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Tag:Reds
Posted on: August 23, 2011 9:53 am
 

Pepper: Moustakas on hot streak

Moustakas

By Evan Brunell

GETTING HOT: Mike Moustakas didn't find the major leagues much to his liking in the early going, but things have turned around thanks to a recent tear that's lifted Moose's batting average to .206.

That's an accomplishment when it was at .182 mere days ago. Over the last five games, the third baseman has collected eight hits in 16 trips to the plate, doing much of his damage against the Red Sox who just completed a four-game series with Kansas City.

“Whenever you’re going bad,” Moustakas told the Kansas City Star, “you need those little things here and there to pick you back up, and this homestand kind of helped me out.”

Also encouraging from the 22-year-old is the three doubles collected during his five-game hot streak, a display of power that hasn't been around this year. It's taken quite some time for Moustakas to get used to the majors, but the Royals have proven to be very patient. Working in Moustakas' favor is that he's struggled at every single new level he's risen, so if history is any indication, he will snap out of his slump in due time.

Moustakas credits his turnaround with working alongside hitting coach Kevin Seitzer to close up his front shoulder more when at the plate. He needed some time to get into a groove with the new stance, but results are starting to show.

“Anytime you change something, it’s gonna feel uncomfortable,” Moustakas said. “But Seitz told me just stick with it, it’s gonna work out. And it ended up working out right now. I’m hitting the ball harder, squaring a little more balls up, so it’s paying off.”

BEAST MODE
: The Brewers have started up a tradition, making hand gestures after a big play that translates to "beast mode." The inspiration came from the movie Monsters Inc. and describes what Milwaukee has been up to lately with a 22-3 record in its last 25 games.

"I don't want it getting carried away," manager Ron Roenicke said of the new trend to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Do I like it? Not particularly. But I don't think I'll say, 'Don't do it.' If I see it getting worse, I'll say no. I didn't like when the Rangers did the 'antlers' thing [last year]. If you're old school, you're not going to get along in the game these days."

BEST DRAFT: It's been a week since the deadline for drafted players to sign has passed. With a few days to digest, Jim Callis came up with the top five drafts, with the Nationals heading the list. Also ranking among the top five are the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Pirates and Rays. (Baseball America)

COMPLETE PACKAGE: The New York Times ran a profile on Miguel Cabrera, who is one of the best young players in the game. Seriously -- he doesn't seem to be considered a superstar, but maybe he should be, as this factoid suggests: "Only five players in major-league history have had 1,500 hits and 250 homers, while hitting .310 or better, through their age-28 season. They are Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron, Albert Pujols and Cabrera."

BEST BALLPARK: Four teenagers went on a trip, taking in games at all 30 stadiums in 54 days. The best stadium according to the four? Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark -- a quality park, but not one you usually hear as the best. It may have helped that they witnessed a walkoff in the Reds game. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

LOSING CUBA: A wave of defections across Cuban sports have recently left a void in Cuba, where sports is not a lucrative field. That's caused many athletes to defect in the aim to compete against higher competition and make more money. To help address the problem, Cuba is finally considering allowing its athletes to play abroad. (Associated Press, via The Globe and Mail)

LOOKING BACK: A year ago this week, Cody Ross was claimed off waivers by the Giants. The Padres were also interested in Ross, but the division leaders at that point declined to put in a claim while San Francisco won his rights. Of course, Ross ended up a postseason hero, while the Padres were frozen out -- but to hear GM Jed Hoyer say it, he would make the same move again. (Tom Krasovic, Inside the Padres)

MAKING FUN OF WERTH: Phillies fans have a new favorite pastime, which is making fun of Jayson Werth. Still roundly booed for taking a lucrative deal to play for the Nationals, the ex-Phillie felt the "love" during a homestand in which Phillies fans virtually took over Nationals Park. A Philadelphia car dealer got in on the fun, running an anti-Werth ad on Philadelphia sites. (Washington Post)

TWEETING TICKETS
: Jesse Litsch challenged fans to find him in Wonderland, an amusement park near Toronto. The winner received two tickets to Tuesday's game, but it took until Litsch winning a gigantic Spongebob prize and tweeting about it for him to be spotted. (Toronto Star)

MOST HANDSOME SOPHOMORE: SI.com has photos from high school of 28 athletes, and Nolan Ryan and Barry Bonds are among the stars. One one came away with the designation of most handsome sophomore, though -- that being Ryan, who was among the 1965 class.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 19, 2011 9:56 am
 

Pepper: Replay helps, but is hardly perfect



By C. Trent Rosecrans

See, now that's how replay's supposed to work -- maybe.

