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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: January Man

By David Huzzard (Nationals Correspondent via Citizens of Natstown.com – view website here): 

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It was an innocent enough radio interview. The standard with Mike Rizzo late in the off-season with nothing happening.

He was asked if everything on the checklist had been marked off and answered in the affirmative and then was asked if there were still moves left to be made.

To this question Mike Rizzo gave the standard and cliched GM answer of anytime we can do anything to improve the club that makes sense for blah blah blah. You get the idea.

There was nothing special at all about this interview. It was a time filler between Redskins talk on a local Washington DC radio station, but there was something in Mike Rizzo’s voice.

He sounded ecstatic while talking about improving the team. Reading between the lines it was as if he was smirking into the phone and really saying watch what I’m about to do. Read the rest of this entry

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Sabathia and the Yankees: Did anyone ‘CC’ this coming?

Tuesday November 1, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays and Prospects Writer – MLB reports):  At the stroke of midnight, C.C. Sabathia wouldn’t have turned into a pumpkin, but the Yankees had the potential of not getting the fairy tale they wanted.

But, lo and behold, a fairy godmother appeared, in the form of a signed contract, which showed that C.C. Sabathia would accept a new deal and remain with the New York Yankees.  The new deal also had the effect of adding 30 million dollars to his bottom line.

As such, Sabathia did not become a free agent. But at what cost?

Sabathia already had $92 million left on the old contract, or, in layman’s terms, about $23 million a year. Now, the new deal increases his salary to $25 million for 2016 and also gives the Yankees a $25 million option for 2017 with a $5 million buyout (depending on whether Sabathia can stay healthy in 2016).

Was the money worth it? At a quick glance it would appear that the money is well-spent for the Yankees. In fact, since signing a $161-million, seven-year deal with the Yankees in 2009, Sabathia has gone 59-23 with a 3.18 ERA during the regular season for the Yankees.

But that’s not the only reason that the money was well spent for the Yankees.

If the Yankees would not have been able to convince Sabathia to stay, their rotation (as it stands now) would have consisted of A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and unless some offseason trading or signing occurs, likely David Phelps and Hector Noesi.

Had Sabathia not signed, the Yankees would have been even more likely to chase any and all free agent starting pitchers on the market, including C.J. Wilson of the Rangers, and Japanese phenom (who the Blue Jays and Rangers are currently rumored to be targeting), Yu Darvish.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Sabathia did agree to sign.  But I would not assume that the Yankees have stopped their search for additional starting pitchers to beef up their rotation.  Rather far from it.  In order to get over the hump, the Yankees will need to acquire complimentary pieces to their existing ace pitcher.

But with that being said, can one even imagine what would have happened if Sabathia had not stayed in New York?  And if perhaps some other team came and swept Sabathia off his feet during the upcoming free agency courting period?

If Sabathia had opted out of his contract and become a free agent, it would be interesting to review which teams could have been the right fit for the Yankees’ ace.  Potential suitors could have included the Nationals, who already are developing a young up-and-coming team with a stellar rotation. It could have also been the Red Sox, as after the Tommy John surgery to John Lackey, also require  more depth to their rotation.  Finally, the Los Angeles Angels could have been a suitable destination, because as was saw last year with Vernon Wells, the Angels do not care about the price.  Rather the team looks at the quality of the player (in effect, taking the player they want at any price). The Angels could have been a very strong suitor for Sabathia location-wise, given that CC is a California native.

Overall though, despite the fact that he was born in California, Sabathia admitted that his family has now made New York their home.  Sabathia moved his family to New Jersey and is an active member of the local community.  So much like the end of every fairy tale, CC of course, will live happily ever after.  Then again, making $122 million over the next five years, with the potential for $147 million ver six years, certainly helps!

 

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

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.

Expanding the MLB Postseason: More Wild Card Teams Coming

Friday October 21, 2011

MLB reports – Rob Bland:  Expanding the playoffs has been a hot topic for many years now.  While the move will not be as drastic as when the MLB added the first wild card team in each league, it has drawn the ire from a lot of critics.  In 1994, MLB was to use the postseason system currently in place; however the season was cut short due to a player strike.  It was then that the MLB went to three divisions in each league (East, Central, and West) as well as a wild card team (the best non-divisional winner record in the league).  The American league Divisional winners would have been the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox in the Central and Texas Rangers in the West (with a record of 52-61).  Conversely, the Cleveland Indians would have been the wild card winners at 66-47.  In the National League, the East would have been won by the Montreal Expos, who had the MLB’s best record of 74-40.  The Central and West would have been won by the Cincinnati Reds and LA Dodgers, respectively, while the wild card winner would have been the Atlanta Braves.

However, due to the strike, which also shortened the following season, 1995 was the first year this system actually came into play.  This season saw a shortened 144 game schedule.  The NL East winners, Atlanta Braves had to go through the slugging Colorado Rockies; the first NL wild card team.  They then faced the Reds, and the eventual World Series Champions Cleveland Indians.  The Indians took a very peculiar path to the World Series.  After leading the MLB with a 100-44 record, the Indians faced the Boston Red Sox, winners of the AL East, who had the 2nd best record in the American League.  The Yankees were the wild card winners, who were defeated by the Seattle Mariners in the AL Division Series.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the commissioner, Bud Selig, with the MLB and its players’ union expires in December of this year, and an extension of five years is expected to be reached any day.  One of the main hold-ups to a deal is the addition of another wild card team.  The 2nd best non-divisonal winner would get into the playoffs.  This may not seem like much, where every other major sports league in North America has at least 3 “wild card” teams, but in baseball, tradition is always at the top of people’s minds.  Adding a team to each league’s postseason picture could lengthen the MLB season, which is something that is a major concern to most people involved in the process.

One option that was bandied around was to have the two wild card teams face off in a best 2 out of 3 series.  The advantage of this short series is that both teams that didn’t win their division would have to play extra games while the winners get a short break to recuperate their injured players.  Also, the extra games give opportunities to more teams to earn extra postseason revenue, which benefits the league.  However, the extra 2-4 days off that the other teams would have to endure could also cause a team to lose its momentum gained at the end of the season.

