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The Baseball Notebook


August 19, 2010 7:33 AM

Central Races Open Up

Reds.jpgThe races in the AL & NL Central Divisions have been nip-and-tuck all year, but both are starting to get some air between first and second place. The most surprising development has been in the National League, where Cincinnati continues to extend its lead on St. Louis. The Reds won their fifth straight last night, scoring eight runs in the last two innings to beat Arizona 11-7. Dusty Baker's bullpen did the job in keeping the game in striking distance, as Bill Bray, Arthur Rhodes and Nick Massett combined to throw three shutout innings. Jim Edmonds homered, and Jay Bruce homered and tripled as part of a four-hit night. Huge win for the Reds, to take a slugfest without a significant contribution from Joey Votto or Scott Rolen.

Minnesota's threatening to blow the AL Central sky high. With their second straight 7-6 win over Chicago, they now have a five-game lead. The Twins are 4-1 head-to-head with the Southsiders since they began squaring off last week. Here's another spot where the unknown names in middle and setup relief came through The White Sox led 5-4 after five innings and chased Francisco Liriano. But Minnesota turned to Jeff Manship and Jesse Crain for three shutout innings and their own offense turned it around, and quickly getting rid of Gavin Floyd. Joe Mauer came through with a four-hit night, including a home run.

Elsewhere...

San Francisco continues to struggle, being routed in Philadelphia for the second straight night. The Phils are absolutely tearing it up right now. After returning on Tuesday, Chase Utley found his groove again last night with two hits. Ryan Howard will soon return. The NL East race is threatening to appear cosmetic, as the Phils & Braves both look like they're ready to coast into October. Atlanta got a walkoff 3-2 win over Washington last night, and just acquired Derek Lee from the Cubs. The Giants are now 1-4 in their recent games against the Padres & Phillies, ones that could've put them in good position, and instead have pushed their backs to the wall.

Tampa Bay made a statement of its own, sweeping three games from Texas in Tropicana. Evan Longoria capped a big series with a four-RBI afternoon. The Rays kept pace with the Yankees for the best record in baseball. New York beat Detroit 9-5. While the Yanks' trade for Curtis Granderson has been a disappointment, Granderson at least came through against his old team. Three hits on Tuesday night were followed by a big home run last night. And a nice job by Joe Girardi of managing the bullpen. Holding a 7-4 lead after five, he mixed and matched four relievers to get through the next three innings and get the game to Rivera. As a fan, the constant pitching changes can get annoying to watch, but credit to Girardi for doing what he had to do with limited quality in the middle roles. Both Tampa & New York continue to keep eyes on the rearview mirror, as Boston won again last night over LAA.

Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Notebook Family of sports blogs, published through the Real Clear Sports blog network, offering daily commentary on baseball and previews in college football and the NFL.

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