A day after the Yankees were the victim of a bad call (and worse replay) in Kansas City, the umpires in Minnesota went to the video once again for a Justin Morneau two-run homer in the first inning.

However, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't agree.

"In my opinion, and this is what I told them: 'If one replay shows it could be fair and one replay shows it could be foul, and no one is really positive, how the heck do you change it?'" Gardenhire told reporters (via MLB.com). "I don't get that. They told me they saw a view on TV. But I could show three views right here where the ball disappears behind the pole. It just depends on the camera angle."

While I'm all for expanded replay, we must keep in mind it's not going to solve all of baseball's problems -- and the last two days have shown that.

Fair or foul? You be the judge (Yankees broadcast, Twins broadcast). It sure looked foul to me, but I understand the argument. It's what the NFL calls "incontrovertible visual evidence" and I'm not sure it's there. It's something to keep in mind, even with replay, humans are in charge and the chance for human error is always great, no matter what tools are at our disposal.

Hanley on hold: Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez may not return this season, Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post speculated. Ramirez sprained his left shoulder on Aug. 2 while chasing down a fly ball. Ramirez hasn't played since. He had surgery not he same shoulder following the 2007 season.

Quade safe?: Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has been supportive of embattled manager Mike Quade and when he talks to the media during a homestand starting today, it's expected he will support his manager. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Little slugger: I wrote about Indians infielder Jack Hannahan's son the other day, but if you missed it, go here. Anyway, Louisville Slugger sent the youngest Hannahan a bat with his name, birthday and birth weight on it. A cool gesture for Johnny Hannahan, whose dad also uses Louisville Sluggers. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Hanson on hold: Braves right-hander Tommy Hanson won't return from the disabled list on Tuesday as previously scheduled. The Braves aren't sure when they'll get him back from shoulder tendinitis, but it may not be too long. It looks like rookie Mike Minor will stay in the rotation, at least through Tuesday. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

Congrats?: Brewers infielder Craig Counsell was believed to have dodged setting the record for most consecutive at-bats without a hit recently when he snapped an 0-for-45 skid one hitless at-bat before the record set by Bill Bergen in 1909. However, the Elias Sports Bureau went back and found that Bergen's went 0 for 45, meaning Counsell and former big leaguer Dave Campbell tied Bergen for baseball's longest streak of futility. Campbell achieved the feat in 1973 while with the Padres, Cardinals and Astros. The original 0 for 46 mark was from Joe Dittmar, who had researched it as a piece on Bergen for the Society for American Baseball Reaserach in 1997. Dittmar went back to check his work and saw that he was off by one and Elias was right. So, congrats Counsell and Campbell, or probably more accurately to Bergen, who is no long alone with his streak. [New York Times]

Confidence is key: Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion said his belief in himself has been able to get him through another difficult year. It looked as if Encarnacion might be the odd man out when the Jays were set to promote Brett Lawrie at the end of June, but since Lawrie broke his hand and his call up was delayed. Since June 28, Encarnacion has hit .325/.414/.580 with nine home runs and cut down his strikeouts to 25 with 22 walks over that time. He's also been helped by being taken off third base where he's struggled throughout his career with consistency -- making the really difficult plays and botching the easy ones. [Toronto Star]

Please stay Rays: St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster said Thursday that he has a "detailed plan" to keep the Rays in St. Pete, but refused to disclose any details. The city clerk said she knew nothing about it, but Foster claims it exists. Don't get too excited about this plan, though, while he didn't spill any beans, he did "clarify" that his "detailed plan" may not include a new stadium. [Tampa Tribune]

Hold on: The Nationals' Tyler Clippard has a pretty good shot at breaking the holds record this year. If you can't quite remember who currently holds it, you're forgiven -- it's not like we're talking about Babe Ruth's home run record (I kid). Clippard got his 32nd hold last night and has a decent shot at breaking Luke Gregerson's record of 40 set way back in 2010. [Baseball-Reference.com]

M.C. Doc Halladay?: Rapper Game references Phillies ace Roy Halladay on his new album. That's all. Just found it interesting and liked the mental image Dave Brown gives of Halladay at the Source Awards. [Yahoo's Big League Stew]

Making dad proud: The other day I teased Reds scouting director Chris Buckley about the team's pick of his son, Sean, in the sixth round. Another team official was there and rightfully noted, "nepotism picks comes in the 40s, not the sixth round." They're right -- and early in his career, Sean Buckley is proving him right. Buckley has 13 home runs already in short-season Class A with the Billings Mustangs, including one that cleared the batter's eye in center field. [MiLB.com]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 18, 2011 10:06 am
 

Pepper: Down to two races?



