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).

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