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Tag:Nick Punto
Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:59 am
 

Spring position battles: American League East



By Matt Snyder


Here we are for the fifth of six installments of spring positional battles. This one is the mighty AL East, the most polarizing and probably best division in the majors.

Previous spring position battles: AL West | NL West | AL Central | NL Central

New York Yankees
Designated Hitter: Andruw Jones vs. Russell Branyan vs. Free Agent vs. Revolving Door

I still feel like the Yankees will sign either Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez or Hideki Matsui -- any of whom likely nails down this job full-time. But it's undecided as of right now, and wide open. Will Andruw Jones or Russell Branyan hit well enough to justify being the full-time DH? Maybe, or maybe they platoon -- as Jones hits from the right side while Branyan is a lefty. Or maybe the Yankees use bench players like Eduardo Nunez, Bill Hall and Chris Dickerson in the field while using starters like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher at DH a few times a week in order to keep guys healthy and in tip-top shape.

Tampa Bay Rays
No. 4-5 starters: Jeff Niemann vs. Wade Davis vs. Matt Moore vs. Six-man rotation

Talk about a nice "problem" to have. The Rays obviously have David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson as the top three in the rotation. While there isn't a big problem with either Niemann or Davis, it's time to find a place in the rotation for Moore and I'm certain they will. The 22-year-old left-hander was awesome in his limited time in the majors last year, including a stellar outing against the Rangers in Texas for Game 1 of the ALDS. Moore's already received the type of team-friendly contract Evan Longoria got when he was a rookie -- as Moore is signed through 2016 with club options running all the way through 2019. So the question is, do the Rays demote either Niemann or Davis to the bullpen or trade one of them? Niemann would be the trade candidate, as Davis also has a team-friendly contract with club options that take him through 2017. And I doubt this happens, but the Rays could always go with a six-man rotation. Seeing how this plays out will a big spring storyline.

Boston Red Sox
Shortstop: Nick Punto vs. Mike Aviles vs. Jose Iglesias

After trading both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie this offseason, the Red Sox are left with what appears to be Mike Aviles against Nick Punto at short. Punto had a good offensive campaign by his standards last season, when he hit .278 with a .388 on-base percentage. He only had six starts at shortstop, though, and his career numbers don't indicate he's worthy of an everyday gig at shortstop. Aviles also only started six games at short last season, and he only hit .255/.289/.409. He did hit well for the Red Sox, but it was a small 107 plate appearance sample. So the choice between Punto and Aviles is dubious defensively and neither is a good offensive option. Enter Iglesias, the dazzling defensive prospect. He's a dreadful hitter -- his line in Triple-A was .235/.285/.269 last season -- but it's not like Aviles or Punto are going to be confused with Troy Tulowitzki or anything. Maybe the Red Sox just plant Iglesias in the nine-hole and enjoy the exceptional defense?

Corner Outfield spots: Cody Ross vs. Ryan Sweeney vs. Carl Crawford and his health

Crawford is said to be questionable for the start of the season after undergoing minor wrist surgery a few weeks ago. If he's healthy, he starts in left easily while Sweeney and Ross battle it out for the right field job. If Crawford can't start the season, Ross and Sweeney are the corner outfielders, yet still fighting for the right field job for when Crawford returns. At some point, Ryan Kalish will return from offseason shoulder surgery and could eventually fight for playing time in right field as well.

Toronto Blue Jays
Outfield logjam: Colby Rasmus vs. Eric Thames vs. Rajai Davis vs. Travis Snider

We know who mans right field, but these four guys are competing for the other two spots. Thames in left field and Rasmus in center seem the most likely, but Davis will get a shot at either spot and Snider is in the mix for left.

No. 5 starter: Dustin McGowan vs. Kyle Drabek

This may bleed up into the No. 4 starter as well, but I'll give Brett Cecil the nod for now, since he is left-handed. The top three are Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez. So, for now, I'll guess the last spot comes down to McGowan and Drabek. McGowan was once a very promising young arm. He went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 144 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings back in 2007, when he was 25. He then made 19 starts before falling injured in 2008 and finally just resurfaced late last season -- two shoulder surgeries and one knee surgery later. Does he have anything left? He was good in 12 minor-league starts in 2011, but had a 6.43 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in the small sample of 21 innings pitched for the Blue Jays. Drabek was a top 30 prospect each of the past two years, according to Baseball America, but he fell flat last season for the Jays. He had a 6.06 ERA, 1.81 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts for the big-league club. Even worse, he was knocked around for Triple-A Las Vegas, to the tune of a 7.44 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 75 innings. Walks, again, were an issue with Drabek issuing 41 compared to 45 strikeouts. Prospects Deck McGuire and Drew Hutchison could also figure in the mix eventually, but this feels like Drabek vs. McGowan heading into March.

