Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:14 am

3 Up, 3 Down: Moore drops jaws against Yankees


By Evan Brunell

Matt Moore, Rays:  A month ago, Matt Moore wasn't even in the majors. Thursday, he stopped a potential Yankees sweep by punching out 11 pinstripers in five innings, allowing just four hits and showing the world just why he's a top prospect and why the Rays aren't going anywhere any time soon. In his first start, Moore set a record for strikeouts in a debut, with teammate Wade Davis punching out nine in 2009.

Jemile Weeks, Athletics: It was a beautiful day for Weeks, who rapped out a 3-for-3 night while slugging -- used in the weakest terms possible -- his first home run of the year. Weeks isn't known for power, but is hitting .303 with 21 stolen bases on the season. Weeks has been pretty bad defensively and earned Eye on Baseball's tin glove award but has sewn up a starting spot next season.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, Rockies: When the Rockies picked up Kouzmanoff at the trade deadline, there was a bit of a muted rumbling as people wondered if the failed third baseman could succeed in Colorado. You see, Kouzmanoff had a few solid years in San Diego, flashing power and solid defense. However, he played in a pitcher's park, and Oakland was no better when he was dealt in 2010. Despite hitting 23 homers in 2008, Kouz has sank to .218/.277/.317 this year before Thursday's game where he bashed a homer and collected three hits. It's a blip on the screen for Kouzmanoff, who has failed to impress in Colorado and now looks like he might be washing out entirely.

Jason Motte, Cardinals: Jason Motte prevented the Cardinals from pulling to one game behind the Braves for the NL wild card. OK, it wasn't just Motte, but boy. He walked three of five batters, starting the ninth with a 6-2 edge. After three walks plus an error, a run had scored and then Mark Rzepcynski and Fernando Salas gave up back-to-back hits to tie the game up. An intentional walk and merciful strikeout later, Willie Harris delivered the capping blow with a two-run single. Motte is considered the favorite to close for the Cards next year but isn't helping his cause lately.

Phil Humber, White Sox: Humber was one of the first-half season surprises, but the second half has been about injuries and regression. Humber was torched for seven runs in six innings against the Indians and has now allowed four-plus runs in seven of his last nine starts. His ERA is still good at 3.86, but the White Sox would do well to only consider him a No. 4 starter.

Bartolo Colon, Yankees: Colon and his newfound arm got bombed by the Rays, giving up seven runs (five earned) in three innings.  Colon also gave up seven hits and walked one while striking out just one, and those are numbers that a Yankee fan won't care to see because not only dd Colon have a bad start, he deserved every part of it by giving up eight baserunners even as the Yankees wondered what the brown things on their hands were for, committing four errors in the game. At this point, does Colon even make a start in October?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 11:10 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 11:29 pm

Playoff race: Angels lose in extras; Rays victors


By Evan Brunell

Matt Moore put forth a dazzling performance and the Rays got off to a hot start by racking up a 13-0 lead. While the bullpen would go on to give up eight runs, it was still game over from early on. The performance by Moore should put him in great position next season to open the year in the rotation, and the Rays will certainly shuffle things around to get the talented lefty in the rotation. With the victory, Tampa edged closer to an idling Boston, making up half a game. The Rays are now two games behind with six games to play.

The Red Sox's day off was much needed after the team dropped three of four to the Orioles, staggering to a 5-16 record in September. Boston draws the Yankees next. New York has already clinched the AL East and will certainly not be treating the games against Boston as must-wins, but they'll still bring their team to bear and try to stun the Red Sox into missing the playoffs. Interestingly enough, the off day by Boston actually improved the Red Sox's chances of winning, with even the Rays victory dropping their likelihood of the wild card 0.6 percent. That's because the amount of games left matter.

Can't forget about the Angels either, who had a 3-1 lead against Toronto until the seventh, when the Jays pushed across two runs. In the 12th, Edwin Encarnacion delivered a walkoff hope run to drop L.A. three games behind Boston. With three games coming up against Oakland before finishing the year with Texas, the Angels need to show up in these next few games to keep their hopes alive.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 3 @ NYY, 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 85.5 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
86-70, 2 GB
Remaining schedule: 3  v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 7.4 percent

Los Angeles Angels
85-71, 3 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 v. OAK, 3 v. TEX
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 6.2 percent

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

Posted on: September 22, 2011 6:34 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 6:38 pm

Ramirez willing to serve ban to play baseball


By Evan Brunell

Manny Ramirez is hoping to be reinstated to the major leagues, telling ESPN Deportes he would serve his 100-game suspension after refusing to do so in April and opting for retirement.

