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Can the Rangers Win the 2012 World Series?

Sunday November 6, 2011

Sam Evans: The last two years have been like a roller coaster for the Texas Rangers and their fans. The Rangers have been extremely successful, winning two straight American League championships.  But both years they have fallen short in the world series. 2012 is sure to be a critical season for the Rangers organization.

Rotation: I think that C.J. Wilson is making it pretty obvious that he wants to return to the Rangers next year. If we assume that he does, then he will be the Rangers #1 starter. Barring a trade or a signing, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, and Alexi Ogando will follow him. An interesting decision that Rangers have to make is whether they move Neftali Feliz to the rotation. Feliz is a very intriguing pitcher, who in my opinion, at least deserves one spring training to show what he can do as a starter.

If the Rangers decide not to bring back Wilson, there are not many other top of the rotation starters. Jon Daniels has scouted Yu Darvish, so the Rangers might be in the mix to sign Darvish. However, the Rangers payroll including arbitration player and existing contracts is expected to be over 100M. The consensus opinion is that Darvish will cost over 100M. I’d be surprised if the Rangers could afford a contract like that and if they would prefer Darvish over Wilson at similar money. Other options in free agency include Mark Buehrle and Erik Bedard.

The rotation is going to be immensely important for the Rangers in 2012. You could make the argument that with Cliff Lee, the Rangers would have won the World Series last year. If the Rangers could move Feliz and keep Wilson, they would have one of the stronger rotations in the American League.

Catcher, Third Base, Shortstop, and Second Base: These four positions are written in stone for the Rangers. Adrian Beltre might be the best third basemen in baseball and he is signed through 2015. Mike Napoli had a breakout year last year, and despite playing in only 113 games, Napoli was the Rangers most valuable offensive weapon. 2012 is Napoli’s contract year, so if everything goes wrong for the Rangers, Napoli might be traded for prospects.

As for shortstop, Elvis Andrus has improved ever since he first got to Texas. I think that in 2012, Andrus has the chance to take a big step forward. If he could steal 40 bases (just three more than he did in 2011), and hit over .300, he would become one of the best shortstops in the American League. At second base, the Rangers have Ian Kinsler who is their best player. If he continues at his current pace, he is a dark horse MVP candidate. In 2011, he posted a wRC+ of 128, he played defense better than any other second basemen in baseball, and he hit 30 homers and stole 30 bases. One of the reasons why I don’t think that the Rangers should make a big splash in free agency is that they already have Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Colby Lewis, and Josh Hamilton. Kinsler has a $10M option, which I’d be surprised if the Rangers didn’t accept.  No matter what happens, it is sure to be an expensive offseason.

First Base, Designated Hitter, and Outfield: The Rangers first base situation is a much bigger deal than most people think. Mitch Moreland is far from a sure thing, and with reports now emerging that he battled wrist soreness in the second half of the season, more uncertainty arises from the situation. Moreland batted .241 in the second half of 2011, with a OBP of .300, and only five home runs. That’s simply not good enough for an American League team. Do you think the Rangers are glad they didn’t trade Michael Young? Young hit .338 in 2011 with 213 hits. Young did have a BABIP of .368, so he is probably due for some regression in 2012.

The Rangers have the best duo of corner outfielders in baseball. Josh Hamilton can be penciled in for 2012 as the Rangers cleanup hitter. Nelson Cruz is another middle of the order bat who is an amazing talent. Both of these hitters are capable of hitting .300 with thirty home runs a piece. The biggest question for these guys is whether they can stay healthy. Both have had serious injury concerns throughout their career, but if they could both stay healthy they could help propel the Rangers toward another 2012 AL West championship. As for center field, the Rangers can either test their luck with Julio Borbon, Craig Gentry, and Leonys Martin, or they could turn to free agency. If they were to shop for a center fielder, I think that the underrated Coco Crisp might be a good fit. With the strength of their lineup, center field is really not the biggest of the Rangers worries.

Prospects: Thanks to one of the most extensive scouting departments in Major League Baseball, the Rangers have a very strong minor league collection of prospects. 16-year-old international signings Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman are very intriguing prospect, but both are at the least four years away from making a MLB impact. Jurickson Profar is the best shortstop prospect in all of baseball, and a top-5 prospect overall. Profar isn’t quite ready for the Majors, but if he continues to rake in the minors, he could be a September call up. Martin Perez is the Rangers top pitching prospect but he struggled in AAA last year. In the long-term, if just some of these prospects develop, then the Rangers will continue to have a really good baseball team for years to come. Unfortunately, this system is what scouts call, “bottom heavy”, meaning that most of the highly touted prospects are in the lower ranks of the minors.

Bullpen: The status of the Rangers bullpen all depends on what the Rangers decide to do with Feliz. Texas has Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, and Yoshinori Tateyama all returning for 2012. Darren Oliver is a type A free agent, but at 41 years of age, I expect him to return to Texas. Bullpens are the easiest position to assemble in baseball, so don’t expect the Rangers to have much trouble finding the right pieces to fill out their ‘pen.

In 2012, the Rangers have a chance to be a very special team. If they are not currently the best team in baseball, they are definitely in the top five. It’s highly improbable these days that a team reaches the World Series three times in a row.  But I think that the Rangers have a legitimate chance in 2012.  The Rangers just need the right mix of players to get over the hump and win the big one.  Otherwise, another World Series loss could turn them into the modern day Atlanta Braves (minus the championship).

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us onTwitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here  and follow the link at the top of our homepage. 

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Cardinals Win the 2011 World Series and Freese Named MVP

Saturday October 29, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:      The game of the year turned out to be a non-starter at the end.  Before game time I predicted a 5-1 Cardinals victory.  I was close…they took it 6-2.  The big reason for my vision was the fact the Cardinals had ace pitcher on the mound, Chris Carpenter.  The Carp was solid on this night as he gave Tony La Russa as strong out of an outing as could have been expected on short rest.  Carpenter went 6.0 innings, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits, 2 walks and striking out 5.  With the Cards’ ace in the zone, the Rangers could not muster any runs after the 1st.  Not only did the Rangers not score any runs, but the Cardinals bullpen was perfect for the final 3 innings, in not giving up any runs, hits or walks.  Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte played as they did for most of these playoffs as the St. Louis Cardinals became the 2011 World Series champions.

While Carpenter got his second World Series victory, Matt Harrison took his second loss.  Harrison pitched decently, going 4.0 innings and giving up the 3 Cardinals winning runs.  Ron Washington proceeded to bring in Scott Feldman, C.J. Wilson, Mike Adams (who gave up the 4th run), Mike Gonzalez and Alexi Ogando.  The difference in this game hitting-wise was David Freese coming up big again with 2 RBIs and Allen Craig delivering the game winning run, a solo home run in the 3rd.  Those two relatively unknowns coming into the playoffs delivered time and time again for La Russa in this postseason.

There are 4 main components to the Cardinals winning the World Series this year:

1)  David Freese:  World Series MVP was a man on fire in October and was the overwhelming choice for the award.  Freese hit .397 in the postseason, 5 home runs and a record 21 RBIs.  It seems that every time the team needed him, Freese came through.  Considering that the third base was a question mark for the Cardinals coming into the season, Freese was exactly the player the team needed at the right time.

