Giving Thanks: The American League Central

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We continue our look at what each team — or their fans — have to be thankful for this winter.

Minnesota Twins: Their division foes. While they broke even against the Tigers, they were 38-16 against the White Sox, Indians, and Royals. They can also be thankful for a serious of silly occurrences which took place in the late 90s and early 2000s which laid the groundwork for Target Field eventually being built. Here’s to you Don Beaver, who couldn’t make a stadium happen in North Carolina! Here’s to you Minnesota Supreme Court who ruled that the Twins had to play in the Metrodome in 2002, thereby rendering any threats of contraction toothless!  Here’s to you all you wacko politicians who managed to wrangle land and tax dollars to pay for a ballpark when there really wasn’t a will out there to have it done!  And no, saying that these folks are worthy of thanks in no way constitutes an endorsement of their actions.  Think of the “thanks” as being in ironic quotation marks. But it really is a nice park, and it’s helping the Twins, so whatever.

Chicago White Sox: June and July. Ultimately it was a disappointing season, but from June 9th to June 26th they won 15 of 16, including an eleven game winning streak. Another nine game winning streak soon followed. By July 20th they were 52-41 with a 3.5 game lead.  Yes, that was the season’s zenith, and their inability to do anything against division rivals killed it, but it was a nice early summer. For a certain brand of baseball fan who truly views baseball as a pastime — as pleasant background noise on pre-dog-day summer nights, a great run in June and July is about as nice a thing as you can have. If you read this blog a lot you’re probably a big enough fan that you don’t fit that description, but there’s a joy to that kind of thing.

Detroit Tigers: The Curtis Granderson trade. Giving up a fan favorite like Granderson is hard, but Dave Dombrowksi did Detroit proud by bringing in Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer, Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth.  In that crowd there’s a promising center fielder, a potential ace, a C.J. Wilson experiment for 2011 that I’m rather optimistic about and a serviceable reliever.  Nice haul.

Cleveland Indians: Lebron James. James made his “Decision” on July 8th. The Indians ended that night at 33-52.  They finished the season 36-41.  The second half was way easier to handle what with no one in Cleveland paying any attention to them thanks to the sturm und drang, and they were actually a touch better! I attribute this modest improvement to Lebron!

Kansas City Royals: Years and years of losing. If not for that, they wouldn’t have nearly the minor league system they currently have (and the system they currently have is loaded). It’s not unreasonable to think that, come 2012 or 2013 that the Royals will catapult to the top, Tampa Bay Rays-style. As in, “they were pretty terrible until the moment they became good, at which point they became awesome.”

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.