Giants pull another series out of the hat

October 23, 2012

> Coming back from a three-game deficit in one series is impressive, but to accomplish that feat in two postseason series in a row is unbelievable. The Giants did just that- they won three consecutive games against the Reds after being down 2-0 in the NLDS, and have now done the same against the Cardinals in the NLCS after being down 3-1.

The Giants’ 9-0 blowout sealed an improbable comeback for them, and snagged them the National League Pennant for the second time over the last three years. Matt Cain labored threw 5 2/3 innings, but managed to keep the Cards off the board, and got more than enough help from his offense. But his offense itself received some help, that coming from the Cardinals’ defense, as it did for the last three games of the series. Shortstop Pete Kozma had another rough day at the office, as it was his miscue(s) in the third inning that broke the game open for the Giants. Kyle Lohse and Joe Kelly combined to give up seven earned runs through the first three innings, but it wasn’t their fault, for the most part.

Anyway, the NLCS MVP unanimously goes to Marco Scutaro, who hit .500 in this series. He had multi-hit games in six of the seven games, and continued to produce even after Matt Holliday took him out during a double play early in the series.

MY TAKE

> There was a ton of speculation on Twitter tonight that Cain hitting Holliday in the sixth inning tonight was “retaliation” for Holliday sliding into Scutaro earlier this series. Here’s the thing, though: it was an 0-2 pitch and the Giants were up by seven. Either Cain is a huge wimp, or he let one get away, and I’m more convinced by the latter.

THE NEWS

> Dave May passed away today. May, a former big league All-Star, was traded from the Brewers to the Braves in exchange for Hank Aaron back in 1974. He played for the Orioles, Braves, Brewers, Pirates, and Rangers, but his best season came in 1973 with the Crew, when he hit 25 home runs with 93 RBIs and a .303 batting average.

> Minor moves:

Blue Jays: Claimed Bobby Wilson off waivers from the Angels; designated Chad Beck for assignment.

THE EXTRAS

> Why FOX decided to put the camera on Hunter Pence during “God Bless America” is beyond me.

Advertisements

NLCS draws even

October 22, 2012

> The Giants just continue to win elimination games, and their 6-1 win over the Cardinals tonight added to that streak. The NLCS is now tied at 3-3, with the deciding Game 7 to be played tomorrow.

Ryan Vogelsong was the story tonight, as he went seven innings while giving up a run on four hit. He walked one and struck out nine. He finishes with a 2-0 record and a 1.29 ERA in the NLCS, and has been the one consistent pitcher for the Giants this postseason.

The offense for the Giants wasn’t bad, either. Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, and Brandon Belt each had two hits. In Scutaro’s case, it was his fifth multi-hit game of this series alone, and he has at least one hit in every game. If the Giants wind up pulling this off tomorrow, Scutaro could almost win the NLCS MVP by default (that, or he and Vogelsong should be co-MVPs).

That Giants offense was helped by the Cardinals’ defense, though, who screwed over Chris Carpenter again. Tonight it was shortstop Pete Kozma’s error in the second inning that blew open a four-run frame for the Giants.

THE NEWS

> The Diamondbacks made a pair of early-offseason trades yesterday. First, they acquired shortstop Cliff Pennington and infield prospect Yordy Cabrera from the Athletics in exchange for outfielder Chris Young. Then, the D-backs turned around and traded Cabrera to the Marlins for reliever Heath Bell.

I have to question this series of moves- particularly the Bell move- but Kevin Towers usually seems to know what he’s doing.

> The Red Sox hired John Farrell as their new manager.

> Minor moves:

Yankees: Exercised Curtis Granderson’s option for 2013.
Diamondbacks: Exercised J.J. Putz’s option for 2013; designated ex-Brewer Takashi Saito for assignment.
Rays: Outrighted Wilking Rodriguez and Rich Thompson to Triple-A.
Red Sox: Sent Mike Aviles to the Blue Jays as part of compensation for Farrell.
Blue Jays: Sent David Carpenter to the Red Sox, also part of the Farrell deal.