By C. Trent Rosecrans

With just more than a month to go, we're down to just two races in baseball -- the National League West and the American League Central.

The rest? Done. Decided.

The National League East? The Phillies lead the Braves by 8 1/2 games. Done.

The National League Central? The Brewers are up on the Cardinals by seven, winning 19 of their last 21 and watching as the Cardinals take another September siesta. Done.

The National League wild card? It's the Braves to not just lose, but to give away in spectacular Cubian fashion. That's not happening. Done.

The American League East? Boston trails by a half-game, so the division is up in the air, but with Boston leading the Wild Card by eight games, both teams are playing in October, all that's left is figuring out seeding, the important stuff? Done.

The American League West? Texas has won its last six, including the last three in Anaheim against the Angels. Done.

At least we have the NL West and the AL Central -- those will at least be interesting for a while.

Looking back at last year at the same time, the Braves led the Phillies in the NL East, but both ended up in the playoffs. In the AL East, The Yankees and Rays were deadlocked atop the division, but again, both went to the playoffs. Sound familiar?

Minnesota had a four-game lead over the White Sox in the AL Central, a lead they'd hold, while the Rangers were running away from the Angels with an eight-game lead. Deja vu.

As for the NL Central? Cincinnati was leading the Cardinals by just two games, but St. Louis would fade down the stretch. And in the NL West, the Giants trailed the surprising Padres by five games.

Basically, it looks like we've seen this all before. But you know what? It was pretty fun to watch last year and it will be again this year.

Brewers confident: After Tuesday's win, Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan said the team has to "try to catch Philly," according to the Associated Press. "That's our goal, since we have nobody to really chase in our division, let's go chase Philly." After Wednesday's win, Zack Greinke said, "It's definitely not locked up now, but it's on us mainly," according to the Journal Sentinel. And he added, "it is ours to lose." It is indeed.

Giants' road to repeat: The Giants have the easiest remaining schedule among contenders, Yahoo's Jeff Passan writes as he breaks down the remaining schedules for the contenders (and the Cardinals, Rays and Angels). Passan also gives the Brewers more reason to be confident -- the third-easiest remaining schedule, plus the most off days and more home games than road games remaining. As for the AL Central, the Tigers have the best remaining schedule among the contenders. And not only are the Rays well behind both the Red Sox and Yankees in both the division and the wild card, they also have the toughest remaining schedule -- 10 against Boston, six against New York, six against Texas and four against Detroit.

Some people are just jerks: And online, they all have a voice. Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has proof -- sharing the emails he's gotten from people against the proposed statue of Shannon Stone and his son.

Logic may prevail: Although there were reports this weekend that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry's job was safe, but Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman says that's not so certain. What you can blow $251.5 million on Carlos Zambrano, Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome and have to worry about your job? Say it ain't so.

Five tool players: Every year I look forward to Baseball America's Tools issue -- and I got it in the mail yesterday. It's fascinating reading and also allows you to geek out about minor league players and what they could become. Over at FanGraphs, they feel the same way, but Carson Cistulli decided to find out which big leaguers have displayed five tools through the "nerdiest possible" numbers. It's great stuff. And if you didn't know, Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki and David Wright are good.

Speaking of tools: Former Reds and Nationals GM Jim Bowden never saw a tools-y player he didn't like. He has five players you should give up on -- starting with the Pirates' Pedro Alvarez. [ESPN.com]

CC's history lesson: Yankees starter CC Sabathia spent Tuesday morning at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, saying he drew inspiration from the visit for his start on Thursday in Minnesota. If you're ever in Kansas City, make sure you make it to the museum either before or after you go to Arthur Bryant's. [New York Times]

Tony Plush's kitty kat: Good for Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who adopted a new cat from the Wisconsin Humane Society. [Twitter]

Dim your jacket: Tuesday night the umpires working the A's-O's game had to ask two men with LED equipped clothing behind the plate to dim their wares. [Yahoo!'s Big League Stew]

Extending Ichiro?: Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times makes the argument against the Mariners extending Ichiro's contract.

