Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Pennant Race - 9/28

It's been an amazing final weekend of the 2008 season, with several playoff spots still up for grabs. The Phillies clinched the NL East with a win over Washington on Saturday, but the Mets victory, combined with the Brewers loss, meant the wildcard would come down the final Sunday, and possibly Monday.

The Marlins had crushed the Mets dreams in 2007, jumping all over then Met Tom Glavine in the first inning and cruised to an 8-1 victory. Johan Santana had put the Mets into position with a masterful shutout on Saturday. Sunday was a match of a pair of left-handers, Scott Olsen for the Marlins, and Oliver Perez for the Mets.

The two teams were scoreless in the sixth inning when the Marlins finally broke through. Cameron Maybin led off with a double and scored on John Baker's single for a 1-0 lead. Jorge Cantu followed with a single and both runners moved up on Mike Jacobs fly out. Jerry Manuel elected to intentionally walk Dan Uggla, but reliever Joe Smith walked Josh Willingham to force in a run. Smith wiggled out of further trouble and the Mets came right back.

Robinson Cancel started the home half of the sixth with a walk. One batter later Carlos Beltran drove the Shea crowd crazy with a game tying 2-run home run, his 27th of the season.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, the Brewers trailed the Cubs 1-0 on an unearned run. CC Sabathia was doing everything he could to win it for the Brewers, but Milwaukee couldn't break through against an array of Cubs pitchers.

Carlos Zambrano was originally slated to start the game for Chicago, but Lou Piniella end up opting for Angel Guzman, who gave him two innings of work. Chad Gaudin, Neall Cotts, and Kevin Hart kept Milwaukee off the board through six innings.

Veteran Ray Durham greeted reliever Scott Marshall with a lead off double in the seventh. Ryan Braun's ground out moved Durham up to third, and Prince Fielder was intentionally walked to set up a potential double play. Piniella went to Mike Wuertz, who walked J.J. Hardy to load the bases. Wuertz then struck out Craig Counsell for the second out, but walked Corey Hart to force in the tying run.

The Marlins and Mets moved to the eighth inning back at Shea, still tied at 2-2. But Wes Helms connected off of Scot Schoenweis for just his fifth home run of the season and a 3-2 Marlins lead. Two batters later, Dan Uggla slugged his 32nd home run of the year off of Luis Ayala for a 4-2 Florida advantage.

With the Mets falling behind, the Brewers took it to the Cubs in the eighth. Mike Cameron singled with one out and two batters later, second year sensation Ryan Braun belted his 37th home run of the year off of Cubs set up man Bobby Howry. Braun has 71 home runs in 264 big league games.

At Shea, Jose Reyes smacked a double off of Kevin Gregg with two outs in the eighth. A Beltran walk brought up the Mets biggest hitter in the second half, Carlos Delgado. Fredi Gonzalez countered with lefty specialist Arthur Rhodes. Delgado drilled a 1-1 shot to left, but the ball stayed in the park for the third out of the inning.

In Milwaukee, Sabathia completed his seventh game in 17 Brewers starts, Ryan Theriot singled with one away, but Sabathia got Derrek Lee to bounce into a game ending double play.

A quite Shea Stadium held their breath and heads, and prayed as Matt Lindstrom came on in the ninth for the Marlins. David Wright popped out to second base and Endy Chavez hit a comebacker for the first two outs of the inning. Damon Easley drew a walk, giving the Mets on more shot with the tying run at the plate, but Ryan Church flied out to deep center to end the ball game and another disappointing Mets season.

Over in the American League, the AL Central was coming down to the last Sunday. With a half-game separating the two teams, the White Sox needed a win in order to play their 162nd game against the Tigers on Monday. The game being a make up of an earlier rain out. The Twins held destiny in their own hands, knowing that a win would ensure them, at the very least, of a one game playoff on Tuesday.

Pitching was the name of the game for both teams. Chicago's ace Mark Buehrle pitched like one. After losing the first two games against the Indians, the White Sox needed their best to give them his best. Buerhle did just that, allowing one run over seven innings to earn his 15th win of the season. Paul Konerko's solo home run highlighted a 3-run second inning that gave the White Sox the lead for good. Jermaine Dye added some big insurance with a 2-run single in the seventh before Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks sealed the win.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Twins had struggled against the Royals for two days, but Scott Baker was huge on Sunday. The Twins right-hander allowed just four hits, and struck out eight over seven innings, and the Twins rolled to a 6-0 victory. Joe Mauer and Delmon Young drove in two runs each for the Twins, who won their 88th game.

Gavin Floyd will start for Chicago on Monday, while former White Sox star Freddy Garcia goes for the Tigers. Should the White Sox win, they will face the Twins in a one game showdown in Chicago on Tuesday.

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