1. Closing in: We thought the Detroit Tigers had a divisional lead impossible to overcome. The Minnesota Twins thought otherwise. They just took 3 of 4 from the Tigers in dominant fashion. On Sunday, Johan Santana was able to shut down the Detroit offense once again. He threw 11 strikeouts and didn’t allow a run in Minnesota’s 12-1 blowout. Joe Mauer had two doubles and two RBIs for the offense, and Nick Punto had an excellent game with four hits. It was the Twins’ third win in a row to close out the series, and it gave them their smallest divisional deficit since April 18. The Twins are just two games back now of the Tigers. These teams don’t play for the rest of the season unless they meet in the playoffs.
2. The D-Train Returns: The Florida Marlins pitching staff got plenty of attention over the past week, but little of it went to Dontrelle Willis. He had been in the shadow of Anibal Sanchez’s no-hitter as well as some of the Marlins’ other rookies. But he showed on Sunday that he is still a very capable young pitcher. Willis pitched one of the best games the league has seen this season, going the distance for a complete-game shutout. He struck out 12 Phillies, matching a career high. The Marlins won 3-0 to salvage a series split against the Phils. The teams have identical records at 72-71 and stand 2.5 games back of the Wild Card lead.
3. Rollin’ Along: The Oakland A’s are still winning ballgames and still leading the NL West. Though they receive little attention, they have been just as good as the Yankees or White Sox, at least by record. The A’s are 82-60 after outlasting the Devil Rays 9-7 yesterday. The big news was Frank Thomas, who had a “perfect” day and homered for his fifth straight game. Thomas went 3-3 at the plate with 2 walks and now has 35 homers on the season. The A’s are still holding off the red-hot Angels in the division by 5.5 games. For the D-Rays, Delmon Young continued his incredible success since he was called up, going 3-5 to bring his average to .408.
4. Padres Power: The San Diego Padres still have the lead in the National League Wild Card. They’re going for their second straight playoff appearance, and the Padres moved to 2.5 games ahead of the streaking Giants after beating them yesterday. They won 10-2, as Woody Williams improved to 8-3 on the year and Brian Giles hit 4 RBIs. Rookie middle reliever Cla Meredith now has a 33 inning scoreless streak, as he hasn’t allowed a run since July 17 to decrease his ERA from 3.86 to 0.69. The Padres, who are off today, will take on Cincy this week before a pivotal series against the Dodgers.
5. Best in the business: The best players in the majors are performing better than ever. David Ortiz missed a week and a half in late August and early September, but he’s picked up right where he left off. Papi went 0-7 his first two games back, but then on Friday went 3-5 with 4 RBIs. Then, yesterday, Ortiz went 2-2 with three walks, three runs, and a homerun. The round-tripper gave him a career-high 48 this season, and he’s also on pace for career bests in on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. Albert Pujols is also on pace for some career highs this year. His 45 homers are one off his best mark, set in 2004, and his 118 RBIs are nine away from his high. This is despite going on the disabled list for the first time earlier this season, and having almost 20 games left in the year. Other prominent players that are blowing up their career marks are Jermaine Dye, Travis Hafner (who is out the rest of the year with a broken hand), Derek Jeter, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Beltran, to name a few.