Friday, December 7, 2007
Minnesota Twins' pitcher Johan Santana (right) is still up for grabs now that negotiations between the Red Sox and Twins have reportedly fallen apart. If Santana, one of baseball's best and most-respected hurlers, doesn't go to the Red Sox (like they need more top line pitching), who is going to get the 28-year-old lefty? According to various sources including manager Willie Randolph, the Mets are very interested, as are the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners. Also getting back into the mix are the New York Yankees, who made overtures to Minnesota earlier in the fall to no avail. The Yankees are in dire need of a front-line pitcher, since Roger Clemens is unlikely to come back at age 46, and the staff of Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, CC Wang and Carl Pavano (if healthy) is still in search of a number one. Santana would fit right in, but a Yankee deal might still be predicated on what comes of the Alex Rodriguez deal. The Yanks and A-Rod have agreed in principle, though terms of the contract have yet to be worked out. On Dec. 2nd, the Yankees offer arbitration to A-Rod, but he's not likely to go that route. If A-Rod is as wise as he is powerful at the plate, he'll defer some salary to make room for Santana on the roster. The lefty would be good for 20-25 quality starts and is a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium. As for the Mets, they've got the dough and the desire. After last season's September swoon, they could use a guy who routinely lasts into the 7th inning and can handcuff opposing hitters. Last year, Santana was one of baseball's hardest-luck starters, going 15-13 with a 3.33 ERA, 235 Ks and only 52 walks in 219 innings. Five times he lasted 6 innings or more, allowed 2 runs or less and either received no decision or took a loss. But in the National League, he could be one of the most devastating pitchers of this or any century. His strikeout total would likely approach 300, and with the right team behind him, 20 wins would be a no-brainer. With a solid bullpen, 25 wins would be possible. Whether or not the Mets are the proper fit is questionable, however. The team will have plenty of contention in the NL East in 2008 from the Phillies and Braves, and the bullpen was rocky at best last year. Of course, the Twins could keep him, though he's going to be an expensive commodity, but Minnesota has a tremendous amount of raw pitching talent, much of it making its way through AAA Rochester in 2006 and 2007. Of course, Matt Garza has already been dealt to Tampa Bay, but Francisco Liriano will be back from elbow surgery and Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Boof Bonser and Scott Baker are already on the 40-man roster. Of those, Blackburn is one to watch. He strung together 41 innings in which he did not allow an earned run last season in Rochester, and has a devastating fastball to go with some wicked off-speed stuff. With a healthy Liriano and Santana, Blackburn, Baker and either Slowey or Bonser, the Twins might end up with the best starting five in the division. Whether the Twins keep Santana or not, they're in a good spot because they'll likely get a solid center fielder to replace Torii Hunter, cash and/or draft choices. The stakes are high. Let the bidding commence.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
As if there was any doubt about the Most Valuable Player in the American League, New York Yankees' 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez took the award in a nearly unanimous vote last week. Rodriguez (right) had a career year, even for a player as accomplished as him, slugging 54 home runs, driving in 156 while scoring 143 runs, all tops in the league. Rodriguez also batted a solid .314, tied for 13th in the league, and swiped 24 bases. Finishing a distant second in the voting was Detroit's Magglio Ordonez, who led the majors with a .363 batting average. Rodriguez, who opted out of a long-term contract with the Yankees during the World Series, has resumed talks with the club after testing the free agency waters on the advice of his long-time agent, Scott Boras. The Yankees are only interested in negotiating with Rodriguez and not Boras at this time though any word of a breakthrough or deal has yet to be announced.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Boston 4 Colorado 3 - The Boston Red Sox completed their second World Series sweep in 4 years, topping the Colorado Rockies, 4 games to none, to capture the 2007 Championship. Boston, in their last trip to the World Series in 2004, bested the St. Louis Cardinals by the same margin. Outside of Boston, the remainder of the baseball universe hopes sweeping the fall classic doesn't become a habit. Sunday night's affair went along the same lines as the previous three games, with Colorado failing to generate any offense against Boston's starter, Jon Lester, who cruised through 5 2/3 innings without allowing a Colorado run. Lester (right) allowed three hits, walked three and struck out three in a commanding performance, similar to the other three Boston starters, Josh Beckett, Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka, each of whom worked into at least the 6th inning and earned a win. By the time Lester left the game, the Red Sox had established a 2-0 lead, and expanded it to 3-0 on Mike Lowell's solo homer in the 7th. Lowell, who batted .375 over the course of the four games, was named MVP of the series. Colorado got one back in the bottom of the 7th on Brad Hawpe's solo shot to right, but Bobby Kielty homered in Boston's half of the 8th to make it 4-1. Mike Timlin got the last out in the seventh and the first out in the bottom of the 8th inning, but after Garrett Atkins tightened the score to 4-3 with a 2-run blast off Hideki Okajima, closer Jonathan Papelbon came on to get the final five outs and clinch the sweep and send the title back to Boston. Papelbon was magnificent in his closer role, earning saves in games 2, 3, and 4, while allowing no earned runs and only 2 hits and no walks, while fanning 3 in 4 1/3 innings overall. Though the Rockies didn't win a game, they came close in games 2 and 4, losing both of them by a single run, but Boston's starters were much better and their bullpen a lot more effective than Colorado's. In the hitting department it was no contest. Boston batted a cumulative 47-141 (.333) in the four games, while the Rockies managed only 29 hits in 133 at-bats for a disappointing .218 batting average. Colorado led the National League with a .280 team batting average during the regular season. Boston's starters were the story, however, allowing just 4 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings for a combined ERA of 1.55 in their four starts. Series MVP Lowell (right), was the ultimate hitting star in the middle of Boston's potent lineup going 6-for-16 with 3 doubles, a home run, 4 RBI and 6 runs scored. He was the only player from either squad to score at least one run in each game. Boston has now won 8 straight World Series games and finished 2007 by winning seven straight through the playoffs and series. Their post-season record for 2007 was 11-3, having swept the Angels in the ALDS and taking 4 of 7 from the Indians in the ALCS. Boston outscored Colorado 29-10. In the AL Championship Series they scored 51 runs to Cleveland's 32, and outscored the Angels 19-4 in the ALDS, for a cumulative post-season score of 94-46. Spring training begins in just over four months.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Boston 10 Colorado 5 - The Boston Red Sox took a commanding 3-0 lead in the World Series on Saturday - a lead that has never been overcome. Of the 22 teams that have established the same margin, 19 have won game 4. None have lost four straight. So it would appear, that after winning 21 of 22 games to get to the World Series, the Colorado Rockies have run into a buzzsaw of a team in Boston. The Red Sox have outscored Colorado 25-7 in the three games and unless their pitching and hitting goes completely into limbo, they are going to be the 2007 champs. In Saturday's game, the Sox got on the board early, with 6 runs in a fateful third inning, highlighted by Daisuke Matsuzaka's (right) two-run single. Matsuzaka also kept the Rockies at bay from the mound, hurling shutout ball over 5 innings, before walking Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins with one out in the 6th. Reliever Jose Lopez came in and immediately gave up run-scoring singles to Brad Hawpe and Yorvit Torreabla before getting out of the inning. Lopez allowed a pair of singles in the 7th and was replaced on the mound by Hideki Okajima, who was immediately blasted by Matt Holliday's three-run homer. All of a sudden it was 6-5, but that was as close as the Rockies would get. Boston put up 3 more in the 8th and another run in the 9th. Jonathan Papelbon came on with 2 outs in the 8th and put the Rockies to rest, but not before allowing a two-out triple by Hawpe. As exciting as the Rockies made it - for half an inning - this game was, like the others before it, all about Boston. Jacoby Ellsbury, who won't technically be a rookie until next season, made the most of his promotion to the leadoff spot in the lineup with 3 doubles and a single in 5 at-bats, scoring twice and driving in a pair. Boston's other rookie, Dustin Pedroia, was 3-5 with a double and two RBI. Game four is Sunday night, with first pitch scheduled for 8:29. After Saturday's world series record, 4 hour and 19 minute marathon, viewers and fans hope that starters Jon Lester (Boston) and Aaron Cook (Colorado) throw plenty of strikes.