Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:16 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 12:26 am

La Russa complains about strike zone


By Evan Brunell

The Cardinals came away with a 5-4 victory in Game 2 of the NLDS to even the series at one apiece, but the game wasn't without a typical Tony La Russa complaint.

La Russa told TBS on national TV that there were two separate strike zones and that was the reason for Chris Carpenter's failed start. Carpenter was starting on three days rest, the first time he's ever done that. He was bombed for four runs over three innings and it was only due to a masterful, shutdown performance by the bullpen that the Cardinals eked out a victory.

But was La Russa right? Well, Cliff Lee had his own problems too and ended up surrendering five runs in six innings. His 12 hits allowed tied a career high, last achieving the feat on May 3, 2009 in Detroit while a member of the Indians, five teams back in Lee's mind. But Lee was dominant early on, and the below graphic shows Meals' strike zone through three innings, so it includes all of Carpenter's pitches, plus Lee's best stretch of pitching throughout the whole game, holding St. Louis scoreless through three.

Strike zone

As you can see, Meals isn't discriminating against either pitcher, although he doesn't allow the high and inside pitch to lefties. Meals may not be following the rules of a strike zone to a T, but at least he's consistent. Carpenter struggled because Meals wasn't calling the low pitch, which is Carp's bread and butter. But if you see the zone, Meals was actually spot on in not allowing Carpenter to get away with the low pitches out of the zone. Just because the umpire didn't gift Carpenter strikes doesn't give La Russa justification to go and complain about two separate zones, calling the umpire's integrity into question (although we certainly do plenty of that here at Eye on Baseball) when Meals was actually consistent on both sides. (The remainder of the game saw more of the same in Meals' strikezone.)

2011 playoffs
Both pitchers were getting squeezed, but Lee also suffered from bad luck. Some of the Cardinals' hits were flares or balls that snuck through the infield dirt. Hey, it all counts, but it's not as if Lee was getting ripped. He was dinked and dunked to death, and the hits just kept on piling up in the fourth and sixth, with Brad Lidge extricating Lee from further trouble by getting out of a no-out, first-and-third scenario.

After the game, La Russa admitted it wasn't "a great comment to make," and excused it away by saying that everyone cares too much. He later added that the Cardinals have no choice but to adjust to the strike zone that the umpire sets. Sounds like someone is trying to avoid a fine from MLB.

Next time, La Russa would do well to keep his mouth shut from the start and allow the Cardinals to do their speaking on the field. Look at what we're discussing in the postgame, after all, instead of a hard-fought Cardinals win.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:00 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 12:20 am

Instant Reaction: Cardinals 5, Phillies 4

Jay, Ruiz collision

By Evan Brunell

WP: Octavio Dotel

LP: Cliff Lee

SV: Jason Motte

HR: None

Series: Tied at one apiece in a best-of-5

Hero: Jon Jay showed a lot in his second career postseason game after going hitless in Game 1. Jay bowled over Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies in in an attempt to tie the game but was out at the plate. It was a pretty good hit on Ruiz though, and it speaks well of Jay being willing to get down and dirty. No wonder manager Tony La Russa is a fan. Jay's second chance at tying the game worked, singling in Ryan Theriot two innings later and the Cardinals would go on to win the game. Overall, Jay had a two-hit night and 2 RBI out of the eight-spot.

Goat: Technically, La Russa and the Cardinals won the game, and he'll tell you it doesn't matter what happens except coming away with a W. But sheesh, he was as aggravating today as he's ever been. First, he complained (what's new?) about the strike zone, saying it harmed Chris Carpenter when even a cursory look at the umpire's zone shows that he was squeezing Cliff Lee too. Then he makes the bottom of the eighth go on forever with three -- thats right, three -- pitching changes. Marc Rzepczynski hit Chase Utley, then Mitchell Boggs forced Hunter Pence into a fielder's choice. Arthur Rhodes K'd Ryan Howard, and Jason Motte finished the inning off by inducing Shane Victorino into a flyout. Yeah, it worked, but only La Russa knows how to slow down a game.

Next: 10/4 at St. Louis, 5:07 p.m. ET. Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79) vs. Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69)

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Phillies-Cardinals series2011 playoffs

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 2, 2011 9:38 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 9:39 pm

Carpenter puts Cards in 4-0 hole after two


By Evan Brunell

Chris Carpenter headed to the mound for Game 2 of the NLDS attempting to pitch on three days rest for the first time in his career.