2)  Chris Carpenter:  Every big game, every time the needed a big performance, Carpenter was there.  All Carp did this year was get the team into the playoffs, knock off Roy Halladay and the Phillies in the NLDS and win the final World Series game 7.  Carpenter has been Mr. Steady for the team and fulfilling the role of ace in every sense of the word.  Sure the Cards had other weapons to rely upon.  But no Carpenter…no championship.

3)  The Bullpen:  Looking at the numbers, the Cardinals bullpen was obscene this postseason.  Tony La Russa had so many weapons out there as his pen gelled at the right time.  When a team can almost count on 3-4 shutdown innings every night, they stand a good chance of winning.  Jason Motte blossomed into the closer that was envisioned for him and as he honed his control, he has been nearly untouchable.  Dotel, Rhodes and the boys have been as strong a part of this team as any bullpen I have ever seen.  The Cardinals caught lightning in a bottle with this group and rode them all the way to the World Series.

4)  Tony La Russa:  Say what you want about TLR: the man won the big one.  Another World Series championship under his belt and second one in St. Louis.  Considering how many critics blasted him during the season and the Cardinals seemed to be a non-factor going  into September, credit needs to be given where it is deserved.  Too often in sports we are quick to blast a manager for making a mistake, but not quick enough to throw praise where it is due.  It is my feeling that in the aftermath of the past week, many critics were relentless on their criticism of La Russa after the bullpen phone fiasco in game 5.  But even if there is blame to be laid there, the bottom line is game 5 was that the Cardinals bats went cold in that game and the team could not deliver a win.  A manager can only do so much.  His team needs to play well in front of him.  Game 7 was about Carpenter and the bullpen, with some timely hits by Freese and Craig.  But Tony La Russa helped guide this team, with bullpen selections, lineups and match ups and in-game decisions.  TLR is a master chess player and in 2011, his smarts and wits played a big part in his team over taking the Braves for the Wild Card and beating the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers.  Few, if any managers, are as prepared and knowledgeable as TLR.  The Cardinals manager was one of the main building blocks of this particular World Series championship.

Where do we go from here?  After stories and questions circulated all season long, we will finally find out who will be back in St. Louis come 2012.  After winning their second World Series championship together, I am prepared to bet the farm (if I had a farm to bet) that Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols will be back together next year.  With the foundation of the bullpen, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday, combined with Carpenter and a returning Adam Wainwright, this team has the pieces to make a dynasty run.  Pujols has the chance to create a legacy for himself.  His time, his standing in history, all centre around St. Louis.  Pujols and his manager have too much invented in this city and team to turn away.  Both will be back in 2012 as the Cardinals are now the team to beat going into next year.

With the ending of game-7 of the World Series, the major league season has come to an end for another year.  Heading into this offseason, we will have many topics, issues and news stories to cover.  The MLB Winter Meetings.  Winter Ball.  Free agency.  The Collective Bargaining Agreement.  The future of Bud Selig.  MLB Expansion and Realignment.  Spring Training.  Baseball never ends.  The season, from spring training to the World Series is 8 months long.  We are now coming to the hardest 4 months of a baseball fan’s life.  With baseball news stories everyday, MLB reports will continue to bring you the latest news and analysis that you have come to expect all season long.  MLB 4 Life.  That is the name of the game.  On this day, we congratulate Tony La Russa, David Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals on an exciting and well deserved World Series championship.  This has been one of the most exciting postseasons and World Series of all time.  Now…the countdown to Spring Training begins.

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Freese Sends Cardinals to Game 7 of the World Series

Friday October 28, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Much attention was thrown to Tony La Russa and “Bullpen Phone Gate” following Game 5 of the World Series.  Despite the trend to make the Cardinals manager into the goat, the team lost on Monday night 4-2 by failing to execute the clutch and hit with runners in scoring position (1 for 12 in the game).  With the Rangers leading the series 3-2, a Texas win on Thursday would have clinched the first ever World Series title.  But the Cardinals and their improbable hero, David Freese had other ideas on this night.  As a result, we are now headed to a Game 7 tonight (Friday).  The World Series is down to a 1-game playoff, sudden death matchup, for all the marbles.

Both starters in Game 6 enjoyed decent outings.  Colby Lewis pitched 5 1/3 innings, giving up 4 runs (2 earned), with 3 hits, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts.  Lewis did give up a 2-run home run to Lance Berkman in the first inning, his only serious blemish on the night.  His counterpart, Jaime Garcia, lasted only 3 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, 5 hits, 2 walks while striking out 5.  Clearly La Russa did not see enough in his starter to leave the fate of his team’s season on his shoulders.  As a result, St. Louis began to trot out their bullpen while Texas followed suit shortly after. 

The Rangers used 7 relievers on the night, while the Cardinals used 6.  Both bullpens were shaky on the night, as the  teams exchanged runs throughout the game.  The Rangers actually held a 7-4 lead going into the 8th, but Derek Holland in his 2nd inning of work on the night gave up a solo home run to Allen Craig to cut the deficit to 7-5.  From there, Mike Adams gave up a couple of hits in 1/3 inning pitched and gave way to closer Neftali Feliz.  With the Rangers a sniff away from the World Series crown, Feliz gave up 2 more Cardinals runs to send the game into extra innings. 

The teams exchanged 2 runs each in the 10th inning.  The Rangers runs came off Cardinals closer Jason Motte, who was uncharacteristically pitching a 2nd inning in the game.  Josh Hamilton, well rested after a couple of days off, launched a  2-run shot to give the Rangers the lead.  But Texas quickly gave back the runs in the bottom of the inning courtesy of a Darren Oliver blown save.  The game proceeded to the 11th inning.  With Mark Lowe on in the bottom of the inning to face David Freese, the probable World Series MVP (if the Cards win it all tonight) launched a solo home run to win the game for St. Louis.  One batter faced for Mark Lowe and the game was done.  St. Louis comes back to take the heat off their manager and breathe new life into the squad as the series is now tied at 3-3.

Looking ahead to tonight’s starting pitchers, anything can happen at this point.  St. Louis will likely go with Chris Carpenter on short rest.  The Rangers can use a combination of different arms, with Matt Harrison possibly getting the nod.  Game 7 will be an exciting game, if for no other reason then it being a one-game sudden death playoff.  But if you didn’t get a chance to watch Game 6, try to locate a copy on tape.  One of the most exciting World Series games of all time, this one will be talked about for years to come.   No matter where you are tonight, do not miss out on tonight’s action.  It will be the final game of the 2011 season and your last chance for live baseball until March.  Game sevens also don’t come along very often.  With two high-octane offenses ready to duke it out in St. Louis, I am counting down the minutes until game time.  Let’s play ball! 

 

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Rangers One Win Away: World Series Game Five Recap

Tuesday  October 25, 2011


MLB reports – Sam Evans:  The Rangers and Cardinals played a thrilling game on Monday night in Arlington. Let’s take a closer look at how the Cardinals took a 3-2 lead in the series.

Heading into this game, I don’t think anyone expected C.J. Wilson to do anything special. Instead, Wilson turned in 5 1/3 quality innings giving up only two runs. Luck was on his side as he walked five, and gave up four hits but overall it was a pretty decent start. If indeed Wilson does leave Texas after this season, he left the 51,000 Rangers fans at the game with a good feeling about him.

