After last night's 2-0 win over the Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates have...increased their lead in the NL Central. They're now two up on the Reds, and 2.5 up on the Cardinals. Pittsburgh's 46-36 record is the second best in the National League, a hair above the NL West-leading Dodgers. The Pirates run differential is within spitting distance of some of the top teams in the league, and in June and what little we've played of July so far, the Pirates are a +49 and ten games above .500. The best team in Pennsylvania, for the first time in forever, isn't in the eastern part of the state. It's in the west, and the Pirates are showing no signs of slowing down.
Game of the Night: Mets 6, Phillies 5. In three months, looking back upon the 2012 Phillies season, this game might be looked at as the turning point. Philadelphia took a 5-4 lead into the ninth, looking for a series win against their NL East rivals. They had gotten five runs off of Mets ace RA Dickey, even if most of those runs came through the nickel and dime variety. Highly paid closer Jonathan Papelbon was on the mound. The win looks like a lock. Then...disaster. Ike Davis led the inning off with a double, and was sacrificed to third. Kirk Nieuwenhuis struck out, and the Mets needed a hit rather than a fly ball to tie the game. Pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin got plunked, and Ruben Tejada walked to load the bases for Daniel Murphy, who lined one up the middle that went off Papelbon's leg. The ball trickled away, the Phillies got no outs, and the game was tied. That brought up the team's MVP this year, David Wright, who fisted a blooper into right field that Hunter Pence couldn't come up with. Mets win 6-5, and the Phillies got another heartbreaking loss.
Pitching Lines of the Night: In the Pirates' 2-0 win over the Astros to complete the sweep, Jeff Karstens of all people was insanely good. He threw eight shutout innings, allowing four hits and walking one, striking out eight Astros hitters. When Karstens is shutting teams down...something's going right for your team. White Sox rookie Jose Quintana continued his unreal season in Chicago's 2-1 win over Texas to complete a sweep over the AL West leaders, allowing one run on two hits in eight innings, walking one and striking out eight. Mark Buerhle shut down the Brewers in Miami's 4-0 win, going 7 2/3 shutout innings and allowing six hits, no walks, and striking out eight. Mat Latos returned to San Diego, but his former team got the 2-1 win. It wasn't Latos's fault though, as he threw seven shutout innings and allowed four hits, two walks, and struck out eight.
Hitting Lines of the Night: On a night dominated by pitching, there were some good hitting performances as well. Toronto catcher JP Arencibia went 2/4 with three RBI and a pair of homers in the Blue Jays' 9-6 loss to the Royals. In that big win over the Phillies, David Wright of the Mets went 3/5 with four RBI and a homer to continue his unreal year. Jimmy Rollins was great for the Phillies too, giong 3/3 with a run, two RBI, two walks, a double, and a triple.
Other Games: The Tigers beat the Twins 7-3 thanks to a late Prince Fielder homer. The Nationals edged the Giants 6-A5 on a walk-off...fielders choice? The Indians beat the Rays 3-1 thanks to three solo homers and a great start from Josh Tomlin. The Braves hit four homers in a 7-3 win over the Cubs. The Angels overcame a 7-3 deficit and beat the Orioles 9-7. The Cardinals beat the scuffling Rockies 6-2. The Dodgers beat the free-falling Diamondbacks 4-1.
Today's Games: Our last series before the All-Star Break. Awwwwww. Drew Pomeranz and the Rockies take on Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals in DC...pretty solid young pitching matchup there. Tim Hudson and the Braves travel to Philly, and look to put another nail in their coffin this weekend. Hiroki Kuroda takes on Josh Beckett at Fenway on another Yankees-Red Sox weekend. Travis Wood and the Cubs take on Johan Santana and the Mets in New York. All-Star snub Jake Peavy and the White Sox host the Blue Jays. CJ Wilson and the Angels host the Orioles. Clayton Kershaw makes his final start before the break against the Diamondbacks.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.
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