Articles By Charlie Miller

Path: /mlb/world-series-game-4-preview-cardinals-red-sox-regroup-after-controversial-ending
Body:

World Series – Game 4
Boston at St. Louis
8:15 ET Fox
Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74) vs. Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97)


After one of the strangest endings in postseason history, the Cardinals emerged with a two-games-to-one lead heading to Game 4 tonight. The Cardinals look to take a commanding three-games-to-one lead behind starter Lance Lynn. Boston counters with Clay Buchholz, who was the Red Sox ace for the first half of the season. Both teams pretty much emptied their bullpens last night, so there’s more pressure on the starters tonight.

Keys for Boston
Forget about the tough loss last night. Convince themselves that the “whole world is against us,” and use that mentality to galvanize this team in order to begin an incredible run. And manager John Farrell can’t allow his team to lose a close game without firing one of his hottest bullets in Mike Napoli. Farrell, who should have made a double switch if he wanted relief pitcher Brandon Workman to throw more than one inning, allowed Workman to bat for the only time in his professional career in the ninth inning. Farrell can’t get caught like that again. Buchholz, who has appeared to be uncomfortable while throwing on the side this week, must give Boston a strong outing.

Keys for St. Louis
Lynn must have good command and control in the strike zone. If he’s pounding the zone early in counts, Boston’s patience will allow him to get ahead of hitters and that’s when Lynn is effective. If he falls behind too many hitters, this could be Shelby Miller’s game early.

Red Sox to Watch
Buchholz will be watched closely from the first pitch tonight by Farrell. If he can’t give the Sox maximum effort, expect veteran Ryan Dempster to be thrown into the spotlight. Whoever hits behind David Ortiz — most likely Daniel Nava — must make the Cardinals pay for pitching around Big Papi. It was evident in Game 3 that St. Louis pitchers were not going to let Ortiz beat them. That also adds pressure to Dustin Pedroia, who hits in front of Ortiz. All it took was a few miscues in the field to allow St. Louis to score, so the Red Sox must play a clean game on defense. When will Boston test Yadier Molina? The stolen base was such a big part of Boston’s offense all season, but they’ve yet to test the Cardinals’ catcher.

Cardinals to Watch
Expect the Red Sox to begin giving Matt Holliday the Ortiz treatment — pitching around him. That would mean that Matt Adams, Yadier Molina, who had three hits in Game 3, and David Freese would see more critical at-bats. The more Matheny goes to his bullpen, the more likely it will be for Shelby Miller to find his way to the mound in high leverage situations.

Key Stats
Shane Victorino, who is hitless in the series, has been hit once and walked once. He scored both times…Game 3 was the 18th time in Ortiz’s career that he has reached base three times via hit or walk. The Red Sox are now 12-6 in those games, losing the last two…St. Louis is 2-2 in Lynn’s four postseason starts…With 123 steals during the regular season, Boston has yet to attempt a steal in the World Series. With a scant 45 stolen bases this season, St. Louis has pilfered three…In the first three games, the Red Sox have 18 hits, nine walks and 28 strikeouts…Game 3 marked only the second time in World Series history that a team had two blown saves, yet still won the game. The first time was Game 7 in 1960.

Teaser:
After some controversy at the end of Game 3, both the Red Sox and Cardinals carry tired bullpens into Game 4.
Post date: Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 14:49
Path: /mlb/world-series-game-3-preview-red-sox-cardinals-move-st-louis
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World Series – Game 3
Boston at St. Louis
8:07 ET Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17) vs. Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69)


The Cardinals escaped Boston with a split, and that’s good news for the Redbirds. But this World Series is just now beginning. We’re entering the portion of the program where hitters actually have a fighting chance. Expect a little more offense tonight in St. Louis, but both bullpens stand ready and can extinguish fires quickly. Neither manager will allow this one to get away early. The Cardinals’ Joe Kelly was one of their more reliable starters down the stretch this season, but hasn’t been as sharp in the postseason. Jake Peavy, a former Cy Young winner in the National League, struggled in his starts against the Rays and Tigers in the playoffs. One critical factor for both teams throughout this series is to play a clean game, both defensively and on the bases, taking advantage of every slight opportunity.

Keys for Boston
The Red Sox must adjust to having Peavy bat and Ortiz must not give away anything defensively at first base. Boston hitters are a patient bunch and they will wait out Kelly, who can be a bit erratic with his control at times. Now is certainly not the time to change their typical patient approach.

Keys for St. Louis
Mike Matheny doesn’t expect Kelly to get past the seventh inning, but he’ll ask the young righthander to leave it all on the mound for what few innings he can. The Redbirds’ manager will turn this game over to his bullpen, which has been dominant in the postseason. Matheny called on Carlos Martinez to get six outs and Trevor Rosenthal three in Game 2, but he will be more likely to mix and match relievers for matchups rather than extend Martinez tonight. The Cardinals have had some success against Peavy, both in the regular season and playoffs when he was with San Diego. St. Louis has won five of their six home playoff games this fall, and need to continue to feed off the home atmosphere.

Red Sox to Watch
Many eyes will be on Ortiz and how well he handles first base. In 2004, he played well in St. Louis, but he was nine years younger then. He’s played just 13 games at first over the past three seasons. In two starts for Boston this postseason, Peavy was touched for eight runs over 8.2 innings. He must avoid big innings. Stephen Drew has been a non-factor at the plate, but his steady presence up the middle has squelched some St. Louis momentum in the first two games. With regular first baseman Mike Napoli on the bench, both Drew and Peavy are candidates to be pinch-hit for in big spots. The Red Sox have yet to test Yadier Molina behind the plate. Without the DH in the lineup, expect the Sox to start runners and play more small ball in St. Louis. That starts with Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino.

Cardinals to Watch
If the Cardinals are to win with a potent offense, it will be Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday providing the punch. Both have a pretty good history with Peavy and are swinging the bat well now. In addition to keeping hitters off base, Kelly must also be adept at keeping runners close at first base and give Molina a chance to shut down the Red Sox running game.

Key Stats
St. Louis was 11-4 in Kelly’s 15 regular-season starts…Aside from Ortiz (4-for-6) and Dustin Pedroia (3-for-7), the rest of the Red Sox are scuffling at .098 off of St. Louis pitching…Ortiz last made an error in 2009…The Red Sox have lost both games this postseason when Ortiz didn’t reach via hit or walk...Beltran in 8-for-20 against Peavy…Holliday is 8-for-28…The 32-year-old righthander has held Molina to 3-for-17.

Teaser:
With the World Series moving to St. Louis, expect the Red Sox to turn up the heat on the bases.
Post date: Saturday, October 26, 2013 - 14:00
Path: /mlb/world-series-game-2-preview-cardinals-red-sox
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World Series – Game 2
St. Louis at Boston
8:07 ET Fox
Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78) vs. John Lackey (10-13, 3.52)


Last night quickly turned into the dream or nightmare from 2004, depending on which dugout you’re in. The Cardinals made multiple miscues in the field and the Red Sox mixed in a few good at-bats around the mistakes taking St. Louis out of the game early. There were no positives for St. Louis in Game 1 — unless you consider John Axford’s 1-2-3 strikeout performance — and there were few negatives for Boston. The Red Sox won handily without any contribution from Shane Victorino and nothing from leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury after the first inning. The Cardinals must turn the page quickly and once again lean heavily on rookie Michael Wacha. The young righthander took the ball in a do-or-die game in a hostile environment at Pittsburgh and was brilliant. This isn’t technically a do-or-die game for St. Louis, but it’s close. The Red Sox counter with John Lackey, the starter and winner for the Angels in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series (but that was 11 years ago).

Keys for Boston
Keep the pressure on St. Louis. One way they can do that is to force the Cardinals to make plays defensively. Put the ball in play and be aggressive on the bases. It won’t take a long outing by Lackey, but winning will require a quality outing, even if it ends after five innings. Last night the Red Sox took the first two pitches the first time through the order. Expect a more aggressive approach tonight as Wacha will pound the strike zone. Taking too many pitches could leave Boston batters battling from behind in the count all night.

Keys for St. Louis
They must get back to the “Cardinal Way,” whatever that is exactly. It should start with playing a clean game defensively. Last night’s slow delivery to second by Matt Carpenter that resulted in the Pete Kozma error (and minor controversy), and the pop that dropped between Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina appeared to be the result of playing not to lose rather than playing to win. That mindset must change dramatically overnight. Getting yet another super-human effort from Wacha may be too much to ask of the rookie with just nine regular-season starts in his career. But that’s exactly what the Cardinals need.

Red Sox to Watch
Lackey twirled a gem his last time out. He shut out the Tigers over 6.2 innings, allowing only four hits in Boston’s 1-0 win. Ortiz, who homered last night and had a grand slam turned into a sac fly by right fielder Carlos Beltran, remains the focal point for St. Louis. They were forced to pitch to him with runners on last night. If that’s the case again tonight for Wacha, it will be another banner night for the BoSox. Mike Napoli, a member of the Texas Rangers whom the Cardinals defeated in the 2011 World Series, is swinging the bat extremely well and focused on beating St. Louis.

Cardinals to Watch
Wacha is the man of the hour for the St. Louis faithful. In three postseason starts and 21 innings, the lone run he’s allowed was a solo homer by Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates. Carpenter and Matt Adams must provide some offense tonight. Carpenter by getting on base, and Adams by driving in runs. Of course, Beltran, the top run producer for St. Louis in the postseason, is questionable to play after injuring his ribs and leaving last night’s game in the third inning.

Key Stats
The Red Sox were 9-4 in Lackey’s 13 home starts this season, 9-1 when scoring three runs or more…Opponents batted just .232 off of Lackey at Fenway Park this season…Wacha is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA in his three postseason starts…Matt Holliday swung at the first pitch in his first three at-bats before taking a pitch prior to his homer in the ninth inning…Both teams threw 141 pitches in Game 1…Boston came to bat three times with the bases loaded. Napoli doubled, Pedoria singled and Ortiz hit a sac fly that was headed over the fence for a grand slam…St. Louis came to bat once with the bases loaded. David Freese grounded into a 1-2-3 double play.

Teaser:
After a miserable performance on Wednesday night, the Cardinals try to even the series before heading back to St. Louis.
Post date: Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 11:51
Path: /mlb/world-series-game-1-preview-st-louis-boston
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World Series – Game 1
St. Louis at Boston
8:07 ET on Fox
Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75)


This is the first time the two teams with their league’s best records have met in the Fall Classic since the Yankees defeated the Braves in 1999. Both the Red Sox and Cardinals won 97 games, and proved to be among the best in baseball all season. This World Series has all the signs of a long, competitive, down-to-the-wire showdown. Both teams won their League Championship Series in six games with pitching as their hallmark. Both bullpens are strong, so it’s doubtful that either team will cough up leads in the late innings. Neither team hit particularly well in series that were dominated by pitching. Both Boston and St. Louis were opportunistic and capitalized on their opponents’ miscues. There will be no room for error in this series. Both teams must be sharp in the field and on the bases. A small mistake can mean the difference in one game, and one game will likely be the difference in the series. There is significant World Series experience in both dugouts, especially among position players. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, and Jon Lester and John Lackey of Boston are the only pitchers on the two rosters to appear for winning teams in a previous World Series. Baseball could not ask for a better matchup in the Fall Classic this season. With temperatures expected to be in the mid-40s at game time with a 50 percent chance of rain, baseball could have asked for better weather.

Keys for Boston
The Red Sox have four games at home and must capitalize on the magic of Fenway Park. The Cardinals struggle against left-handed pitching and Boston’s only southpaw starter, Jon Lester, goes tonight. If Lester is sharp and gets this game to the bullpen by the seventh inning, manager John Farrell will likely leave the park happy. Offensively, the Red Sox love to run. They stole 123 bases and were caught just 19 times for a major league-best 87 percent success rate. They can’t afford to abandon that facet of their offense.

Keys for St. Louis
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny is excited about Allen Craig getting back in the lineup. He led the club with 97 RBIs in the regular season, but has been out since early September with a foot injury. The Cardinals’ offense needs a boost, and Craig is the man for the job. Catcher Yadier Molina is the best in the business at shutting down opponents’ running games. He will have his hands full with Boston, a team that loves to run. St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright allowed just three stolen bases in six attempts all season, with two of the steals coming with Tony Cruz behind the plate. The Cardinals’ bullpen is full of power arms and that matches up well against a team that’s not afraid to strike out.

Red Sox to Watch
David Ortiz is the man the Cardinals’ pitchers must deal with. If he’s not part of the Boston attack, the Red Sox may have trouble producing runs. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury will be a key for Boston to manufacture runs with speed. If he’s on base — and especially if he can steal a bag or two — the Red Sox can chip away with Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia even if the Cardinals can neutralize Big Papi.

Cardinals to Watch
Wainwright has made seven postseason starts, but none in the World Series. He’s not likely to be fazed by the gravity of the moment, and the Cardinals need a strong outing by their leader. Carlos Beltran has been the Redbirds’ best RBI producer this postseason. He and Matt Holliday now have some help in Craig, a trio that should give Lester some trouble. Having the aging Beltran cover the spacious and quirky right field in Boston could be a factor.

