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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 09/22/2011

Leading off: Cardinals face the Mets with a chance to gain more wild-card ground

Game of the day: New York Mets at St. Louis, 1:45 p.m. The Cardinals have continued to put pressure on the Braves for the National League wild card, and St. Louis can pick up another half-game on Thursday with Atlanta idle. The Cardinals were 8 ½ games behind Atlanta on Sept. 5, but they enter Thursday’s game only 1 ½ games back. Right-hander Jake Westbrook (12-9) will start Thursday’s matinee, looking for his fifth straight start allowing two earned runs or fewer. Westbrook had one of his best starts of the season against the Mets in July, when he allowed two runs on four hits in eight strong innings. Left-hander Chris Capuano (11-12) is scheduled to start for the Mets and make his first appearance against the Cardinals this year. The former Brewer has a 5.18 ERA in 14 career appearances against St. Louis.

Other game to watch: Los Angeles Angels at Toronto, 7:07 p.m. With all the talk about Boston and Tampa Bay in the American League wild-card race, Los Angeles has quietly crept closer to the Red Sox as well. The Angels enter Thursday 2 ½ games behind Boston with seven games to play, and are tied now with Tampa Bay. The Red Sox would need to continue to collapse over the final week to allow the Angels or Rays to sneak in, but it’s at least worth watching Los Angeles on Thursday to see if it can keep things close. Angels right-hander Ervin Santana has lost his last three starts, but he won eight of his previous nine decisions and has a 2.12 ERA this season in two starts against the Blue Jays. Rookie right-hander Henderson Alvarez (1-2) will make his ninth career start for Toronto, looking for his first win since he threw eight scoreless innings against Baltimore on Aug. 31.

Games you should have seen:

Baltimore 6, Boston 4. The Orioles rallied late for the second consecutive night to hand the reeling Red Sox another perplexing loss. Mark Reynolds homered twice for Baltimore, including a two-run shot in the seventh inning that tied the game at 4. Vladimir Guerrerro then broke the deadlock with a two-run single in the eighth. Boston, which is now 5-16 in September, has just a six-game road trip left on its schedule to try to hold on to a playoff spot.

New York Yankees 4, Tampa Bay 2. In the second game of a day-night double header, the Yankees clinched the AL East when they beat the Rays. Jorge Posada hit a pinch-hit, two-run single to break a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the eighth after the Rays had tied the game on a Sean Rodriguez solo home run in the top of the seventh. The Yankees had clinched a playoff spot when they won the first game of the double header, also by a score of 4-2.

Stat you should know: 8. Red Sox games in September, out of 21, in which their starter has allowed five or more runs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Josh Beckett allowed six Tuesday in the Red Sox’ loss to Baltimore. Boston starters had allowed five or more runs only eight times in all of July and August.

Star of the night: Marlins right-hander Javier Vasquez allowed only two hits over seven scoreless innings Wednesday in Florida’s 4-0 win over the Braves. Vasquez has won each of his last five starts and hasn’t allowed a run in his last 25 innings — a record for a Marlins starter.

Chatter: “We definitely need to have our team ready and I plan on our team being ready.” — Philadelphia Manager Charlie Manuel, who doesn’t sound too worried about the Phillies’ season-high five-game losing streak that began after they clinched their fifth straight division title on Saturday.

By Greg Schimmel  |  07:00 AM ET, 09/22/2011

Categories:  Baseball Insider

 
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