However, it is believed that the MLB will go to a one game sudden death playoff between the two wild card teams.  In my opinion, the biggest advantage to this is that it gives the winner of the game a monumental disadvantage going into the second round.  The wild card teams would be forced to pitch their ace in the playoff, and therefore would not be able to pitch until at least game 3 of the next round.  This means the team’s best starter would only get one start in a best of 5 series.  Not only would the team with the best record in the league have home-field advantage, but they would see their opponent’s best pitcher in only one game.

In the current state of the MLB postseason, ten wild card teams have made it to the World Series, out of a possible 34 teams going back to 1995, including 2011.  Roughly 29% of wild card teams make it into the World Series.  If you figure that 1 out of 4 teams in each league make it to the World Series, or 25%, then you have a better chance of making it as a wild card than as a divisional winner.  Four World Series have been won by wild card teams.  25% of World Series have been won by a team that should have a distinct disadvantage, but obviously do not.  It is due to this that MLB must make it a bigger hindrance for not winning your division.  Playing an extra game, extra travel and burning your ace are ways to weaken a wild card team’s chance of making it to the World Series.

With the union and MLB reps meeting every day trying to hammer out the extension for the CBA, you should see the added teams in the playoffs in 2012 or 2013.  It is widely expected that the deal will be reached in the middle of the World Series to take advantage or the added publicity it would gain.  I am fairly certain that the new playoff format will come into effect for the 2012 season, and there will be a lot of teams looking to push the envelope and make an appearance.

 

 World Series:  Game 2 Recap

Game 2 was a bit of a surprise, as Jaime Garcia, whom many picked to implode in this guy, had a great start.  Through 7 solid innings, he gave up only 3 hits and 1 walk to 7 strike outs.  Colby Lewis was equally as impressive until the 7th inning, where he was able to strike Matt Holliday out to lead off the inning.  David Freese then singled and Yadier Molina flew out.  Nick Punto then hit a ground ball towards first base that went off of Michael Young’s glove and into right field, moving Freese to third.  With runners on the corners and one out in the 7th, Alexi Ogando came in to face the hitter in the pitcher’s spot.  That hitter: Allen Craig.  The same hero of game 1 that hit a single to right field that scored the go ahead and eventual winning run.  Craig promptly lined a ball to right field to score David Freese, breaking the dead lock.

What would a playoff game be without drama? Jason Motte came in the 9th to close out the 1-0 game.  So far in the postseason, he had given up 1 hit in 29 plate appearances.  Ian Kinsler led off the inning with a bloop single off the end of the bat.  Elvis Andrus came up to the plate and looked to get a sac bunt on the ground, but Kinsler decided to take matters in his own hands, and stole second base by the smallest of margins.  Andrus then lifted a 2-2 pitch to center field for a single.  While Kinsler was held at 3rd, Cardinals CF Jon Jay threw the ball wide of the cutoff man, which allowed Andrus to slide safely into 2nd base.

Manager Tony La Russa then yanked Motte for lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Josh Hamilton.  On the first pitch, he hit a fly ball to right that scored Kinsler and advanced Andrus to third.  Even more like La Russa, he brought in Lance Lynn to face Michael Young, who hit a 3-2 curveball deep enough to center to scored Andrus, and the Rangers lead the game 2-1.

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz took the mound in the bottom of the 9th and walked Yadier Molina on 5 pitches 97 mph or faster, hitting 100 on the radar gun with the first pitch.  Nick Punto came to the plate, bunted two balls foul up around his eyes, then swung feebly to strike out.  Feliz then struck out Skip Schumaker and induced a fly ball off the bat of Rafael Furcal to seal the victory.

With the series tied at one game apiece, an off day tomorrow and game 3 slated for Saturday night in Texas, this series is only going to get better.  Keep checking MLB reports for your daily fix of updates on the World Series.

 

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.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  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

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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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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap for Sunday October 9th and MLB Notes

Monday October 10, 2011

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  There turned out to only be one game on Sunday, nonetheless it was still an exciting, and important game.  Let’s get to the Recaps!

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Two

Major League Baseball actually called this game at 2:00 PM CT, more than four hours before the game even started.  MLB was obviously trying to the pitchers from a situation similar to Saturday night.  While MLB probably had good intentions, this was a very bad decision.  According to multiple weather reports, it never rained on Sunday at the Ballpark in Arlington.  If the decision makers had just waited a couple more hours we probably would have a game between these two teams on Sunday.  Now, because of MLB jumping the gun, these teams have to play four straight days of baseball.  As a result, Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Tigers this afternoon against Derek Holland for the Rangers.  Game time is 4:19 PM ET, assuming the skies stay clear in Arlington.

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game One

With all the trash talking leading up to this game, this proved to be a pivotal game for both teams.  Neither pitcher was very sharp, but both offenses showed up ready to battle.  In the top of the first, Matt Holliday had an RBI single off Brewers starter Zack Greinke to give up the Cardinals an early lead.  In the bottom of the first, the Brewers erased the Cardinals’ lead by scoring two runs, courtesy of Ryan Braun‘s 444 foot home run.  Both pitchers battled throughout the second and third innings, until in the fourth when David Freese hit a 3-run home run to give the Cards’ a 4-2 lead.  Freese is having a tremendous postseason, coming tough in the clutch for St.Louis.  In the top of the fifth, Lance Berkman drove in Rafael Furcal to make it 5-2.  In the bottom of the fifth, everything went wrong for Jaime Garcia.   The inning started off with a Corey Hart single, then a Jerry Hairston double.  Next, Ryan Braun jumped on the first pitch and hit a ground rule double to right field.  From there, Prince Fielder crushed Garcia’s first pitch, an 87 MPH fastball, to right center field.  ESPN’s Home Run Tracker had that bomb traveling at 119.2 MPH.  This would make it the hardest hit homer of the season.   A lot is going to be made about the Brewers celebrations after every home run they hit, but I really don’t have a problem with it.  If the Cardinals don’t like it, then maybe they just shouldn’t give up home runs!