The Cardinals scored two runs in the second thanks to an error and a wild pitch. In the third, Mitch Moreland got a 2-0 sinker from Chris Carpenter, which he hit 446 feet to right field. So heading into the sixth, the Cards’ had a 2-1 lead.

I really enjoyed Ron Washington’s approach to pitching to Albert Pujols. He basically decided that he’d rather put Pujols on base then risk pitching to the best right-handed hitter in the last decade. It was still a risky decision with Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman hitting behind him. For the most part his decision paid off, as Pujols didn’t score on any of the three times he was walked.

In the bottom of the sixth, Adrian Beltre did what Texas signed him to do. He got a hanging curveball and went down on one knee to hit it out of the park to deep left-center field. Adrian Beltre is so much fun to watch. From his home run head rubs to his stellar play at third base, i wish FOX had a camera just focused in on him the whole game. At the time, this homer looked to be crucial as it tied the game up in what was shaping up to be a pitcher’s duel.

In the top of the seventh, Allen Craig tried to steal on Mike Napoli. Unfortunately, he had literally no jump on the pitcher, and Albert Pujols was the batter. Napoli threw him out and it wasn’t even close. So Ron Washington decided to put Pujols on base. Matt Holliday then singled to center, and took second on the throw, and after a Lance Berkman intentional walk the Cards’ had the bases loaded. Luckily for the Ranger’s, Alexi Ogando retired David Freese to end the inning and preserve the tie. As Jayson Stark pointed out on twitter, Ogando has faced 17 batters this series, and 11 have reached base. It will be interesting to see how Ron Washington uses Ogando in the upcoming games.

The Cardinals threatened later in the inning with runners on first and third and two outs. However, Carpenter got Mike Napoli to fly out to deep, deep center to end the inning. Carpenter turned in a very impressive start, especially considering he was facing one of the best lineups in the American League.

In the bottom of the eighth, Tony La Russa brought in Octavio Dotel to replace Chris Carpenter. Michael Young  jumped on a slider and hit a double into center field. Then after a Beltre strikeout, Dotel intentionally walked Nelson Cruz. La Russa then brought in Marc Rzepczynski to face the lefty David Murphy. Murphy hit a grounder off Rzepczynski’s leg and despite a valiant effort by second basemen Rafael Furcal, Murphy beat the throw to load the bases.

With the bases loaded, one out, and the crowd chanting, ” NA-PO-LI,” Mike Napoli belted a 1-1 slider off the right-center field wall. I think it’s amazing that with all the crazy managing of the bullpen that La Russa does, he didn’t bring in a different pitcher. According to La Russa after the game, he actually called for Lance Lynn instead of Rzepczynski. I’m not quite sure I believe that. Sure the stadium was extremely deafening, but it looks like La Russa just messed up.

Then, things got even crazier. After Rzepczynski struck out Mitch Moreland, La Russa brought in Lance Lynn. After Lynn intentionally walked Ian Kinsler, the sixth intentional walk of the game, he was promptly pulled for Jason Motte who struck out Elvis Andrus to end the nightmare inning. It’s not very often that i try to compare my athletic abilities with players in the majors, because i have so much respect for their dedication and hard work. However, tonight I feel confident that i could have pitched just as well as Lance Lynn. So Tony, if you’re looking for your next superstar IWOOGY ( intentional walk one out guy) you know where to find me.

As expected, after the game La Russa also blamed this event on bullpen miscommunication. This instance was even less believable than the first, I think the 67-year-old La Russa might have just forgotten that Lynn had only been out there for that one batter.

It’s crazy how quick the media can change their opinion on Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. One day they make him look like a genius, and the next day they make a case for his retirement. Tony La Russa has been managing for 35 years, he has watched more baseball games in person than almost all of us. He is with his players everyday and unlike the outside world, knows what’s going through most of their heads. Maybe Lance Lynn had a bad burrito before the game so that’s why La Russa pulled him after only intentionally walking Kinsler. My point is who knows what his reasons are, let’s just appreciate that we can watch a manager who has the guts to make all these daring decisions.

The time when La Russa gets himself in trouble is when he talks to the media. After the game, La Russa talked about not only the bullpen communications issues, but that Pujols got the hit and run sign when Allen Craig was thrown out stealing in the top of the seventh.

Overall, La Russa only blew the pitching aspect of the game for the Cardinals. St. Louis’s real problem was the inability to drive in runners in scoring position. They were 1-12 with RISP this game, and they are 8 for 43 with RISP in the series. If they are Cardinals fans are wondering how they are losing the series, they can look right to the fact that their team hasn’t been able to hit in the clutch.

Game six is Wednesday at 8:05 PM ET in St.Louis. Arguably the series two most effective pitchers will battle it out. Jaime Garcia will start for the Cardinals against Colby Lewis for the Rangers.

 

Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Cardinals Win Game One of the 2011 World Series

Thursday October 20, 2011

 

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  On a cold October night in St. Louis, Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson took the mound for their respective squads to battle in the long anticipated game one of the 2011 World Series.  As the title of this article indicates, the Cardinals took game one.  As the mastery and genius of Tony La Russa continued, here is a recap of last night’s action:

 

Texas Rangers at St. Louis Cardinals:  World Series Game One

 Despite the expectation for a high scoring affair, this game turned out to be very close.  The two high-octane offenses of the Rangers and Cardinals were kept at bay by great pitching and mother nature.  Bats seem to get cold in dreary weather for the most part.  Chris Carpenter went 6.0 innings for the win.  With his 8th postseason win, Carpenter passed the immortal Bob Gibson on the Cardinals all-time playoff win list.  Impressive company indeed.  Despite Carpenter getting frustrated with himself at times (and using choice language that came through on the broadcast), he enjoyed a great outing.  Only 5 hits allowed, 1 walk and 4 strikeouts.  His only blemish on the night was a 2-run shot given up to Mike Napoli.  The home run at the time erased the 2-0 Cardinals lead at the time.  But St. Louis was able to come back in the bottom of the 6th, with pinch hitter Allen Craig driving in the game winning run.  From there, the Cardinals pen took over with 3 shutout innings.  Relievers Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte combined to give up 1 hit and 1 walk (both by Salas in 1/3 of an inning) and 3 strikeouts to preserve the win for Carpenter.  Motte continued his incredible postseason run with his 5th playoff save, a 1-2-3 9th inning.

 C.J. Wilson was good, but not great on the night.  The Rangers ace has not come up big when his team needed him most, as he was fairly erratic on the night.  His final line read 5 2/3 innings pitched, 4 hits allowed, 6 walks, 3 earned runs and 4 strikeouts.  Alexi Ogando came into the 6th with 2 runners on and could not get the job done.  Mike Gonzalez and Scott Feldman came in from the pen as well, but the damage was done as the Rangers could not come back against the mighty Cardinals bullpen.  Questions arose after the game concerning Ron Washington’s use of his bench during the game.  Specifically, his choices of having Craig Gentry and Esteban German pinch hit instead of Yorvit Torrealba and Mitch Moreland, who did not end up coming into the game.  The bottom line for me is that Washington went with his feel and instincts.  If the moves pay-off, he looks like a genius.  In this case, they did not.  But let’s give credit where its due.  The Rangers are back on the big stage for a second straight year.  The Rangers must be doing something very right to make it this far.  Regardless of who would have batted in key situations, the Cardinals pen did its job tonight (as it has been doing all postseason long).  Tonight’s game was more about what Tony La Russa did right, rather than what Ron Washington did wrong.  But Washington will need to keep his chess playing skills sharp in this series if he hopes to have his team win the big prize. 

