Dugout Digest – central crunch

The NL Central race has always been close, but now…it's *close*. The Cardinals took two out of three from the Pirates this week (with a pair of extra inning, walkoff wins in the mix), and the Reds have ripped off five wins in a row. St Louis is now two back Pittsburgh, while Cincinnati is a half game behind the Cardinals. The jamboree continues this weekend, and the Cardinals and Reds might actually be cheering for the Pirates, as they host the Diamondbacks, who are the closest competition to Cincinnati and St Louis in the wild card race.


Jose Reyes looks to stomp Will Middlebrooks into nothingness (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Game of the Day: Giants 4, Nationals 3. Washington looked to be sleepwalking their way to a 3-1 win over San Francisco on Thursday afternoon. Then, Rafael Soriano came in for the ninth and promptly crapped the bed. After allowing a single to Buster Posey to lead off the inning, Soriano got a strikeout and a fly out to bring the Giants down to their final out. He then walked Roger Kieschnick, and after getting ahead of Hector Sanchez 0-2, threw three straight balls and then a meatball that Sanchez smashed into the second deck. Sergio Romo threw a 1-2-3 ninth, and the Giants picked up a huge win.

Pitching Lines of the Day: Rookie Sonny Gray helped the A's to a 5-0 win over the Astros, allowing four hits over eight shutout innings, striking out nine and walking one. Former Athletic Tyson Ross had a good start for the Padres in their 4-1 loss against the Mets, giving up one run on five hits in seven innings, striking out eight without a walk. Zack Wheeler counted him by giving up one run on seven hits in six innings, walking one and striking out a dozen. Tony Cingrani had a good start in Cincinnati's 2-1 win in Milwaukee, allowing one run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings, punching out nine and walking one. Anibal Sanchez pitched the Tigers past the Royals 4-1, giving up one run on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out five.

Hitting Lines of the Day: In Oakland's win over Houston, Nate Freiman went 4/4 with a double, a homer, and four RBI. Chris Nelson had a good game for the Angels in their 8-4 win in the Bronx, going 2/4 with two homers and five RBI. Matt Carpenter provided the offense for the Cardinals in their 6-5, 12 inning win over the Pirates, going 4/5 with two runs, an RBI, a walk, a double, and a triple. Wil Myers propelled the Rays to a 7-1 win over the Mariners, going 3/4 with two runs, four RBI, and two doubles. Andy Dirks had a good game for the Tigers in Kansas City, going 4/4 with two runs and two doubles.

Other Games: The Blue Jays edged the Red Sox 2-1. The Twins scored a pair of runs late to walk off on the White Sox 4-3.

What You Missed: Expanded replay is coming next year! This Royals-Tigers series is crucial for Kansas City.

Today's Games: Justin Verlander starts game one in the Royals-Tigers doubleheader, while James Shields gets the nod in game two. Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles welcome the Rockies to Baltimore. Zack Greinke takes on Cliff Lee in Philly. Gerrit Cole and the Pirates host the Diamondbacks. RA Dickey starts for the Blue Jays in Tampa. Alex Wood and the Braves host the Nationals. Hisashi Iwakuma starts for the Mariners in Texas against Derek Holland. Justin Masterson starts for the Indians in Oakland.

National TV: Yankees-Red Sox (7 PM, MLB Network), Blue Jays-Rays (7 PM, MLB Network)

MLB.tv Free Game: Diamondbacks-Pirates (7 PM)

Pitching Matchup of the Day: Zack Greinke vs Cliff Lee (Dodgers vs Phillies, 7 PM)

Enjoy your day of baseball, everyone.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.