Friday, October 30, 2009

Yankees Even Series on Burnett Mound Effort

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 29, 2009 NY Yankees 3 Philadelphia Phillies 1 Pedro Martinez was good, but A. J. Burnett was even better, holding the Phillies to a single run over 7 solid innings, allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks, fanning 9 batters in the process, including getting Ryan Howard on strikes three times. Burnett had Phillies' hitters flailing at his exceptional curve ball, keeping them off-balance by changing speeds and staying ahead in the count. Nibbling at the corners and consistently moving the ball up and down, Burnett threw 68 of his 108 pitches for strikes and left after completing seven innings. The only run allowed by Burnett came in the 2nd inning, when Matt Stairs, hitting in the DH spot, drove in Raul Ibanez from second on a smash past 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez. Ibanez had reached on a bloop ground-rule double which bounded off the left field foul line and into the stands. Mark Teixeira tied the game with a solo home run off Martinez in the 4th inning, and a two-out, 6th inning solo shot to right field by Hideki Matsui gave New York their first lead of the series. The Yankees added another run in the 7th on Jorge Posada's RBI single, chasing Martinez before he could register an out in the frame, but the Philly relievers shut the door, keeping the game close. Mariano Rivera earned the save, pitching two innings - the 8th and 9th - allowing a hit in each inning and a walk in the 8th, but he induced a double play ball to finish the 8th and struck out Ryan Howard in the 9th, completing a poor effort by the Phillies' slugger, as he struck out in each of his 4 plate appearances. After a day off Friday, the series moves to Philadelphia on Saturday for three straight. Game 3 begins at 7:57 pm ET, with Andy Pettitte starting for the Yankees against Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, who was 7-5 with a 3.76 ERA at home in 2009. Pettitte, the ultimate big-game pitcher, with more post-season wins (16) than any other pitcher all-time, was 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA away from Yankee stadium this season.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lee, Utley, Too Much for Yankees

Players of the Day for Wednesday. October 28, 2009 Philadelphia Phillies 6 NY Yankees 1 Game 1 of the 2009 World Series went to the reigning champion Phillies, even though they were playing on the challenger's field. Cliff Lee was virtually untouchable, stopping the Yankees cold on 6 hits while twirling a complete game and striking out 10 without issuing a walk. Lee, matched against former Cleveland Indian teammate C.C. Sabathia, proved the master, blanking the Yankees over the first 8 innings of the game. The one run scored was harmless and unearned. After Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon stroked back-to-back singles to start the 9th, Mark Teixeira lashed a shot up the middle, handled by second baseman Chase Utley, who flipped to Jimmy Rollins, forcing Damon. Rollins threw wildly to first, however, allowing Jeter to score and Teixeira to stand at second. Lee (left) calmly struck ut the next two batters - Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada - to end the game as he had started it, completely in control. Utley (right) stroked two solo homers - one in the 3rd and one in the 6th - to nearly the same spot in right field to give the Phillies an early lead. Once Sabathia departed, the Phillies tacked on 2 runs in the 8th and 2 more in the 9th. The win erases home field advantage for the Yankees and sets up a nearly must-win condition for New York, as they prepare to face an old nemesis - Pedro Martinez - who will start game 2 for the Phillies. Losing two straight at home to begin a series is the kiss of death, especially since the following three games are played in the opponent's stadium. A.J. Burnett will be on the mound for the Yankees. Game time is 7:57 pm EDT.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

World Series Preview: NY Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies

The 2009 World Series begins Wednesday, October 28, at Yankee Stadium in New York with the defending world champion Phillies visiting the Yankees for the first of their seven-game series. There's little doubt that these are the two best representatives of their respective leagues, as the Yankees finished the regular season with the best record in baseball and stormed through the playoffs, beating the Twins 3 games to none and the LA Angels 4 games to 2. The Phillies easily captured the NL East by 6 games over the Florida Marlins before taking out Colorado, 3 games to 1 and the overhyped LA Dodgers for the second straight year in the NLCS, 4 games to 1, blasting LA by a combines score of 35-16 over the five game span. The Phillies wrapped up their series with the Dodgers last Wednesday, and come into the series well-rested, with a full week off. This series has all manner of story lines, such as the emergence of Alex Rodriguez as a major post-season threat, the question of whether the Yankees, with the highest salary in baseball, can finally buy their way to a World Series win, and whether the Phillies can become the first National league team to repeat since the 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds. The Game One match-up includes two pitchers who weren't with their current teams last season, and in fact were at one time teammates on the Cleveland Indians: New York's C.C. Sabathia and Philly's Cliff Lee. That pitching engagement shoudl be one of the best in recent memory, though both will be facing lineups loaded with solid power hitters. The two teams led their respective leagues in home runs, and with the smallish ballparks in New york and Philadelphia, there should be no shortage of bombs, especially to right field in both arenas. New York manager Joe Girardi will opt for the three-man rotation, with A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte following their workhorse, Sabathia, to the hill in games 2 and 3. Pedro Martinez will start game 2 for Philly, with Cole Hamels slated for game 3. Once again, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel hans't exactly tipped his hand over his game 4 starter. He could use Lee again, or opt for J. A. Happ or reliable Joe Blanton. Besides Rodriguez, players to watch on the Yankee side are, naturally, leadoff hitter Derek Jeter, along with first baseman Mark Teixeira, who struggled mightily under playoff pressure thus far. Others who will have impact on the outcomes are catcher Jorge Posada, who is tough in the clutch and has home run power, and Robinson Cano, whose smooth stroke adds pop at the bottom of the lineup. For the Phillies, the goal is to get Ryan Howard to the plate with runners aboard as often as possible. Howard was among the home run and RBI leaders in the NL, and was a monster at the plate in the playoffs. Batting ahead of him are Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley, three of the best contact hitters in the game. If Howard doesn't get the job done, Yankee pitchers will have to deal with Jayson Werth, who is likely the most improved player from last season on either team. He has demonstrated extreme power at the plate and a tendency to deliver in the clutch, both at bat and in the field. Further down the Phillies' order are more maulers, in the form of Raul Ibanez, who can be a one-man gang when he's hot, and catcher Carlos Ruiz, who emerged during the playoffs as a steady, if not spectacular, performer. Much has been made of the bullpen dilemma facing the Phillies, especially in closer Brad Lidge, ho encountered a series of blown saves late in the regular season, but seems to have found his best form in the NLCS. What may be more of a problem for both teams is the middle relief. Both teams struggled to get to their closers, but the Yankees seemed pressured when they had to use either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes. Once past them, Mariano Rivera, arguably the best closer ever, is generally nails in the final innings. This should be a series full of fireworks, and if any of the games are low-scoring, it would be when either or both Sabathia and Lee are on the mound, but even then, each of these squads are capable of multi-run innings, home run barrages and scores of 10 runs or more. A couple of 12-10 or 11-7 games would surprise nobody. In the final analysis, the Phillies actually look like the better team. They all, except Ibanez, have World Series experience from last season, and can draw on that to guide them through the games. All of the pressure is on the Yankees. They have to prove they can win it all. The Phillies already have their rings, but they'll have to be dragged down, beaten and bloodied before they relinquish their title. They have slightly better hitting overall and maybe even an edge in starting pitching due to the depth of their staff. If Cole Hamels and Jayson Werth come up big, this series could be over in 5 games, but it will more than likely go to the Phillies in 6. If it goes to seven games, the Yankees have a fighting chance, being that they'll have home field, and that's the only way the Yankees win it, in seven.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pettitte Pitches Yankees Past Angels, Into World Series

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 25, 2009 NY Yankees 5 LA Angels 2 When the Yankees have needed a big game to close out a series, more often than not, they've had reliable Andy Pettitte ready for a championship effort. He was there in the late 90s when the Yankees won the World Series three times in four tries and he was there on Sunday night, a day after torrential rains had forced game 6 to be played a day later. Matched up against the Angels' Joe Saunders, Pettitte proved to be as solid as ever in the clutch, working 6 1/3 innings of exceptional pitching, allowing the Angels just one run on 7 hits while striking out 6. Pettitte won for the 16th time in the post-season, a major league record, passing John Smoltz, who has 15 post-season wins. The Yankees scored 3 times in the 4th inning, highlighted by Johnny Damon's 2-run single and Alex Rodriguez's bases-loaded walk. After the Angels scored their second run of the game in the top of the 8th to close to 3-2, New York responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning as the Angels fell apart defensively, mishandling two sacrifice bunts. Howie Kendrick dropped the ball when covering first base on Nick Swisher's sac bunt, and Scott Kazmir tossed the ball over Hendrick's head when Melky Cabrera laid down another bunt. The miscues resulted in two unearned Yankee runs and seemed to signal an end for the Angels, who went down meekly in the ninth with super-saver Mariano Rivera closing out the game. The Yankees closed out the ALCS, winning 4 games to 2 over the Angels, and head to the World Series to face the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies. Game One is scheduled for Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. Probable pitchers are C.C. Sabathia for New York and Cliff lee for Philadelphia.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Angles Send ALCS Back to New York

