Wednesday, October 29, 2008
World Series Game 5: Phillies 4 Rays 3 After a two-day wait, Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske on a low slider away at 9:58 pm ET and the Philadelphia Phillies became baseball's 2008 World Champions, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, four games to one. The game, which was suspended Monday night in the middle of the 6th inning with the score tied 2-2, resumed at about 8:40 pm. Pinch hitter Geoff Jenkins started the night right with a double to lead off the Phillies' 6th and scored the 3rd Philly run after Jimmy Rollins sacrificed him to third and Jayson Werth drove him in with a short pop fly mishandled by Rays' second baseman Akinori Iwamura. Rocco Baldelli re-tied the game in the top of the 7th with a solo homer, but the Phillies would not be denied. In the bottom of the 7th, Pedro Feliz knocked home Eric Bruntlett, running for Pat Burrell, who ended an 0-for-13 World Series with a double to lead off the inning. JC Romero worked the 8th inning, before manager Charlie Manuel called on Lidge to finish the job. Cole Hamels (R), who won Game 1 and kept the Phillies in Game 5 until the rain delay in the 6th inning, was named World Series MVP. Notes: All regulars ended with at least one hit, as Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria had ended 0-for streaks on Monday, in the regularly-scheduled part of the game. Lidge picked up his 42nd save, including regular and post-season, remaining perfect in save opportunities for all of 2008.
Due to severe weather conditions on Tuesday, Game 5 of the 2008 World Series - which began on Monday night - will be concluded on Wednesday, with the score tied 2-2 and the Phillies batting in the bottom of the 6th inning. Cole Hamels, the Phillies' starting pitcher, is the scheduled batter, though he will no doubt be lifted for a pinch hitter. The game is scheduled to resume play at 8:37 pm ET.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
With Tampa Bay on the brink of elimination and rain pouring from the sky on the Phillies and Rays, the umpiring crew finally suspended Game 5 when the Rays obligingly scored a run in the top of the 6th to tied the game at 2-2 Monday night. Shane Victorino drove in a pair of runs in the first inning, but Phillies' starter could not hold onto the lead, surrendering a run in the 4th before Carlos Pena knocked in B.J. Upton with the tying run. At the conclusion of the top of the 6th, however, commissioner Bud Selig called both teams off the field and suspended play. It was the first time in World Series and playoff history that a game had been suspended, but playing conditions were unfit and deteriorating further. Ostensibly, the plan is to have the game resume in the bottom of the 6th on Wednesday night. Weather forecasts are for more rain and temperatures approaching the 30s. Some say it may even be snowing by game time, whenever that is, supposedly around 8:00 pm ET. The game could be moved back to Wednesday night, when weather conditions are predicted to be more suitable to playing baseball. There is no option to cancel out the truncated game five stats and start fresh. The Phillies will come to bat in the bottom of the 6th when play resumes. Hamels is the scheduled hitter, but he's almost certainly to be lifted for a pinch hitter, probably Eric Bruntlett or maybe even slugger Matt Stairs. Grant Balfour was on the mound at the end of the bottom of the 5th, and he'll probably be ready enough to start the 6th. Fans, coaches, players, sports writers and even the broadcasters have been openly critical of this World Series. Most complaints involve the late starting times, the horrible umpiring, the idea that the series didn't even begin until October 22, and, of course, the weather - which has already caused one game to begin after 10:00 pm and end just before 2:00 am, and now has sent the entire series into a dark, gray area.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, October 26, 2008 World Series Game 4: Philadelphia 10 Tampa Bay 2 Ryan Howard led a 12-hit attack with a pair of homers - a three-run, opposite field shot to left in the 4th inning and a two-run line shot in the 8th that left the field like it was fired from a cannon - as the Phillies put themselves a game away from a championship with a 10-2 win over Tampa Bay. Howard, who also homered in Game 3, totaled five RBI on the night and seems to have surely figured out Tampa pitching and is in a groove. So too, Jimmy Rollins who had three hits (two doubles),.was on base four times and scored three of Philadelphia's runs. Rollins set the stage early with a leadoff double against Rays' starter Andy Sonnanstine. He scored the game's first run on a bases-loaded walk to Pat Burrell later in the inning. While Sonnanstine struggled, consistently falling behind hitters through his four-inning stint, Philly starter Joe Blanton was money in the bank, working into the 7th inning by allowing just 4 hits and 2 runs while fanning 7. Sonnanstine had thrown 83 pitches before surrendering Howard's homer in the 4th, which gave the Phillies a 5-1 advantage. By contrast, Blanton's pitch count was at 69 through 5 full innings. He finished at 99 after walking Ben Zobrist to start the 7th. Blanton hit a solo home run in the 5th inning. Jayson Werth blasted a two-run shot in the 8th as the Phillies began to put the screws to the tiring Rays' relief staff. Notes: The Phillies can wrap up their second World Series title with a win at home Monday night. They send their ace, Cole Hamels, to the mound in repeat of the Game 1 matchup with the Rays' Scott Kazmir. Hamels won Game 1 and has 4 post-season wins thus far. First pitch is scheduled for 8:29 pm ET. The o-fers didn't change a thing in Game 4. Phillies' hitless Pat Burrell went 0-for-3 for the 4th straight game before being lifted for Eric Bruntlett late. He is 0-for-12 for the series. Tampa Bay's #3 and #4 hitters continue to cost the Rays dearly. Carlos Pena is 0-for-13 with 6 strikeouts, while rookie phenom Evan Longoria is now 0-for-16 after his 4th straight 0-for-4 game. Longoria has fanned 9 times.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Players of the Day from Saturday, October 25, 2008 American League Carlos Ruiz chopped a ground ball down the third base line, sending Eric Bruntlett to the plate with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 5-4 win by the Phillies over the Rays in a critical Game 3 of the World Series. The 45-foot dribbler by Ruiz was set up by the strangest of circumstances. After Jamie Moyer had handled the Rays for six innings and had a lead - thanks to a hustling, first inning run scored by Jimmy Rollins, a solo homers by Ruiz in the second, and back-to-back bombs by Chase Utley and Ryan Howard - the Rays struck in the 7th with a pair of runs to cut the lead to 4-3. Both runs in the seventh were charged to Moyer, even though he recorded only one out in the frame. In the 8th, B.J. Upton singled, stole second and third and came home on Ruiz's bad throw to third, which hit Upton and bounded into foul ground. That tied the game at 4-4, setting up the a weird 9th inning. Bruntlett was called on to open the 9th, pinch hitting for Pat Burrell - who hasn't even sniffed a base hit during the series - and was plunked by Rays' reliever J.P. Howell. After loading the bases with intentional walks to Shane Victorino and Pedro Feliz, Ruiz worked the count to 2-2 before his chopper handcuffed third baseman Evan Longoria, who flung the ball toward the plate in a desperate - and failing - attempt to get Bruntlett. Notes: The game began after 10:00 pm and finished well after 1:00 am, but there isn't a Phillie fan complaining. In addition to the Phillies' Burrell, two of Tampa Bay's top hitters, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria, are also hitless through 3 games. Burrell is 0-for-9, Pena, 0-for-10, and Longoria, 0-for-12. There are plenty of story lines in this series, but the fact that the #3 and 4 hitters in the Rays' lineup haven't produced a single hit, could become compelling in Game 4. Game 4 is scheduled for an 8:29 start in Philadelphia, where the forecast includes no chance of rain. Andy Sonnanstine gets the start for the Rays, while Joe Blanton goes up the hill for Philadelphia. Sonnanstine was 0-3 in his final 7 starts during the regular season, though the Rays won 3 of the 4 games in which he received no decision. He won a game in each of the prior playoff series against the White Sox and Red Sox. In his 13 innings pitched during the post-season, he's 2-0, with a 3.46 ERA, though he's given up 3 homers. Blanton went through a string of 6 straight no-decisions before winning 3 of his last 4 starts for the Phillies down the stretch in the regular season. In the playoffs, he won a game over Milwaukee, and received no decision in his Oct. 13 start against the Dodgers, though the Phillies won, 7-5. In 11 innings of post-season work, Blanton has an ERA of 3.27, with 4 walks and 11 whiffs, though opponents are hitting .279 against him. The pressure is clearly on the Rays to produce a win Sunday in Philly, because, if they don't, they face elimination at the hands of Game 1 winner Cole Hamels on Monday. Hamels is clearly the best starter in this series; he was brilliant in Game 1 and should be on his toes for Monday's game.