Key Stats
Kyle Seager of Seattle is the only player to successfully steal against the Wainwright-Molina combination this season…The Cardinals are 4-3 in Wainwright’s seven postseason starts, 1-2 on the road…Wainwright has not allowed more than two runs in the any of the three losses…This is the second World Series start for Lester, who started Game 4 of the 2007 World Series…This is Lester’s fifth Game 1 start…The Red Sox are 2-2 in his previous four Game 1 outings…Wainwright has never faced Ellsbury, Pedroia or Ortiz…Tonight marks the 10th World Series game between the Cardinals and Red Sox at Fenway Park. Dating back to 1946, the Red Sox have won six of those games.

Teaser:
The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals begin a classic showdown in the World Series tonight in Boston.
Post date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 14:00
Path: /mlb/world-series-preview-st-louis-cardinals-vs-boston-red-sox
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St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox
This is the first time the two teams with their league’s best records have met in the Fall Classic since the Yankees defeated the Braves in 1999. Both the Red Sox and Cardinals won 97 games. These two teams have proven to be among the best in baseball all season, and this series has all the signs of a long, competitive, down-to-the-wire World Series.

Both teams won their League Championship Series in six games with pitching as their hallmark. Neither team hit particularly well in two series dominated by pitching. Both Boston and St. Louis were opportunistic and capitalized on their opponents’ miscues.

There will be no room for error in this series. Both teams must be sharp in the field and on the bases. A small mistake can mean the difference in one game, and one game will likely be the difference in the series.
There is significant World Series experience in both dugouts, especially among position players. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, and Jon Lester and John Lackey of Boston are the only pitchers on the two rosters to appear for winning teams in a previous World Series.

Baseball could not ask for a better matchup in the Fall Classic this season.
 

World Series 20132013 World Series Schedule

Game 1    Wed., Oct. 23    St. Louis at Boston    8:07    Fox    
                  Adam Wainwright (19-9)    Jon Lester (15-8)


Game 2    Thur., Oct. 24    St. Louis at Boston    8:07    Fox    
                  Michael Wacha (4-1)    John Lackey (10-13)


Game 3    Sat., Oct. 26    Boston at St. Louis    8:07    Fox    
                  Clay Buchholz (12-1)    Joe Kelly (10-5)


Game 4    Sun., Oct. 27    Boston at St. Louis    8:15    Fox
                  Jake Peavy (12-5)    Lance Lynn (15-10)


Game 5    Mon., Oct. 28    Boston at St. Louis    8:07    Fox
Game 6    Wed., Oct. 30    St. Louis at Boston    8:07    Fox
Game 7    Wed., Oct. 30    St. Louis at Boston    8:07    Fox

 

St. Louis Cardinals
Lineup
The Cardinals’ success usually begins at the top with leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter. He led the majors with 199 hits, 121 runs and 55 doubles. St. Louis has been without its best RBI man in Allen Craig, out with a foot injury, since early September. He will make his first appearance of this postseason in the World Series, and the Cardinals desperately need an offensive spark.


Rotation
Veteran Adam Wainwright is still considered the ace, but rookie Michael Wacha has been the best starter in the postseason. Matheny gave Wacha the ball in the Cardinals’ must-win NLDS Game 4 at Pittsburgh. Wacha has allowed just one run in 21 innings, helping him to earn NLCS MVP honors.


Bullpen
The Cardinals began the season with their closer Jason Motte on the shelf with Tommy John surgery. Edward Mujica stepped up and paced the club with 37 saves. He hit a wall in September and crashed and burned. Trevor Rosenthal, with three regular-season saves, has been perfect in the postseason. The Cardinals have a small army of young, power arms at their disposal.


Bench
With the return of Craig, the Cardinals’ bench improves dramatically. While Matt Adams has done an admirable job filling in for Craig at first base, his absence leaves Matheny with no hammer off the bench. Craig will likely DH at Boston and come off the bench in St. Louis.


Defense
The Cardinals made the fewest errors this season in team history, but that is not the whole story. Range is limited all over the field except in center, and the aging Carlos Beltran is the only outfielder with a good arm. Catcher Yadier Molina, one of the best all-time behind the plate, will be asked to shut down Boston’s running game, which should be a fascinating battle.


Keys to Winning
St. Louis is experienced in the postseason and has a manager that keeps them focused on the game at hand. The Cardinals posted the best average with runners in scoring postion of all-time (.330) during the season. They hit just .192 in that situation against the Pirates in the NLDS, and .349 in the NLCS. They proved to the Pirates and Dodgers that they could win games without a dominant offense. The Cardinals rely on young pitchers in key spots, namely Wacha and Rosenthal. The bullpen in front of Rosenthal will be a factor in this series and could be the Cardinals’ Achilles heel.


Players to Watch
Matheny expects to get two quality starts from both Wainwright and Wacha, and run production from Beltran, who relishes hitting in the postseason. In addition to Beltran, consistent production from Matt Holliday, David Freese and Molina would be huge. And how Rosenthal and other young relievers like Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez respond in clutch situations — especially at Fenway Park — may determine the outcome of the series.


Boston Red Sox
Lineup
The Red Sox led the majors in runs and OPS during the regular season, but were stymied by Detroit pitching in the ALCS. Boston is batting just .236 in the postseason and show little resemblance to the potent lineup that took the field all summer. Jacoby Ellsbury has been a threat from the leadoff spot with a .467 OBP and six stolen bases in the postseason. With Ellsbury on base, the lineup revolves around Big Papi, David Ortiz. The bottom of the order has provided very little help in the playoffs.


Rotation
Clay Buchholz won his first 12 decisions this year, before missing three months with an injury. Both he and Jon Lester have been everything the Red Sox had hoped for in the postseason. John Lackey, no stranger to World Series success, has given the Sox a lift. Jake Peavy hasn’t been sharp and doesn’t have a good history against the Cardinals.


Bullpen
The bullpen has been the strength of the team in the playoffs, led by ALCS MVP Koji Uehara. The pen is deeper than the Cardinals’ relief corps, so the Boston starters shouldn’t feel undue pressure to go deep into games.


Bench
Mike Napoli, a catcher-turned-first baseman, will likely come off the bench in Games 3, 4 and 5 in St. Louis. There is an option to put him behind the plate, but he hasn’t caught any games this season. Manager John Farrell can mix and match a few positions, namely left field and third base. Left fielders Daniel Nava, a switch-hitter, and Jonny Gomes, who hits southpaws well, provide Farrell with late-inning options. Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks will share the hot corner most likely.


Defense
The Red Sox outfield defense is strong with Ellsbury in center and Shane Victorino in right. In the infield Stephen Drew is a solid shortstop and Dustin Pedroia is one of the best in the business at second. It will be interesting to see how well Ortiz handles himself at first base at St. Louis.


Keys to Winning
The Red Sox are tough to beat at Fenway Park as the Rays and Tigers have found out recently. The ballpark has been magical for the Red Sox this century. The Red Sox must hold serve in the first two games. Boston’s bat slumber better be over because if they don’t wake up, the St. Louis pitchers can dominate. The starting pitching can be inconsistent, especially on the road, so getting quality starts allows the bullpen to take over and slam the door.


Players to Watch
Offensively, Farrell expects the top of the order — Ellsbury, Victorino, Pedroia and Ortiz — to produce. But what the bottom of the order contributes could be a key to the series. The Cardinals have been susceptible to left-handed pitching, and while the return of the right-handed hitting Craig helps, lefties Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales will be called on to get some clutch outs.


Numbers Game
.731    Career slugging percentage for Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals in the postseason. It ranks third all-time behind Babe Ruth (.744) and Lou Gehrig (.731) among players with at least 150 plate appearances in the postseason.

7    Players on the 2013 St. Louis roster who earned a World Series ring in 2011. An eighth, Adam Wainwright, was injured and did not appear in the 2011 World Series, but played a crucial role as the closer for the 2006 champions.

4    Players on the 2013 Boston roster who earned a World Series ring in 2007.

23    Games won in the NLCS since 2000 for St. Louis. No other National League team has played in that many NLCS games during that time.

28    More wins for Boston in 2013 than in 2012. That was the greatest improvement by any team in the majors this season.

 

PREDICTION: Boston in 7

Teaser:
The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox, owners of the two best records in baseball, prepare to stage a classic showdown in the World Series.
Post date: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 12:45
Path: /mlb/nlcs-game-6-preview-series-moves-back-st-louis
Body:

In a rematch of Game 2 pitchers, Michael Wacha of St. Louis and Clayton Kershaw of Los Angeles, it’s difficult to foresee anything more than a good old-fashioned pitchers’ duel. In Game 2, Kershaw pitched around a leadoff triple in the first inning, and Wacha avoided a big inning in the sixth when he struck out Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe with the bases loaded, preserving the shutout. There will be few scoring opportunities, and the team that capitalizes with a run or two will likely win.

Keys for Los Angeles
Maintaining a one-game-at-a-time approach. There is no tomorrow without a win tonight. Patience at the plate could be key. They must force Wacha to make multiple pitches and not miss what few mistakes he might make.

Keys for St. Louis
Getting back to St. Louis should be a lift for the Redbirds, but having to win just one of two could cause them to lose a sense of urgency, something the Dodgers will have no trouble finding. The Cardinals must also forget losing three straight to San Francisco last season. Again, playing at home this year should give St. Louis an edge it didn’t have in 2012.

Dodgers to Watch
Second baseman Mark Ellis has been under the radar all series. In addition to playing solid defense, he has been gritty at the plate. He singled in the first inning off of Wacha in Game 2 after a seven-pitch at-bat. He saw 15 pitches from the Cardinals’ young righthander in his first three plate appearances, and seems to be locked in on Wacha.

Cardinals to Watch
In the next two games, the Cardinals could really use some production from Matt Adams. The big lefty-swinging first baseman is 2-for-14 off lefthanders in the postseason with no extra-base hits. Lefthanders Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu (if the series goes seven games) will not hesitate to pitch around righthanders in order to make Adams beat them.

Key Stats
There were a scant seven hits total and just one run (unearned) in the entire game when these two pitchers opposed one another in Game 2…In that game, the teams combined to use eight pitchers…The Cardinals were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, the Dodgers 0-for-6…After going 5-for-10 in the Game 5 loss, the Cardinals now sit at .310 with runners in scoring position in this series…The Dodgers are batting .216 in those situations…In 17 at-bats each in this series, Yadier Molina, David Freese and Andre Ethier have no RBIs.

 

National League Championship Series – Game 6
Los Angeles at St. Louis
8:07 ET TBS
Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83) vs. Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78)

Teaser:
In a rematch of Game 2 starters, the Cardinals and Dodgers likely will stage another pitchers' duel.
Post date: Friday, October 18, 2013 - 13:02
Path: /mlb/alcs-game-5-preview-red-sox-tigers
Body:

American League Championship Series – Game 5
Boston at Detroit
8:07 ET Fox
Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75) vs. Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57)


Manager Jim Leyland’s lineup shift paid dividends for Detroit in Game 4, evening the series at 2-2. The veteran manager moved leadoff hitter Austin Jackson down to No. 8 and the Red Sox couldn’t get him out. With 12 hits, Boston showed signs of emerging from its own offensive funk. Jacoby Ellsbury led the way with four hits, a home run shy of a cycle. The remaining three games should feature the same pitching matchups as the first three games, which were dominated by starting pitchers on both sides. Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez was seen leaving the mound after six no-hit innings in Game 1. Boston’s Jon Lester was fairly sharp as well, allowing only one run after a walk, hit-by-pitch and soft single.

Keys for Detroit
In some ways, this game is much more critical for the Tigers than for the Red Sox. Going back to Boston down a game versus up a game could be huge for Detroit. The lineup must continue to produce like last night, but the difference between last night and Game 2 was that the Detroit relievers were able to hold on to a big lead. The Tigers can’t afford another bullpen meltdown.

Keys for Boston
After much was made over David Ortiz’s grand slam in Game 2 and how clutch he seems to be in the postseason, that game-turning home run remains his lone hit in this series. Without him contributing, it’s extremely difficult for the Sox to win. The bottom of the order needs to perk up as well. Starters in the 7-8-9 spots are 6-for-35 (.171) in this series with two walks and 14 strikeouts.

Tigers to Watch
Jackson struggled through the first three games, reaching base only twice in 14 plate appearances and striking out five times, not numbers you want from a leadoff hitter. He drew a four-pitch walk with the bases loaded in his first time up, then chased starter Jake Peavy with a single in his next at-bat. Another single and an eight-pitch walk followed to cap his perfect night.

Red Sox to Watch
With Ellsbury getting on base consistently, it’s time for Dustin Pedroia and Ortiz to step up their games. Boston expects more run production from the middle of the order, but Pedroia and Ortiz have combined for just four hits and five RBIs, with four of those coming on one swing from Big Papi.