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 22, 2009 LA Angels 7 NY Yankees 6 Down 3 games to 1 and facing elimination, the LA Angels put on a gutsy performance to take game 5 of the ALCS and send the series back to New York for game 6 and a possible game 7. John Lackey pitched admirably for the Angels, keeping the Yankees' powerful lineup in check through 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. Leading 4-0 in the 6th with the bases loaded and 2 outs, manager Mike Scioscia nearly made the managerial gaffe of the playoff season, lifting Lackey for reliever Darren Oliver, who immediately - on his very first pitch - surrendered a bases-clearing double to Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira, cutting the lead to 1 run. The Yankees were hardly through, however, scoring 3 more runs in the inning to take a 6-4 lead. LA battled back in the bottom half of the frame with three runs of their own, reclaiming the lead at 7-6, and keeping it with solid relief in the final two innings of Yankee at-bats. In the middle of both Angel scoring outbursts, was center fielder Torii Hunter (left). when the Angels jumped on Yankee starter A.J. Burnett for 4 runs in the first, it was Hunter's single which drove in the first two runs and Hunter who scored the third. In the fateful bottom of the 7th, Hunter worked a two-out walk off Phil Hughes with one run already in, to keep the rally alive. He later scored the final and go-ahead run on Kendry Morales' single to right. Hunter reached base every time he stepped to the plate, drawing two walks and singling twice. He scored two runs and drove in a pair. The series now shifts back to yankee Stadium, where the Yankees will try to wrap it up when Andy Pettitte starts against Angel hurler Joe Saunders. Game time is 8:07 pm EDT on Saturday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Phillies Spank Dodgers, 10-4, Win NLCS 4 Games to 1

Players of the Day for Wednesday, October 21, 2009 Philadelphia Phillies 10 LA Dodgers 4 It wasn't even close. When it came down to it, LA's pitching staff was no match for the bludgeoning of the Phillies' hitters, who outscored their West coast counterparts, 35-16, over the course of five games. The only game the Dodgers won was a 2-1 decision in game 2, in which the Philadelphia bullpen gave away a superb 7 innings of shutout work by Pedro Martinez. Other than that gaffe, the average winning margin for the Phillies was 5 runs. It really was as one-sided as the 4 games to 1 margin indicates. The Phillies got on the board early against LA starter Vicente Padilla. After Cole Hamels gave up a 1st inning home run to Andre Ethier, the Phils responded with 3 runs of their own, all of them on a massive blast by Jayson Werth (left), who also singled and scored in the 4th and launched a solo shot in the 7th to go 3-for-4 with two homers, 4 RBI and 3 runs. Philadelphia scored all of their runs on just 8 hits, thanks to 3 hit batsmen (Jimmy Rollins twice) and 4 walks issued by LA hurlers. 6 of Philly's hits went for extra bases, including home runs by Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino. Ryan Howard's streak of consecutive RBI post-season games was snapped at 8, tying him with Lou Gehrig and Alex Rodriguez, but Howard was named the series MVP. Howard batted .333 over the five-game span, with 2 homers, a double, a triple and 8 RBI. The Phillies advance to their second straight World Series, hoping to repeat against either the LA Angels or the Yankees. New York leads the series 3 games to 1, with a chance to wrap it up tonight in LA. The last National League to repeat as world champions was the 1975 and 1976 Cincinnati Reds, who beat Boston in 1975 and the Yankees in 1976.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rodriguez, Sabathia, Cabrera Lead Yankees to 10-1 Triumph Over Angels

Players of the Day for Tuesday, October 20, 2009 NY Yankees 10 LA Angels 1 The New York Yankees took a 3 games to 1 lead in the ALCS best-of-seven series, making New York's first trip to the World Series since 2003 a near certainty. The Yankees need just one more win to earn the right to move on, and it could happen as early as Thursday, when A.J. Burnett faces John Lackey in Game 5 at 7:57 pm EDT in Anaheim. Should the Angels win that game, the Yankees would still have two more chances at home to return the pennant to New York. If necessary, games 6 and 7 are slated for Saturday and Sunday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees didn't take much time to get to LA starter Scott Kasmir, who was in trouble from the very first batter. Derek Jeter singled to lead off the game, but was caught stealing, helping Kasmir escape unscathed. Kasmir lasted only into the 5th inning, throwing 90 pitches, as the relentless Yankee batters kept the pressure on and eventually broke through for a run in the 4th, when Alex Rodriguez scored on a fielder's choice grounder to second by Robbie Cano. Melky Cabrera, the #9 hitter in the lineup, drove in two more with a single stroked to left field, putting the Yankees up 3-0. In the 5th, after Kazmir walked Mark Teixeira and was pulled, Rodriguez greeted reliever Joe Mulder with his 5th post-season home run and third of this series, giving the Yankees a 5-0 lead and essentially settling the matter right there. C.C. Sabathia, pitching on three day's rest, dominated the Angels, allowing just 5 hits and one run, which came on Kendry Morales' solo home run in the 5th. Sabathia was never in trouble and needed only 101 pitches to completely throttle the Angels over his 8 innings of work, walking two and fanning five. After the Yankees added 2 runs in the 8th and 3 more in the 9th, Cad Gaudin mopped up with a perfect 9th inning to end the game. Melky Cabrera finished 3-for-4 with 4 RBI, but the night belonged to A-Rod, who went 3-for-4, with a double and his homer, 2 RBI, 3 runs and a stolen base. Rodriguez leads all Yankee regulars with a .375 batting average.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Phillies and Angels Win with Identical 5-4 Walk-offs

Players of the Day for Monday, October 19, 2009 LA Angels 5 NY Yankees 4, 11 innings The Yankees and Angles played their second straight extra-innings game, but this time the Angels came out on top, as Jeff Mathis drove home Howie Kendrick with the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning. Mathis, inserted into the lineup to replace starting catcher Mike Napoli, who was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 7th, finished with 2 hits in 2 at-bats and the most important RBI of the game. New York took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the 5th on solo homers by Derek Jeter (1st inning), Alex Rodriguez (4th) and Johnny Damon (5th), but LA nibbled away with a run in the bottom of the 5th, two more in the 6th and another single run in the 7th to take a 4-3 lead. The game was tied in the 8th when Jorge Posada belted a solo shot to center, setting up the dramatic finish in extra innings. The win was crucial to the Angels' cause, clipping the Yankee lead to 2 games to 1, instead of what could have been an insurmountable 3-0 lead for the Bombers. The series resumes on Tuesday night at 7:57 pm EDT in Los Angeles. Scott Kazmir will start for LA, while C.C. Sabathia goes to the mound on three days rest for the Yankees. Philadelphia Phillies 5 LA Dodgers 4 Mr. Dependable came through in the clutch, putting the Phialdelphia Phillies one game away from capturing their second straight National League pennant. Jimmy Rollins stroked a two-out double into the right-center gap off reliever Jonathan Broxton, sending Eric Bruntlett and Carlos Ruiz to the plate with the tying and winning runs. The come-from-behind win put the Phillies in a commanding position, with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Rollins had earlier scored the game's first run, opening with a single and coming home on Ryan Howard's second home run of the series. Howard's 2 RBI extended his post-season steak to 8 games in which he has driven in at least one run, a major league record. The series takes a day off Tuesday. Game 5 is slated for 8:07 pm on Wednesday. Clayton Kershaw will face Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Phillies Sock Dodgers, 11-0, for 2-1 Lead in NLCS