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Players of the Day from Thursday, Octo ber 23, 2008 World Series Game 2: Tampa Bay 4 Philadelphia 2 James Shields scattered 7 hits over 5 2/3 innings, but didn't allow a run as Tampa Bay pushed back to win Game 2 by a 4-2 score over Philadelphia. The Phillies' problems at the plate with runners on base continued, as they stranded 11 men for the second night in a row. Over the first two games of the series, the Phillies are a combined 1-for-28 with runners in scoring position. With the Phillies struggling with men on base, Tampa Bay was much more efficient, knocking home four runs, though only one was driven in with a base hit. Two runs came home via ground outs with runners on third base in the first inning. Carlos Pena knocked in Akinori Iwamura and Evan Longoria got B.J. Upton to the plate with grounders to short. In the second inning, Upton delivered a single to send Dioner Navarro home and Jason Bartlett laid down a safety squeeze bunt on the first base side in the 4th which allowed Cliff Floyd to easily dash to the plate. That was all the Rays would need to tie the series at 1-1, with two games at Philadelphia upcoming, Saturday and Sunday. Philadelphia didn't score until the 8th inning, when Eric Bruntlett blasted a solo shot to left off reliever David Price, who finished the final 2 1/3 innings after Dan Wheeler held the Phillies hitless in an inning of work. Philly also scored in the 9th, on a questionable error by Longoria. Jayson Werth scorched a ball to third which normally would have gone as a hit. Carlos Ruiz, who reached base all four times he stepped to the plate (2 doubles, 2 walks), scored from second base as the ball trickled into shallow left field. There were a number of dubious umpiring calls by home plate umpire Kerwin Danley. In the second inning, he apparently called hitter Rocco Baldelli out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch from starter Brett Myers, but in the same motion pointed to first base for an appeal, where umpire Fieldin Culbreth signaled that he did check his swing. Baldelli took first base on ball four, even though the pitch was a strike and Baldelli did not check his swing. Later in the game, Danley clearly missed making the correct call on a pitch that grazed Jimmy Rollins' shirt. Instead of being awarded first base, Rollins flied out later in the at-bat.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Players of the Day from Wednesday, October 22, 2008 World Series Game 1: Phillies 3 Rays 2 Cole Hamels (L) pitched 7 strong innings, and Chase Utley (R) socked a 2-run, first inning home run to enable the Philadelphia Phillies to take Game 1 of the 2008 World Series by a 3-2 score over the Tampa Bay Rays. Hamels, now 4-0 in the postseason, allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out 5. After Utley staked him to a 2-0 lead, and catcher Carlos Ruiz grounded out in the 4th inning, scoring Shane Victorino, Hamels gave up a solo homer to Carl Crawford in the bottom of the 4th and surrendered another run on Akinori Iwamura's double in the fifth which plated Jason Bartlett. But that was all the Rays could muster as Hamels held Tampa Bay hitless through the sixth and seventh before giving way to Ryan Madson, who pitched a perfect 8th inning. Brad Lidge struck out 2 of the 3 batters he faced in the 9th, ending the game on a Crawford popup outside the third base foul line. With the Game 1 victory in hand, the Phillies will try to take game 2 with Brett Myers on the mound, facing the Rays' James Shields. Game time is set for 8:29 pm EDT. Notes: The Phillies stranded 11, and were 0-11 with runners in scoring position. Much of the problem starts and ends with the plate troubles of Ryan Howard, who led the majors in home runs and RBI in the regular season, but seems more confused with every at-bat. Howard has just 3 RBI in 10 post-season games. He was 0-for-4 in Game 1. Free Tacos: Jason Bartlett stole second base to ensure that everyone in America would be eligible for a free taco on Tuesday, October 28, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 local time at any Taco Bell location. After Bartlett swiped his bag, Utley stole two and Jayson Werth stole another for the Phillies.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Overview: By most analysis from high-paid sports reporters, the upcoming Fall Classic is going to be an uninteresting snooze-fest. With two East Coast teams, there will be limited West Coast interest, thus, no big national audience. By many accounts, the pitching is sub-par, the story lines have minimal appeal and the teams are forgettable. Well, that's the mainstream point of view. For pure love of the game of baseball, the showdown between the Phillies, from Philadelphia, where championships go to be buried, and the Tampa Bay Rays - the 200-1 longshot, worst-to-first, modern-day Horatio Alger story team - is the stuff of dreams. Tampa Bay has never won anything, much less a World Series. And the Phillies haven't won the World Series since 1980, when they beat the Kansas City Royals, 4 games to 2, in a series that might have been one of the most forgettable ever. Both teams have intense motivation to win this year. While the Phillies have been building a solid organization over many years, the Rays burst onto the scene with a flourish. There's a youthful vibe and exuberance to the Rays; a business-like confidence to the Phillies. Compare and contrast. This has the makings of being a classic. American League: Tampa Bay Rays Recent History: The Rays took out the Chicago White Sox 3 games to 1, in the divisional playoffs. As winners of the AL East, they were barred by rule from playing the wild card Boston Red Sox in the opening round, so played the lowest-percentage division winner, Chicago. In the ALCS, the Rays nearly had the Red Sox beaten in 5 games, only to blow a 7-run, 7th inning lead in Game 5, losing 8-7, as the bullpen let down. After Boston won Game 6, the Rays eventually got to them, winning Game 7, 3-1, riding the electric arm of starter Matt Garza and rookie finisher David Price. Strengths: Team spirit. Tampa Bay is one of the youngest teams in the majors, but the kids have a strong team attitude, picking each other up and playing with passion and determination. Strong starters. Scott Kazmir, James Shields (Game 1 starter), Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine make up a solid rotation though nobody won more than 14 games. Kazmir and Shields are the two most reliable, with ERAs of 3.49 and 3.56, respectively, though the other two aren't far behind. Steady in the middle. Short relievers Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell have been game-changers for the Rays with a combined record of 12-3 and an ERA of 1.96. Speed: Tampa led the AL with 142 steals. B.J. Upton led the team with 44. Carl Crawford had 25 in 109 games and Jason Bartlett swiped 20. Weaknesses: Fanball. Four starters - Longoria, B.J. Upton, Akinori Iwamura and Pena - struck out more than 100 times each. Against Hamels and Myers and the Phillies' relievers, that's not a good sign. Defense. Iwamura and Jason Bartlett aren't the greatest middle infielders, but they are steady. However, little things get amplified in the playoffs. Youth. The inexperience of this squad is prescient. Their leader, in many aspects, Evan Longoria, is a rookie, and this is the Rays' first-ever appearance on the post-season stage, so there's not much exposure to pressure upon which to draw. Closing comment. Troy Percival, who was the Rays' regular closer much of the season is off the roster, replaced by Dan Wheeler, who's been shaky. David Price, who worked the final 1 1/3 of game 7, Players to Watch Evan Longoria (R) A sure-fire choice for Rookie of the Year honors, Longoria hit 27 home runs and drove in 