Baltimore Orioles
The entire pitching staff: Johnny Wholestaff vs. Joe Allstaff

So let's see ... the following pitchers might have a chance at the starting rotation: Zach Britton (very safe bet), Jason Hammel (safe bet), Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Alfredo Simon and Tommy Hunter. That's quite a mix of pitchers to sift through, but the job isn't overwith yet, because we have to look at the bullpen.

Three pitchers -- Jim Johnson, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg -- will compete for the closer job, with Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day also being part of the bullpen mix. Of course, guys like Simon, Hunter and Bergesen will get a shot in the bullpen if they miss out on the rotation, too. There are more (Willie Eyre, Armando Galarraga, etc.), but I already named 17 pitchers vying for 12 spots.

We could probably move Simon and Hunter to the bullpen while eliminating Eveland from the starting mix, but that still leaves eight guys in competition. In the bullpen, Johnson seems the best bet to win the closer gig, with Lindstrom and Gregg setting up. Add Strop, Patton, Simon and Hunter and you have your seven. But, again, we've thrown out Eveland and there would still be three extra starters along with O'Day, Eyre et al on the outside looking in.

I'll say one thing: Orioles manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair won't be bored this spring. Maybe frustrated, but definitely not bored.

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Posted on: January 21, 2012 6:19 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2012 6:42 pm
 

Red Sox trade Marco Scutaro to Rockies

Marco Scutaro

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Rockies have acquired Boston's Marco Scutaro, CBSSports.com Insider Jon Heyman confirms. Scutaro will play second base and likely bat second for the Rockies.

The deal was rumored on Friday, but then other reports said it was dead -- only to be resuscitated on Saturday. The Denver Post's Troy Renck, who initially reported the possibility of the deal on Friday, wrote the deal was revived "when the Rockies were able to work through some financial issues" to make room for Scutaro's $6-million salary for 2012. Scutaro is a free agent after the season.

Right-hander Clayton Mortensen is headed to Boston in return for the 36-year-old Scutaro. But more than that, it opens the $6 million for the team to spend on a pitcher, such as Roy Oswalt.

Mike Aviles and Nick Punto could platoon at shortstop for the Red Sox in Scutaro's absence. The Red Sox could also go with rookie Jose Iglesias, who appeared in 10 games for the Red Sox last season. Iglecias has a big-league ready glove, but his bat is a serious question. he hit .261/.308/.316 at Triple-A Pawtucket last season.

The Rockies upgrade their lineup with Scutaro, who hit .299/.358/.423 for the Red Sox last season.Jonathan Herrera had been penciled in to not only play second, but bat second.

The Rockies' trade of Kevin Slowey on Friday helped add some more payroll flexibility. Slowey was slated to make $2.75 million in 2012.

Mortensen, 26, appeared in 16 games for the Rockies last season, making six starts. He was 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA overall and 2-3 with a 4.15 ERA in his starts. He struck out 30 batters in 58 1/3 innings, with a 1.354 WHIP.

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Posted on: December 14, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 10:08 pm
 

Nick Punto signs with Red Sox



By Matt Snyder


The Boston Red Sox have signed utility infielder Nick Punto to a two year contract, the club announced Wednesday night. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has learned the contract is worth $3 million and has up to $500,000 in incentives.

Having traded Jed Lowrie to the Astros earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox had an opening as a backup around the diamond, and Punto fills that need. Punto can play second, third or shortstop, just like Lowrie.

Punto, 34, hit .278/.388/.421 for the Cardinals last season, but that was in the small sample of just 166 plate appearances. His career on-base percentage is just .325, though, so signs point to that .388 mark being a bit out of character. Still, he has value in being able to fill in at those three positions, especially with Marco Scutaro (36) getting up there in age and Kevin Youkilis having recently battled injury woes (no more than 136 games played since 2008).

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 9:19 am
 

Homegrown Team: Philadelphia Phillies



By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule/past entries of this feature, click here.