The big heroes on this night for St. Louis were Lance Berkman (2 hits and 2 RBIs), Craig, Carpenter and Motte.  Game 2 goes in St. Louis Thursday night, 8:05 PM ET.  Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia are set to faceoff.  It will be interesting to see how Garcia responds after receiving an early hook from his manager in his last outing in the NLCS.  This will be a pivotal game for the Rangers, as they do not want to go home to Texas down 2-0.  The Cardinals started off the World Series on the right foot.  Now it is just a question of whether the Cardinals bats and bullpen can keep the magic going for 3 more wins.

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

The Cardinals Are Going to the World Series

Monday October 17, 2011

 

MLB reports – April Whitzman:  The Cardinals heading into last night in Milwaukee were one win away from advancing to the World Series.   Here is a recap of last night’s NLCS action:

 

St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game Six

One ex-Blue Jays pitcher got the win in game number six of the NLCS last night.  But it was not the one you would have expected.

Shaun Marcum was on the mound for the Brewers, hoping to bounce back from his previous start.  Things unfortunately did not go as planned, as Marcum lasted only one inning.  During his short stint, he allowed four earned runs on three hits, a walk, while striking out one.  The biggest hit came in the form of  a three-run home run, courtesy of David Freese.

Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson, however, did not fare much better.  He lasted only two innings himself, also allowing four runs.  Jackson actually allowed three home runs, including solo shots to Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Jonathan Lucroy.

Heading into the third, the score was already 5-4 in favor of St. Louis.  But the Cardinals weren’t even close to slowing down.  They scored another four runs, thanks to an Albert Pujols home run, a Nick Punto sac fly which scored Matt Holliday, and an Allen Craig two-RBI single that scored David Freese and Yadier Molina.

The Brewers tried to overcome the deficit in the following inning, when Yuniesky Betancourt doubled in Jerry Hairston to make the score 9-5 in favour of the Cardinals.

The Cardinals would continue to add to their lead in the following inning.  After two consecutive singles to start the inning, costly errors allowed Matt Holliday to score on Yadier Molina’s fielder’s choice. The errors also enabled Adron Chambers‘ sacrifice fly to score David Freese, his third run scored of the game.

Knowing how important the win was for the Brewers, they were not prepared to give up in this one.  They scored another run in the bottom of the inning when Ryan Braun grounded out to score Carlos Gomez. The score was then 11-6 for the Cardinals.

But alas, the Brewers offense was a little too late- as the Cardinals went on to add another run.  Albert Pujols hit another RBI single to score Daniel Descalso making it a 12-6 game.

Jason Motte came in for the ninth and got a 1-2-3 inning, as the Cardinals defeated the Brewers 12-6.  St. Louis won the series 4-2, moving on to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers. 

Ex- Blue Jay Marc Rzepczynski ended up  earning the win, pitching 2 1/3 innings, more than any other pitcher in this game.  He allowed one run on two hits, while walking one and striking out two.

Another Ex- Blue Jay, Octavio Dotel, also pitched in the game.  He went 2/3 of an inning without allowing a base runner and struck out one.

After the game, David Freese was named MVP of the NLCS tournament, after going 3-4 with three runs and three RBIs in the game and batting .545 (12 for 22) in the NLCS overall, with three homers, three doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs scored.

Game number one of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals commences on Wednesday night in St. Louis, with the National League enjoying home field advantage in this one (thanks to their All-Star game victory this year).  If it is anything like the series we have been watching thus far, it is going to be an exciting conclusion to an unpredictable and entertaining 2011 MLB postseason.

 
 

 

Today’s feature was prepared by our Blue Jays & Prospects Writer, April Whitzman.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow April on Twitter.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Tony La Russa Manages the Cards to One Win Away From the World Series

Saturday October 15, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Only one game on the schedule last night- but it was a big one.  The Brewers and Cardinals headed into game five in St. Louis, deadlocked at 2-2.  With the series set to shift to Milwaukee, this was a big game to take the lead in the NLCS.  With two strong pitchers on the mound, this game could have been a pitching duel.  It was far from it and the resulting game surprised many.  Here is a recap of last night’s NLCS action:

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Five

From the title of this article, many readers will take it that the Cardinals won last night.  Indeed they did, a strong 7-1 victory over the Brewers to take a 3-2 NLCS series lead.  This game came down to key factors in my estimation:  the in-game managing by Tony La Russa and the sloppy play of the Brewers.  When referring to La Russa, the talk of last night was the call to the bullpen in the 5th inning.  With the Cardinals up 4-1, the Brewers were threatening with 2 on and 2 out.  Ryan Braun headed to the plate and La Russa ran to the mound.  Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was stellar up to that point, with 4 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 7 hits, 0 BB and 5 strikeouts.  But as noted by last night’s television commentators, Garcia was starting to get into trouble.  With one Brewers run already in and the hits starting to pile up, La Russa appeared to be nervous that his starter was losing it.  Few managers would take out his starter at that point, but then few managers are Tony La Russa.  With his bullpen on fire in this postseason, La Russa was not going to take any chances.  Octavio Dotel got the call and proceeded to strike out Ryan Braun to end the threat.  From there, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte came on to shut out the Brewers on 2 hits and 1 walk.  Motte finished up the game for the save with Dotel taking the win.

But that is not the end of the story.  Far from it.  As much as this game is about the wizardry of La Russa managing his pitching staff (along with trusty pitching coach Dave Duncan at his side), game five was also about the Brewers throwing it away.  Literally.  To me, Milwaukee was a team intent on giving the game away.  Four errors on the night is completely unacceptable, especially for a game of this magnitude.  It is not like the team was not hitting, as the Brewers had 9 hits compared to the Cardinals 10.  Interestingly enough the Cardinals had 20 LOB, compared to the Brewers 14.  But the Cardinals drove runners in when in it counted.  Here is my logic in a game that came down to inches.  Zack Greinke gave up 5 runs, although only 2 of them were earned.  Marco Estrada in the 8th was a complete train-wreck, giving up 2 runs on 1 hit an 2 walks.  Estrada completely was not finding the zone and was lucky to escape with only the 2 runs allowed.  Take out the Estrada inning and Greinke’s 3 unearned runs, and you are now left with a 2-1 Cardinals lead.  Thus the Cardinals victory relied on La Russa’s management, strong bullpen and Brewers lack of execution and poor play.  A game of inches.
 
Greinke was good, but not great in this one.  In 5 2/3 IP, Greinke gave up 7 hits and 2 walks.  But he was not able to strikeout a batter.  Even without his best stuff, Greinke did keep his team in this one and deserved a better fate.  Had he received the defensive support he needed, Greinke could have stayed longer in this one and the game may have turned out differently.  With a 5-1 score going into the 7th, the Brewers seemed deflated and defeated.  Not the way to win ballgames folks.
 