Skipper Tony La Russa explained the move as wanting Carpenter to make two starts in the series as the reason for moving him up a day and slotting Jaime Garcia in Game 3. La Russa was taking a calculated risk, as three-days-rest outings in the postseason have decreased in both frequency and effectiveness over the last several seasons. And La Russa of all people should have noticed that, as his personal history bears out. Prior to Carpenter's start, La Russa started a pitcher on three days rest four times in the playoffs for St. Louis. The combined ERA for all four pitchers? 14.18. (hat tip: @BJRains)

Carpenter is more of the same, as his 18.00 ERA after two innings bears out. He needed 30 pitches just to record the first out of the game, loading the bases on a leadoff double and two walks, allowing two runners to come in on a Ryan Howard RBI single. That makrs six RBI in two postseason games for Howard, after six games last year led to zero RBI. Another run went on to score in the inning, then Carp got two quick outs in the second. Alas, Rollins doubled again to bring up Utley. Before a 3-2 pitch to Utley, TBS cameras caught La Russa yelling "s---!" He proved psychic as Utley walked, allowing Hunter Pence to drill a RBI single before Carpenter retired Howard to get out of the second.

A 4-0 hole in the playoffs is never good, but when it's scored by the Phillies, you can pretty much count the game over. With Cliff Lee on the mound, it's going to be hard enough to score one run, never mind four. Carpenter is coming out for the third inning, but unless he can turn it around quick, he won't be long for the game.

Follow the game live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 8:20 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 4:32 pm

Halladay masterful after bad first inning

By Matt Snyder

If you missed Game 1 of the Phillies-Cardinals NLDS and merely saw the 11-6 final score, the immediate thought would be that there was an awful lot of offense and very little pitching. Wrong.

Sure, the Phillies flexed their muscles offensively, pounding out 11 runs on 14 hits, including two home runs -- like the big blow provided by Ryan Howard in the sixth inning. This all came against the team that sported the best offense in the NL during the regular season. And someone had to hold that powerful offense down. Aside from the first inning, Roy Halladay did just that.

In the first, Halladay ran into serious trouble and the Cardinals gained an early 3-0 advantage on a Lance Berkman home run. From then on, however, Halladay absolutely slammed the door in the face of the Cardinals.

After Berkman's three-run shot, Halladay faced 24 batters. One of them reached base. On a single. Otherwise, "Doc" struck out seven, induced 13 groundouts, got two pop-outs and one line-drive out to left field. It was pure artistry on the hill and, to reiterate, this was against the team that was first in the National League in runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

More LDS Coverage
Halladay's full final line isn't nearly as impressive -- though eight innings, three hits, three runs, one walk and eight strikeouts is still pretty damn good -- but it doesn't come close to telling how masterful he was after the first. As locked in as Halladay was, the game felt over the second Howard hit the big three-run homer to put the Phillies up 4-3.

It wasn't exactly a no-hitter like last season's NLDS opener, but we once again witnessed that -- as Clayton Kershaw told me at the All-Star Game -- "Roy is the man."

Video: Halladay, Howard talk about the Game 1 victory

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 1, 2011 8:04 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 4:31 pm

Instant Reaction: Phillies 11, Cardinals 6

By Matt Snyder

Philadelphia 11, St. Louis 6

WP: Roy Halladay

LP: Kyle Lohse

More LDS Coverage
HR: Lance Berkman, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez

Series: Phillies lead 1-0

Hero: Ryan Howard's three-run home run was a series-altering type blow. He's the easy choice in a team effort. The burly first baseman wasn't bad last postseason (he hit .318 with a .900 OPS in the NLCS), but he was homerless. His last postseason home run came in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series -- a two-run shot off Andy Pettitte. In fact, Howard had zero RBI in the 2010 playoffs, too, so that home run against Pettitte marked his last postseason RBI until Saturday's three-run homer (he later added a sac-fly RBI, giving him four on the afternoon). Howard's re-emergence as a postseason run producer very well could propel the Phillies to a series win -- but they still have two more wins to go.

Goat: Did Tony La Russa -- the king of over-managing -- actually leave Kyle Lohse out there too long? Sure felt like it. Lohse was perfect through three innings and ran into slight trouble the second time through the meat of the order, but escaped with just one unearned run. Still, when he faced Ryan Howard with two on in the sixth, the game hung in the balance. Howard entered the game 8-for-16 with 2 homers and eight RBI in his career against Lohse. Howard is also much worse against lefties than righties and has been throughout his career. La Russa had two left-handed options in the bullpen, too, and had to realize Halladay was absolutely locked in at that point. Even if you believe the sixth inning is too early to start playing matchups, Lohse certainly needed to be pulled after allowing the Howard homer. He stayed in, giving up a single to Shane Victorino and a home run to Raul Ibanez. There was no recovering from the Howard bomb and Lohse was hanging his change all inning, so he needed to be pulled earlier than he was. Instead, the Phillies had turned a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead in a mere matter of minutes. Things fell apart further from there -- save for a relatively meaningless ninth-inning surge -- and the Cardinals face a tall order of winning three of four from the Phillies to take the series.

