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Tag:Octavio Dotel
Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 2:51 pm
 

World Series relievers vs. hitters



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Both the Cardinals and Rangers advanced to the World Series with a huge hand from their bullpens, so both bullpens are expected to be used often during the series.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa likes to use match ups to his favor, relying on stats to decide when to use a reliever and which one to use. Octavio Dotel's mastery of Ryan Braun was part of the Cardinals' NLCS victory -- Dotel had struck out Braun six times in eight at-bats coming into the series and the two faced each other three times in the NLCS, with Braun striking out all three times. While the Brewers and Cardinals faced each other 18 times during the regular season, the Cardinals and Rangers have only played three times in the teams' histories, back in 2004.

While some free agents have moved, there are still many pitchers and hitters who haven't seen each other, giving this a true old-school World Series feel.

Here's a look at both team's primary relievers against the most important batters:

Cardinals relievers vs. Rangers hitters
Rangers Mitchell Boggs Octavio Dotel Lance Lynn Jason Motte Arthur Rhodes* Marc Rzepczynski* Fernando Salas
Elvis Andrus N/A 0-4 N/A N/A N/A 1-3 N/A
Adrian Beltre N/A 5-22, 2B, HR, 8 K N/A N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A
Nelson Cruz N/A 1-2, HR N/A N/A N/A 2-5, 2B N/A
Josh Hamilton* N/A N/A N/A N/A 0-2, 2 BB, K 0-3, 2 K N/A
Ian Kinsler N/A 0-5 N/A N/A 1-2, BB, K 4-6, 2 HR N/A
Mitch Moreland* N/A 1-1, HR N/A N/A N/A 0-1 N/A
David Murphy* N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A 0-0, 2 BB 0-4 N/A
Mike Napoli 1-1, 2B 0-3, 2 K N/A 0-2, 2K N/A 1-5 N/A
Yorvit Torrealba 0-2 1-1, 2B N/A 0-1, K N/A 1-1 N/A
Michael Young N/A 3-12, 2B, 4 K N/A N/A 0-9, 3 K 1-4, 2 BB N/A

Rangers relievers vs. Cardinals hitters
Cardinals Mike Adams Scott Feldman Neftali Feliz Mike Gonzalez* Mark Lowe Alexi Ogando Darren Oliver
Lance Berkman^ 1-3, 3B 3-9, 2B, 3 K 1-4, BB, 2 K 2-6, BB N/A N/A 4-6, BB
Allen Craig N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
David Freese 0-2, 2 K N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rafael Furcal^ 1-6 1-2, 2B N/A 0-6, 2 K N/A N/A 2-9, 2B, K
Matt Holliday 1-5, HR 2-5, 2BB N/A 0-4, BB, 2 K 1-2, BB, K N/A 1-4, HR
Jon Jay* 1-2, 2B N/A F4 1-1 N/A N/A N/A
Albert Pujols 1-8, 2B, BB, 3 K N/A N/A 1-7, 3 BB, 2 K N/A N/A 2-6, 2 K
Nick Punto^ 0-0, BB 1-5, 2B, 2 BB, 2 K 0-1 0-1, K 0-2, BB N/A 0-8, 2K
Skip Schumaker* 1-3 N/A N/A 0-2, K N/A N/A N/A
Ryan Theriot 0-4, 2 K N/A 0-1 1-4, 2B, BB N/A 0-1 N/A
* left-handed
^ switch hitter

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: October 17, 2011 12:39 am
 

Eye on Photos: Cardinals take out Brewers in NLCS



By Matt Snyder


The St. Louis Cardinals have continued their Cinderella story, beating the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS, four games to two. Let's take a look at the series that was, in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