Did Tony La Russa overreact by pulling his starter early?  We will never know.   Had Braun connected for a 3-run home run off Dotel and evened up the score, La Russa would have been the goat.  But by Dotel striking out Braun, La Russa is a genius.  The bottom line is that the Cardinals are one win away from going back to the World Series against a favored Brewers squad.  I find that critics are too quick to pounce on major league managers when they make mistakes, but not fast enough to give credit when they make the right moves.  La Russa doesn’t manage always by the book and has taken many chances in this postseason.  Last night was no exception.  Without the Brewers uneven play and the strong pitching of the Cardinals pen, the game may not have gone in the Cardinals favor.  But the stars did align and Tony La Russa does deserve his due in this one.  In a game of inches and trying to minimize mistakes, the Cardinals played sound baseball while the Brewers did not.  Cardinals win and go on to Milwaukee for game six with the 3-2 edge.
 
ALCS and NLCS:  Game Six Previews
 
Game six of the ALCS goes tonight in Texas, 8:05 PM ET is the scheduled start time.  Max Scherzer goes for the Tigers, Derek Holland for the Rangers.  Many are counting on this one going seven, as Scherzer has been steadier than Holland in the postseason.  But then Holland is due for a big game.  With the big Rangers bats at home, anything can happen in this one.  Jim Leyland and Ron Washington will pulling out all the stops tonight.  This one will be a classic.  Over the in the National League, game 6 goes Sunday afternoon, 4:05 PM ET in Milwaukee.  Shaun Marcum and Edwin Jackson are set to face-off.  There was speculation that Marcum would be pulled given his poor play of late, but the Brewers are sticking with their starter.  Jackson has been solid since coming over to St. Louis.  With the momentum in the Cardinal’s favor, the Brewers will need a big game or face elimination on Sunday.
 
 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

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Tigers Stay Alive and NLCS Tied Up: Recap of MLB Playoffs and Notes

Friday October 14, 2011

 

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The Rangers had a chance on Thursday to advance to the World Series.  The Cardinals were up 2-1 in the NLCS and looking to take a commanding lead.  How did they do?  Let’s recap Thursday’s MLB playoffs:

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Five

 The battle of the aces.  C.J. Wilson and Justin Verlander.  This game turned into a high scoring affair rather than a pitching classic.  The Tigers pulled out a 7-5 victory to stay alive in the series.  Verlander took the win, with 7 1/3 IP, 4 runs allowed, 8 hits, 3 walks and 8 strikeouts.  The lone home run given up Verlander was in the 5th inning to none other than… Nelson Cruz.  The Rangers slugger hit his 5th home run of the series, a 2-run effort.  Phil Coke came in for the rare save, pitching 1 2/3 innings, allowing 1 run.  C.J. Wilson took the loss for the Rangers.  In 6.0 IP, Wilson allowed a staggering 6 runs, 8 hits, 2 walks and 5 strikeouts.  The long ball did Wilson in, as he allowed 3 of them to the Tigers in their home park.  Alex Avila hit a solo blast in the 3rd, while Delmon Young had a pair on the day (a solo home run in the 4th and 2-run blast in the 6th).  For good measure, Koji Uehara came on in the 7th to give up a solo home run to Ryan Raburn

The crooked number came for the Tigers in the 6th.  Miguel Cabrera hit a ground ball off the third base bag that could have led to a double play, but rather went for a double.  Detroit kept the momentum from there and scored four runs in the inning.  Detroit actually had a 7-2 lead going into the 8th, but the Rangers were able to chip away and stay within striking distance.  Texas now leads the series 3-2 going into game 6 on Saturday.  The game will be played at 8:05 PM ET, with Max Scherzer and Derek Holland set to faceoff.  The Rangers continue to be one game away from that magical trip back to the World Series. 

 

Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Four

The Cardinals held a 2-1 lead in the series with game four to be played at home.  Kyle Lohse was on the hill for the home team, Randy Wolf for the Brewers.  Turns out that Wolf was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Brewers.  The starter pitched a solid 7.0 IP to take the win, giving up only 2 runs on 6 hits, 1 walk and 6 strikeouts.  The only runs allowed by Wolf were on solo home runs, to Matt Holliday in the 2nd and Allen Craig in the 3rd.  Francisco Rodriguez got the hold in the 8th and closer John Axford with the save in the 9th.  Kyle Lohse could not make it out of the 5th, pitching 4 1/3 IP for the loss.  Lohse gave up 3 runs on 6 hits, no walks and struck out 3.  Mitchell Boggs, Arthur RhodesOctavio Dotel and Fernando Salas also pitched in this one.  The Brewers recipe for success in this one was simple.  Great pitching and grinding out runs at the plate.  One could say that the Brewers beat Tony La Russa at his own game.  The Brewers did not hit a long ball in this one, but will certainly take out the well-earned victory.  With the series tied up 2-2, game five goes tonight at 8:05 PM ET in St. Louis.  A great matchup on the mound, as Jamie Garcia and Zack Greinke faceoff. 

 

MLB Notes:

  •  With the Theo Epstein soap opera about to conclude, the focus shifts to Baltimore and Boston for their vacant General Manager positions.  Boston is looking internally to fill the role, while Baltimore is considering everyone and anyone to lead their team.  This is a crucial stage for both teams’ development.  Boston needs to maintain its status as a top flight MLB organization, while Baltimore is on the verge of breaking through (with a great deal of talent in their farm system).
  • The sale of the Houston Astros to Crane will apparently be going through.  The sale will lead to the Astros moving to the American League, playing in the West division.  I will be writing about this subject very soon on the Reports.  But at this point I will say that the move is a win-win for the Astros and its fans.  The team needs stability and  renewed excitement.  A move to the AL West should provide just that and more.
  • Another day, another rumor.  With the Red Sox in apparent turmoil, Big Papi has come out and indicated that he may not return to Boston.  That is his decision and I respect that.  But will Boston be asking him back…and at what price?  If Papi does leave, look for the Jays, Rays and Yankees to all hold discussions with the big man.  The Angels may also be a consideration.  But my money is on a return to Beantown.
  • The expansion of the MLB playoffs will happen.  It is just a question of when.  The latest reports have Major League Baseball adding one more wild card team to each league and a sudden death, one game playoff, to be played by the wild card teams.  I do not know yet how I feel about having just a one gamer to decide the wild card winner.  But I am definitely in favour of expanding the amount of teams.  Personally, I like the idea of each top team getting a full bye into the championship series.  But this may be too revolutionary for baseball.  The expanded MLB playoffs is likely coming as early as the 2013 season.
  • The World Baseball Classic is coming in the spring of 2013.  The qualifying tournament will be played sometime in the fall of 2012.  I am a big fan of this tournament and see it as a big step for baseball expansion throughout the world.  More details will likely not be available until next year, but I will continue to update everyone as information becomes available.   