Passport problems: Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur will use his off day on Monday to get a new passport -- his old one expired after 10 years and he forgot about it. The Royals are scheduled to go to Toronto later that day. [Kansas City Star]

Hat flap: The National wanted to wear military hats in Tuesday's game, but Major League Baseball denied their request. Instead, the Nationals wore the hats during batting practice. The main reason? Well, ignore the jibber-jabber from MLB, it's that there was no money to be made, so they didn't want to do it. MLB told the Washington Post that it prefers to for teams to use patches or batting practice for such displays. [Washington Post's DC Sports Bog]

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 17, 2011 9:53 am
 

Pepper: Signing deadline needs to be moved up

Bubba Starling

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The last couple of days showed us some of the best of baseball, five walkoffs on Tuesday, Jim Thome's 600th home run on Monday, triple plays both Monday and Tuesday and so much more. But Monday night we saw one of the things that needs to be fixed, and that's the signing deadline for draft picks.

Yesterday I touched on this, but I suggested just moving it from midnight to a more reasonable hour. That was a selfish wish. Hall of Famer George Brett tells the Kansas City Star that the deadline needs to be moved up more than a month to something like July 4.

The reason is simple, the development of players is stunted by a year and the posturing could hurt players. According to Brett, the Royals and Scott Boras, the "advisor" for their top pick, Bubba Starling, didn't even start talking until 10:30 p.m. on Monday night. The two sides then agreed to a deal with 20-40 seconds left, Brett said.

"If they made the deadline July 4, these guys would sign July 4 and the guy would jump on the plane and play some real baseball rather than go to Arizona when the season is almost over after not picking up a ball and a bat for how long … and playing football … he's not baseball ready," Brett told the newspaper. "It's going to take him a while." 

Instead of playing baseball and cashing checks, Starling was working out with the Nebraska football team as a negotiating ploy, showing that he was "serious" that he'd turn down millions of dollars to play football. He was also risking injury and his future with no guarantee.

That said, with the way money was thrown around on Monday night, it seems to make little sense to sign early. The teams showed that players who wait to sign until the deadline will be rewarded. An agent I spoke to on Tuesday said he's had players sign early in the past -- which is all well and good for the teams, but did he do his players' a disservice by not waiting until the end? In his previous cases, no, it was still the right thing to do. But next time? When the 27th player picked gets $800,000 above slot, the waiting game pays. That's not going to change, the way to fix that it to shorten the wait.

Pirates' booty: Speaking of the draft signings, the Pirates spent $17 million in signing bonuses for their draft picks. While there are negatives, for Pittsburgh, this is a positive. For many years teams like the Royals and Pirates wouldn't draft the best available player in the draft, instead drafting the best available player that would fit into their budget. The Royals gave Bubba Starling a huge contract and the Pirates gave out several, including an $8 million signing bonus to No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and $5 million for second-rounder Josh Bell. Last season we heard about how the Pirates weren't spending their luxury tax gains, but now we see an actual plan and owner Bob Nutting is putting money into the team. [MLB.com]

Right player, wrong position: Living in Cincinnati I've seen this before -- teams in MLB will often pick the best player available in the draft, regardless of position, now Yonder Alonso is in the big leagues with the Reds and has little to do because Joey Votto isn't going to sit the bench for him. The Nationals saw a player some considered to be the best in the draft fall to them and couldn't pass up Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, despite already having a 26-year-old at third base in Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals are happy to have Rendon and let that problem play out. [MASNSports.com]

Bundy eyes 2013: Orioles first-round pick Dylan Bundy said his plan is to be in the big leagues in 2013. The right-hander would be 20 in 2013. Brett would tell him if he was serious about that, he maybe should have signed sooner. [Baltimore Sun]

Overrated Howard: Baseball-Reference.com's Sean Forman made the argument in the New York Times that Philadelphia's Ryan Howard is not an elite hitter. The bigger argument was about overvaluing the RBI -- the stat that Howard provides much of Howard's worth. It does certainly help that he plays for the Phillies and has some pretty decent players in front of him in the lineup.