Prince Fielder came through with a huge home run in Game 1, a Milwaukee victory. (Getty Images)
Despite the loss, Game 1 was when David Freese set the tone for a huge series, here with a three-run homer. (Getty Images)
After a lackluster Game 1, Albert Pujols broke through with a monster Game 2, pictured here with a two-run shot in the first inning. (Getty Images)
All kinds of awesome here, but my favorite part is that the umpire looks like he's shoving Yadier Molina out of the way. Pujols was safe, and the Cardinals went on to win 12-3. (Getty Images)
In Game 3, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke decided to go with Mark Kotsay in center. It did not go well in the first inning. (Getty Images)
In a matchup of aces, Yovani Gallardo coughed up four runs in the first inning of Game 3. The Brewers would lose 4-3. (Getty Images)
Chris Carpenter, on the other hand, did just enough to get the game to the bullpen with a lead. (Getty Images)
Yadier Molina with what appears to be his answer to the Brewers' "Beast Mode." (Getty Images)
Jerry Hairston's incredible slide helped propel the Brewers to victory in Game 4. (Getty Images)
St. Louis loves this one, right? (Getty Images)
Maybe they're talking about how much money combined they're gonna haul in this offseason. (Getty Images)
The Brewers' needed a huge performance out of starting pitcher Randy Wolf in Game 4 and he provided it, even gathering a double with his bat. (Getty Images)
Matt Holliday had struggled this postseason until this swing resulted in a wind-aided homer in Game 4. He'd start swinging the bat well after that. (Getty Images)
It wasn't necessarily why the Brewers lost the series, but there were far too many pictures like this. (Getty Images)
Octavio Dotel has been a major piece for the Cardinals this postseason. (Getty Images)
The squirrel. Nothing more needs to be said. (Getty Images)
An underrated piece for the Cardinals was Marc Rzepczynski, who twice came on to strikeout Prince Fielder in big spots, like here in Game 5. (Getty Images)
Jaime Garcia got what many thought was an early hook in Game 5, but the Cardinals bullpen would throw 4 1/3 shutout innings. (Getty Images)
Rough NLCS for Zack Greinke. (Getty Images)
Huge out here, as the Brewers had two on and nobody out for Ryan Braun, who grounded into this fielder's choice. It was close, too. (Getty Images)
This guy again? Freese's first-inning, three-run home run gave the Cardinals a big lead early in Game 6. (Getty Images)
Yes, that's Jonathan Lucroy on a home run trot. He cut the lead to 5-4 in the second. (Getty Images)
Things got so weird in Game 6, Lance Berkman made a diving catch. (Getty Images)
The Brewers had a big chance to carve into the Cardinals' lead in the bottom of the fourth, but Corey Hart struck out to end the threat. (Getty Images)
That sound you heard was a collective gasp from the entire city of St. Louis. Pujols did stay in the game, though. (Getty Images)
Rafael Furcal gets a beer shower from teammates after the win. (Getty Images)


Up next for the Cardinals: The Texas Rangers in the World Series. The Cardinals are playing for their 11th World Series title, while the Rangers are playing for their first. St. Louis has homefield advantage despite having a worse regular-season record by virtue of the NL winning the All-Star Game. It's funny, too, that the deciding play in that game was a three-run homer by Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:24 pm
 

World Series preview: Rangers vs. Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


Talk about your clashes in historical pedigree.

The St. Louis Cardinals franchise began all the way back in 1882 (as the St. Louis Brown Stockings). After having just won the 2011 NL pennant, the Cardinals now have 18 NL titles and 10 World Series championships -- looking to add No. 11 in the next week and a half or so. The history of the franchise is loaded with Hall of Famers and transcendent personalities, and the city is often said to be one of the best baseball towns in the country. Manager Tony La Russa has been playing bullpen matchups since before Al Gore invented the Internet.

The Rangers' franchise, on the other hand, has only been around since 1961 (as the Washington Senators -- they moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972). Prior to 1996, the Rangers/Senators had never been to the playoffs. Prior to last season, they'd only won one playoff game in franchise history. The only individual Hall of Fame plaque with a Texas Rangers cap is Nolan Ryan's. Sitting right in the middle of die-hard football country, Arlington hasn't exactly been romanticized as a baseball hot spot. Manager Ron Washington took his first managing job in 2007.

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Of course, history has absolutely nothing to do with this series. The players are the ones who will win this series, not the uniforms or any flags in the respective stadiums honoring the past.

The Rangers are now making their second consecutive trip to the World Series and there's no doubt they're a current baseball powerhouse. Anyone who watched Game 6 of the ALCS can attest that the fans are as great as anywhere, too, because Rangers Ballpark was rocking.

These two teams have lots of similarities, too.