Next: 10/2 at Philadelphia, 8:37 p.m. ET. Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45) vs. Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 1, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 4:30 pm

Berkman gives Cardinals early boost

By Matt Snyder

In the series matching the best offense in the NL against the best pitching staff in the NL, offense got the first laugh Saturday. Lance Berkman sent a Roy Halladay pitch deep into the right-field stands at Citizens Bank Park, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead before the Phillies ever got an at-bat.

This movement is even more interesting because of Berkman's recent history against Halladay.

On September 19, Berkman also homered in the first inning against Halladay. Further, the two recent home runs by Berkman off Halladay marked the only two Halladay has allowed at home to a left-handed hitter in 2011 (Jayson Stark of ESPN.com). And, via Big League Stew, the blast marked the first time Halladay had allowed a three-run home run since joining the Phillies.

Last season, Halladay threw a no-hitter in his first NLDS start. This season, he's trailing 3-0 and apparently has a new nemesis in Lance Berkman. This movement is easily the big story early in the game. But it's a long game.

Click here to follow the action live on CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 9:34 pm

2011 NLDS matchup: Phillies vs. Cardinals

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cardinals were left for dead in late August, trailing in both the NL Central and the wild card by more than 10 games. There was even talk they'd trade All-Star right fielder Lance Berkman once he cleared waivers. Instead, they held onto him and went 23-9 in the last five weeks of the season. A season-ending 8-0 win over the Astros propelled the Cardinals into the playoffs as the Braves lost in 13 innings. As their prize, the Cards now get to face the best team in baseball in a short series. The Phillies won the NL East for the fifth straight season and ended up with a franchise-record 102 wins. The Cardinals recently took three of four in Philly, but the Phillies weren't really playing for anything. What happens this time around? We'll soon find out. 


Philadelphia Phillies (host games 1, 2, 5)
102-60, NL East champions
Manager: Charlie Manuel
Team batting statistics: .253 batting average (9th in NL), .323 on-base percentage (5th), .395 slugging percentage (7th)
Team pitching statistics: 3.02 ERA (1st), 1.167 WHIP (1st), 3.22 K/BB (1st)
Star player: SP Roy Halladay -- 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 220 K in 233 2/3 innings

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4)
90-72, NL wild card champions
Manager: Tony La Russa
Team batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Team pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (8th), 1.306 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .305/.349/.465, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 29 2B, 9 SB

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)  

Full Playoff Coverage
Game 1: STL @ PHI, Oct. 1, 5:07 p.m. ET. Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39) vs. Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35)
Game 2: STL @ PHI, Oct. 2, 8:07 p.m. ET. Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45) vs. Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40)
Game 3: PHI @ STL, Oct. 4 Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56)
Game 4: PHI @ STL, Oct. 5* Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69) vs. Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79)
Game 5: STL @ PHI, Oct. 7* TBD vs. Halladay
* if necessary

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Philadelphia: Carlos Ruiz
St. Louis: Yadier Molina

This is one of the best match ups in all of the playoffs, you have two of the best defensive catchers in the game and two of the best handlers of a pitching staff. Catcher is probably the toughest position in baseball and the toughest to judge. However, these two are at the very top when they have the gear on. 

Advantage: Tie

First base
Philadelphia: Ryan Howard
St. Louis: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols struggled at the beginning of the year, but still finished with 37 homers and a .305 batting average. With the game on the line, who else in baseball would you rather have on the line? Nobody, that's who.

Advantage: Cardinals

Second base
Philadelphia: Chase Utley
St. Louis: Skip Schumaker

Even hobbled, Chase Utley is still one of the best second basemen in the game.

Advantage: Phillies

Philadelphia: Jimmy Rollins
St. Louis: Rafael Furcal

Furcal is struggling with a hamstring injury, and that really hurts the Cardinals because so much of his game is based on his speed. And when you start dealing with a speedster's wheels, they lose a lot of their effectiveness.

Advantage: Phillies

Third base
Philadelphia: Placido Polanco
St. Louis: David Freese

Casual fans may not know much about David Freese, but when healthy, the Cardinals' third baseman is an impressive hitter -- and right now, he's apparently healthy. Freese, 28, had a hit in eight of the team's last nine games.

Advantage: Cardinals

Left field
Philadelphia: Raul Ibanez
St. Louis: Matt Holliday

Holliday's status is unclear, but he is on the postseason roster. If Holliday plays, he's one of the game's best. That said, his palm is an issue. He took batting practice on Friday. Even at 80 percent, Holliday is a heck of a player.

Advantage: Cardinals

Center field
Philadelphia: Shane Victorino
St. Louis: John Jay

Jay has played well as the team's center fielder, hitting .297/.344/.424, but Victorino is having a great season. Not only did he hit 17 homers, he's also played Gold Glove defense.

