pair of slams in the same inning since the Mets did it in 2006. It's the seventh time it's happened in the majors since 1900.

National League

After rain postponed the opening of Chicago's series in Philadelphia on Thursday, the Cubs took both ends of a double-dip on Friday, winning the opener, 5-1, behind the steady arm of Jake Arrieta, and taking the nighcap, 7-3.

Arrieta threw eight innings for his 19th win, the most in the majors, allowing six hits and the lone earned run. He walked two and fanned seven as the Cubs picked up 1/2 game on the Pirates in the wild card race, now trailing by two, but all-but-assured of getting one of the two spots available. The Cubs are 9 1/2 games ahead of the Giants for the second wild card.

The win was the eighth straight for Arrieta, who has won each of his starts since August 4 and will be seeking his 20th win the middle of next week, likely against the Pirates. Chicago opens a four-game series in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Game three of Chicago's series at Philadelphia is slated for a 7:05 pm EDT start.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Seattle's Felix Hernandez Shuts out Rangers; Todd Frazier Flourishes as Reds Stomp Cardinals, 11-0

Players of the Day for Thursday, September 10, 2015

American League

Hernandez: 17-8
After taking the first two of their four-game series in Seattle, something happened to the Texas Rangers that hasn't occurred all season - they were shut out for the second game in a row.

Wednesday's 6-0 whitewash was followed up by a mound visit by the "King," Felix Hernandez, who gave the Rangers a royal razzing, shutting them down on three hits over eight innings for his 17th win against eight losses, tying him for the most wins in the league with Houston's Dallas Keuchel (17-6). The Mariners took the series-ender, 5-0. Nelson Cruz's two-run homer - his 40th - was all the run support Hernandez needed. Tom Wilhelmsan completed the shutout, working the ninth.

Hernandez, who struck out eight and issued four walks, is approaching a couple of milestones. With four or five starts left in the regular season, Hernandez could reach 20 wins, something - despite his award-winning career marks - he's never done. The closest he got was in 2009, when he posted a record of 19-5.

A six-time all-star, Hernandez upped his strikeout total to 175 on Thursday, putting him at 8th in the league. If he reaches 200 Ks this season, it will be the seventh straight season he's fanned 200 or more.

As far as the Rangers are concerned, they've seen enough of Mr. Hernandez for this year. In four starts against the Rangers, he's won each time, and Texas will likely see him a fifth time, when Texas hosts the Mariners in a three-game series next weekend.

That series is the tail end of a teen-game homestead for the Rangers, who take on the A's for three games beginning Friday, then welcome in the Astros in a make-or-break four-game series. The Astros lead Texas by 2 1/2 games in the AL West.
Frazier: 32 HRs

National League

Holding the best record in baseball from mid-April forward, and, with a 4 1/2 game lead (22 games remaining) over the Pirates in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals appear a lock for the playoffs.

However, as well as the Cardinals have played, the road to the post-season has had its share of bumps and pitfalls.

Thursday night's opener of a four-game series in Cincinnati looked more like a sinkhole as the Reds battered five Cardinal pitchers for an 11-0 win.

Cincinnati knocked out 13 hits, including three by Todd Frazier, who singled, smacked his 40th double, and 32nd homer of the season, driving in three runs and scoring three times.

Frazier is fourth in home runs in the NL and tied for ninth with 83 RBI. The Reds have not been as prosperous as their hard-hitting third baseman, dead last in the NL Central, 29 1/2 games behind the Cardinals.

Some of the angst may have been taken off in the one-sided series opener, but the Cardinals will try to return the favor in game two on Friday. Game time is 7:10 pm EDT.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Seattle Trio Combines to Down Texas, 6-0; Yoenis Cespedes Brings Mets Back Again for Sweep of Nationals

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 9, 2015

American League
Mark Trumbo

Vidal Nuno
Putting on hold the Rangers' run to the top of the AL West, Seattle blanked Texas, 6-0, behind seven innings of one-hit ball from starter, Vidal Nuno, and 4-for-4 plate efforts from Kyle Seager and Mark Trumbo.

Nuno, a reliever and spot starter for the Mariners this season after being acquired from Arizona in early June, gave up a two-out single to Prince Fielder in the first inning, but completed the next six without giving up another hit. A powerful lefty, Nuno fanned 10, walked two and hit a batter.

Meanwhile, Seager and Trumbo both delivered two-run homers, Trumbo's in the third and Seager's coming in the fifth inning. All six other hits by the pair were singles.

Kyle Seager
Seattle earned its first win in the four-game series, which concludes Thursday at 12:40 pm PDT in Seattle. The Rangers had a two-game winning streak snapped and, with Houston topping Oakland, 11-5, the Rangers fell two games behind the AL West leaders though they remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the Twins for the second wild card.

National League

Yoenis Cespedes
Yoenis Cespedes and the NY Mets did it to the Nationals again Wednesday night, coming from behind to win, 5-3, and take the series, three games to none.

After Kelly Johnson's solo homer tied the game at two in the top of the eighth, Stephen Strasberg fanned Kurt Neiwenhaus for his 13th strikeout and then allowed a one out single to Curtis Granderson. Relieved by Drew Storen, Strasberg saw his chance for a win vanish on one swing by he next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, who launched a two-run homer over the wall in left center.

A one man wrecking crew for the Mets over the past seven games (.424, 5 HR, 11 RBI), Cespedes victimized the Nationals during the three-game series in Washington, going 6-for-14 with two homers and seven RBI.

With the sweep, the Mets have a seven-game lead in the NL East with 23 games to play, a nearly insurmountable edifice to the Nats, who will surely finish in second place in the division (Miami is 19 1/2 back) but will not qualify for the playoffs. The Chicago Cubs have a 9 1/2 game lead on them for the final wild card spot.

The Mets are 5-3 in September and headed to Atlanta for a four-game series with the Braves beginning Thursday. The Braves have the second-worst record in the league, at 56-84.