Our first two playoff berths of the 2012 season were clinched within hours of each other on Thursday. The Reds defeated the Cubs behind a great Johnny Cueto pitching performance, and actually could clinch the NL Central outright on Friday (with a win and a Cardinals loss). The other playoff berth went to the Washington Nationals, who beat the Dodgers 4-1 to clinch their first playoff appearance since moving to Washington from Montreal. Congratulations to both teams, but let's not start getting complacent yet: the Giants magic number towards clinching the NL West is two games (meaning that they can clinch today), and the Braves magic number towards clinching a playoff berth is five games, meaning that it's completely possible they can clinch this weekend in Philadelphia.
Game of the Night: Rays 7, Red Sox 4. This was a *huge* win for the Rays. Boston shut them out for seven innings, thanks to the arm of Clay Buchholz. Tampa got one in the eighth, but Boston answered with one of their own in the ninth and went to the bottom of the inning up 4-1. Then…breakdown. Andrew Bailey pretty much blew the game, putting five runners on base while getting just one out and leaving with the game tied. He was replaced by Vicente Padilla, who allowed a three-run walkoff homer to BJ Upton to finish the game off with a six run comeback for the Rays in the ninth, keeping them still 5.5 back in the AL Wild Card race.
Pitching Lines of the Night: Yu Darvish dominatedt he Angels in a 3-1 Rangers win, allowing one run on four hits over eight innings, walking one and striking out nine. Zack Greinke matched Darvish's awesomeness, allowing one run on five hits over eight innings, striking out eight without a walk. Phillies rookie Tyler Cloyd pitched well (albeit with not so dominant stuff), but the Phillies didn't need him in a 16-1 blowout over the Mets (to officially eliminate New York from the playoff hunt). Cloyd allowed one run on three hits over eight innings, walking two and striking out six.
Hitting Lines of the Night: Seth Smith went crazy for the A's in a 12-4 win over the Tigers, going 3/4 with three runs, four RBI, a double, and a homer. Pablo Sandoval had a good game in the Giants 9-2 win over the Rockies, going 2/4 with two homers and four RBI. Aramis Ramirez continued his fantastic season for the Brewers in their 9-7 comeback win over the Pirates, going 3/5 with two runs, three RBI, a double, and a homer. Finally, we'll end with a trio of Phillies who feasted on Mets pitching. Chase Utley went 4/5 with a run, four RBI, and a double. Ryan Howard went 2/6 with two runs, five RBI, and a homer. And then there's Juan Pierre, who went 5/6 with two runs and an RBI…typical Pierre, not getting any extra base hits.
Other Games: The Indians walked off on the Twins 4-3. The Cardinals edged the Astros 5-4 to keep the wild card lead. The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 10-7 after a seven run fourth inning. The Padres nipped the Diamondbacks 6-5 (despite using FIVE PITCHERS in the ninth inning, much to my chagrin).
Today's Games: Chris Carpenter returns to the hill for the first time all year for the Cardinals in Chicago. Jarrod Parker and the A's take on CC Sabathia and the Yankees. Shaun Marcum and the Brewers face a tough challenge in Edwin Jackson and the Nationals. James Shields starts for the Rays against the Blue Jays. Jacob Turner and the Marlins take on Jon Niese and the Mets in a battle of the NL East's two worst teams. Jake Peavy starts for the White Sox in Anaheim against Ervin Santana. Rookie Martin Perez starts for the Rangers in Seattle against Hisashi Iwakuma. Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks will take on Drew Pomeranz and the Rockies.
Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.