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

ALCS Game 4 and NLCS Game 3: MLB Playoffs Recap for Wednesday October 12th

 

Thursday October 13, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  Going into today, the Rangers held a 2-1 series lead while the Cards and Brewers were tied up at 1-1.  Could the Tigers square up their series?  Who would pull away between Milwaukee and St. Louis?  Let’s get to it by recapping Wednesday’s action: 

 

Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Four

Rick Porcello and Matt Harrison faced off in the battle of number four starters.  Both pitchers did a fairly good job on the night.  Porcello pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned), 8 hits, 0 walks and struck out six.  Harrison on the other side lasted five innings, giving up 2 runs, three hits, three walks and striking out three.  Both starters left with a no decision.  The scoring in this one started in the first, courtesy of a Miguel Cabrera 2-run double.  Other than a Brandon Inge solo home run in the 7th inning (off reliever Alexi Ogando), the Rangers pitching staff did not concede another Tigers’ run.  Texas actually trailed in this one 2-0 until the 6th, when they were able to put up 3 runs on the board.  From there it was the battle of the pens, as both teams sent out plenty of relievers in this one.  The Rangers used Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams, Darren Oliver, Scott Feldman and Neftali Feliz.  The Rangers countered with Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Jose Valverde and Phil Coke

Tied up 3-3 going into the 11th, the Tigers trotting out their closer Jose Valverde who had already worked the 10th.  The decision proved to be fatal.  With one out and two on, Valverde faced Nelson Cruz– Texas Rangers postseason hero.  Cruz proceeded to knock in a three run home run, his fourth home run of the playoffs.  The Rangers went on to score four runs in the inning and take the game, final score 7-3.  Feldman with the win, Valverde takes the loss.  The Rangers hold a commanding 3-1 series going into tomorrow afternoon in Texas.  The game is scheduled for 4:19 PM EST, with aces C.J. Wilson and Justin Verlander set to face-off.  With one more win, the Rangers are off to the World Series, their second consecutive appearance in the finals.

 

 Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLCS Game Three

St. Louis was the site for the battle of the aces.  Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals, Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers.  Neither pitcher was particularly on this night, but did what they had to do to keep their teams in this one.  Gallardo gave up all four runs in the 1st inning, but combined with the Brewers pen for seven shutout innings the rest of the way.  Gallardo pitched 5 innings, giving up 8 hits, 5 walks and striking out 2.  Carpenter only lasted 5 innings as well, giving up 3 runs, 6 hits, 3 walks and striking out 3.  The pens for both teams went into lockdown mode.  The Brewers relievers, LaTroy Hawkins, Takashi Saito and Chris Narveson combined to give up 1 hit and 1 walk over 3 innings, while striking out 3.  The Cardinals pen was even better though on this night.  Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte gave up no hits or walks over 4 innings pitched.  Motte struck out 3 batter in 1 1/3 innings pitched for the save.  Carpenter ended up with the win, while Gallardo took the loss.  Albert Pujols was once again the star for the Cardinals, going 2 for 2 with 2 walks, 1 run and 1 RBI.  The Cardinals take a 2-1, going into game 4 tomorrow night in St. Louis.  Game time is 8:05 PM ET, Randy Wolf vs. Kyle Lohse.  The battle of the number 4’s will determine if St. Louis can take a stranglehold on the series, or the Brewers can even things up going back to Milwaukee.   

 

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Tigers get the “Purr-fect” Comeback: Recap of Game 3 of ALCS

Wednesday October 12, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  After losing the first two games of the series to the Rangers, the Tigers headed home, needing a win. Thankfully, with the hometown crowd of 41,905 behind them, they got exactly that.  Here is a recap of ALCS Game Three: 

 

New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers:  ALCS Game Three

It didn’t start off good for the Tigers, however, as the Rangers started the game with three singles, the last of which was Josh Hamilton’s RBI single that scored Ian Kinsler.

While the Rangers then had the 1-0 lead, Victor Martinez didn’t let it stay that way in the forth as he crushed a home run to right field to tie the game.

In the following inning, the Tigers added some more with three 2-out hits, one of which was a 2-RBI double off the bat of Miguel Cabrera that scored Austin Jackson and Ramon Santiago.

With Fister now in a groove, there was no looking back. Evidently, Jhonny Peralta thought so too, as in the sixth, he also belted a home run to left field. Still in the same inning, Austin Jackson scored Andy Dirk, and with that the Tigers had a 4-1 lead.

Cabrera wasn’t done yet, though, as in the seventh inning, he also hit a home run, the Tigers’ third of the game, and his third RBI of the game. With that the Tigers had a 5-1 lead.

The Rangers tried to catch up in the eighth when Yorvit Torrealba started off the inning with a double, and scored on Ian Kinsler’s groundout, but the damage had already been done.

Jose Valverde came in to pitch the ninth, allowing a leadoff double by Josh Hamilton, but nothing more, as the Tigers went on to beat the Rangers 5-2. They now trail 2-1 in the series.

Doug Fister earned the win, going 7.1 innings pitched, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out three. Rangers’ Colby Lewis, on the other hand, received the loss, going 5.2 innings pitched, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out six.

Tigers’ Rick Porcello hopes to have a similar fate as Fister with the hometown crowd, but Texas’ Matt Harrison is hoping for a different outcome.  Stay tuned as game four is coming up shortly.

 

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage

Preview of MLB Playoffs for Sunday October 9th and Rangers Take Game 1 ALCS

Sunday October 9, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  And then they were down to four.  On the road to the World Series, Milwaukee and St. Louis are set to do battle for the National League- while over in the AL, Detroit and Texas have already started their series.  Is there anything better than the MLB Playoffs?  Didn’t think so.  Let’s get to it by recapping last night’s action: 

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers: ALCS Game One

The Detroit Tigers are becoming linked with “rain” in the 2011 MLB playoffs.  Game one of their ALDS matchup in New York was suspended and played a day later.  So of course, Murphy’s law dictated that the opening game of their ALCS would see rain as well.  But despite nearly a two-hour rain delay (2 total rain delays in the 5th), the Rangers and Tigers were able to get this one in.  Unfortunately for the Tigers, they again ended up losing their opener to fall behind 1-0 in the series to the Rangers.  Neither starter was particularly effective in this one.  Justin Verlander gave up 3 runs over 4 IP to take the loss, giving up 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5.  Verlander gave up 2 runs in the 2nd and the eventual game winning run in the 4th, courtesy of a Nelson Cruz solo home run.  His opponent on the night, C.J. Wilson was also very un-ace like for the Rangers.  In his 4 2/3 IP, Wilson gave up 2 runs on 6 hits and a whopping 5 walks, while striking out 6.  Once the rain delay was over in the 5th and the game resumed, this game was the story of the bullpens.  Both pens pitched shutout ball the rest of the way.  Rick Porcello, Phil Coke and Ryan Perry kept the Tigers in this one, but the Rangers were able to make their early 3-2 lead stick.  The stars of the night were the Texas Rangers’ relievers, as one by one, they can in to stifle the Tigers bats. 

Mike Gonzalez earned his paycheque for the year by coming in on the 5th to the greatest pressure situation in baseball as a reliever.  Bases loaded, Gonzalez faced Alex Avila with 2-outs.  Needing only 2 pitches, Gonzalez retired Avila to end the inning and the Tigers best chance at breaking this game open.  From there, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz over 4 innings gave up 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 8.  As lock-down as you get in baseball.  Blame it on the rain, blame it on the Rangers having home field advantage and coming in rested.  No matter how you slice or dice it, the Tigers were good on this night.  But the Rangers were better.  With the Rangers high-octane offense and stacked bullpen, the Tigers bats will need to muster more than two runs in a game if they hope to compete with the reigning AL champions.  Another great game in the archives, in what is becoming one of the better MLB playoffs in recent history. 

