The Rangers have been the best team in the American League pretty much all season. But for the first time in a long time, Texas no longer posseses the best record in the league. The new kings of the league are a pack of familiar faces…the Tampa Bay Rays, who routed the Marlins 13-4 last night to move to 34-25, a half game ahead of the Rangers at 34-26. Despite their superiority over the Rangers, the Rays aren't coasting in the AL East. They hold just a half game lead over the Yankees, and are only one up on the slumping Orioles. What I also thought was a little shocking is that the Rangers don't even have the highest playoff expectancy in the AL anymore. Their 83.0% mark has been at a level that high for most of the season, but they've been topped by the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, who are now at 83.4% with a +37 run differential that is far and away the best in the division. Now, what does all this mean for the Rangers? Nothing, really. They're still leading the AL West, but their once mammoth lead has been pared down to just three games as the Los Angeles Angels have gotten themselves in order. But for those of us who thought the Rangers would coast to a third straight AL pennant this year…not so fast, my friend.
Game of the Night: Orioles 6, Phillies 4 (12 innings). This was a crazy, back and forth game that wasn't without controversy. The Phillies scored a run in each of the third and fourth innings, getting solo homers from Jimmy Rollins and Jim Thome. The Orioles sandwiched a run in between the homers, and got a pair in the fourth, when the Phillies made three errors. Their lead was short-lived, as a Hector Luna homer in the fifth tied the game at three. A Matt Wieters single in the seventh made it a 4-3 Baltimore lead, but Thome once again struck and tied the game at four with a single in the eighth. The teams beared down and remained scoreless until the 12th, when all-world Orioles center fielder Adam Jones hit a two-run, walkoff homer to give the Orioles a great win.
Pitching Lines of the Night: Chris Sale of the White Sox continued his amazing season in a 10-1 blowout win over the Astros. Sale threw eight shutout innings for the southsiders, allowing four hits and striking out seven without a walk. His ERA for the season is down to 2.05. Kyle Lohse had a great performance in the Cardinals 2-0 win over the Indians. Lohse went 7 2/3 without allowing a run, giving up just three hits and two walks, while striking out four. His opponent Justin Masterson allowed just a single run (on a Carlos Beltran homer) over seven, giving up five hits and striking out six without a walk.
Hitting Lines of the Night: In that aforementioned Rays' shellacking of the Marlins, Ben Zobrist had himself a 3/3 day, scoring four runs and driving in four to go along with two walks and a pair of homers. What a game! Jerry Hairston Jr of the Dodgers did a good job at helping his team rebound post-no hitter, going 3/4 with two runs, five RBI, a double, and a homer in LA's 8-3 win. Rockies outfielder Tyler Colvin went 3/4 with a pair of solo homers, but the Angels still blitzed the Rockies 11-5. In that same game, Albert Pujols went 2/3 with a pair of runs, four RBI, a walk, and a homer. That'll do, Albert. That'll do.
Spotlight Series: Ryan Vogelsong dominated the Texas offense en route to a 5-2 Giants win. Vogelsong allowed just one run over 7 2/3 innings, giving up three hits, three walks, and three strikeouts. The Giants did well for themselves on offense, with Nate Schierholtz hitting a double and a triple for the team, and Ryan Theriot driving in two and stealing a base as well. Texas's offense was dormant all game, finishing with just five hits and two runs. The two runs each came on solo homers in the late innings. Mitch Moreland homered off of Vogelsong to chase him from the game, while Mike Napoli homered off of Clay Hensley to end his evening (and let Santiago Casilla get a one out, four pitch save since the Napoli homer made it a three run game…yeah). The series finale is this afternoon, and will pit Alexi Ogando against Tim Lincecum. That'll do.
Other Games: The Padres beat the Brewers 5-2, and Ross Ohlendorf got his first win as a Padre. The Twins blew out the Cubs 11-4 as Scott Diamond outpitched Jeff Samardzija. The Braves beat the Blue Jays 5-2, primarily led a Dan Uggla three run homer. The Nationals beat the Red Sox 4-2 in Daisuke Matsuzaka's first start in a year. The Tigers edged the Reds 3-2. The Yankees beat the Mets 4-2 after a late Mark Teixeira homer. The Pirates beat the Royals 5-3, and are just one game back of the Reds in the NL Central. Miguel Montero hit a grand slam, and the Diamondbacks beat the A's 8-3.
Today's Games: Jon Niese takes on Andy Pettite and looks to stop the Mets from getting swept in the Subway Series. James Shields and Anibal Sanchez in a great matchup in Miami. Cliff Lee will take on Jason Hammel in the rubber game in Baltimore. Julio Teheran makes his first start of the year for the Braves against Ricky Romero of the Blue Jays. Jordan Zimmermann takes on Jon Lester in Boston. AJ Burnett starts for the Pirates against the Royals. Ryan Dempster starts for the Cubs against the Twins.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.