Tag:Playoff race: NL Central
Posted on: September 7, 2011 2:22 pm

Playoff race: Brewers sew up NL Central


By Evan Brunell

The NL Central race is a foregone conclusion, with the Brewers handily in first place. But let's take a look at the state of the division heading into Sept. 7 games...

Milwaukee Brewers
Record: 85-58
19 games remaining: 7 road, 12 home
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .497
Coolstandings.com expectancy of division title: 99.9 percent

St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 75-67, 9.5 games back
20 games remaining: 10 road, 10 home
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .507
Coolstandings.com expectancy of playoffs: 2.4 percent

Playoff race

The race is over. The Brewers have run away with the division, boasting the best odds of winning the title. (The Phillies are 0.1 percent behind, but they're still behind.)

So there isn't much of a postseason race, obviously, so let's talk about next season instead. Both teams that top the NL Central right now could feasibly not even be in the mix come September 2012. Milwaukee has slugger Prince Fielder heading to free agency, which could doom their offense. The Brew Crew also has a pretty thin farm system, so can't bank on a lot of help. With a duo of Zack Greinke (pictured) and Shaun Marcum fronting the rotation and Ryan Braun at the plate, the Brew Crew should still have some hope heading into next year ... but the margin of error is that much slimmer.

St. Louis, of course, also has to contend with the free-agent status of Albert Pujols. It also has decisions to make on Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and others in an offseason that could redefine the Cards for years to come. Even if Pujols, Berkman and Carpenter all return, contending will prove difficult just as it has this year.

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Posted on: September 6, 2011 8:27 pm

Brewers' Weeks could return this weekend

Rickie WeeksBy C. Trent Rosecrans

More good news for the Brewers -- who pretty much sealed up the National League Central will last night's win in St. Louis -- as second baseman Rickie Weeks could be activated this weekend, manager Ron Roenicke told reporters before Tuesday's game against the Cardinals.

Weeks, who has been out with a severely sprained ankle since July 27, will return as a pinch-hitter at first with just short stints in the infield, hoping to get him ready for the postseason.

"We wouldn't be activating him to play second base a lot, we would easy him in," Roenicke said (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). "We haven't gotten there yet."

The timing is good, as Jerry Hairston Jr., Weeks' main replacement, left Monday's game with neck stiffness and was out of the lineup on Tuesday.

Weeks is hitting .272/.346/.478 with 19 homers and 43 RBI in 104 games this season.

Weeks has yet to run the bases, but had what Roenicke deemed "a really good day" in Monday's workout.

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Posted on: September 5, 2011 12:17 am

3 Up, 3 Down: Bloomquist kills Giants' hopes

Willie Bloomquist

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Willie Bloomquist, Diamondbacks: Bloomquist's two-run triple in the eighth inning may have been the final nail in the defending champions' 2011 coffin. Ryan Vogelsong held the Diamondbacks scoreless into the eighth inning before Ryan Roberts homered and then after Gerardo Parra singled and Geoff Blum walked, Bloomquist fired Ramon Ramirez's first pitch into the corner in right, scoring the eventual winning runs. With the 4-1 victory, Arizona leaves San Francisco up seven games in the division with 22 games remaining for each team.

Shaun Marcum, Brewers: Marcum again showed why the Brewers could be a team to be reckoned with in the postseason. Although Zack Greinke was the team's most high-profile pickup in the offseason, Marcum's been just as good, if not better. Marcum, acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays, improved to 12-5 with a 3.11 ERA after allowing just one hit and a walk in seven innings in a 4-0 victory over the Astros. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning when Jordan Schafer singled up the middle with one out. No Astro made it to second base until the eighth when Francisco Rodriguez walked J.B. Shuck and then a single to Jason Bourgeois. However, Rodriguez recovered to retire the next two batters he faced to quell the scare. With the win and the Cardinals' loss to the Reds, Milwaukee now leads the NL Central by 9 1/2 games.