85 runs in just 122 games, both good for second on the team. He's the heart of the Rays' youth movement. Carl Crawford Though he played in only 109 games due to a late-season injury, Crawford is a key element in the Rays' attack. Possessing both speed and power, if Crawford hits, the Rays go, period. He can be a one-man wrecking crew. Carlos Pena Speaking of wrecking, Carlos Pena has done serious damage to the psyche and records of many AL pitchers. His 31 HR and 102 RBI led the Rays, and he can't be pitched around because there are too many other weapons in the lineup. Pena has extraordinary power. He's hit 77 homers the past two seasons. B.J. Upton In just his third year, Upton has significant upside. Like Crawford, he can hit for power and has speed to burn. In 2007, he hit 24 homers. In 2008, he stole 44 bases. In the playoff series against the White Sox hit three homers and drove in 4 runs. Though one may not know what to expect from Upton, he's sure to provide some thrills. J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour As middle relievers go, these two are probably the best tandem in the majors. Tampa Bay's young starters sometimes need to get out of jams and these are the go-to guys who really produced all season. Without them, the Rays literally would not have won the AL East. National League: Philadelphia Phillies Recent History: After winning the NL East for the second straight season, the Phillies made quick work of the wild card Milwaukee Brewers in the divisional series, winning the best-of-five in four games, winning both of their games in Philly, dropping Game 3 and winning Game 4. In the NLCS, the Phillies once more took the opening two games at home, then took two of three in Los Angeles to whip the Dodgers in 5 games. The Phillies have been off since Wednesday, and are as well-rested as a team can be. Strengths: Power. The Phillies led the NL with 214 home runs, the bulk of those off the bats of Ryan Howard, who led the majors with 48, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, who knocked 33 apiece out of the park. Speed. with 138 steals, the Phillies were third in the NL. Most of those were by leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins (47) and #2 hitter Shane Victorino (36). Bench. The versatile roster includes Pedro Feliz, Jayson Werth, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins, each of whom can be plugged in as needed. Bullpen. The Phillies are blessed with an abundance of middle relievers. Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson are all capable of getting the ball to closer Brad Lidge, who had 41 saves in 41 tries, 92 Ks in 69.1 innings and an ERA of 1.95 in the regular season and remained perfect in the playoffs. Weaknesses: Whiffers. The three power players - Utley, Burrell and Howard - all have a tendency to swing and miss. Between them, they struck out 439 times, the worst offender being Howard, with 199. Starting Pitching. After ace Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09 ERA), there isn't much there. Brett Myers and ancient Jamie Moyer will have to step it up. Players to Watch Ryan Howard (right) is the big gun in the lineup, with 48 homers and 146 RBI, he led the league in both categories. If he's on, ball will be flying over outfielders' heads and out of the park. Jimmy Rollins Outspoken and with the stats to back up his talk, Rollins is the team leader and leadoff hitter. Rollins is great at the plate in pressure situations and can hurt you with the long ball and can steal. Very steady at shortstop as well. Shane Victorino This youngster doesn't get much press, but the Phillies probably wouldn't be where they are without him. His .293 BA led all regulars. He was second on the team in hits (167) and third in runs scored (102). Chase Utley Dubbed "The Machine" by teammates, Utley's rare blend of power and consistently produced a .292 BA, 104 RBI and 33 HRs in 2008. He can - and has - hurt opponents in many ways. Capable of carrying the team alone, as he did in April and May. Cole Hamels Led the team in innings with 227.1, strikeouts (196) and all starters in ERA (3.09). The game one starter may get two more shots if the series is extended to 7 games. He is the Phillies' best defensive weapon. If he's on, a very tough guy to beat. Brad Lidge Without argument, the best closer in the league, Lidge earned comeback player of the year for his outstanding season. He's simply lights out in the 9th inning. Prediction: The oddsmakers in Las Vegas made Tampa Bay the favorite in the series. A bettor would have to put up $145 to make $100, whereas a bet on the Phillies would only be $100 to make $125. Having seen easy money before, this one is almost a no-brainer. The Vegas gambit is based upon money already bet on the Rays in the futures at odds of 100-1 to 200-1. If they Rays win, they are looking at some monumental payouts, so they made the Rays a false favorite in order to try to recoup some of their potential losses. This little tidbit of knowledge can go a long way in this series. The Phillies have some advantages, and some possible stumbling blocks, not the least of which is their lack of starting pitching. However, should the series go seven games, Cole Hamels, ostensibly the best pitcher on either team, could start games one, four and seven, though he'd be pitching on three days rest in games four and seven. Even if manager Charlie Manuel decides to stick to the rotation and risk having Jamie Moyer on the mound in game seven, the Phillies have a significant experience edge and a killer lineup, especially when they play at Tampa Bay with the addition of the DH. The Rays have been a great story and they could win this series, but Philadelphia, despite not having home field advantage, has the hitting, speed, relief pitching and emotional steadiness to win the World Series in 5 or 6 games. World Series Schedule Game 1 @ TB, Kazmir vs. Hamels, Wed, Oct 27 8:29 pm EDT Game 2 @ TB, Shields vs. Myers, Thu, Oct 23 8:29 pm EDT Game 3 @ PHI, Moyer vs. Garza, Sat, Oct 25 8:35 pm EDT Game 4 @ PHI, Blanton vs. Sonnanstine, Sun, Oct 26 8:29 pm EDT Game 5 @ PHI, Hamels vs. Kazmir, Mon, Oct 27 8:29 pm EDT Game 6 @ TB, Shields vs. Myers, Wed, Oct 29 8:35 pm EDT Game 7 @ TB, Garza vs. Moyer, Thu, Oct 30 8:29 pm EDT
Monday, October 20, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, October 19, 2008 NLCS: Tampa Bay 3 Boston 1 Game Seven of the ALCS came down to pitching, as Matt Garza outdueled Boston starter Jon Lester to lead the Rays to a 3-1 win over the Red Sox and a spot in the World Series to face the Philadelphia Phillies. Garza was nearly flawless through seven innings, allowing just a first inning home run to Dustin Pedroia, a single by Jason Bay in the seventh and three walks. Pedroia was the toughest batter against Garza. In 3 plate appearances he homered, was hit by a pitch and walked. When Jason Bartlett booted Alex Cora's grounder to lead off the 8th, Garza was relieved by Dan Wheeler. In the course of the inning, manager Joe Madden emptied his bullpen, using J.P. Howell and Chad Bradford before calling on rookie David Price with the bases loaded and two outs. Price didn't disappoint, striking out J.D. Drew to end the threat, and then getting the final three outs in the 9th. The Rays got their runs on an RBI double by Evan Longoria in the 4th, an RBI single by Rocco Baldelli in the 5th and a solo homer by Willy Aybar in the 7th. Garza recorded two wins over the Red Sox and was named series MVP. Notes: The World Series starts on Wednesday, October 22, at Tampa Bay.