Both lost an ace before the season even began. The Rangers lost Cliff Lee to free agency while the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow -- requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery. Both offenses feature several power hitters while the bullpens got stronger down the stretch on the strength of midseason acquisitions and some roster/role tinkering. And both teams have been scorching hot for the past six or so weeks.

Sure, the Cardinals late surge got lots of attention and rightfully so. It's because they were running down the Braves from a double-digit deficit in the NL wild-card race. But check this out:

Rangers' September record: 19-6
Cardinals' September record: 18-8

Rangers' October record: 7-3
Cardinals' October record: 7-4

So if you're going to argue for the hotter team winning the series, you're picking the Rangers -- not the Cardinals. Since a Sept. 10 loss to the A's, the Rangers are 21-5. To put that in perspective, that's a 162-game pace of 131 wins. To reiterate, the Cardinals are playing exceptional baseball right now and deserve all the credit they've gotten for the huge comeback in the regular season and run in the playoffs, but let's not be fooled into thinking they come in hotter than their Texas-sized opponent.

TEAM INFORMATION

Texas Rangers (host Games 3, 4, 5*)
96-66, AL West winner.
ALDS: Beat Tampa Bay three games to one.
ALCS: Beat Detroit four games to two.
Manager: Ron Washington
Offensive ranks: 3rd in R, 2nd in HR, 1st in AVG, 5th in OBP, 2nd in SLG
Pitching ranks: 13th in ERA, 12th in K, 5th in WHIP

St. Louis Cardinals (host Game 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
90-72, NL wild card winner.
NLDS: Beat Philadelphia three games to two.
NLCS: Beat Milwaukee four games to two.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Offensive ranks: 5th in R, 13th in HR, 5th in AVG, 3rd in OBP, 6th in SLG
Pitching ranks: 12th in ERA, 21st in K, 15th in WHIP

*if necessary
[Note: All rankings were regular season and for the entire MLB]

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN -- WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Catcher: Mike Napoli vs. Yadier Molina


Big offensive advantage to Napoli here, but Molina can hit, too. Big defensive advantage to Molina here, but we've seen what Napoli can do behind the plate this postseason. This is a tough call for many reasons. We're weighing Napoli's power stroke (30 HR in 369 at-bats this season) against Molina's ability to completely eliminate the opposing running game. Ultimately, it's a toss up between two really good players.

First base: Michael Young vs. Albert Pujols


Young is a very good hitter. A great one at times, including most of the 2011 season. He just became the first player in LCS history to record two extra-base hits in one inning. He's gotten some noise in the AL MVP argument. It's just that he's not Albert Pujols in any aspect of the game.

Second base: Ian Kinsler vs. Ryan Theriot


Theriot's a scrappy singles hitter who makes lots of baserunning mistakes. He's not a defensive liability at second like he was at short, but he's still not much more than just an average player. Even if Skip Schumaker can return at full health, the upgrade is pretty minor. Kinsler had 32 homers and 30 stolen bases in the regular season and is far superior with the glove. 

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus vs. Rafael Furcal


Andrus is a solid defender and base stealer, but not a very good hitter. Furcal has provided St. Louis a bit of a power-speed combo atop the order since his acquisition. It's a really close call here, but Furcal seems to be providing his team more of a spark at this point in time. Things could easily change by the second inning of Game 1, but we're going Furcal by a nose for now.

Third base: Adrian Beltre vs. David Freese


A healthy Freese has been a monumental boost for the Cardinals' offense, especially as Matt Holliday has dealt with some injuries. Freese was a really good hitter in the regular season and absolutely exploded in the NLCS. Beltre can match and exceed his firepower, though. Beltre had 32 regular-season homers and then went yard three times in the clinching ALDS Game 4 at Tampa Bay. He's also a great defender. Before the NLCS, Freese was underrated, but let's not overcorrect based upon six games. He closed the gap, but is still slightly behind Beltre overall.

Left field: David Murphy vs. Matt Holliday


When healthy, Holliday is an elite player. He's starting to look healthy based upon the last few games, too, so this is an easy call.

Center field: Josh Hamilton vs. Jon Jay


Jay isn't a bad player by any stretch, but he's out of his league here. When Hamilton can keep himself on the field, he's one of the most feared sluggers in the league, and will also sell out his body to make a big defensive play (see Game 6, for example).

