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.
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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!
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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.
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 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.
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.
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 Rhodes, Octavio 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.
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.
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.