The Atlanta Braves moved both starting pitchers Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe up to pitch on three days rest. Lowe pitched Thursday afternoon against the Derek Lowe and struck out nine in 5.2 innings. He allowed just one run on seven hits. The Braves won the game 5-1 with the big blow coming in the 3rd inning. Brooks Conrad, filling in for the injured Martin Prado, who is out for the season, hit a three-run homerun off Marlins starter Andrew Miller. The Braves continue to stay on top in the National League wild card as they welcome the Philadelphia Phillies into town on Friday night for manager Bobby Cox’ final regular season home games.
Chris Young of the Padres was solid in his third outing since his return from the DL. He pitched five shutout innings while allowing just three hits. Young was saved twice by the outstanding defense by centerfielder Will Venable. In the 2nd inning, he brought back an Alfonso Soriano solo homerun. In the 3rd inning with a runner on base and the Padres up 1-0, Venable jumped well over the left-center field wall to bring back an Aramis Ramirez two-run homerun. Those game-saving catches combined with great pitching allowed the Padres to stay two games behind the National League West-leading SF Giants and 1.5 games behind the wild card-leading Atlanta Braves.
With the Padres winning, fans in San Francisco kept cheering for their division-leading Giants. Manager Bruce Bochy decided to move Tim Lincecum up to pitch Wednesday night on regular rest so he could possibly start in a tiebreaker. Lincecum struggled in the 1st inning with the first batter of the game, Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks, blasting a solo homerun into the right field seats. Lincecum walked two in the 1st inning and looked more like the terrible August pitcher rather than the Giants ace. However Lincecum settled in and dominated the Diamondbacks. He allowed just that one run on six hits while striking out 11 through seven innings.
Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy was cruising along until the 4th inning. Aubrey Huff singled to leadoff the inning and Buster Posey followed with a walk. Pat Burrell came to the plate and blasted the second pitch from Kennedy into the left field seats for a 3-1 Giants lead. Lefty reliever Javier Lopez pitched a scoreless 8th inning and closer Brian Wilson picked up his MLB-leading 47th save.
The Tampa Bay Rays, to try and get fans into the seats for their final home game of the regular season, gave away 20,000 tickets for Wednesday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. With a crowd of over 36,000 in attendance, the Rays offense was shutdown by Kevin Millwood, the league leader in losses. Millwood allowed a 4th inning hit to Rays catcher John Jaso before the Rays loaded the bases in the 7th inning. Millwood however struck out BJ Upton for the third time to end the threat. It was a game in which the entire Orioles team was on the top step of the dugout rooting for the well-liked veteran starter. “He really deserved that,” said Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who couldn’t remember rooting harder for a player than he did for Millwood during the 7th inning bases-loaded jam. “He gave everything he had. He emptied his tank right there.”
Rays starter Jeff Niemann was solid in his quest to make the Rays postseason roster. He allowed two runs on four hits over seven innings. The big blow came in the 7th inning when Orioles outfielder Felix Pie tripled in two runs. The Rays stayed a ½ game ahead of the NY Yankees in the American League East and one game ahead of the Minnesota Twins for the best record in the AL.
The NY Yankees decided to give Javier Vazquez another chance at the rotation (and a spot on the postseason roster). Instead, he was blasted by the potent Toronto Blue Jays offense. The Blue Jays were pumped for the game as it was manager Cito Gaston’s final game in Toronto. Players wore fake mustaches to honor him. Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider continues to rake against the Yankees as he hit a solo homerun off Vazquez to leadoff the bottom of the 1st inning (Snider went 2-for-5 with two RBIs). Catcher John Buck added a solo homerun in the 2nd inning and Aaron Hill blasted a three-run homerun in the 5th inning to end Vazquez’ night (seven runs on ten hits in just 4.2 innings). The Blue Jays held on for the 8-4 victory. For the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez hit his 30th homerun of the season (the 14th time in his career to reach the 30 homerun and 100 RBI plateau and it is the 13 straight season he has hit 30 homeruns) while catcher Francisco Cervelli went 3-for-3.