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Boston 2 Colorado 1 - In game one, it was Boston's booming bats that sent the Rockies back to their hotel rooms 13-1 losers. On Thursday, it was their pitching, specifically, starter Curt Schilling (right), middle reliever Hideki Okajima and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Rockies got on the board in the top of the first, on a hit batsman (Wily Taveras), Matt Holliday's first of four hits, and a groundout by Todd Helton. That was it. Other than Holliday, the Rockies only got one more hit off Schilling, who worked 5 1/3 innings for the win on 4 hits, striking out four and walking two. Okajima came on and set down seven straight batters, turning the ball over to Papelbon with 2 out in the eighth. Lights out. Papelbon allowed just a scratch single by Holliday and struck out two of the other four batters he faced. Colorado has scored only 2 runs in 2 games and that's obviously not getting the job done. The team that won 21 of their last 22 games and seven straight in the playoffs has run into a powerhouse American League team that is making them look like Double-A rookies. The series shifts to Denver for Game 3 on Saturday night. Starters are Daisuke Matsuzaka for Boston and Josh Fogg for Colorado. It's a must win situation for the Rockies, as coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the Red Sox would be next to impossible. As it stands, the series may already be over. Boston looks very, very solid right now.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Boston 13 Colorado 1 - Josh Beckett's fastball was splitting raindrops and Boston batters didn't miss a beat as the Red Sox roared out of the box in game one of the 2007 World Series. Forget about Colorado's 7-game post-season win streak. The number that really mattered was the 8 days off they had between the end of their 4-game sweep of Arizona in the NLCS and the opener of the World Series. The pitching was disturbingly flat, the fielding was atrocious, the team had no spark, and, despite Josh Beckett's good stuff, it would be easy to say that most of the Rockies had poor timing at the plate. Just ask Brad Hawpe, who struck out four times. He looked completely out of sync in the batter's box. Give credit to the Red Sox. They were ready, hungry and red-hot. The constant rain that fell from before the start of the game through the sixth inning didn't seem to matter to them as they banged out 16 hits off Rockies' starter Jeff Francis and reliever Franklin Morales. Those two got through only 4 2/3 innings, then Ryan Speier walked three straight batters without getting anyone out. Matt Herges finally came out of the bullpen to get Kevin Youkilis with the bases loaded to mercifully end the 5th inning. By then, it was over. The Sox had scored 13 runs to the Rockies 1. Jeremy Affeldt allowed one more hit in the 8th, but that was it. Just as the Red Sox seemed to let up, so did the rain. Maybe there's hope for the weather and for the Rockies in game two. Beckett won for the 4th time in 4 post-season starts, going seven full innings with one earned on 6 hits, a walk and 9 strikeouts. Right now, the guy is unbeatable. Every Red Sox starter had at least one hit, except Jacoby Ellsbury. David Ortiz went 3-5 with a pair of RBI. Manny Ramirez (right) was 3-4 with 3 RBI and 3 runs scored. The Sox tied a World Series record with 9 extra base hits, 8 of them doubles. Youkilis and Ortiz had two apiece, Ramirez had one. Dustin Pedroia had the only homer of the night, a solo shot on the second pitch from Francis in the first inning. It was the worst game one beating EVER. And by the way, could FOX cram any more commercial endorsements into the game. They even had a string of them between Ortiz and Ramirez' at-bats in the opening frame. Equally annoying is the gay-ish guy getting all excited about the series in the FOX promos. He is ANNOYING! Game two is Thursday night at Fenway Park with Curt Schilling on the hill for the Sox against rookie starter Ubaldo Jiminez. It's put up or shut up for the Rocks. Game time is around 8:20 pm ET.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Colorado Rockies vs. Boston Red Sox It's the Sox vs. the Rocks in the annual Fall Classic beginning Wednesday night at Boston's fabled Fenway Park. The Rockies are the 'feel-good" story of the season, getting a chance at post-season play by winning 13 of their last 14 games and finally clinching a playoff spot with a single-game elimination of the San Diego Padres for the wild card. Boston, on the other hand, cruised through the regular season, most of the time holding the best record in baseball, as they led the AL East nearly start to finish, ending the regular season with a 2-game lead over the NY Yankees. Both teams possess talent-laden lineups, with big bats in the middle of the orders. Boston has home field, meaning games 1 and 2 will be at Fenway, while games 3, 4 and if necessary, 5, will be played in Denver, at Coors Field. If the series goes 6 or 7, those game will be at Fenway, usually a distinct advantage for the AL entrant. How they got here: Boston swept three straight over the California Angels in the ALDS and won 3 games to 4 over the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS. Boston had home filed advantage in both series. Colorado swept both the NLDS and NLCS, winning three straight over Philadelphia and four straight over Arizona. Colorado did not have home field advantage in either series. Relevant stats: Top hitters for Boston: Player (reg. season), (playoffs) David Ortiz (right) (.332, 35 HR, 117 RBI), (.387, 3, 6) Manny Ramirez (.296, 20, 88), (.400, 4, 14) Kevin Youkilis (.288, 16, 83), (.425, 4, 9) Dustin Pedroia (.318, 8, 50), (.286, 1, 6) Top hitters for Colorado: Player (reg. season) (playoffs) Matt Holliday (right) (.340, 36, 137), (.286, 4, 7) Brad Hawpe (.291, 29 116), (.304, 0, 2) Garrett Atkins (.301, 25, 111), (.185, 0, 1) Troy Tulowitzki (.291, 24, 99), (.179, 1, 2) Top pitchers for Boston: Player (reg. season) (playoffs) Josh Beckett (right) (20-7, 3.97 ERA, 194 K), (3-0, 1.17, 26) Curt Schilling (9-8, 3.87, 101), (2-0, 3.38, 12) Hideki Okijima middle reliever (3-2, 2.22, 63 K), (7 IP, no dec., 0.00 ERA, 5 K) Jonathan Papelbon closer (1-3, 1.85, 84 K, 37 S), (6.1 IP, 1 W, 1 S, 0.00, 4 K) Top pitchers for Colorado: Player (reg. season) (playoffs) Jeff Francis (right) (17-9, 4.22, 165), (2-0, 2.13, 12) Ubaldo Jiminez (4-4, 4.28, 68), (11 IP, no dec., 1.59, 11 K) Brian Fuentes late reliever (3-5, 3.08, 56 K, 20 S), (6 IP, 1 W, 4.50, 10 K) Manny Corpas closer (4-2, 2.08, 58 K, 19 S), (8.2 IP, 1 W, 5 S, 1.04, 6 K) Key analysis points
- No DH in Colorado means Boston loses Ortiz, Rockies get another strong bat.
- Boston's Beckett seems unbeatable in post-season play.
- Colorado's starters are young and untested, but the bullpen is deep.
- Boston has huge experience edge.
- Colorado has won 21 of last 22 and 7 straight in post-season. 8-day layoff won't cool them down.
- While it may get cold in Boston, it could snow in Denver.
- Teams met in interleague play in June. Colorado took two of three, winning 12-2 and 7-1, losing 2-1.
- Game 3 starters could be key. Josh Fogg (Rockies) won 2 playoff games and is well rested. Daisuke Matsuzaka (Red Sox) was a bit shaky in playoffs with a win, loss and no decision, 5.65 ERA in 3 starts.
- Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield off roster for Boston. Jon Lester will be likely starter.
- Rockies have the best defense in the majors.