Garcia’s main problem with this huge inning was that he stopped throwing his breaking ball.  Out of the 12 pitches he threw, not one was offspeed.  Things got worse for the Redbirds when Octavio Dotel came into the game, and gave up a 2-run home run to Yuniesky Betancourt, of all people.  The Cardinals scored once more in the 7th when Albert Pujols grounded into a double play, but the big 6th inning was enough for the Brewers.  Final score: Brewers 9 Cardinals 6, with Greinke getting the win, Garcia the loss, and John Axford nailing down the save.  These two teams will face off for game two tonight, Monday, at 8:05 PM ET.  Edwin Jackson will get the start for St.Louis, against Shaun Marcum for Milwaukee.

Editor’s Notes:

  • All the talk surrounding Zack Greinke’s comments turned out to be just that, talk.  Once the teams took the field yesterday afternoon, the focus centered on the game itself.  After getting hit fairly hard yesterday, I do not expect we will hear many more harsh words from Greinke during this series.
  • The Tigers are looking very susceptible offensively, especially after the loss of Magglio Ordonez to a broken ankle and Delmon Young to an oblique strain.  The Rangers have caught fire at the right time and should be making a second straight trip to the World Series.
  • The free agency talk won’t talk, even though we are still in playoff mode.  Possible destinations for C.J. Wilson and Prince Fielder have been speculated on for the past few days, as strong or stronger than they have all season.  The reality is the focus should be on the games ahead.  There will be plenty of time to have these discussions between the end of the playoffs and New Years. 
  • A story has come out indicating that the Reds are going to star taking offers for their star first baseman, Joey Votto.  Expect 29 other teams to submit their bids if this is true.
  • Epstein-gate continues to swirl, as the Cubs and supposedly Angels are interested in his services.  My advice if Theo was sitting in front of me?  Stay put.  You are considered a genius in Boston.  Move elsewhere and you run the risk of failing to replicate your magic.  If that occurs, your lustre will get tarnished.  Same advice to Billy Beane.  Stay home and keep your legacy.  The grass is always greener on the other side. 

 

***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.***

 

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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 Tuesday October 4th

Wednesday October 5, 2011

MLB reports:  While three teams on Tuesday could have moved on to the next series, only one team did. Here is a recap of the scores and highlights from Tuesday’s games: 

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Four

With A.J. Burnett on the mound, Yankee fans were on the edge of their seat in anticipation for the game against the Tigers. They knew they needed a win, and a big one.

Well, they got exactly that.

Derek Jeter started the scoring in the third inning with a double that scored Russell Martin and Jorge Posada.

They would hold the 2-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth, when Victor Martinez launched a solo homerun to make it a 2-1 game.

That would, however, be the only run that the Tigers would score as the Yankees scored another run in the 5th, when Curtis Granderson doubled Brett Gardner. Later in the inning, Alex Rodriguez would score Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

And they never looked back.

In the top of the eighth, Al Alburquerque, facing Jesus Montero, balked which allowed Alex Rodriguez from second. Montero would later single to score Mark Teixeira. Daniel Schlereth would then come in for the Tigers, but it didn’t get any better, as he threw a wild pitch that scored Montero and then gave up a 2-RBI single to Robinson Cano. After a 6-run inning the score was 10-1.

Evidently, that would be the way the game ended as Boone Logan struck out the side in the ninth, as the Yankees forced a game 5. Burnett went 5.2IP allowing one earned run on four hits, three walks and one strikeout. From then on in, the collective bullpen pitching, including Rafael Soriano, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched 3 1/3 of no-hit baseball, allowing no walks yet striking out six.  Game five goes tomorrow night in New York, Fister vs. Nova for all the marbles.

 

Texas Rangers at Tampay Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Four

The Rays had been in this position not too long ago – one loss away from not being able to move on to the next step. Recognizing this, they sent Hellickson to the mound against Rangers’ Harrison.

That said, after already winning two games in a row, the Rangers were not going to go down easy as Ian Kinsler hit a home run in the first at-bat of the game.

In the 2nd, the Rangers added to their lead with another home run, one from Adrian Beltre, and already Texas was up 2-0.

In the bottom of the inning, the Rays cut the Rangers lead in half thanks in part to Matt Joyce’s RBI double.

Adrian Beltre, did not give up easy and in the forth, launched another solo home run. His 2nd of the game.

But again, the Rays fought back and again, Sean Rodriguez scored, this time off the bat of  Casey Kotchman.

Adrian Beltre though would not allow the Rays to catch up as, in the top of the seventh, he launched his THIRD home run of the game.

In the bottom of the 9th, with the score 4-2, Sean Rodriguez once again told his team he wanted to cross the plate once again. So sure enough, Casey Kotchman singled him in with one out in the ninth, making the score 4-3.

But the third Beltre homerun proved to be the difference, as Alexi Ogando got Matt Joyce to pop out and Desmond Jennings to ground out.

Harrison got the win, going five complete innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out nine.

With the win, the Texas Rangers move on to the next series, facing off against the winner of the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers.

 

Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLDS Game Three

Everyone loves great baseball and that is certainly what was received when Phillies’ Cole Hamels faced off against Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.

There was no score until the seventh inning as both pitchers were cruising along. Much like what occurred in all other aforementioned games, a home run proved to be the difference as after Shane Victorino singled and Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked, Ben Francisco was placed in to pinch hit and he did not disappoint – launching a three run home run to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead.

The Cards fought back in the bottom of the inning as David Freese hit an  RBI single that scored Allen Craig.

They would carry this momentum into the ninth inning as Albert Pujols led off the inning with a double off Ryan Madson. Pujols would later score off of a Yadier Molina single but that would be all they would get as Ryan Theriot grounded out to end the game, enabling the Phillies to win by a score of 3-2.