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 18, 2009 Philadelphia Phillies 11 LA Dodgers 0 Merely 20 minutes after game 3 had started, it was essentially over. The Philadelphia Phillies exploded for 4 runs in the first inning off LA starter Hiroki Kuroda en route to a resounding 11-0 victory. Kuroda, who hadn't pitched since the 22nd of September, got the first batter, Jimmy Rollins, on a routine fly ball, but ran into immediate trouble when Shane Victorino (left) singled, stole second and took third base on Chase Utley's scratch single. Ryan Howard, who came into the game with a post-season streak of at least one RBI in every game (9 in 6 games), extended the run with a slicing liner down the first-base line, driving in Victorino and Utley, eventually sliding head-first into third base with his ifrst post-season triple. The next batter, Jayson Werth, took Kuroda out of the park, driving the ball over the center field wall to the deepest part of the ball park for a 2-run homer. Five batters, four runs, and with Cliff lee on the mound for Philly, game over. Lee went 8 innings, allowing just 3 hits and no walks while striking out 10. He also singled in the 8th and scored on Victorino's 3-run homer, which accounted for the final runs of the game. Catcher Carlos Ruiz continued his red-hot hitting with a single, double, RBI and two runs, but Victorino had the stats sheet of the night, going 2-for-3 with 2 walks, a single, homer, 2 runs, 3 RBI and a stolen base. So efficient was the Philly win that every starter, including Lee, scored a run. Only Raul Ibanez (0-for-3) did not get at least one hit. Philadelphia scored all 11 runs on 11 hits, leaving only 6 runners on base. With the Phillies ahead 2 games to 1 in the series, game 4 is slated for Monday night 8:07 pm EDT in Los Angeles. Dodger starter Randy Wolf will try to slow the Phillies' momentum. Joe Blanton goes up the hill for the Phillies.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Yankees Win One for the Ages, Take 2-0 Lead in ALCS

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 17, 2009 NY Yankees 4 LA Angels 3, 13 innings At the center of the storm again was Alex Rodriguez. When the Angels scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning, Rodriguez delivered the blow that may have turned this series from a close call into a rout - maybe even a sweep - for the Yankees when he homered to lead off the bottom half of the inning. The Angels had called on their closer, Brian Fuentes, to get the final three outs and steal away home-field advantage by taking game 2 of the seven-game ALCS. An Angels win would have tied the series at 1-1 with three games in LA upcoming. Alex Rodriguez, however, had other plans. He belted an 0-2 pitch just over the wall in right field for an opposite-field, game-tying, series-changing home run. The Yankees were back in the game. After Fuentes retired the three batters after Rodriguez, the teams traded missed opportunities in the 12th inning. Rodriguez came up again in the bottom of the 12th with 2 outs and the bases loaded, but this time flied harmlessly to center to end the inning. The Yankees won the game in the bottom of the 13th when Jerry Hairston Jr. bolted home on a throwing error by Maicer Izturis, who tried to go to second after ranging far towards first base to field Melky Cabrera's ground ball. The throw was inside the bag and out of the reach of shortstop Erick Aybar and skipped into short left field. Hairston, who had singled and taken second on Brett Gardner's sacrifice bunt, was already bolting toward third base on contact, and scored easily as the Angels had no chance of getting him at the plate. Isturis' error was an attempt to force Robinson Cano at second. Cano had been intentionally walked with one out to set up the force situation. It was the second error of the game and 5th of the series by the Angels, and they have proven costly. The series heads to Los Angeles, where the weather will assuredly be much better than it was for the two games in New York. Scheduled starters for the 4:13 pm EDT Monday get-together are Andy Pettitte for the Yankees and Jered Weaver for the Angels. Pettitte needs one more win to surpass John Smoltz for career post-season wins. Pettitte won for the 15th time - tying him with Smoltz - with a 6 2/3 inning effort in the Yankees' ALDS clincher over the Twins last week. Weaver is 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 3 post-season starts, all of them in divisional series play. This will be his first championship series start.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yankees, Sabathia Dominate for Game 1 Win; Phillies Hand Dodgers Game 2 Gift

Players of the Day for Friday, October 16, 2009 NY Yankees 4 LA Angels 1 C.C. Sabathia was brilliant in the opening game of the ALCS, working over the Angels' batters in less-than-ideal chilly temperatures at Yankee Stadium Friday night. Limiting the punchless and error-prone Angels to 4 hits and 1 measly earned run over 8 spectacular innings, Sabathia was everything a money pitcher could want to be: cool, confident, in control, dominant, and nearly impossible to figure out. The big man had everything working his way, especially having the lead, which the Yankees got when Alex Rodriguez drove in Derek Jeter with one out in the first inning on a sac fly, and the Angels infielders botched a sure third out when Chome Figgins and Erick Aybar played "you got, no, I got it," allowing Hideki Matsui's high pop up to fall harmlessly between them as Johnny Damon scampered home from second base with run number two. Sabathia, who struck out 7 and issued just one free pass, had the Angels in his pocket all night. Only two Angels reached second base, and just one, Vlaidimir Guerrero, made it to third. He scored after doubling with one out in the 4th inning, moving to third on Juan Rivera's ground out and trotted home on Kendry Morales' two-out single, but that was all the offense the Angels could muster. As Sabathia was cruising, the Yankees added single runs in the 5th and 6th innings. After setting down the side in order in the 8th, Sabathia, who looked as though he could have easily finished the game, relinquished the mound to Mr. Sandman, Mariano Rivera, who issued one walk, but otherwise recorded the final three outs without much fuss. The Angels committed three errors in the game, which was unusual for them, a very solid fielding team, but the Yankees looked every bit as good as they had all season, taking a 1-0 lead in the series into Saturday, when A.J. Burnett will go up the hill against the Angels' Joe Saunders. Game time is set for 7:57 pm in the Bronx, but the weather is supposed to deteriorate with cold winds and rain in the forecast. LA Dodgers 2 Philadelphia Phillies 1 The Dodgers got a gift in game 2 of their NLDS series with the Cardinals and were handed another one in game 2 of the NLCS. After Pedro Martinez dazzled the Dodgers on 2 hits over 7 innings, leaving with a 1-0 lead, the Phillie bullpen could not get out of the 8th inning before surrendering 2 runs, the lead and the game. The 8th frame debacle was highlighted by a Chase Utley throwing error to first on a sure double-play ball that would have left Juan Pierre on third base with two outs and the lead still intact. Instead, Pierre trotted home with the game-tying run and Russell Martin, who had grounded to short and forced out Ronnie Belliard, stood at first with just one out. After Jim Thome singled Martin over to third, Rafael Furcal walked, loading the bases, but Matt kemp struck out swinging at a 3-2 pitch. J.A. Happ, the 4th Phillies pitcher of the inning, walked Andre Ethier, forcing in Russell with the game winner. Chad Durbin, the 5th pitcher of the inning, got Manny Ramirez to pop out on one pitch with the bases still loaded to end the threat, but by then, the Dodgers had done enough damage and their relievers mopped up the final 3 outs in the Phillies' half of the 9th. Overlooked in all of the 8th inning frenzy, was the fact that the Dodgers were only in a position to win thanks to Vicente Padilla, who nearly matched Martinez pitch-for-pitch, giving up a solo homer to - who else - Ryan Howard, and limiting Philadelphia to just the one run on 4 hits over seven superb innings. It was Padilla's second straight strong outing, fanning 7 and walking just one. Padilla pitched the NLDS clincher on Sunday in St. Louis, beating the Cardinals with 7 innings of scoreless ball. Padilla was acquired from the Texas Rangers off waivers in August and is now 5-0 with the Dodgers. He did not get a decision, though he certainly earned one, as did Martinez. Game 3 is set for 8:07 pm Sunday night in Philadelphia, Hideki Kuroda starts for the Dodgers against Philly's ace, Cliff Lee.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Phillies Capture Game 1 in LA