"I would comply with my pending sanction and I would be available for any major league team," Ramirez said. "I already informed [agent] Scott Boras of my decision to return and begin the process.

Ramirez tested positive in a drug test earlier this season as part of baseball's drug program that bands steroids, amphetamines and other performance enhancers. It was his second failed test, as he was linked to a female fertility drug in 2009 used to conceal steroid use. He served a 50-game ban that season with the Dodgers, later moving to the White Sox at the end of 2010 before signing a contract with the Rays in the offseason. When caught in April, he told baseball that he would rather retire than serve the ban. Clearly, he's changed his mind now that he's had time to reflect.

"If any team wants to sign me, I would play," Ramirez said. "If no one does, I would look to play in Japan or any other place. I was not prepared for retirement."

There are negatives that could prevent a team's interest. Ramirez would only be able to offer a maximum of 62 games out of Ramirez in production, returning in early August next season after not having played a major-league game for almost a year and a half at that point. Teams will also have to contend with Ramirez's attitude, and at this point is easily comparable to Barry Bonds and the overall distaste that pervaded Bonds so much that he eventually drew zero interest from teams despite indications he could still be an effective player.

However, drug suspensions are without pay, so the team wouldn't lose any cash in taking a lark on Ramirez, so you can expect at least one team to do so because it's a classic low-risk, low-reward system as long as the organization is comfortable with being known as the team that gave Ramirez a job after he seemingly burned every last bridge he had by leaving Tampa Bay high and dry by first breaking the rules and then leaving the team rather than serve the suspension. The Rays, whose playoff hopes are dwindling with a 2 1/2 game deficit in the wild card with a week left in the season, could have really used Ramirez's bat down the stretch even if he wouldn't have hit to the level of his glory days.

Ramirez was interested in playing for the Dominican Winter League, a stop he last played at in 1993-94, but is unable to do so because MLB has an agreement with the league. As a result, Ramirez must serve the suspension before he can participate in the DWL, and that is an impossibility for this season. Ramirez must receive permission from commissioner Bud Selig before he can join up with another club.

"I'm really interested and enthusiastic about playing baseball [in the Dominican Republic], but I can't control the future,'' Ramirez said. "Let's just wait and see what's the outcome of that meeting; it would be really sad if I'm not allowed to play.''

Even if Selig isn't predisposed to helping ManRam and no MLB team touches him with a 10-foot pole, you can bet Japan will be interested. The amount of hype around Ramirez would be large in Japan, as they would be able to see a true bona-fide MLB star play in the Japanese baseball league. Two drug suspensions or not, that would be a feather in the cap for Japanese professional ball.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 22, 2011 5:14 pm

On Deck: Braves, Red Sox off, but chase continues


By C. Trent Rosecrans

Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

Matt MooreBig start for rookie: Rays rookie Matt Moore made a good second impression on Monday when he threw three innings in the Rays' win in Boston, and now he has quite the stage for his first big-league start -- at Yankee Stadium with the Rays hoping to gain a half-game on idle Boston. The Rays are 2.5 games behind the Red Sox and now they have company, too, as the Angels are also suddenly tied with the Rays behind the Red Sox. Moore was the top pitching prospect in baseball and went 12-3 with a 1.92 ERA at Double-A and Triple-A, striking out 208 batters in 144 2/3 innings. Moore actually pitched better for Triple-A Durham than he did Double-A Montgomery. He went 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA in nine starts, striking out 79 of the 204 batters he faced, while walking 18. He faces Bartolo Colon, who made his MLB debut when Moore was 6. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET

Back in it: The Angels appeared to have blown their playoff chance after losing two of three in Baltimore, but have bounced back to win their last two games in Toronto, while Tampa Bay and Boston have tread water. Thursday starter Ervin Santana is 11-12 with a 3.40 ERA, but has lost each of his last three starts, allowing five earned runs in each of his last two starts. Since his complete game victory at Rogers Centre on Aug. 12, the right-hander is 2-4 with a 4.47 ERA in seven starts, with the Angels going 3-4 in those games. Rookie right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who has thrown six or more innings in his last six starts and hasn't lost since Aug. 26. Los Angeles returns home after the game tonight to face the A's and the Rangers to finsih the season. Angels at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. ET

Surging Giants: The defending champs have won five of their last seven games, getting to within 3.5 games of the National League wild card, trailing the Braves and the Cardinals. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner starts for San Francisco and has won each of his last five starts, putting up a 1.04 ERA with batters hitting just .189/.256/.262 against him over that stretch. That includes a five-inning, three-hit performance against the Dodgers on Sept. 11. Since August, Dodger starter Hiroki Kuroda's record has improved, with him winning six of his nine starts. Giants at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 21, 2011 11:24 pm

Playoff race: Angels narrow lead in wild card


By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox lost yet again on Wednesday, blowing another late-game lead to the Orioles. Fortunately for Boston, the Yankees clinched the AL East title on Wednesday with a 4-2 victory over the Rays, taking both games of the doubleheader. The Rays have now slipped to 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, so the Red Sox have some breathing room with one more game off the books.