Cole Hamels got the win, going six complete innings without a run, allowing five hits and three walks, but striking out eight.  Game four goes tonight in St. Louis, Oswalt vs. Jackson.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Three

In a must-win game for the Arizona Diamondbacks, they sent Josh Collemeter to the mound against Brewers’ Shaun Marcum and Collemeter did not disappoint.

Arizona got on the board early against Marcum thank in part to a RBI double from Miguel Montero and an RBI single from Paul Goldschmidt.

Both of these scoring plays were fielder by centerfielder Corey Hart, so Hart felt he needed redemption. When he got up to bat in the third, he did exactly that, hitting a homerun to left field, and cutting Arizona’s lead to 2-1.

The damage, however, had already been done. In the bottom of the inning, Arizona added to their lead when Aaron Hill scored on Montero’s second RBI of the game. On the play, Nyjer Morgan got Justin Upton out on a close play at the plate.

With the score 3-1, Arizona knew they needed a few more runs to ensure a game four. Evidently, Paul Goldschmidt was thinking the same thing as in the fifth inning, he hit a GRAND SLAM (GOLDSCHMIDTTTTT!). Kameron Loe would then come in to pitch and replace Marcum, but Arizona was much too dominant, scoring another run in the inning from a Ryan Roberts RBI single, giving the Diamondbacks an 8-1 lead.

This evidently would be how the game would end as Milwaukee managed only three hits in the game. This can be attributed to Collemeter’s fantastic game as he went seven complete innings, allowing only two hits, one earned run on two walks and six strikeouts.

Marcum’s outing was not as great, as the ex-Blue Jay went 4.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three.  Game four is the late game tonight in Arizona, Wolf vs. Saunders.

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Sunday October 2nd

Monday October 3, 2011

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  The first Sunday of postseason baseball didn’t have any letdowns for viewers.  Starting at about noon, I watched and listened to roughly ten hours of baseball.  Usually after I spend one of my Sunday’s watching baseball, I wish I could have those hours back because I really didn’t have the free time to watch all those games.  The postseason is way different.  No matter what I have to do, I always try to make sure watching the games is my top priority.  After Jason Motte recorded the final out of the day, I felt like that was the best way I could’ve spent my day.  Albeit from my couch, there’s nothing like cheering on your favorite teams and players during October.  Enough rambling, let’s get to the games.

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Two

In the top of the first inning, Miguel Cabrera hit a 2-0 changeup from Freddy Garcia 337 feet into the right field bleachers.  Only at Yankee Stadium is that a home run, the short porch in right field gives hitters an almost unfair advantage.  Max Scherzer was terrific, not allowing a hit until Robinson Cano singled in the bottom of the sixth.  Scherzer finished the game after throwing six shutout innings striking out five.  Freddy Garcia didn’t pitch that bad he was just made a couple of mistakes and had some bad luck.  After six innings, the Tigers appeared to be in control.  Then, the rain started coming down.   I can’t believe that the Yankees spent 1.3 billion on a new stadium but they couldn’t even construct a retractable roof.  Anyways, Joaquin Benoit twirled two innings, just giving up a Curtis Granderson homer.  Jose Valverde didn’t make it look easy in the ninth, allowing a Nick Swisher dinger, then a Jorge Posada triple!   Nonetheless, “Papa Grande” got Robinson Cano to ground out with runners on first and second to end the game.  On the offensive side of this game the Tigers star was Miguel Cabrera.  Cabrera went 3 for 4 with 3 RBI.  Cabrera showed how versatile of a hitter he is hitting an opposite field homer, poking an RBI single up the middle, and pulling a single to left field.  Now the series will head to Detroit tied up 1-1.  Game time is Monday at 8:30 PM ET.

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Two

Ryan Braun got things started with a two run homer off Dan Hudson in the first.  However, in the top of the 2nd Paul Goldschmidt took Zack Greinke deep.  I have no idea why Kirk Gibson didn’t start Goldschmidt in the first game, as he obviously deserves to be in there.  In spite of both teams starting talented pitchers, this was not a pitcher’s duel.  Milwaukee took a 4-1 lead in the third thanks to Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder driving in the runs.  By the sixth, Arizona had tied it up at 4-4 largely in part to Chris Young and Justin Upton going deep.  However, in the bottom of the sixth everything fell apart for the D-Backs.  The Brew Crew had runners on first and third when catcher Jonathan Lucroy shocked the Diamondbacks by laying down a suicide squeeze to score Jerry Hairston.  After that, things just fell apart from Arizona’s pitcher Brad Ziegler; he gave up three straight singles to Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Ryan Braun.  By the time Ziegler was pulled, the Brewers had a 9-4 lead.  The Brewers relievers combined to throw four shutout innings, and the Brewers won by the final score of 9-4.  When asked after the game, Willie Bloomquist A.K.A Willie Ballgame had this to say, “We’re going to come out fighting on Tuesday. It’s a tough position to be in, but you know what? We’re comfortable with the uncomfortable.” The series is now 2-0 Brewers and the two teams will meet in Phoenix on Tuesday at 9:30 PM ET.

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Two

To lead off the game Rafael Furcal tripled but then the Cards ran into Cliff Lee, who retired the 2-3-4 hitters without allowing a run.  The Phillies delivered a big blow in the bottom of the first, with Ryan Howard coming through with a bases loaded single.  Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days’ rest, had a rough day, only lasted three innings while giving up four runs.   In the fourth inning, the Cardinals scored three times, and would’ve scored four if it weren’t for it weren’t for Raul Ibanez gunning down Jon Jay at the plate.   Jay tied things up in the sixth with a single to score Ryan Theriot from second.  The Cardinals bullpen threw four consecutive 1-2-3 innings baffling Phillies hitters.  I was impressed by Tony LaRussa’s methodical use of his bullpen.  Some games LaRussa looks like an idiot, some games he looks like a genius.  I guess that’s just the way he works.  In the top of the 7th Charlie Manuel decided to leave Lee in despite him being over 100 pitches.  The decision backfired when Shane Victorino misplayed an Allen Craig line drive.  Craig was in at third with a standup triple and he didn’t have to wait long before Albert Pujols drove him in.  Jason Motte needed only six pitches (all of which were over 90 MPH) to earn the save.  The Cardinals finished with thirteen hits to the Phillies six.  The series will switch to St.Louis all tied up.  The next game is on Tuesday at 5:00 PM ET.