THE EXTRAS

> I realized today that this Reds commercial has disappeared from TV stations broadcasting the postseason. Makes sense, since the Reds were eliminated, but man am I happy it’s gone.

> The only way Drew Brees can make himself look good: star in a commercial with One Direction.


Tigers headed to the World Series

October 20, 2012

> Sorry for my inconsistent writing recently. I’ve been pretty under the weather the last few days, and I just haven’t been in the mood to write. But here’s an article covering what’s gone on the past few days.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> Prince Fielder and the Tigers are going to the World Series. They blew out the Yankees and their “offense” yesterday, 8-1, to secure their first trip to the largest stage since 2006. Max Scherzer was stellar, striking out 10 over 5 2/3 innings while allowing just two hits. His counterpart, CC Sabathia, didn’t have such luck, however- he lasted only 3 2/3 innings and was pounded for six runs on 11 hits. The Tigers got home runs from Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, and Jhonny Peralta, who hit two.

But you can bet the Yankees are happy this awful postseason for them is over. They hit .188 in the ALDS and ALCS combined, Alex Rodriguez has been getting hampered by the media for flirting with fans and hitting .125, they lost Derek Jeter to a horrible ankle injury- not much went right.

And you have to wonder what on earth went wrong. A-Rod, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher all hit below .200, and Robinson Cano hit under .100. Mark Teixera hit exactly .200. The lone players to hit over .300 this postseason for the Yankees were Ichiro Suzuki, Eduardo Nunez, and Jeter (before he got injured). And Nunez was left off the ALCS roster until Jeter got hurt.

A strange phenomenon indeed.

> The Cardinals won last night and could have clinched a World Series berth today, but the Giants will live at least another day after their win today. The Cards ambushed the Giants for eight runs last night on great offensive days from Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Pete Kozma, but couldn’t replicate that today. They were completely shut down by Barry Zito, who fired 7 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Giants alive. But the Cards’ biggest mistake was Lance Lynn’s error in the fourth inning, which, had it turned into a double play, could have made this a very different game.

THE NEWS

> The Brewers outrighted Hector Gomez to Triple-A Nashville.

> Fernando Rodney and Buster Posey won the AL and NL Comeback Player of the Year Awards, respectively.

> Delmon Young won the ALCS MVP award.

> Minor moves from the past few days:

Rangers: Outrighted Tyler Tufts to Triple-A.
Blue Jays: Claimed Tyson Brummett off waivers from the Phillies.
Phillies: Outrighted Pete Orr and Steven Lerud off their 40-man roster.
Mets: Outrighted Fred Lewis, who will probably elect free agency.
Athletics: Outrighted Jeremy Accardo, who elected free agency.
Royals: Signed Juan Gutierrez, Devon Lowery, Max Ramirez, Matt Fields, and Nick Van Stratten.
Marlins: Outrighted Nick Green to Triple-A; outrighted Donnie Murphy, who elected free agency.


Thoughts from the early offseason presser

October 15, 2012

> This article is well overdue, but I figured it was necessary at some point. A day or so after the offseason, Ron Roenicke, Doug Melvin, and a few others met with the media to discuss their early offseason goals and what we can look for from the Brewers going into 2013. Melvin in particular had some interesting comments, and basically explained what the status of some players are going into 2013.

John Axford is the closer, Corey Hart is the regular first baseman, Alex Gonzalez could be the starting shortstop, and, if he returns, Mat Gamel will serve as a bench player.

These are all some very debatable points. I agree with two of them, I’m relatively neutral with one of them, and then there’s one I think should receive some re-consideration.

