Leading Off: Phillies face Reds in early-afternoon tilt

September 1, 2011

Game of the Day: Philadelphia at Cincinnati, 12:35 p.m. Three games start in the noon hour on Thursday, and this National League matchup is the best of the early afternoon bunch. The Phillies have all but locked up their fifth consecutive division title, but Philadelphia still has some work to do and is still trying to fend off surging Milwaukee for home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs. Right-hander Vance Worley (9-1) has been an unexpected ace in a rotation full of them, and the Phillies have won the 23-year-olds last 12 starts dating back to June 18. Right-hander Mike Leake (11-8) is scheduled to pitch for Cincinnati, sporting a 6.91 ERA in two career starts against the Phillies.

Other game to watch: New York Yankees at Boston, 7:10 p.m. The battle of American League East superpowers concludes on Thursday with the final game of the three-game set. Each of the first two games got a little testy, with John Lackey taking exception to Francisco Cervelli celebrating a home run on Tuesday, and Josh Beckett accusing Brett Gardner of tipping Beckett’s pitch locations on Wednesday. Much-maligned right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-11) will pitch Thursday for the Yankees after allowing 16 earned runs over 6 2/3 innings in his last two starts. Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (14-6) has allowed only 15 earned runs over his last 10 starts.

Games you should have seen:

Cleveland 4, Oakland 3 (16 innings) . Jack Hannahan hit a walk-off RBI single to right in the bottom of the 16th inning, scoring Cord Phelps from second on a very close play at the plate to give the Indians a marathon win over Oakland. Hannahan had tied the game at 3-3 with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, and neither team scored again until the 16th.

Boston 9, New York Yankees 5. The Red Sox took control of an up-and-down game in the late innings to take a 1 1/2 game lead in the American League East and ensure they will remain in first place after the series finale tonight. After the Yankees scored four times in the top of the sixth inning to take a 5-4 lead, Jason Varitek hit an RBI double and Jacoby Ellsbury broke a 5-5 tie with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. Varitek added another two-run blast in the eighth to seal the win and improve Boston’s record this year against the Yankees to 11-3.

Stat you should know: 41. Saves for Braves closer Craig Kimbrel — a new rookie record — after he pitched a perfect ninth inning in Atlanta’s 3-1 win over the Nationals. Kimbrel has not allowed a run since June 11 — a span of 32 2/3 innings pitched.

Star of the night: Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner allowed only two hits over eight scoreless innings Wednesday in a much-needed 4-0 win over the Cubs. Bumgarner struck out 11 and walked two as the Giants snapped a three-game losing streak.

Chatter: “He asked me. I said ‘I want Madson.’ He said, ‘You’re sure?’ I said, ‘Damn sure.’” — Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who lifted starter Cliff Lee after 8 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday night against the Reds. Closer Ryan Madson came in and got the final out with the bases loaded to give the Phillies their third straight win, 3-0.

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