Twins are in; Giants await Torres and Lidge looks dominant again
Five cuts from Tuesday's action:
While the Twins will continue to chase the Yankees, whom they trail by one game, for best record in the league and homefield advantage in the playoffs, wrapping up the AL Central with a week and a half left in the season gives manager
Duening has been a revelation for the Twins in 2010. He has pitched so well that he was promoted from long relief to likely postseason starter by virtue of his 10-2 record, 2.19 ERA and 1.13 WHIP -- the latter two and his winning percentage are all the best among Minnesota's six primary starters.
Whether the Twins edge the Yankees for the AL's top seed or not, they are likely to draw the Rays in the first round -- as the top seed, they'd draw the wild card anyway, but even as the No. 2 seed they'd draw the wild card because two teams from the same division can't play in the ALDS. If indeed Minnesota plays Tampa Bay, Gardenhire might want to at leas think about starting righthander
Of the Twins' likely playoff opponents, the Rays are the only team who fares better against lefty starters, going 34-17 (.667) against southpaws and 55-44 (.556) against righties. Baker -- who allowed one earned run and struck out seven over five innings against Cleveland on Tuesday -- has been brilliant against the Rays this year, yielding just one earned run in 15 innings over two starts.
Duensing, however, remains the clear favorite to start over Baker in a possible ALCS with New York or Texas. The Yankees are 31-23 (.574) against lefty starters and 61-36 (.629) against righties; the Rangers' split is even more lopsided, 24-22 (.522) against lefties and 59-45 (.628) against righties.
Torres has been San Francisco's unexpected sparkplug this season with a team-leading 64 extra-base hits, a total that ranks tied for eighth in the NL. He has 14 home runs that have mostly come in key spots -- five have come in tied ballgames and five more when the score was within two runs. Similarly, 35 of his 43 doubles and three of his seven triples have come when the game was either tied or neither team led by more than two runs.
The Giants managed no runs off Cubs starter
Saunders was so efficient that Colorado did not draw a walk and only had two at-bats the whole game with a runner in scoring position.
San Diego again benefited from the insertion of
He began 2010 on the disabled list and was sluggish getting going. On July 31, he blew his fourth save in 14 opportunities and saw his ERA rise to 5.57. Lidge was looking more and more like 2009 self (0-8, 7.21 ERA, 31-for-42 in save chances) than his 2008 self (2-0, 1.95 ERA, 41-for-41 in save chances).
Since the calendar flipped to August, however, Lidge has again been dominant. He closed the door on the Braves for the second straight night on Tuesday, this time preserving a 5-3 victory for
He was especially dominant on Monday night, getting two strikeouts in his one inning and inducing swinging strikes on five of his eight sliders. He followed that up with a yeoman's effort on Tuesday, allowing a leadoff single to
Given how well the starters -- especially the big three of Halladay,
Swisher started the Yankees' scoring on Monday night with a solo home run in the first inning -- his 27th of the year -- and added a single later as New York beat the Rays 8-3 to extend its AL East lead back to 2 1/2 games.
Swisher is now batting .290 with a .362 OBP and .516 slugging percentage; the average and slugging are second on the team, trailing only Cano. Swisher has been steady and versatile, hitting effectively from several spots in the lineup -- primarily second but also fifth, sixth and eighth -- while seeing 4.03 pitches per plate appearance, third on the team and No. 19 in the AL.
The rightfielder has also proven himself immune to home/road splits. In 2009, he was the one Yankee to hit better on the road (21 HRs, .945 OPS) than at home (8 HRs, .776 OPS) while in 2010 he entered Tuesday's game with near identical splits. In 69 games and 66 starts at home, he was hitting .287/.360/.496 with 13 home runs and 43 RBIs; in 69 games and 66 starts on the road he is hitting .291/.365/.528 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs.
And the Rays have yet to figure Swisher out. He has been particularly dangerous against Tampa Bay, batting .354 with a .415 OBP and five home runs in 13 games.