It looked like a typical ending to a Cincinnati Reds game last night with the Reds trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Ken Griffey Jr. wrote a different ending to the usual scenario by hitting a two run walkoff homer that gave the Reds a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even more importantly, the homer lifted the Reds out of last place to a one point lead over the Pirates. The Reds are only a game and a half behind the fourth place Houston Astros in the NL Central.
Rays Defeat Red Sox 5-4 Upton, Gross Hit Homers
The Tampa Bay Rays took a 5-4 win over the Boston Red Sox as they stretched their lead over the Red Sox to a game and a half. James Shields (6-5) outpitched Justin Masterson (4-2) and is 2-2 against the Red Sox this season.
I have to admit I was not too enamored with the Rays trading for Gabe Gross, but it has turned out to be a good move for the Rays and for Gross. In 43 at-bats with the Brewers, Gross hit .209 with no homers and 6 RBI's. In 127 at-bats with the Rays, Gross has hit 6 homers and drove in 20 runs and is slugging .449 after slugging .279 with the Brewers. B.J. Upton also homered for the Rays.
Willy Aybar may not have done anything spectacular while filling in for Carlos Pena, but he is hitting .264 and has a respectable .361 on-base percentage and has more walks than strikeouts. The depth of this team is really showing with the loss of Pena not being that noticeable. This is a solid team and I expect them to be in the playoffs in 2008.
Around the Bases
Mike Mussina (10-6) had a quality start yesterday against the Texas Rangers, but the New York Yankees' offense could only manage four hits off of Texas Rangers' pitching. Scott Feldman (2-3) won for the first time since May 9th. He had 2 losses and 6 no decisions since his last win. Alex Rodriguez hit his 16th homer of the season, which moved him into a five way tie for fourth place in AL behind league leaders Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore, and Carlos Quentin. He has 44 RBI's, which is 36 behind AL leader Hamilton, who has 80. 22 American Leaguers have more RBI's than Rodriguez this season.
The Chicago White Sox jumped out to an 8-1 lead and then hung on to win 9-7, as they defeated the Cleveland Indians in an AL Central contest. Jim Thome hit his 16th homer, the 523rd of his career. If Thome hits 600 homers, he should strengthen his chance for the Hall of Fame, even though he needs 1019 more hits to reach 3000 hits, and with him turning 38 in August, that is very unlikely.
Nick Swisher ended his best month of the season with a grand slam homer and drove in 5 runs, giving him 7 homers and 23 RBI's for the month after having only one homer, 6 RBI's, and a .176 average in May. He hit .315 in June and slugged .630. Gavin Floyd (9-4) is making a bid for the AL Comeback Player of the Year after having a 1-5 record in 2007. The White Sox' win coupled with the Detroit Tigers' defeat of the Minnesota Twins yesterday moved the White Sox to 2 1/2 games ahead of the Twins.
Tonight's game will feature John Danks (5-4), who has allowed a total of one run in his last 3 starts encompassing 18 innings. Danks will be facing Cliff Lee (11-1), who lost only once in the first half of the season, and is second in AL in ERA with a 2.34. However, Danks has getting closer and closer to matching Lee's record with a 2.62 ERA, good for third in the AL.
The Tigers won their 6th in a row, as they moved to within 2 1/2 games of the second place Twins in the AL Central.
The Rays are 7-3 in their last ten games, while the Yankees, Red Sox, and Baltimore Orioles are 4-6 in their last ten games.
The Milwaukee Brewers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but lost in their 6-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Dave Bush (4-8) has definitely reminded Brewers fans of how much they miss Yovani Gallardo, who hasn't pitched May 1st.
Greg Smith (5-6) of the Oakland Athletics is 11th in the AL in ERA with a 3.44 mark among pitchers with enough innings pitch to qualify for the lead. The A's made a wise decision to move Justin Duchscherer to the starting rotation. He has far exceeded their expectations, and he is the only pitcher in Majors with an ERA of under 2.00, with a 1.99 ERA.
Tonight's Top Pitching Matchups
The best pitching matchup of the day should be when Cliff Lee (11-1) takes the mound against John Danks (5-4). Lee is 2nd in ERA in AL with 2.34 mark while Danks is 3rd with a 2.64 ERA.
In a game where the matchup is not that great, yet is a very important start, involves Edinson Volquez (10-3). After having his worst start of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays when he gave up 5 runs and 6 hits in 4 innings and struck out no batters, this game could be crucial for Volquez to get back on the winning track. Confidence is a pitcher's best friend (along with double plays), and if Volquez loses the confidence he had before the bad start last week, he could see a reversal of fortune in the second half of the 2008 season. Zach Duke 4-5 will be his opponent tonight.
Who Would Have Thought...
...That the Tampa Bay Rays would have a 50-32 record on July 1st and a game and a half ahead in the AL East over the Boston Red Sox after having a 33-47 record last July 1st and 16 games behind those same Red Sox?
...That the 49-32 first place Cleveland Indians on July 1st last season would be in last place this year on the same date with a 37-46 record and 10 1/2 games behind the first place Chicago White Sox?
...That Carlos Quentin who hit .214 and hit 5 homers and drove in 31 runs in 2007 would in half a season with the White Sox have 19 homers, 61 RBI's and hit .284 in only 56 more at bats?
That Kyle Lohse would have a 10-2 record after not having a winning season since 2003, and a 32-48 record since the start of the 2004 season?
...That Josh Hamilton, in half a season, has equaled his total of 19 homers last season, has collected 33 more RBI's in only 29 more at-bats than last season, and, currently with 102 hits, could have a 200 hit season after having only 87 hits in all of last season?
...That Dan Uggla, who had 31 homers and 88 RBI's in a full season, would have 23 homers and 58 RBI's at the halfway mark of the 2008 season?
...That Chase Utley's 23 homers this season is one more than he hit all of last season.
...That Tim Lincecum would be leading the NL in strikeouts with 114 at halfway mark after having 150 all of last season?
...That Cliff Lee would be 11-1 after a 5-8 season last year? The Indians even sent Lee to the Minors last season because he was pitching so badly. His 2007 ERA of 6.29 would be almost four runs per game lower this season with a 2.34 ERA good for second in the AL behind Justin Duchscherer, who has the only sub 2.00 ERA this season with a 1.91 mark.
...That Christian Guzman would be leading the Majors in hits (112) after having 57 all of last season?
...That Ian Kinsler who had 127 hits last season already has 111 this season?
...That Jose Guillen had 28 doubles in 593 at-bats last season has 28 doubles in only 324 at-bats this season?
...That Ryan Braun had 7 homers and 25 RBI's at the end of June last season but has 20 homers and 58 RBI's at the end of June this season and finished last season with 34 homers and 97 RBI's?
...That Chipper Jones would be leading the NL in batting average with a .394 mark, while the AL leaders, Hideki Matsui and Joe Mauer, are hitting .323, which is 71 points lower than Jones? That, despite the wide lead in batting average the NL has, only 13 hitters hitting over .300 while the AL has 18 hitters hitting over .300.
...That the Tampa Bay Rays lead the Majors in stolen bases with 88 in 82 games, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have 23 in 82 games?
...That Barry Zito is 16th among San Francisco Giants pitchers this year in ERA with a 5.99 ERA, and that he had 131 strikeouts to 81 walks last season, but this season has 53 walks to 50 strikeouts? His two wins this month came against last place Indians and Nationals. Despite his problems this season, he has given up only 3 homers in his last 9 starts, which encompasses 45 innings. Zito has not pitched 7 complete innings yet this season.