MLB General

The Full Count: Yankees clinch

A-rod looking as douchey as possible

1. Lucky Number 13: The Yankees continued the longest playoff streak in all of baseball by clinching a spot in October for the 13th consecutive year. They did so in style, beating the Devil Rays 12-4 as Cano and Jeter homered and Chien-Ming Wang won his 19th game of the season. Now the American League playoff teams are set, with Cleveland, Los Angeles, Boston, and the Yanks competing for the pennant. Unless there is a bizarre change in the standings in the last few days this season, New York will take on the Indians and the Angels will battle the Red Sox in the opening matchups. The Yankees’ run at the playoffs of course was expected before the season, but by the end of May many thought their season was over. That’s because they were one of the worst teams in the AL exactly four months ago, only a few games ahead of Tampa Bay. Since then, however, they’ve had the best record in the league, and with 15 wins in their last 20 games they will head to the postseason with momentum on their side.

2. Still Undecided: The National League playoff situation remains the exact opposite of the American League. While all four teams have clinched in the AL, no team has clinched a playoff berth in the NL. Many contenders seem to be slipping at the wrong time, particularly the Mets. They’ve had the NL East lead the majority of the season, but after losing 9 of their last 13 games, the Phillies are only one game back. The Phillies virtually eliminated the Braves by beating them 5-2; Atlanta would now need a complete miracle to make the playoffs. The situation in the NL Central remains uncertain, as it has been for about a month. The Cubs’ loss gave the Brewers an opportunity to get within a single game, but Milwaukee lost to the Cardinals and remains two back. The hottest team in the NL right now is the Rockies, who have won a franchise-record 10 consecutive games. They are now one game back of the Padres, and tied with Philadelphia.

3. Bye Bye, Barry: Barry Bonds has been extremely quiet ever since breaking the major league homerun record, as the sale of the 756 ball has received more attention than the man who hit it. Bonds has started to play less and less; in fact, until last night he hadn’t appeared since September 15. Now Barry deserves at least some recognition, as he appeared in his last game in a Giants uniform on Wednesday. Bonds, who will likely play next year as a DH for an American League team, has officially ended his tenure with the Giants. He won 5 MVP awards with the club, and hit over 500 homers with them alone. In his last game with the club, Bonds went 0-3 as the Giants lost 11-3 to the Padres. Jake Peavy picked up his 19th win for San Diego.

Player of the Day: Mike Lowell, Red Sox: 3-5, 5 RBIs in an 11-6 win over the A’s. Lowell, who leads the team in RBIs with 116, also set the club’s single-season RBI record for third basemen.

San Francisco Giants

The Full Count: Bonds keeps creeping closer

1. 753: Before Thursday’s game, Barry Bonds was in a slump that included no hits since July 6 and no homers since July 3. Then he broke out of his slump in the biggest way possible, with his best game of the season. Bonds smacked two homers, giving him 753 for his career. He also went 3-3 with three runs and six RBIs. Now he is so close to the record, we can start to predict when he might break it. If this is the start of a nice streak for Bonds, then he should hit 756 next week at home against the Braves or Marlins. If he starts to struggle again, it might take until mid-August. Regardless of when the record is broken, it’s impossible to deny it will happen soon after Thursday’s performance. But no matter what happens, the Giants are still awful. They lost 9-8 to the Cubs despite Barry’s effort, putting them at 1-6 since the All Star break. They now have the National League’s worst record at 39-54. The Giants will travel to Milwaukee over the weekend.

2. Chris Young for Cy Young: After San Diego starter Chris Young’s superb 2006 season, many baseball experts said he would not nearly as successful this year. He’s proven them all wrong with a simply unbelievable year. Young pitched seven shutout innings on Thursday, lowering his ERA to a league-leading 1.85. It was Young’s sixth scoreless effort in his last nine starts. He also leads the league in WHIP (1.00), opponent’s batting average (.187), and opponent’s OPS (.531). He has dominated ridiculously at home, with a 0.73 ERA and five earned runs in 62 innings. Though few have heard of him, Chris Young (at this point) absolutely deserves the NL Cy Young.

3. Ace is Out: The Cardinals’ struggles will continue for the foreseeable future, as their ace, Chris Carpenter, will not return to the rotation until mid-2008. That’s because he will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow ligament. Without Carpenter, the St. Louis starters cannot be good enough to carry the team to the playoffs. They will have to wait until 2009 at the earliest to see postseason action again, most likely. Carpenter had 51 wins from 2004-06, ranking third in the majors, according to

Player of the Day: Barry Bonds, Giants: 3-3, 3 runs, 2 HRs (19, 753), 6 RBIs in a 9-8 loss to the Cubs.

