Pennant Performers of the Night: September 17

It doesn't get any better than this. Boston at Yankee Stadium, five teams battle for the NL Wildcard, and the Mariners have a say in the AL West.

National League:
In a decade where the first three and ¾ years have seen the emergence of the clutch, young stud pitcher, Carlos Zambrano decided that Friday night was his turn in the spotlight. And judging from his Friday night showing, he could be standing in that spotlight every fourth game well into the month of October.

The right-hander threw seven solid innings at the Cincinnati Reds, allowing a run on six scattered hits, while striking out five would-be Reds batters.

Nice night for the 23-year-old eh?

Zambrano didn't settle for the seven stingy innings on the mound. Instead, the Venezuelan whacked a solo home run in the sixth to polish off a nice shiny day's work.

The bomb was Zambrano's first of the 2004 season and third of his career.

The Cubs most consistent starter all year long collected his 14th win and lowered his ERA to a league-leading 2.74, tying him with Randy Johnson for the honor.

Chicago momentarily tied the Giants for the lead in the wildcard race, pending the outcome of San Francisco's match up versus San Diego…


… But Barry Bonds and his crew in the Bay Area would not lose hold of the top spot and defeated the Padres 4-1 behind 6.2 solid frames from rookie starter Noah Lowry.

Not surprisingly, however, Lowry's performance wasn't the talk after the game. Instead everyone was buzzing loudly about a 40-year-old slugger named Barry Bonds for some reason.

Oh yeah, Bonds hit his 700th career home run in the third inning, becoming the third member of the 700 club, that's why. The blast came off Padres' ace Jake Peavy and was the 42nd home run of the year for the 6-time MVP.

The run batted in moved Bonds to within one of Ted Williams on the all-time RBI list with 1838. With just 13 more runs driven in this season, the game's greatest hitter will rank in the top 10 in runs batted in while ranking third in home runs.

The Giants stayed in first place in the NL Wildcard standings, winning their sixth game in a row.


American League :
The regular season series we have all been waiting for is here. Finally.

The hype began nearly two months ago when the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees basebrawled their way to several suspensions, nearly $100 thousand in fines and a hot streak for a rolling Boston clubhouse.

Game one of the three-game set on Friday night did not disappoint the pre-series hype. Unless you are a Yankees fan that is. A tight game until the final out, the Red Sox came away with a 3-2 comeback victory after breaking through against Yankees' ace closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth.

Johnny Damon was the Sox star of the night, going 2-for-4 with a home run and two runs batted in.

Damon's 17th homer of the year broke a scoreless tie in the top of the 3rd but the lead was short-lived when the Yanks scratched across a run in both the 3rd and 4th innings to take a 2-1 advantage. John Olerud's solo home run accounted for the run in the fourth.

Heading into the top of the ninth and Rivera coming to the hill, the score remained 2-1 New York. Things didn't exactly look promising for the Beantown Nine.

Try telling that to the Red Sox dugout without being escorted to the nearest city hospital.

Trot Nixon drew a rare walk off of Rivera to lead it off and when Jason Varitek struck out swinging, pinch-runner Dave Roberts stole second. The steal would prove to be crucial just two batters later.

After Kevin Millar was hit with a Rivera cutter, newly acquired shortstop Orlando Cabrera lined a single to right field that plated Roberts with the tying run.

The blown save was only the 3rd of the year for Rivera who leads the majors with 49 saves.

Rivera then struck out Kevin Youkilis to set up the hero of the night in center fielder Johnny Damon.

Damon poked a blooping single to center that scored Millar with the go-ahead run.

Boston's 3-2 win moves them to within 2.5 games of East division-leading New York and retains the Red Sox five game lead over Anaheim in the AL Wildcard race.


The pitching performance of the night was also lurking in the Bronx in the form of the Boston Red Sox pitching staff.

In a nail-biter, the Sox relief corps combined for three near-perfect innings, striking out six without allowing a single hit. The only base runner was a walk by right-hander Mike Timlin to Gary Sheffield with two down in the eighth.

Timlin, as well as left-hander Alan Embree and closer Keith Foulke, went an inning and struck out two apiece in slamming the door on the Yankees.

All of that was set up by a strong outing from right-hand starter Bronson Arroyo. The 27-year-old earned a no-decision for his efforts but the 6.2 innings of four-hit baseball was more than anyone could have asked of the journeyman hurler.

Holding the New York Yankees to four hits and two runs in a critical mid-September game in the Bronx is easily the Pennant Performance of the Night in the American League.


AMERICAN LEAGUE

West
1. Oakland------- 85-62 ---
2. Anaheim------- 84-63 2.0
3. Texas---------- 80-67 5.0


Central
1. Minnesota------- 86-61 ---
2. Chicago---------- 72-74 13.5


East
1. New York------- 92-55 ---
2. Boston---------- 89-57 3.5



Wildcard
1. Boston--------- 89-57 ---
2. Anaheim------- 84-63 5.5


NATIONAL LEAGUE

West
1. Los Angeles--------- 85-62 ---
2. San Francisco------- 83-65 2.5
3. San Diego----------- 79-69 6.5


Central
1. St. Louis------- 96-50 ---
2. Chicago-------- 81-64 14.5


East
1. Atlanta------- 87-61 ---
2. Florida-------- 77-68 7.5


Wildcard
1. San Francisco------- 83-65 ---
2. Chicago-------------- 81-64 0.5
3. Houston-------------- 81-67 2.0
4. Florida---------------- 77-57 3.5
5. San Diego----------- 78-69 3.5



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