Tag:On Deck
Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:57 pm
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On Deck: Wild cards hinge on final day



By Evan Brunell


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

AL wild card: It's the final game of the season, and we've got two races currently tied. The first of them is the American League wild card, where the Red Sox and Rays are knotted at one apiece. Boston will send ace Jon Lester to the mound in the hopes of downing the Orioles. Lester has never lost against Baltimore, running up a 14-0 record. On the year, he has a solid 3.49 ERA but that mark is 6.97 over his last four starts, so there's concern there. He'll be opposed by Alfredo Simon. Meanwhile, down south, the Rays offer up their own ace in David Price to take down the Yankees. New York is already in the playoffs, so they could choose to rest some players and give the Rays a weaker opponent to play against. To that end, even the Yankees don't know who will be starting Wednesday night. Red Sox vs. Orioles, 7:00 p.m. ET | Yankees vs. Rays, 7:00 p.m. ET

NL wild card: Over in the NL, the Braves are new to this. The Red Sox have had an extra day to get used to the idea of falling into a tie, but Atlanta woke up Wednesday knowing the final game of the season was crucial to the playoff hunt. After all, if they lose and the Cardinals win, they're out. Fortunately, they have a pretty good pitcher heading to the hill in Tim Hudson, who will oppose Joe Blanton in what figures to be a bullpen game for Philly. On paper it's a mismatch, but the way the Braves has been playing lately is the complete opposite of St. Louis. Meanwhile, the scorching Redbirds offer up Chris Carpenter against the hapless Astros, who will send Brett Myers to the mound. Phillies vs. Braves, 7:00 p.m. ET | Cardinals vs. Astros, 8:00 p.m. ET

StrasburgNo walks: Stephen Strasburg has a very good chance to accomplish an incredible feat in his fifth and final start of the year. So far, he's walked absolutely zero batters in his 18 innings, striking out 14. That's a K/BB ratio of infinity. Thanks to the magic that is Baseball Reference's Play Index, I ran a query of all starting pitchers who had at least five consecutive starts with no walks in the millennium. There's been plenty of streaks of no walks allowed, most namely the amazing Greg Maddux who racked up two separate nine-game streaks of no walks allowed. If Strasburg gets through the game, he'll be tied with 15 others for five consecutive starts. Interestingly, Kevin Slowey accomplished the feat earlier this season, but before that you have to go back to Cliff Lee in 009, then Curt Schilling in 2006. Strasburg himself went six straight starts without a walk last season. He's opposing Chris Volstad in Jack McKeon's final game as Marlins manager. Nationals vs. Marlins, 4:10 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 4:13 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 4:14 pm
 

On Deck: Wild card chases dominate action



By Evan Brunell


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

AL wild card: It's all tied up in the Ameican League, as the Red Sox and Rays are both battling for the right to play in October. Everyone knows how the Sox have collapsed and the Rays have ascended, so we won't recap that here. Jeremy Hellickson, who seems certain to lock up the AL Rookie of the Year award, will take on the Yankees and Bartolo Colon. The Red Sox will counter with Erik Bedard -- who hasn't been the pitcher the team hoped it was getting at the trade deadline -- going up against Zach Britton. Given the pitching matchups, one would expect this tie to extend another day with both teams winning, but games are played on the field. Red Sox vs. Orioles, 7:05 p.m. ET | Yankees vs. Rays 7:10 p.m. ET

NL wild card: If the Braves can win tonight with the Cardinals losing, Atlanta will have somehow staved off collapse to win the wild card. Hopes rest on Derek Lowe, no stranger to postseason heroics, in matching up against Roy Oswalt. The good news is that the Phillies have stumbled lately, which works in Atlanta's favor. The bad news? Oswalt is a better pitcher than Lowe, whose 4.92 ERA is third-worst, behind 2004 and his rookie season of 1997 when he was a reliever. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are in must-win mode with Jake Westbrook heading up against Henry Sosa of the Astros in what is a lopsided matchup... on paper. Remember, Houston defeated St. Louis Monday night. It's going to be an entertaining night. Braves vs. Phillies, 7:10 p.m. ET | Cardinals vs. Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET

VelezDubious history: As SB Nation's Rob Neyer points out, the Dodgers' Eugenio Velez is hitless in 36 at-bats in the majors this season. Given he also finished 2010 with nine straight hitless, he's tied for the longest hitless streak. However, it doesn't count because it was split between two seasons. However, Velez has set a record for the most hitless at-bats in a season, not counting pitchers. Velez already outdistanced Hal Finney, who was 0 for 35 in 1935. With two games left, Velez should get a couple more at-bats to further extend his ignominious record -- or to end it with a hit.  Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 25, 2011 12:01 pm
 

On Deck: Pivotal day for wild cards



By Evan Brunell


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

Big day: It's possible that by the second game of the doubleheader, the Red Sox will know a loss drops them into a tie for the wild card. In the first game of a doubleheader, the Sox throw Tim Wakefield against A.J. Burnett, two pitchers with ERAs north of 5.00. In the second game, Boston offers up sacrificial lamb John Lackey and his 6.49 ERA against Ivan Nova. That's not exactly a duo of pitchers that inspires confidence. If the Red Sox lose both games and the Rays win, there will be a tie in the wild card. Red Sox vs. Yankees, 1:05, 6:05 p.m. ET