Advantage: Phillies

Right field
Philadelphia: Hunter Pence
St. Louis: Lance Berkman

The former teammates provide perhaps the most intriguing matchup. Both have been the faces of the Astros franchise and are now beloved in their new homes. Berkman's wrapped up the Comeback Player of the Year award, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers and 94 RBI. Pence was an All-Star in Houston and even better in Philadelphia, where he's hit .324/.394/.560 with 11 homers in 54 games. Pence isn't a Gold Glover, but he's Willie Mays compared to Berkman in the outfield.

Advantage: Tie

Starting pitching
Philadelphia: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt
St. Louis:Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson

You may have noticed that the Phillies have a pretty good rotation.

Advantage: Phillies

Relief pitching
Philadelphia closer: Ryan Madson
St. Louis closer: Jason Motte

The Cardinals' bullpen has been bolstered by mid-season additions of Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel (the deal also allowed them to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen with the addition of Jackson). Since the trade, the Cardinals have the third-best bullpen ERA (2.86) in baseball. But the Phillies' pen has been stout all year long, while the Cardinals still have a bit of uneasiness when Tony La Russa makes one of his many visits to the mound.

Advantage: Phillies

Total advantage: Phillies (5), Cardinals (3), tie (2)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Phillies in 3
Gregg Doyel: Phillies in 3
Danny Knobler: Phillies in 5
Scott Miller: Phillies in 4
Trent Rosecrans: Phillies in 4
Matt Snyder: Phillies in 3

Trent's take: The Cardinals have the best offense in the National League and the Phillies the best pitching, so it will be interesting to see strength-on-strength, even though I'm always inclined to take pitching in that situation. The Phillies are the favorites, there's no doubt about that. The fact that Furcal and Holliday are hobbled by injuries doesn't hurt that idea, either. La Russa raised some eyebrows when he switched up his rotation on Friday, announcing he'd pitch Carpenter on three-day's rest in Game 2. If the Cardinals can take one of the first two games of the series, the pitching difference isn't as big in the second two games, which could make the series interesting. But there are still "ifs" to get to that point.

More Phillies-Cardinals NLDS coverage

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 12:40 am
Edited on: September 30, 2011 9:11 am

Phillies have the best rotation in playoffs

By C. Trent Rosecrans

This time of year, pitching can carry an otherwise flawed team all the way to a title, we saw that last year when the Giants rode their starters and a shut-down closer to a World Series championship. So which teams have the best rotations heading into this postseason? Glad you asked…

Here's our ranking of the eight playoff rotations:


1. Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt

Like there was a doubt? Halladay started last postseason with a no-hitter. It'll be tough to top that, but we'll see what happens when the National League's best pitching staff takes on the National League's best offense. 


2. Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Moore, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, David Price

Joe Maddon is taking one heck of a chance giving a rookie with fewer than 10 big-league innings under his belt on the hill to start Game 1, but Moore is amazingly talented -- and he's never lost a start for the Rays (small sample size alert!). 


3. Milwaukee Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf

Gallardo is perhaps the least-heralded of the Brewers' starters, but that could just be that unlike the other members of the team's rotation, he's spent his entire season in Milwaukee. The 25-year-old right-hander has gone 44-29 with a 3.69 ERA over the last three years. There's also former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke who wanted to be traded from Kansas City so he could pitch in the playoffs. Now he's here and it's time to deliver.


4. Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello

Call them top-heavy, and even heavier at the top since Fister joined the rotation. Fister, acquired at the deadline from Seattle, has gone 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 10 starts for the Tigers. Add him to Justin Verlander and you have a heck of a 1-2 punch. It's the 3-4 that lacks punch.


5. Arizona Diamondbacks: Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders

It looks like Arizona will go with a three-man rotation in the playoffs, which will certainly help the bullpen with the addition to Josh Collmenter. Kennedy was the breakout star of the Diamondbacks' rotation, winning 21 games, while Hudson and Saudners have also pitched well.

6. Texas Rangers:
C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison

Sure, they don't have Lee this year, but they do have Wilson, who has established himself as an ace, going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA this season, striking out 206 batters in 223 1/3 innings. Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40 ERA) is the only right-hander in the rotation.


7. St. Louis Cardinals: Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia

The Cardinals' two best pitchers are pitching Games 3 and 4, but everyone has contributed down the stretch. St. Louis would be higher on the list with Adam Wainwright, but he's not coming back this season. Jackson has pitched well since joining the team and Lohse, a former Phillie, has had a bounce-back season.


8. New York Yankees: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia

Sabathia's as good of a big-game pitcher as there is in the game, but Nova is a rookie and Garcia is anything but. The fact the team is going with a three-man rotation tells you what you need to know about the guys not in the rotation. Garcia's the team's third-best starter -- I guess $196 million doesn't buy what it once did.

For more postseason coverage.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com