Just one week ago, the Atlanta Braves were in first place in the NL East, 1.5 games ahead of the Washington Nationals, sitting ten games above .500 with a +40 run differential. Today, they're in fourth place, three games out and four games above .500, and that run differential is down to +25. The key stat? The lack of starting third baseman Chipper Jones, who hasn't started a game since last Friday in Tampa Bay. He did pinch hit (and walk) on Wednesday, which proved to be a dumb move from Fredi Gonzalez when Jones was put on the DL yesterday. That takes a few days off of his retroactive possibility, and makes the Braves have to wait even longer for their retiring star to come back. In the eight games since Jones last started, the Braves are 1-7. They've scored just 20 runs over those eight games. Times are not good in Atlanta.
Game of the Night: Rangers 8, Blue Jays 7 (13 innings). What a wild game in Texas. Texas jumped out to a 2-0 lead early on, before Toronto came right back to score four runs in the middle innings and take a 4-2 lead. The Rangers answered with three solo homers in the sixth, and led 5-4. The Blue Jays scraped a run across in the seventh to tie the game at five, and we went to extra innings. The game remained scoreless until the 13th, when the immortal Omar Vizquel singled home Brett Lawrie, and scored on a Nelson Cruz error. That set the stage for the Rangers in the bottom of the inning, who got one run on an Elvis Andrus double, and then walked off on a two run homer by Josh Hamilton, his 20th of the year and second on back-to-back nights after not homering since May 12th, the final night of his week-long homer barrage against the Orioles and Angels.
Pitching Line of the Night: We had a pair of shutouts last night, against differing opposition and of differing quality. Johan Santana shut out the Padres, allowing four hits without a walk and striking out seven. He threw just 96 pitches. Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies also threw a shutout, against the Cardnals. Like Santana, he also did it without a walk, but gave up seven hits and struck out just four. He somehow topped Santana by doing it on just 94 pitches. No other pitching performances from yesterday jump out at me.
Hitting Line of the Night: Mark Teixeira showed signs of breaking out of his season-long slump last night, going 4/5 against the A's with five RBI and two homers. A trio of White Sox teammates put some damage on the board against the Indians too, led by Paul Konerko going 4/4 with three runs, two RBI, a walk, and three doubles. Alex Rios went 3/5 with three runs, three RBI, a double, and a homer. Finally, Dayan Viciedo got in on the act by going 3/5 with two runs, five RBI, and a homer. Talk about a balanced attack...
Spotlight Series: Despite their best efforts, the Braves continued a downward spiral of hopelessness, losing to the Nationals 8-4. The Braves actually tagged Stephen Strasburg for four runs in five innings, as Strasburg's control was out of whack all day. However, Braves starter Mike Minor also allowed four over five innings, with all of those four coming in the first two innings. But the Braves battled back to tie it, with a two run Dan Uggla homer providing the cherry on top of the rally. Those good vibes lasted an inning, as the Nationals scored a pair off of Kris Medlen in the sixth to take a two run lead, and got a pair in the seventh (highlighted by a Bryce Harper homer) to take an 8-4 lead, the score they'd eventually win by. Washington's bullpen was magic once again, throwing four scoreless innings and giving up just two hits and one walk in the process. Atlanta looks to avoid a sweep in primetime tonight, and it's up to ace Brandon Beachy, who takes on dominant Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez.
Other Games: The Tigers beat the Twins 6-3. The Royals edged the Orioles on late runs 4-3. Mark Buerhle outdueled Madison Bumgarner, and the Marlins beat the Giants 5-3. The Yankees crunched the A's 9-2. The Reds' homer barrage continued, as they hit three more in a 10-3 win over the Rockies. The White Sox obliterated the Indians 14-7, despite starter Jake Peavy allowing seven runs. The Pirates beat the Cubs 3-2, on a walk-off hit by pitch. The Red Sox got a walk-off homer from Jarrod Saltalamacchia to beat the Rays 3-2. AJ Ellis hit a walk-off homer as the Dodgers beat the Astros 6-3. Albert Pujols homered again, and the Angels beat the Mariners 5-3. The Diamondbacks slaughtered Zack Greinke early, and they beat the Brewers 8-5.
Today's Games: Jeremy Hellickson takes on Clay Buchholz in Boston. Mat Latos takes on a man more than twice his age in Jamie Moyer. Brian Matusz looks to build on a string of impressive starts, as him and the Orioles take on the Royals. Matt Cain will take on Ricky Nolasco in Miami, as the Giants look for a split. Matt Garza and Erik Bedard will duel in Pittsburgh, as the Cubs look to bring their 11 game losing streak to a halt. The erratic control of Kyle Drabek takes on Yu Darvish in Texas. Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright is a sexy matchup in St Louis. CJ Wilson goes for the Angels in Seattle.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.
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