 Preview of Sunday October 9th:

Game two of the ALCS was scheduled to go tonight, with Derek Holland on the hill for the Rangers and Max Scherzer for the Tigers.  With rain in the forecast at a 90% probability, Major League Baseball wisely postponed this one until tomorrow afternoon.  With Doug Fister not scheduled to pitch until game 3, the Tigers need this game or face a 2-0 deficit.  The Rangers will be hungry to take the Tigers down early and get back to the World Series in a hurry.  This series is far from over and should prove to be an excellent battle.  Over in the National League, the Cardinals and Brewers are set to begin their battle.  Jaime Garcia and Zack Greinke face-off in what should prove to be a classic.  With many “experts” picking the Brewers to advance to the World Series, Tony LaRussa and his Cardinals have their work cut out for them.  But as the Cardinals proved against the Philadelphia Phillies, a team with Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter cannot be counted out.  Both teams have strong bullpens, as is the case in the American League.  With tight games, this game could come down to Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford of the Brewers, or Fernando Salas and Jason Motte for the Cardinals.  With Zack Greinke starting the war of words, the battle lines have been drawn.  Another great series, leading up to the 2011 World Series.

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Monday October 3rd

Tuesday October 4, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  With the National League taking the night off, we were treated to game three in both ALDS series.  Here is a recap of the scores and highlights from Monday’s games: 

 

New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers:  ALDS Game Three

It may not have been the pitching duel that everyone expected, but Monday’s game between Yankees’ CC Sabathia, and Tigers’ Justin Verlander was still an exciting one.

While Verlander pitched a strong 120-pitches-eight innings hitting 100MPH continually, striking out 11 and allowing four runs, six hits and three walks.  Sabathia, on the other hand, never made it through the sixth, allowing four runs and seven hits with six walks in 5 1/3 innings.

After the first inning, however, one would not have expected that outcome.  Derek Jeter hit the first pitch he saw for a single, scored on Curtis Granderson’s triple, who then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s groundout. T he Yankees had an early 2-0 lead.

The lead didn’t last long as Sabathia had control issues right away, walking four of the first six hitters he faced.  Double plays proved to be the Tigers’ Achilles though, as they grounded into a double play to end both the first and second innings.

In the third, however, things turned around for the Tigers.  Brandon Inge started the bottom of the inning with a double, Austin Jackson walked, Santiago scored Inge on a single, then Young singled, loading the bases for Miguel Cabrera – who homered in game 2.   He grounded into the Tigers’ third double play of the game, but still tied the game at 2 apiece.

While the Tigers were continuing to put numbers on the board and grabbing the 4-2 lead, Verlander was dominating.  He also proved his excellence on this night by striking out the side on 10 pitches in the fifth.

Yankees’ Brett Gardner finally got to the 24-game winner in the seventh, hitting a two-run double.  Delmon Young, who also homered in Monday’s game off Sabathia, allowed the Tigers to regain the lead with a home run to right field that gave Detroit a 5-4 lead.

That would be the way the game ended, as a shaky Valverde struck out Derek Jeter with runners on 1st and 2nd to end the game, giving the Tigers a 2-1 series lead.  In today’s must win game for the Yankees, A..J. Burnett is on the mound against Tigers’ Rick Porcello.

 

Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Three

The Rays and Rangers match was just as tight and nerve-wracking for the fans.  Tampa Bay’s David Price hit the mound against Texas’ Colby Lewis.  Both pitchers were dominant through seven, as the Rays held a 1-0 lead thanks to Desmond Jennings leadoff home run in the 4th.

But in the top of the 7th, the Rangers answered back.  Once Adrian Beltre got on with a leadoff single, Mike Napoli hit the next pitch he saw over the centerfield wall to take a 2-1 lead.  Josh Hamilton would later hit a 2-RBI double to increase their lead to 4-1.

But the Rays werenot going to go down without a fight.  They got a run back in the bottom of the inning, when Sean Rodriguez grounded out but scored Johnny Damon.  The Rays cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-3 in the eighth, when Desmond Jennings hit his 2nd home run of the game.

Neftali Feliz kept the score intact though in the 9th, inducing a Kelly Shoppach double play with Jennings on deck  to end the game, earning his 2nd save of the playoffs.  The Rangers took a 2-1 lead in their ALDS series.

In today’s game, Matt Harrison for the Rangers faces off against Tampa Bay and Jeremy Hellickson.  It is a must-win game for the Rays, but after their historic win against the Yankees to make it to the post-season, my gut says this series should go the distance.

 

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage

Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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Top Home Run Hitters: MLB 2011

MLB reports:  For pure fun today, I wanted to scan the major league baseball leaderboard and evaluate the top home run hitters of 2011.  While this list can change at a moment’s notice, looking at the board with over three weeks into the season is always fun.  At least my idea of fun.  I originally planned to make a top ten list, but that was going to prove to be futile.  Six hitters sit at the top of the list with seven home runs a piece and eight hitters tied for second with six home runs each.  Let’s take a close look at the top fourteen then and see which hitters are likely to remain on the list and which have caught lightning in a bottle for a few games.

First Place – Seven Home Runs

Jose Bautista:  Toronto Blue Jays

After 54 home runs last year, is anyone still waiting for a slowdown?  With 19 walks already, .359 AVG and 1.256 OPS, Bautista continues to build on the momentum of last year.  Living up to his large contract extension signed in the off-season, it appears that the new Jose Bautista is here to stay.  At 30 years of age, Bautista is showing that he has enough juice in his bat to approach another 50 home runs this year.

Adrian Beltre:  Texas Rangers

Another big contract signing entering 2011, Beltre has made good on the promise of his bat hitting in Arlington.  Inconsistent throughout his career, analysts have often said that if healthy and playing in a hitters park, the sky is the limit.  Beltre hit 48 home runs back in 2004 playing for the Dodgers and have never approached those numbers since.  At 32 and playing in one of the best hitters park in a stacked lineup, big numbers could come his way.  I see somewhat of a regression, but 30-35 home runs is a safe bet at this point.

Ryan Braun:  Milwaukee Brewers

The Hebrew Hammer has 128 career home runs in four seasons going into 2011.  He has Prince Fielder in the lineup with him.  At 27, Braun is this generation’s Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg.  No slowdowns ahead for this Brewer as he shoots for his first 40+ home run season.  The 2007 NL Rookie of the Year is a future MVP and his time could come this year.

Curtis Granderson:  New York Yankees

The only surprise in the top home run hitters category, Granderson has always shown glimpses of brilliance but injuries and slumps have slowed his path.  The 20/20/20/20 season in 2007 was impressive, as was the career high 30 home runs that Granderson hit in 2009 for the Tigers.  Even though he missed 26 games last year to injury, he still was able to amass 24 home runs.  Now healthy and with the short porch in Yankee stadium, Granderson has a good chance at equaling and besting his career best power numbers.  Given the Yankees lineup as well, I would not count him out.  Granderson is unlikely to remain among the league leaders in bombs, but a solid 30+ home run season is definitely in order.