- Final analysis: Rockies split in Boston, win 2 of 3 in Denver, win game 6 in Boston, win series 4 games to 2.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Boston 11 Cleveland 2 - When Josh Beckett won game 5 in Cleveland with an overwhelming 7-1 win, the handwriting was on the wall. Down 3 games to 2, the Red Sox forced the series back to Boston, where two wins would seal the AL pennant for the Red Sox. Cleveland had managed a split in the first two games in Boston, but it wasn't easy. The Indians had to go 11 innings in game two for their 13-6 victory. Winning one, with a trip to the World Series on the line, would prove to be a hill too high for the Indians to climb. Game seven had ominous overtones for Cleveland from the very first inning, in which the Red Sox loaded the bases, only to let Indians' starter Jake Westbrook off the hook, scoring just one run. The Sox scored single runs in the second and third innings for a 3-0 lead, but the Indians cut that to 3-2 with a run in each of the 4th and 5th innings off eventual winner, Daisuke Matsuzaka. In the seventh, Dustin Pedroia (right) finally got to reliever Rafael Betancourt, who had only allowed one hit and no earned runs in four previous appearances lasting 6 1/3 innings, blasting a two-run homer over the Green Monster in left field, and the rout was on. The Sox eventually plated 7 runs off Betancourt, with Pedroia again providing the big hit, a bases-loaded double in the 8th. Pedroia, who had singled and scored in the first inning, finished the game with 3 hits in 5 at-bats, 5 RBI and 3 runs. Kevin Youkilis also singled, doubled and homered in 5 at-bats. His solo homer in the 8th was his 3rd long ball of the series. Youkilis' numbers for the series were incredible. He hit safely in every game, going 14-28 (.500) with 7 RBI and 10 runs. Though pitcher Josh Beckett was named series MVP for his two wins, Youkilis easily qualified for the award. In the four Red Sox wins, Boston outscored Cleveland, 40-8. Notable failures for the Indians were their two headline hitters, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner. Leadoff man, Sizemore, was 6-for-27 (.222) and just 1-7 in the final two games. Hafner, who finally doubled in his final at-bat, finished a woeful 1-27 (.037) for the series with 12 strikeouts. The biggest disappointment for Cleveland had to be their front-line pitching. C.C. Sabathia, 19-7 in the regular season, started games one and five and was the loser in both, giving up 17 hits, 7 walks and 12 earned runs in 10 1/3 combined innings. Games two and six starter, Fausto Carmona, was even worse, allowing 10 hits, 9 walks and 11 runs in a combined 6 innings, lasting just two frames and taking the loss in critical game six. Carmona was 19-8 over the regular season. Boston will host the Colorado Rockies in games 1 and 2 of the World Series, Wednesday and Thursday. Games 3, 4 and, if necessary, game 5, will be played in Denver, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. First pitch is slated for 8:23 pm ET for all games. The Rockies have won seven straight, sweeping the Phillies and Diamondbacks in their two playoff rounds. Colorado has won 21 of their last 22 games, and by the time the series gets started, will have had 8 days rest.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Boston 12 Cleveland 2 - One pitch to J.D. Drew and away went any advantage the Cleveland Indians ever had in the ALCS. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 1st, Drew knocked a 3-1 Fausto Carmona fastball over the wall in left center. 4-0 Boston... Game Seven Sunday. While Carmona was enduring another horrific outing, the early lead allowed Curt Schilling to relax and mow down the Indians. Schilling was as good as he had to be, allowing two runs on six hits over seven innings with 5 strikeouts and no walks. Carmona lasted only into the third inning. Officially, he went 2 full innings, gave up 6 hits and 7 earned runs, walking 4 with a pair of strikeouts. His ERA for the series is 16.50. Drew (right) had the game of his life. In addition to the grand slam, he knocked a pair of singles, scored twice and drove in a total of five runs. The Red Sox banged out 13 hits off four Indian pitchers who essentially were just mopping up Carmona's mess. This has been a series of lopsided scores. The Sox have outscored the Indians by a combined 29-6 in their three wins. Cleveland's wins have been closer, including an 11-inning affair and a 4-2 win in game 3. Their combined wins total up to a 24-11 advantage. The American League pennant will be decided Sunday night in game 7 at Fenway Park. Starters are the same as game 3. Jake Westbrook, who won game three, starts for Cleveland. Daisuke Matsuzaka heads up the hill for Boston. Game time is 8:07 pm ET. The winner moves on to face the Colorado Rockies in the World Series beginning Wednesday, October 24.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Detroit 7 Cleveland 1 - There was no tomorrow for the Boston Red Sox as they faced elimination in the American League Championship Series Thursday night. Down 3 games to 1 to the gritty Cleveland Indians, the Red Sox turned to their stopper, Cy Young candidate Josh Beckett (right). After a shaky first inning in which the Indians plated what would turn out to be their only run of the night, Beckett dominated as he has so often in October, striking out 11 Indians and limiting their offense to just 5 hits over 8 innings. With the game well in hand, Jonathan Papelbon got in an inning of work in the 9th and the best-of-seven series was headed back to Boston for game 6 on Saturday. Beckett allowed three hits in the first inning, and only two after that, and issued just one walk on 109 total pitches, of which he threw 74 for strikes. Beckett had his usual overpowering fastball, and also had his curve working to near-perfection. Kevin Youkilis was the slugging star for Boston, with a solo homer in the 1st, an RBI triple in the 7th and a bases-loaded walk in the 8th inning which accounted for his 3rd RBI of the night. David Ortiz chipped in with a pair of RBI on two sac flies. With the Indians now up 3 games to 2, the remaining games will be played at Boston's Fenway Park, where the Indians have already won one game, that being the game 2 marathon won when the Indians scored 7 runs in the 11th to win 13-6. The starters for game six will be the same two that started game 2; Curt Schilling will go for Boston, while the Indians send Fausto Carmona up the hill. Both pitchers were ineffective in their previous starts. Carmona lasted 4 innings, allowing 4 runs on 4 hits and 5 walks. Schilling went 4 2/3, giving up 9 hits and 5 runs without walking a batter. Game time on Saturday is 8:07 pm ET.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Cleveland 7 Boston 3 - Josh Beckett probably could have started game 4 on three day's rest, but Boston Manager Terry Francona was adamant that the starter would be knuckler Tim Wakefield, and for four innings he looked like a genius. But in the fifth inning, the wheels came off. Casey Blake (left) homered on a high, floating delivery from Wakefield to lead off the inning and the Indians just kept coming, eventually scoring 7 runs in the frame off Wakefield and reliever Manny Delcarmen. Blake started the scoring and ended it as well, with a bloop single to center that plated Kenny Lofton, who singled and stole second base, making him the all-time postseason leader in steals with 34, passing Rickey Henderson. In between Blake's RBIs, the Indians scored five more runs, highlighted by Jhonny Peralta's three-run shot to right, his second three-run homer of the series. With the Indians ahead, 7-0, the Red Sox finally got to Cleveland starter Paul Byrd in the top of the 6th. Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz hit back-to-back homers off Byrd, sending him to the showers. Manny Ramirez greeted reliever Jensen Lewis with a blast to right center for the third Boston score, but Lewis settled down and only allowed one hit after that. Rafael Betancourt, who has been nothing short of fantastic for the Indians, pitched two perfect innings in the 8th and 9th to seal the victory and leave Boston on the brink of elimination. The middle reliever has worked 5 1/3 innings between games 2, 3, and 4, allowing just 3 hits and no earned runs. Byrd took the win - his second of the postseason - surrendering 6 hits and 2 earned runs over 5 innings while fanning 4. The series takes a respite on Wednesday, resuming for game five on Thursday night at 8:00 pm. Boston will get their ace, Josh Beckett, on the mound, to face Cleveland hurler C.C. Sabathia. Cleveland will try to win their 4th straight over Boston after dropping a 10-3 decision in the series opener. The Indians' last trip to the World Series was in 1997, when they lost to the Florida Marlins and as young Josh Beckett. The last time the Indians won the fall classic was 1948. The Colorado Rockies, who wrapped up the National League pennant on Monday, await.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Colorado 6 Arizona 4 - So much for pitching and defense. The Colorado Rockies showed NL West champion Arizona that they could play that game even better, and added potent hitting to the mix, sweeping the Diamondbacks in four straight. Matt Holliday's (right) 3-run blast in the 4th inning put Colorado up 6-1 and sent the partisan crowd into a World Series frenzy. Arizona cut the lead to 6-4 in the 8th inning on Chris Snyder's 3-run home run, but that was as close as they would get. The Rockies will have to wait until October 24 to face either Boston or Cleveland in the World Series. The 8-day rest is a record layoff, and comes at a time when the Rockies are red hot. With the sweep of Arizona, they've won seven straight postseason games, plus a one-game playoff over San Diego to reach the playoffs. Prior to that run, they won 13 of 14, with their last loss coming on September 28 against the Diamondbacks. The Rockies have won 21 of their last 22 games. The only other team to have swept both the NLDS and NLCS was the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, who went on to sweep the Yankees in the World Series. The well-rested Rockies will hope to duplicate that feat.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Cleveland 4 Boston 2 - In the bottom of the second inning, Kenny Lofton launched a first-pitch fastball from Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka into the right-center field stands to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead and Jake Westbrook worked into the 7th inning to give Cleveland a 2-1 lead in the ALCS. Westbrook (right), in his second post-season start, shut out the Red Sox over the first six innings, but eventually gave way when Jason Varitek smashed a two-run bomb to dead center field. By then, however, the Indians had already scored two more runs on a single by Asdrubel Cabrera and a fielder's choice RBI by DH Travis Hafner. Both runs came in a two-run 5th inning and were charged to Matsuzaka, who suffered the loss. Westbrook finished with 6 2/3 innings of work, allowing 7 hits and both runs on Varitek's homer. Following Westbrook, Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Joe Borowski didn't allow a Red Sox hit or walk the final 2 1/3. Lofton (right), who has made a career of playing in the postseason for a handful of clubs is in his 11th postseason overall and sixth in the last seven years. It's his third stint with the Indians. Game 4 is Tuesday night at 8:00 pm in Cleveland. Paul Byrd will head to the mound for Cleveland against Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Boston manager has the option of going to Game 1 winner Josh Beckett on three days rest, though the manager has publicly stated that Wakefield will definitely start game 4.