***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.***

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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.***

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.

How Far Will the Yankees Go in the 2011 Playoffs? Prediction Time

Sunday September 25, 2011

 

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The Yankees entered the season with a troubled rotation, some great bullpen signings from the offseason, and a star-studded lineup.

As the season commenced, the Yankees had immediate troubles in the rotation. The troubles in the rotation started with their former number two starter Phil Hughes, who seemed to be dominant going into the year, yet wasn’t able to play due to a “Dead arm”. The rotation ended up being filled by a rookie (Ivan Nova), C.C. Sabathia, a struggling A.J. Burnett, and two veterans who weren’t very successful in the past few seasons (Colon and Garcia).

The Yankees were up for the challenge, as they not only beat out the  nearly untouchable Red Sox in the AL East division race, but also had a season full of historical baseball moments. Derek Jeter, became the first player in Yankee history to reach the 3,000 hit mark, as for Mariano Rivera, who is now the all-time leader in saves in Major League Baseball history.

Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia unexpectedly became huge parts in lifting Yankees until the day they clinched the division spot. As for Ivan Nova, he won 16 games for the Yankees in the “Journey to the playoffs”. Now the Yankees are finished with that chapter and are now on a new journey: the “Journey to the World Series”.

The playoffs are about to start soon, as the Yankees are in the process of last-minute preparations. Unnamed sources have leaked out that Ivan Nova will start game two, and A.J. Burnett will not appear as a starter in the playoffs. The Yankees’ playoff rotation is looking more favorable for Freddy Garcia to be the number three starter, as Bartolo Colon is going through a horrific slump. Colon’s ERA (earned run average) in September is well over a 6.50, resulting in his ERA surpassing 4.00 on the season. Therefore it is probable that Freddy Garcia will be named to start for the Yankees in the 2011 MLB playoffs.

There have been multiple questions concerning Jesus Montero’s spot in the Yankees playoff roster. To date, it seems likely Yankees will proceed to place him on the roster in place of Francisco Cervelli, as he is expected to come back later in the playoffs due to concussion symptoms.

Besides the rotation, bullpen, and the Yankees lineup, backups also take on a big role in the “Key to success”. The Yankees backups are looking extraordinary as the season is nearing an end. The backups will include a trio of Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Andruw Jones, and either Jesus Montero or Jorge Posada as of now. The backups are looking promising, and can take a big part in the “Journey to the World Series”.

The Yankees have a team full of playoff greats, such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and others such as Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia. There is a debate as to whether the veterans can lift the Yankees this year to championship Number 28. The answer is that the Yankees veterans have the promise playoff strength. Veterans such as Derek Jeter (also known as Mr. November), and Mariano Rivera, among others who have experience and the strength to lift the Yankees in the postseason. However, the Yankees veterans are aging, and as they age, they get less and less reliable. This leaves the backups with a huge role to fill.

The Yankees teams consists of youth, veterans, and a great deal of confidence. The confidence was within the clubhouse on Thursday, as C.C. Sabathia stated in an interview with MLB.com, that if he plays correctly he will win. With the attitude and the strength to do so, the Yankees could go far into the playoff race this year.

The Yankees will most likely play the Texas Rangers, or the Detroit Tigers. There is uncertainty which team as of yet, though each team has their ups and downs, and certain distractions they will have to face.  Let’s take a look at the potential matchups:

Detroit Tigers:  The Tigers have an outstanding rotation coming into the playoffs. Max Scherzer, is a strikeout master, while Justin Verlander is just about a master of everything. Verlander has produced great success this year, as he is seeking to win the AL Cy Young, and possibly become the first pitcher to win the AL MVP award in the last 20 years.

Doug Fister will be a huge part of the Tigers playoff plans, as his ERA dropped below 3.00 recently. His September stats consist of four wins and a 0.69 ERA. Fister’s streak is looking unstoppable, and will be a hard match for the Yankees. The Yankees pitching isn’t looking very promising as of late, and the Tigers clearly win that category. If the Yankees can’t produce runs against the hard throwing Tigers’ pitching staff, it may be hard to get by them. The Tigers key hitters are Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez. With the Yankees pitching rotation banged up, the Tigers could prove to be a very difficult opponent.

Prediction: Yankees in five

Texas Rangers:  All eyes are on the Rangers banged-up rotation now. C.J. Wilson, who has been having substantial success this year for the Rangers, is facing a problem to think about. As the offseason approaches, so does free agency. Free agency can affect not only the thoughts of players, but how they are playing. Thoughts are a very powerful thing, as on different occasions it can be hard to think about free agency when playing.  The pressure is immense.  Although in Wilson’s case, the pressure could prove to be a motivator to pitch well.

Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis are among the other probable starters. All of them are decent pitchers, though they occasionally rely on help from their offense for run support, which will prove to be the main problem for the Yankees rotation.

The Rangers lineup includes Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler in the heart of their lineup. This will be an extremely difficult problem for the Yankees rotation, as Rangers seem to possibly have the best lineup in the majors. The Rangers offense may possibly even be better than the Yankees lineup. If the strength of the Rangers rotation and lineup continue to consume strength, the Yankees could be outmatched.

Prediction: Rangers in five

Assuming the Yankees play the Tigers, and proceed to the second round, with either the Red Sox/Rays (depending on who wins the wild card), or the Rangers, both series will be a close call and consist of exciting games to watch. The Red Sox are in a similar situation as the Yankees, as their pitching staff has averaged a 6.60 ERA in the last ten games played.  If we have a Yankees and Red Sox matchup in the ALDS, it will likely go the full seven games- where anything is possible.

