September 17, 2011

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


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


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.