Cincinnati Reds

The Full Count: Reds win crazy game in Atlanta with crazy fans in the stands

1. The Marathon: The Braves-Reds game went 15 innings and featured crazy back-and-forth scoring. However, the end result was the same for the Reds, who completed a sweep with a wild 5-4 win. The game started out as a pitcher’s duel, with John Smoltz and Aaron Harang churning out great starts. With the Braves up 1-0 entering the eighth, Adam Dunn hit a two-run homer off Rafael Soriano. The Braves quickly tied it back up with a Jeff Francoeur sac fly, and the game went into extras. The teams traded runs in the 10th, but other than that there was no score until the 15th. Brandon Phillips hit a two-RBI single in the top of the inning, and Francoeur then hit an RBI single. But with two men on and one out, the Braves could not convert another run, giving Cincy the win. The sweep for the Reds ties them with Houston for last place in the division. The lucky Braves still are just two games back of New York.

2. The Unlikely Wins Leader: If you were told before the season that Carlos Zambrano would lead the NL in wins, it might not have surprised you. But considering his struggles for the first two months of this season, it is almost shocking that he became the first NL pitcher to win 12 games on Tuesday. Zambrano has now run off nine straight starts with three or fewer runs allowed, and is 7-2 over that stretch. He pitched five shutout innings as the Cubs crushed the Giants 12-1. Zambrano’s 3.69 ERA ranks only 17th in the league, quite odd for a wins leader. However, judging by his success over the past one and a half months, it seems as though his ERA will keep plummeting and Zambrano could be a Cy Young contender.

3. What a Relief: The Padres nearly wasted an excellent start by Greg Maddux, but in the end they won anyway. The 5-4 victory over the Mets gave San Diego a series win, but they are still a game behind Los Angeles. Maddux pitched five scoreless innings and added six strikeouts, but the bullpen proceeded to allow four runs, nearly blowing the game. Then Geoff Blum hit a key RBI single that broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth and won it for the Padres. Adrian Gonzalez hit a solo homer, breaking a month-long homerless streak for him. David Wright and Carlos Delgado both homered to supply all four runs for the Mets.

Player of the Day: Lenny DiNardo, A’s: 7 innings, three hits, no runs in a 6-0 win over Texas. DiNardo helped the A’s snap their awful nine-game losing streak.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Full Count: Philadelphia likes to hit the ball, a lot

1. Bring on the Hit Parade: Baseball can be a strange sport sometimes. Going into to Tuesday’s game against the Phillies, the Dodgers had a five-game winning streak going and the best record in the NL. But Philadelphia made them look like a Triple-A team with a 15-3 blowout win. The Phils recorded 26 hits, including five each by Shane Victorino and Aaron Rowand. Ryan Howard hit to homeruns to give him 24 on the year. Chase Utley had three RBIs to increase his league-leading total to 79. Even Phillies starter JD Durbin, who gave up one run in six innings, added three hits. Dodgers starter Mark Hendrickson was crushed for 11 hits and 7 runs in three innings, and reliever Eric Stults gave up eight hits and four runs. The Phillies now have 499 runs on the year, ranking them first in the National League and third overall in the majors.

2. The Yankees Get Closer: The Yankees are now closer to the division-leading Boston Red Sox than they’ve been in a while. With a comeback 3-2 win over Toronto combined with Boston’s loss to the Royals, the Yanks are now eight games back in the division. That’s still a lot, but for a while the lead has been double-digits. Blue Jays reliever Jeremy Accardo issued a balk in the ninth inning that tied the game, which the Yankees won in the tenth inning off a Robinson Cano RBI single. Alex Rodriguez notched his 90th RBI of the year as New York won their fourth game in a row. In Boston, the Royals teed off on Tim Wakefield for six runs in their 9-3 win. The Yankees’ upcoming schedule has been noted for its lack of winning teams, though the Red Sox don’t exactly have a murderer’s row either. They face the Devil Rays and Orioles a combined five times over the next month, so if they take care of business, it will be hard for the Yankees to catch up.