The Yankees have made history this year and accomplished feats over the years that no team has ever matched. Most importantly, the team wants to succeed. Success is a big thing for the Yankees organization. The Yankees are survivors, never give up, and always look to come back when down. This year has already been one big accomplishment, as the Yankees surpassed the Red Sox in the standings and possibly in making the playoffs.  Now the team is looking for championship rings in the year of 2011.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  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 Jeff 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 onFacebook .  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.

 

Sunday MLB Insider Report: Our Views on the Latest Baseball News

 

Sunday September 4, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and of course, our opinions:

 

I am about to finish the latest baseball book that I am reading and will be posting a review this week.  “The Fastest Thirty Ballgames”, by Ballpark Chaser extraordinaire, Doug Booth.  I don’t want to give away much of my report, that will be saved for the review.  Needless to say, the book has inspired me to fulfil my goal of seeing all thirty MLB ballparks.  While it takes me ordinarily a couple of days to a week to complete a baseball book, this particular book has taken me much longer.  I have read and re-read this book over and over, going back to read favorite sections.  For any baseball fan who loves baseball road trips or is thinking of taking one, this book is the perfect travel companion.

One of the biggest topics on the lips of Yankees fans is the contract status of C.C. Sabathia.  After Ivan Nova, the Yankees have several question marks as to their rotation going into the playoffs.  Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are all in the mix.  But if Sabathia were to hypothetically opt out of his deal and test free agency, the Yankees pitching staff could collapse like a house of cards.  It appears that Sabathia has enjoyed his time thus far in New York and plans to continue pitching as a Yankee.  Although Sabathia will likely opt out, both player and team will do everything possible to keep the big guy in pinstripes.  Sabathia will become even richer on a new deal, as Alex Rodriguez was on his decision to opt out and sign a new Yankees deal.  For the team with the highest payroll in baseball, to contend it will re-sign its ace in the offseason.

Rumors are circulating that many MLB General Managers will be wooed to change teams in 2012.  Brian Cashman of the Yankees, Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Theo Epstein of the Red Sox are all apparently in demand, as is Billy Beane in Oakland and Mike Rizzo in Washington.  From all the best GMs that will be considered for the Cubs position, the only one I could see is Cashman.  With his contract up in New York and the Steinbrenner regime exercising control in decision-making (see the Rafael Soriano deal), Cashman may have had enough and makes the move to the Windy City.  All of the other GMs are in great positions, with little or no incentive to make the leap.  Some have called for the Astros to make a strong play for Friedman, but I see him staying put in a great situation with a strong talent base.  Friedman will see his team through to an eventual World Championship.

I had several conversations with baseball people about the World Baseball Classic, with the third edition coming up rapidly in 2013.  As discussed in a previous article, there are some changes to the WBC that have been instituted, including a qualifying tournament in the fall of 2012.  New countries in the mix include Great Britain, France, Israel and Brazil.  In all there will be 12 new countries, together with 4 holdover countries vying for 4 open spots into the tournament.  From the 16 existing WBC countries, 12 were granted automatic berths into the tournament.  The challenge facing MLB and WBC officials is to have eligible players play for their respective countries.  One particular country I discussed was Israel.  Imagine a team lead by Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis.  Quite the powerhouse offense.  To have this tournament ultimately succeed, star players that are eligible for new and less known baseball countries need to play for these countries and increase the exposure of the sport in those regions.  That is really what the WBC is all about.

For fans in Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, please be patient.  Your teams will be better.  It might be hard to believe and some of you must be sick of hearing it, but your teams have great young talent and each will be a contender one day.  The only variable against you is time.

With their victory over the Giants last night, the Diamondbacks now hold a six game lead in the NL West.  How Kevin Towers remained on the market so long before being hired in Arizona is beyond me.  Derrick Hall and company have put together a nice young team, with strong management on the field and in the front office.  Towers has put together the team and manager Kirk Gibson has molded them into a contender.  It goes to show that a bleak situation can be transformed almost overnight, if you have the right people in place.  Baseball, as much as any other sport, starts with the people in charge.  A solid management foundation flows through the whole organization and can make or break a major league team.  Arizona is the team of destiny in the NL West in my mind and while they will have a very difficult time passing the Phillies if they make the playoffs, just playing in October this year will be considered a huge victory for the team.

Outside of New York and Boston, many baseball fans are apparently sick of talking about the Red Sox and Yankees.  For as much as fans may despise the teams, as baseball fans they should still respect them.  Baseball, without the history and tradition of the Red Sox and Yankees, would have a large void.  During my recent trip to Cooperstown (with a full report on my experiences coming soon), I was fascinated by the Babe Ruth exhibit and all the features on the two powerhouse squads.   There are no guarantees that either the Red Sox or Yankees will be in the World Series this year.  But having the teams in baseball is a good thing.  Attendance figures on the road when either team in town shows the demand.  You may hate the Red Sox and Yankees.  But you love to hate them.  For those of you that are either Red Sox or Yankees fans (can’t be both), you are some of the most passionate and knowledgable fans in baseball and I salute you.

I have been speculating since spring training that Jonathan Papelbon will leave Boston and join the Phillies this offseason.  I read some speculation this week that the Yankees may look to add him as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  I could only imagine the feeling in Fenway the first time Papelbon would step foot on the mound in Pinstripes.  Unlikely to happen in my opinion, but speculating can be fun sometimes.  Until I hear otherwise, I am predicting Papelbon to the  Phillies.

With the playoff races in baseball almost completed, it is time to turn our attention to October and thinking about the teams that will play in the World Series.  My picks at this point are the Rangers and Phillies.  Call it a hunch.  Call me crazy.  I am seeing a Texas Philadelphia matchup and one of the best fall classics in recent history.

Finally, I made a point on Twitter yesterday that the regular season is almost done.  If you have not made it a live game yet this year or even if you have gone to twenty or more games, try to attend as many September games as you can.  When November hits, the winter can be quite a sad time for baseball fans.  Unless you can make it out to Arizona or Mexico, chances are that you will not be able to watch winter ball.  With the internet, those games can be found to be viewed on your computer.  But as fans can attest, nothing beats a live ball game.  Enjoy as many of those games as you can now. 

