Tag:Playoff race
Posted on: September 29, 2011 12:18 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 2:17 am

Playoff race: Epic finish sends Rays to playoffs

Evan Longoria

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Evan Longoria's solo homer off of the Yankees' Scott Proctor capped what was perhaps the most exciting final day of the regular season in baseball history, and solidified two epic collapses by the Red Sox and the Braves.

Longoria's homer gave Tampa Bay an 8-7 victory just minutes after the Orioles' Robert Andino's liner scored the winning run in Baltimore to seal a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Red Sox. Longoria was in the on-deck circle in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the Red Sox score was announced. Just three minutes later, Longoria hit his second homer of the game.

It was just another comeback for the Rays, who were behind in the wild card race by as many as nine games and then were down 7-0 in the eighth inning of Wednesday's game against the Yankees. Tampa Bay scored six in the eighth inning, including three on Longoria's first homer of the night. Dan Johnson hit a two-out, pinch-hit homer in the ninth to tie the game.

While the Rays were within a strike of losing, the Red Sox were within a strike of winning.

Jonathan Papelbon, who had never surrendered an earned run at Camden Yards until Tuesday, struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth inning trying to protect a 3-2 lead. But Chris Davis doubled and then Nolan Reimold hit a ground-rule double to tie the game and then Andino hit a sinking liner to left that Carl Crawford -- the former Ray -- couldn't catch, scoring Reimold.

Three minutes later, Longoria ended Boston's season, and completed the Red Sox collapse.

The Rays will now head to Texas to face the Rangers in the first round of ALDS on Friday, while the Yankees will host the Tigers.

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Posted on: September 28, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 11:49 pm

Playoff race: Cards are wild in NL

Craig Kimbrel

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Craig Kimbrel may end up being the National League Rookie of the Year, but the lasting image of the Braves' closer in 2011 may be his blown save in the final game of the season that capped an epic collapse by the Atlanta in the NL wild-card race, as Atlanta lost 4-3 to the Phillies in 13 innings on Wednesday. The loss, coupled with the Cardinals' 8-0 victory in Houston, has given the Cardinals the National League wild card.

The Braves went 9-18 in September, losing their last five games and nine of their last 12, but none as painful as Wednesday's collapse.

Atlanta led 3-1 in the third and held onto the lead until the ninth, when Kimbrel blew his eighth save of the year. Kimbrel allowed a hit and three walks, giving up the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Chase Utley. Kris Medlen got the Braves into extra innings, but Scott Linebrink gave up two hits and walked a batter, with Brian Schneider scoring on Hunter Pence's infield single in the 13th.

Meanwhile, St. Louis had little drama on Wednesday, scoring five runs in the first inning off of Astros starter Brett Myers and cruising to victory. The win was the Cardinals' fourth in their last five games and 16th in the month of September. They also won 23 of their final 32 games. The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 8.5 games after losing on Sept. 2, but were able to make up the difference over the last month.

Chris Carpenter threw a two-hit shutout for the Cardinals, who will face the Phillies in the National League Divisional Series, starting Saturday.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:05 am

Playoff Race: NL wild card tied, too

By Matt Snyder

Just as is the case in the American League, 161 games isn't enough to decide the NL wild-card winner. After the Braves were destroyed by the Phillies, 7-1, the Cardinals came through with a come-from-behind victory. Both teams now have an 89-72 record with just one game to play, even if they've arrived at that record in much different ways. The Braves are limping into Wednesday with a 9-17 September record. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are 17-8 in the month. Since August 25, the Cardinals have made up 10 1/2 games on the Braves, so this is an epic comeback. The whole season counts, though, so everything comes down to one final game ... unless they both win or both lose. Then we get one more. As an aside, this is where baseball gets it right. There aren't tiebreakers off the field. You decide who gets in on the field.

If they're still tied after Wednesday night's action, a one-game playoff will be played in St. Louis Thursday night. Let's check out the pitching matchups for Wednesday's action.

Phillies at Braves, 7:10 p.m. ET
Tim Hudson (16-10, 3.23) gets the all-important start for the reeling home team. He's the best healthy starter the Braves have at this point, as three of their nine wins this month came in his starter. So things have worked well on at least one front for them. The bad news is last time Hudson faced the Phillies, he was knocked around a bit and took the loss. He's been OK in three starts against the Phillies this year, though, as he's got a 3.48 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 20 2/3 innings.

Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.03) is Hudson's counterpart for the night. He's only made one start since returning from injury and was limited on a pitch count. He worked two innings, allowing only a hit and striking out three. Expect the Phillies to take a Johnny Wholestaff approach like the Yankees will against the Rays. The Phillies aren't playing for anything other than health and sharpness. It's possible many regular starters are rested as well, though they won't play again until Saturday. Still, this game should be ripe for the Braves' taking.

Cardinals at Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET
Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.59) takes the hill for the Cardinals. He is locked in right now, too. In his past four starts, Carpenter has a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings. He shutout the Brewers and threw eight scoreless innings against the Phillies during that stretch. Carpenter's only faced the Astros once this season, when he went seven innings and allowed just two runs on eight hits. He has a 2.87 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in nine career starts at Minute Maid Park.

Brett Myers (7-13, 4.31) is the Astros' starter. Before Cardinals fans get all giddy, here's Myers' line in September: 4-0, 1.23 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. So he's throwing the ball better than he has all season right now. He hasn't faced the Cardinals since July 26, but he threw eight innings and allowed just three earned runs, taking the hard luck 3-1 loss that day. He was shelled in his previous outing against the Cardinals this season, though, while Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday sport gaudy career stats against him. So the pitching matchup is a tossup on paper. The Cardinals, however, have a much better offense and are playing for the postseason.

So if I had to predict, I'd say we're headed for a one-game playoff after both the Braves and Cardinals win Wednesday. But you can't predict baseball. One game left and anything can happen with these two teams. This is what it's all about.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:44 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 10:54 pm

Playoff Race: AL wild card still knotted

By Matt Snyder

It all comes down to the last day of the regular season. After 161 games, the Rays and Red Sox have the exact same record. Tampa Bay took care of business Tuesday night, and Boston followed suit. The two ballclubs couldn't have possibly had different Septembers, as the Red Sox are now 7-19 and the Rays are now 16-10 this month, but the whole season counts, and they're both 90-71 overall now.

Let's take a look at the pitching matchups for Wednesday. Remember, if the the Rays and Red Sox are still tied after Wednesday's action, a one-game playoff will be played Thursday at Tampa Bay (yes, it's in St. Petersburg, but I said Tampa Bay, not Tampa).

Red Sox at Orioles, 7:05 p.m. ET
Jon Lester (15-9, 3.49) is going on three days' rest, which he hasn't done all season. Of course, he was knocked from the game last time out after just 55 pitches, so fatigue shouldn't be a big issue. The real problem is he's been bad the last three times out. He's sporting a 10.54 ERA while allowing opposing hitters to have a .362/.433/.569 line against him since his last win (September 6, when he was brilliant). Lester's only faced the Orioles once this season and that was all the way back in April -- he allowed just two runs in eight innings and picked up a win. He does have a great history in Camden Yards, as he's 7-0 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in nine career starts there.

Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85) will take the hill for the O's. The Red Sox battered him for eight hits and three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings earlier this season. It was his only career start against Boston. He has pitched better at home in his career than on the road, but this matchup still obviously favors the Red Sox. Of course, the Orioles are playing much better baseball this month (14-13) than the previous several months and anything can happen in any given game.

Yankees at Rays, 7:10 p.m. ET
David Price (12-13, 3.35) gets the ball for the Rays. He's pitched much better than the won-loss record indicates. In fact, his WHIP, K/9 and BB/9 are all improved since last season, when he finished second in Cy Young voting. He hasn't been good against the Yankees this year (4.26 ERA in four starts), but last time he saw them he went eight innings and allowed just one run in a Rays' win. And there's no telling how many regular starters the Yankees rest in a meaningless game.

The Yankees don't have an announced starter yet, and it's expected to be a group outing. "Johnny Wholestaff" is the listed pitcher name in situations like this to baseball people. The Yankees have to worry about setting up for the postseason, which begins Friday, and won't be using top relievers like Mariano Rivera or David Robertson, either. Basically, you never know what's going to happen in a given baseball game, but the Red Sox had better win if they want a chance at the postseason. This one should be very winnable for the Rays.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 8:46 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 1:44 am

Rays, Cardinals could host tiebreakers Thursday

By Matt Snyder

Major League Baseball has revealed a possible Thursday doubleheader of tiebreakers. Should the Rays and Red Sox end the regular season with an identical record, as they have now, they'll play a one-game playoff Thursday to determine the AL wild card. Should the Braves and Cardinals end the regular season with an identical record, as they also have now, they'll play a one-game playoff Thursday to determine the NL wild card.

