S-Mart (Whereever that is!)-----On the road, losers of four of their last five, the West-leading Yuma Firebirds continued to stumble against hot-hitting clubs, with Exhibit A being Alex Rodriguez, the league’s hottest hitter. "A-Rod", the loop’s highest-paid player, has been on a massive salary drive since the All-Star Break, and on Game Day 132 the Boom Sticks SS homered for a BARB-record eighth consecutive game, his 37th of the season, and made a key play with the bases loaded in the ninth to deny visiting Yuma.
The Firebirds got the best start of the year out of aging Roger Clemens. "The Rocket" went seven strong innings, giving up no runs for six frames, but in the seventh he gave up a leadoff shot to Rodriguez, then was victimized when Travis Hafner couldn’t come up with a Miguel Tejada throw. Still, his teammates got Clemens off the hook and denied Tim Wakefield (6 IP, 1 ER) a win when Brian Roberts singled off Brandon Backe in the ninth to score Vernon Wells. With two out and the bases loaded, Backe (1-0, 18.00) was allowed to pitch to Vladimir Guerrero, who topped the ball to Rodriguez. ‘A-Rod’, on a do-or-die play, made the barehand pickup and his sidearm peg to first just beat Guerrero.
Within moments, the game was over, as Rodriguez singled on the first pitch in the bottom of the frame against Wil Ohman (1-4, 6.00) and Julio Lugo hit a game-winning double off Francisco Cordero, just under the glove of Roberts, and S-Mart had won, 3-2, for their seventh win in their last nine games—for some reason, the Boom Sticks are playing their best ball of the year with mathematical elimination just games away. With the loss, Yuma (75-59) saw their lead over hard-charging Arizona dip to just four games.
In other BARB action:
FROSTBITE FALLS 5, WORCESTER 1
WP: Ben Sheets (9-6, 3.99)
LP: Gil Meche (9-7, 4.73)
SV: Linebrink (2)
Ben Sheets, in his first start off his second stint on the DL, went five scoreless and the Squirrels bullpen did the rest, holding the Elims to just one run on two hits the rest of the way. Victor Martinez continued his hot hitting against the divisional rival, going 3-for-4 with a homer. Worcester, which at one point had a four-game lead in the East, has now split their last ten games and they clearly can’t wait for injured righthander Chris Young to rejoin the rotation.
DARWIN 6, BROOKLYN 2
WP: Cla Meredith (4-3, 2.31)
LP: Roy Oswalt (13-4, 3.38)
Lance Berkman hit a pair of homers to become the second player in BARB to reach the 40-HR mark, and J.J. Putz had his longest outing of the year in relief (3.1 IP, 4 K) to salvage a short outing by Chad Billingsley, who left in the fourth with a ‘tweak’ in his right calf, but the Finches still completed their sweep of visiting Brooklyn. Ryan Howard hit his 32nd homer of the year, a solo shot, in a losing cause for the Moabs, who have now lost sixth straight after momentarily holding second in the volatile East.
SAN JOSE 5, POTTSYLVANIA 1
WP: Noah Lowry (8-13, 4.40)
LP: Bobby Jenks (7-4, 3.86)
Noah Lowry retired only one hitter in the first, giving up two before leaving with an injury, and the Rockets went on to build an early lead against the Creepers bullpen, exploiting a pair of errors by Lyle Overbay. After the game, Creepers management indicated that Lowry was done for the rest of the season and will begin a rehabilitation program to get ready for next season.