Colorado 4 Arizona 1 The Colorado Rockies are one win away from their first trip to the World Series. Yorvit Torrealba (right) cracked a 3-run homer in the 6th inning off loser Livan Hernandez to break a 1-1 tie while Colorado starter, Josh Fogg, limited the Diamondbacks to one run on 7 hits over 6 innings for the win. Colorado's pitching has been exceptional during the first three games. Arizona, not noted for their run-scoring ability to begin with, has crossed the plate only 4 times over a span of 29 innings, including the 11 inning outing in Game 2. All but one run has been scored off Colorado starters. The Rockies' bullpen has been impeccably sharp, allowing just one earned run over 11 1/3 innings. Matt Holliday homered for the Rockies in the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Mark Reynolds answered with a solo shot in the 4th inning to tie the game for Arizona. The Rockies will go for the sweep tonight in Denver. A pair of rookies will start Game 4. Franklin Morales goes for Colorado, while Micah Owings gets the nod for Arizona. Prior to the 10:18 pm ET start, the ALCS resumes in Cleveland with the Indians and Red Sox tied at a game apiece. Daisuke Matsuzaka starts for Boston, with Jake Westbrook on the hill for the Indians. Game time is set for 7:10 PM ET.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Cleveland 13 Boston 8 Cleveland's relief corps, Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt, Tom Mastny and Joe Borowski shut out the Red Sox for the final 6 innings and Cleveland bats erupted for 7 runs in the 11th, capped by Franklin Gutierrez's 3 run homer over the Green Monster in left. Gutierrez had four RBI in the game, as did catcher Victor Martinez. Martinez (left) doubled and singled twice in five at-bats, also scoring a pair. Neither of the starting pitchers, Curt Schilling nor Fausto Carmona lasted through the 5th innings, as both teams sprayed the ball about the confines of Fenway Park. Powered by homers from Jhonny Peralta (left) and Grady Sizemore, Cleveland established an early 5-3 lead but the Sox leapfrogged them on back-to-back jacks by Manny Ramirez and Mike Lowell in the 5th. But that was the last the Red Sox would score, as Cleveland relievers rose to the occasion to help earn the split and send the series back to Cleveland deadlocked, 1-1. Starting pitchers Monday in Cleveland will be Jake Westbrook for the Indians and Daisuke Matsuzaka for Boston.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Boston 10 Cleveland 3 - It was the Big Papi and Manny show Friday night at Fenway Park. And, for good measure, Josh Beckett took pretty good care of the Cleveland hitters as Boston took a 1-0 lead in the ALCS best-of-seven series. David Ortiz (left) and Manny Ramirez (right) reached base every time they stepped to the plate. Ten times in all. Ortiz singled, doubled, walked twice and was hit by a pitch. Ramirez had two singles and walked three times. Each scored twice; Ramirez drove in three runs, as did third baseman Mike Lowell. It was more than enough offense for Beckett, as he dominated from the mound, allowing just two runs on four hits over 6 innings, striking out 7. His counterpart for the Indians, C.C. Sabathia, didn't fare so well. lasting only 4 1/3, surrendering 8 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks. Sabathia threw 85 pitches, but only 44 for strikes. Game two is set for 8:00 pm Saturday night in Boston. Cleveland sends sensational Fausto Carmona to the hill, facing Boston's Curt Schilling. Colorado 3 Arizona 2, 11 innings - Willy Taveras (right) worked Arizona's Jose Valverde for a bases-loaded walk in the top of the 11th inning and Ryan Speier shut down the Diamondbacks in the bottom frame to give Colorado a commanding 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series. Taveras, who hadn't played since September 9th, has started in the leadoff spot for the Rockies in both games and has been integral to their success. In Friday night's game, he doubled and scored the Rockies' go-ahead run in the 5th inning and stayed alive at the plate against the best closer in the majors to force home the winning run. Valverde, who entered the game to open the 10th, put down the Rockies 1-2-3 in that inning, but ran into trouble in the 11th, surrendering a leadoff single to Ryan Spilborghs, and then walked Brad Hawpe, Jamey Carroll and Taveras in one of his worst outings of the season. Game three shifts to Denver on Sunday night, where the Rockies hope to keep their incredible streak alive. The Rockies ended the season winning 13 of 14 games to reach the playoffs, beat San Diego in a one-game elimination and have won 5 straight since, extending their win streak to 8 straight and 19 of their last 20. Livan Hernadez will start for Arizona against Colorado's Josh Fogg. Arizona, which was last in the NL in team batting average (.250) and on-base percentage (.321) has scored only 3 runs in 20 total innings. The Diamondbacks are actually outhitting Colorado. Arizona is 18-73 (.247), while the Rockies are only 15-71 (.211) for the series.
Friday, October 12, 2007
ALCS: Boston v. Cleveland The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians square off beginning tonight at Boston's Fenway Park shortly after 7:00 pm ET. While Boston is favored to win the series and move on to the World Series, the Indians are not about to just roll over. In their 4-game win over the Yankees in the divisional series, they displayed not only superb starting pitching from the likes of C.C. Sabathia (who will face Josh Beckett in Game 1), Fausto Carmona (right) and Paul Byrd, but exceptional middle relief by Rafael Perez and Rafael Betancourt. The Cleveland bullpen canceled out New York's hitters in the late innings, as they did throughout the regular season to every other team in the league. Through the second half, the Cleveland bullpen was the most dominant in the majors and that momentum has carried through to the playoffs. Offensively, Cleveland relies on solid fundamental baseball, moving runners over, stealing the occasional base, sacrificing and keen baserunning skills than Boston's power game. Their top hitter was catcher Victor Martinez, who led the team in the three most important categories with a .301 batting average, 25 homers and 114 RBI. Martinez gets plenty of people on base in front of him, especially leadoff man Grady Sizemore, Ryan Garko and late-season addition, Kenny Lofton. DH Travis Hafner provides more power and bats in front of Martinez. Hafner knocked 24 out of the park and totaled 100 RBI during the regular season. If Cleveland has balance, the Red Sox have one of the more powerful lineups, especially in the 3, 4 and 5 slots, as Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz (right) and Mike Lowell combined for 76 home runs and 325 RBI in the regular season, despite Ramirez, arguably the most dangerous of the trio, missing nearly 30 games late in the season. The Sox have plenty of good bats up and down the lineup, though Julio Lugo's .237 batting average and .294 on-base percentage are a concern. What's not a problem is game one starter Josh Beckett, who was the most dominant pitcher in the AL for almost the entire season, and he's proven to be even better in the post-season. Boston's sweep of the Angels in the divisional series started with a Beckett shutout in game 1. After Beckett, Curt Schilling has been named the #2 starter, pushing high-priced Daisuke Matsuzaka back to game 3. If Boston decides not to pitch Beckett in game 4, that duty would fall to workhorse knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who can be virtually unhittable or banged around the yard, depending on the flutter-ability of his famous pitch. The Red Sox and Indians finished with identical 96-66 records, tops in the majors, and while pitching is solid for both teams, their hitters will not be kept entirely in check. Bottom line, is that the Indians actually have an edge with Carmona over Schilling. After game two, this could go either way, but the Indians late-inning pitching advantage is obvious and their clutch hitting has carried them thus far and should continue. Boston has had bullpen issues for most of the season and those may become magnified in this short series. If the Indians get a split in Boston, they will have the upper hand. Prediction: Cleveland advances to the World Series in 7 games.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Colorado 5 Arizona 1 - Brad Hawpe has made a career out of getting to Brandon Webb and last night he went 2-for-2 off the Arizona starter, with a key 2-run, bases-loaded single in the third inning that put Colorado ahead 4-1 and on their way to taking a 1-0 lead in the NL Championship Series. Heading into the game, Hawpe (right) was 9-for-15 with 3 homers and 11 RBI against Webb in 2007. Once the Rockies had their lead, starter Jeff Francis bore down, allowing just 2 hits from the 3rd to the 6th inning. Francis, who worked into the 7th inning, allowed only a first-inning run on an Eric Byrnes double. In the 7th, Francis ran into trouble after giving up a leadoff double by Chris Snyder and then plunking Justin Upton, but escaped when the Rockies' infield turned its third double-play of the night. After allowing a bunt single to pinch hitter Jeff Cirillo, Francis was lifted for reliever Matt Herges, who loaded the bases with a walk to Chris Young, but got Stephen Drew to fly out, ending the threat. The controversial 7th inning double play prompted fans to hurl objects onto the field, resulting in a stoppage of play when Rockies' manager, Clint Hurdle, pulled his players from the field. Upton upended Kaz Matsui by sliding outside the basepath, and was called out for interference, resulting in the batter - Augie Ojeda - being retired as well. Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas worked scoreless 8th and 9th innings for Colorado. Webb lasted 6 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits. Colorado added a run in the 7th off reliever Juan Cruz on a walk to catcher Yorvit Torrealba, a wild pitch, a sacrifice and an error by Diamondbacks' first baseman Conor Jackson. Game two of the series is Friday at 10:00 at Arizona. Ubaldo Jiminez takes the mound for the Rockies against Arizona's Doug Davis.