3. The Collapse Continues: The biggest losing streak in baseball right now belongs to the A’s, who have dropped nine games in a row. They are now 12 games back in the division and barely ahead of the lowly Rangers, who beat Oakland again on Tuesday. Texas’ 11-4 win was fueled by a 5-5 performance by Michael Young in addition to multiple errors by the A’s. Oakland starter Chad Gaudin, who used to be among the AL leaders in ERA, was rocked for his second straight start. This is the longest losing streak for the A’s since 1998, according to They are virtually eliminated from playoff contention already.

Player of the Day: Aaron Rowand, Phillies: 5-6, 3 doubles, HR (13), 2 RBIs in a win over the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Full Count: The Dodgers climb to the top of the NL

Brad Penny wins again.

1. The NL’s New Leader: Either the Brewers, Mets, or Padres have held the National League’s best record for most of this season. But now, the Dodgers have the league’s top mark at 53-40. They crushed the Phillies last night 10-3 as Brad Penny improved to 11-1. Penny pitched seven innings, allowing one run and striking out eight. He joined Carlos Zambrano and Cole Hamels as the NL’s only 11-game winners. The Dodgers’ offense pounded Jamie Moyer for 10 runs, including three-run homeruns by Jeff Kent and Matt Kemp. The Dodgers have now won five in a row, but they’re still only a game up on the Padres.

2. Welcome Back: Horacio Ramirez was having a poor season for the Mariners, battling both injuries and ineffectiveness. But in his return off the DL, he looked excellent as the Mariners topped the Orioles. Ramirez allowed two runs in seven innings as Seattle won 4-2. He still has a 5.89 ERA, .317 opponents’ average, and only 15 strikeouts in nine starts. If Ramirez can continue this one good start into a string of good performances this second half, he won’t make the Mariners feel quite as stupid for trading him for stud reliever Rafael Soriano.

3. Playoff Preview?: In a matchup of two teams that could face each other in October, the Padres and Mets started a three-game set on Monday. The Padres won 5-1 behind a strong start from David Wells. Wells gave up on run in six innings in his 7th quality start in his last 11 starts. Michael Barrett powered the Padres with 3 RBIs and 3 hits. Jorge Sosa pitched well in his return from the DL, but he wasn’t supported by the offense or the bullpen. The Mets’ division lead stays at a game and a half as the Braves were pounded by the Reds.

Player of the Day: Kason Gabbard, Red Sox: 9 innings, 3 hits, no runs in a 4-0 win over the Royals.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Full Count: 10,000 strong and growing

1. The Biggest Losers: The Philadelphia Phillies became the first team in MLB history to lose 10,000 games after getting blown out 10-2 by the Cardinals. Albert Pujols hit two of the Cardinals’ six homers, giving the slugger 20 on the season. The Phillies had avoided the embarrassing mark for a while thanks to a three-game win streak, but now they officially are the league’s all-time losingest team. This mark, it should be noted, comes with an asterisk, because the Phils aren’t exactly the worst team of all time. They have a better winning percentage than the Rockies, Padres, Rangers, and Devil Rays, who have all been around a much shorter time than Philadelphia and therefore aren’t near 10,000 losses. Also, the Phillies have at least won 5 pennants and a World Series, something the Rangers or Nationals can’t claim in their 40+ year histories. In case you were wondering, the winningest team is the Giants with 10,151 victories in the same 124-year time period that the Phillies have been around.

2. The NL Heats Up: In June, the only National League divisional race that was close was in the West division as the Mets and Brewers were dominant. Now, however, the Braves and Cubs have been hot enough to inch closer to their division leaders. The Braves started off an easy homestand (Pirates, Reds, Cardinals) well by sweeping Pittsburgh. Their 5-1 win on Sunday gave them 50 wins on the season and put them 1.5 games back of New York. No longer can the Mets by simply penciled in for a playoff spot in the NL, as the Braves could pass them by next week (the Mets travel to San Diego and Los Angeles). Meanwhile, the Cubs completed a sweep of the Astros to move within 3.5 games of Milwaukee. They are one of the hottest teams in baseball, with a 15-4 record since June 22. As these divisional races are tightening up, the NL West remains close as the Dodgers lead the Padres by one game.

3. Are the A’s done? Though not many are talking about it, the Oakland A’s are one of the year’s most disappointing teams. They made the ALCS last year, but now find themselves 11.5 games back in the division. Oakland has dropped seven in a row, giving them a 44-48 record. They were recently swept in four games by the Twins, the first four-game sweep for Minnesota since last August. The problem with the A’s is clearly offense; they have only scored 21 runs in their last ten games. With their AL-best pitching staff, it’s unfortunate they can’t get any run support.