 

 

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New York Yankees: 6-Man Rotation and Implications

Tuesday August 9, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports):  When you look at the New York Yankees pitching staff in 2011, two things come to mind.  C.C. Sabathia is the only frontline starter they currently have, and he has a pretty decent supporting cast.  That being said, last week, the Yankees have decided to go with a 6-man rotation for the time being.  This could be a motivational tool for Phil Hughes, who has struggled with injuries and command this season.  It also could be a way to limit some of the other starters’ inning totals.  Here is a quick look at all six members of the current rotation and how they stack up.

C.C. Sabathia is a true ace.  A workhorse.  A throwback to a generation where pitchers routinely threw 210+ innings in a season.  In his first 10 Major League seasons, Sabathia averaged over 210 innings per season.  This season, he is on pace for close to 250 innings.  Sabathia is once again this season one of the strongest frontrunners for the AL Cy Young Award.

Bartolo Colon is having a resurgence nobody could have predicted.  His ERA+ (a stat that compares his ERA with league average as well as adjusting to ballparks) of 126 is the highest it has been since 2002 when he was traded from Cleveland to Montreal.  He has thrown 113 2/3 innings already, which is more than he threw from 2008-2010.  Although it is fair to say he didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 2010.  Colon hasn’t thrown this many innings since 2005, when he threw 222 2/3 on his way to a Cy Young Award.  Colon is throwing strikes and eating innings.  Since joining the rotation, Colon has averaged over 6 innings per start.  Colon is a candidate to tire and wear down due to his large frame and weight, as well as the number of innings he has thrown in the last 5-years.

A.J. Burnetthas again been under-performing in relation to the 5-year $80M contract he signed before the 2009 season.  Burnett has always been touted as a pitcher with electric stuff, but unable it seems to figure it out.  Last year he was atrocious.  This year he is better, but still not very good.  He is on pace to lead the league in wild pitches for the second time in three years; in 2010 he was 2nd.  Burnett’s walk rate of 4 per 9 innings is not good, and he is giving up home runs at an alarming rate of 1.3 per 9 innings.

If we thought that Colon has been good this year, then Freddy Garcia has been great.  Once considered a great inning eater, with 7 of his first 8 MLB seasons throwing over 200 innings, he is back to his old tricks.  Garcia doesn’t throw with the same velocity as he once did; his fastball averaged 93 mph in 2002, whereas it sits around 87 now.  He knows this is the case, and actually only throws his heater 37.2% of the time, compared to 63% in 2002.  The biggest difference is that he now throws a split-finger 21.5% of the time, which he didn’t begin throwing with any regularity until 2006.  Garcia threw 157 innings last year, so I don’t see him wearing down yet as evidenced by his 3.16 ERA in 122 1/3 innings this season.

Phil Hughes has not had the 2011 that the Yankees dreamed of after his terrific 2010 season, where he went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA.  Hughes has only started 8 games this year, and has not pitched very well.  His main problem is that he is simply not missing any bats.  His K rate sits at 4.74/9 IP.  Hitters are hitting more line drives, and less ground balls off Hughes, which is a reason for a spike in his BABIP of .343 as compared to .274 last year.  The Yankees could be using his next couple of starts to see if they will stick with a 6-man rotation.  Hughes has been unable to last more than 6 innings in a start this year.   It should be noted though that his last start on August 2nd was an encouraging one, as he threw 6 innings, allowing only 3 hits and induceing 9 ground balls.

Ivan Nova had been dangled in trade talks seemingly from the end of the last World Series until this year’s trade deadline, where the Yankees pulled him back to keep for themselves.  GM Brian Cashman has said that they feel Ivan Nova is as good as the current version of Ubaldo Jimenez, so they held on to him, hoping to harness his ability.  When Hughes returned from the disabled list, Nova was initially optioned to AAA to make room in the rotation.  Nova has been pretty good all season, as his sinking fastball induces a ton of ground balls.  His 10-4 record with a 3.81 ERA has been impressive, but he still doesn’t strike out many hitters.  Nova threw almost 190 innings last year, so he will have no restrictions this year as he currently sits at 122 IP in the MLB and AAA combined.

The Yankees have a pretty good problem to have in that four of their starters are pitching well., one starter has been working back from an injury and is improving, and the other is a guy with tremendous talent.  The choice that many would like to see is Burnett being pushed to a bullpen role, but I don’t see that happening.  One more turn in the rotation should prove that the Yankees need to cut down on Garcia and Colon’s innings, and that Burnett should throw on 5 days rest instead of the usual four.  Garcia and Colon may also get skipped in the rotation a couple of times down the stretch to save their arms for the playoffs.

For the playoffs, most teams use a three or four-man rotation, using their fifth guy in a long relief role.  The Yankees can make a case for a four-man rotation, using Sabathia, Nova, Colon and Garcia if they all stay healthy.  That is a lot of talent and experience to utilize in a short playoff matchup.  Hughes has never been that impressive to me, but if he rounds into form, he could easily slot into the fourth spot, pushing out Colon or Garcia, depending on who loses the battle at the end.

The bottom line is that the Yankees have depth at the Major League level.  They have successfully held on to many of their top prospects in the last few years, while adding crafty veteran free agents to the mix.   The result is that the Yankees should continue contending for the American League East division title this year and for many years to come.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, 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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Jeter vs. Swisher: Love and Baseball – Friday Faceoff

MLB reports:  This week’s edition of the Friday Faceoff was originally scheduled to be a battle between the Cincinnati Reds top catching prospects or two of the Oakland A’s mega hitting prospects.  We get many requests for stories and updates on prospects on MLB reports and try to accommodate whenever we can.  We love the MLB stories but stories of up and coming players always carries a soft spot for us.  But then an e-mail came through this morning from Jenny in Texas as follows:

” Derek Jeter should have never gotten engaged.. Since his engagement he has been in a slump…. Ha .. Happy Friday.”