Right field: Nelson Cruz vs. Lance Berkman


We cannot discount the season that Berkman, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, put together. He was great, and especially valuable early in the season when Holliday was hurt and Pujols was struggling. But Cruz still almost matched his power production despite playing 21 fewer games in the regular season. In the playoffs, Cruz has been the best hitter in baseball, not to mention that he's a much better defender than Berkman. This one would be a toss up, but Cruz's hot hand pushes him over the top. Put it this way, Cardinals fans: What if you could trade Berkman for Cruz straight up for the series? You'd do it. Don't lie.

Designated hitter


The designated hitter for the Rangers is a mix and match thing. Young or Napoli can be used there, which would get Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba into the lineup. It's also possible Washington goes with Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry in the outfield and uses Murphy at DH. So, essentially, we're judging the bench here. For the Cardinals, the smart money is on Berkman being used as the DH, which then puts Allen Craig in the outfield. So what we're really judging here is which offense benefits more from being able to use a DH and, oddly enough, the NL team here does. Craig is a much better offensive player than Moreland, Torrealba, Chavez or Gentry. So the three games in Texas will actually favor the Cardinals in this one aspect of the game, however small it is.

Starting rotation: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland vs. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse


Both rotations have good ability yet have been shaky at times. Holland and Garcia particularly struggled in their respective LCS'. Wilson and Carpenter both pitched like aces at several points throughout the regular season, but the deciding factor here is that Carpenter has shown he can carry his team in a big game. Wilson, meanwhile, is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in seven career postseason starts.

Bullpen: Neftali Feliz et al vs. Jason Motte et al


The fact that both teams won four of six games against their respective LCS opponents with zero quality starts tells you all you need to know about how good the bullpens are right now. The Cardinals' bullpen has significantly improved down the stretch, as Motte has stepped in as the closer -- despite not being "officially" named as such. Marc Rzepczynski has been a solid left-handed addition just as right-hander Octavio Dotel has gotten some really big outs. Especially after the NLCS, you have to say the Cardinals have a very strong bullpen right now. The way things have gone for Texas of late, though, it's even better. Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando have proven to be an exceptional duo to bridge the gap from the starters to the potentially dominant Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz at the back-end.

Defense


Getting Furcal helped the Cardinals, as will being able to use Craig in right instead of Berkman when the games are played in Texas, but this isn't really a match. The two teams had virtually identical fielding percentages during the regular season, but that doesn't measure range. The advanced metrics that do measure range pretty heavily side with the Rangers here. If you just go by position, only at catcher and first base are the Cardinals clearly better. Everywhere else it's either debatable or definitely the Rangers.

PREDICTION

First of all, keep in mind all categories above aren't created equal. Having a slight edge at shortstop, for example, isn't near as important as having an edge in the bullpen. The position-by-position breakdown is just a snapshot at the different strengths and weaknesses of each team. Adding everything together, including the momentum and swagger heading into the World Series, the Rangers have a better offense, defense and bullpen. And while the Cardinals have been having all their happy flights, the Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since August 23-25. The Cardinals' run has been a great story and nothing would surprise us here, but we'll go with the St. Louis run ending when it runs into a more talented buzzsaw. Rangers in six.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Brewers hand Game 5 to Cardinals

Zack Greinke

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' 7-1 victory in Game 5 has put St. Louis one game from the World Series, as they lead the series 3-2 after Friday's win.

Hero: Jaime Garcia really got the job done with his bat, as three of the Cardinals' first four runs came off the bat of Garcia. Two runs scored in the second on his grounder that went through the legs of Jerry Hairston Jr. and then he knocked in a run in the fourth on a ground out. Oh, and he pitched too... allowing only one run and striking out five (but did give up seven hits) in 4 2/3 innings. 

Goat: Hairston was the toast of Milwaukee for about 23 hours after his brilliant slide in Game 4 and then his diving stop of a liner by Nick Punto in the second inning on Friday that temporarily saved two more runs. But with the next pitch, Garcia hit a grounder that went right between Hairston's legs, allowing two runs to score with two outs. He wasn't alone in the Brewers error-parade, but his was the first one and the most costly.

Turning point: It's hard to overstate how crucial Hairston's error was -- even though it seems like it's getting beat to death here. With the pitcher up, all the Brewers need is a routine play and it's still 1-0 after two. Instead, it's 3-0 and the seeds of doubt have been sown. 