Player of the Day: Miguel Cabrera, Marlins: 2-2, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs, 2 walks. How awesome is that line? It’s common to see an all-1 line, but I’ve never seen it with 2’s before.

MLB General

The Full Count: A night of nice round numbers

1. Milestone Number 1: After the 2004 and 2005 seasons, in which he only played 108 combined games, it seemed like Frank Thomas would never stay healthy enough to reach 500 homers. But after a 39 homer season last year, and 13 more blasts this season, Thomas has joined the legendary 500 homer club. He is its 21st member, though he will be joined soon by Alex Rodriguez, who needs eight more. Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Gary Sheffield are not far off as well. Many people think the 500 homer mark is diminished because of the large amount of members joining in recent years and steroid suspicions of these players. However, Thomas is one of those players that has always seemed clean, and the large majority of his homers were hit before the steroid era. This achievement just puts Thomas over the edge when it comes to making the Hall of Fame. Now, he’s likely a first-ballot type candidate. Oh by the way, Thomas’ Blue Jays lost to the Twins, 8-5.

2. Milestone Number 2: Amazingly, only hours after Thomas’ 500th homer, Craig Biggio reached the 3000-hit mark. He is the 27th player to reach that mark, though it is arguably more special than 500 homeruns the longevity and consistency it takes to reach. Biggio’s hit was his third of five hits on Wednesday in Houston’s extra-inning win over Colorado. It’s unfortunate that Biggio’s biggest career achievement comes in what is likely his worst season. Even after going 5-6, he still is hitting just .250 on the year with an awful .293 on-base percentage. This is Biggio’s 20th season, and it will probably become his 19th straight with more than 100 hits. He has also had all 3,002 of his hits with the Astros, making him the ninth player in history with 3,000 hits with one team. Whether he makes the Hall of Fame or not, Biggio’s career has been quite distinguished, especially for a second baseman.

3. Rogers Rules: A loaded team like Detroit doesn’t need any extra help, but that’s exactly what they’ve received thanks to the return of Kenny Rogers. After six shutout innings against the Braves in his season debut, Rogers improved to 2-0 with one run allowed in six more innings against the Rangers. The run allowed did bring an end to his under-publicized scoreless innings streak, however. Last year Rogers didn’t allow a run in 23 postseason innings, and he started this year with 11 straight shutout innings. With a 5-2 victory, the Tigers managed to avoid a sweep at the hands of the last-place Rangers. Gary Sheffield hit his 18th homer of the year as well for Detroit.

Player of the Day: Chase Utley, Phillies: 3-5, 2 HRs (15), 4 RBIs in an 8-7 win over the Reds.

Cleveland Indians

The Full Count: The A’s get and "F" for effort

1. Losing streak over–not!: It seemed like the A’s recent slide would end as they led the Indians 5-3 going into the ninth inning on Tuesday. But Cleveland rallied for the win, taking a share of the division lead in the process. A two-run double by Travis Hafner tied the score up, then a three-run homer by pinch-hitter Kelly Shoppach won it for the Indians. The A’s have now lost five in a row and are nine games out of the division lead. Cleveland is tied with Detroit again after the Tigers dropped two in a row to the lousy Rangers.

2. The Brewers are Back: The Brewers have returned to the level of play they showed in late April and early May, giving them a huge division lead and the NL’s best record once again. Milwaukee has won 11 of their last 13 to improve to 45-32, with a 7.5 game lead over the Cubs. They routed the Astros 11-5 on Tuesday thanks to a nine-run sixth inning. Rickie Weeks hit a single that scored three runs due to an error, and it was followed by Tony Graffanino’s pinch-hit two-run homer and Johnny Estrada’s grand slam. Given the Brewers’ level of play recently, they own the NL Central unless another contender emerges.

3. The AL’s dark horse: Believe it or not, the Seattle Mariners are legit contenders in the American League. They’ve won six of their last seven and four in a row to move to 41-33, which puts them four games out of a wild card spot. They’ve beaten the Red Sox the first two games of their series, including a wild 8-7 victory yesterday. Richie Sexson hit a key two-run homer which gave the Mariners a lead they wouldn’t give up in the sixth inning. Ichiro pounded out two more hits to raise his average to .362, good for second in the league behind Magglio Ordonez. He’s hitting .411 this month.

Player of the Day: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Braves: 2-4, 2 HR (4), 2 RBIs as the Braves beat the Nats 6-2.