However, it's time to stand up and take notice of the Angels, who are now tied with Tampa in the wild card chase, defeating the Blue Jays to move to 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox. With an easier schedule ahead, the Angels might even be considered the more likely team to beat Boston, if any team can. But playoff odds don't agree, likely because the Angels have to play one more game than both Tampa and Boston.

With a tough schedule that includes four more games against the Yankees, it will be a tall task for Tampa to overcome 2 1/2 games this late in the proceedings. But the Angels have a shot, with a remaining game against Toronto followed by three upcoming games against Oakland followed by a three-game set with the Rangers, who will be more concerned with setting their team up for the postseason than who wins the wild card.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 3 @ NYY, 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 84.5 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
85-70, 2 1/2 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 8 percent

Los Angeles Angels
85-70, 2 1/2 GB
Remaining schedule: 1 @ TOR, 3 v. OAK, 3 v. TEX
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 6.5 percent

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 21, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 4:37 pm

On Deck: Yet another big day in wild-card races


By Matt Snyder

As always, follow the game action live on CBSSports.com's scoreboard and keep up with the Playoff Race on our standings page.

Beckett's turn/Hellickson against CC: The Red Sox are just 5-15 in September, but the last time they won on the strength of pitching -- c'mon, we're not counting the 18-9 victory in that category -- it was behind All-Star Josh Beckett (13-5, 2.50). He beat the Rays 4-3 last Friday and is set to start again Wednesday night against the Orioles. Tommy Hunter (4-4, 4.81) will go for the O's. The Red Sox now have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Rays in the wild card, due to the Rays' losing to the Yankees Wednesday afternoon, so a win here would be a big step toward securing the final playoff spot. Orioles at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. ET. Back in the Bronx, the Rays will send Rookie of the Year candidate Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.91) to the mound for the second game of the twin bill. And he gets a tough assignment, too. Not only is he facing the Yankees' offense, but perennial Cy Young candidate CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.01) is the Yankees' starter. A Red Sox win teamed with a Rays loss would knock the Sox's magic number all the way down to four. Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET. Also, we cannot forget about the Angels, who entered Wednesday 3 1/2 games out. They send No. 2 pitcher Dan Haren (15-9, 3.24) to the mound in Toronto against Dustin McGowan (0-0, 7.50). Angels at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. ET.

NL wild card: The Braves' magic number in the wild-card race is now six over the Cardinals and four over the Giants. All three are in action Wednesday night. Derek Lowe (9-15, 4.94) leads the Braves against the Marlins. Javier Vazquez (11-11, 3.92) will start for Florida, and he's been throwing really well for a while. Since an awful June 11 outing, Vazquez has a 2.03 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 110 2/3 innings. The Marlins are 11-6 in those 17 starts, though the Braves haven't seen him all season. Braves at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, the Cardinals appear to have a pretty favorable matchup as Jaime Garcia (12-7, 3.59) gets the nod. He's had a good September and has a good history against Wednesday night's opponent, the Mets, who are sending Chris Schwinden (0-2, 5.40) to the hill. Mets at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET. As for the Giants, we'll worry about them again when the amount of games back is less than the magic number.

Phillies losing streak: Does this matter? The Phillies have lost four in a row. But even if they lost out and the Brewers won out, they'd tie for the best record in the NL. And the Phillies won the season series, which is the tiebreaker. So the games are completely irrelevant in terms of postseason positioning. Isn't there something to be said for staying sharp, though? By the time the Phillies start Game 1 of the NLDS, it will have been about two weeks since the games mattered. It might behoove them to get a few more wins under their belt and keep that swagger level high. The Vanimal, Vance Worley (11-2, 2.85) will square off against John Lannan (9-13, 3.68) and the Nationals Wednesday. By the way, the Nationals have only finished better than fifth once and that was a fourth-place finish. They're in third right now. So it's a really good bet they really want this game. Nationals at Phillies, 7:05 p.m. ET.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 20, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:11 am

Playoff race: Rays lose ground in loss

Davis, Maddon
By Evan Brunell

The Red Sox missed a golden chance to get some breathing room in the AL wild card when the Orioles' light-hitting infielder, Robert Andino, ripped a three-run double in the bottom eighth off of Jonathan Papelbon. It was the first time Papelbon had been scored upon since July 16, so it's hard to blame Papelbon too much. It was just shoddy timing, but it was enough for Boston to drop yet another game and fall six games behind the Yankees. As if five games wasn't already a near impossibility to make up, it's all but assured at this point as New York now has a 99.9 percent chance of winning the division.