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 15, 2009 Philadelphia 8 LA Dodgers 6 It took just three swings of Philadelphia bats to drive in all the runs the Phillies would need to win game 1 and take home-field advantage away from the Dodgers. Trailing 1-0, after James Loney homered for LA in the second inning off Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz took a high fastball from Clayton Kershaw deep to right field for a three run homer, giving the Phillies a 3-1 lead. That was the first big swing. After Jimmy Rollins reached on a fielder's choice and took second and third on wild pitches by Kershaw, Chase Utley walked, setting up the second big swing, this time by none other than Ryan Howard, who laced a double into the right field corner, driving in both Rollins and Utley. All of a sudden, the Phillies led, 5-1. LA battled back in the bottom of the inning, finally getting to Hamels on an Andre Ethier fielder's choice which scored Russell martin from third, and a two-run blast off the bat of Manny Ramirez, which brought the Dodgers back to within a run. In the 8th, after Dodger reliever George Sherrill had walked both Howard and Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez delivered the final, devastating swing for the Phillies, depositing the ball in the right field stands for an 8-4 Philadelphia lead. Ibanez (right) finished the game 2-for-4 with 3 RBI and 2 runs. The Dodgers again responded, getting two runs off Philly reliever Ryan Madsen, but it was the closest they would come, as Brad Lidge struggled through the 9th, allowing a single and giving up a walk, but, helped by a double play (Utley-Rollins-Howard), closed out the inning, nailing down the save and the Philadelphia win. Game 2 is slated for Friday, at 4:07 pm EDT in LA. Pedro Martinez will take the hill for the Phillies against LA's Vicente Padilla.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

ALCS Breakdown: NY Yankees vs. LA Angels

ALCS: NY Yankees vs. LA Angels HITTING: The Yankees had seven players with 20 or more home runs during the regular season, and that doesn't include Derek Jeter, who finished with 18, so the Yanks have legitimate power all the way through the lineup. As a team, New York led the majors with 244 home runs, and finished second overall in batting average, at an incredible .283. The team ahead of them is the Angels, at .285. Amazingly, the two teams finished tied for the most hits in the majors: 1604. Despite the home run disparity (Angels hit 173), the Yankees finished with just 20 more RBI than LA, so there isn't much of an edge at the hitting side of the plate. The big bats for New York are Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, who can put the ball out of any park. Johnny Damon is also a very dangerous hitter in the #2 slot, with ability to go yard on pulled pitches to right field. At the top of the order is Derek Jeter, who had a career year and provides a solid bat (.334) to get things going for the Yankees. Relying more on speed, timely hitting and solid baserunning instead of power, the Angels match up well with New York. The home run hitters are sprinkled through the middle of the order. Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales all have good power to all fields. Juan Rivera had 25 long balls and catcher Mike Napoli pitched in 20. PITCHING: The Yankees are statistically better than the Angels, but the playoffs come down to starting pitching, middle relief and closers, and it's pretty tight. C.C. Sabathia is the best starter on either staff and he will match up against the Angels' John Lackey in the opener. on Friday night in New York. Edge to New York there, but only slightly. Lackey is as experienced as they come, with plenty of grit. The Yankee lineup does have the ability to maul him, however. In game two, A.J. Burnett goes against LA's Jered Weaver. Burnett has not lived up to his potential in NY, and Weaver is the more consistent of the two, so game 2 could easily go to the Yankees. If Weaver doesn't start game 2, Joe Saunders will, and it will be a more even match-up. In game 3, Andy Pettitte will face either Weaver or Saunders, and game 4 gets a little sketchy for New York. Depending on the scheduling (currently rain forecast for both Friday and Saturday in NY), the Yankees may try to go with a three-man rotation. Joba Chamberlain has been ineffective and the other options aren't that attractive. Phil Hughes has been a solid middle reliever, but using him as a starter could be costly in other games. Righty Alfredo Aceves will probably get the ball if there is a need for a 4th man. whoever it is, he will be facing Scott Kazmir, who is solid and has post-season experience from last season with the Rays. The Angels probably have better middle relief, and believe it or not, Brian Fuentes had more saves this season than Mariano Rivera, 48-44. Fuentes led the league in saves, but Rivera had a better season, with only two blown opportunities and a 1.76 ERA compared to Fuentes' 3.93. BOTTOM LINE: This is about as close a match-up as one could want. The Yankees have that power game, and may be able to overpower the Angels for a couple of wins, but, if it comes down to pitching, the lack of a reliable 4th starter could become a major issue. In any case, after Sabathia, the Angels may actually have the better starters. At the very least, they have four good ones. If this series doesn't go 7 games, it would be a surprise. The Yankees have traditionally had trouble with the Angels in the post-season, but they took 2 of 3 from them on their last West coast swing in September. The season series was a 5-5 tie. If there is any advantage, it's either the management edge Mike Scioscia has over Joe Girardi, or the sheer magnificence of Alex Rodriguez, who quietly had an MVP season after missing all of April and part of May, plus the determination of Jeter. When it comes down to it, the Yankees are probably more talented and want this one more (A-Rod's never won World Series), so I'll call it Yankees in 7.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NLCS Playoff Perspective: Phillies vs. Dodgers

NLCS Preview: Philadelphia Phillies vs. LA Dodgers The Phillies head West to take on the Dodgers in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series beginning Thursday, Oct. 15. First pitch is slated for 8:07 pm EDT (5:07 Pacific). These are the same two teams which met in last year's NLCS, won by Philadelphia, 4 games to 1. The Dodgers captured home-field advantage with the best record in the NL at 95-67. The Phillies were close, and could have done better than their record of 93-65, if not for the many blown saves from their bullpen, especially the nine by closer Brad Lidge. PITCHING: OK, the Phillies have Cliff Lee and Jason Hamels as legitimate 1-2 starters, or, judging by Hamels body of work this season, maybe just a 1. And that shouldn't be a huge edge for Philadelphia. After all, the Cardinals boasted two starters who are each legitimate Cy young candidates, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. The Dodgers beat them both, though, in deference to Wainwright, his loss was the cause of Holliday's butchering a nnth-inning, two-out fly ball and the inexcusable mound self-destruction of Cardinal closer, Ryan Franklin. Following their top two, however, the Phillies have good choices: Pedro Martinez, proven veteran Joe Blanton, and firebrand rookie J.A. Happ. That a legitimate starting five when only four are needed. How manager Charlie Manuel manages his arms roster will be key. There's also Brett Myers, Scott Eyre, Ryan Madsen and closer Brad Lidge, whose blow save gaffes this season are legendary, as, "in the past." Lidge looked just fine closing the finale in Colorado, and if he's on his game, it's lights out in the 9th inning, though that's no sure bet. The Dodgers stating rotation is Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, and Vicente Padilla, followed tentatively by Chad Billingsly, who used to be LA's #1, but lost his control somewhere this summer, not having won since August 18. He went 0-5 in his final 8 starts and hasn't been able to find the strike zone consistently. If he was right, this may be a much different scenario, but he's not. None of the LA starters are particularly overpowering, though Kershaw has been very game. Padilla found playoff magic in his win over the Cardinals in Game 3, and there's a legitimate question as to whether he'll be able to repeat that performance. The Dodger bullpen is a strength. Jeff Weaver, Ronald Belisario and Hong-Shih Kuo handle the middle to late innings, and Jonathan Broxton and George Sherrill have been interchangeable as closers. That gives manager Joe Torre tremendous flexibility. Edge: Phillies have the starters, but the Dodgers have a better bullpen. BATTING: Hands down, no team in the league is better at the plate than the Phillies. Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley and Jatson Werth all banged more than 30 homers apeice during the season, led by Howard's 45. All of these guys, except ibanez, have playoff and World Series experience. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino at the top of the lineup are dangerous hitters in their own right and each can steal bases when needed. The Phillies want to beat your pitcher's brains in by the fifth inning, and they did just that many times in 2009. LA led the legue in batting average, at .270, compared to the Phillies' pedestrian number, .258, but the Phillies hit 79 more homers (224-145) and drove in 47 more runs (788, tops in the NL). The Dodgers have plenty of offense, especially if Manny Ramirez gets into a groove. Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andre Ethier can all deliver big, clutch hits, and did so in the NLDS. Russell Martin, Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard and leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal complete their usual lineup. Everybody is good with a bat, which will make life tough for Philly pitchers. BOTTOM LINE: It's raw power vs. questionable pitching, and in games 1 and 2, give the Phillies excellent starting pitching to boot. Very tough to see how the Dodgers can turn last season's 4-1 beat-down into a 4-3 win. The Phillies are a veteran squad with a killer lineup. Jayson Werth has emerged this season as a legitimate All-Star and LA pitching will be overmatched, both on the mound and by the hitters. The Phillies won't give LA any gift wins, as did the Cardinals, so this one goes no further than 6 games, 4 of which will be Philly wins. Expect a couple of good pitching turns and a couple of old fashioned 10-4 or 9-3 beatings.