Colorado Rockies

The Full Count: The Rockies rebound late

1. Double Comeback: The Cubs and Rockies played eight normal innings and one wacky one at Wrigley Field on Monday. Through the eighth inning, the Cubs led 8-3. Then the real action started. Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, and Brad Hawpe pounded out RBI hits with two outs to make the score 8-6. Then with two men on, Troy Tulowitzki blasted a homer to give the Rockies a lead and complete an incredible six-run comeback. However, the game wasn’t over quite yet. A throwing error by the Rockies with two outs in the bottom of the ninth loaded up the bases for Alfonso Soriano. Soriano then singled, driving in two and giving the Cubs a wacky 10-9 win. This is one of those games that shows why you should never leave a ballgame after the eighth inning, no matter what the score is. It was the Cubs’ third straight win, while the Rockies were hit with their fourth straight loss.

2. Another start, another win: The day after Josh Beckett reached 11 wins, CC Sabathia of the Indians matched him. Sabathia improved to 11-2 with a complete-game shutdown of the A’s. It was his third complete game in his last five starts, good for the AL lead. Sabathia allowed two runs, walked none and struck out eight in the Indians’ 5-2 victory. Like Beckett, Sabathia’s record is aided by great run support (he has a 3.24 ERA) but he is still worthy of Cy Young consideration. The A’s continued their downward fall after a great first half of the month, losing their fourth straight game.

3. Who wants first?: The NL West has made a remarkable turnaround from the league’s worst division two years ago to its most competitive one today. It seems like every week first place is up for grabs as the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Padres have all posted strong records. Right now the key series is Dodgers-D-backs, as the two teams are separated by a half-game in a series that will decide who’s in first place. The Dodgers won game one on Monday 8-1, as Brad Penny made another excellent start. Penny improved to 3-0 on the month and 10-1 overall as he allowed one run to Arizona in 8 innings of work. Penny, who started the All Star game last year, might do so again this year as he leads the league with a 2.04 ERA.

Player of the Day: Brian McCann, Braves: 2-3, HR (6), 4 RBIs in the Braves’ 4-1 win over the Nationals. McCann provided the Braves some much-needed offense as they ended their five-game slide.

Boston Red Sox

The Full Count: Beckett wins again

1. Winning 11: In one of the more intriguing pitching matchups of the season, Josh Beckett defeated Jake Peavy to retake the major league wins lead. Beckett improved to 11-1 as he went eight innings with two earned runs and eight strikeouts. Peavy had one of his worst starts of the year, with 5 innings and 3 runs allowed. It was his shortest outing of the season, and Peavy’s ERA rose above 2.00 for the first time since April. Beckett, however, became the league’s first 11-game winner, passing John Lackey and CC Sabathia. He’s on pace for a ridiculous 23-2 record this season, aided by the major league’s fifth-best run support for any pitcher. The Red Sox won 4-2, giving them a series win at San Diego as their division lead remains in double-digits (11 games over Toronto).

2. Five games, one run: The Atlanta Braves are on a five-game losing streak thanks to one of the coldest offensive stretches by any team in history. They’ve been shutout four of their last five games, with only a Chipper Jones solo homerun on Saturday saving them from the record books. They got swept by the Tigers at home over the weekend, including a 5-0 loss on Sunday Night Baseball. Tigers rookie starter Andrew Miller dominated the Braves with six shutout innings as Atlanta fell to 38-38. Andruw Jones ended an 0-24 stretch with a base hit, but his average is still the lowest in the NL at .199. For the Tigers, the sweep was their second in a row as they’ve now won seven straight games. This has given them a two-game lead over Cleveland in the NL Central division, thanks mainly to their incredible offense. Detroit has 451 runs this season, 53 more than any other team in the majors. They’ve scored more than 7 runs per game in June, most in the majors, while Atlanta has scored the fewest runs this month. Thankfully for the Braves though, they get to face the Nationals next after a brutal interleague schedule.

3. The Mets are Back: It took the Mets more than three weeks to finally win their first series in June, as the team finally ended a lengthy slump with a sweep of the A’s. The Mets outscored Oakland 20-3 on the series, including a 10-2 win on Sunday. They were back to form on offense and pitching, as John Maine threw seven solid innings and the lineup pounded out 14 hits. They still only lead the Phillies by three games in the division, but they have a chance to increase that lead as they travel to Philly next weekend.

Player of the Day: Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays: 9 innings, one hit, no runs, 7 strikeouts in a win over the Rockies. McGowan took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, but allowed a hit with no outs to Jeff Baker.