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Players of the Day from Saturday, October 18, 2008 American League Big-game pitchers step up in big games, and that's exactly what Josh Beckett did in Game 6 of the ALCS Saturday night at Tampa. Beckett worked five innings, holding the Rays to two runs on five hits, and the score tied 2-2, but the Red Sox responded with a pair of runs in the top of the 6th to give Beckett the win and record a 4-2 win over the Rays and force a series-deciding seventh game. Tampa's only runs came on solo homers by B.J. Upton (1st inning) and Jason Bartlett's bases-empty shot in the 5th. The Red Sox also got a pair of runs on solo shots by Jason Varitek and Kevin Youkilis, but also added a run on a ground out by Youkilis in the 3rd inning and an unearned run in the 6th when David Ortiz singled home Coco Crisp with the final score of the game. Notes: Game Seven begins at 8:08 pm ET at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox send out starter Jon Lester to face the Rays' Matt Garza. Both pitchers started game 3 on Monday at Fenway, won by the Rays, 9-1, as Garza was electric and the Rays pounded Lester for 8 hits and 4 runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Players of the Day from Thursday, October 16, 2008 ALCS: Boston 8 Tampa Bay 7 J.D. Drew (R) hit a two-run homer in the 8th inning to draw the Red Sox to within a run, and then singled home Jason Bay with the game-winner in the bottom of the 9th, as the Boston Red Sox stared down elimination and turned a 7-0, 7th inning deficit into a dramatic, 8-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Scott Kazmir (L) tossed 6 innings of shutout ball and the Tampa Bay Rays continued their long-ball assault against the Red Sox, pounding out 3 more homers. The Rays wasted no time at all getting to Game 1 winner Daisuke Matsuzaka. B.J. Upton (R) launched a two-run homer over the Green Monster in the first inning, and, in the third, Carlos Pena blasted another two-run homer to right, followed immediately by Evan Longoria's solo shot - his 4th home run in consecutive games, a rookie and major league record - and the Rays seemed to be on their way. Hideki Okajima settled the Rays down for a couple of innings, blanking them in the 5th and 6th, but in the 7th inning, the wheels nearly came completely off Boston's beleaguered bandwagon. Manny Delcarmen started his mound stint by walking the first two batters in the inning, Jason Bartlett and Akinori Iwamura. Closer Jonathan Papelbon was summoned from the Boston bullpen. While Papelbon was focused on pitching to Upton, the baserunners pulled off a double steal, putting the runners on second and third base. They scored easily when Upton doubled to the left-center gap. 7-0, Rays, and the Boston faithful began heading for the exits of fabled Fenway Park. Once Kazmir was off the mound, however, the wheels did come off for the Rays, as the Red Sox responded with 4 runs of their own in the bottom of the inning off reliever Grant Balfour, three of them on David Ortiz's home run, just his second hit of the series. Fans scrambled back into their seats. In the 8th, Dan Wheeler gave up the 2-run homer to Drew, making the score 7-6. And when Coco Crisp singled home Mark Kotsay from second, the game was tied at 7-all. J.P. Howell went to the mound in the ninth, but, after getting two quick outs, surrendered a single to Kevin Youkilis, who moved to second on Longoria's throwing error. After issuing an intentional pass to Jason Bay, Drew came through once more, lashing a single to right which easily plated Youkilis with the game-winner. Notes: It was a collapse of magnificent proportions for the youthful Rays, who were on the verge of heading to the World Series. The decision to pull Kazmir, who was pitching brilliantly, has to be questioned, as does the insertion of Wheeler to start the 8th. The Rays and Red Sox will have a day off to think things over prior to game 6 at Tropicana Field on Saturday. Starting time is 8:07 pm ET. Josh Beckett gets the call for Boston, against the Rays' James Shields.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Players of the Day from Wednesday, October 15, 2008 NLCS: Philadelphia 5 LA Dodgers 1 Jimmy Rollins (L) scored the first two runs of the game - on a 1st inning leadoff home run and off a Ryan Howard single in the 3rd. Those two runs proved to be enough as Cole Hamels (R) shut down the Dodgers on five hits over 7 innings, the only run coming on a Manny Ramirez 6th inning homer as the Phillies took out the Dodgers 4 games to 1, with a 5-1 win to clinch the National League pennant. The Phillies used timely hitting and pitching in key spots to knock out LA, advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1993. Hamels, who won game 1 and game 5 was named MVP of the Championship Series. Notes: The Red Sox and Rays square off for game 5 in the ALCS on Thursday night in Boston at 8:07 pm ET. Tampa Bay leads, 3 game to 1, and has routed the Red Sox in both games at Fenway Park, 9-1 and 13-4. Scott Kazmir gets the start for Tampa, facing Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka, who got the win in game 1 with 7 innings of shutout ball in a 2-0 Boston win.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Players of the Day from Tuesday, October 14, 2008 ALCS: Tampa Bay 13 Boston 4 Carl Crawford went 5-for-5, the Rays hit 3 more home runs and moved to within one win of the World Series, bombing the Red Sox, 13-4, Tuesday night in Boston. Crawford did it all in the rout, with two singles, two doubles, a triple, a pair of steals, 3 runs and 2 RBI. It was one of the most impressive single-game performances in MLB history, tying the ALCS record. Evan Longoria homered for the third straight game, giving him 5 post-season dingers, a major league record for a rookie. Carlos Pena and Willy Aybar also homered. Aybar added three singles and drove in five runs. The win pushed the Red Sox right to the precipice and left the Rays with a commanding 3-1 lead, one win short of the franchise's first trip to the World Series. The two teams take a day off Wednesday, then resume their struggle on Thursday night, 8:07 pm ET, when game 1 winner Daisuke Matsuzaka starts for Boston against the Rays' James Shields. If the Rays don't seal the deal then, they'll have two more chances in Tampa Bay over the weekend to do so. Notes: Leave it to our favorite sports network, FOX, to get their priorities straight. On Wednesday night, while the other networks will be airing the the final bore-fest presidential debate, FOX will be presenting Game 5 of the NLCS, with the Phillies at LA, beginning at 8:22 pm ET. Philadelphia leads the series 3 games to 1.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Players of the Day from Monday, October 13, 2008 ALCS: Tampa Bay 9 Red Sox 1 Matt Garza limited the Red Sox hitters to one run, working into the 7th inning and the Rays played long ball, knocking four homers as the Rays took a 2-1 lead in the ALCS with a 9-1 thumping of Boston at Fenway Park. The only run off Garza came in the bottom of the 7th inning when he walked Jason Varitek to open the inning. The Red Sox catcher moved to third on Alex Cora's single, and Garza was lifted for reliever J.P. Howell, who got Jacoby Ellsbury on a sac fly, scoring Varitek, then induced a double play grounder from Dustin Pedroia. Howell pitched through the 8th, allowing just a single by J.D. Drew before giving way to Edwin Jackson who mopped up in the ninth. The Rays got home runs from B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, Rocco Baldelli and Carlos Pena. Upton and Baldelli's blasts were three-run shots, while Longoria and Pena hit solo homers. Notes: The Red Sox are in serious trouble with game 4 set for Tuesday night at 8:07 pm ET. Two of their best pitchers - Josh Beckett and Jon Lester - have both been hammered by the Rays. Boston sends Tim Wakefield to the mound against the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine, who won the ALDS clincher over the White Sox on October 6. NLCS: Philadelphia 7 LA Dodgers 5 The Phillies displayed their plate power once more and took a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the Dodgers when Shane Victorino (R) and Matt Stairs each launched 2-run bombs in the 8th inning to lead the Phillies to a 7-5 win over the Dodgers. The teams each had and surrendered leads in the game before the critical 8th inning outburst. Ironically, it was the Dodger's supposedly superior pitching that unraveled late in the game. Reliever Cory Wade gave up Victorino's blast and closer Jonathan Broxton gave up Stairs' game winner. LA has managed to score 5, 7, and 5 runs off Philly pitchers in the last three games, but have lost two of them. Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday night at 8:22 pm ET. Game 1 winner Cole Hamels can wrap up the series for Philadelphia as he goes to the mound against LA starter Chad Billingsley.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, October 12, 2008 National League Championship Series LA Dodgers 7 Philadelphia 2 The LA Dodgers scored five runs in the first inning off starter Jamie Moyer, and Hiroki Kuroda stopped the Phillies on six hits and two runs over 6 innings as the Dodgers won their first NLCS game, 7-2. After dropping the first two in Philadelphia, the Dodgers are now down, 2 games to 1, with Game 4 set for 8:22 pm ET in LA. Notes: The Rays and Red Sox get back to it in the ALCS on Monday. Game 3 is scheduled to begin at 4:37 pm ET in Boston. The series is tied, 1-1.