The Phillies recently doled out $50 million to Jonathan Papelbon and last year gave Cliff Lee $120 million -- make no mistake, the Phillies are a large-market club using its money to lure top free agents. They've also sent prospects to get Roy Halladay in recent years, so there's been enough talent in the system to lure other teams into making big trades. This team knows what it wants and goes and get it -- by any means necessary. In this exercise, that's not possible. The Phillies, in this hypothetical, aren't the prohibitive favorite they were for the majority of 2011, but they're hardly the Cubs.

Lineup

1. Michael Bourn, CF
2. Jimmy Rollins, SS
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Scott Rolen, 3B
6. Marlon Byrd, LF
7. Domonic Brown, RF
8. Carlos Ruiz, C

Starting Rotation

1. Cole Hamels
2. Gavin Floyd
3. Vance Worley
4. Randy Wolf
5. Brett Myers

Bullpen

Closer - Ryan Madson
Set up - Antonio Bastardo, Alfredo Simon, Brad Ziegler, Michael Stutes, Kyle Kendrick
Long - J.A. Happ

Notable Bench Players

Nick Punto can play a ton of positions, but, well... There's also Pat Burrell and Jason Jaramillo, which may not be deepest bench.

What's Good?

The lineup -- when healthy -- is still pretty darn good. The rotation, while not exactly the historic rotation that the Phillies rolled out in 2011, is nothing to sneeze at and the bullpen is deep and talented. There's a bit to like here in all aspects of the game.

What's Not?

The health question, and age, are huge here. Utley, while still a very good player when he's on the field, he's had a multitude of injuries. Rolen played in just 65 games last season (for the Reds). Brown has yet to establish himself as an everyday player, but he is talented. And then there's the bench, which has Punto to play every position, but not much else. 

Comparison to real 2011

This team may be in the wild card race, but there's no way it finishes 102-60.  That said, there's a chance it could compete for the NL East title (even though I do love the Braves chances in this exercise). The starting pitching isn't as good, but the bullpen has enough arms to keep things close. There's also so depth that's not listed on this roster in guys like Kyle Drabek, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Outman that aren't going to wow you, but certainly help depth-wise and could play a role as a spot starter or in the bullpen in the course of a long season. The Phillies may buy some players, but they've also developed enough to stay competitive.

Next: Chicago White Sox

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 10:12 am
Edited on: October 27, 2011 6:19 pm
 

Cardinals pick up Adam Wainwright's option

Adam WainwrightBy C. Trent Rosecrans

We're going to have a lot of these reports in the next couple of days -- the things you knew would happen, but actually happened. Today's edition is that the Cardinals officially told right-hander Adam Wainwright they are picking up his 2012 and 2013 options at a total of $21 million, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Wainwright recorded the final out of the 2006 World Series for the Cardinals, but has been relegated to cheerleader in this year's World Series. Wainwright missed all of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but is expected to be fully ready to pitch come spring training.

For all the free agency moves, check out our Free Agent tracker

Wainwright, 30, finished in the top three in Cy Young voting in both 2009 and 2010, going 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA in 2010. 

With the option picked up for $9 million in 2012, the Cardinals already have more than $74 million on the books for 10 players in 2012, with Albert Pujols unsigned. The team also has an option on shortstop Rafael Furcal, while Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs and Ryan Theriot are all arbitration-eligiible. Right-hander Edwin Jackson, catcher Gerald Laird, infielder Nick Punto and outfielder Corey Patterson are also free agents.

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


Posted on: October 26, 2011 6:28 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 6:41 pm
 

MLB correctly errs on side of caution



By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- Major League Baseball had a tough decision Wednesday. On one hand, the weather reports for the scheduled game -- Game 6 of the World Series to those who have been living under a rock for the past week -- looked bleak. Does the league take the chance that the game is marred by weather, like Game 1 of the ALDS between the Tigers and Yankees this season or, even worse, Game 5 of the 2008 World Series between the Phillies and Rays? On the other hand, what if the forecast is wrong and the league is embarrassed again, just like in Game 2 of the ALCS, when it was a sunny day when the first pitch was scheduled, but the game was postponed earlier that afternoon?

That was the issue facing Major League Baseball. Ultimately, it factored everything in and believed the prudent decision was postponement.

"You get to Game 6 of the World Series, and you want to guard -- as long as you have a forecast that we're expecting clear weather tomorrow, and if necessary the next day, I think that was more of a decision-maker than anything else, just the fact that we're anticipating rain during the game," MLB vice president Joe Torre said Wednesday afternoon.

World Series Coverage
"(The game was postponed) just basically for convenience," Torre said. "Because of the forecast there was no reason to wait any longer, and the earlier we can do it, the more people can change plans and do what they need to do, and including the players and managers, too."