The one I favor most is Hart remaining at first base. Following Gamel’s season-ending injury back in May, the Brewers found that Travis Ishikawa wasn’t getting the job done, so they moved Hart in from right field, and it paid off. To go along with his solid offense (which a player needs to be a first baseman), Hart provided Gold Glove-caliber defense at the position as well. If he plays as well as he did this year at first base in 2013, he’s a legitimate Gold Glove candidate. This move also allowed the Brewers to play Norichika Aoki every day in right field, and that also paid off, as Aoki posted a sensational rookie season.

I also agree with placing Gamel on the bench as a utility player. He’s had plenty of chances to start- the best one coming in 2012- but spoiled all of them with injuries or lazy play. Thanks to his ability to play multiple positions (first base, third base, and the corner outfield positions), however, he still has the opportunity to be a valuable utility player, and a power left-handed bat off the bench.

The one I’m relatively neutral (at least for the time being) on is the possibility of Gonzalez starting at shortstop. I liked what I saw from Gonzalez early in 2012 before his season-ending injury and would have gladly taken him back, but that was before the Brewers acquired Jean Segura. If the Brewers really want Segura to start at short for the long-term, they might as well start doing it now. I wouldn’t mind seeing Gonzalez return as another utility bench player, a role I feel he could play well. But I think what will determine this decision is the kind of spring Segura has.

Lastly, I do NOT want the closer’s role simply handed to Axford to start 2013. I’ll admit he finished sort of strong in 2012, but that doesn’t change the fact that he led the Majors with nine blown saves. His home runs allowed and walks significantly rising from his 2011 season definitely contributed to that. I know the excuse is that the Brewers don’t have anyone else who can take over, but that is a false statement. It’s true that the Brewers are slim in the relief corps at all levels, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have anybody. For instance, Jim Henderson threw the ball very well down the stretch. The Brewers could also sign an established reliever this offseason. The closer’s job is still Axford’s job to lose, but, especially if he has a bad spring, it shouldn’t be handed to him by default.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> The Tigers took a 2-0 ALCS lead over the Yankees today. Last night’s game was dramatic as ever, with Jose Valverde blowing a 4-0 lead- which was a non-save situation- including two-run home runs to Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. But Delmon Young gave the Tigers the lead in 12th inning, which would win the game. The biggest storyline, however, was Derek Jeter’s ankle fracture, which ended his postseason.

The Yankees’ offense continued to stay ice cold in today’s game, as they were shut out, 3-0. It’s hard to say whether or not Anibal Sanchez threw a gem, or if the Yankees’ offense is just awful. That offense killed a stellar start from Hiroki Kuroda, who took a perfect game into the sixth and struck out 11 over 7 2/3 innings.

> The Cardinals took the first game of the NLCS with the Giants. Both starters- Lance Lynn and Madison Bumgarner- got knocked around, but the Cards’ bullpen prevailed in tossing 5 1/3 shutout innings. The offensive heroes were who you’d expect: David Freese, who hit a two-run blast in the second inning, and Pete Kozma, who contributed an RBI double in the fourth. Carlos Beltran also had a two-run homer in the fourth.

THE NEWS

> Tom Haudricourt suggested Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, and even Brandon McCarthy as possible veteran starting pitching adds for the Brewers this offseason. I wouldn’t mind any of those, but I would also toss Kuroda into that mix, despite the fact the Yankees will want him back badly. Haudricourt also said that the Brewers will more than likely sign an SP through the free agent market rather than trade for one due to all the prospects the Brewers have had to part with in recent years.

> Haudricourt doesn’t think the Brewers will trade Hart or Rickie Weeks to create payroll flexibility. Hart has expressed his desire to stay in Milwaukee for the rest of his career, while Weeks’ salary isn’t as big of a deal due the Brewers’ current payroll situation.

> Lastly, Haudricourt said that Nyjer Morgan will probably be non-tendered and easily replaced by Logan Schafer, as we all expected.

> Edwin Maysonet and Juan Perez each declared free agency.

> Today’s minor moves:

Rangers: Outrighted Luis Hernandez, who declared free agency.
Padres: Outrighted Matt Palmer, who declared free agency.
Yankees: Designated Cory Wade for assignment.


