Las Vegas----GM Charlie Oliver’s Luchadores team, riding a season-high eight-game winning streak, finished off a sweep of Central Division rival Oakeyland, building their lead in same to a season-high seven games over the Ballers, who have now lost 19 of their last 26 games to fall seven games below .500 (51-58).

In the series finale, former Worcester field hand Erwin Santana (4-6, 3.57) gave up an unearned run in the first after Matt Holliday misplayed a fly ball but was otherwise in control over the next six frames, while new 2B Tadahito Iguchi hit an RBI triple off Tim Hudson (who left the game in the third after tweaking his hip fielding a bunt by Jimmy Rollins) and a two-run double off Jeff Francis in long relief. Hudson (7-12, 4.73) took the loss and could only watch as the Las Vegans added on against the Oakey pen. Santana left after Nick Swisher hit a two-out RBI single in the eighth, but Ian Snell finished out, as Vegas won, 8-2.

While the loss did not mathematically eliminate the Ballers’ chances of making the post-season, it severely narrowed their chances. Oakeyland would need to win seven more games down the stretch than Vegas, a .533 ballclub, over the last 48 games, or go (in all likelihood) 34-14 overall. Barring an unbelievable collapse by Vegas, the show’s really over in the East.

In other BARB action:

WP: Bronson Arroyo (11-5, 4.72)
LP: Scott Kazmir (11-8, 4.25)
SV: Nathan (23)

Scott Kazmir allowed Carlos Beltran to homer leading off the game, and it all went down hill from there, with Bonds and Bay both collecting boundary belts off Kazmir and Morgan Ensberg really rubbing it in with a three-run shot in the fifth off Jose Conteras in relief, building an early 10-0 lead for the Squirrels, clinching a badly-needed series sweep against the slumping Finches. The Unnatural Selections made things interesting when 1B Mike Jacobs hit a grand slam off reliever Scott Linebrink, but the Squirrels would get an insurance run off Yovani Gallardo and hold on for the win. Coming on the heels of 6-1, 7-6 wins over Darwin, the Squirrels now find themselves only two and a half games out----and, for those paying attention, they are the league’s hottest team, having won 20 of their last 25!

WP: Gil Meche (6-5, 4.94)
LP: Kyle Davies (6-6, 7.21)

Chris Young was pasted, knocked out of the game in the second—but none of that mattered. Roy Oswalt gave up six runs and was gone by the fifth. The Moabs wasted leads of 4-2 and 5-4 and could only watch helplessly as the Elims used them for batting practice, scoring eleven runs after the fourth on 18 hits and 6 walks, among them homers by Sizemore and Rios. With the win, the Elims moved back into sole possession of first in the East, but it couldn’t be bunched more tightly:

Eliminators 63-43 ----
Finches 62-45 1.5 GB
Moabs 61-45 2.0 GB
Squirrels 61-45 2.0 GB

WP: Jake Peavy (9-6, 4.15)
LP: Brandon Webb (12-4, 2.57)

The Firebirds, swept last weekon the road by the D-Backs, seemed determined to return the favor, winning the first two games at home between their closest rival, and it was crushing: the hitters, led by C Russell Martin, batted around in the fifth, scoring nine runs! Every Firebirds starter other than rookie Ryan Braun had at least three hits, and Martin scored three times. It was an unbelievable fate for starter Brandon Webb, the loop leader in wins and one of the leaders in ERA—but it was so. And with the split, the hopes that the lineup raised by winning 11 of 14 in the last two weeks seemed crushed. The D-Backs fell back to .500 (53-53) and now trail Yuma by 10 games.

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