Key Stats
With essentially every player moving up a spot in the order, last night’s game was the first in the leadoff position for Torii Hunter since his days with the Twins in 1999…Miguel Cabrera batted second for only the third time in his career, and first since 2004 when he was a member of the Florida Marlins…Jackson now has a better OBP (.231) in this postseason than Hunter (.225), who will bat leadoff again tonight for the Tigers…With nine this postseason, Ellsbury has scored 25 percent of Boston’s runs…Since Detroit acquired Sanchez from Miami midway through 2012, the Tigers are 13-7 when he starts at home, including 10-4 this season…The Red Sox lost 12 of Lester’s 20 road starts this season.

Teaser:
In pivotal Game 5 of the ALCS, the Tigers can't afford to go back to Boston down a game.
Post date: Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 11:44
Path: /mlb/alcs-game-4-preview-boston-detroit
Body:

American League Championship Series – Game 4
Boston at Detroit
8:07 ET Fox
Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17) vs. Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67)


With a win yesterday, the Red Sox have assured themselves that in order for the Tigers to advance to the World Series, they must take this series back to Boston. The Tigers must feel as if both Games 4 and 5 in Detroit are must-wins. Pitching has certainly ruled the day in this series, and with Doug Fister and Jake Peavy toeing the rubber tonight, that won’t likely change.

Keys for Detroit
Fister must go at least six innings in order to keep the pressure off the bullpen. The Tigers won three of his final five starts, while getting shut out in one loss and scoring just two runs in the other. Run support has been scarce against the Red Sox, so Fister can’t expect much help. For the Tigers, tonight would be a terrific time for Prince Fielder to find his groove. The big first baseman, sandwiched between Miguel Cabrera and the Victor Martinez-Jhonny Peralta combo, may hold the key to Detroit’s offense exploding.

Keys for Boston
Can Boston continue to win with a termite-infested bat rack? At some point, the Red Sox have to start hitting in order to win the series. Peavy must stick with the pitching game plan that has been so successful to this point. Manager John Farrell is confident going to his pen early, so Peavy can attack with his complete arsenal early in the game.

Tigers to Watch
Fister will try to continue the Tigers’ dominance over Boston hitters, and he has had mixed results this season. In a June start at home, the righthander couldn’t get out of the fourth inning before giving up 11 hits and six runs in a loss. Then in September at Fenway Park, he tossed seven shutout innings in a win. Cabrera has three home runs among his 13 hits in 45 at-bats off of Peavy.

Red Sox to Watch
Peavy hasn’t faced the Tigers since he was dealt to Boston, but his final start as a member of the White Sox came against Detroit. He threw seven strong innings allowing just four hits and two walks, but he surrendered four runs all coming off the three home runs he gave up. Cabrera was not in the lineup that day. Jacoby Ellsbury has had good success reaching base off Fister (.545 OBP). Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 5-for-11 (.455) off of Fister with two doubles and a homer. In an even smaller sample, Shane Victorino is 4-for-5 with a home run, and an HBP, of course.

Key Stats
In the 2000s, the Red Sox are now 16-15 in ALCS games. The Tigers are now 11-6…The Red Sox have yet to score in the first five innings…There have been 35 hits and 68 strikeouts in this series…The Red Sox have 12 hits, 10 walks and 43 punchouts…Detroit’s Peralta and Martinez are batting a combined .391…Their teammates are hitting .177…The Tigers have lost two of Justin Verlander’s three starts this postseason, despite his 0.565 WHIP and 0.39 ERA over 23 innings.

Teaser:
Both Boston and Detroit are looking to get their offense going in ALCS.
Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 14:13
Path: /mlb/nlcs-game-5-preview-dodgers-backs-against-wall
Body:

National League Championship Series – Game 5
St. Louis at Los Angeles
3:07 ET TBS
Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69) vs. Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63)


There’s no question that pitching has outshone hitting in this series. And there’s no reason to believe that trend will not continue in Game 5. Facing elimination, the Dodgers now must win three in a row. But they have to look no further for inspiration than to their fiercest rival, the San Francisco Giants. Last year at this point, the Cardinals led the Giants three-games-to-one, only to see the Giants rally to win three straight. There is one major difference: the Dodgers must win two in St. Louis, while the Giants had the luxury of playing Games 6 and 7 in San Francisco. In tight games, there is no margin for error in the field or on the bases, and both teams have had costly lapses. On the mound, this is a rematch of Game 1. Both Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly gave up three runs in the third inning, but neither figured in the decision in the 13-inning St. Louis win.

Keys for Los Angeles
Aside from the fact that Greinke must continue to pitch well, the Dodgers must replace the production of shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who left last night’s game in the seventh inning with discomfort from a cracked rib. If he plays in Game 5, he will not be 100 percent, so his teammates must take up the slack of not having their cleanup hitter.

Keys for St. Louis
Somehow the Redbirds keep winning despite not getting off the ground offensively. The bats have been silenced by the Dodgers’ pitching staff. The inept offensive stats are staggering. The Cardinals have only 19 hits, 13 walks and have whiffed 35 times. They are batting .148 with a .231 slugging percentage, yet they are up three-games-to-one. There’s no doubt the Cardinals remember the pain of losing three straight to the Giants last season, so that sting should serve as added incentive to end the series quickly. The bullpen continues to perform well and creates a security blanket for the starting pitchers. They know they don’t have to go deep into games and can ramp up their intensity early in the game.

Dodgers to Watch
Greinke must be up to the task of getting this series back to St. Louis for Game 6 so the Dodgers will live to fight another day. Two years ago, he lost Game 5 of the NLCS to the Cardinals as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. This St. Louis lineup is a bit different without Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman.  

Cardinals to Watch
Look for manager Mike Matheny to try to jump start his offense with the running game. The Cardinals don’t steal bases, but they have some excellent hit-and-run guys in Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso. Runs will be tough to come by against Greinke, so tonight’s offense could come from unexpected sources like Jay and Descalso.

Key Stats
The Dodgers have outhit the Cardinals 31 to 19. In four games, the Cardinals have outscored the Dodgers just eight to seven…Combined, the teams have attempted just two stolen bases. When these teams met in the 1985 NLCS, they combined for 16 attempts in the six-game series…Shane Robinson, who homered last night, has more RBIs (1) than the Cardinals’ 4-5-6 hitters (Matt Adams, Molina and David Freese) combined…The Dodgers haven’t homered in the first four games. They had only three stretches as long as four games in the regular season without a home run, only once — a six-game stretch — in the second half.

Teaser:
The St. Louis Cardinals look to close out the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Post date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 - 11:44
Path: /mlb/nlcs-game-4-preview-dodgers-host-st-louis
Body:

National League Championship Series – Game 4
St. Louis at Los Angeles
7:07 ET TBS
6Ricky Nolasco (13-11, 3.70) vs. Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97)


The Cardinals were about to have the Dodgers by the throat on the cusp of a three-games-to-none lead, but Hyun-Jin Ryu was up to the task and the Cardinals weren’t. St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright deserved much better than what his teammates gave him last night. Defensively, the Redbirds didn’t make plays, and offensively they were stymied by Ryu. Ricky Nolasco, the Dodgers’ starter, will be making the first postseason start of his career. His counterpart, Lance Lynn, didn’t fare well in his start against Pittsburgh, but he pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win in Game 1. Through three games, this series has featured an aggregate .176 batting average. Perhaps, with Nolasco and Lynn on the hill, the hitters may have a fighting chance.

Keys for Los Angeles
Dodger pitching must continue to keep the St. Louis hitters off balance. Los Angeles hitting coach Mark McGwire, who spent the past three seasons with the same job in St. Louis, no doubt has offered some insight to the Dodgers’ pitchers as to some Cardinals’ weaknesses. The pitchers must continue to exploit those weaknesses. Good health is a key for the Dodgers as well. Center fielder Andre Ethier continues to be hindered by an ankle problem and shortstop Hanley Ramirez is playing with a cracked rib.

Keys for St. Louis
The bats must get going. It’s difficult to believe that the Cardinals have won two games with a batting average of .134 in this series. But that’s not likely to last. It all starts with Matt Carpenter at the top, and he’s shown a few signs that he may be coming out of his funk. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina need to start chipping in with some run production as well. Lynn must be sharper than he was in his lone start against Pittsburgh in the NLDS. He gave up five earned runs in 4.1 innings.

Dodgers to Watch
Nolasco made two starts against St. Louis this season, one in Miami as a member of the Marlins and one in St. Louis as a Dodger. Nolasco won both games. The Dodgers won 11 of Nolasco’s 15 starts after they acquired him from Miami. However, in his final three starts, he allowed 17 earned runs in 12 innings (12.75 ERA) and opponents batted .393. That may be why Don Mattingly chose to skip him in the NLDS in favor of bringing Clayton Kershaw back on short rest. J.P. Howell will once again be a key piece of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He’s the lone lefty, and he’ll likely be asked to face the teeth of the Cardinals’ lineup once in the late innings. Offensively, Yasiel Puig has awakened and has been a thorn in the Cardinals’ side in more ways than one.

Cardinals to Watch
David Freese, who injured his calf last night, is questionable. Without him in the lineup, the Cardinals are fine defensively with Daniel Descalso, but Freese has a history of rising in October when the Cardinals need him most. Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay must shore up the Cardinals’ outfield defense. Jay, once regarded as a top center fielder, has struggled recently.

Key Stats
The projected Dodgers’ lineup is batting a combined .216 off Lynn with only two extra-base hits in 37 at-bats…The Cardinals were just 7-10 in Lynn’s 17 road starts this season, but he tossed six shutout innings in a win in May at Dodger Stadium…The projected Cardinals’ lineup is batting .371 off Nolasco…Hanley Ramirez is batting .455 this postseason with seven RBIs in six games…Against Atlanta and St. Louis in October, Dodgers pitchers have 66 strikeouts and have allowed just 41 hits and 21 walks…Yadier Molina (.286) is the only Cardinal regular hitting above .241 this postseason…Four regulars — David Freese (.192), Matt Holliday (.188), Jon Jay (.154) and Matt Carpenter (.100) — are hitting below the Mendoza Line.

Teaser:
In a series dominated by pitchers to this point, the Cardinals and Dodgers battle in what could be a pivotal Game 4.
Post date: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 14:06
Path: /mlb/alcs-game-3-preview-boston-vistis-detroit
Body:

American League Championship Series – Game 3
Boston at Detroit
3:07 ET Fox
John Lackey (10-13, 3.52) vs. Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46)


Just when the Tigers thought they had a firm grip on this series as they were about to take a commanding 2-0 lead back home to Detroit for three games, a typical Red Sox game at Fenway Park broke out. Typical for the 2000s, anyway. Detroit’s pitchers were toying with Boston batters and had a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning. But a double here, a walk there, a pitching change here, a pitching change there, a ground ball single here and a Big Papi grand slam there suddenly turned a dreary old ballpark into a vibrant baseball palace again. So onto Detroit we go with the series knotted at one game apiece.

Keys for Detroit
Forget about Sunday night. Justin Verlander must continue the dominance that the staff has shown over the Red Sox and the success that the righthander has enjoyed this postseason. As good as Verlander has been, the Tigers must be able to close out games when their starting pitching dominates. The Detroit bullpen has been the elephant in the room all season, and has once again become a problem for manager Jim Leyland. Last season, he turned to Phil Coke to close out games. He may resort to the lefty again. Of course, getting the series to Detroit is key in that Boston magic is less likely to happen outside of Fenway.

Keys for Boston
The Red Sox must get their offense going. They have yet to record a hit in the first through fifth innings. Leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury and No. 2 hitter Shane Victorino must jump-start this offense. Dustin Pedroia, hitting in front of David Ortiz, is a key to forcing the Tigers to pitch to Boston’s big slugger. If the Tigers are allowed to pitch around Ortiz, it could be another long night for the Boston bats. Starter John Lackey must be up to the task, expecting little run support. Manager John Farrell will be quick to go to the bullpen, but the Red Sox can’t afford to tax the pen too much and leave nothing for Games 4 and 5.

Tigers to Watch
As Leyland searches for answers in the bullpen, Joaquin Benoit may not have many opportunities left. Lefthanders Drew Smyly and Coke will likely get chances in high-leverage situations. Lackey may be able to keep Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter at bay, but expect the righthander to have trouble negotiating the Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder-Victor Martinez-Jhonny Peralta gauntlet.

Red Sox to Watch
Big Papi will be the center of attention for the Sox. He is the one hitter the Tigers can’t allow to beat them. Obviously, a key will be getting outs in front him. The big designated hitter has had success against Verlander and he truly loves to hit in the postseason.

Key Stats
Red Sox batters have struck out 32 times in 59 at-bats in the first two games… Ortiz with four RBIs is the only player for either team with more than one…The Tigers were 7-10 in Verlander’s 17 home starts this season; 0-8 when scoring four runs or less…Ortiz has 10 hits, including six for extra bases, in his 27 at-bats off of Verlander… Pedroia is 1-for-18 with a walk against Verlander…The former AL MVP has held Ellsbury to a .269 OBP…The Red Sox were 14-15 in Lackey’s 29 starts this season, but only 5-11 in 16 starts away from Fenway…The projected starting nine for the Tigers carries a .298 aggregate batting average against Lackey.

