A GIANT step, the Friars fried, Lester, Bautista, Maris and More

Pablo Sandoval

A GIANT Step

The Giants took a large, dare I say giant, step toward the postseason as they completed a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks by winning yesterday, 4-1. Pablo Sandoval splashed one and Andres Torres and Buster Posey also went deep as San Francisco won their fourth straight and eighth in 10 to cut their magic number to two. Hours later, the Padres dropped a 1-0 decision to the Cubs, and the magic number was just one to win their first NL West crown since 2003.

Arizona was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

The result was as ugly as the uniforms

Dick Enberg, the Padres announcer, described the ball perfectly, “a bouncer through the five-and-a-half hole.” That was the 9th inning opposite-field RBI single hit by Brad Snyder off All-Star closer Heath Bell. That was all the scoring as the Cubs pushed the Padres to the brink of elimination with a 1-0 win. The Padres did not have a hit after a Chase Headley two-out single in the 2nd inning.

The Padres have now lost 22 of 34 games since Aug. 25, when they were 76-49 and had a 6.5 game lead over the Giants in the NL West. But don’t blame the pitching. San Diego has averaged only 2.79 runs per game over that span and have been shut out five times including two 1-0 losses to the Cubs in this four-game series in which they lost three.

The NL Bottom Line

  • San Francisco now has a magic number of one to clinch the NL West.
  • Atlanta has a magic number of two for clinching the NL wild card.
  • The Padres trail the Giants by three games going into the final three-game series at San Francisco.

According to our friends at Elias

The Giants finished September with a 1.78 team ERA, the lowest for any club in any month of 20 or more games since the Indians had a 1.42 ERA in May 1968. Luis Tiant, Sonny Siebert and Sam McDowell each made at least six starts for Cleveland that month.

Education Nation

The Minnesota Twins were taken to school yesterday by the Toronto Blue Jays, losing 13-2. The power story of the year continued for Jose Bautista who hit home runs No. 53 and 54, including a grand slam. Edwin Encarnacion added two homers and Jose Molina and Travis Snider each hit one. The Jays now have hit 253 homers, the fourth-highest total in baseball history.

The AL Central champions, who are battling for the best record in the American League, have lost six of their last seven games and missed a chance to tie the Rays and Yankees for the best record in the American League. The Twins (93-66) have allowed at least 10 runs in five of their last seven games.

Meanwhile the Rays lost to Zach Greinke and the Royals, 3-2. The Rays and Yankees are even at 94-65 going into the final weekend. Tampa Bay plays three more times at Kansas City while the Yankees have a three-game series at Boston. If the two teams remain tied at the end of the season, the Rays win the division as a result of winning the season series.

Lester less than stellar

Jon Lester (19-9) lost his bid to become the first lefty to have 20 wins for the red Sox since Mel Parnell in 1953 as he was hammered by the White Sox, 8-3. In the 4th inning, free-agent-to-be Paul Konerko hit for his 39th homer of the season and the ninth grand slam of his career. Lester entered the game with a 2.96 ERA and left with a 3.25 ERA and lost whatever slim chance he had to win the AL CYA.

Not loving that dirty water

Add reliever Ramon Ramirez to the list of pitchers who succeed in their lives before-the-Red Sox and after-the Red Sox. Ramirez picked up his first save for the Giants in their victory yesterday. Ramirez has posted a 0.68 ERA and 0.90 WHIP since getting traded to San Francisco after having a 4.46 ERA and 1.30 WHIP with Boston. Ramirez has held batters to a .138 batting average compared to a .250 batting average with Boston.

On this date

  • In 1903, the very first World Series game was played as the Boston Americans hosted the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates won, 7-3.  Tim Wakefield was in the bullpen.
  • In 1961, Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hit his 61st home run of the season, breaking the record Babe Ruth set in 1927. The record has never been broken.

Happy birthdays

  • Hall of Famer Rod Carew turns 65 today.
  • Batting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, Mark McGwire turns 47 today. Someday, he will buy a ticket and visit the Hall of Fame.