The Full Count: Padres making headway in NL West


1. Super San Diego: The Padres have won four games in a row, sending them to only one game back of the Diamondbacks for the NL West lead. San Diego started out a four game series with the lowly Pirates by winning 3-0, while the Diamondbacks lost 5-8 to the Giants. Rookie pitcher Jack Cassel was key for the Padres, with no runs or walks allowed in six innings. San Diego’s bullpen was good as usual with three near-perfect innings. The D-backs, with ace Brandon Webb pitching, still lost to San Francisco. Reliever Tony Pena, who has been great this season, was shelled for 5 runs and 2 homers in less than an inning. Arizona needs to watch out if they want to hold on to their division lead, which is looking less secure than it has been for a month.

2. It’s Getting Wilder: The NL Wild Card race, still led by the aforementioned Padres, is heating up. The Phillies and Dodgers are both within three games of the lead. The Phillies, who are 1.5 back and have won 5 straight, had a crazy 13-11 win over the Cardinals on Monday. They got out to an 11-0 lead, as Ryan Howard hit two homers to give him 40 on the season in addition to 5 RBIs. Jimmie Rollins and Aaron Rowand also homered early on. Then the Cards came back thanks to three RBIs each by Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. The Phils held on for the win though, sending the Cardinals to their 9th loss in 10 games. Philly is now only 2.5 games behind the Mets for the division lead, though the wild card seems more likely right now. The Dodgers, who are third in the wild card standings, did not play on Monday.

3. Almost Locked Up: The Angels are the team closest to clinching their division in all of baseball. Their magic number is 5, lowest in the league. The Angels just keep on winning, while Seattle’s collapse in late-August made the race uncompetitive. The Angels lead the Mariners by 8.5 games after another win. They beat the Devil Rays 10-7 despite another bad start by Kelvim Escobar. Escobar allowed five or more runs for the fourth time in his last six starts. This streak has increased his ERA from 2.68 to 3.46, though his record is oddly 2-1 in these starts. The Angels are known more for their pitching, but it has been their offense that has carried them recently. They have scored double digit runs 11 times since the All Star break. Their offense has scored the fifth-most runs in the majors despite almost no power hitters. They only rank 27th in homers this year, though their .287 team batting average, which is second only to the Yankees, is a much better indicator of how good this offense really is.

Player of the Day: Frank Thomas, Blue Jays: 3-4, 3 HRs (25), 5 RBIs in a 6-1 win over the Red Sox.

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