Phillies Complete Playoff Picture

Players of the Day for Monday, October 12, 2009 American League There were no AL games on Monday. A preview of the ALCS between the NY Yankees and LA Angels will be posted on Wednesday. The series begins Friday in New York. National League Philadelphia Phillies 5 Colorado Rockies 4 Just when it looked like the Rockies and Phillies would be heading back to Philadelphia for Game 5, the top of the Phillies batting order changed everything, propelling the Phillies to their second straight NLCS, in which they will face the LA Dodgers beginning Thursday, October 15, in Los Angeles. Starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Cliff Lee staged an impressive pitcher's duel through the first seven innings, with the Phillies ahead 2-1 on solo homers by Shane Victorino (1st inning) and Jayson Werth (5th). The Rockies came through in the 7th after a throwing error - charged to Jimmy Rollins - by Chase Utley, allowed Dexter Fowler to reach second base safely on a dribbler by Todd Helton. Lee was replaced by Ryan Madsen, who induced a fly ball out from Troy Tulowitzki. Jason Giambi followed with an RBI single, and Yorvit Torrealba doubled both Helton and Giambi home with a doubled to the right center gap. All of a sudden, the Rockies led, 4-2. The Phillies, however, were far from done. The team that led the league in come-from-behind victories during the regular season got going on a ground single by Jimmy Rollins with one in in the ninth off closer Huston Street. Rollins was forced out at second on Victorino's fielder's choice, but then, with two outs, Street couldn't close out Chase Utley, walking him to put runners on first and second. Ryan Howard, the Phillies best RBI man, laced a Street offering off the wall in right field, sending both runners scampering home, tying the score. With Howard on 2nd, Werth dropped a soft liner into shallow right center, and Howard arrived with the winning run. The Rockies responded in the 9th, putting runners on 1st and 2nd off Scott Eyre, but Brad Lidge came on to get Troy Tulowitzki on a swinging thrid strike to end the game and the series, with the Phillies taking 3 of 4. Philadelphia will head to Los Angeles for the start of the seven-game NLCS, beginning Thursday. Baseball on Deck will post a series breakdown later today.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Angels KO Red Sox; Yankees Sweep; Phillies Give Rockies Cold Shoulder

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 11, 2009 American League LA Angels 7 Boston Red Sox 6 - After 7 innings of game 3, it looked like the red Sox were about to embark on one of their patented post-season comebacks. Trailing the Angels, 2 games to none, Boston took a 5-2 lead into the 8th inning, but were undone by the LA bats, especially Vlaimir Guerrero and Bobby Abreu (left), who both scored on Juan Rivera's clutch single in the top of the inning cutting Boston's lead to 5-4. Boston came back with a run in the bottom of the frame, but the Angels erupted for 3 in the 9th off Jonathan Papebon, who gave up Rivera's single in the prior inning. Papelbon got the first two outs of the inning, but could not escape, as Abreu doubled home one run and galloped home with the game winner behind Chone Figgins on Guerrero's single to center. Abreu finished 3-for-5 for the game, with an RBI and 2 runs. After walking 4 times in game 1, Abreau went 5-for-9 over the next two games for a .556 batting average. Brian Fuentes set down the Red Sox in order in the 9th, sending the Angels to the AL Championship for the first time since 2005. NY Yankees 4 Minnesota Twins 1 - The NY Yankees completed their sweep of the Twins, closing out the series - and the Metrodome - with a classic pitching performance from Andy Pettitte and key contributions from his battery-mate, Jorge Posada. Pettitte blanked the Twins for the first five innings, but was touched up for a run in the 6th, the only Minnesota score or the game. After Joe Mauer singled home Denard Span, Pettitte quickly disposed of Michael Cuddyer with a strikeout, ending the threat and the inning. In the top of the 7th, Alex Rodriguez and Posada each hit solo homers for a 2-1 Yankee lead, allowing Pettitte to start the 7th by fanning Jason Kubel. With the win in hand, Pettitte was relieved by Joba Chamberlain, who finished the inning. Phil Hughes ran into trouble in the 8th, but, as is the usual case, Mariano Rivera came in to slam the door shut and worked the 9th after the Yankees tacked on another couple of runs on RBI singles by Posada and Robby Cano. Thus, the Yankees advance to the AL Championship to face the LA Angels. New York, by virtue of the best record in baseball, has home field advantage in the 7-game series which begins on Friday in New York. Pettitte earned his 15th post-season win, tying him with John Smoltz for the most all-time. National League Philadelphia Phillies 6 Colorado Rockies 5 - Ryan Howard drove in Jimmy Rollins with a sac fly in the top of the 9th, giving the Phillies a one-run lead, and Brad Lidge, despite issuing a couple of walks, made it stand up as the Phillies took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series at Colorado. With temperatures below the freezing mark through most of the game, players had a tough time just keeping warm, but Howard, who had singled home a run in the 4th inning, had the hot bat at the right time. Rockies' pitchers had a difficult time keeping Chase Utley off the bases as well. Utley hit a solo homer in the first and added a pair of singles in 4 at-bats. He also walked once and scored two of Philadelphia's runs. Game 4 is set for 6:07 pm EDT Monday. Ubaldo Jiminez goes to the mound for the Rockies to face the hero of game 1, Cliff Lee. Temperatures are expected to moderate into the 50s by game time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ethier, Dodgers Sweep Cards, Advance to NLCS

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 10, 2009 American League There were no AL games on Saturday. Sunday, the Yankees play at Minnesota and the Angels are at Boston. Both the Yankees and Angels hold 2-0 leads in their best-of-five series and can wrap them up with wins. National League The scheduled night game between the Rockies and Phillies at Colorado was cancelled due to weather conditions (snow, cold) and will be played at 10:07 pm EDT on Sunday. Pedro Martinez was scratched by the Phillies in favor of rookie left-hander J.A. Happ, who gets to start against Colorado's Jason Hammels. LA Dodgers 5 St. Louis Cardinals 1 - After crashing and burning in the 9th inning of game 2, it was probably inevitable that the Dodgers were going to advance out of this series, so St. Louis did the honorable thing and basically didn't show up for game 3. Accordingly, Dodger starter Vicente Padilla produced his longest outing since July, going 7 full innings, and had his best game since May, allowing just 4 hits, no earned runs and one walk, while striking out 4. With Padilla throwing 69 of 96 pitches for strikes, the stunned Cardinal batters could only manage mostly ground outs (12 of them) and appeared to be playing in a state of self-imposed denial. Albert Pujols, after going 1-for-6 in the first two games, finally came through with an RBI, driving home Julio Lugo in the bottom of the 8th, but by then the Dodgers had built a 5-0 lead on the strength of Manny Ramirez (3-for-5, 2 doubles, 2 RBI) and Andre Ethier (left), who banged the ball all around Busch Stadium, coming up a single short of hitting for the cycle, with a double, triple and a two-run homer. Ethier scored twice and finished the series 6-for-12, with 2 doubles, a triple, 2 homers, 3 RBI and 5 runs. It was rumored that Ethier was also selling popcorn in the stands between innings. With the Dodgers completing the unlikely sweep of the Cardinals, they will have plenty of time to prepare for their next opponent, either the Rockies or Phillies. With that series tied 1-1, the earliest it could end would be Monday night, with the NL Championship Series scheduled to start on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weaver Pitches Angels to 2-0 Lead; Yankees Win in 11