So yeah, that race is over.

In the wild card, the Rays fell to the Yankees in a 5-0 shutout, so no ground was gained or lost in terms of games separating Boston and Tampa Bay. However, the Rays' work is now that much tougher as they failed to capitalize on inching closer to Boston. Any time the Red Sox lose, never mind to a team as down and out as the Orioles, the Rays have to be there to take advantage. After all, it's not just Boston that has to lose the wild card. Tampa has to win it, and their chances actually went down on Tuesday by about three percent.

But let's not forget the Angels, who won on Tuesday and suddenly makes them a dark-horse candidate to steal the wild card. The Angels' division hopes are all but scrubbed, so it's the wild card or bust. At just 3 1/2 back, the Angels could feasibly swoop in and steal the wild card. After all, Boston can't buy a win while the Rays have six more games against the Yankees.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 1 v. BAL, 3 @ NYY, 3 @ BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 90.8 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
85-68, 2 GB
Remaining schedule: 3 @NYY, 3 v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 5.2 percent

Los Angeles Angels
84-70, 3 1/2 GB
Remaining schedule: 2 @ TOR, 3 v. OAK, 3 v. TEX
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 1.1 percent

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

Posted on: September 20, 2011 3:26 pm

On Deck: Wild card races in spotlight


By Matt Snyder

Follow the game action on CBSSports.com's live scoreboard. Also, keep an eye on the updating Playoff Race standings page.

Triple the intrigue: OK, let's set the scene. We have Tim Lincecum (13-12, 2.59) vs. Clayton Kershaw (19-5, 2.30). We also have the Giants trying to make a last-minute playoff run, as they're 3 1/2 games behind the struggling Braves in the NL wild card. On top of that, the Giants are going for their ninth straight victory. It's a triple threat. Just don't expect much scoring. Kershaw owns a career 1.26 ERA against the Giants and a 0.71 ERA in his last seven starts. Lincecum leads the majors with a 2.02 road ERA and has a 1.65 ERA against the Dodgers this season. Kershaw is looking to join Arizona's Ian Kennedy as the only 20-game winners in the NL. Giants at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET.

NL Wild Card: As stated, the Giants are just 3 1/2 games back in the NL wild card race, but they have a team between them on the Braves. The Cardinals are 2 1/2 out -- just two in the loss column. With less than 10 games left in the season, every game is paramount at this point. The Braves will turn to young Randall Delgado (0-1, 3.24) to help right the ship after a heartbreaking loss Monday night. Anibal Sanchez (8-8, 3.62) gets the ball for the Marlins, and that's good news for the Braves. They've battered him (6.39 ERA) the last five times they've seen him. Braves at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. ET. Meanwhile, the Cardinals return home to open a six-game homestand. They'll continue to play without All-Star left fielder Matt Holliday, but it may not matter if the pitching continues to throw the way it has of late. Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.71) takes his turn Tuesday night, and he's been great (2.20 ERA in last five starts) lately. Mike Pelfrey (7-12, 4.48) and the Mets will attempt to play spoiler. Mets at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET.

AL Wild Card: The Rays' pursuit of the Red Sox is a hot topic at present, as everyone paying attention knows, but the Rays face a tall order this week. After taking three of four in Boston, the Rays still trail the Red Sox by two games in the AL wild card and now have a four-game series in New York against the mighty Yankees, who sport the best record in the AL. Wade Davis (10-9, 4.41) will start the series opener for the Rays, and the Yankees counter with rookie of the year candidate Ivan Nova (15-4, 3.81). Rays at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. ET. A couple hundred miles northeast, the Red Sox are hoping to build on Monday night's 18-9 win. Trade deadline acquisition Erik Bedard (5-9, 3.50) will make his first start since Sept. 3. He'll also be taking on his former team, the Orioles, who send Rick VandenHurk (0-0, 6.00) to the mound. Orioles at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. ET.

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