Derek Jeter, Yankees: Many of us said Jeter was too old and should just be sent out back and shot (or, you know, out to stud or whatever Derek Jeter will do after he's done with baseball), but those of us who said that (with me raising my hand right here) were wrong. The Captain didn't just go 2 for 5, tying a career-high five RBI in Sunday's 9-3 rout of Toronto, but since the All-Star break he's hitting .343/.397/.448. The one thing he hasn't done much of in that span is hit homers, but he had his second of the second half on Sunday and first since July 25. However, on a team with Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees don't need Jeter to hit homers, just be on base when the others do.

John Lackey, Red Sox: A favorite whipping boy of Red Sox fans, Lackey looked as if he were getting it together -- going five straight starts without giving up more than four earned runs (baby steps, people, baby steps). That streak ended on Sunday. Lackey allowed six runs on eight hits in five-plus innings of work. He didn't retire a batter in the Rangers' seven-run sixth inning, leaving after allowing three straight singles, threw a wild pitch and then walked a batter before being lifted. Lefty Felix Doubront gave up Lackey's final three runs and then three of his own in a 11-4 Rangers victory.

Mark Reynolds, Orioles: The Orioles third baseman committed two errors in the Orioles' 8-1 loss to the Rays, taking over the lead in the majors for errors, leapfrogging shortstops Elvis Andrus of the Rangers and Starlin Castro of the Cubs, who both have 25 errors. Reynolds hadn't started a game at third base since Aug. 14, but was moved back to third on Sunday to give Robert Andino a day off. Reynolds booted a two-out grounder with bases loaded in the third inning and led to four unearned runs in the inning. Reynolds' fielding percentage is down to .897 at third base. He's dead last in pretty much any fielding stat you want to name, UZR, UZR/150 and fielding percentage among them -- and it's not really close. Among qualified third basemen, none have a fielding percentage less than .940.

David Herndon, Phillies: His 2-1 pitch to Mike Cameron with bases loaded in the bottom of the 14th was close -- but his 3-1 pitch wasn't, as Herndon walked in Emilio Bonifacio to give Florida a 5-4 victory. Herndon loaded the bases in the 13th inning, but got out of it. He couldn't repeat the feat in the 14th, despite not allowing a ball out of the infield. In 3 2/3 innings, he walked seven batters -- so really blaming one call on one pitch doesn't carry much weight.

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Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:15 pm

Cardinals may face Brewers without Molina

Yadier MolinaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cardinals may be without one of their most important players when they host the division-leading Brewers for three games starting on Monday, as catcher Yadier Molina is out of the team's lineup for the second straight day on Sunday and may not be ready to face Milwaukee.

"Hopeful is the best way to put it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Molina's availability for the Brewers series (St. Louis Post-Dispatch).

Molina was suffering from soreness in his left calf muscle and told his teammates Saturday that he wouldn't miss Sunday's game. But when La Russa filled out the lineup for the last game of the series against the Reds, Gerald Laird was penciled in to catch Edwin Jackson.

The Cardinals also said they wouldn't promote Tony Cruz from Triple-A Memphis before the Redbirds' season ends on Monday because of the moves that would have to be made throughout the rest of the organization to make sure every team had a catcher.

Molina's hitting .294/.333/.451 with 12 homers, but his worth isn't best measured by any of those numbers or even WAR or any advanced stats, instead, it's best shown by 111 -- the number of games he's started behind the plate in the Cardinals' 139 games. Only Florida's John Buck (113) and Arizona's Miguel Montero (112) have started more games behind the plate this season than the three-time Gold Glover. Molina also has the reputation as one of the best catchers in the majors at handling pitchers.

Laird, 31, is hitting .235/.305/.365 with one homer this season and has started 20 games for the Cardinals this season behind the plate, including Saturday's victory. 

St. Louis enters Sunday's game 8 1/2 behind the Brewers in the National League Central and with 23 games remaining, would likely need another sweep of the Brewers to keep any hopes at the playoffs alive. The Cardinals swept the Brewers in Milwaukee last week.

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