Teaser:
With a thrilling comeback win at Fenway Park, the Red Sox tied the ALCS at 1-1 and now travel to Detroit for Game 3.
Post date: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 11:17
Path: /mlb/nlcs-game-3-preview-dodgers-backs-against-wall
Body:

National League Championship Series – Game 3
St. Louis at Los Angeles
7:07 ET TBS
Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00) vs. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94)


This series could not be much closer, yet the Cardinals emerged from St. Louis with a two-game lead heading to Los Angeles. The Cardinals won a 13-inning classic, then made an unearned run off Clayton Kershaw stand up for a 1-0 win in Game 2. The 2004 Boston Red Sox proved to us that the Dodgers will indeed have a chance if they lose tonight, but this game is all but an elimination game for Los Angeles. The Dodgers will have to beat the Cardinals’ best in Adam Wainwright in order to avoid a three-games-to-none hole. Rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the hill for the Dodgers.

Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers may need a super-human effort from Ryu in order to match Wainwright pitch for pitch. If not, the Dodgers’ lineup must produce more runs than it has to this point, and do that against the Cardinals’ ace.

Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals still haven’t found their groove with the bats. And left-handed pitching hasn’t been kind to the Redbirds all season, even when they were hitting well. Carlos Beltran, Matt Adams and Jon Jay, in particular, struggle more against lefties than righthanders. So Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and David Freese may have to shoulder the run production tonight.

Dodgers to Watch
Ryu will certainly be watched closely by Don Mattingly. The manager can’t afford for this game to get out of hand. That means Ryu will be on a short leash. With Hanley Ramirez ailing, Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez must carry the offensive load. Ethier has a good history off Wainwright.

Cardinals to Watch
Wainwright has been so good, it’s almost expected that he’ll throw a dud at some point. Or maybe he got that out of his system a few weeks ago against Cincinnati. The Cardinals are 12-5 in his 17 road starts this season, and he has failed to get through the sixth inning just once.

Key Stats
St. Louis is batting just .187 in the postseason…Opponents are batting .196…Los Angeles is 19-11 in Ryu’s 30 starts this season, 10-5 at home…Ethier is 10-for-33 in his career against Wainwright with three home runs and three doubles…Ramirez is batting .208 off the Cardinals’ righthander (5-for-24)…Mark Ellis is 1-for-12 (.083).

Teaser:
After winning the first two games in St. Louis by the slimmest of margins, the Cardinals look to go up 3-0 behind ace Adam Wainwright
Post date: Monday, October 14, 2013 - 13:11
Path: /mlb/alcs-game-1-preview-detroit-begins-series-boston
Body:

American League Championship Series – Game 1
Detroit at Boston
8:30 ET Fox
Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57) vs. Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75)


Jon Lester beat the Tigers twice this season. In one of the games, he was very sharp in a 2-1 win. But in his previous start he was aided with 10 runs of support in the 10-6 win in which he was not on his game. Anibal Sanchez’s only appearance against Boston in his eight-year career came at Dolphin Stadium way back in 2006. It was Sanchez’s second career game and a relief appearance in the first inning. He gave up seven earned runs in 4.1 innings. But that’s old history now. Few of the current Red Sox hitters have faced Sanchez, the American League ERA leader this season, which should be an advantage for the pitcher.

Keys for Detroit
Sanchez has faced the Red Sox just once in his career, and it wasn’t at Fenway Park. Having never pitched in the quirky ballpark can be a bit unsettling initially. Being right-handed certainly helps though. So much hinges on Miguel Cabrera, that the Red Sox may opt to never pitch to him. In order to do that, the Sox must keep runners off base in front of him, and be prepared to deal with Prince Fielder. So if Detroit can get Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter hot at the top of the lineup, it will be difficult to pitch around Cabrera. Since joining the Tigers, Fielder has yet to show what he can do in the postseason. Now would be a good time to break out of that funk.

Keys for Boston
The Red Sox expect to score runs. Offense shouldn’t be the problem. Lester must be sharper than he’s been against this team, and the relievers can’t let this game get away. Boston’s bullpen should be a distinct advantage in this series, so keeping the game close and turning it over to both bullpens is a positive for the Red Sox.

Tigers to Watch
The Tigers can’t win without Cabrera having a good series. Can they win a game or two without a contribution from the best hitter in the game? Sure. But not four. This lineup is deep and has a terrific history against Lester, even though the Sox won his two starts against Detroit this season. Former Red Sox Victor Martinez has been in a groove since the All-Star break. That should continue tonight. If the Tigers are to make any win easy, it must start with Jackson and Hunter at the top of the order. Jackson, in particular, was an easy target for Oakland pitchers.

Red Sox to Watch
Nothing in his history against Detroit suggests that Lester will get deep into this game. Koji Uehara — one Jose Lobaton home run aside — has been nasty this season, especially over the final four months. But to bridge the gap between Lester and Uehara, the Red Sox rely heavily on lefty Craig Breslow and righthander Junichi Tazawa. Breslow should become very well-acquainted with Fielder during this series.

Key Stats
The Tigers held Oakland hitters to .132 average with runners in scoring position…Detroit won four of the seven meetings between the Tigers and Red Sox this season, but only one of three in Boston…Detroit’s projected lineup is batting .383 vs. Lester in 133 at-bats…Cabrera is 2-for-4 with two home runs and a walk in five career plate appearances against Boston closer Uehara…Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ only plate appearance against Detroit reliever Al Alburquerque resulted in a grand slam…Detroit was only 7-8 in Sanchez’s 15 road starts this season.

Series Prediction: Boston in 6

Teaser:
Tigers and Red Sox square off for AL pennant
Post date: Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 10:46
Path: /mlb/nlcs-game-2-preview-dodgers-st-louis
Body:

National League Championship Series – Game 2
Los Angeles at St. Louis
3:07 ET TBS
Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83) vs. Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78)


The Dodgers and Cardinals played 13 innings for more than five hours before Carlos Beltran lined a shot to right field that scored pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso from second. Now the teams must turn around for a first pitch of Game 2 just 13 and half hours after the final pitch of Game 1. St. Louis Game 2 starter Michael Wacha followed a near no-hitter in his final start of the regular season by allowing just one hit over 7.1 innings to the Pirates. The lone hit was a long home run by Pedro Alvarez. Clayton Kershaw shut down the Braves in both Game 1 and 4. So we have two outstanding pitchers throwing well facing exhausted lineups. Yep, could be another epic, gut-wrenching affair this afternoon.

Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers must put last night behind them and quickly. That’s much easier to do with Kershaw on the hill. But Hanley Ramirez, who was hit in the ribs in the first inning, is likely sore, and the Dodgers can’t afford to lose his bat. Closer Kenley Jansen entered the game in the 13th inning and the first batter he faced in the series lined a walk-off single to right. He must forget that and move on to this afternoon.

Keys for St. Louis
Who will close tonight? Trevor Rosenthal threw 33 pitches Friday night. He topped 30 pitches just four times during the regular season and did not pitch the following night on any of those occasions. But this is the postseason. If he isn’t available, Kevin Siegrist or deposed closer Edward Mujica will be called on for the final outs. Even though the Cardinals beat Kershaw twice this season, they are susceptible to lefthanders.

Dodgers to Watch
None of the Dodgers have seen Wacha, so it may take a time through the order for any of the hitters to be comfortable. So much hinges on Kershaw. The lefthander lost two starts to St. Louis this season, and has a spotty postseason record prior to this season. Kershaw must get deep into this game given how taxed the bullpen was last night. In the two losses to the Cardinals, Kershaw wasn’t bad allowing a .265 average with a 4.15 ERA over 13 innings.

Cardinals to Watch
All eyes better be on Beltran. The man is calm and collected in pressure situations in the postseason. After a win in Game 1, there’s slightly less pressure on Wacha, but the Cardinals don’t want to allow Los Angeles to split the first two games. And, realistically, the Cardinals can’t expect too many runs off of Kershaw, so Wacha needs to be sharp. The youngster has been especially good at home and equally tough on lefty and righty hitters. Mike Matheny handed the 22-year-old the ball for one of the most important games of the season on Monday, and responded by taking a no-hitter into the late innings.

Key Stats
Beltran now has nine RBIs in this postseason, as many as his teammates have combined…In his career, Kershaw in 4-5 with a 3.75 ERA against the Cardinals…In 43 plate appearances vs. Kershaw, Matt Holliday is batting .303 with a .465 on-base percentage…Pete Kozma has three doubles and a single in his five plate appearances against Kershaw…Five Dodger regulars are hitting at a .348 clip or better this postseason (Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig)…Six St. Louis relievers — Rosenthal, Seth Maness, John Axford, Siegrist, Randy Choate and Mujica — have logged 12 innings this postseason with a 1.00 WHIP and 0.00 ERA.

Teaser:
After a 13-inning nail-biter in Game 1, the Cardinals and Dodgers face a quick turnaround for Game 2.
Post date: Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 09:14
Path: /mlb/nlcs-game-1-preview-dodgers-visit-st-louis
Body:

National League Championship Series – Game 1
Los Angeles at St. Louis
8:30 ET TBS
Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63) vs. Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69)


The Cardinals won a hard-fought battle with NL Central rival Pittsburgh to advance to the NLCS for the third consecutive year. The Dodgers didn’t exactly breeze by the Braves, but there was less resistance from Atlanta than expected. With Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw pitching the first two games in St. Louis, the Dodgers have an excellent opportunity to steal a road game. However, with Adam Wainwright scheduled to pitch Game 3 in Los Angeles, the Cardinals can easily return the favor. This series certainly shapes up for St. Louis to have Wainwright on the hill for game 7.

Keys for Los Angeles
The Dodgers need to get to Game 1 starter Joe Kelly early and not allow him to settle in. That can be said for most starting pitchers, but forcing Mike Matheny’s hand going to the bullpen early is not a good sign for St. Louis. The Cardinals, with Yadier Molina behind the plate, are not friendly toward an offense built around stolen bases. But the Dodgers can take extra bases on the St. Louis outfield. Of course, if they continue to get extra-base hits at a torrid pace, scoring runs will not be a problem.

Keys for St. Louis
Some good news from the NLDS with Pittsburgh is that Cardinals pitchers held the Pirates to a .201 batting average. The bad news? St. Louis hit just .209. Pittsburgh hitters’ primary problems were Wainwright and Michael Wacha. The Cardinals must hit better than .209 in order to win when those two don’t pitch. The Cardinals rolled to 97 wins during the regular season due to their uncanny hitting with runners in scoring position. The .330 average in those situations blew away previous records for any team. But St. Louis hit just .192 (5-for-26) against the Pirates in those situations, which made the Redbirds’ work much more difficult. Without their leading man in that role, Allen Craig, the Cardinals need to find that regular-season magic.

Dodgers to Watch
The Dodgers were wearing their hitting shoes in the series against Atlanta and jumping on Kelly early would set a nice tone for the series for the men in blue. Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez trigger the Dodgers’ offense. The Cardinals will probably find a way to hold Yasiel Puig in check, but getting Crawford on base and Ramirez hitting with runners in scoring position is a nice formula for the Dodgers. Skip Schumaker is a name to remember. The former Cardinal, very popular in St. Louis with many friends on the team, will be in position to haunt the Redbirds. He’ll likely be up to the task.

Cardinals to Watch
Matt Carpenter, who sparked the Cardinals’ offense all season, must be the happiest player in the big leagues right now to see Pittsburgh pitchers leave town. The Pirates kept the NL hits and runs leader off base and made him a non-factor. The Cardinals expect Carlos Beltran and David Freese to come up big this time of year, but producing runs becomes so much easier with Carpenter leading the way.

Key Stats
Greinke has more career wins (8) against the Cardinals than any team other than the Tigers (13)…In two starts vs. St. Louis in the 2011 NLCS while with Milwaukee, Greinke gave up 15 hits and eight earned runs in 11.2 innings…Freese, Matt Holliday and Molina are batting a combined .333 against Greinke with 10 RBIs in 66 at-bats…Six of the Dodgers’ regular eight position players hit .333 or better in the NLDS against Atlanta…The Dodgers had 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs in the four games…This is the Cardinals’ eighth appearance in the NLCS in the 2000s, more than twice as many as any other National League team. St. Louis has played in 43 NLCS games since 2000, winning 19…This is the Dodgers’ third NLCS appearance since 2008…Los Angeles won just two of eight games vs. the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008-09…The anticipated starting eight for L.A. is batting .278 against Kelly, albeit from a small sample. If Mattingly decides to play Nick Punto, a former Cardinal, at second base rather than Mark Ellis, the average goes up to .418.

Series Prediction: St. Louis in 7

Teaser:
Two franchises steeped in tradition meet with the NL pennant on the line.
Post date: Friday, October 11, 2013 - 12:29
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/worst-mlb-manager-tenures-1961
Body:
From the Cubs' ill-conceived College of Coaches in 1961 to Bobby V and Ozzie G in 2012, here are the worst managerial tenures over the past half-century.
 