NLCS: Colorado v. Arizona In the classic encounter of a power-laden lineup (Colorado) against a pitching-rich competitor (Arizona), the advantage in a best-of-seven series usually goes to the team with pitching, as good pitching can usually stop good hitting. The series opens tonight in Phoenix. Starting Pitching: Arizona will use Brandon Webb (18-10, 3.01 ERA, 194 K) in games 1, 4 and, if necessary 7. The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22 ERA, 165 K)who came on late in the season to win 2 of his last 3 starts. Interestingly, if was Francis who was the last Colorado starter to lose in September before the Rockies went on their season-ending, 13-1 streak. Francis was rocked by the Phillies on Sept. 13 for 8 runs in 3 1/3 innings, and also took the Rockies' only loss during the stretch, on Sept. 28, when Arizona - and Brandon Webb (right) - beat them, 4-2. Webb will undeniably be favored in any start against Francis and that gives Arizona a huge edge. After that, the Diamondbacks will go with Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez in games 2 and 3, while the Rockies will depend on a pair of rookies, Ubaldo Jiminez and Franklin Morales. Depending on how the series goes, Arizona could start another rookie, Micah Owings, in game 4. Owings can beat teams with his bat as well as his arm. He had 7 RBI in a game earlier this year. Overall, Arizona gets the edge on experience. Hitting: When it comes to hitting, though, there's no contest. Colorado batted a league-best .280 as a team during the regular season, while the D-Backs were last in the NL at .250. The Rockies scored 148 more runs than Arizona, nearly 1 per game. The Colorado attack is led by Matt Holliday (right), who topped the league in batting (.340), RBI (137) and doubles (50) to go with his team-high 36 homers. Around him, the Rockies have a formidable bunch, including rookie Troy Tulowitzki (.291, 24 HR, 99 RBI), Todd Helton (.320, 17, 91), Brad Hawpe (.291, 29, 116) and Garret Atkins (.301, 25, 111). Arizona can't match the Rockies' firepower. Their top hitter, Eric Byrnes hit only .286, with 21 homers and 83 RBI. Rookie Chris Young led the team with 32 home runs, but he only batted .237. After that, there isn't much, though Tony Clark did send out 17 long balls in just 221 at-bats. Etc.: Managers Bob Melvin (Arizona) and Clint Hurdle (Colorado) are both in their initial post-season, but they do an equally good job, getting the most out of limited resources. The Colorado bullpen has been magnificent down the stretch, while Arizona's Jose Valverde led the majors in saves, with 47 and recorded 78 Ks in 65 innings. Prediction: Arizona's got the top-line pitching in Webb, but he may have to win three games to get the job done. Colorado has been the best story of the season, they're still red hot and play with lots of heart. The Rockies will win it in 6 games.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Cleveland 6 NY Yankees 4 - Grady Sizemore (right) got it started with a leadoff home run, and Joe Borowski closed it out in the 9th as the Cleveland Indians ousted the NY Yankees from the playoffs, 3 games to 1. Paul Byrd took the win, working out of trouble in his 5+ innings, allowing 8 hits and 2 earned runs. For the third consecutive season, the Yankees were knocked out in the opening round and that continuing failure may cost manager Joe Torre his job. Owner George Steinbrenner said before game 3 that he would likely fire Torre if the Yankees didn't win the series. There was no mention of Torre's future following the loss, but in the Cleveland locker room the champagne was flowing. The Indians again had victimized Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang, pitching on three days rest, for two runs in the first and two more in the second inning. Wang did not retire a batter in the second before being replaced by Mike Mussina, who allowed the other two runs over 4 2/3 innings, when Victor Martinez singled home a pair in the 4th. The Yankees managed to cut into the lead with solo homers by Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu, but while they nearly matched Cleveland in hits, 13-12, they could not get runners home in key situations, stranding 10 runners for the game. For the series, the most notable flops were by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Jeter was 3-17, didn't score a run and drove in just one while fanning 5 times in the series. Rodriguez went 4-15, but only drove in one run on his homer in game 4. He struck out 6 times in the four games. The Cleveland bullpen was dominant, allowing just two earned runs - both in game 4 - on 7 hits over 13 innings of work. The Indians will open play in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series Friday night in Boston.
Monday, October 8, 2007
NY Yankees 8 Indians 4 - New York got back to Yankee Stadium and their bats finally did some talking. Johnny Damon (right) struck the biggest blow, a three-run homer in the 5th inning off Cleveland starter Jake Westbrook, which gave the Yankees the lead for good at 5-3. In the 6th, the Yankees put the game away when Trot Nixon mishandled Robinson Cano's single, allowing three runs to scamper home. Avoiding the sweep, the Yankees possibly saved manager Joe Torre's job for another day. Owner George Steinbrenner reportedly said he would not rehire Torre if the team lost the series, though the sole win hardly gets them out of the woods. Still trailing 2 games to 1, New York will use game 1 starter, Chien-Ming Wang on three days rest, against Cleveland's Paul Byrd Monday night in the Bronx. Wang, the game one starter, threw 94 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings this past Thursday, allowing 9 hits, 4 walks and 8 earned runs. Byrd, who had only one win in his last five starts, faced the Yankees only once this season, allowing 7 hits and 7 earned runs over a 2-inning start in an 11-2 August 11 loss, his shortest outing of the season. Wang did not face the Indians during the regular season. Game 4 is scheduled t begin at 7:37 pm ET. Boston 9 LA Angels 1 - David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez hit back-to-back home runs in the 4th inning for an early lead and Curt Schilling (right) blanked the Angels on six hits over 7 innings to lead the Red Sox to a three-game sweep of the divisional playoff series. Schilling walked one and struck out six but Boston waited until the 8th inning to really go on the attack, parlaying 5 hits and a pair of walks into a 7-run outburst. The Angels were thoroughly beaten, outscored 19-4 over the 3 games. Boston will get an extended rest prior to the AL Championship Series, which opens Friday night in Boston against the winner of the Yankees-Indians series.
