September 17, 2011

oswalt getty

Phillies beat Cardinals, clinch fifth straight NL East title


Pop that champagne, Philadelphia.

Roy Oswalt fanned seven batters and scattered five hits over seven dominant innings Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies topped St. Louis 9-2 and locked up their fifth consecutive National League East title in front of a sold-out home crowd.

Jimmy Rollins went 4-for-5 with two runs scored, Shane Victorino tallied three RBI, and Raul Ibanez hit a grand slam as the Phillies cruised past a Cardinals club that has been trying to fight its way into the Wild Card mix. The Cardinals still face an uphill battle. For the Phillies, it’s time to celebrate.

The division title is the 11th in franchise history, and this 2011 team is up to 98 wins with 12 games to play.

If the season were to end tonight, Philadelphia would be facing an NLDS matchup with the Diamondbacks.

Stephen Strasburg goes six strong in third outing

Strasburg throws a pitch against the Florida Marlins during the first inning of their MLB National League baseball game in Washington

Nationals righty Stephen Strasburg made his third start since returning from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery on Saturday night against the Marlins.

And he was as dominant as you might expect.

Via Mark Zuckerman of, Strasburg tossed six innings of one-run ball, allowing just four hits while striking out three Marlins hitters. The right-hander did not issue a walk and threw 45 of his 61 pitches for strikes, hitting 98 mph regularly.

Strasburg has now pitched 14 major league innings since being activated from the 60-day disabled list on September 6 and boasts a sparkling 1.29 ERA and 0.64 WHIP over his first three starts. He has scattered eight hits, fanned 11 opposing hitters and allowed only two runs — all while managing to not walk a single batter. In fact, Strasburg hasn’t issued a walk to the last 96 batters he’s faced, dating back to 2010.

The velocity is where it needs to be, and his breaking stuff has quickly rounded into midseason form. Strasburg should remain a dominant force over his final two appearances of the 2011 regular season.

Tommy Hanson cleared to pitch in instructional league

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From Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution comes word that Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson completed his “third and final” bullpen session Saturday in Atlanta and plans to head to Orlando next week to begin making appearances in instructional league games.

Hanson has been sidelined since the first week of August due to a slight undersurface tear in his right rotator cuff. The 25-year-old starter is hoping to return to the bigs before the end of the regular season so that he can prove his health before the playoffs begin. He wants to be a member of the postseason rotation. And the Braves probably want that even more.

Hanson had an ace-like 3.60 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 142/46 K/BB ratio in 130 innings before the injury.

Cody Ross done for season due to right hamstring strain?

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies

An MRI taken Saturday in Denver confirmed what the Giants had been fearing for the past 18 hours or so.

According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News, outfielder Cody Ross — who made an early exit Friday night against the Rockies — has been diagnosed with a strained right hamstring.

Ross was 2-for-4 with two RBI on Friday evening before departing, and one of those hits was his 100th career home run. But the utility outfielder is now in danger of missing the rest of the regular season.

A hamstring strain is nothing to fret about, but the Giants are still well out of contention for a playoff spot despite a recent run of success and will finish up their regular season schedule just 10 days from now. Ross will need at least seven days to get back to full health.

The 30-year-old impending free agent batted just .240 with a .730 OPS in 121 games this season.

Adrian Gonzalez experiencing right shoulder fatigue

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Just what Sawx fans need: more reason for panic.

According to Ken Rosenthal of, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez admitted before Saturday’s game against the Rays that he’s feeling weakness in his surgically-repaired right shoulder.

Gonzalez does not expect to miss any time, but he acknowledged to Rosenthal that the shoulder fatigue is costing him some of his opposite-field power and may continue to give him grief through the end of the season (whether that comes in late September or late October for the Wild Card-leading Red Sox).

Gonzalez entered Saturday’s action with a healthy .996 September OPS, so it’s not like he’s been stagnant. But he hasn’t hit an opposite-field homer since August 25 and may have to continue making adjustments.

The Red Sox lost to the Rays on Saturday evening and hold only a three-game Wild Card lead.