It was over when … Octavio Dotel came in to face Ryan Braun with two on and two outs in the fifth inning and the Cardinals leading 4-1. Braun came into the game just 2 for 9 with seven strikeouts against Dotel. He left the game 2 for 10 with eight strikeouts against Dotel.

Next: The series returns to Milwaukee with the Brewers' season in the hands of Shaun Marcum. Expect a run of Pepto in Wisconsin. Edwin Jackson can send the Cardinals to the World Series with a victory.

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 2:07 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:10 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 3

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has repeatedly said he doesn't like to intentionally walk batters -- but he ordered three free passes in Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, two to Albert Pujols. All three worked.

"I think when it really makes sense, we'll do it. I don't want to just put him on to put him on. You saw we put him on with a guy on third base. Next thing you know, it's second and third instead of first and third. They get a base hit there, they are scoring two runs instead of just one," Roenicke said. "We are going to pick our spots where we think we need to do it. If it comes up, you know, where it makes sense, then we'll try to put him on. But you know, he's scary when he's hitting everything, and we make good pitches and he's still hitting them. He's done a lot of damage to us."

Pujols had hits in both at-bats in which the Brewers threw to him.

Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman was asked if he would pitch to Pujols right now: "Maybe. It would just depend on match ups. I don't think anybody thinks as highly as I do in terms of where he ranks in the history of the game, I think he's probably the greatest hitter ever -- doing it in this ballpark and in this era. It's a worldwide game, you have players from all over everywhere," he said. "That being said, I'm having a hard time walking anybody to get to Matt Holliday. This guy's won a batting title, he's been an LCS MVP. So, you might get him a couple of times, but you better be careful, because if you keep doing it, he's going to make you pay."

Holliday was 0 for 3, so he didn't. He has three hits in the series, but all three have been singles. 

Other things overheard after Game 3:

• Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter on Albert Pujols: "I was very fortunate to watch this guy play of rate last nine years. And when you are that type of player at that level, the expectations from you, me, I'm sure his family, his kids' friends, I mean, anybody that's out there, the expectation levee for what he's supposed to do is unbelievable. That being said, he continues to amaze me every single year. Every year, you can't believe the things that he does, the games that he has, the pressures that he deal with, distractions that he deals with.

"Coming int this season, free agent, how much money he is going to get, best player in baseball, is he going be here? Is he not going to be here? And he comes in, just like the same old Albert, and works hard in spring training, starts off a little slow, everybody is questioning whether or not it's because of his contract situation. No, he continues to grind, he continues to play and continues to do the things that amazes every single one of us every single day. So what he's doing now, does that -- it's him. That's who he is. He's an exceptional player, exceptional hitter. He's got the mind of stone. Nothing bothers him no matter what the situation he's in -- and that's what makes him great."

• Brewers infielder Craig Counsell on the Cardinals bullpen: "They've struggled with their bullpen, but they've got guys in the roles they want them in now. They've turned the corner."

• Mark Kotsay on Chris Carpenter: "He didn't have a feel for his curveball. He left some pitches on the plate that we took advantage of. But he made his pitches when he had to, got out of a couple of jams ... it was interesting that Tony took him out there with the pitcher's spot coming up in the fifth, but Tony (La Russa) obviously knows Carp, he knows his bullpen and he did a great job."

• Cardinals third baseman, and Missouri native, David Freese on Stan Musial's pre game appearance: "It's unreal. Every time Stan Musial comes around the clubhouse, we take time to go say hi to him. And when he gets on the field, whether it's tonight or opening day, all of the guys that are in the Hall come out and join him. It's just special to be a part of."

• Carpenter on Octavio Dotel and Arhtur Rhodes: "I think Doti and Arthur have brought a lot of confidence to some of these younger guys to not care; to go out, not be concerned about what's going to happen. Let's go out and give it our best and see what happens. If it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't, and we'll go get 'em the next day."

• Tony La Russa on Yovani Gallardo: "He's got all of the pitches. We got him before he got sharp, but he's the real deal and he showed it. We had a couple of great chances to add, which normally come back to haunt you, but our pitching staff prevented that. But let me tell you, he's a handful, and he's every bit as good as a No. 1 starter is supposed to be."