Players of the Day for Friday, October 9, 2009 American League NY Yankees 4 Minnesota Twins 3, 11 innings - The Yankees beat the Twins for the 9th straight time in 2009, putting Minnesota on the brink of elimination, down 2 games to 0 in the best-of-five series, which heads to the Metrodome for game 3. Mark Teixeira delivered a solo homer in the bottom of the 11th inning to snap the 3-3 tie and send Yankee Stadium into a frenzy, but it was Alex Rodriguez who made his teammate's heroics possible, driving in all three Yankee runs with a single in the 6th which pushed across Derek Jeter and a 2-run bomb off Minnesota closer Joe Nathan in the 9th, which sent the game into extra frames. Roriguez is batting a cool .500 over the first two games, with a home run and 5 RBI. Game 3 is Sunday in Minnesota. Starting pitchers for the 7:07 pm EDT start are Andy Pettitte for NY and Carl Pavano, a Yankee cast-off, for the Twins. The Yankees can close out the series with a win. LA Angels 4 Boston Red Sox 1 - For all the swagger and supposed advantage the Red Sox had coming into this series with the Angels, the results have been almost exactly the opposite of what Boston fans thought would happen. For the second night in a row, the Red Sox bats were silenced by exceptional starting and relief pitching as the Angels took a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-five series. Jered Weaver allowed two hits and issued two walks in 7 1/3 innings, limiting the Red Sox to just one earned run while fanning seven. The only run came in the 4th, when Victor Martinez singled home Jacoby Elsbury to give Boston a brief 1-0 lead. The Angels countered with a run in the bottom half of the inning, then added three more when they finally got to Boston starter Josh Beckett and used their speed to build an insurmountable lead. The 7th was Beckett's undoing and also exposed Boston's inability to keep base runners in check. The 3-run inning included a walk, a hit batsmen, two steals of second base, a single and a triple. By the time it was over Beckett was in the clubhouse and the Red Sox were thinking about game 3. Weaver, following John Lester's command performance on Thursday, was in control the entire time he was on the mound. Outside of the 4th inning, Boston never had a runner past first base, as Weaver set down the first nine batters in order, had a 1-2-3 inning in the 6th, issued harmless, two-out walks in both the 5th and 7th and finished by striking out J.D. Drew looking to open the 8th. With that, he was relieved by Darren Oliver, who was followed by Kevin Jepsen. Brian Fuentes picked up the save, getting the final two batters after Jepsen gave up a one-out double to Kevin Youkilis in the 9th. The Red Sox have scored just one run in 18 innings against Angels' pitchers. The series shifts to Boston for game 3 on Sunday at 12:07 pm EDT. Scott Kazmir goes for the Angels against Boston's Clay Buchholz. An Angel win sends them to the AL Championship Series. National League Two Saturday games are on tap in the NL. The Dodgers can finish a sweep of the Cardinals with a win in St. Louis. LA leads 2-0, after St. Louis blew game 2 in the ninth inning. The Cards send Joel Piniero to the hill to face LA's Vicente Padilla. Game time is 6:07 pm. The Rockies and Phillies play game 3 in Denver, Colorado, where the forecast is for snow showers and temperatures around the freezing mark. If the game goes off as scheduled, the Phillies will start Pedro Martinez against Colorado's Jason Hammel at 9:37 pm EDT.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rockies Even Series; Cardinals Self-Destruct in 9th; Angels Blank Boston

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 8, 2009 - Playoffs American League LA Angels 5 Boston Red Sox 0 - Proving agin his vaue as a big game pitcher, John Lackey shut down the Red Sox on 4 hits over 7 1/3 innings, boosting the Angels to a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five playoff series. Lackey, who neither overpowered hitter nor threw a predominance of strikes (115 pitches, 67 strikes), baffled the Boston regulars with an assortment of pitches at varying speeds. The Red Sox didn't get a hit until there were two outs in the third inning, and Lackey put them down in order in the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th innings. Issuing only one walk, Lackey struck out four, got 10 outs n ground balls and 6 on flies. Torii Hunter cranked out a 3-run homer in the 5th and the Angels added another 2 runs in the 7th, making the most of their 7 hits, 5 walks and 3 Boston errors. The two teams meet again on Friday for Game 2. Boston's Josh Beckett faces Jared Weaver beginning at 9:37 pm EDT. National League LA Dodgers 3 St. Louis Cardinals 2 - Matt Holliday muffed what should have been the final out of the game - a sinking liner off the bat of James Loney, and the Dodgers rallied against Cardinal reliever Ryan Franklin - who issued two walks and allowed two hits in 1/3 of an inning - to steal Game 2 and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Holliday had homered in the second inning to give the Cards a 1-0 lead, but Andre Ethier belted a solo shot off Adam Wainwright in the 4th to tie the score. A Colby Rasmus double in the 7th gave the Cardinals a one-run lead which Wainright protected, getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the 8th before turning the ball over to the bullpen. Apparently losing the ball in the lights or in the sea of white hankies being waved by the Dodger faithful, Holliday's two-base error gave the Dodgers life, but the performance of Franklin afterwards was truly catastrophic for St. Louis. LA tied the score when Rafael Belliard - after a walk to Casey Blake put runners on first and second - singled home Juan Pierre, who was sent in to run for Loney. After a passed ball put runners on 2nd and 3rd, catcher Russell Martin was walked before Mark Loretta (right) singled home the winning run. All of the carnage occurred with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, a truly miraculous recovery for the Dodgers in a game the Cardinals seemingly had won. Getting the final out under pressure conditions proved to be too much for Franklin - one of the most reliable closers all season long - after Holliday's gaffe. The series shifts to St. louis for game 3 on Saturday, with the Dodgers on the brink of advancing to the next round. Vicente Padilla is slated to start for the Dodgers. Joel Piniero takes the hill for St. Louis. Game time is 6:07 pm EDT. Colorado Rockies 5 Philadelphia Phillies 4 - Yorvit Torrealba's two-run homer in the 4th inning gave Colorado a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels and a parade of five Rockies' relievers kept the Phillies in check to even their series at one game apiece. The Phillies cut the lead to one run with 3 in the 6th, and again, after Colorado had tacked on another run, on Jayson Werth's solo homer to right-center in the 8th, but the Colorado staff remained resolute and Huston Street slammed the door shut in the 9th. Game 3 is slated for Saturday at Coor's Field in Colorado. Pedro martinez is slated to start for Philly, with Jason Hammels up for the Rockies. Game time is 9:37 pm EDT.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Phillies, Dodgers, Yankees Open with Wins

Players of the Day for Wednesday, October 7, 2009 Playoff Coverage American League NY Yankees 7 Minnesota Twins 2 The Yankees took advantage of a tired Twins team and Derek Jeter led the way from his leadoff position in the lineup, reaching base on all four of his plate appearances with a single, two-run homer, two walks, two RBI and three runs. While Jeter, Alex Rodriguez (2 RBI) and Hideki Matsui (2 RBI homer) were mashing Minnesota pitchers, C. C. Sabathia was working the hitters over from the mound, scattering 8 hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out 8 while allowing only one earned run. Though the Twins scored the first two runs of the game in the 3rd inning, the Yanks responded in the bottom half of the frame with a deuce of their own off a Derek Jeter 2-run homer. The Yankees took the lead in the 4th on a double by Nick Swisher, adding three more in the 5th and another run in the 7th. New York leads the best of five series, one game to none, with game 2 at Yankee Stadium on Friday afternoon (6:07 pm EDT). Nick Blackburn goes for the Twins against the Yankees' A.J. Burnett. The LA Angels host the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night in the opener of their five game series. Game time is 9:37 pm EDT. Jon Lester goes for the Red Sox against the Angels' John Lackey. National League Philadelphia Phillies 5 Colorado Rockies 1 - The Rockies finally pushed across a run in the 9th inning off Cliff Lee, but by then it was far too late. Lee dominated from the mound, allowing just 6 hits and the lonely run as the Phillies took game one of their best-of-five series with the Rockies. Lee was largely untouchable, throwing 79 of his 114 pitches for strikes, often getting Colorado hitter off-balance and swinging for balls out of the strike zone. Lee struck out 5, got 10 more outs on ground balls and 11 on flies. His first post-season appearance resulted in a power pitching performance and a complete game win. Lee even added a hit and a stolen base, though the bulk of the damage was done by the heart of the lineup. Jayson Werth tripled in one run. Raul Ibanez accounted for two RBI with a single and double as the Phillies did all of their scoring in the 5th and 6th innings. Every batter in the lineup had at least one hit. The Phils and Rocks go at it again Thursday afternoon at 2:37 pm EDT. LA Dodgers 5 St. Louis Cardinals 3 The Dodgers took the first of their five-game series with St. Louis, capitalizing on a shaky Chris Carpenter and grinding through a game which set a major league post-season record for stranded runners by both teams. The Cards and Dodgers combined to leave 30 men on bases through the nine inning odyssey. Carpenter, who led the NL in ERA during the regular season, struggled through five innings, allowing 4 runs. His Dodger counterpart, Randy Wolf, survived only 3 2/3 before manager Joe Torre had seen enough. With the bases loaded in the 4th, Torre called on Jeff Weaver, who got Ryan Ludwick to ground out to end the inning and the Cardinals' best threat of the night. Thereafter, it was a steady parade of LA relievers - 4 more - who shut down the Cards on 5 hits over the final 5 innings. Rafael Furcal (left) was the hitting star, going 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Furcal was aboard when Matt Kemp hit a first-inning two-run homer and drove in a run which proved to be the winning margin with a sac fly in the 5th. The Cardinals and Dodgers play the second game of their series Thursday afternoon in LA. Game time is 6:07 pm EDT.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Casilla Sends Tigers Home Unhappy; Playoff Previews