Torre mentioned also that this next game being a possible clinching game of the World Series weighed heavily on the decision, again, teamed with the fact that the forecast for the next two days seems clear (Weather.com's hourly forecast for Thursday night, at this point, has a zero percent chance of rain throughout the game).

Torre also noted that the decision was entirely made by Major League Baseball officials, and that there was no input from either the Rangers or Cardinals.

"(Tuesday) I talked to both Wash (Rangers manager Ron Washington) and (Cardinals manager) Tony (La Russa) that if the forecast didn't get measurably better that we were probably going to call it early, and they were both understanding of it," Torre said. "They didn't offer any kind of strategy fight on it."

La Russa and Washington echoed that sentiment.

"No, I was given output," La Russa said. "I just picked up the phone, they said, 'The game's postponed.' No input."

"I want to play," Washington said. "I wasn't asked, but I want to play. But I understand the situation."

Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler had a similar mindset to his manager.

"It's frustrating as a team," he said. "Same as the regular season, we wanna play every game when it's scheduled. But that's the way it goes."

"It's frustrating that you wanna get these games in because you have so much anxiety," Cardinals second baseman Nick Punto added. "There's an excitement to get ready for Game 6, and then they tell you to go home to be with your family and get ready to go tomorrow."

Despite the frustration at the weather, every player I heard from at least seemed understanding with the situation.

I think everyone would agree it's better to have the game played from start to finish with no delays to protect the integrity of the game. Most involved parties said as much, including Torre, La Russa, Washington and Kinsler.

So complain if you must, but realize there would be complaining if the game was interrupted for several rain delays, too. Major League Baseball was put in a no-win situation by bad weather, and decided to err on the side of caution. In a game as big as Game 6 of the World Series, we can't really ask for much more.

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Posted on: October 26, 2011 2:12 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 4:41 pm
 

Free-agent postion rankings: Thin crop at 2B

Brandon Phillips

By C. Trent Rosecrans


For all free agency moves, check out the CBSSports.com free agency tracker.

Second base is hardly a marquee position -- there are some good players at the position, but at its core, it's a position of deficiencies. Second basemen generally aren't good enough defensively to play shortstop, or hit well enough to be a third baseman or outfielder. That's not to say there aren't some great players who play the position like Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley, but it's not a marquee position, and it's even less so in this free agent market.

Brandon Phillips1. Brandon Phillips: If the Reds were to decide against exercising Phillips' $12 million option, he'd certainly be in demand. But that's not happening. Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has said he's planning on picking up Phillips' option, while Phillips prefers an extension. Phillips has said the Reds simply picking up the option on his contract would be a slap in the face -- but maybe one day I can be slapped in the face for $12 million. Phillips said the Reds won't get the "homeboy hookup" (otherwise known as the "hometown discount") in any extension talk. So while Phillips will be in a Reds uniform on opening day, the end of the season and beyond, that may be a question.
Possible teams: Reds

Jamey Carroll2. Jamey Carroll: Yep, Jamey Carroll is number two on this list -- which should tell you as much as you need to know about the remaining 11 names on this list. Carroll is a fine player, but nothing more than that. He hit .290/.359/.347 for the Dodgers this season and hasn't hit a home run since 2009. He did put up a .383 on-base percentage as a leadoff man, something that could make him much more attractive to potential suitors. Carroll could be a good second baseman (or shortstop) for somebody, but he's not exactly the type of player that's going to turn around the team or get a fanbase fired up.
Possible teams: Dodgers, White Sox, Royals, Diamondbacks, Rockies

Jerry Hairston Jr.3. Jerry Hairston Jr.: Hairston is one of the more versatile players in the game and also had a very good postseason, so good that someone may consider him an everyday player. Hairston played second, third, shortstop, left field and center field last season, but started each of the NLCS games at third base. He played 45 games for the Brewers and 75 for the Nationals in 2011, hitting .270/.344/.383 with five home runs overall.
Possible teams: Brewers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Mets, Royals

Ramon Santiago4. Ramon Santiago: Santiago could play shortstop as well, increasing his value. This year was the first year he played mostly second base, starting 40 games at second and 22 at shortstop for the Tigers. Still, he doesn't exactly project as a first-division starter at either spot. He hit .260/.311/.384, not too far off his average in his 10 seasons in the big leagues with the Tigers and Mariners. He's most likely a utility infielder at this point in his career.
Possible teams: Twins, White Sox, Diamondbacks, Padres, Dodgers