Umps visit kids: Jerry Meals may be Public Enemy No. 1 in Pittsburgh, but not to 3-year-old Emily Berger. Berger, who had undergone surgery on Monday, was one of the children visited by a group of MLB umpires to visit a children's hospital on Tuesday. Meals, who famously blew the call at home plate to end a 19-inning game in Atlanta for Pittsburgh loss, and the rest of his crew hosted a Build-A-Bear workshop for dozens of children. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

Sizemore improving: The Indians hope Grady Sizemore can return next month after he started baseball activities on Tuesday as part of his rehab from a right knee injury and a sports hernia surgery. [MLB.com]

Granderson's rare feat: Curtis Granderson has a shot at leading the American League in homers and triples. The last player to do that was Jim Rice in 1978. [Baseball-Reference.com]

Mariners doing well: Jack Zduriencik won the offseason according to many before the 2010 season, and we saw how that worked. But even with that in hindsight, it appears Zduriencik has had a good couple of weeks despite his team's fall in the standings over the last two months. [Seattle Times]

More Thome: If you haven't had enough of Jim Thome (and really, it's not like we've even got to a tenth of the DJ3K madness yet), his hometown paper, the Peoria JournalStar put together a fantastic package looking back on his life and career. Make sure you check it out.

Give the people what they want: Nice job by the Brewers' promotion department with the announcement of  "Tony Plush Rally Towels" for the Sept. 9 game against the Phillies. "Tony Plush" is the "gentleman's name" of outfielder Nyjer Morgan. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Bashing Boise: No, not the Broncos and their "Smurf turf," but the city's Class A team -- Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said Boise's Memorial Stadium is "below standard." [Chicago Tribune]

Pros vs. G.I. Joes: Some White Sox players are playing video games with soldiers online. [MLB.com]

Hi, bye: Outfielder Jonny Gomes was traded from the Reds to the Nationals last month, but he wasn't informed until just before the Reds' game started, meaning he wasn't able to say goodbye to his teammates in Cincinnati. Now a member of the Nationals, Gomes got to say both hello and goodbye to the Reds when the team started their series in Washington. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

Cut those sideburns: Monday was the 20th anniversary of Don Mattingly sitting out a game for refusing to cut his hair. [MLB.com]

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Posted on: August 12, 2011 1:04 pm
 

Votto: Superstars 'overrated' in baseball

Joey VottoBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Joey Votto is not only the reigning National League MVP, he's also one of the most introspective players in the game. When you talk to Votto, he usually considers the question, thinks about the answer and gives you an answer you may not have expected.

He's not the easiest of interviews because Votto approaches them like his at-bats, he's always thinking and evaluating not only what's coming at him, but also what repercussions his actions may have. So when he talks, it's usually interesting, but it's hardly ever rote.

Enter today's column by Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Most of the column is the usual woe-is-me small markets can't compete whining. But what's interesting is Votto responses. This past offseason Votto signed a three-year extension, covering his remaining arbitration years and still allowing him to become a free agent following the 2013 season. At that point, the Reds may not be able to afford him.

But Votto points out, that may not kill the Reds. Here's Votto on the impact of an MVP: "You're never going to win if you put too much emphasis on your superstars. It's such a shared responsibility to win. I won the National League MVP, and in 85 percent of the games I wasn't changing the game. In the NFL, if I'm the MVP quarterback, I'm changing 12 out of the 16 games, maybe higher. Superstars can be overrated in this game."

It's an interesting thought. In basketball, it's damning if a player like Charles Barkley never wins a championship. In football, quarterbacks are judged more by rings than ratings. But in baseball, some of the game's greats are still considered greats, even without winning a title. Among them, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Carl Yastrzemski and Ken Griffey Jr. have 12 MVPs and no World Series rings. LeBron James is still considered a failure because he doesn't have a title and Dan Marino's lack of a title is brought up as much as his records.

Votto also realizes that he'll have a huge payday coming up, and even if he leaves, the Reds will have gotten a bargain for his first six years in the big leagues.

"Over that first six-year span, you're probably paying a guy 15 to 25 percent of what he's worth. He’s getting the minimum for three years, then 40, 60, 80 percent, roughly," Votto told Daugherty.

"You get to call a player up, whenever you want. You get to delay his [arbitration] clock. It can be very fair for all the small market teams. Look at Minnesota. Tampa Bay has had a pretty good stretch. Payroll matches market, with some exceptions. Baseball is doing a pretty good job."