Playoff Coverage for Tuesday, October 6, 2009 American League The Minnesota Twins completed their long pursuit of the Detroit Tigers and finally captured the AL Central flag, as Alexi Casilla drove home Carlos Gomez with the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning of their one-game playoff. The 6-5 win touched off a wild celebration in the last regular season game ever to be played in the Metrodome, which was seen by a record crowd of 54,088. Casilla had a chance to win the game in the prior inning. After being inserted as a pinch-runner, he was thrown out at home plate on a bullet throw from right fielder Ryan Raburn when he tagged up from third. He made the most of his chance in the 12th however, delivering the final knock-out blow to the staggering Tigers. The Twins played incredible baseball down the stretch, going 17-4 in the final three weeks to erase a 7-game Tiger lead in September. To have the Twins beat the Tigers in the Metrodome was especially sweet for the home town fans. ALDS: New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins Minnesota travels to New York to face the Yankees in the first of their five-game series which begins Wednesday. Despite the emotion of winning the Central division, Minnesota faces yet another uphill climb. The Yankees are considered the class of the league, having finished with the best record in baseball, at 103-59. Minnesota lost all seven game to New York this season. Minnesota will start Brian Duensing against the Yankee ace, C.C. Sabathia. Game time is 6:00 pm EDT. All of the first round opening games will be televised live on TBS. ALDS: Boston Red Sox vs. LA Angels Despite losing to the Red Sox the last three times these two teams have hooked up in the ALDS (2004, 2007, 2008), the Angels have one advantage over Boston this season: speed. The Angels swiped more bases than any team still playing (148) and the Red Sox catchers have not been very efficient when it comes to throwing out runners. Catchers Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez are considerably better at the plate than behind it, giving the Angels an edge if they can get Chone Figgins (who led the team with 42 steals), Torii Hunter or Bobby Abreu aboard, they can cause havoc for Boston backstops. The series begins in Anaheim on Thursday at 9:30 pm EDT. John Lackey will start for the Angels. The Red Sox send Jon Lester to the mound. National League NLDS: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Colorado Rockies The reigning wold champion Phillies have both the power and the pitching to keep the Rockies in check throughout this series. The rotation of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Pedro Martinez may be the best starting four - top to bottom - of any team in the playoffs. The Phillies' lineup is loaded with sluggers: Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Ryan Howard all smashed more than 30 homers this season. Howard led the team with 45. For good measure, leadoff man, Jimmy Rollins knocked 21 homers and is a threat to steal as well. The Rockies just don't match up well with the Phillies. though Troy Tulowitzki, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton will beg to differ. Even if the Rockies get to the Phillies' starters, Philly has solid middle relief. The one weak spot for Philadelphia is closer Brad Lidge, who blew 11 saves during the regular season. The series opens at 2:00 pm EDT in Philadelphia. Cliff Lee starts for the Phillies, while the Rockies send up Ubaldo Jiminez. NLDS: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers The Dodgers, winners of the NL West, appear to be overmatched by the Cardinals, even though the Dodgers have home field advantage. The mound duo of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are probably the best 1-2 punch of any of the World Series contenders. LA boasts solid starting pitching, but nothing like what St. Louis offers. Add in the ultimate weapon - Albert Pujols - and this looks like it could be a very short, one-sided series. Even though manager Joe Torre is regarded as one of the great managers of all time, he'll be looking across the field at a worthy foe, Tony La Russa, a certain Hall of Famer. Big edge to the Cardinals. St. Louis sends up Chris Carpenter against the Dodgers' Randy Wolf in Game 1, 9:30 pm EDT in LA.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Twins- Tigers in One-Game Playoff Tuesday; A-Rod Sets Records; Fielder Delivers on Final Day

Players of the Day for Sunday, October 4, 2009 American League The Tigers and Twins both won their final games of the season (Tigers 5 White Sox 3; Twins 13 Royals 4), setting up a one-game playoff for the AL Central and advancement into the playoffs. The game will be played on Tuesday, October 6, at the Metrodome. If the Twins lose, it would be the final game ever to be played there. A win assures that the Twins would play at least one game against the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. Whichever team wins on Tuesday, they will play the first two games of the playoffs at Yankee Stadium, where Alex Rodriguez went off the charts in the final regular season game on Sunday. Amazingly, A-Rod did all of his damage in one eventful, record-setting inning. Trailing the Rays, 2-0, in the 6th, the Yankees had two men aboard when Rodriguez stepped into the batter's box. From there, he launched a drive to deep left-center for his 29th home run and a 3-2 Yankee lead, but the best was yet to come. The Yankees 3 more runs in the inning before A-Rod came back to the plate, this time with the bases loaded. Needing 4 RBI and a home run to reach 100 RBI and 30 homers for the 13th time and 12th consecutive year, he blasted one to right center, his 18th career grand slam, setting an American League record for RBI in an inning, topping the old mark of six, which was held by 12 different players. The Yankees won the game, 10-2, completing the season with the best record in the majors, at 103-59. With the Yankees heading to the playoffs again, Rodriguez must be given strong consideration for the MVP award. His 30 homers and 100 RBI were accomplished in less than a full season, as A-Rod missed all of April and the first week of May while recovering from hip surgery. The Yankees were 13-16 when Rodriguez re-joined the team on May 8. From that point on, the Yankees' record was 90-43, so the impact of having the 12 time all star and 3 time MVP in the lineup was obvious. National League Prince Fielder did all he could on the final day of the season to catch Albert Pujols in the home run race and Ryan Howard in the run for RBI. Since the Brewers aren't going to the post-season, Fielder tried his best to make an impact, going 3-for-5 with a pair of homers and 3 RBI in Milwaukee's 9-7 win over St. Louis. The two bombs weren't enough to catch Pujols, who went 1-for-5 and finished the season with 47 homers, tops in either league. Fielder did grab second place, however, with 46 (Howard has 45). The three RBI tied him with Ryan Howard at 141. Pujols was third, at 135. With the effort, Fielder has to be considered a strong candidate for MVP, though with both Pujols and Howard helping their teams into the playoffs, it's unlikely that the award would go to anybody other than those two.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dodgers Do It; Twins Tie Tigers for AL Central Lead

Players of the Day for Saturday, October 3, 2009 American League In Minnesota, the Twins got past Zack Greinke and the KC Royals, 5-4, while the White Sox were taming the Tigers for the second straight day, as Freddy Garcia mystified the Tigers on 6 hits, allowing only one run over 7 solid innings for the 5-1 triumph. Garcia cut down seven Tiger batters on strikes, throwing 96 pitches (63 for strikes) for the spoiler win. The Twins and Tigers are now tied for the lead in the AL Central, Detroit having folded up down the stretch in the face of Minnesota's relentless pursuit. The Tigers are 0-for-October, having lost three straight, and have only won twice in their last 8 outings. The season comes down to one game for each of the contenders on Sunday, with the Twins hosting the Royals and the Tigers trying to get one win from the White Sox in Detroit. If the Twins and Tigers are still tied after Sunday's games, there will be a one-game playoff to determine the division winner. It's win or go home at this point, as the Red Sox have already secured the AL wild card slot. National League Five was the real magic number in Los Angeles on Saturday. After the Dodgers had lost 5 straight, allowing the Rockies, winners of 5 in a row, to pull to within one game in the divisional standings, LA finally got the win they needed, capturing their second straight NL West title with a 5-0 win over Colorado. Instrumental in securing their playoff position was starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who chilled out the red-hot Rockies on 3 hits over 6 innings, walking 3 and striking out 10. Though he did not receive a decision, Kershaw (12-10) kept the Rockies off the scoreboard in the most critical game of the season for LA. The Dodgers scored all 5 of their runs in a decisive 7th inning, highlighted by Mark Loretta's double which delivered two runs. The Dodgers will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the first playoff round, beginning Wednesday, October 7. The Phillies host the wild card Rockies in the other divisional series