When the American League expanded to 10 teams in 1961, with the National League set to follow the next year, baseball ushered in a new era. With both leagues fully integrated by that time, and many players from Latin America finding their way into the big leagues, this was in many ways the beginning of a Golden Age of baseball. For the first time there was a 162-game schedule. From this Expansion Era, we rank the worst managerial disasters.

1. College of Coaches, Chicago Cubs, 1961-62    123-193    .389
Chicago Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, who for a while must have thought himself to be P.T. Barnum, instituted an unorthodox College of Coaches to lead the Cubs in 1961-62. The concept called for a group of coaches to lead the team with each one having a turn as manager for a number of games. Wrigley thought that exposing players to multiple ways of thinking would benefit his troops. But the results were disastrous. The Cubs managed to finish seventh in 1961, but lost a franchise-record 103 games in 1962, finishing above only the expansion New York Mets and six games behind the first-year Colt 45’s. Although they were quite young, future Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams joined veteran Ernie Banks in the everyday lineup. George Altman was the leading hitter with a .318 average and second baseman Ken Hubbs was NL Rookie of the Year.

2. Bobby Valentine, Boston, 2012    69-93    .426
As has been the case since the turn of the century, the Red Sox are expected to contend every year. Valentine’s tenure landed the Sox in last place, 26 games out of first place and threatened to cause lasting damage. The .426 winning percentage was the lowest of Bobby V’s managerial career in a full season.

3. Ozzie Guillen, Miami, 2012    69-93    .426
After a term as the White Sox most successful skipper since Al Rosen of the 1950s, Guillen was hand-picked to lead the new-look, newly-named Miami Marlins as they opened a new stadium and were stocked with pricey free agents. The season was a disaster from the beginning. From racial misspeaks to friction with players to mounting losses, Guillen’s time in Miami could not have gone much worse.

4. Bob Geren, Oakland, 2007-11    334-376    .470
He finished one season at an even .500 (2010) followed by three losing years. The A’s won the division under Ken Macha the year prior to Geren’s arrival, and won it again under Bob Melvin the year after his departure.

5. Larry Bowa, San Diego, 1987-88    81-127    .389
The rookie skipper led the Padres to their first last-place finish in six years, and it would be another half dozen seasons before they would finish at the bottom of the NL West again. He began the 1988 season with a 16-30 record, and Jack McKeon ended the campaign with a 67-48 ledger.

6. Jim Davenport, San Francisco, 1985    56-88    .389
The 1985 season is the low-water mark for the franchise between 1944 and the present. Oops. The Giants have had just four managers since Davenport.

7. Don Heffner, Cincinnati, 1966    37-46    .446
Heffner took over a team accustomed to contending and led the Reds to an eighth-place standing before being dismissed midseason.

8. Ted Turner, Atlanta, 1977    0-1    .000
After the Braves dropped 16 straight games, owner Ted Turner told manager Dave Bristol to take some time off and that he would manage the team for what was originally thought to be about 10 days or so. Turner’s one stint in the dugout yielded nothing more than the Braves’ 17th consecutive defeat. The next day, Turner was told by National League President Chub Feeney, backed by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, that anyone with ownership in a team was not allowed to manage. Turner didn’t make a pitching change (Phil Niekro pitched a complete game in a 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh) and used a pinch-runner for his catcher and two pinch-hitters in the ninth inning. Third base coach Vern Benson managed the next game before Bristol returned for the remainder of the season.

9. Vern Rapp, Cincinnati, 1984    51-70    .421
The Reds were on pace for a six-game decline from a disappointing 1983 season when Pete Rose replaced Rapp in August.

10. Moose Stubing, California, 1988    0-8    .000
The tenure was short, but Stubing holds the dubious mark of the most games managed since 1900 without a win. Stubing finished his playing career — which consisted of two weeks in August of 1967 — hitless in five plate appearances with four strikeouts.

11. Alan Trammell, Detroit, 2003-05    186-300    .383
After the 119-loss debacle in 2003, the team slightly improved, but didn’t come within 20 games of first place in the AL Central.

12. Karl Kuehl, Montreal, 1976    43-85    .336
Gene Mauch left an improving expansion franchise on the cusp of a .500 record for the first time in Expos history, but Kuehl wrecked the club. The Expos were on pace for 108 losses when Kuehl was relieved of his only job as manager.

13. Manny Acta, Washington Nationals, 2007-09    158-252    .385    
Acta lost 89 games his first season in Washington, followed that with a 102-loss season, and was on pace to lose 114 games when he was fired in 2009.

14. Jim Riggleman, San Diego, 1992-94    112-179    .385
In two seasons at the helm in San Diego, Riggleman oversaw the two worst seasons for the Padres from 1987 until now, finishing last in the seven-team NL West in 1993, and was running in last place in the four-team division when the strike ended the 1994 season.

15. Joe Torre, New York Mets, 1977-81    286-420    .405
Hired as a player-manager in 1977, Torre guided the Mets to four of their 14 worst seasons.

16. John McNamara, California, 1983-84    151-173    .466
Gene Mauch won 93 games the year before McNamara arrived, then 90 and 92 the following two years. Mac topped out at 81.

17. Al Pedrique, Arizona, 2004    22-61    .265
His abysmal winning percentage is easily the worst in franchise history, with the next worst that of A.J. Hinch at .420.

18. Bill Plummer, Seattle, 1992    64-98    .395
Jim Lefebvre managed the Mariners to the first winning season in its 15-year history the year before Plummer was hired. The new manager sent the team down the drain with a decline of 19 wins, matching the team’s 64-98 record as an expansion team in 1977. Lou Piniella brought a winner back in 1993 with a 18-game improvement.

19. Maury Wills, Seattle, 1980-81    26-56    .317
Wills owns the worst winning percentage in Mariners history. And Seattle has had some pretty bad teams, especially in the early years.

20. Eddie Haas, Atlanta, 1985    50-71    .413
The Braves finished first, second and second in three years under Joe Torre. Haas immediately took them to fifth. The Braves lost 12 of the manager’s final 13 games, then immediately launched a five-game win streak under new boss, Bobby Wine.

21. Jeff Torborg, New York Mets, 1992-93    85-115    .425
Expectations were high in New York in 1992, with many experts predicting a division title. Aces David Cone and Dwight Gooden were joined by free agents Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Murray and Bobby Bonilla in a star-studded clubhouse. The Mets finished fifth, 18 games below .500. Torborg began the following season 13-25 and was fired. While the Mets improved after his dismissal, the 1993 season remains the club’s worst season since 1965.

22. A.J. Hinch, Arizona, 2009-10    89-123    .420
His Arizona tenure was bookended by a second-place 2008 team and a division champion in 2011.

23. Terry Francona, Philadelphia, 1997-2000    285-363    .440
The Phillies topped out at eight games below .500 and a third-place finish in 1999 under Francona, who took the experience of some hard lessons to Boston.

24. Bob Boone, Cincinnati, 2001-03    190-238    .444
Boone took over a franchise coming off back-to-back second-place finishes. He proceeded to steer the club to its worst finish between 1982 and the present. He launched what would become nine straight losing seasons.

25. Brad Mills, Houston, 2010-12    171-274    .384
It’s true that the Astros were embarking on a major rebuilding program. But the team regressed from 76 wins to 56 to a pace for 52 when Mills was mercifully relieved of his duties.

26. Dave Bristol, Atlanta, 1976-77    130-192    .404
The 1970s was a bad decade for the Braves. They finished in the upper division just twice and last four times. Bristol oversaw two of the last-place finishes and was replaced by Bobby Cox. Bristol managed for four different franchises and was replaced by Sparky Anderson, Cox, Frank Robinson and Del Crandall.

27. Bucky Dent, New York Yankees, 1989-90    36-53    .404
Winning barely 40 percent of his games, Dent owns the worst winning percentage of any Yankees skipper since 1912. (That’s two years before Babe Ruth debuted with the Red Sox.)

28. Butch Hobson, Boston, 1992-94    207-232    .472
The Red Sox finished first in 1990, then second in 1991. Hobson took over in 1992 and led the Sox to their first last-place finish since 1932, repeated only by Bobby Valentine’s troops in 2012.

29. Ralph Houk, Detroit, 1974-78    363-443    .450
From 1971-88, the Detroit Tigers had just four losing seasons. Houk managed all four, finishing in the lower half of the AL East all five seasons he was at the helm.

30. Charlie Metro, Kansas City Royals, 1970    19-33    .365
After the Royals won 69 games in their inaugural season under Joe Gordon, Metro had the team on pace for just 59 wins when he was replaced by Bob Lemon. The following season Lemon led the team to a winning season and second place in the AL West.

31. Buddy Bell, Detroit, 1996-98    184-277    .399
Bell followed the Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson and led the Tigers to their worst season since 1952. The 109 losses were the most in team history at the time.

32. Dave Trembley, Baltimore, 2008-10    187-283    .398
Although the club was floundering when he was hired, Trembley’s first full season was also the first for the Orioles in last place in the five-team AL East. The situation didn’t improve as Trembley saw nothing but the cellar after that.

33. Russ Nixon, Atlanta, 1988-90    130-216    .376
Of all the Braves’ managers with at least 30 games since 1930, Nixon’s winning percentage ranks last.

34. Jerry Narron, Texas, 2001-02    134-162    .453
How could a team with Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Young, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez finish in last place in the AL West? And 21 games behind third-place Seattle.

35. Dave Miley, Cincinnati, 2003-05    125-164    .433
Miley is the only Reds manager since World War II to manage as many as 250 games with a winning percentage below .440.

36. Ken Macha, Milwaukee Brewers, 2009-10    157-167    .485
Macha’s two sub-.500 seasons were sandwiched by the Brewers’ wild-card team in 2008 and the 2011 NL Central division champs.

37. John Russell, Pittsburgh, 2008-10    186-299    .384
Of the 20 years of losing suffered in Pittsburgh, Russell was in charge during the worst and third-worst seasons. His first team was one game worse than the year before and the team proceeded to decline by five games in his next two seasons.

38. Mel McGaha, Kansas City Athletics, 1964-65    45-91    .331
The 13 years the A’s spent in Kansas City were all losers. Eight games below .500 in 1958 was the high-water mark. Two of the three worst seasons involved McGaha, who finished the 1964 season, then started 1965 with a 5-21 mark.

39. Davey Lopes, Milwaukee Brewers, 2000-02    144-195    .425
The former Dodgers’ All-Star second baseman took over a team that had won 74 games, led them to 73 and 68 wins and got off to a 3-12 start in 2002 when he was dismissed in favor of Jerry Royster.

40. Johnny Keane, New York Yankees, 1965-66    81-101    .445
The 1964 American League champs hired Keane away from the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals after the season. But Keane got just 46 games from Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle batted .255 with 19 home runs and 46 RBIs. The Yankees finished sixth despite Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre and Al Downing combining to start 105 games with a 48-36 record.

41. Don Gutteridge, Chicago White Sox, 1969-70    109-172    .388
From 1949 through 2013, the 1970 season ranks as the low-point in White Sox annals.

42. George Bamberger, New York Mets, 1982-83    81-127    .389
Bamby’s two last-place clubs were followed by Davey Johnson’s six straight seasons of first or second place. His .389 winning percentage is the Mets’ lowest for post-1967 managers.

43. Stump Merrill, New York Yankees, 1990-91    120-155    .436
The two seasons in which Merrill spent time in the Yankees’ dugout just happened to be the two lowest win totals in non-strike seasons for the Yankees between 1967 and, well, now.

44. Joe Adcock, Cleveland, 1967    75-87    .463
The .463 winning percentage was the Indians’ worst since 1946. It followed .537 and .500 seasons, and preceded a .534 season under Al Dark.

45. Billy Herman, Boston, 1964-66    128-182    .413
Herman’s two ninth-place teams morphed into an AL champion the season after he was gone.

46. Jim Lemon, Washington Senators, 1968    65-96    .404
In his only stint as a manager, Lemon’s team was 11 games worse than the year before, and 20 games worse than the following season.

47. Jim Marshall, Oakland, 1979    54-108    .333
The .333 winning percentage remains the franchise’s worst showing since 1954, the club’s final season in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City.

48. Paul Richards, Chicago White Sox, 1976    64-97    .398
Richards’ second stint as White Sox field boss turned out to be the second-worst season on the South Side between 1950 and today.

49. Frank Howard, San Diego, 1981    41-69    .373
It must have been difficult to manage through the strike-interrupted season of 1981. But the Padres joined the Blue Jays as the only teams to finish in last place in both the first and second halves, going a miserable 18-36 after the strike.

50. Jim Marshall, Chicago Cubs, 1974-76    175-218    .445
This was certainly not a disaster — especially by Cubs standards — but it was the three worst seasons on the North Side from 1967-79.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - 12:21
Path: /mlb/you-wont-believe-everything-thats-happened-pirates-had-winning-season
Body:

It’s been a long time since the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season. A well-documented long time. My daughter is a junior in college, and the Pirates have not had a season with a winning record in her lifetime.

But, last night, the Pirates won their 82nd game of the season, ensuring themselves of a winning year in 2013.