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Arizona 5 Chicago Cubs 1 - The frustration for the Chicago Cubs continues. It's been 99 years since they last won a World Series and the Diamondbacks made certain they'd have to wait at least another year to placate their long-suffering fans. From the very first pitch from starter Rich Hill - which Chris Young launched over the left field wall - Cubs fans knew it was going to be a rough day. Livan Hernandez worked the Cubs on 5 hits and 5 walks over 6 innings, allowing just one run while his teammates built a 4-1 lead. Eric Byrnes and Stephen Drew hit solo homers in the 6th and 9th innings, respectively, to finish off the Cubs. Colorado 2 Philadelphia 1 - In a series that many expected to feature double-digit scoring and balls leaving the yard with regularity, the Rockies finished off the Phillies with tight pitching from a rookie starter and timely hitting by a lightly-used sub. Ubaldo Jiminez dueled with Philly starter Jamie Moyer for six innings - each pitcher allowing only a single run - and Jeff Baker singled home the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning for the win and a sweep of the series. Manny Corpas shut down the Phillies in the 9th - his third straight save of the series - and the celebration began. The game was played under adverse conditions, with winds gust of nearly 40 mph and a 14-minute, 2nd-inning delay in which a computer glitch put out the lights. The Rockies' sweep marked a milestone for the franchise. It was the first post-season series win in the club's 15-year history. Colorado has been scary hot, having won 17 of their last 18 games. The National League championship best-of-seven series opens Thursday in Arizona.
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Cleveland 2 NY Yankees 1 - The Indians gained a 2-0 edge over the Yankees in this division playoff series, thanks to the masterful pitching of rookie Fausto Carmona (right) and a swarm of midges that pestered reliever Joba Chamberlain into an eighth inning from hell, in which he allowed Cleveland to tie the game without a hit. Chamberlain walked Grady Sizemore to open the inning and scored when the Yankee rookie uncorked his second wild pitch of the inning as the tiny bugs swarmed him and the other players unrelentingly. Melky Cabrera had given the Yanks an early lead with a solo homer off Carmona, one of just three hits off the rookie starter. Carmona was otherwise brilliant, lasting 9 innings before being lifted for Rafael Perez, who pitched a perfect 10th and 11th innings. In the bottom of the 11th, Travis Hafner singled home Kenny Lofton from third with the game winner after Luis Vizcaino had loaded the bases with a pair of singles and an intentional walk. The Indians were a miserable 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position, but managed to score when it counted most. The Yankees, for all of their supposed prowess at the plate, haven't produced, scoring just 4 runs in the opening two games. As a team they are batting a less-than-impressive .121 (8-66). Game 3 is set for Sunday at Yankee Stadium, with Cleveland's Jake Westbrook on the mound to face the Yankees' Roger Clemens. Boston 6 LA Angels 3 - Manny Ramirez (right) launched a mammoth 3-run homer over the green monster in the bottom of the ninth to put the Red Sox up 2 games to none over the LA Angels. Ramirez, who had been hitless in two previous at bats, sent the Fenway crowd into a frenzied finale as the series moves to California for game 3. Angels' starter Kelvim Escobar lasted only 5 innings, while his counterpart, Daisuke Matsuzaka, endured just 4 2/3. Both pitchers allowed three earned runs and between them, issued 8 walks, five by Escobar. Boston can wrap up the series with a win on Sunday, with Curt Schilling facing the Angles' Jared Weaver.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Cleveland 12 NY Yankees 3 - C. C. Sabathia and a host of Cleveland hitters reminded all those pundits and prognosticators who prematurely crowned the Yankees the "best team in baseball" that pitching matters, especially in the playoffs. Chien-Ming Wang was hammered by the aggressive Cleveland batters, who pounded the NY starter for 9 hits and 8 runs over 4 2/3 innings. The Indians went up 3-1 after the first inning and 9-3 after 5 and routed the visitors, taking a 1-0 lead in the series. Four different Indians homered and Kenny Lofton drove in 4 runs with a double and a pair of singles. All of Lofton's hits came with two outs. Game two of the series is scheduled for 5:07 pm ET in Cleveland with Andy Pettitte taking the mound for the Yankees against Cleveland's Fausto Carmona. Colorado 10 Philadelphia 5 - Colorado's bats were busy, but with sluggers galore in the middle of their lineup, it was diminutive leadoff hitter Kaz Matsui - all 5' 10" of him - who did the most damage with a grand slam in the 4th inning and a run-scoring triple in the 6th, driving in five runs as the Rockies took a 2-0 lead in the series, sweeping the Phillies on their own turf. Troy Tulowitzki (right) and Matt Holliday hit back-to-back homers in the opening inning. It was Holliday's 2nd in as many days. The series heads to Denver on Saturday for game 3, and, if necessary, 4. Arizona 8 Chicago Cubs 4 - The Diamondbacks will be looking for the sweep when this best-of-five series heads to Chicago on Saturday. Arizona took a 2-0 lead after their hitters lit up Chicago starter Ted Lilly for 6 runs on 7 hits over 3 1/3 innings. Lilly didn't help himself any, issuing four bases on balls and only throwing 44 of his 79 pitches for strikes. Rookie Chris Young's (right) three-run third-inning homer in the second inning gave the Diamondbacks a 3-2 lead and Eric Byrnes tripled in Stephen Drew later in the inning. The Diamondbacks led the rest of the way, extending to an 8-2 lead by the 5th inning. Doug Davis earned the win, allowing all 4 runs in 5 2/3 innings of work. The Arizona bullpen shut out the Cubs the rest of the way and have not allowed a run over 5 1/3 innings.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
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Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis turned in stellar performances in opening-game wins for Boston, Arizona and Colorado. The Yankees-Indians series opens this afternoon in Cleveland. Boston 4 LA Angels 0 - Josh Beckett (right) blanked the Angels on 4 hits in a complete game shutout (something he failed to do in the regular season), staking the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five Divisional Playoff series. Beckett, phenomenal in the post-season, hurled his second straight playoff shutout, running his post-season scoreless streak to 18 innings. Beckett's last post-season appearance was in 2003, when he pitched the final game of the World Series, when he shut out the NY Yankees and won the series MVP award. Following a leadoff single by Chone Figgins, Beckett retired 19 straight batters and finished allowing just four hits, two by Vladimir Guerrero. Beckett struck out 8 and didn't issue any walks, throwing just 108 pitches,83 of them for strikes. Kevin Youkilis hit a solo homer in the first to stake Beckett to an early lead, and David Ortiz supplied a two-run blast in the 3rd inning off LA starter John Lackey. The series continues at Fenway on Thursday with Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound for Boston against the Angels' Kelvim Escobar. Colorado 4 Philadelphia 2 - Jeff Francis wasn't worried that the Phillies led the league in scoring through the regular season as he earned a hard-fought win in the opener of the divisional series. Francis worked six full innings, allowing just 4 hits and two runs on back-to-back solo homers in the fifth inning by Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell. The Rockies had gotten to Philly's ace, Cole Hamels, for three runs in the third and Matt Holliday added insurance with a solo shot of his own in the 8th inning. Colorado's bullpen was also brilliant. LaTroy Hawkins, Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas each pitched an inning of hitless ball to finish off the potent Phillies. The series resumes Thursday at 3:00 pm in Philadelphia. Arizona 3 Chicago Cubs 1 - Pitching and defense are what got the Diamondbacks to the NL West title and the same strategy worked like a charm as their ace, Brandon Webb (right) allowed just one run on four hits over seven strong innings. Webb was locked into a duel with Chicago starter, Carlos Zambrano, who was lifted for a pinch-hitter after just 6 innings and 85 pitches by manager Lou Piniella. That approach didn't exactly pan out for Sweet Lou, as reliever Carlos Marmol surrendered a home run to the first batter he faced, Mark Reynolds, leading off the 7th inning. After that, Marmol walked Chris Snyder, gave up a double to Augie Ojeda and Conor Jackson - pinch-hitting for Webb - got the insurance run home with a sac fly. Arizona's Brandon Lyon set the Cubs down in order in the 8th, and Jose Valverde, who led the majors with 47 saves, slammed the door with a hitless ninth inning. Webb struck out 9, including getting slugger Derrek Lee three times on strikes. This divisional series resumes Thursday in Phoenix at 10:00 ET. Doug Davis heads to the hill for Arizona against the Cubs' Ted Lilly.