The Championship Series begin

October 14, 2012

> All of the Division Series have come to a close. And, considering it was the first time in history that all of the necessary DS games were played- each series went to five games for 20 games total- I don’t think any of them was a bad series.

> The Giants came all the way back from an 0-2 deficit in their series against the Reds and won three straight to reach the NLCS. Their offense was non-existent during the first two games. But, after a Scott Rolen error in the 10th inning of Game 3 gave them a gift win, the offense exploded in Games 4 and 5. The highlights were Pablo Sandoval’s two-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 4 and Buster Posey’s grand slam in Game 5 that pretty much sealed the series.

> The Tigers nearly allowed the other Bay Area team- the Athletics- to come back from an 0-2 deficit against them, but Justin Verlander was having none of that. He threw a four-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts to abruptly end the A’s miracle season and send the Tigers to the ALCS.

> The Yankees’ offense only showed up for one inning during the entire series with the Orioles, but CC Sabathia didn’t need much yesterday. He threw a complete game to also end a dream season for the O’s. The big story was that Alex Rodriguez- the highest-paid player in baseball- was benched in Game 5 of the series, but Raul Ibanez’s .444 ALDS average picked up the slack.

> Despite the fact they were down 6-0 early, the Cardinals did exactly what they did in the 2011 World Series. Down 7-5 going into the ninth inning, they ambushed Nationals closer Drew Storen with four two-out runs. With the bases loaded, Daniel Descalso hit a hard ground ball up the middle that deflected off of shortstop Ian Desmond’s glove- I leave it up to you as to whether or not Desmond should have had the ball- and boom, tie game. Then Pete Kozma, some rookie shortstop that no non-Cards fan had heard of until late September, hit the go-ahead two-run single to sink the Nats.

Hate to say it, but this season might once again by written in the stars for the Cardinals. (Yes, that pun was definitely intended.)

MY TAKE

> PLEASE quit calling the Cardinals a “cinderella story.” Yes, they won in dramatic fashion last night, but that doesn’t put them in that category. A cinderella story is a team that, at the beginning of the year, is expected to finish near last in their division, then go on to have a miracle season. This year, that was the Orioles and Athletics (you could argue the Nationals, but I don’t think anyone expected them to be terrible this year).

Sure, the Cards lost Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa, and Dave Duncan. But there was still way too much talent on that team coming into 2012 for them not to contend.

So I guess if you expected the Cardinals to finish in dead last and lose 100 games coming into this season, then sure, they’re a cinderella team to you. But there’s clearly a problem if you expected that.

> There aren’t series MVPs handed out in the Division Series, only for the Championship and World Series. But, if they did exist in the DS, these would be my MVPs for each series:

Giants: Sandoval

Cardinals: Kozma

Yankees: Ibanez

Tigers: Verlander

I actually had a tough time picking for the Giants, but Sandoval was the only Giants hitter to hit over .300 for the series. And I couldn’t give it to a pitcher, since the starters especially underperformed in this series. The rest of MVPs were rather easy, however.

THE NEWS

> Shaun Marcum doesn’t expect to pitch for the Brewers next year.

> Following outright assignments, relievers Vinnie Chulk and Tim Dillard each elected free agency.

> The Brewers also outrighted Cody Scarpetta and Eric Farris to Triple-A Nashville, but neither has the right to elect free agency.

> News has surfaced regarding Francisco Rodriguez and his arrest for domestic violence sometime in September. The incident took place in Wales, a suburban city about 45 minutes to an hour away from Milwaukee.

But apparently K-Rod has a history of things like this that I wasn’t aware of. In late 2010, he had to take anger management classes after “an altercation” with one of his relatives at Citi Field during his days with the Mets.

It seems he’s doing everything he can to make sure he can’t find a deal anywhere else for 2013. His horrible 2012 campaign made it bad enough, but you can bet teams that see this on his resume won’t be impressed.