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Players of the Day from Saturday, October 11, 2008 American League Championship Series Tampa Bay 9 Boston 8, 11 innings Fernando Perez scampered home on B.J. Upton's 11th inning sacrifice fly to score the winning run in Tampa Bay's 9-8 win over the Red Sox, earning a split of the first two games of the ALCS. Evan Longoria (R) got the Rays on the board early with a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first inning. The game turned into a scoring and homer-fest as the two teams combined for 7 home runs and 14 runs over the first five innings. Longoria went 3-for-5, adding a pair of doubles. He drove in 3 runs and scored 3 times. The Red Sox battled back from the 8-6 deficit with single runs in the 6th and 8th innings, forcing the extra frames. Dan Wheeler, who came on with 2 on and no outs in the 8th, actually allowed the tying run on a wild pitch, but got out of the inning and pitched valiantly into the 11th, notching 3 1/3 innings of work, allowing 4 hits and 2 walks, but no earned runs. He struck out 4 during his stint. Notes: The series shifts to Boston for the next three games, beginning on Monday at 4:37 pm EDT.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Players of the Day from Friday, October 10, 2008 American League Championship Series Boston 2 Tampa Bay 0 Daisuke Matsuzaka got the Red Sox off to an excellent start and a 1-0 lead in the NLCS, with a 7 inning, 2-hit, shutout performance as the Red Sox slipped by the Rays, 2-0. Matsuzaka was unhittable through the sixth inning before giving up a pair of hits in the 7th. Jed Lowrie drove in Jason Bay with a sac fly in the 5th and Kevin Youkilis - who went 3-for-4 with a single and two doubles - drove in Dustin Pedroia with the game's only other run with an 8th inning double. Notes: Game 2 is Saturday night in Boston at 8:07 pm EDT. Boston starts Josh Beckett against the Rays' Scott Kazmir. National League Championship Series Brett Myers didn't pitch particularly well, allowing 5 runs over 5 innings, but he keyed a couple of rallies - going 3-for-3 with 3 RBI and 2 runs - as he and his fellow Phillies got to Chad Billingsley early and took a 2-0 series lead with an 8-5 win over the Dodgers. Shane Victorino drove in four runs with a single in the 2nd and a two-out triple in the 3rd inning. Manny Ramirez delivered a 3-run homer for LA in the 4th, but that was the last score for either team. Brad Lidge kept his 2008 saves streak intact with his 45th consecutive without blowing one. Lidge struck out the side in the 9th, but not without adding some drama by walking Ramirez to start the inning and James Loney with one out. Notes: The teams take Saturday off to travel out to LA, where they will play game 3, Sunday night at 8:22 pm EDT. Hiroki Kuroda starts for the Dodgers, Jamie Moyer heads to the mound for Philadelphia.
Friday, October 10, 2008
National League Championship: Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays Boston Red Sox Recent History: Boston finished the regular season with a 16-10 record for September, but they could not catch the Rays and settled for the wild card. Continuing a decades-long mastery of the NL West champion LA Angels, the Red Sox grabbed 3 of 4 games (winning both contests in LA) to advance to the ALCS. Strengths: Booming bats. The Red Sox finished second in the AL (behind Texas) with a .280 team batting average and were also second in RBI and runs. Some of that production came from Manny Ramirez, who was traded at the end of July, but Jason bay picked up the slack, knocking in 37 in 49 games. Kevin Youkilis led the team with 115 ribbies, followed by David Ortiz (89) and Dustin Pedroia (83). Top two. The 1 and 2 batters in the Red Sox lineup really set the table for the sluggers. Leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury batted .280, stole 50 bases and scored 98 runs. Pedroia, normally batting second, just missed winning the AL batting title with a .326 average. His 213 hits and 118 runs led the team. Starters. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Time Wakefield comprise what could be considered the best starting four in the majors. Matsuzaka went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA; Lester was 16-6, with a 3.21 ERA. Beckett fanned 172 batter in 174.1 innings and has big game experience. Weaknesses: Knuckle under. The #4 starter, Tim Wakefield, is a knuckleballer who is sometimes inconsistent. He was just 10-11 with a 4.14 ERA, and if the flutterball isn't working it puts pressure on the bullpen. Middle men. Mid-game relievers, Javier Lopez and Hideki Okajima can hold their own, but after them, there isn't much there. Fans cringe whenever Manny Delcarmen takes over and Mike Timlin had a bad year, with a 5.66 ERA. Players to Watch Kevin Youkilis (R) One of the most intense players to ever set foot on a baseball diamond, Youkilis brings emotion and tremendous hitting skills to the plate. Coming off his best season (.312, 29 HR, 115 RBI), Youkilis is this season's go-to guy. David Ortiz Pig Papi, as he is known throughout the majors, didn't have one of his better seasons, though his post-season resume is filled with clutch performances. In the series with the Angels, Ortiz was only 4-for-18, with no homers and only 1 RBI. If he doesn't produce, the Sox may be sunk. Jason Bay After coming over from Pittsburgh in a three-way deal which sent Manny Ramirez to LA, Bay provided enough offense to help the Sox to the wild card, and had a number of big games and big hits, fitting in nicely to the overall chemistry. A threat with power, Bay is one of the keys to offensive success for Boston. Josh Beckett Though he suffered through an of year (for him), Beckett is still the #1 guy in the rotation. He's won playoff and World Series games and deals well with pressure, but he may not be at the top of his game right now. Jon Lester The Game one starter, Lester didn't allow an earned run in 14 innings in the ALDS, getting an opening night win and a no decision in the Red Sox's 3-2 clincher. He's been tough as nails all season and that doesn't seem about to change. Jonathan Papelbon Emotional and a bit crazy, Papelbon can finish with the best of them. His 2.34 ERA was the best on the team, and he stuck out 77 in 69 innings. If the bullpen can get him the ball with a lead, he's capable of slamming the door, though he might get more 8th inning calls than he would like. Tampa Bay Rays Recent History: Tampa finished up the season by capturing the AL East title by 2 games over the Red Sox, and then took out the Chicago White Sox, the AL Central champions, 3 games to 1. They didn't distinguish themselves in the stretch run to the pennant, going 12-9 from Sept. 9 to the end of the regular season, but the lead they'd built earlier held up. The Rays barely won the season series from the Red Sox 10-8, but took 4 of 6 in a pair of crucial home-and-home series in the closing weeks. Strengths: Team spirit. Tampa Bay is one of the youngest teams in the majors, but the kids have a strong team attitude, picking each other up and playing with passion and determination. Strong starters. Scott Kazmir, James Shields (Game 1 starter), Matt Garza and Andy Sonnanstine make up a solid rotation though nobody won more than 14 games. Kazmir and Shields are the two most reliable, with ERAs of 3.49 and 3.56, respectively, though the other two aren't far behind. Steady in the middle. Short relievers Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell have been game-changers for the Rays with a combined record of 12-3 and an ERA of 1.96. Speed: Tampa led the AL with 142 steals. B.J. Upton led the team with 44. Carl Crawford had 25 in 109 games and Jason Bartlett swiped 20. Weaknesses: Fanball. Four starters - Longoria, B.J. Upton, Akinori Iwamura and Pena - struck out more than 100 times each. Against Boston's aggressive rotation, that's not a good sign. Defense. Iwamura and Jason Bartlett aren't the greatest middle infielders, but they are steady. However, little things get amplified in the playoffs. Youth. The inexperience of this squad is prescient. Their leader, in many aspects, Evan Longoria, is a rookie, and this is the Rays' first-ever appearance on the post-season stage, so there's not much exposure to pressure upon which to draw. Closing comment. Troy Percival, who was the Rays' regular closer much of the season is off the roster for the ALCS, replaced by Dan Wheeler, who's been shaky, but he's the best they Rays have. Players to Watch Evan Longoria (R) A sure-fire choice for Rookie of the Year honors, Longoria hit 27 home runs and drove in 85 runs in just 122 