Two big series began on Monday with the Atlanta Braves starting a three-game set in Philadelphia and the Tampa Bay Rays starting a three-game set in New York. The Phillies held a three game lead in the National League East on the Braves before the game started and the Braves were forced to throw rookie Brandon Beachy, who was making his MLB debut, in place of the injured Jair Jurrjens. Beachy was solid and did not succumb to the pressure of playing in Philly as he went 4.1 innings and allowed three runs (one earned) on four hits.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the 5th inning, the Phillies Shane Victorino hit a line drive towards Jason Heyward in right field. Heyward missed the ball and Victorino hustled into third base for a three-base error. That error proved costly, as the Phillies scored two runs that inning to take a 3-1 lead that they would not relinquish. The Phillies Cole Hamels was dominant again as he allowed just one run over eight innings while striking out six. He was also the beneficiary of three double plays turned by his defense.
The Rays were looking to take over first place in the American League East when they arrived at Yankee Stadium. However the Rays Matt Garza struggled as he allowed two runs each in the 3rd and 5th innings, capped by a Curtis Granderson two-run homerun in the 3rd inning. In the top of the 6th inning, the Rays offense finally got to Yankees rookie Ivan Nova, as they scored four runs. The damage was really done against the bullpen of Boone Logan and Chad Gaudin. Logan relieved Nova to face three straight left-handed hitters and did not record an out (Dan Johnson singled in a run, Matt Joyce walked, and Carlos Pena singled to load the bases). In came Gaudin, who walked BJ Upton to tie the game at 4-4.
However, Garza could not hold the Yankees scoreless in the bottom of the inning. Garza allowed back-to-back singles to Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli (who had three hits) followed by Derek Jeter’s RBI single. Garza was relieved by Grant Balfour, who served up Granderson’s second homerun of the night, this time a three-run shot to give the Yankees an 8-4 lead. Though the Rays would make the score 8-6 against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, he would get Joyce to ground out to end the game with runners on first and second base.
The St. Louis Cardinals continue to move further behind the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds as they were shutout in a makeup game in Florida. The loss dropped them seven games back. The Marlins Chris Volstad pitched a complete game shutout as he allowed just five hits. The offense came from rookie catcher Brad Davis, as he hit a grand slam off Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter in the 2nd inning.
The Reds took advantage of the Cardinals loss as they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2. Both starters, Homer Bailey of the Reds and Chris Capuano of the Brewers, gave up two runs over six innings. In the 8th inning, the Reds took the lead as Joey Votto hit a two-run homerun and Scott Rolen followed with a solo shot. Reds closer Francisco Cordero pitched a perfect 9th inning for his 37th save.
The Minnesota Twins should be the first team to clinch a playoff spot as their magic number is now just two. The Twins defeated the Cleveland Indians 9-3 as they scored eight runs from the 4th inning on. Twins starter Brian Duensing was solid as he allowed three runs on six hits over six innings to pick up the victory. Rookie third baseman Danny Valencia hit a solo homerun and JJ Hardy went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, with Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young each collecting two hits for the Twins.
The Chicago White Sox lost their seventh straight game (and starter Gavin Floyd) as they were defeated by the Oakland A’s 3-0. Tony Pena relieved the injured Floyd in the 1st inning and went six shutout innings. However in the 8th inning off White Sox reliever Scott Linebrink, A’s rookie Chris Carter collected his first big league hit and Kurt Suzuki followed later in the inning with a two-run single (he had three hits). A’s starter Gio Gonzalez pitched six shutout innings and the A’s bullpen went three hitless innings to secure the victory.