Travis Hafner: 42 Homers, Six Slams
For the Indians, DH Travis Hafner combined excellent strike-zone awareness with a powerful swing. He moved into the upper echelon of hitters in 2005, then improved in every category the next season, finishing with a .308 average, 42 homers, and 117 RBI. He placed second in the American League in OBP (.439) and first in SLG (.659). Moreover, his six grand slams tied an American League season record.
Justin Morneau Keys Twins' Success
In only his second full big-league season, Justin Morneau blossomed into a outstanding hitter and a key member of the surprising Twins in 2006. He overcame injuries from the previous season to bat .321. His 130 RBI were second only to David Ortiz, and he added 34 homers. Morneau's team edged out the Tigers to win the American League Central, and he won the League MVP Award by a narrow margin.
Alfonso Soriano Joins the 40/40 Club
On September 16, Washington's Alfonso Soriano removed the base that signified his 40th steal of the season. He thus became the fourth player ever to swipe 40 bases (41) and belt 40 homers (46) in the same year. When he laced his 40th double six days later, he became the first-ever 40-40-40 man. After the season, he signed an eight-year, $136 million deal with the Cubs.
Catcher Joe Mauer Wins Bat Title
There was a lot of grumbling in Minnesota when the Twins swapped their talented young catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, before the 2003 season. But phenom Joe Mauer stepped in and did everything expected of him -- and more. His .347 average in 2006 was a result of his gorgeous batting stroke, one of the purest in baseball. Mauer was the first catcher ever to win the American League bat crown.
L.A. Belts Four Straight Home Runs
It was one of the wildest finishes to a ballgame ever. The Dodgers, locked in a tight race for the National League West lead with the Padres, trailed San Diego by four runs as they batted in the last of the ninth on September 18. They proceeded to swat four consecutive homers -- byJeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin, and Marlon Anderson -- to tie the game. The Padres retook the lead in the tenth, but Nomar Garciaparra belted a two-run homer to give L.A. an 11-10 win.
Yadier Molina's HR Wins NLCS
The 2006 NLCS had a bit of everything: superb pitching, sensational defense, astonishing comebacks, and late-game heroics. Game seven was tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth when catcher Yadier Molina popped one over the left-field fence to give the Cards a 3-1 lead. The drama wasn't over, though. The Mets threatened rookie closer Adam Wainwright, loading the bases before he fanned Carlos Beltran to end it.
Magglio Ordonez HR Clinches 2006 World Series Berth
Forty games over .500 in August, Detroit slumped down the stretch, finishing 19-31 and surrendering the division crown. After dropping the first ALDS game to the Yankees, the Tigers restored their roar, beating New York in three straight. Strong pitching helped them take the first three games of the ALCS. With the score 3-3 in the last of the ninth of game four, Magglio Ordonez powered this three-run homer, vaulting the Tigers to the 2006 World Series.
Tigers Pitchers Go Wild
A week layoff after the ALCS may have contributed to Detroit's mistake-ridden play in the 2006 World Series. All five games featured an error by a Tigers pitcher. A bad throw by Fernando Rodney in the seventh inning of game four allowed the Cardinals to tie and then take the lead. Another "E-1" in the fourth inning of game five helped St. Louis turn the game around.
The next page highlights key events and details from the 2006 baseball season.
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