games, both good for second on the team. He's the heart of the Rays' youth movement. Carl Crawford Though he played in only 109 games due to a late-season injury, Crawford is a key element in the Rays' attack. Possessing both speed and power, if Crawford hits, the Rays go, period. He can be a one-man wrecking crew. Carlos Pena Speaking of wrecking, Carlos Pena has done serious damage to the psyche and records of many AL pitchers. His 31 HR and 102 RBI led the Rays, and he can't be pitched around because there are too many other weapons in the lineup. Pena has extraordinary power. He's hit 77 homers the past two seasons. B.J. Upton In just his third year, Upton has significant upside. Like Crawford, he can hit for power and has speed to burn. In 2007, he hit 24 homers. In 2008, he stole 44 bases. In the playoff series against the White Sox hit three homers and drove in 4 runs. Though one may not know what to expect from Upton, he's sure to provide some thrills. J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour As middle relievers go, these two are probably the best tandem in the majors. Tampa Bay's young starters sometimes need to get out of jams and these are the go-to guys who really produced all season. Without them, the Rays literally would not have won the AL East. Prediction: While the Red Sox have been here before and their starters have an edge over the Rays, there are some concerns. David Ortiz has not been his usual self and there's plenty of pressure on Youkilis and Jason Bay to provide the big guns. Youkilis should deal with it, but how Bay fares is anyone's guess. Also Josh Beckett hasn't been right since mid-season and there's a big hole in middle relief. The Rays have home field, loads of talent and lots of enthusiasm which should get them to their first World Series. Tampa Bay in 7 games. Series Schedule: Game 1: Fri, Oct 10 8:37 pm EDT at Tampa Bay Game 2: Sat, Oct 11 8:07 pm EDT at Tampa Bay Game 3: Mon, Oct 13 4:37 pm EDT at Boston Game 4: Tue, Oct 14 8:07 pm EDT at Boston if necessary Game 5: Thu, Oct 16 8:07 pm EDT at Boston Game 6: Sat, Oct 18 4:37 pm EDT at Tampa Bay Game 7: Sun, Oct 19 8:07 pm EDT at Tampa Bay
Players of the Day from Thursday, October 9, 2008 National League Chase Utley (L) pounded a 6th-inning Derek Lowe offering into the right-center field stands, tying the Dodgers at two before Pat Burrell (R) followed with a solo shot for the lead as the Phillies topped the Dodgers, 3-2, in the opener of the NL Championship Series. Phillies' starter Cole Hamels worked 7 innings, allowing a pair of runs while fanning 8. Ryan Madsen allowed a hit in the 8th, and Brad Lidge threw a perfect 9th for the save. Game Two is Friday afternoon at 4:35 PM ET in Philadelphia
Thursday, October 9, 2008
National League Championship Series: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers Recent history: Finished with a 17-8 record in September, winning the NL West and ousting the Cubs with 3 straight wins in the NLDS. Strengths: Pitching. The Dodgers led the NL with a 3.68 ERA. Speed. LA baserunners swiped 126 bases in 2008, 4th best in the league. Manager. Joe Torre went from the East coast to the West after the Yankees decided he was not in their future plans. Now, Torre has his team in the playoffs while Yankee regulars are watching on TV. Bench vets. Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra and Juan Pierre can pinch hit or fill n wherever and whenever needed. Weaknesses: Lack of power. Outside of Manny Ramirez, there isn't a lot of raw power in LA. They finished the regular season with 137 homers, 13th of 16 in the NL. Closer. Takashi Saito, the regular closer, missed much of the season due to injury, but returned in time for the playoffs, but was ineffective. Jonathan Broxton filled in down the stretch, but was shaky. He will close for Torre as Saito has been kept off the 25-man roster submitted by Torre for the playoffs. Players to watch Manny Ramirez (right): No player had such a tremendous late-season impact on any team than Ramirez. Since joining the Dodgers on August 1, Ramirez batted .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI, amassing 74 hits in 53 games. If any one player could be credited with turning the Dodgers into a playoff-capable team it was Manny. James Loney Mr. RBI for LA, Loney drove in a team high 90 runs and batted .289. A solid contact hitter with a does of power (13 HR), he struck out only 85 times in 595 at-bats. A tough out in the middle of the lineup. Rafael Furcal The veteran infielder started the season on fire, batting .366, but was sidelined on May 5 with a lower back injury that required surgery. He returned in time for the end of the season and playoffs and bats leadoff. He's speedy, but has only attempted one steal since returning Sept. 24 (7 games) and was thrown out. Hiroki Kuroda The rookie starter went 9-10 in the regular season with a 3.73 ERA, and was brilliant at times. If he has his control and breaking ball working, he can provide 7-9 innings of outstanding work.Has been named the starter for Game 3. Chad Billingsley Winningest pitcher on the staff with a 16-10 record, a 3.13 ERA and 201 Ks in 200.2 innings. Will start Game 2. Philadelphia Phillies Recent history: The Phillies captured their second straight NL East title, going 17-8 in September and whipped the Brewers, 3 games to 1, in the NLDS. Strengths: Power. The Phillies led the NL with 214 home runs, the bulk of those off the bats of Ryan Howard, who led the majors with 48, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell, who knocked 33 apiece out of the park. Speed. with 138 steals, the Phillies were third in the NL. Most of those were by leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins (47) and #2 hitter Shane Victorino (36). Bench. The versatile roster includes Pedro Feliz, Jayson Werth, Matt Stairs and Geoff Jenkins, each of whom can be plugged in as needed. Bullpen. The Phillies are blessed with an abundance of middle relievers. Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Ryan Madson are all capable of getting the ball to closer Brad Lidge, who had 41 saves, 92 Ks in 69.1 innings and an ERA of 1.95. Weaknesses: Whiffers. The three power players - Utley, Burrell and Howard - all have a tendency to swing and miss. Between them, they struck out 439 times, the worst offender being Howard, with 199. Starting Pitching. After ace Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09 ERA), there isn't much there. Brett Myers and ancient Jamie Moyer will have to step it up. Players to watch Ryan Howard (right) is the big gun in the lineup, with 48 homers and 146 RBI, he led the league in both categories. If he's on, ball will be flying over outfielders' heads and out of the park. Jimmy Rollins Outspoken and with the stats to back up his talk, Rollins is the team leader and leadoff hitter. Rollins is great at the plate in pressure situations and can hurt you with the long ball and can steal. Very steady at shortstop as well. Shane Victorino This youngster doesn't get much press, but the Phillies probably wouldn't be where they are without him. His .293 BA led all regulars. He was second on the team in hits (167) and third in runs scored (102). Chase Utley Dubbed "The Machine" by teammates, Utley's rare blend of power and consistently produced a .292 BA, 104 RBI and 33 HRs in 2008. He can - and has - hurt opponents in many ways. Capable of carrying the team alone, as he did in April and May. Cole Hamels Led the team in innings with 227.1, strikeouts (196) and all starters in ERA (3.09). The game one starter may get two more shots if the series is extended to 7 games. He is the Phillies' best defensive weapon. If he's on, a very tough guy to beat. Brad Lidge Arguably the best closer in the league, Lidge earned comeback player of the year for his outstanding season. He's simply lights out in the 9th inning. Series Schedule (all games ET) Game 1: Thu, Oct 9 8:22 pm at Philadelphia Game 2: Fri, Oct 10 4:35 pm at Philadelphia Game 3: Sun, Oct 12 8:22 pm at Los Angeles Game 4: Mon, Oct 13 8:22 pm at Los Angeles If necessary Game 5: Wed, Oct 15 8:22 pm at Los Angeles Game 6: Fri, Oct 17 8:22 pm at Philadelphia Game 7: Sat, Oct 18 8:22 pm at Philadelphia Prediction: Hamels should be better than Derek Lowe in game 1 and possibly game 4, though Joe Blanton has been solid lately and may get the start, depending on the situation. Phillies pitchers believe they can handle Ramirez, and Lidge is the best closer out there.While Joe Torre is a great manager, Charlie Manuel knows what he's got and won't hesistate to send in the relief corps. If Howard, Utley, Rollins, Burrell hit, it could be a romp. Philadelphia in 6 games.