A few notable events have happened in baseball since the Bucs were winners back in 1992. Here are a few:

The Florida Marlins, now the Miami Marlins, and the Colorado Rockies came into being. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks came into being.

The Marlins won two World Series. The Diamondbacks won a World Series. The Boston Red Sox won two World Series. Even the White Sox won a World Series. In fact, 11 different franchises have won the World Series.

Joe Torre was hired by George Steinbrenner to manage the New York Yankees. Tony La Russa was hired as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Montreal Expos abandoned Canada and moved to Washington to become the Nationals. Postseason baseball was played in our nation’s capital, but not in Pittsburgh.

American League and National League teams began playing each other in the regular season — and the games actually count. Central Divisions were created in both leagues. Wild card teams were introduced.

A new generation of superstars has been introduced to fans since the Pirates were last winners. Chipper Jones made his major league debut. Mariano Rivera made his major league debut. Derek Jeter made his major league debut. Alex Rodriguez made his major league debut.

Cal Ripken was still 396 games away from breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak of 2,130 the last time the Bucs were winners.

 

And 10 players — Jeter, Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Ichiro Suzuki, Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Garret Anderson and Todd Helton — all amassed at least 2,500 hits during that time. Ichiro collected 3,983 in Japan and the U.S. during that time.

Former Pirate Barry Bonds hit 586 home runs and has been retired long enough to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. Alex Rodriguez topped that with 651 clouts. A third player, Jim Thome, also hit more than 600 homers. And another three players — Sammy Sosa, Ramirez and Ken Griffey — hit more than 500 home runs.

The single-season 70-home run barrier was broken twice. The single-season 60-home run barrier was broken six times.

There have been 45 no-hitters in the big leagues, including gems by Chris Bosio, Jose Jimenez and Bud Smith, since the Pirates celebrated a winning season, none by Pittsburgh pitchers. The Bucs have been no-hit once during that time.

Greg Maddux, Andy Pettitte and Randy Johnson each won 250 or more games since the Pirates were a .500 team. Mike Mussina missed by two. The only two pitchers with more than 600 saves — Rivera and Trevor Hoffman — did all their closing work since then.


And Sabermetrics were introduced to baseball fans.

There have been more World Series cancellations than Pirates’ winning seasons in the last 20 years. Heck, there has been more cancelled hockey seasons.

A few things have happened in other sports as well.

In the NFL, the Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans came into existence. The Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. The Rams moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles, but not before winning nine games over two seasons as the Los Angeles Rams.

A total of 12 franchises won a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning made his debut — for the University of Tennessee.

Michael Jordan won four NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. Yep, it’s been a while since the Pirates won as many as 82 games.

LeBron James made his debut — for Saint Vincent-Saint Mary High School in Akron. Chris Webber was drafted No. 1 overall by Orlando and immediately traded to Golden State. Isaiah Rider made his NBA debut. Jason Kidd and Grant Hill were drafted.

Boston has celebrated seven championships among the four major North American sports. And in Pittsburgh, the Steelers won two Super Bowls and the Penguins captured a Stanley Cup.

In college athletics, Chris Webber called timeout. Tommie Frazier led Nebraska to back-to-back national titles. And let’s not forget that Corliss Williamson, Tony Delk and Miles Simon each won the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award.

Rick Pitino won national championships at both Kentucky and Louisville and dismantled the Boston Celtics in between. Both Tubby Smith and Lon Kruger took four different schools to the NCAA Tournament.

The BCS was invented. The BCS was disposed. And two college football national championships were shared.

Nine non-SEC teams have won undisputed national championships in college football during the Pirates’ Losing Era.

Mack Brown was hired at Texas. Nick Saban was introduced at Michigan State, and the University of Pittsburgh has hired eight head football coaches. Pete Carroll coached the New York Jets.

Penn State gave up its long-standing independent status and joined the Big Ten. Texas A&M won two Southwest Conference championships. Nebraska won three Big Eight Conference championships.

And, oh, by the way, ESPN.com was launched as ESPNet.SportsZone.com and ESPN2 hit the airwaves.

And here’s a little perspective outside the world of sports:

The United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong to China. Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa. And Monica Lewinsky became a White House intern. O.J. Simpson became a criminal.

The Dow Jones topped 5000. GM launched its Saturn Division (“A New Kind of Car Company”). And MP3 players were introduced.

Y2K freaked many people out, needlessly. And the Euro was adopted by the European Union.

“Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump” and “Braveheart” debuted on the big screen while “Beavis and Butthead” debuted on MTV.

Bill Clinton was elected President. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was adopted by the military. Sony’s PlayStation was developed. Taylor Swift celebrated her fourth birthday.

And Bryce Harper was born.

All these memories were created since Atlanta’s Sid Bream scored on a base hit by Francisco Cabrera to end the Pirates’ 1992 season, their last with a winning record.

Teaser:
It’s been a long time since the Pittsburgh Pirates had a winning season. A well-documented long time. But, last night, the Pirates won their 82nd game of the season, ensuring themselves of a winning season in 2013. A few notable events have happened in baseball since the Bucs were winners.
Post date: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 18:22
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-pennant-fever-z
Body:

Pedro Alvarez

Maybe the third baseman was rushed through the Pirates’ system, or maybe he’s been a little slow to develop, but the Pirates have been rewarded for their patience with the young slugger. The second overall pick in 2008 is tied for the NL lead in homers and is fourth in RBIs. If the Bucs can hang on and win the NL Central, Alvarez will be a key component.


Clay Buchholz
The Boston righthander was 9-0 through his first 12 starts. But a neck strain and bursa sac inflammation have sidelined him since June 8. Boston’s chances increase dramatically with a healthy Buchholz in the rotation for the playoffs.

Miguel Cabrera
The best hitter on the planet in the middle of the lineup for the Tigers is the No. 1 factor in how far Detroit can advance this season. The Tigers need Miggy completely healthy in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Drama (lack of)
The only drama in the NL may be which of the three NL Central teams — the Pirates, Cardinals or Reds — will win the division and which two will be left to play in the wild-card game.

Experience
There is very little postseason experience — and even less proven success — among NL starting pitchers likely to earn starts this October. A.J. Burnett of the Pirates has the most starts (7, all with the Yankees) and a 5.87 ERA. The Braves’ starters have one start in the postseason combined. The only two starters with postseason success are Adam Wainwright of St. Louis, with four starts and four saves in the playoffs and a 2.48 ERA over 32.2 innings; and the Reds’ Mike Leake, who had a terrific start last season against the Giants.

Prince Fielder
Opponents may choose to pitch around Cabrera, leaving Fielder as the focal point of Detroit’s lineup. The big man struggled at a .173 clip in the postseason last year with only one extra-base hit. He’s been a valuable protector for Cabrera in the regular season, but how he performs in the playoffs could determine the Tigers’ fate.

Jason Grilli
The Pirates’ closer was almost perfect for the first three months of the season, but his injury has forced Pittsburgh to shuffle its bullpen. So far, there have been few problems as Mark Melancon, Justin Wilson, Tony Watson and Vin Mazzaro have taken up the slack. But the Pirates have a much better shot at winning the NL Central with their closer healthy. He’s beginning to make a few rehab appearances in the minor leagues, hopeful that he can return to Pittsburgh by mid-September.

Jason Heyward
The Braves’ offense took off when Heyward was moved to the leadoff spot, and Atlanta has been one of the hottest teams in baseball since. But Heyward was hit in the face with a pitch on Aug. 21, causing him to be out until late in the season. His healthy return will be critical for the Braves once the playoffs begin.

Jose Iglesias
In one of the most significant trades at the deadline, the Tigers acquired Iglesias from the Red Sox anticipating the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Iglesias will not provide pop to match Peralta, but his defense is terrific.

Kenley Jansen
The Dodgers’ starting pitching has been terrific, and the lineup has been hitting on all cylinders. If there is an Achilles heel for Los Angeles, it would be the bullpen. Jansen closed just 78 percent of his opportunities last season, and allowed 33 percent of inherited runners to score. He’s been much better this season, however, closing 88 percent of his opportunities and allowing just 14 percent of inherited runners to cross the plate.

Clayton Kershaw
The most dominant pitcher in the majors this season must continue to confound hitters in the playoffs. The lefty carries a career 5.87 ERA in the postseason, and he needs to be the shutdown ace in order for the Dodgers to win a series — or more.

Francisco Liriano
Throughout his career, there has been little doubt as to Liriano’s immense talent. But his inconsistency has confounded pitching coaches over the years. Right now, he’s the Pirates’ ace, but if he falters, the Pirates’ dream of postseason success could fade with him.

Wil Myers
Myers has anchored the Rays’ lineup from the cleanup spot. Since early July, he’s batting .339, and when he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he doesn’t have an RBI, the team is 18-22 (in games he plays).

Joe Nathan
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 38 saves in 40 chances. But he’s walked 10 in his last 13 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.

David Ortiz
Boston’s rebound from last season’s debacle has been remarkable. And Ortiz has been right in the middle of the turnaround. He leads the team in batting average, slugging, on-base percentage, home runs and RBIs. Yeah, he’s sort of a key to the Red Sox hopes.

Yasiel Puig
Puig’s energy and all-out style are fun to watch, yet can be exasperating for his manager because of careless mistakes and spotty concentration. But when he’s on his game, he is a scary figure in the batter’s box. The Dodgers need him to be on.

Quality Starts
While the official Quality Start statistic is among the most meaningless, it is critical that teams’ starting pitching get deep into games to save bullpen arms down the stretch. As we saw two years ago in Atlanta, tired bullpens can be disasters late in the season.

Replay
Anything baseball can do to ensure that the right calls are made is welcome.

Suspensions
The Rangers’ best run producer (at the time of his suspension), Nelson Cruz, is currently suspended, as is shortstop Jhonny Peralta of Detroit. The Tigers reacted well and added shortstop Jose Iglesias, improving their defense. Texas has managed to improve its offensive numbers without Cruz, but the lineup is not nearly as intimidating with the right fielder missing.

Twins
I know the Twins’ elimination number is less than 20 with almost a month to play. But no team will have more say in more pennant races than the Twins. Minnesota has seven games against the A’s and the Rays visit Target Field for three. The Twins will spend the final week hosting the Tigers (3) and the Indians (4).

Koji Uehara
Since becoming the team’s full-time closer in late June, Boston’s Uehara is 3-0 with 15 saves in 17 chances with an 0.29 ERA. He has 41 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.

Justin Verlander
Max Scherzer is getting most of the attention in Detroit (and rightfully so) with his 19-1 record. But the horse manager Jim Leyland will lean on in the postseason is Verlander.

Ron Washington
He’s been there before. Twice in fact. He’s been to within a strike of winning the World Series. Twice in fact. Last season ended too soon for the Rangers’ manager, and he is determined to have his troops ready for October. Not letting the AL West title slip away like last season is the first order of business.

Xander Bogaerts
Boston called up its top prospect in mid-August, and he will be a key for the Red Sox. Shortstop Stephen Drew is batting under .250, and the Sox need an offensive spark from the position. Bogaerts has made three starts at shortstop and two at third. He’s hitting .316 but has just one extra-base hit.

Yadi
In St. Louis, fans know him by one name. The off-the-charts defensive catcher has proven to be one of the best hitters in the NL this season. Certain to receive serious MVP consideration, Yadier Molina is the most indispensable position player in the pennant race. The Cardinals can ill-afford for him to miss a beat.

Ben Zobrist
One of the best defensive second basemen in the big leagues, Zobrist has also made starts in left, right and short. He’s also hit in each of the first five spots in the batting order. He is the heart and soul of the Rays’ lineup.

 

Teaser:
From A to Z, here are the keys to the 2013 MLB pennant races.
Post date: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 09:03
Path: /mlb/15-amazing-mlb-stats-week-aug-26-sept-1
Body:

The Pirates are over powering the Cardinals, Scherzer can’t finish, but he sure can win, the Rangers are road warriors, the Rays are road weary, the Tigers dominate the Tribe and Craig Kimbrel is good, really good. Explore these facts and more amazing MLB stats from the week of Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.

18    Home runs hit by Pittsburgh off St. Louis pitching this season
In contrast, the Cardinals have taken Pittsburgh pitchers out of the yard just three times in the 16 meetings so far this season.

0    Complete games for Max Scherzer of Detroit this season
With one more win, Scherzer could become just the third pitcher in history to win 20 games in a season without completing a start. The only two pitchers to accomplish that are Mike Mussina in 2008 and Roger Clemens in 2001, both with the Yankees.

0.93    ERA for the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo in his last three starts
Gallardo, who has struggled most of the season, has risen to the occasion recently. Those three games just happened to have been against Cincinnati (two) and Pittsburgh, two teams battling for a division title.

50-1    Milwaukee’s record when leading after eight innings
A 6-5 loss to the Angels last Saturday was the club’s first such setback when leading after eight innings. Prior to that loss, the Brewers were the only team this season perfect with a lead going into the final frame.