Both games would air on TBS. Here is the schedule that was announced in a press release:

Thursday, 4:07 p.m. ET: Red Sox at Rays
Thursday, 8:07 p.m. ET: Braves at Cardinals

Again, these games will only take place if either or both groups finish in a tie. The Red Sox and Rays entered Tuesday night tied, while the Braves held a one-game lead over the Cardinals.

Also, the ALDS series will both begin Friday and air on TBS. Here's the schedule for those:

Friday, 5:37 p.m. ET: Rays or Red Sox at Rangers or Tigers
Friday, 8:37 p.m. ET: Tigers or Rangers at Yankees

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 12:10 am

Playoff Race: Braves lose, still get closer

By Matt Snyder

The Braves lost again Monday night, meaning they're now 9-16 in September. Still, they inched closer to the NL wild card, as the Cardinals fell in extra innings to the Astros. So the Braves' magic number is now two, meaning any combination of Braves' wins and Cardinals' losses that equals two clinches the wild card for Atlanta. The good news for the Braves is that's pretty easy to close. The good news for the Cardinals is there are only four total games left between the two squads and the Braves are scuffling.

Atlanta Braves
Remaining schedule: 2 v. PHI
Tuesday's pitching matchup: Derek Lowe (9-16, 4.92) faces Roy Oswalt (8-10, 3.86) of the Phillies. Oswalt has fared very well against the Braves the past two seasons, though he's been shelled two of his past three outings overall (by the Astros and Nationals, with a good outing against the Cardinals in between). Lowe has been mediocre against the Phillies this season and he has an 8.24 ERA in September. The Braves have lost his past four starts and nine of his past 12.

St. Louis Cardinals
88-72, 1 GB
Remaining schedule: 2 @ HOU
Tuesday's pitching matchup: Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.48) takes on Houston's Henry Sosa (3-5, 4.68). Westbrook is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts against the Astros this year, but that seems a bit deceptive. He allowed 20 baserunners in just 11 1/3 innings over those starts. The Cardinals have lost three of his past four starts, though he hasn't been bad (2.61 September ERA). Sosa has never faced the Cardinals.

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:27 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 1:11 am

Playoff Race: AL wild card is tied

By Matt Snyder

A lead that was nine games heading into September is now at zero. The Boston Red Sox lost Monday night in Baltimore, while the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Yankees in Tropicana Field, meaning the two ballclubs are now tied for the AL wild card.

The Angels were eliminated with a 4-3 loss, so it's just the two AL East teams.

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 2 @ BAL
Tuesday pitching matchup: Erik Bedard (5-9, 3.50) vs. Zach Britton (11-10, 4.40) of the Orioles. Britton has been terrible against the Red Sox this season while Bedard couldn't get through three against the Orioles last time out.

Tampa Bay Rays
Remaining schedule: 2 v. NYY
Tuesday pitching matchup: Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.90) vs. Bartolo Colon (8-10, 4.02) of the Yankees. Rookie of the Year candidate Hellickson has a 3.93 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in three starts against the Yankees this year, but he was pretty good (seven innings, two earned runs) last time he saw them, which was his most recent start. The Rays have had their way with Colon this season, piling up 22 hits and 11 earned runs in 15 innings (6.60 ERA). The Rays have won all three games in which Colon started against them.

If the two clubs end up tied after these final two games, they'll play a one-game playoff in Tropicana Field Thursday night, due to the Rays winning the season series.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 24, 2011 10:10 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 10:12 pm

Playoff race: Rays could catch Boston on Sunday

Carl Crawford

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Rays could catch the Red Sox as soon as Sunday following Saturday's 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays and the Red Sox's 9-1 loss to the Yankees. Tampa Bay trails Boston by just 1.5 games after Saturday's games.

Wade Davis takes the hill for Tampa Bay against Brett Cecil, while the Red Sox send Tim Wakefield and John Lackey to the mound for their doubleheader in New York against A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova. A Rays win and a Yankees sweep would tie the teams in the wild card standings with just three games remaining.

If you're a Red Sox fan, it looks like now's the time to get nervous (if you weren't already).

Here's what's left for both teams:

Boston Red Sox
Remaining schedule: 2 @ NYY, 3 @BAL
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 88.4 percent

Tampa Bay Rays
87-71, 1.5 GB
Remaining schedule: 1 v. TOR, 3 v. NYY
Coolstandings.com expectancy of wild card: 10 percent

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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