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Players of the Day from Monday, October 6, 2008 Boston 3 LA Angels 2 The Boston Red Sox turned to a rookie and a newcomer to oust the LA Angels and advance to the ALCS. Jed Lowrie - who played just 81 games for the Red Sox in his initial season - drove home Jason Bay - acquired from Pittsburgh mid-season - with the winning run in the bottom of the 9th to topping the Angels, 3-2, to win the series, 3 games to 1. Starters John Lackey and Jon Lester each pitched 7 strong innings, but Lester was better, shutting out the Angels while Lackey allowed a pair of Boston runs. The Angels tied the game in the 8th on Torii Hunter's two-run single in the 8th, but it proved to be too little, too late, as the Red Sox topped the Angels for the 12th time in their last 13 playoff meetings. The wild card Red Sox will face Tampa Bay, winners of the AL East. Tampa Bay 6 Chicago White Sox 2 B.J. Upton's solo homers in the 1st and 3rd innings gave the Tampa Bay Rays an early lead and Andy Sonnanstine and a pair of relievers made it hold up as the Rays took down the White Sox, 6-2, to advance to the AL Championship Series, 3 games to 1. Following Upton's blasts, the Rays added two runs in the 4th and single runs in the 5th and 7th. They also had an opportunity to stretch their legs. Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford each stole two bases off A.J. Pierzynski, prepping for their upcoming showdown with the Red Sox. Notes: The AL Championship Series begins Friday in Tampa at 8:30 pm ET. The series is in a 2-3-2 format in which the Rays have home field advantage. The NLCS begins Thursday in Philadelphia, with the Phillies hosting the LA Dodgers in the best-of-seven series.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Players of the Day from Sunday, October 5, 2008 LA Angels 5 Boston 4 Mike Napoli became the unlikely hero as the LA Angels staved off elimination with a 5-4, 12-inning win over the Boston Red Sox. Napoli, who also caught the entire game, handling six different pitchers, homered twice off Boston starter Josh Beckett, rapping a 2-run shot in the third and a solo blast in the 5th, sending the Red Sox hurler to an early shower. Napoli's second homer gave the Angels a 4-3 lead, but Boston tied it in the bottom of the frame and the score remained the same until the 12th inning. Napoli led off with a single, moved to second on a sac bunt and scored on Erick Abyar's single up the middle. Notes: The Angels now trail Boston 2-1 in the best-of-five series, which resumes Monday at 8:35 ET at Fenway. The same pairing that started game 1 will go, with Jon Lester heading to the hill for Boston to face the Angels' John Lackey. LA's win snapped a string of 11 straight playoff losses to the Red Sox, dating back to 1986. Chicago White Sox 5 Rays 3 Manager Jose Guillen juggled his lineup and it worked out just fine for Ken Griffey Jr., who singled twice, walked and scored the eventual game-winner as the White Sox stayed alive with a 5-3 win over the Rays. The Sox are still trailing the Rays, 2-1 in the series, which continues Monday in Chicago. Game 4 begins at 5:05 pm ET, with Chicago's Gavin Floyd facing the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine. Philadelphia 6 Milwaukee 2 The Phillies were just too much for the Brewers, taking their playoff series by a 3-1 margin. Jimmy Rollins homered to open the game, but it was Pat Burrell's three-run homer in the third and solo shot in the 8th that really put the Phillies over the top. The Phillies scored all of their runs via the long ball, as they knocked off the Brewers, 6-2. Notes: Philly now has home field advantage in the NL Championship Series against the Dodgers, starting Thursday, October 9.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Players of the Day from Saturday, October 4, 2008 Milwaukee 4 Philadelphia 1 J.J. Hardy went 3-for-4, drove in a key run in the 1st inning and scored another in the 7th as the Brewers avoided elimination with a 4-1 win over the Phillies. The Phillies still lead the series 2 games to 1, with game 4 set for Sunday at 1:07 pm ET in Milwaukee. While Hardy was scorching the ball, the Phillies' bats were mostly silent, as Milwaukee pitchers scattered 9 hits, though closer Salomon Torres ran into some trouble in the 9th, allowing three hits in the innings, though the Phillies were unable to push across a run. LA Dodgers 3 Chicago Cubs 1 The LA Dodgers knocked the Chicago Cubs out of the playoffs and advanced to the NLCS as starter Hiroki Kuroda shut out Chicago over 6 1/3 innings to lead LA past Chicago, 3-1, completing a sweep over the team that hasn't won the World Series since 1908. Kuroda scattered 6 hits and a pair of walks while fanning 4. Otherwise, it was an infielder's delight as Kuroda got 13 of 15 outs on ground balls. The Dodgers struck in the first inning for two runs - all that they'd need - when James Loney doubled home Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin. Martin was also responsible for the other LA run, doubling home Rafael Furcal in the 5th. After dominating the NL with the best record in the league, the Cubs fell completely apart against the Dodgers' surge, being outscored in the three games by a combined score of 20-6. Notes: The American League playoffs continue today, with the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox both looking to sweep. The Rays lead the White Sox, 2-0. Game 3 is scheduled to begin at 4:07 pm ET in Chicago. The Red Sox can knock out the Angels in their game 3, beginning at 7:07 pm ET at Fenway Park.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Players of the Day from Friday, October 3, 2008 American League Tampa Bay 6 Chicago White Sox 2 The Tampa Bay Rays took a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five series with the White Sox, scoring a 6-2 win Friday night in Tampa. Quality pitching has been a key to the Rays' success all season, proved by the 2 innings of stellar work turned in by middle reliever J. P. Howell. Howell came on in the top of the 7th inning, with the Rays up 3-2. Starter Scott Kazmir had lasted just 5 1/3, and Grant Balfour, who came on with one out in the 6th, ran into trouble, allowing back-to-back singles to Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko leading off the 7th. With the potential lead runs on base, Powell calmly put down the next three batters in order and worked a scoreless 8th as well, allowing only a harmless 2-out single to Orlando Cabrera while striking out the side. After the Rays put up three more runs in the bottom of the frame, Howell's night was complete. Chad Bradford came on to finish off the Sox in the ninth. Howell was 6-1 during the regular season, appearing in 64 games. Over 89 innings, Howell compiled a 2.22 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 92 Ks. The Rays and Sox get a day off prior to resumption of their series in Chicago on Sunday. Matt Garza goes for the Rays, facing Chicago's John Danks. Boston 7 LA Angels 5 J. D. Drew snapped a 5-all tie with a 2-run homer in the top of the 9th inning to give the Red Sox a 7-5 win over the Angels and a 2-0 lead in the playoff series. It was the 11th straight win for the Red Sox over the Angels in the post-season. Drew, who managed to end the game on a positive note for the Red Sox, got things started with an RBI double in the first inning and added a single for a 3-for-5 night. The Red Sox are within one win of advancing to the AL Championship Series. Game three is Sunday at Fenway. Boston ace Josh Beckett faces Joe Saunders in a do-or-die game for the Angels. Notes: The National League takes center stage on Saturday as both Philadelphia and the LA Dodgers look to advance. Both hold 2-0 leads in their series, over a pair of NL Central squads, the Brewers and Cubs, respectively.