Mark Ellis5. Mark Ellis: Ellis certainly earned brownie points for teams watching from afar when he gracefully stepped aside for the arrival of second baseman Jemile Weeks in Oakland and was then traded to Colorado. Ellis, a good defensive second baseman, struggled offensively in Oakland before the trade but hit quite a bit better in Colorado (imagine that). Ellis is likely to return to Colorado.
Possibile teams: Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers

Aaron Hill6. Aaron Hill: The Diamondbacks have options for the next two seasons on Hill, but there's close to zero chance the team will pay him $8 million for next season. Still, Arizona has expressed interest in bringing back Hill, whom the Diamondbacks got in a change of scenery trade with the Blue Jays. Hill hit .315/.386/.492 with two homers in 33 games for the Diamondbacks after hitting just .225/.270/.313 for the Blue Jays.
Possible teams: Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Cardinals

Aaron Miles7. Aaron Miles: After his disastrous turn in Chicago, Miles has rebounded pretty well the last two seasons. For the Dodgers in 2011, Miles hit .275/.314/.346 in 136 games. Miles will be 35 next season. The Dodgers have expressed some interest in bringing him back. Miles made $500,000 last season and should get a little bump, but don't look for anyone giving him a long-term deal.
Possible teams: 
Dodgers, Cardinals, Nationals

Jack Wilson8. Jack Wilson: Wilson finished last season with the Braves, playing shortstop and third base. he played mostly second base for the Mariners to start the season, but that was because the team had Brendan Ryan at short. Wilson, who has never had much of a bat, may be entering the stage of his career where he can serve as a late-inning defensive replacement at any of the infield positions.
Possible teams: White Sox, Royals, Brewers, Dodgers, Cardinals

Carlos Guillen9. Carlos Guillen: Let's just say Guillen will take a pay cut in 2012 after his four-year, $48 million contract with the Tigers has run out. In those four seasons, the Tigers got a .266/.345/421 hitter with 30 home runs and 12 stolen bases. At 35 in 2011, Guillen hit .232/.265/.368, playing second base and first base in just 28 games.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Cardinals, Rockies, retirement

Kelly Johnson10. Kelly Johnson: Johnson was the other half of the Blue Jays-Diamondbacks underachiever swap. And like Hill, he responded well in his new home, hitting .270/.364/.417 in 33 games in Toronto, while hitting .209/.287/.412 with 18 homers in 114 games with Arizona. The Blue Jays are likely to offer Johnson arbitration, so he can take it or hit the free agent market. He's likely on the borderline between Type A and Type B, if a Type A, he'd almost be forced to take arbitration because his value on the free agent market would take a huge hit if a team had to give up a draft pick. But the class of second basemen is so weak, he may be able to go anyway. It's an interesting situation.
Possible teams: Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Royals, Dodgers

Nick Punto11. Nick Punto: Punto hit .27 8/.388/.421 in a bounce-back year for the Cardinals, but was limited to just 166 plate appearances, so take that with a grain of salt. Punto's no longer an everyday player (if he ever really was), but is instead a utility player and there's always a place for that. He does add defensive value at most spots he plays, so there will be some demand.
Possible teams: Cardinals, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Dodgers, Padres

Craig Counsell12. Craig Counsell: After the NLCS loss to the Cardinals, the Brewers utility man said he wasn't whether he'd return for a 17th season, but he'd certainly listen to offers. "When you're hitting .170 and you're 41 years old, you question yourself, there's no doubt," Counsell told me after the Brewers' loss to the Cardinals. It's a good question. He's had a very good career, but he did hit just .178/.280/.223 and tied a big league record with a 45 at-bat hitless streak.
Possible teams: Brewers, Diamondbacks, retirement

Jose Lopez13. Jose Lopez: The Marlins out righted Lopez to the minors in July, before calling him back up in August. With the Rockies and Marlins in 2011, he hit a combined .216/.245/.373.He did hit .273/.296/.597 with six home runs in 32 games (16 starts) after being called back up. He played third, second and first base. An All-Star in 2006 with the Mariners, Lopez will likely sign a minor-league contract to get into camp with someone, but he's no team's idea of an answer to any question other than who is on the travel roster for a split squad game.
Possible teams:
Nationals, Dodgers, Padres, White Sox, Royals, Mets

Free-agent position rankings: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | DH | SP | RP

Free-agent overall rankings: Position players | Pitchers

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

Posted on: October 25, 2011 7:09 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2011 3:13 pm
 

World Series Game 6: Something's gotta give



By Matt Snyder


Rangers at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m. CT, Busch Stadium, St. Louis. Rangers lead series, 3-2.