Albert Pujols:  St. Louis Cardinals

Coming into this season, the Great Pujols hit a Ruthian 408 home runs in 10 seasons.  Truly our generation’s Babe Ruth, Pujols has to be considered one of the best home run hitters of all time.  With an .806 OPS, Pujols hasn’t even begun to heat up.  Pujols has Holliday and a resurging Lance Berkman for protection and going into his first free agency year, expect legendary numbers by seasons end.  This is Albert Pujols we are talking about…I do not have to say anything else.

Troy Tulowitzki:  Colorado Rockies

Still only 26 years old, Tulowitzki is working towards becoming the best player in baseball.  Missing significant time in 2008 and 2010, Tulo still has 99 career home runs going into today.  Playing in the home run haven called Colorado, all Tulo has to do is to stay healthy to succeed.  As this is an odd year, history is shown that he will likely play close to a full season.  His career high of 32 home runs is well within reach and I can see a 40+ home run season this year.  The talent and circumstances are all there…all he needs is health.

Second Place:  Six Home Runs

Lance Berkman:  St. Louis Cardinals

Going into the second tier of top home run hitters, we find some resurgent players, surprises and expected studs.  Berkman was an uncertainty coming into season.  The 35-year-old Big Puma has seen 40+ home run seasons in his career.  2010 was an injury shortened season and after getting traded to the Yankees and faltering in New York, critics began to write him off.  I was a big fan of his move to St. Louis, back to the NL Central and the opportunity to play with Pujols and Holliday.  Defense aside, Berkman’s 9 walks and league leading .725 SLG show that the Puma is back.  With the occasional days off and prime spot in the lineup, 35 home runs is my predicted total for this superstar.

Jonny Gomes:  Cincinnati Reds

The man has seem to been around forever but is actually only 30 years old.  Gomes has seen several 20+ home run seasons in his career, including 18 in 2010 playing in a career high 148 games.  With 18 walks, Gomes has disguised his poor .212 avg this season with a .386 OBP and .530 SLG.  The owner of a lifetime .332 OBP and .463 SLG, Gomes will get a fair amount of playing time this year.  While he is not the second coming of Adam Dunn, Gomes has clearly found a home in Cincinnati.  His lower average and 19 strikeouts concern me at this point as he will need to become a steadier hitter to continue to receive steady playing time.  Part of the surprises of this list, expect a return to form in order for Gomes.  Despite lofty totals, I cannot foresee a 30 home run season coming, even though he plays in that ballpark.  He is too streaky and Dusty Baker is not patient enough to stick with him.

Howie Kendrick:  Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Not one of my favorite players to cover, I have always soured on Kendrick for his inability to take walks.  With a career high of 10 home runs (twice), low stolen bases totals and inability to consistently get on base, I have rarely seen the upside of Kendrick at the plate.  This season, apparently as light switch has gone off inside his head or bat, as Kendrick is well on his way to shattering his previous power numbers and already has 10 walks on the season (last year he set a career high of 28).  Does a leopard change its spots…or does a Kendrick learn patience?  I will believe it when I see it.  I have watched Kendrick for too long to be sold on what I have seen thus far.  if he is still able to keep up this approach going into July, maybe I will cut him some slack.  Until then, I expect to see Kendrick off this list by mid-June at the latest.  A nice run, but a run is all this is at the end of the day in my opinion.

Russell Martin:  New York Yankees

The second Yankee on our list has found a new home and new lease on life in the Bronx.  Martin had a career high 19 home runs in 2007 playing for the Dodgers, earning a Silver Slugger award that year.  With an OPS of 1.099, Martin is the early favorite for Comeback Player of the Year.  Playing nearly every game this season and enjoying a healthy hip, Martin apparently has renewed drive and focus that was previously lacking in Los Angeles.  At 28 years old and continuing our trend of young superstars on the list, all Martin really has to do is stay healthy this year.  In the loaded Yankees lineup and with the short porch, Martin has a chance at 25 home runs this year.

Jorge Posada:  New York Yankees

Yankee #3 is on the downside of his career, or so we are led to believe.  The 39-year-old Posada is a full-time DH for the full-time in his career.  While his .153 AVG and .711 OPS, his 6 home runs (of his 9 total hits) is outstanding.  Too many factors are against Posada staying on the leaderboard.  Health is always a concern and despite no longer playing the field, any tweaks at this point could send the elderly Posada to the DL.  Further, his numbers are showing that when he is not hitting home runs, he is simply not hitting or getting on base.  As Posada continues his best Rob Deer impersonation, I don’t foresee great things ahead for the future hall of famer, nearing the end of an outstanding career.

Carlos Quentin:  Chicago White Sox

Both Chicago teams are represented, with the powerful Quentin starting off for the White Sox.  The likely pick for MVP had he stayed healthy in 2008, Quentin has a laundry list of injuries and ailments his entire career.  But when healthy, Quentin is always a home run threat.  With a 1.023 OPS and having Rios, Dunn, Konerko, Ramirez and Beckham in the lineup for protection, Quentin looks to best his career high of 36 home runs in 2008.  I am sitting on the fence on this one.  The potential is there, but so are the injuries.  Expect at least a couple of trips to the disabled list but assuming reasonable health, I will take 30+ home runs for Carlos.  The Adam Dunn factor cannot be discounted, as he will prove to be great protection for Quentin all season long.

Alfonso Soriano:  Chicago Cubs

A 20+ home run hitter for nine straight seasons, Soriano was written off for dead by many experts, yours truly included.  2009 was a dismal season for Soriano and although he had a steady return last year, at the age of 35 and with knee issues, little was expected from the talented Dominican.  Despite his .513 SLG this season, there are several reasons to expect a continuing decline for Soriano.  His BB/K rate this year is an abysmal 3/21, as his .244 AVG and .272 OBP.  If you ask me, I see Soriano slowly decaying into the next Yuniesky Betancourt.  Soriano is still a lock for another 20+ home run year but with the rest of his game on such a rapid decline, don’t expect much else.  If the Cubs have any other options, I expect Soriano to see more time on the bench or even a trade in order.  But at his salary, I cannot foresee any team taking a chance.

Mark Teixeira:  New York Yankees

The last player on our list and Yankee #4, Teixeira clearly did not get the memo that we are in April and not August.  A notorious slow starter, Teixeira is already up to twelve walks, .402 OBP and .621 SLG.  For the 31-year-old Teixeira who has 281 career home runs, his career high of 43 home runs in 2005 could be broken.  Considering that Teixeira has the ability to hit 10-12 home runs per month in the summer, I see a clear breakout year for this superstar first baseman.  The Yankees went out and got him for a reason.  In addition to his gold glove defense, I am smelling a possible silver slugger and MVP award in 2011.

What is the future of this list?  Hard to tell without a crystal ball, as so many factors can arise.  Injuries, playing time, lineup position…things can change.  But a trend is clear from the early season home run leaders.  Most are in the 27-30 year-old age bracket and are proven home run hitters in their careers.  I expect most of the above hitters to remain on the list, with some surprises to fade away and new players to emerge.  Other superstars, like Joey Votto and Adrian Gonzalez will join this list very soon.  But even in the short span of three weeks into the season, it is clear that even with only a few games played, the home run hitting cream is already rising to the top.

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