The annual baseball awards won't be for a couple of weeks, but here are Baseball On Deck's choices for the top hitters and pitchers in the majors. The awards are based on players' regular season performances. NL MVP - Matt Holliday - There's little doubt that Colorado's Matt Holliday should be the NL MVP. The Rockies made the playoffs by finishing 13-1 down the stretch and then winning a one-game playoff with San Diego for the wild card spot. Holliday was a major contributor throughout the season and came up big during the late-season run. Over the final 14 games of the season, Holliday batted .456 (21-46) with 5 home runs and 15 RBI. More importantly, for the regular season, Holliday led all National League hitters with a .340 average and 137 RBI. He also was at the top of the list in hits (216) and doubles (50). He also whacked 35 home runs, good for 4th place in the league and scored 120 runs, 3rd best in the league. No other player dominated the stats like the Colorado slugger. Runner-up Ryan Howard also had an excellent season and got his team, the Phillies, into post-season play. Howard was second behind Milwaukee's Prince Fielder in home runs with 47 and lost the RBI title to Holliday by just one. NL Cy Young - Jake Peavy - When a pitcher is so dominant throughout the course of the season that he leads the league in the three most important statistical fields - wins, ERA and strikeouts - he deserves all the awards and accolades. That's what San Diego's Jake Peavy did, leading the National League with 19 wins, a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts. While Peavy's Padres didn't make the playoffs, it was hardly his fault, as San Diego fell in extra innings to the Rockies in that one-game eliminator. AL MVP - Alex Rodriguez - This one was the easiest pick of all. The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez started the season red-hot, setting the AL standard for home runs in April with 14 (which also tied the major league record) and falling one short of the AL record for RBI in April with 34. A-Rod continued his excellence through the regular season, topping the majors in home runs with 54 home runs and setting a career high in RBI with 156. His 143 runs scored easily led the league. The closest to him was the player who batted in front of him for most of the season, Bobby Abreu, who totaled 123. A-Rod also batted a solid .314 for the season and led the Yankees to the wild card. A clear second choice is Detroit's Magglio Ordonez who took the batting title with a .363 average and drove in 139 RBI with 28 home runs and also topped all AL hitters with 54 doubles. AL Cy Young - C.C. Sabathia - This was the closest call of them all, but the Cy Young award should go to Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia as a narrow choice of Botson's Josh Beckett. Sabathia led the American League in innings pitched (241) and finished second in wins (to Beckett's 20), with a 19-7 record. His 3.21 ERA was good for 5th-best in the league as were his 209 strikeouts. Nobody in the American League had a better K-BB ratio (5.65) or walks per 9 innings (1.38), as Sabathia issued only 37 free passes. There's little doubt that the Indians would not have captured the AL Central crown without Sabathia's mastery on the mound.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
American League Divisional Playoff Series Previews New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians - The indians have the pitching edge with their two starters, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, plus, middle relievers Rafael Betancourt and Aaron Fultz are two of the best at holding leads in late innings. The Yankees are devoid of quality starters after Andy Pettitte and Chien-Ming Wang, but boast the best closer in the game, Mariano Rivera. Offensively, the Yankees have a huge edge, especially if Alex Rodriguez produces. With Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter batting in front of him and Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada behind, the middle of New York's lineup is deadly. Though the Yankees won the regular season series, 6-0, the Indians may be able to get by with quality pitching and timely hitting. A split in Cleveland virtually assures the Indians will advance because their 3rd and 4th starters, Jake Westbrook and Paul Byrd, are arguably better (healthier) right now than Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina. Cleveland wins this in 4. Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels - The Red Sox have been the best team in baseball for most of the regular season, but the Angels weren't far behind. Both are loaded with solid bats, especially Boston, with a healthy Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in the middle of their potent lineup. For the Angels, Chone Figgins has had an exceptional season, and if he can reach base from his leadoff spot, the Angels will be tough to beat. Vladimir Guerrero and Garrett Anderson can provide plenty of punch, while Casey Kotchman and Gary Matthews Jr. have contributed all season with timely hitting. The pitching, beginning with Josh Beckett, leans toward Boston, though Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey have had solid seasons. Boston's had trouble closing game, but that isn't a problem for Francisco Rodriguez, who save 40 games for the Angels in 2007. It's a toss-up, but the Angels have managerial experience in Scioscia and will win in 5 games. National League Divisional Playoff Series Previews Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies - Too bad these two teams have to play each other in the first round, because either of them is capable of going all the way. The Rockies have awesome power and clutch hitting from the likes of Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe in the middle of their lineup, but the Phillies may have the best 1-6 hitters in the league. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell form a modern day Murderer's Row. The pitching also favors the Phillies, with overpowering Cole Hamels and the experience of Jamie Moyer. Both teams overcame the odds to get to this point, and it will be a shame to see one of them have to go. In a series that will produce at least 3 double digit scoring games, the Phillies should emerge victorious in 5 games. Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago Cubs - In a series featuring a lot of no-name players, three that stick out for the Cubs are Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, the heart and power of the Chicago lineup. Arizona boasts Brandon Webb on the mound, the best pitcher of the remaining teams in the NL. The best the Cubs can come up with are Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly, both of whom have been inconsistent. In the bullpen, closers Ryan Dempster or Bob Howry cannot match up with Jose Valverde, who led the world with 47 saves. Arizona will get the job done with pitching and defense and win this in 3 or 4 games. Later Today: MVP and Cy Young Picks
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Colorado 9 San Diego 8 - Winners of 13 of their last 14 regular season games, the Colorado Rockies ended their dream run to the playoffs with a thrilling 13-inning 9-8 win over San Diego in the one-game wild card tie-breaker. Once again, Matt Holliday was at the center of the action, driving in the tying run with a triple off Padres' closer Trevor Hoffman, and scoring the game-winner on Jamey Carroll's sacrifice fly. Nothing comes easy for these Rockies. After needing consecutive losses by San Diego in the final two games of the season (they got them), they had to rally for a 4-3 decision against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday to force the tie, but they made the most of it at Coors Field in Denver on Monday. Starters Jake Peavy and Josh Fogg were largely ineffective for their respective teams. Peavy allowed 6 runs on 10 hits over 6 1/3 innings, while Fogg lasted only 4, giving up 5 runs on 8 hits. The game see-sawed until Brian Giles tied the game at 6-6, with an RBI double. Then the bullpens took over, putting up zeroes until the climactic 13th inning.Scott Hairston put the Padres ahead 8-6 in the top of the inning with a two-run homer off Jorge Julio, but the Rockies were far from through. Facing the all-time leader in saves, Trevor Hoffman, the Rockies didn't make an out before tying the game on a leadoff double by Kazuo Matsui, another double by Troy Tulowitzki and Holliday's triple. After intentionally walking Todd Helton, Holliday flew home on Carroll's line drive out to right. The winning score came with some controversy. Holliday barreled head-first into Michael Barrett, who was blocking the plate, but the ball bounded away from the catcher and Holliday was called safe even though replays showed that he never actually touched home plate. Holliday was stunned by the collision and lay motionless for several seconds while the stands erupted and Rockies' players poured out onto the field. Despite that the play may have been botched by umpire Tim McClelland, it didn't matter. Hoffman blew saves on consecutive chances - Saturday and Monday - to seal the wild card. He couldn't get it done against either Milwaukee or Colorado and the Rockies certainly had no quit in them. How big was Holliday's final inning triple? Enormous. It sealed the batting championship and gave him one more RBI than Philly's Ryan Howard, 137, and maybe wrapped up the National League MVP award. Holliday also led the league in hits (216) and doubles (50), and was third in runs scored with 120 and his 36 home runs were good for 4th in the league. If that's not enough to qualify for MVP, than what is? Colorado gets a day off to recover before heading to Philadelphia on Wednesday to face the Phillies in the opening round of the playoffs. Here's the schedule for each of the five-game series divisional playoffs: Los Angeles Angels vs. Boston Red Sox Series tied 0-0 Series Breakdown 1. Wed, Oct 3 – at Boston, 6:30 pm EDT (TBS) 2. Fri, Oct 5 – at Boston, 8:30 pm EDT (TBS) 3. Sun, Oct 7 – at LA Angels, 3:00 pm EDT (TBS) 4.