• Gallardo on his start: "I think I was off the whole game, to be honest with you, even after the first. The four innings after that, I was struggling putting the ball where I wanted to."

He was then asked if it was any pitch in particular: "A little bit with every pitch. I'd hit my spot, and then the next one would be up in the zone, or not even close."

Corey Hart on the Freese double in the first inning: "It just kind of carried off, but I still had to go after it. I knew I was close to the track. It was like his home run [in Game 2] the other day, it just kept going. He's a strong kid."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:25 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:15 am
 

Cardinals bullpen retires 12 Brewers in a row

Jason Motte

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Only the Nationals had more blown saves than the Cardinals this season, as 26 times the Cardinals had a save situation and then lost a lead. But Wednesday, Chris Carpenter left the game after just five innings in Game 3 of the NLCS and said he wasn't worried about the outcome.

"Typically, as a starting pitcher, you're concerned about that -- you don't want to leave 12 outs for your bullpen," Carpenter said. "I was OK with it. I worked as hard as I could. I had confidence in my guys down there. I had confidence in what they were going to do. And they did it again."

NLCS Coverage

Not only did the Cardinals relievers -- four in all -- get the 12 outs needed, they only needed to face 12 batters to do it. No Brewer reached base after Carpenter intentionally walked Prince Fielder with two outs in the fifth. Fernando Salas got three fly balls to get through the sixth, then Lance Lynn had three fly outs in the sixth and stayed in the seventh to get Ryan Braun to ground out for the first out before lefty Marc Rzepczynski came in to face Prince Fielder. Rzepczynski got Fielder to strike out on four pitches before giving way to Jason Motte -- the team's not-closer -- to strike out Rickie Weeks and then stay in for the ninth and get two strikeouts and a ground out, ending the game.

"Get 12 outs against that offense -- it's not going to work very often that you can put four zeroes against their offense," manager Tony La Russa said. "But each guy came in and really stepped up. I thought they were really aggressive, they threw good strikes and didn't fall behind."

There's been an on-going joke that La Russa still refuses to call Motte his closer -- but since recording his first save on Aug. 28, he's had one blown save a 2.91 ERA. In the playoffs, he's yet to surrender a run, recorded three saves and appeared in five games, all while allowing just one hit.

"Now we've got a guy that's throwing 100 mph, has a nasty slider, it's a presence out there, a force, and you just tip your hat to him because he's turned himself into a closer pretty quick," Berkman said, before he was reminded Motte's not been designated the "closer" by La Russa. "Well, he ends the games for us, whatever you want to call it."

There's talk that La Russa would like to get a big-name, veteran closer during the offseason, so if Motte's not the closer, he doesn't have to demote him. For this season, though, the Cardinals turned around their bullpen late in the season when they traded for right-hander Octavio Dotel, left-hander Marc Rzepczynski and starter Edwin Jackson. Jackson allowed the team to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen to fortify the back end. 

Salas, Lynn, Dotel and Mitchell Boggs all recorded saves in the second half of the season, but Motte's seem to hold it down lately.

There's also the fact that the guy who more or less invented the modern bullpen usage is pulling the strings -- and for this series he has eight relievers to chose between.

"Tony is the most prepared person I've ever been around. He lives and dies by numbers, by match ups, by lineups," Carpenter said. "I mean, everyone questions at times why he throws different lineups up there. It's because there's reasons behind that. He's put his work into knowing why he's doing that.

"Why does he push the right buttons at the right times? Because he puts in work, he puts his time into knowing when to push the right buttons. There's a reason why he's won so many games he's won. There's a reason why his teams continue to win. There's a reason why he's a Hall of Fame manager and that's because he puts his work in, he's prepared more than any person I"ve ever see, and when he does push those buttons, he has no fear whatsoever, whether it's wrong or right, and he will answer to it if it's wrong and he will answer to it if it's right. And he's not scared about it, and that's what makes him great."

He also has little reason to be scared of his bullpen anymore. Now that fear should be in the opponent.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 7:40 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 7:53 pm
 

Braun, Brewers bash their way to NLCS Game 1 win

Ryan Braun

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- When the National League's two best offenses match up, what did you expect other than a slugfest? That's what Ronny's Wallbangers delivered in a 9-6 Brewers victory over the Cardinals to take a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.