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals are in a familiar position: Their backs are against the wall. For pretty much all of September the Cardinals were in "win every game" mode and then also trailed the Phillies two games to one in the NLDS. Thus far, they've come through every single time when they've had to. Will the magic happen again? If so, they'll win Games 6 and 7 in front of their hometown fans and bring home an 11th World Series title. And Game 6 starter Jaime Garcia has been here before.

"It feels the same way that it did the first playoff game that I pitched this year, same exact feeling," Garcia said, when asked about pitching in a do-or-die game. "Obviously this is the World Series, a little different, but to me personally, I try not to put extra pressure on myself or extra expectations. I'm just going to basically go out there and do my thing."

"Going through that process in the month of September, the last five or six starts that I made in the season, I kind of had the same mentality that I've had since the playoffs started."

World Series Coverage
But, in order to avoid elimination one more time, the Cardinals will have to beat the Rangers in two consecutive games -- something that hasn't happened to Texas since August. And they'll also have to beat Colby Lewis, who is 4-1 with a 2.22 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in seven career postseason starts. Of course, he was outdueled by Garcia in Game 2, which was eventually decided with a Cardinals' blown save.

Rangers Game 6 starter Colby Lewis has been here before, kind of. He was the pitcher for the clinching game against the Yankees in last season's ALCS.

"Well, you definitely think when you're in a kid you want to be in this position, be on this stage to go to the World Series," Lewis said. "I think just being in the situation that we were last year throughout the playoffs, you know, gives you more of an edge, more relaxation, that's for sure, because knowing what's expected or you know how to react to certain things."

Also, which series star will carry the offensive load? Mike Napoli and Albert Pujols are the obvious MVP candidates for the series right now; it only depends on which team wins.

Something has to give. Either the Rangers are going to lose two in a row or the Cardinals are going to finally be defeated. Whichever team survives will be the champion.

PITCHING MATCHUP

Garcia vs. Rangers:
Garcia thoroughly dominated the Rangers in Game 2, working seven shutout innings while giving up just three hits and one walk. He struck out seven. He looked every bit as masterful as the stat line suggests. That's the only time he's ever seen the Rangers, so no regular has more than three at-bats against him. Not surprisingly, no one has more than one hit against Garcia, either.

Lewis vs. Cardinals: Lewis went 6 2/3 innings in Game 2, allowing just four hits and one earned run. And remember, that one run scored after he was out of the game -- as Alexi Ogando had entered to face Allen Craig and gave up an RBI single for the second straight night. No expected Cardinals starters have seen Lewis more than four times except Lance Berkman, who is just 2-for-15 against Lewis.

LINEUPS

Rangers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Elvis Andrus SS 2 Skip Schumaker CF
3 Josh Hamilton LF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Michael Young 1B 4 Lance Berkman RF
5 Adrian Beltre 3B 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Nelson Cruz RF 6 David Freese 3B
7 Mike Napoli C 7 Yadier Molina C
8 Craig Gentry CF 8 Nick Punto 2B
9 Colby Lewis RHP 9 Jaime Garcia LHP


NOTES

• The following starting pitchers will be available in relief for Game 6, per their managers' statements Wednesday: Derek Holland, C.J. Wilson (maybe, but if it goes to Game 7, "he certainly will be available for the seventh one," said Washington.), Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook (who had already been pitching out of the bullpen). Also, in an answer that was met with laughter, La Russa said the following when asked if Chris Carpenter was available in relief in Game 6: "No chance ... little chance."

• Nick Punto is 2-for-4 with a walk against Lewis.

Jon Jay has struggled mightily at the plate this postseason, as he's hitting just .157/.246/.196. In the World Series, he's 0-for-14. Thus, Skip Schumaker is getting the start in center.

• The World Series has been a 3-2 margin 61 previous times, and in 41 of those, the team with the 3-2 lead has gone on to win it all.

• Napoli has nine RBI so far in the series. The record for an entire World Series is 12, set by Bobby Richardson in the 1960 Fall Classic. With one more RBI, Napoli will tie Sandy Alomar Jr. and Yogi Berra for the most RBI by a catcher in the World Series. Also, no one has driven home at least nine since Alomar Jr. and Moises Alou both did so in 1997.

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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