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tigers Lose, Twins Win; Rockies Beat Dodgers; Upton Cycles Out

Players of the Day for Friday, October 2, 2009 American League There was plenty of pennant race action in the AL Central on Friday night, as the Tigers were completely befuddled by Jake Peavy, who threw 8 innings of shutout ball at the division leaders, allowing just 2 hits and two walks while fanning 5 in an 8-0 White Sox win. Later, at the Metrodome, the Twins scored 10 runs in the first four innings and coasted to a 10-7 win over the Royals. Delmon Young cranked out a grand slam in the 1st, drove in another run on a fielder's choice in the second, and singled and scored the Twins' final run in the 4th. That left the race for the division title as close as it has been all season. Though the Tigers have led the way since early May, the Twins have won 14 of their last 18, since September 13, to pull to within 1 game of Detroit with two games to play. The Tigers face the White Sox Saturday and Sunday, while the Twins fill out the schedule with the Royals. Despite all the excitement over the divisional race, down in Tampa, B.J. Upton was accomplishing the unusual against C.C. Sabathia and the NY Yankees. In Tampa's 13-4 win, Upton collected 5 hits in five at-bats, including two singles, a double, triple and his 11 home run of the season. Besides hitting for the cycle, Upton drove in 6 runs and scored three times, for one of the best single-game performances of the season. National League The Colorado Rockies are known for having a late-season burst, but this is getting ridiculous. On Friday, a day after capturing the wild card, the Rockies won their fifth straight game, this one over the LA Dodgers in the first of their season-ending, three-game series. It seems that the Rockies will not be content with the wild card; they want the NL West title and right now appear to have all the momentum swinging their way, as they topped LA, 4-3. The Dodger loss was their fifth straight, and, with two games remaining, are, like the Tigers in the AL Central, in danger of losing control of the division they have dominated since early in the season. The Dodgers need only one win over the Rockies to clinch the division. Unlike the situation in the AL, where the Tigers and Twins could end up in a tie, either the Rockies or Dodgers will win the division outright over the course of the next two days. If the Rockies win on Saturday, it would put both teams at 93-68, with Sunday's game deciding the post-season seeding. The team that does not win the division will be the NL wild card. Arizona's Eric Byrnes hasn't been heard from much this season. After all, he's playing on a last place team, has played in only 82 games and entered Friday's contest batting just .216. But Byrnes apparently still has some pop left in his bat. In Arizona's 12-3 win over the Cubs, he singled twice and homered twice driving in 5 runs, earning him one of the last few POTD honors of the season. NOTES: There will be no 20-game winner in either league this season. The only two pitchers who had a chance at the mark - C.C. Sabathia and Adam Wainright - failed in their quests on Friday. Actually, Wainwright pitched well enough to win, allowing just 3 runs over 6 innings and leaving with a 6-3 lead, but the St. Louis bullpen allowed another 9 Milwaukee runs for a 12-6 loss. Sabathia lasted only 2 2/3 innings in his finale, allowing 8 hits and 9 runs (5 earned) in NY's 13-4 loss at Tampa.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Carpenter Hammers Reds; Baker Cooks Tigers; Rockies Are Wild

Players of the Day for Thursday, October 1, 2009 American League Staving off elimination once more, the Minnesota Twins topped the Detroit Tigers in the finale of their four-game series with an 8-3 victory, earning a split and leaving the final playoff spot still undecided. Scott Baker gave the Twins the opportunity, working 5 strong innings. Baker (15-9) gave up 5 hits while walking 3. The Tigers scored an unearned run in the second inning, but the Twins were busy building a 4-1 lead after 4 and expanding it to 8-1 with a 4-run outburst in the top of the 8th. Baker struck out 3 and Minnesota used five relievers to secure the win. Detroit has three games remaining with the White Sox in Detroit. The Twins head back to the Metrodome to fill out the remaining schedule - three games with the KC Royals. Detroit leads the Twins by 2 games with 3 remaining. National League Chris Carpenter made the most of his final start of the season for St. Louis. Not only did the righty work five scoreless innings for his 17th win against just 4 losses, but he added some punch at the plate in the Cardinals' 13-0 tour de force. Not only did Carpenter gave up three hits, strike out six and walk one batter in his five-inning stint, his three plate appearances netted him 6 RBI with a grand slam homer in the 2nd and a two-run double in the 5th. Carpenter, along with teammate Adam Wainwright and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, are the leading candidates for the NL Cy Young award. The win for the Cards was their 91st of the season, but they still trail Philadelphia and Los Angeles for the best record - and home field advantage - in the league. With three games remaining, the race is tight. LA leads at 93-66; Philly is a game back at 92-67, and the Cardinals one more behind at 91-68. NOTES: The Colorado Rockies secured the wild card slot in the National League with a 9-2 win over the Brewers, setting the stage for an intriguing 3-game series in Los Angeles with the Dodgers over the season's final weekend. Despite taking the wild card, the Rockies may not be completely satisfied with their position, two games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. The Rockies need a sweep of the three games to take the division, while the Dodgers need just one win to complete their dominating season. They've led the division continuously since June, only to watch their lead diminish gradually over the last two months as the Rockies caught fire. The two teams seem headed in opposite directions. The Rockies have won four straight; the Dodgers have been on the opposite side of the score their last four.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hallady's 4th Shutout Downs Boston; Phillies Are In; Nolasco Fans 16 in Marlins Win

Players of the Day for Wednesday, September 30, 2009 American League The game may not have mattered to the Red Sox, but Roy Halladay wanted to end his 2009 season on a positive note. With many of the Boston regulars taking seats on the bench after clinching the wild card spot a day ago, Halladay knifed through the depleted lineup like he was pitching to minor leaguers, which, in fact, he was. Cruising to his 17th win against 10 losses, Halladay shut down the Red Sox on 3 hits and two walks, striking out 6 in a 12-0 Toronto triumph. It was his 4th shutout of the season - a career high - and 9th complete game, tying his career best, set in 2003 and again in 2009. While the Yankees' C.C. Sabathia is the current favorite to win the Cy Young award, Halladay's numbers are right there with the best in the league and should be given strong consideration. He leads the league with 239 innings pitched, is tied for 4th in wins, and his 2.79 ERA is third best among starters. Nobody except Kansas City's Zack Greinke is close to him in complete games or shutouts. Greinke has 6 and 3, respectively. Separating himself from the pack even further, Halladay's 208 Ks to 35 BBs is the best ratio in the league. Again, only Greinke comes close (237-49). National League The Florida Marlins have been eliminated from post-season contention, but Ricky Nolasco made sure that the Atlanta Braves would be playing golf instead of baseball in October, fanning a career-best 16 batters in a 5-4 Marlins' win. At one point, Nolasco struck out 9 batters in a row, one short of the major league record set by Tom Seaver. The 16 Ks also set a new standard for the franchise, and ended Nolasco's remarkable season with a flourish. The 4-year pro will finish 2009 with a 13-9 record after having been sent to the minors earlier in the year. Nolasco allowed just 4 hits and 2 walks in 7 2/3 innings. Neither of the two runs scored on him were earned. The Braves lost their second straight to the Marlins and trail the Rockies by 4 games in the wild card race. The best the Braves can do is tie, but the Rockies would have to lose all four of their remaining games. The Braves could conceivably win their last four, as they host the Washington Nationals to close out the season. The Nats are the worst team in the majors, with a 55-103 record. NOTES: San Diego got 7 shutout innings (on one hit) from Clayton Richard and kept the LA Dodgers from clinching the NL West. With their magic number stuck at 1, the Dodgers dropped the 5-0 decision, their 4th straight loss. That leaves the Rockies just 2 1/2 back, with Colorado visiting LA for the final three games. The Phillies smashed the Astros, 10-3, clinching their third straight NL East crown. Philadelphia is just 1/2 game behind the Dodgers for the best record in the league, which would give them home field throughout the playoffs. The Phils are 92-66, while the Dodgers are 93-66, and have just 3 games left. The Phillies play all of their games at home, with one against the Astros on Thursday, and three over the weekend with the Marlins.