* Mon, Oct 8 – at LA Angels, 9:30 pm EDT (TBS) 5.* Wed, Oct 10 – at Boston, 8:30 pm EDT (TBS) New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians 1. Thu, Oct 4 – at Cleveland, 6:30 pm EDT (TBS) 2. Fri, Oct 5 – at Cleveland, 5:00 pm EDT (TBS) 3. Sun, Oct 7 – at NY Yankees, 6:30 pm EDT (TBS) 4.* Mon, Oct 8 – at NY Yankees, 6:00 pm EDT (TBS) 5.* Wed, Oct 10 – at Cleveland, 5:00 pm EDT (TBS) Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona Diamondbacks 1. Wed, Oct 3 – at Arizona, 10:00 pm EDT (TBS) 2. Thu, Oct 4 – at Arizona, 10:00 pm EDT (TBS) 3. Sat, Oct 6 – at Chi Cubs, 6:00 pm EDT (TBS) 4.* Sun, Oct 7 – at Chi Cubs, 1:00 pm EDT (TNT) 5.* Tue, Oct 9 – at Arizona, 10:00 pm EDT (TBS) Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies 1. Wed, Oct 3 – at Philadelphia, 3:00 pm EDT (TBS) 2. Thu, Oct 4 – at Philadelphia, 3:00 pm EDT (TBS) 3. Sat, Oct 6 – at Colorado, 9:30 pm EDT (TBS) 4.* Sun, Oct 7 – at Colorado, 10:00 pm EDT (TBS) 5.* Tue, Oct 9 – at Philadelphia, 6:30 pm EDT (TBS) Tomorrow: Playoff Previews and Baseball On Deck's MVP and Cy Young Picks
Monday, October 1, 2007
National League Florida 8 NY Mets 1 - The Mets' September swoon was completed on Sunday. After losing their grip on first place on Friday, the Mets won and Philly lost on Saturday, resulting in a dead-even tie heading into the final day of the season. It didn't take long for the Mets to implode on Sunday, though, as Tom Glavine (right) gave up 7 earned runs in the first 1/3 of an inning. Glavine's only recorded out was getting leadoff hitter Hanley Ramirez on a fielder's choice at second on Dan Uggla's grounder. After that, the Marlins recorded four straight hits, then a walk and then Glavine hit opposing pitcher Dontrelle Willis with a pitch, forcing in another run before being relieved by Jorge Sosa, who gave up a two-run double by Dan Uggla before getting out of the inning. That took the life completely out of the team and the fans, and six Florida pitchers did the rest, allowing only a first-inning run by the Mets and just five hits for the game. The Mets implosion began on September 12, when they held a 7-game lead in the division. From that point forward, they lost 12 of their final 17 games and six of their last seven, ending up in second place, one game behind the Phillies. Washington 1 Philadelphia 6 - With the Mets in an early hole, the Phillies only had to glance occasionally at the scoreboard to see that they had their post-season fate in their own hands. Ryan Howard (right) drove in 3 runs with a 2-run single in the 3rd inning and his 47th home run in the 8th while starter Jamie Moyer gave up just one unearned run over 5 1/3 innings. The Phillies went 13-4 from September 13 onward to run down the Mets and capture the NL East crown, their first in 14 years. San Diego 6 Milwaukee 11 - The Padres knew that all they needed was a win to clinch the wild card spot, but after getting off to a hot 3-0 start in the first inning, the bats went cold and the Brewers - already eliminated from the post-season - were swinging freely against Brett Tomko and four relievers, scoring in every inning from the 4th through the 8th. San Diego was denied and hours later learned that they would have to face the Colorado Rockies in a one-game playoff, Monday at Coors Field in Denver. Arizona 3 Colorado 4 - Hands down, the Rockies win this season's drama award. On Sunday, needing a win to force a playoff with the Padres for the wild card spot, Colorado broke a 1-1 tie with a 3-run 8th inning rally. The Diamondbacks, however, scored a pair of runs in the ninth off closer Manny Corpas, before Stephen Drew grounded back to the pitcher, who fired to first for the final out. Matt Holliday (right) went 1-3, but didn't drive in any runs, relinquishing his lead to Philly's Ryan Howard, who drove in three with a single and his 47th home run on Sunday. Howard has 136, Holliday, 135, but Holliday's at-bats on Monday will count for the regular season. Holliday already leads the league in batting average (.340), hits (214) and doubles (50) and has 36 homers. He will win the batting title as long as he doesn't go 0-5 on Monday. Starting pitchers for the 7:37 pm ET game are Jake Peavy for San Diego and Josh Fogg for Colorado. Other NL Scores Atlanta 0 Houston 3 St. Louis 6 Pittsburgh 5 Chi Cubs 4 Cincinnati 8 San Francisco 11 LA Dodgers 2 American League AL Scores Tampa Bay 8 Toronto 5 NY Yankees 10 Baltimore 4 Detroit 13 Chi White Sox 3 Minnesota 3 Boston 2 Cleveland 4 Kansas City 2 Texas 2 Seattle 4 LA Angels 2 Oakland 3
Sunday, September 30, 2007
National League This is the way it ought to be. With one game left for the contenders - Philadelphia, New York, San Diego and Colorado - only two will reach the playoffs. With the Mets winning (finally) and Philly losing on Saturday, the two teams are locked in a dead-even tie for first place in the NL East. Out in the West, Arizona clinched the division and home field throughout the playoffs by virtue of the Padres' 4-3 loss at Milwaukee. As for the possible scenarios involving the NL East and the wild card, the scenarios are so convoluted that I'll defer to MLB.com, which has a complete breakdown of all possibilities, HERE. One simple scenario: If the Padres win, they are the wild card, the Rockies are out no matter what they do, and San Diego would play the winner of the NL East in the first round of the playoffs. The Cubs would travel to Arizona for the start of their first round playoff series. If the Padres lose, all hell breaks loose in the scenarios. Florida 0 NY Mets 13 - The Mets ended their 5 game losing streak just in time to possibly salvage their season. A win guarantees them no worse than a playoff on Monday with the Phillies - if they win. On Saturday, John Maine (right) flirted with a no-hitter, finally giving up an infield single to Paul Hoover with 2 outs in the 7th. Maine (15-10) struck out a career high 14 batters as the Mets scored repeatedly against some sore-armed Marlin pitchers. Tom Glavine will take the mound against Florida's Dontrelle Willis in Sunday's season finale. Washington 4 Philadelphia 2 - Ryan Howard cracked his 46th home run, but his solo shot (and Aaron Rowand's in the sixth) wasn't enough to overcome the pitching of Washington's Matt Chico and a trio of relievers. Chico grounded the Phillies on four hits over 6 1/3 innings, allowing just Rowand's solo shot. On Sunday, Jamie Moyer will head to the hill to face Washington's Jason Bergmann. San Diego 3 Milwaukee 4, 11 innings - Irony, your name is Gwynne. Tony Gwynne Jr., son of the Padres' hall of famer, tripled home the tying run for the Brewers with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, sending the game into extra innings, where the Brewers eventually won it in 11. The Padres' loss kept them from clinching a playoff spot and leaves open a myriad of possibilities heading into the season's final day. Brett Tomko gets the start against Milwaukee's Jeff Suppan Arizona 1 Colorado 11 - Once the Rockies knew they were still alive in the wild card race, they went out and pounded the Diamondbacks, scoring 4 runs in the first inning, keyed by Matt Holliday's 50th double, which drove in a pair. The Rockies continued the onslaught in the 5th inning with six more runs, including Troy Tulowitzki's grand slam. Still a game behind the Padres in the wild card, the Rockies will send rookie Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound against Arizona's Yusmeiro Petit, who got the start when Doug Davis was scratched, manager Bob Melvin preferring to save him for game two of the playoffs next week. Other NL Scores Chi Cubs 4 Cincinnati 0 St. Louis 7 Pittsburgh 3 Atlanta 2 Houston 3 San Francisco 5 LA Dodgers 6, 10 innings American League Minnesota 4 Boston 6 - The Red Sox clinched home field throughout the playoffs with the best record in the AL, at 96-65. Cleveland's loss to Kansas City, combined with the Red Sox winning the season series between the two clubs, gave the right to Boston by virtue of the potential tie-breaker. Cleveland is 95-66 Other AL Scores Tampa Bay 3 Toronto 5 LA Angels 3 Oakland 2 Detroit 2 Chi White Sox 3 NY Yankees 11 Baltimore 10 Cleveland 3 Kansas City 4 Texas 1 Seattle 5