The reason this is brought up is that many see Votto as the catalyst for what the Reds could do in the offseason trade market. He's an MVP in the prime of his career, cost-controlled for two more years. The Reds have a young first baseman in Yonder Alonso who may not be Votto's equal, but he's certainly a capable player (who can't play another position) that will be cheaper for the next several years. Add Alonso at first with whatever other upgrades Votto would bring in return and the Reds could find themselves better, even without their best player. It would certainly stink for the marketing department, at least initially, unless the gamble paid off in wins. Wins are a better marketing tool than an individual.

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Posted on: August 12, 2011 12:47 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Sans chicken wings, Cueto's back



By Matt Snyder


Johnny Cueto, Reds. Cueto had been rolling right along, sporting a 1.72 ERA and 0.98 WHIP through 16 starts. He was coming off a shutout when he was shelled by the Cubs last Saturday for seven hits and five earned runs in just 3 2/3 innings. What was wrong? Cueto said he had chicken wings and his stomach wasn't feeling right when he took the hill. So this time around he avoided the wings and got back on track. Thursday, Cueto worked seven shutout innings against the Rockies, giving up just three hits and walking two while striking out nine in a 2-1 victory. He trimmed his league-leading ERA down to 1.94.

St. Louis Cardinals. If the Cardinals lost this one, they'd have fallen six games back to a Brewers team that is playing as well as anyone right now. That isn't an insurmountable deficit, but it would be quite the climb. Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter was touched up for two runs in the top of the first, too, but after that everything fell into place for the Cardinals. Rafael Furcal and Albert Pujols hit first-inning homers to tie it. Pujols didn't let up, going 4-for-4 on the night with Matt Holliday sidelined. Carpenter labored at times, yet found a way to battle through eight innings without allowing a third run. Closer Fernando Salas worked a perfect ninth. The defense was actually good, too, as the Cardinals turned four double plays in the 5-2 win. They're still four games out and the Brewers are still the favorite, but this was a game the Cardinals needed in this race.

Mark Buehrle, White Sox. The veteran threw eight innings, allowing only six hits and three runs while walking none and striking out six. He picked up the win as the White Sox remained four games out in the AL Central, yet crept to within one of second-place Cleveland. While it was a good outing, Buehrle's in this spot because it marked his 18th stright start in which he allowed three runs or less (Mark Gonzales on Twitter). That guy gives his team a chance to win every single time he takes the ball. And he's talking retirement after this year as he's set to hit free agency. He's only 32.



Brad Mills, Blue Jays. This just in: Oakland isn't very good at offense. Entering Thursday, only the Mariners had scored fewer runs among AL teams. But the A's lit Mills up. He only lasted three innings, allowing five hits and six earned runs in a 10-3 Blue Jays' loss. Maybe the Man in White switched sides. I mean, guys don't just hit in that stadium without some kind of extra help, right?

Nationals in ninth. The Nationals loaded the bases with nobody out against fickle Cubs closer Carlos Marmol Thursday afternoon. The deficit was two and it appeared Marmol had no idea where any of his pitches were going. After an Ian Desmond strikeout -- in which he fought off several pitches out of the zone -- Wilson Ramos had an infield single to cut it to one. Brian Bixler followed with a check-swing strikeout before Rick Ankiel flew out to the warning track to end it. Of all the balls the Nats swung at in the ninth, I'm gonna guess about 35 percent were actually in the strike zone. Even their two hits were of the infield variety.

Nyjer Morgan, Brewers. I rarely have a problem with players on opposing teams having a shouting match. In fact, I quite prefer that kind of fire rather than befriending the opponents. It's supposed to be a competition. But when your teammates are telling you to stop, it's probably a bit ridiculous. According to multiple reporters (including Derrick Goold) at the game, the brief stoppage of play in the top of the eighth inning was due to Morgan yelling at Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter from the dugout. Teammates were reportedly trying to get him to stop and when the camera cut to home plate, Prince Fielder and Yadier Molina could actually be seen laughing about it. If the two clubs are at odds, that's competition. If there's only one guy yelling and everyone else is either telling him to stop or laughing, well, that's a bit out of whack.