13-3    Texas’ road record in August
The Texas Rangers finished the month of August with 20 wins, which was just the fourth month in franchise history with as many as 20 wins. The club was especially good on the road, including sweeps over the Angels, Astros and Mariners.

1.33    Dodgers’ ERA last week
As impressive as last week was for the Dodgers’ pitching staff, the last five weeks have been even more impressive in that they have been able to sustain such a high level. Since July 26, covering 35 games, the Dodgers are 28-7 with their pitchers carrying a 1.87 ERA. Opponents are batting just .215 during that time. Think any National League team wants to face that staff in the playoffs?

2,500    Career hits for Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies
The total ranks 96th on the all-time list and is the third-most among active players behind Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki.

0-9    Tampa Bay record outside the Eastern Time Zone in second half
The Rays just don’t travel well, especially long distances. Since the All-Star break, the Rays are 10-3 on the road when playing on Eastern Time. But they’re 0-1 in the Central Time zone, 0-2 on Mountain Time and 0-6 on the West Coast. Not good if you’re chasing a playoff spot.

18     Runs allowed by the Rockies to the Reds in three games
Giving up six runs a game is not good, but it’s not horrible. So what’s the big deal? The Rockies won two of three.

9    Years since Seattle finished ahead of the Angels
You have to go back to 2003 to find the last time the Mariners were looking down at the Angels in the AL West standings. As of Sunday, the Angels were a game and a half ahead of the Mariners.

15-4    Detroit’s record vs. the Indians
The 15 wins mark the most for the Tigers over the Indians since 1960 when the teams met 22 times. It’s also a far cry from the 12-game Cleveland sweep in 1996.

.218    Philadelphia’s batting average since the All-Star break
The Phillies own the lowest batting average in the majors in the second half, which is directly related to…

-117    Philadelphia’s run differential, worst in the National League
Over the weekend, the Phillies dropped below the Miami Marlins in run differential in the National League. The Phillies entered the All-Star break at an even 48-48, with some thought of climbing into the pennant race. Since then, the team is 14-27 with a -72 run differential.

5.1    Perfect innings for Craig Kimbrel
Last week, the Braves closer tossed 5.1 innings without allowing a hit or walk. He notched three saves and a win along the way. For the season, he has 81 strikeouts and 48 hits and walks combined. His WHIP is an impressive 0.847 to go with his 0.95 ERA.

11/10    RBIs/Runs for Shane Victorino last week
The Boston outfielder began the week with a 3-for-3, four-run, 7-RBI, two-homer performance in a big win over Baltimore. His hot hitting continued as he batted .435 for the week with 11 RBIs, 10 runs and six extra-base hits.

Teaser:
The Pirates are over powering the Cardinals, Scherzer can’t finish, but he sure can win, the Rangers are road warriors, the Rays are road weary, the Tigers dominate the Tribe and Craig Kimbrel is good, really good. Explore these facts and more amazing MLB stats from the week of Aug. 26 to Sept. 1.
Post date: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 14:16
Path: /mlb/18-amazing-stats-week-august-19-25
Body:

The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.

.167    Opponents batting average vs. Boston last week
The Boston pitchers were especially stingy last week, and it wasn’t like they were facing struggling offenses. Well, maybe half of the time they were. Boston squared off with the Dodgers and Giants on the West Coast last week and quieted the bats for both teams.

6.1    Runs per game the Rangers have averaged since losing Nelson Cruz
It was reasonable to assume that the Rangers’ production would suffer when their top run producer was suspended. But, perhaps, this incident has galvanized the clubhouse and inspired players to step up. In the 112 games prior to the right fielder’s suspension, the Rangers averaged 4.3 runs per game and batted .261. In the 18 games since the suspension, Texas is scoring 6.1 runs a game and batting .270.

.341    Tigers batting average over last eight games
Much like the Rangers with Nelson Cruz, the Detroit Tigers haven’t missed a beat offensively with the suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta. And with Jose Iglesias now patrolling shortstop, the Tigers are much better defensively. Over the past eight games, Detroit is batting .341 as a team with 11 home runs and 48 runs.

7    Runs scored by San Diego in Tyson Ross’s last six starts
The Padres’ young starter has been pitching well, but hasn’t received very much support. Since joining the rotation July 23, Ross has made seven starts going 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA. Opponents are batting just .189, yet to figure out his devastating slider. However, the Padres’ batters aren’t exactly doing much better. After scoring six runs in Ross’s start on July 23, the team has scored a total of seven runs in his last six outings.

0.32    Koji Uehara’s ERA since becoming Boston’s closer
The hard-throwing Uehara became the team’s full-time closer in late June, and since then, Uehara is 3-0 with 12 saves in 14 chances with an 0.32 ERA. He has 37 Ks and has allowed just 10 hits and two walks. With the health and stability questions surrounding Boston’s rotation, it’s critical that Uehara is sharp at the back end of the bullpen.

29    Runs allowed by the White Sox over their last nine games
Fortunately for the White Sox the Astros joined the American League this season, because that’s the only team keeping Chicago from being the worst club in the league. But over the past nine games, the pitching staff has been stellar, giving up a total of only 29 runs. Consequently, the team won eight of nine.

.529    Batting average for Houston catcher Jason Castro last week
The All-Star catcher swung a torrid bat last week, hitting .529 with a 1.913 OPS. He reached base safely in all six games, including a walk on Sunday in his only appearance. He was 3-for-3 on Saturday and had six extra-base hits for the week.

0.69    ERA for Miami’s Jose Fernandez last week
While the Marlins continue to scuffle through a rough season, Fernandez remains one of the few bright spots on the team. The young righthander won both of his starts last week. In 13 innings, he gave up eight hits, three walks and struck out 16 to finish the week with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.69 ERA.

1    Career postseason start combined for the Atlanta pitching staff
Kris Medlen started for Atlanta in last year’s wild card game with St. Louis. That is the lone postseason start that any of the current Braves’ starters can claim. Injured veteran Tim Hudson is no stranger to the playoffs, but he is out for the season with a broken ankle.

17-5    Rays record when Wil Myers drives in a run
In games the young outfielder starts, the Rays fare much better when the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidate has at least one RBI. When he drives in a run, the Rays are 17-5. When he starts and doesn’t drive home a run, the Rays are 17-16.

9    Walks for Joe Nathan in his last 11 innings
When the Rangers were at their best earlier this season, the bullpen was terrific. The Texas closer didn’t blow his first save until May 26 after he had successfully closed 16. He now has 37 saves in 39 chances. But he’s walked nine in his last 11 innings and is showing signs of wearing down. Texas doesn’t need a tired Nathan.

85    Total bases for Will Venable since the All-Star break
The San Diego outfielder is leading the majors with 85 total bases since the break. Last season, Venable’s teammate Chase Headley won the National League RBI crown with a torrid second half for the Padres.

13    Wins for the Cubs in interleague play
Chicago leads the NL with 13 wins against American Leaguers, and is done with interleague play with just seven losses. With a record of 12-5, the Pirates are second and have three interleague games remaining at Texas.

11    Extra-base hits for the Braves in their last seven games
After a hot August, the Braves’ bats are beginning to cool down a bit, especially in the power department. The lack of production is putting more pressure on the pitching staff, which has up until this point, pretty much delivered.

40    Stolen bases for Rajai Davis of Toronto
He doesn’t lead the majors, but with only 256 at-bats, Davis could become just the eighth player in history to finish a season with 40 or more stolen bases in fewer than 300 at-bats. Otis Nixon and Alex Cole were the last men to do it, both in 1990.
 
.186    Dan Uggla’s batting average this season
The Braves’ second baseman recently underwent Lasik surgery to improve his vision. Apparently, the Braves suggested the procedure back in spring training, but Uggla refused. Both the player and the team believe his batting average should improve along with his vision. He’s the only player with enough qualifying at-bats hitting below .210.

13    Consecutive games the Cardinals play the Pirates and Reds
This is certainly a critical stretch for the Redbirds. St. Louis entered the 13-game slate tied with Pittsburgh and 2.5 games ahead of the Reds. All three NL Central contenders have an opportunity to separate themselves from the pack over the next two weeks.

20    Magic number for the Atlanta Braves
The Braves’ magic number continues to creep down, and we’re guessing they’ll clinch the NL East on Sept. 14 at home against San Diego.

Teaser:
The Cubs are wishing they had moved to the American League instead of the Astros, Koji has been unhittable, Texas and Detroit haven’t missed a beat since a couple of players were suspended, and will the Braves’ lack of postseason experience hurt their pitchers in the playoffs? It isn’t too early to ask that question and explore these and more meaningful stats from the week of August 19-25.
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 13:05
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-aug-26
Body:
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Atlanta Braves) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
 
Athlon Sports MLB Power Ranking
 1. Braves Projected date to clinch: Sept. 13 at home vs. San Diego.
 2. Tigers Batting .341 with 11 homers, 48 runs over last eight games.
 3. Dodgers Beginning to show signs of coming back down to earth.
 4. Red Sox Giants and Dodgers hit just .167 off Red Sox last week.
 5. Cardinals 13 straight games vs. Reds and Pirates. #makeorbreak
 6. Pirates Unsuccessful in last five stolen base attempts.
 7. Rangers Averaging 6.2 runs per game since Nelson Cruz suspension.
 8. Rays Begin key 10-game West Coast road trip this weekend.
 9. Reds Starting pitching continues to carry Reds.
10. A’s Next three opponents (Det./T.B./Tex.) may decide postseason fate.
11. Indians Last shot at Tigers this weekend.
12. Yankees Won 11 of 15, within 3.5 games of wild card.
13. Orioles Tough nine-game road trip to Boston, New York and Cleveland.
14. Diamondbacks 13 straight games vs. losing teams before next series with L.A.
15. Nationals Still time to make a charge, but running out of games fast.
16. Royals Continue to tease fans just enough.
17. Rockies 15 of last 30 games vs. teams currently in playoff position.
18. Mariners Best below .500 team in American League. #uselessinfo
19. Padres Tyson Ross has been a very pleasant surprise.
20. Angels Batting just .246 over last 20 games.
21. Giants Two teams had more triples last week than Giants had homers.
22. Phillies Won six of eight, with one of the losses in 18 innings.
23. Twins Could be key spoilers in all three AL divisional races.
24. Mets Matt Harvey injury news could be devastating.
25. Blue Jays 16-year string of better records than Royals likely to end.
26. White Sox Given up 29 runs over last nine games (8-1).
27. Brewers May have found future stars in Scooter Gennett and Khris Davis. 
28. Cubs Five NL teams have worse run differential.
29. Marlins Emergence of Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna is encouraging.
30. Astros Could be mathematically eliminated by week’s end.
 
AL Player of the Week
Jason Castro, Houston
The All-Star catcher swung a torrid bat last week, hitting .529 with a 1.913 OPS. He reached base safely in all six games, including a walk on Sunday in his only appearance. He was 3-for-3 on Saturday and had six extra-base hits for the week.
 
AL Pitcher of the Week
Jarrod Parker, Oakland
Parker was outstanding in his two starts last week, winning both, which represent Oakland’s last two victories. In 17.0 innings, Parker allowed 13 hits, three walks and whiffed 13 for a 0.94 WHIP and 1.06 ERA.
 
NL Player of the Week
Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia
The Phillies’ backstop batted .440 with a 1.302 OPS last week. He hit two home runs and drove home six. He amassed eight knocks in his last three games, including three in the Phillies’ 18-inning loss on Saturday in which he caught the entire contest.
 
NL Pitcher of the Week
Jose Fernandez, Miami
Last week, the young righthander was 2-0 with a 0.85 WHIP and 0.69 ERA. In 13 innings, he gave up eight hits, three walks and struck out 16 as he continues to be one of the few bright spots in Miami this summer.
Teaser:
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Atlanta Braves) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
Post date: Monday, August 26, 2013 - 18:50
Path: /mlb/12-amazing-ichiro-facts-prove-he%E2%80%99s-one-best-ever
Body:

No matter where you stand on the issue of counting Ichiro’s 4,000 hits, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the man’s talent and accomplishments. With an approach that makes hitting coaches across the country cringe, the hitting machine is blessed with incredible hand-eye coordination and athletic ability.

He swings at pitches that seem unhittable — even pitches that bounce — and yet he owns more hits during his time in America than anyone, and it’s not even close.

Ichiro is not only a hitter, but a complete player. He’s won 10 Gold gloves, has 10 years of 30 or more stolen bases and few runners dare test his throwing arm from right field. He will be a member of the Hall of Fame one day, most certainly on the first ballot.

IchiroHere are a few Ichiro numbers to chew on:

Ichiro By the Numbers

4,000    Total number of hits combined in his 22-year career in Japan and the U.S.

375       More hits for Ichiro than any other major league player during his tenure in the big leagues. Albert Pujols is second with 2,347.

10        200-hit seasons in the majors for Ichiro, tied with Pete Rose for most all-time.

1          Rank all-time in hits for any player for any 13-year period with 2,722. That is 64 more than Pete Rose had from 1968-80, which ranks second.

