Big hits always get the spotlight in postseason play, and the start of the Divisional Series had plenty of them.
Tampa Bay’s Kelly Shopach hit two home runs and knocked in five runs in the Rays 9-0 win in the series opener against Texas. Robinson Cano belted a grand slam and had six RBIs in New York’s 9-3 win over Detroit on Saturday.
Homers were on display again in Philadelphia’s Game 1, 11-6 victory over St. Louis on Saturday. Ryan Howard crushed a three-run shot for the Phillies while teammate Raul Ibanez added a two-run homer.
Milwaukee took a 2-0 lead on Arizona in the NLDS thanks to a little power. Prince Fielder hit a two-run homer in the Brewers 4-1 victory on Saturday, while Ryan Braun hit a two-run shot in a 9-4 win on Sunday.
Mike Napoli helped lead the Rangers to a 2-1 series lead with two-run single in Game 2, won by Texas 8-6, and a two-run homer in Game 3 in a 4-3 victory. Adrian Beltre outdid Napoli with a three-homer performance in Game 4.
The long ball gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead in their series against the Yankees as Miguel Cabrera drove in two runs with a home run in a 5-3 win in Game 2, while Delmon Young hit the tiebreaking homer in Monday’s 5-4, Game 3 win.
Pitching, too: Here were some of the notable pitching performances early in the Divisional Series:
— Matt Moore, Rays, 22-year-old rookie shut out Texas in Game 1, allowing two hits in seven innings.
— Ivan Nova won his 13th straight decision, giving up four hits in 6 1/3 innings in the Yankees Game 1 win over Detroit.
— Yovani Gallardo struck out nine with four hits and a walk in eight innings for Milwaukee in Game 1 against Arizona.
— Roy Halladay retired 21 straight from innings 2-8 in the Phillies Game 1 victory over St. Louis.
— Max Scherzer didn’t allow a hit through five innings in the Tigers Game 2 win over New York.
— Colby Lewis gave up just one hit in six innings of the Rangers win in Game 3 over Tampa Bay.
Ryes bunts way to batting title: Jose Reyes appeared to take the easy way to the National League batting title in the New York Mets’ season finale last week.
The shortstop bunted in the first inning against Cincinnati for a single. With that, Reyes forced Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun to go 3-for-4 to overtake him for the batting title.
Reyes told manager Terry Collins that he wanted to be taken out of the game if he got a hit in his first at-bat. Collins obliged.
“It was kind of tough,” Reyes said. “I want to stay in the game. They have to understand, too, what’s going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the batting title.”
That’s just what Reyes did. He finished with a .337 average to take the NL crown. Braun went 0-for-4 to finish at .332. Reyes was the Mets first batting champion.
Braun took the high road.
“I respect whatever decision he decided to make and ultimately, he left the door open for me,” Braun said.
The fans at Citi Field in New York booed when Reyes was lifted for a pinch-runner. It might have been the last time they saw Reyes play in a Mets uniform. He’ll become a free agent after the World Series.
“I’m humbled and honored,” Reyes said in a statement about his achievement. “It means so much to my family and my country, the Dominican Republic. I have been through a lot over the past few years, so this really means a lot to me. It’s also very special to be the first Mets player to win a batting title. There have been so many great players throughout our history.”
- StatsWatch: Here are the final regular-season leaders —
- Miguel Cabrera, Tigers, .344 average.
- Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, 43 home runs.
- Matt Kemp, Dodgers, 126 RBIs.
- Justin Verlander, Tigers, 24 wins.
- Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 2.28 ERA.
- Jose Valverde, Tigers, 49 saves.
Diamond Notes: Monday’s ALDS game at Tampa Bay was the Rays’ first sellout at Tropicana Field since Opening Day…Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was fined an undisclosed amount after he criticized home plate umpire Jerry Meals in Sunday night’s game at Philadelphia. La Russa told TBS in an interview during the game that Meals had “two different strike zones.”…Tampa Bay’s streak of 31 straight wins when scoring five or more runs this season ended in Saturday’s Game 2, 8-6 loss to Texas. The Rangers win was their first in a Division Series at home after starting 0-7…Philadelphia has sold out 219 consecutive games, including playoffs…Because of the rain-shortened start of Game 1 in the ALDS, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander were the first pitchers to start Games 1 and 3 of a postseason series since Dave Stewart of the Oakland A’s in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 World Series against San Francisco.
Copyright © 2011 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.