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Posted on: August 11, 2011 12:37 pm
Edited on: August 11, 2011 2:56 pm
 

On Deck: Pivotal series come to a close



By Evan Brunell


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

VerlanderVERLANDER TIME: The Indians have taken the first two games of the three-game set between AL Central rivals, leaving Cleveland just two games behind the Tigers for the lead. Unfortunately, Cleveland only has one Ubaldo Jimenez, and he pitched on Wednesday. That leaves Fausto Carmona, he of a 5.9 ERA, to do battle against Justin Verlander. That's a tall task, what with Verlander's amazing season leaving him in contention for the AL Cy Young Award. Verlander can accomplish two things on Thursday: first, the righty can snap Cleveland's 13-game winning streak against Detroit in Progressive FIeld, and he can also become the majors' first 17-game winner. Tigers vs. Indians, 7:05 p.m. ET

GallardoCarpenterGONE STREAKING: Another pivotal Central series comes to an end Thursday as well, except this one is over in the NL. The streaking Brewers are attempting to rip off a 6-0 road streak, their seventh straight win, push their MLB-best home record to 42-15 and extend their division lead to six games. Boy, that's a lot of accomplishments to reach in one game. The pitching matchup is pretty even, at least if you consider only ERA. Milwaukee has Yovani Gallardo with a 3.56 ERA toeing the mound, while St. Louis counters with a 3.75 figure. Brewers vs. Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET

RockiesRedsPITCHING DUEL: A pretty solid pitching matchup highlights this game, with Johnny Cueto taking the mound for the Reds and jockeying for the best ERA in in the game. Cueto's already qualified previously for the best ERA, but he fell out of consideration because he's right on the bubble to qualify for the lead. He's missed so much time, that even waiting five days for his next start can drop him out. All he needs is 4 2/3 innings and he reclaims his spot atop the ERA leaderboard. He won't have an easy time of it, as the Rockies will throw out Jhoulys Chacin, who has had a fine year in his first full season. He stumbled in July with a 4.97 ERA but has turned in two straight strong starts Rockies vs. Reds, 12:35 p.m. ET

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Posted on: August 10, 2011 11:38 am
Edited on: August 10, 2011 12:22 pm
 

La Russa denies playing head games

La Russa

By Evan Brunell


Let's dive right into it. Tony La Russa doesn't think he plays head games with opponents. Right.

"I think the opposite is the reputation I've established," La Russa told CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler and other reporters after a spate of recent incidents involving La Russa have caused the issue to boil over. "I've had a number of times to play that -- tricks and [cheap shots] -- and we don't ever get into it. I trust our players, and I have for a long time."

Tony La Russa

Except that tricks and cheap shots are La Russa's kingdom, with the Brewers the latest target. The Brewers Bar lays out La Russa's complaints over the years.

Last week, La Russa complained about the ribbon board at Miller Park, home of the Brewers, to the umpires. He also called Brewers fans "idiots" after a Milwaukee pitcher dared plunk Albert Pujols. He said that the ribbon board shines brighter when the Brewers are at bat. The manager also got upset earlier this season when Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman called starting pitcher Chris Carpenter "a whiner and an excuse maker." There are plenty of other incidents in past years, which you can read about here, such as complaining about slick baseballs, or the bullpen mound not being uniform to the mound on the playing field.

But nope, La Russa says that head games and complaining aren't his forte.

"I trust our players. Somebody has an issue, whether it's [saying that] the balls are slick in Cincinnati or whatever, and it's guys like John Smoltz and Chris Carpenter, I don't say, 'You've got to be kidding me. Who are you to complain?' When you've established what they've established ... I trust our players. If you trust your players, you're responsible for following through with it. That's what I do. But the people who know me, I shy away from that stuff, because the game is supposed to be played between the white lines, so you try to avoid it at all costs."

"I think it's just the nature of, if you look around, the nature of the game," he added. "If both clubs are competing, it doesn't have to be, but once in a while, you have some sparks. And you can have two clubs that are having a tough year. You can have a club that's having a good year and [one having] a tough year. I think the whole key is just a competition. If both sides care, they always believe their side of it, you know?"

Not much else to add here. Frankly, La Russa over the last few years has evolved into a curmudgeon who stirs up trouble, thinks a little too much of his baseball genius (to be fair, La Russa has been a fantastic manager and helped evolve the game with his bullpen usage) and runs talented young players (Colby Rasmus) out of town.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com