Simple and to the point, a classic message.  It got me thinking about Derek Jeter and his love live vs. his baseball performance.  I had read before that Jeter was engaged to actress Minka Kelly sometime during the past few months and was dating her since 2008.  Then I thought about one of my personal favorites, Nick Swisher.  Swisher married actress Joanna Garcia this past off-season after getting engaged in mid-2010.  Two Yankee players, both in serious relationships and both mired in deep slumps.  I started thinking that Jenny was on to something.
 
In comparing the Jeter/Swisher relationships and baseball performances, let’s take a deeper look into each story:
 
Nick Swisher
Swisher has been linked in the past to dating a model, but otherwise his love life has been kept fairly private compared to Jeter.  From his Oakland and Chicago days, Swisher was known as the long-haired party guy who liked to have fun and bring excitement to the clubhouse.  Following Swisher on twitter and facebook, he kept very active in the social media corresponding with fans and was not afraid to hold back.  2009 and 2010 were solid campaigns for Swisher, as he immediately adjusted to the Bronx and brought his “A” game to New York.  At the tender of age of 30, nothing appeared to hold him back.  Then Swisher met actress Joanna Garcia, got engaged during the 2010 season and got married during the past offseason.  From there, I started to see a new Nick Swisher emerge.
 
As soon as Swisher got married, I noticed that his twitter and facebook accounts were not very active.  When Swisher would make any posts, they would be of the generic variety, very plain vanilla so to speak.  Swisher appeared in two different television series before the season: Garcia’s “Better with You” and “How I Met Your Mother.”  I could smell trouble a mile away, as spending more time behind the camera and not focusing on baseball is never a good thing.  While Swisher is extremely popular on twitter (1.3 million followers makes him more popular than MLB on twitter), he has evolved from fun-loving single guy to serious, concerned and calculated married man.  The results show on the field.
 
29 games into the season, Swisher has a grand total of one home run, .214AVG and .614 OPS.  Brutal numbers for a man who averaged 29 home runs over the last two seasons and .869 OPS.  At 30 years of age, Swisher has not lost his skills…but rather his mojo.  There was talk that Swisher is continuing to look for acting opportunities and may get a part in a movie in the future.  Great for his acting resume, bad for his baseball career.   In my estimation, fair or unfair, he has to get his priorities in order and focus on what pays the bills: baseball.  Acting may be fun and works well with his wife’s career, but Swisher needs to get back down to basics to what brought him MLB success.  I do not profess to know Swisher personally and do not spend time with him in the batting cages, weight room or at home.  But something is going on with Swisher that has caused a dive in his numbers and it appears that his personal life may be playing a part.
 
We have seen over the years how divorce can affect a player’s performance, especially in athletes (see Jeff Gordon and Chipper Jones).  When someone has a distraction at home, it can create chaos in that person’s job.  Baseball is no different and distractions, good or bad, can affect play on the field.  In the case of Swisher and as we are about to see Derek Jeter, a change in relationships and lifestyle can possibly have a detrimental effect on playing performance.
Derek Jeter
When researching and writing this piece, I had an instant issue with categorizing Jeter as suffering on the field by scoring off the field, so to speak.  A long-time playboy, Jeter has been linked with many famous females including Mariah Carey and Jessica Biel.  The golden boy of endorsements as well, George Steinbrenner criticized Jeter at one point for worrying too much about his life off the field and should focus more on his baseball play.  While some critics blasted Steinbrenner, I agreed with the statement.  Although Jeter has had solid numbers in his career, I believe he could have done more if he had partied less and worked harder at baseball. My opinion, right or wrong, is how I have always felt.  Now watching the Derek Jeter of 2011, I believe lifestyle has finally caught up to him.
 
Jeter got involved with Minka Kelly according to reports in 2008 and became serious in 2009.  According to reports, the pair got engaged in recent months with a wedding date still unknown.  This is where the tricky part lies.  Jeter started his deterioration in 2010 and has been abysmal to-date in 2011.  This year, Jeter has no home runs, .250 AVG and .577 OPS.  He is on pace to set career lows in many categories.  This comes after a 2010 campaign where he hit .270 with a .710 OPS.  At 36 years of age, is lifestyle or age the culprit for the decline in Jeter?  I would argue likely both, but for the purpose of this article, I will focus on lifestyle.
 
Jeter has his own cologne line “Driven”.  He was rated this year by a marketing firm as the most marketable baseball player.  He has endorsements with Gillette, Nike and Gatorade, just to name a few.  While Swisher learns to become an actor, Jeter is going strong as a pitchman.  I don’t think Yankee fans appreciate the extra-curricular activities if it takes away from their playing performances.  Based on the start of 2011 and judging by the numbers, I am convinced that both players are guilty of a lack of focus and drive.  The fact that Jeter has gotten engaged and planning to get married to Kelly says that there is something different about her for him compared to other relationships.  Whatever that it is, I do not see it helping his performance on the field.  As soon as things got serious for Jeter off the field, his play on the field declined.

The Verdict:

My message to Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher is quite simple.  Go rent the movie “Major League 2” and recall what happened when Ricky Vaughn cut his hair, wore suits, dated an executive and was featured in his own television commercials.  Willy Mays Hayes starred in his own action movie in the offseason and came to camp with a new attitude and approach.  Both players failed miserably and had to go back to basics and lose “the attitude” so to speak to get back to playing at a high level.  Still not convinced?  Take the case of real life baseball players Kris Benson and Cole Hamels.  Each married a celebrity, a model/playmate and reality star respectively and each began to change.  Both became focused on marketing themselves and building their image than playing the game of baseball.  Look a the stats, the numbers do not lie.  I see the same slippery slope for both Jeter and Swisher.  My verdict is that both players are guilty of letting their love lives and off-field careers interfere with their baseball play.  My hope is that both will shape up before it is too late.  At Jeter’s advanced age and rise in the marketing game, he is likely not going to rebound much.  I do not see much hope in his case.  Maybe Swisher stands a chance, but if his acting career does take off, prepare for the new and declining Swisher to hang around.  It goes to show you:  love and baseball do not always mix.

 

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