> Other than that, there hasn’t been much to report about the Brewers lately, so let’s get on to the minor moves around baseball the past week:

White Sox: Outrighted Ray Olmedo, who elected free agency.
Blue Jays: Outrighted Jesse Litsch, Aaron Laffey, Bobby Korecky, Robert Coello, and Scott Richmond, all of whom elected free agency.
Pirates: Outrighted Doug Slaten, who elected free agency.
Padres: Outrighted Ross Ohlendorf, who elected free agency.
Rays: Outrighted Brooks Conrad, who elected free agency.
Indians: Outrighted Shelley Duncan and Luke Carlin, both of whom elected free agency.
Red Sox: Outrighted Jason Repko and Guillermo Quiroz, both of whom elected free agency.
Diamondbacks: Re-signed Brent Clevlen.
Giants: Outrighted Shane Loux and Justin Christian to Triple-A.


First WC game brings about controversy

October 6, 2012

> It was an ugly, ugly sight today in Atlanta, where the Braves and Cardinals played the first ever Wild Card play-in game (or whatever you want to call it). As you’d expect, it was dramatic as ever, but things took a turn for the worse in the eighth inning.

With the Cards up 6-3 in the eighth inning, Mitchell Boggs was pitching, and allowed two baserunners to start the inning. Then, Andrelton Simmons hit what looked like a routine pop-up off the bat, and shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday each went for it. It appeared Kozma had the ball played and was about to catch it, but at the last second he ran out of the way, expecting Holliday to take charge. But, as they stared at each other in shock, the ball fell in between them. This would have loaded the bases for the Braves and set them up for a comeback.

But, after the play appeared to be over, Sam Holbrook- the left field umpire- signaled that the infield fly rule had come into effect. In other words, Simmons was out, despite the fact neither fielder caught the ball.

At first glance, it looked like Holbrook blew the call: an outfield umpire shouldn’t be calling an infield fly rule, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t how the rule works. Since Kozma- an infielder- was close enough to the ball to have made a routine play on it, the rule still came into effect.

Braves fans didn’t take it well. In fact, they went as far as throwing trash on the field, which induced a 20-minute delay and forced Mike Matheny to do some jumbling in his bullpen.

So the first instinct is to blame Holbrook, but, in reality, he was just following the rules, and we can’t blame him for that- even if the rule is beyond stupid. The infield fly rule is supposedly there to keep runners from getting doubled off (or tripled off, in some cases) on shallow pop-ups like that. But, if the fielder misses it, why should he get credit for an out? That’s his fault, and the other team should be allowed to take advantage.

But, as usual, a Bud Selig idea gets off to an awful start. My opinion on the Wild Card play-in games is for another day, however.

MY TAKE

> It’s worth noting that Holbrook was the same umpire who ejected Zack Greinke after just three batters in Houston a few months back. That was a bad call, but is probably irrelevant in this situation.

> I’m really surprised at the hate Braves fans were getting for throwing garbage on the field. Sure, it’s a classless move. But what would you have done if you were a Braves fan, and you saw a play like that occur and didn’t receive an explanation for it right away? I really don’t blame the fans at all.

POSTSEASON COVERAGE

> In the midst of this controversy, the Cards wound up beating the Braves by the same score of 6-3. Kyle Lohse got his first postseason win, and Matheny used his bullpen effectively. On the other side, Kris Medlen took a rare loss (though only two of the five runs he allowed were earned).

> The Rangers not winning the AL West proved costly, as the Orioles knocked them out in the American League WC game, winning 5-1. Joe Saunders, despite being 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in Arlington in his career coming in, got his first postseason win. Former Brewer J.J. Hardy contributed one RBI for the O’s.

THE NEWS

> The was a Brewers press release yesterday in which Doug Melvin addressed a few issues going into 2013. I’ll have my opinions on that up within the next few days.

THE NUMBERS

> The Braves- who had the fewest errors in baseball during the regular season- committed three in a game when it mattered most.