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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.

Albert Cartwright Interview: Phillies Prospect Returns to Baseball

Sunday  September 18, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Albert Cartwright, Philadelphia Phillies prospect.  Albert was originally drafted by the Houston Astros in the 2007 MLB draft.  After four seasons playing in the Astros organization, Albert was traded in January of this year to the Phillies for reliever Sergio Escalona.  2011 tuned out to be a difficult season for Albert, as he was injured during spring training and unable to return to action.  Fresh off his season-long rehabilitation, Albert is now heading to the instructional league and to resume baseball activity.  Before his return, we had a chance to catch up with Albert and discuss many topics, including the trade, injury, growing up in the Bahamas and his career thus far in the world of professional baseball.  Here is our interview with the second base prospect from the Philadelphia Phillies, Albert Cartwright:    

  

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB reports Albert.  It is a pleasure to have you on today.  First question:  growing up, who was your favorite baseball player, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?
 
Cartwright:  Without a doubt Rafael Furcal. Growing up in the Bahamas, we never had the MLB network broadcasted and so watching baseball was limited to the few games that were shown on major networks.  Of those games, I saw the Atlanta Braves the most.  So I grew up watching Furcal and just loved the energy he brought to every game.  He incorporated his speed into the game and I idolized his style as a young boy.


 
MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?
 
Cartwright:  Jimmy Rollins.  The excitement and spark that he brings every night to the Phillies is definitely worth admiration.  Hopefully I will get the opportunity to meet  and play with the great shortstop in the near future.

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?
 
Cartwright:  Being able to play this great game of baseball every day as a career is an accomplishment on its own.  I’m just blessed to be given the opportunity.  But if I had to single out one proud accomplishment, I would have to say that I will never forget the night that I hit three triples in a single game.


 
MLB reports:  What were your goals going into the 2011 season?  You missed the 2011 season due to injuries.  What happened to you after getting traded to the Phillies in the offseason and the extent of your injuries that led to your lost season in 2011?
 
Cartwright:  The goal for the big picture is always to make it to the top.  Coming into each season though, my goal is to win a championship, regardless which league I’m playing in.  I believe that with a winning mindset, your numbers will always be where you want them to be at the end of the year.
 
Getting traded to the Phillies in the offseason was shocking; it definitely was a wonderful surprise.  After I calmed down from the excitement, I knew that I had a job to do and so I tried to prepare myself for the season even harder than ever before.  A week into spring training, I tore my Achilles.  As I pivoted into a turn during a conditioning exercise, I felt a pop and my ankle gave out.  I went into surgery a day later and have been rehabbing ever since.  I’ve never had any complications with my legs before, so the injury was definitely unexpected.  But everything happens for a reason.  So I just have to stay positive and keep on pushing.

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Mets in 2006 and not signing with either team?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Astros in 2007?
 
Cartwright:  Getting drafted by the Mets was exhilarating because I felt that my hard work was finally paying off and that someone was seeing something special in me.  My reaction though was not hugely different a year later when I was picked up by the Astros, although I must admit it was slightly more rewarding since the Mets told me they were not going to sign me after the draft-and-follow.  I didn’t think that I was going to be drafted that following year but thankfully the Astros took me.
 
Deciding to sign with Houston was fairly easy since they presented me with a fantastic offer and I saw it as a great opportunity for me.

 
MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?
 
Cartwright:  Speed.  Speed.  Speed.


 
MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?
 
Cartwright:  Definitely defense.  There’s always room for improvement when it comes to playing defensively.

 

MLB reports:   How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Cartwright:  Strikeouts and walks play a major role in my game. If I strikeout too much, then I am pretty much rendered useless because I can’t use my speed.  If I’m walking and getting on base, I can take advantage of my speed and the manager can have some fun shuffling around plays that would work best with me.

I feel that as time progresses and the more experience I get as a player, the number of walks I have should increase and strikeouts decrease.  I should be able to see the ball better and in turn, make better decisions as a hitter.

 

MLB reports:   Long term what position do you see yourself playing?  How do you see defense as part of your overall game?  With Chase Utley entrenched at second, any plans to change positions?
 
