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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A – Latin American players have figured prominently in putting four teams a victory in their league championship series away from advancing to the World Series after each emerged victorious in its divisional series.
The American League West Division champion Texas Rangers upset the Tampa Bay Rays, the American League East champ, 3-games-to-2, largely in part to a stellar performance by outfielder Nelson Cruz. The native of Montecristi in the Dominican Republic hit an amazing .400 and his three home runs were the most hit by any player in the divisional round.
The American League Wild Card-winning New York Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins, champions of the American League Central Division, in three games behind a standout effort from second baseman Robinson Canó, who finished with four hits in 12 at-bats to go with three runs scored and a run batted-in.
In the National League, veteran infielder Edgar Rentería provided a solid glove and bat off the bench for the National League West Division champion San Francisco Giants, who beat the wild card Atlanta Braves, 3-games-to-1. Rentería came off the bench to provide hits in both appearances as a pinch hitter.
Meantime, the two-time defending National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies brushed aside the Cincinnati Reds, the National League Central champs, in three games behind infielder Plácido Polanco. The third baseman had a hit and scored a run in two games as he returned to the lineup after missing the first game because of an injured back. Polanco hadn’t recorded a hit in his past 22 postseason at-bats before ending his skid against the Reds.
All of those stars from Latin America will have to be even better for their teams to advance to the Fall Classic, which will begin in Philadelphia or San Francisco on Oct. 27.
American League Championship Series
New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers
New York Yankees
Robinson Canó, second base
He’s emerged as an American League Most Valuable Player candidate by hitting .319 with 29 home runs and 109 runs-batted during the regular season. The native of San Pedro de Macorís in the Dominican Republic also was productive against the Twins in the divisional series, scoring three runs and driving in another. In 31 career postseason games, Robinson Canó is hitting .229, but has driven-in 15 runs.
Neftalí Feliz, pitcher
The native of Azua in the Dominican Republic is one of the top relief pitchers in the American League, finishing with 40 saves and a 2.73 earned-run average during the regular season. He was effective against Tampa Bay in the divisional series, allowing a run to go along with two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings. He’ll have to be even better against the Yankees, who have one of the game’s best hitting lineups.
National League Championship Series
Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants
Carlos Ruiz, catcher
The native of David, Panama is enjoying the best year of his career. Carlos Ruiz, who has been nicknamed “Chooch” by the team’s fans, hit .302 with eight home runs and 53 runs batted-in. He also was terrific against the Red in the divisional round, as he had two hits, three walks and drove in a run.
San Francisco Giants
Juan Uribe, shortstop
The native of Baní in the Dominican Republic has been a staple of the team’s lineup because of he’s great defensively. He hit .248, but posted career highs in home runs (24) and runs batted-in (85). He had just one hit against Atlanta in the divisional series, but it was big: a run-scoring single to tie the game in Game 4. He’ll need to be more effective if the Giants are to prevent the Phillies from advance to the World Series for their third straight year.