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Players of the Day from Thursday, October 2, 2008 American League Tampa Bay 6 Chicago White Sox 4 Fittingly, rookie Evan Longoria led the effort in the Rays' first ever playoff game, belting a pair of homers in Tampa Bay's 6-4 opening win over the Chicago White Sox. Longoria, the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year honors, hit solo homers in the second and third inning, and also singled in another run in the 5th inning. White Sox pitchers could not keep him off the bases. In addition to his 3-for-3 effort, Longoria also walked and stole a base. The best-of-five series continues at Tropicana Field on Friday at 6:07 pm. Mark Buehrle takes the mound for the Sox to face the Rays' Scott Kazmir Notes: The Angels and Red Sox resume their series on Friday evening in Anaheim. With Boston leading 1-0, it will be up to Ervin Santana to outduel Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka. Game time is 9:07 pm ET. National League Phillies 5 Brewers 2 The Brewers sent their stopper, C.C. Sabathia, to the hill Thursday, but that didn't faze Shane Victorino, who was a one-man wrecking crew for the Phillies. Victorino went 3-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, a grand slam home run, two stolen bases and four RBI. His stats would have included more than his one run scored if the hitters behind him - Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell - hadn't gone a collective 0-for-10. That the 3, 4, and 5 hitters in Philly's lineup didn't hit wasn't an issue as the Phillies chased Sabathia off the mound with two outs in the 4th inning. Working on three days rest, the Brewer starter simply seemed out of gas and the Phillies took advantage. With their 5-2 win over the Brewers, Philly holds a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series with game three set for late Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee (6:07 pm ET). Jamie Moyer gets the start for Philadelphia, facing the Brewers' Dave Bush. LA Dodgers 10 Chicago Cubs 3 Just like the Phillies, the Dodgers took a 2-0 series lead over the Cubs as Russell Martin delivered a key bases-clearing double in the second inning, giving the Dodgers an early 5-0 lead en route to a 10-3 thrashing of the worried Cubs. Manny Ramirez homered for the second straight game with a solo shot in the 5th, also adding an 8th inning RBI single. Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal singed three times in 6 at-bats, scored twice and drove in a pair. It was the second straight easy win for Joe Torre's Dodgers as the series now shifts to LA. Game three is Saturday night (10:07 pm ET). The Cubs will try to stay alive by sending Rich Harden to the mound to face rookie Hiroki Kiroda. Harden was acquired mid-season in a trade with Oakland. Kiroda (9-10) was brilliant at times. He tossed a 4-hit shutout against the Cubs on June 6 and twirled a 1-hit shutout over Atlanta on July 7.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Players of the Day from Wednesday, October 1, 2008 American League Boston 4 LA Angels 1 Jason Bay crunched a two-run homer in support of Jon Lester's strong 7 inning performance as the Red Sox won the opener of their playoff series with the Angels, 4-1. Bay's homer lifted the Red Sox from a 1-0 deficit and the Red Sox bullpen kept the Angels off the board for the remainder of the proceedings. Lester, who allowed an unearned run in the second inning, gave up six hits - all singles - and a walk while fanning seven. Boston's win was the 10th straight over the Angels in the playoffs and the 8th straight playoff loss for LA overall. The Angels dominated Boston during the regular season, winning 8 of 9 games. Notes: The series resumes Friday night in Anaheim with Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound for Boston, facing the Angels' Ervin Santana. National League Philadelphia 3 Milwaukee 1 Cole Hamels was at the top of his game, striking out nine batter and shutting out the Brewers over 8 innings on two hits to lead the Phillies to a 3-1 win over Milwaukee in the opener of their best-of-five playoff series. Brad Lidge, who was named NL comeback player of the year on Monday, came on for the ninth, getting the final three outs on strikeouts, but not before allowing a walk, two hits and the Brewers' only run. Hamels was a strikeout machine, getting Mike Cameron swinging to start the game and Ryan Braun swinging to end the first inning. He fanned Jason Kendall and slugger Prince Fielder twice each. For good measure, Lidge also struck out Fielder with Ryan Braun on 2nd and first base open in the ninth. The Phillies scored all of their runs in the 3rd inning on a Chase Utley 2-run double and a bases loaded walk to Shane Victorino. Though all of the runs were deemed unearned because of second baseman Ricky Weeks' one-out error, starter Brewers' starter Yovani Gallardo struggled through 4 innings, allowing 3 hits while walking 5. The Brewers and Phillies take the field again Thursday night (6:07 pm ET). C.C. Sabathia will start for Milwaukee. Philly sends Brett Myers to the mound. Sabathia has been a stud for the Brewers since coming over in a mid-season trade from Cleveland. He will be pitching on three days rest after a complete game win which clinched the wild card for the Brewers on Sunday. LA Dodgers 7 Chicago Cubs 2 The cloud hanging over the Chicago Cubs for the last 100 years just won't go away. Nursing a 2-0 lead into the fifth inning, starter Ryan Dempster managed to load the bases on walks and with two outs let James Loney take him - and the hopes of thousands of Cubs fans in attendance - out of the park with a grand slam that broke the game open. Loney's blast was just the start for the Dodgers. Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin also homered in the 7th and 9th innings. Casey Blake singled in another run in the 8th. The Cubs had no answers in the Dodgers' 7-2 romp at Wrigley. While the Dodgers had only 8 hits, 5 of them went for extra bases, three of them out of the park. Chicago collected 9 hits, but only two - a double by Aramis Ramirez and Mark DeRosa's second-inning two-run homer - were anything beyond singles. The Cubs can make amends Thursday night (9:07 pm ET) with Carlos Zambrano on the mound to face the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley. After that, it's off to LA for a pair of weekend games and back to Chicago on Tuesday, if necessary. It's been 100 years since the Cubs last won a World Series. On such an auspicious anniversary, they're still a long way from celebrating.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Players of the Day from Tuesday, September 30, 2008 American League John Danks shut out the Twins on 2 hits over 8 innings and Jim Thome launched a 7th inning solo shot to center field in the 1-0 White Sox win over Minnesota which captured the AL Central division, sending Chicago into the playoffs. The single-game playoff was played at US Cellular Field in Chicago after the White Sox won a coin flip to determine the site and beat the Tigers in a make-up game to tie the Twins for the division lead at the conclusion of the regular season. Twins' starter Nick Blackburn worked into the seventh, shutting out the White Sox until Thome delivered with one out in the bottom of the 7th. Danks worked through the 8th before giving way to closer Bobby Jenks, who retired the Twins in order in the 9th. Notes: The White Sox head south to Tampa Bay to face the Rays in a best-of-five series to see who advances to the AL Championship series. Game one is Thursday, Oct. 2. Chicago sends Javier Vazquez (12-16, 4.67) to the hill against the Rays' James Shields (14-8, 3.56). Shields is 0-1 lifetime against the Sox, but he allowed just one run on seven hits over 6 innings in his last start vs. Chicago. Vazquez is 4-5 vs. Tampa Bay. He took a loss in his last start against the Rays, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits over 7 innings in a 5-3 home loss August 23. Vazquez has not been sharp down the stretch, losing 6 of his last eight starts. He has not even completed 5 innings in any of his last three outings. In the other divisional series, the LA Angels host the Boston Red Sox Wednesday night at 10:07 pm ET. John Lackey goes to the mound for the Angels to face Boston's Jon Lester. National League Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies The Phillies host the Brewers in the opener of their best-of-five series at 3:07 pm ET. Staff ace, Cole Hamels goes for Philly, while the Brewers - due to having used up their rotation in the hotly-contested wild card race - are forced to send up Yovani Galardo, who has started just once since May 1. The Brewers plan to start C.C. Sabathia in game 2 on three days rest. Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago Cubs Ryan Dempster takes the mound for the Cubs as they open play hosting the Dodgers in the other divisional series, which has a scheduled start of 6:07 pm ET. LA sends Derek Lowe up the hill with a 2-1 lifetime mark against the Cubs. It's widely considered an uphill battle for the Dodgers, who were just 36-45 on the road this season. The Central division winning Cubs were 55-26 at Wrigley Field this season.