Cartwright:  Hopefully I’ll stay at second but with Chase Utley there, as you mentioned, breaking out may be a little harder.  That said, I’m open to anything that comes my way that can land me into the big leagues.   I’m a converted infielder and so going back to the outfield isn’t anything major.  Anything I can do to help the team win is fine by me.

Teams that are good defensively, who can catch and throw the ball, are usually the ones in first place because they can minimize the other team’s scoring opportunity.  Defense is equally important to my game as being great at the plate.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?
 
Cartwright:  I would say 2012.  Once I show that I can handle the stick, bunting, completing hit-and-runs, moving runners, stealing bases and going from first to third, I think that can get me there.  I Just have to play the game the right way.  I am anxious to get back into the game.

 

MLB reports:   Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?  What are some of the highs and lows you have experienced?

Cartwright:  Pro ball has been everything I was expecting: long bus rides, always eating late, living out of a suitcase and always being on the move.  But I love it.  Getting back to the hotel room to find a freshly made bed is always nice too.
 
My first career walk-off hit was definitely one of the highs.  I always dreamt of getting a walk-off hit.  Low moments would include sustaining injuries including tearing my Achilles which led to missing the entire 2011 season.  Also, breaking my wrist in 2009.  Basically anytime that I wasn’t playing could be regarded as a low moment.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

Cartwright:  When I’m not playing baseball, I like to go to the beach, play video games, and hang around with friends. I guess you can say I’m a little boring in the offseason, but I welcome the relaxation after a season full of hard work.
 
In the locker room, you can really get to know your teammates and so far, everyone has been really cool.  Since we spend so many hours of the day together, everyone kind of hangs out with everyone else.  I can name though a few teammates who I still talk to on a regular basis, like Jay Austin, Marques Williams, Kody Hinze, Edwin Walker, and Chris Turner.  We are all jokesters so most of the time we’re clowning around and making fun of each other.  Other times we will get back to the hotel and play video games, usually MLB or Madden (although I have to admit that I can’t play Call of Duty to save my life).
 

MLB reports:  Have your visited Philadelphia the city yet?  How have you found the city thus far?
 
Cartwright:  Unfortunately not.  I would’ve definitely visited had I went to Reading at the start of the season.  I am looking forward to exploring the city though next year.

 
MLB reports:  Were you surprised to be traded from the Astros in the offseason?  What was your reaction and feelings moving from the Astros to the Phillies?  How has it been thus far being a member of the Phillies organization?
 
Cartwright:  I was overwhelmed and excited yet very nervous because I knew that it meant new people and a new system to get familiar with.  The trade came as a shock to me; I didn’t know what to expect.  But it has been smooth sailing so far, minus the injury.  We have a great facility and everyone I’ve met so far has been extremely welcoming.

 

MLB reports:  If you could send one message to the Philadelphia Phillies fans, what would it be?
 
Cartwright:  See you soon.

 

MLB reports:  Born in Winter Haven, Bahamas, at what age did you come to North America and start playing baseball?  What is the state of baseball in the Bahamas and can we expect to see many prospects come from there in the future?
 
Cartwright:  I’m glad you asked.  This has been a mistake on my profile from the day I started playing pro ball.  I was born and raised in Nassau, Bahamas and moved to Delray Beach, FL in my sophomore year of high school to play baseball at American Heritage.  From there, I went to Polk Community College in Winter Haven, FL.  Now that I think about it, I’m not sure you can find any town by the name of ‘Winter’ in The Bahamas.
 
Baseball in The Bahamas is on the rise.  There are a lot of young talents and I think we will have some more guys in the near future playing minor and major league baseball.  As a matter of fact, a close friend from my hometown just made his breakthrough in the majors, Antoan Richardson with the Braves.  He sets a great example, both for me and for all the young players back home: if you keep pushing, you will make it to the top someday.  I am very happy for him!

 

 

 

Thank you again to Albert Cartwright for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Albert.  As well, please feel free to contact Albert directly by Twitter (@acartwright12).  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback! 

**The photographs in today’s feature were provided by our guest, Albert Cartwright**

 

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.

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