MinorDetwilerStaving off collapse: A wild-card collapse is also possible in the NL, where the Braves are two up on the Cardinals. Unfortunately, Atlanta is going up against the Nationals, who has been on a hot streak lately and is sending Ross Detwiler to the mound. Detwiler has yet to put in a full year's work, but is locking up a 2012 rotation spot thanks to his strong 3.30 ERA in 60 innings, posting the best walk rate of his short major-league career. The Braves will counter with their own young lefty, Mike Minor. Minor has a 4.27 ERA in 78 innings. Braves vs. Nationals, 1:35 p.m. ET

Losing streak
: The stumbling Phillies, losers of eight straight, will look to Roy Halladay to play stopper against the Mets. Chasing his 19th win, Halladay is going up against the Mets as Philadelphia tries to avoid a MLB record ninth straight loss after clinching a division title. "I'm sitting there watching it. Don't know what I can do about it," manager Charlie Manuel told the Associated Press. "If you want to know the truth, our team's out of sync, definitely out of focus, and we're not playing. The Mets counter with Mike Pelfrey. Phillies vs. Mets, 2:10 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 23, 2011 4:52 pm
 

On Deck: Braves face Strasburg

OD

By C. Trent Rosecrans


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Stephen StrasburgBraves' tall task: Stephen Strasburg gets to pitch in a pennant race -- well, sort of. The Braves are trying to hold on to their two-game lead in the National League wild card race, but St. Louis' loss on Thursday gave Atlanta a little breathing room. With six games remaining, the Braves have a 75 percent shot of hanging on to the wild card, according to Coolstandings.com. It can't be too good to see Strasburg on the hill in such an important game. Strasburg hasn't recorded a victory since returning from Tommy John surgery, but that's through no fault of his own. In three starts, the right-hander has allowed two runs on nine hits in 14 innings, while striking out 11 batters and walking none. Atlanta beat Strasburg last season, getting to him for six hits and four runs (three earned) in 6 1/3 innings. At that point, it was the most any team had scored against Strasburg. Tim Hudson, 15-10 with a 3.19 ERA, starts for Atlanta. Braves at Nationals, 7:05 p.m ET

Back home: Not only does it rhyme, but the Jays-Rays matchup has quite a bit on the line. For the first time in nearly two weeks, the Rays are back home. Tampa went 5-6 on their 11-game road trip to Baltimore, Boston and New York. Tampa Bay is slightly better at home (42-33, .560 winning percentage) than on the road (44-37, .543 winning percentage) and have won seven of their last eight games at Tropicana Field. David Price takes the mound for Tampa Bay after leaving his last start when he was hit in the chest by a ball. Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow is coming off an eight-inning scoreless performance against the Yankees, getting his first win since Aug. 17. Blue Jays at Rays, 7:10 p.m. ET

Last chance: With a win on Friday, the Diamondbacks will clinch the National League West, but the game may be more important to the Giants. San Francisco probably needs to not only win the rest of its six remaining games, but also get some help along the way for a shot at the National League wild card. A loss tonight and the Giants not only are realistically out of the wild card race, but they're also mathematically out of the NL West race. Matt Cain is 4-1 with a 3.97 ERA in five starts against Arizona this season and 2-0 with a 4.26 ERA at Chase Field. Arizona left-hander Joe Saunders was one out away from a shutout in his last start, Sunday in San Diego, and has won his last three starts. His last loss was to the Giants, giving up four runs (three earned) on five hits in 5 1/3 innings on Sept. 2. Giants at Diamondbacks, 9:05 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 22, 2011 5:14 pm
 

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

OD

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

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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

OD

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.

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Posted on: September 20, 2011 3:26 pm
 

On Deck: Wild card races in spotlight

OD

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.

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Posted on: September 19, 2011 3:57 pm
 

On Deck: Kennedy's bid for 20

OD

By Matt Snyder

As always, follow all the game action live on CBSSports.com's scoreboard. Also, the Playoff Race standings page will be updating at the conclusion of every game.

Snakes' ace: Along with his team as a whole, Diamondbacks' starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (19-4, 2.99) is one of the better stories in baseball this season. He's setting out to make it even better Monday, as he takes the hill against the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates. A win would make him the first Arizona pitcher since Brandon Webb (2008) to win 20 games. It would also shrink the D-Backs' magic number to four in the NL West, as the Giants are idle Monday. Jeff Karstens (9-8, 3.45) gets the ball for the Pirates, who were battered Sunday 15-1 by the Dodgers. Karstens has a 6.20 ERA in his past four starts. Pirates at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ET.

Home Sweet Road: The Braves are reeling in September, to the point that a once-huge lead in the NL wild card has shrunk and two teams are within striking distance. So maybe a trip down to Sun Life Stadium will help solve the issue? After all, the Braves have beaten the Marlins six straight times in Florida. Another good sign for the Braves is Mike Minor (5-2, 4.11) is the starting pitcher. The 23-year-old lefty has thrown pretty well since a few rough starts in the first half. He has a 3.33 ERA in his last eight starts and the Braves have won nine of his last 10 starts. Ricky Nolasco (10-11, 4.42) is the starter for the Marlins. Braves at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. ET.

Big effort needed from Big John: It's time for John Lackey (12-12, 6.19) to earn his hefty eight-figure salary. The Red Sox lost 6-5 Monday afternoon, meaning they only have a 1 1/2 game lead over the Rays in the AL wild-card race and only a one-game advantage in the loss column. Lackey comes in as a major disappointment for the Red Sox this season, but a win here could go a long way in making amends with the fan base. If the Red Sox do lose, that means they'd have the same amount of losses this season as the Rays. What started off a few weeks ago as a remote possibility would then become awfully real. Fortunately for the Red Sox, the struggling Brian Matusz (1-7, 9.84) takes the hill for Baltimore. Orioles at Red Sox, about 7:10 p.m. ET.

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