Hero: If Ryan Braun was under-appreciated headed into this postseason, he's not going to be after it. Not only did he hit a two-run homer in the first inning, he doubled in two more in the six-run Brewer fifth. It's often said the key to beating the Brewers is to not let Braun and Prince Fielder beat you -- it's beginning to be just hope you can survive Braun and hope Fielder doesn't follow with a big blast, like he did in the sixth. In the postseason, Braun is now hitting .500/.577/1.000 and it's pretty safe he's making a case to add a postseason MVP trophy to the one he could win for the regular season.

NLCS

Goat: Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia just didn't have his best stuff, but was able to get some help from the bottom of the Brewers lineup to avoid a big Brewers first inning. However, even after his team staked him to a 5-2 lead, he couldn't hold onto it. He probably should've been taken out earlier (more on that in a minute), but he didn't help himself by giving up a single and a double to start the sixth, only to see Braun and Fielder come up and finish off his game.

Turning point: Tony La Russa had Octavio Dotel warming up in the bullpen ready to come in for the fifth inning. Garcia gave up back-to-back doubles to Corey Hart and Jerry Hairston to lead off the inning, it seemed to be the end of Garcia's night. Except La Russa never got off the top step, even with Braun and Fielder coming up. Both Braun and Fielder were 2 for 8 in their lifetime against the right-handed reliever, with both striking out six times. Braun had a double against him, while Fielder also had a walk. The first-guessing on La Russa's tactic quickly turned to second- and third-guessing when Braun doubled and then Fielder homered -- and then La Russa took out Garcia.

It was over when … In the seventh inning, St. Louis was trailing by three, but had runners on first and third with no outs and Albert Pujols coming to the plate. It was pretty much the dream scenario for the Cardinals -- but Takashi Saito, pitching to his second batter, got Pujols to ground into a double play. Sure, a run scored to make it 8-6, but it took the air out of the Cardinals' hopes. 

Next: Game 2 pits St. Louis right-hander Edwin Jackson against Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum at 8:07 p.m. ET on Monday at Miller Park in Milwaukee. With Sunday's Game 1 win, the Brewers have won all four postseason games played in Milwaukee this year. Jackson pitched twice in Milwaukee against the Brewers this season -- getting rocked for 10 runs (eight earned) in seven innings on Aug. 3 and then giving up just one run in seven innings on Aug.30. Marcum fared worse at home than on the road this season, going 5-4 with a 4.81 ERA at Miller Park and 8-3 with a 2.21 ERA elsewhere.

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Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:00 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 12:20 am
 

Instant Reaction: Cardinals 5, Phillies 4

Jay, Ruiz collision

By Evan Brunell

WP: Octavio Dotel

LP: Cliff Lee

SV: Jason Motte

HR: None

Series: Tied at one apiece in a best-of-5

Hero: Jon Jay showed a lot in his second career postseason game after going hitless in Game 1. Jay bowled over Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies in in an attempt to tie the game but was out at the plate. It was a pretty good hit on Ruiz though, and it speaks well of Jay being willing to get down and dirty. No wonder manager Tony La Russa is a fan. Jay's second chance at tying the game worked, singling in Ryan Theriot two innings later and the Cardinals would go on to win the game. Overall, Jay had a two-hit night and 2 RBI out of the eight-spot.

Goat: Technically, La Russa and the Cardinals won the game, and he'll tell you it doesn't matter what happens except coming away with a W. But sheesh, he was as aggravating today as he's ever been. First, he complained (what's new?) about the strike zone, saying it harmed Chris Carpenter when even a cursory look at the umpire's zone shows that he was squeezing Cliff Lee too. Then he makes the bottom of the eighth go on forever with three -- thats right, three -- pitching changes. Marc Rzepczynski hit Chase Utley, then Mitchell Boggs forced Hunter Pence into a fielder's choice. Arthur Rhodes K'd Ryan Howard, and Jason Motte finished the inning off by inducing Shane Victorino into a flyout. Yeah, it worked, but only La Russa knows how to slow down a game.

Next: 10/4 at St. Louis, 5:07 p.m. ET. Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79) vs. Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69)

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Phillies-Cardinals series2011 playoffs

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