262      Most hits in any season in the majors, accomplished by Ichiro in 2004.

1,252    Runs scored in Ichiro’s career, which ranks fourth among all players from 2001-13.

4,922    Combined hits and walks for Ichiro in Japan and the United States. That would rank ninth all-time behind Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Carl Yastrzemski, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Pretty good company.

.320      Ichiro’s career batting average, which ranks third during his career among players with 7,000 plate appearances behind Miguel Cabrera and Pujols.

470      Stolen bases for Ichiro, which is second behind only Juan Pierre during Ichiro’s career.

7          Offensive categories in which Ichiro ranks first in Seattle Mariners history, including: batting average, at-bats, hits, stolen bases, triples, singles and intentional walks. He ranks second in runs, third in total bases and doubles.

1,278    Hits over nine seasons in Japan.

2,722    Hits in the Major Leagues in the U.S., which ranks No. 59 all-time.

Teaser:
No matter where you stand on the issue of counting Ichiro’s 4,000 hits, it’s difficult not to be impressed by the man’s talent and accomplishments. He will be a member of the Hall of Fame one day, most certainly on the first ballot.
Post date: Friday, August 23, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /mlb/17-amazing-mlb-stats-week-august-12-18
Body:

Clayton Kershaw continues to dominate, the Dodgers are good, the Astros are bad and Alfonso Soriano has been really hot. These facts and more amazing stats from last week in baseball.


Clayton Kershaw1.23    Clayton Kershaw’s ERA in August
The Dodgers’ lefty was sporting an ERA below 2.00 heading into the month and has improved his ERA from 1.87 to 1.80 in three starts this month.

42    Wins for the Los Angeles Dodgers since June 21
The Dodgers continue to run roughshod over the National League. The hottest team in baseball has but nine losses against 42 wins since June 21.

41    Wins for the Houston Astros all season
Houston fans can take solace that as of Sunday, the Astros were 1.5 games ahead of last season’s pace on August 18.

10    Winless starts for Cole Hamels of six or more innings and two runs or less
This hasn’t exactly been a memorable season for Hamels or the Philadelphia Phillies. The lefthander has pitched in some tough luck and suffered through some paltry run support.

0.24    ERA for Craig Kimbrel over his last 37 appearances
During that time, the Atlanta Braves’ closer is 29-for-29 in saves with 56 strikeouts and 33 hits and walks combined. Opponents are batting .150 with a .431 OPS.

0.658    Career WHIP for Andrew Albers
The Minnesota rookie has plowed through major league hitters like Little Leaguers since his recent call-up. In three career starts, the 27-year-old Canadian is 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA. In 24.1 innings, he’s allowed just 14 hits and two walks.

15-13    San Diego’s record against best NL teams
The Padres seem to play their best against the best. The five National League teams in line for playoff spots — Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Cincinnati — have had trouble shaking the Padres, who have a cumulative winning mark vs. those five opponents.

.682    Alfonso Soriano’s batting average over five-game span last week
The prodigal Yankee began the week 0-for-3 and ended with an 0-for-6, but in between he smashed AL pitching at a 15-for-22 (.682) clip with five home runs and 18 RBIs over a five-game span. In only 21 games in pinstripes this season, Soriano is tied for fifth on the team in homers and seventh in RBIs.

3    Players in history with 10 hits, four homers and 14 RBIs in three games
Last week Soriano was otherworldly hot for the Yankees. Among his recent accomplishments was becoming just the third player in history with 10 or more hits, four or more home runs and 14-plus RBIs in a three-game span. You may remember that Shawn Green did that with the Dodgers in May 2002. But kudos if you knew that Hal Trosky pulled that off with the Indians in September 1936, a year in which he led the AL with 162 RBIs.

3    Teams with losing records to all four division rivals
For just about every team in the majors fans can point to some positive silver lining with a winning record over some other team. Yes, Miami has whipped up on the Mets and Houston seems to own the Angels this season. But three teams — both Chicago clubs and the Los Angeles Angels — own losing records to all four division rivals so far this season. Two other teams are perilously close to joining this club. The Mets somehow have managed to split their 14 games with the NL-best Atlanta Braves, while the Dodgers, of all teams, have losing records to three of the their four division foes and a 6-6 mark against their most hated rival, the San Francisco Giants.

12    Consecutive winless starts for Jerome Williams
Very little has gone right for manager Mike Scioscia and the Los Angeles Angels this season. After underachieving last year, the Halos are 7.5 games worse at the same point this season. Among the notable troubles have been a potential season-ending injury to Albert Pujols last month and Mike Trout’s recent hamstring injury. Starter Jerome Williams now owns the longest string of games started without a win — now at 12 starts. His last win came on June 12 in Baltimore.

.395    Batting average of Tampa Bay’s left side last week
Shorstop Yunel Escobar and third baseman Evan Longoria were raking last week. The left side of the Rays’ infield combined to bat .395 with eight extra-base hits.

56.2    Innings since Hiroki Kuroda has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any starting pitcher.

56.0    Innings since Luis Avilan has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any relief pitcher.

12     Games ahead of last year’s pace for Boston
The Red Sox suffered through a dismal season in 2012 finishing in last place in the American League East. This summer has been a breath of fresh air in Beantown with the Sox 12 games better than at this point last year.

17.5    Games behind last year’s pace for the White Sox
Robins Ventura’s team probably overachieved last season, leading the American League Central late in the season. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction this season on the South Side in Chicago. The White Sox are 17.5 gmaes worse than at this time last year.

24    Braves Magic Number
It doesn’t happen often that you can start talking about magic numbers in mid-August, but the Braves could be closing in on clinching by Labor Day.

Teaser:
Clayton Kershaw continues to dominate, the Dodgers are good, the Astros are bad and Alfonso Soriano has been really hot. These facts and more amazing stats from last week in baseball.
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 14:01
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-aug-19
Body:
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Atlanta Braves) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week. 
 
Athlon Sports MLB Power Rankings
 1. Braves Magic number is already 24.
 2. Dodgers Hot doesn’t begin to describe the men in blue.
 3. Tigers 20-5 when Max Scherzer starts.
 4. Red Sox 12 games better than this point last season.
 5. Rangers Haven’t lost two in a row since July 28.
 6. Pirates Lost seven of last nine, three of them in extra innings.
 7. Cardinals Cold doesn’t begin to describe the men in red.
 8. A’s Floundering at an even .500 (14-14) since the All-Star break.
 9. Rays Left side of the infield batted .395 last week.
10. Reds Bullpen is 2-0 with five saves and 12 holds in August.
11. Orioles Only one game in August without a home run.
12. Yankees A-Rod, Yankees soap opera continues.
13. Indians Just three games left with Tigers.
14. Royals Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer batting .338, slugging .524 in August.
15. Diamondbacks Have five pitchers with at least two saves.
16. Nationals Tough season to end Davey Johnson’s career.
17. Rockies Have just four multi-homer games since June 28.
18. Mariners Can Felix Hernandez win the Cy Young award?
19. Blue Jays 7.5 games back of Yankees with seven of next 10 games vs. N.Y.
20. Padres 15-13 so far vs. five likely NL playoff teams.
21. Mets Have 13 losses when they allow three runs or fewer.
22. Angels Losing record against all four division rivals.
23. Twins Bullpen has logged third-most innings, own fifth-best ERA.
24. Giants 12 games worse than at this point of 2012 title season.
25. Phillies Haven’t won back-to-back games since All-Star break.
26. Brewers 13-14 since Ryan Braun’s suspension. 
27. Cubs Ended the week a season-low 17 games below .500.
28. White Sox 17.5 games worse than this point last season.
29. Marlins 33-34 over last two-and-a-half months.
30. Astros Enjoying a one-and-a-half game improvement vs. last season.
 
AL Player of the Week
Alfonso Soriano, New York
The prodigal Yankee began the week 0-for-3 and ended with an 0-for-6, but in between he smashed AL pitching at a 15-for-22 clip with five home runs and 18 RBIs over a five-game span. In only 21 games in pinstripes this season, Soriano is tied for fifth on the team in homers and seventh in RBIs.
 
AL Pitcher of the Week
Chris Sale, Chicago
Chicago’s ace has pitched in tough luck all season with very little run support. But last week, the lineup gave him a few runs and he made them stand up in wins over Detroit and Minnesota. For the week, Sale was 2-0 with 14 strikeouts, one walk and a 2.81 ERA.
 
NL Player of the Week
Will Venable, San Diego
The Princeton alum has been one of the Padres’ hottest hitters of late, and that continued last week. He ended the week with a .406 average, which was boosted by a 4-for-5 performance on Saturday and a walk-off home run on Sunday.
 
NL Pitcher of the Week
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
The 2013 season has not been one to remember for Hamels — or his team — but the lefthander had two memorable starts last week. He pitched a complete game at Atlanta and tossed seven strong innings in a win over the Dodgers as the Phillies defeated two of the hottest teams in baseball.
 
Teaser:
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Atlanta Braves) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
Post date: Monday, August 19, 2013 - 17:23
Path: /mlb/12-amazing-mlb-stats-week-august-5-11
Body:

Oakland’s Josh Reddick goes on a binge in Toronto, Mo blows up, the Brewers can’t win on Thursdays and Clayton Kershaw can’t lose when he gets four runs. These numbers and more, in this edition of amazing MLB stats for the week of August 5-11.

5    Home runs for Josh Reddick in two days
Prior traveling to Toronto last weekend, Josh Reddick of the A’s had just five home runs in 276 at-bats this season. It’s also the number of home runs he hit over the course of eight plate appearances on Friday and Saturday. He came into the series with the Blue Jays batting .203 with a .326 slugging percentage. He hit three homers on Friday and two on Saturday.

.182    Braves’ opponents’ batting average last week
Atlanta pitching limited the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins to an average of 5.7 hits and 2.3 runs per game. The Braves scored one run total in their two losses.

.299    Boston’s opponents’ batting average last week
The Red Sox pitchers were considerably easier to solve than Atlanta’s last week. The Astros and Royals enjoyed batting against the Sox to the tune of a .299 average. Boston lost four of seven games on the road trip to Houston and Kansas City. The Astros plated 10 runs in a game won by Boston, and the Royals socked 16 hits in a Kansas City win.

21    Years since the Royals or the Tigers had a better record than the Yankees
You have to go all the way back to 1991 to find a season in which Detroit or Kansas City finished with a better record than the Yankees. The string ties the Braves, who have finished better than the Pirates for 21 years as well. As of Sunday, the Braves were a game ahead of the Pirates, but the Yankees trailed the Tigers by seven games and the Royals by 2.5.

27-29    Cardinals’ record since June 7
Since early June, the Redbirds have been terribly mediocre. With a 27-29 record over that span, the Cardinals have seen a four-game lead in the tough NL Central turn into a three-game deficit.

3    Consecutive blown saves by Mariano Rivera
The best closer the game has ever seen finally blew three consecutive games. The first on Wednesday at Chicago when he coughed up a one-run lead after allowing a double to Gordon Beckham and single to Adam Dunn in a game the White Sox would eventually win in 12 innings. On Friday in the Bronx, a two-out, two-run homer by Miguel Cabrera cost Rivera the save, but at least the Yankees won in the 10th on a Brett Gardner single. On Sunday, it was Cabrera again who victimized the closer. Rivera gave up solo shots to Cabrera and Victor Martinez to tie the game. Again, it was Gardner who bailed out Rivera with his second walk-off hit, this one a home run, in three days.

6-7    Blue Jays’ record when scoring five or more runs since the break
The Toronto offense has not been the Blue Jays’ problem since the All-Star break. In 13 games the Jays have plated five runs, usually enough to win for most teams. But in those games, the Jays have won six and lost seven.

18-33    Angels’ record vs. AL West teams
The Angels haven’t competed well within their own division this season, and that can’t make owner Arte Moreno very happy. Outside the AL West, the Angels are 35-31, but can’t seem to shake their closest rivals. Los Angeles has lost the last nine games within its division.

32    Days since the Phillies had a save
The last save for the Philadelphia Phillies came on July 11, the week before the All-Star Game. The Phillies are 7-18 during that stretch and produced just two save opportunities during that time, both resulting in blown saves by Jonathan Papelbon.

1-10    Record for the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday
While there is really no explanation, the Brewers own the worst record on any single day in the majors this season.

49-0    Clayton Kershaw’s career record with four runs of support
The Dodgers’ ace recently lowered his major league-best ERA to 1.88. And you would think with that miniscule number, his win-loss mark would be a bit better than 11-7. But he doesn’t exactly receive the best run support in the league, and it doesn’t take much. When he gets four or more runs in his career, he’s 49-0.

1    Game in the standings gained by St. Louis over the weekend
While the Redbirds were losing two of three at home to the rival Chicago Cubs, the NL Central-leading Pirates were getting swept at Colorado. So there was a little silver lining under the arch.

Teaser:
Oakland’s Josh Reddick goes on a binge in Toronto, Mo blows up, the Brewers can’t win on Thursdays and Clayton Kershaw can’t lose when he gets four runs. These numbers and more, in this edition of amazing MLB stats for the week of August 5-11.
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 14:16

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