Tag:Jason Motte
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:20 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2011 11:48 pm
 

Brewers misplays leads Cardinals to NLCS lead

Mark Kotsay

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Milwaukee continued its postseason road woes, dropping Game 3 to St. Louis, 4-3, as the Brewers take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS.

Hero:  The Cardinals third baseman went 3 for 4 with two doubles and the RBI that turned out to be the game-winner. Freese is hitting .500 in the series and .367 in the postseason, helping bring some pop to the back of the lineup. He leads all Cardinals with 11 RBI in the postseason and three home runs. 

Goat: Ron Roenicke said "something always good seems to happen when he's in there" when asked about starting Mark Kotsay. Something good did happen -- he homered to lead off the third. The problem was two bad things happened in the first because he was in the game. Kotsay was doubled off of second base on Prince Fielder's liner to center. And, in the bottom of the inning, he was unable to get a Jon Jay sinking liner and allowed it to get past him for a double, starting the Cardinals' big inning.

Turning point: The Cardinals batted around in the first, scoring four runs. But the bleeding could have stopped after three had Corey Hart been able to corral a liner by Freese. It appeared to go right off the tip of Hart's glove. Matt Holliday scored the Cardinals' fourth run in the inning.

It was over when …: When Cardinals closer Marc Rzepcynski got the one batter he came in to face -- Prince Fielder -- to strike out for the second out of the eighth. Lance Lynn stayed in to start the inning after pitching the seventh inning, getting Ryan Braun to ground out to second. Rzepcynski came in and struck out Fielder on four pitches. Jason Motte then replace Rzepcynski to strike out Rickie Weeks.

Next: The Brewers' Randy Wolf and Cardinals' Kyle Lohse face off in Game 4 on Thursday at 8:05 p.m. ET.

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

Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:24 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 2:17 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

NLCS

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- The National League Central is often overlooked or looked down upon -- but not this year, as the NL Central champs have to fight off their divisional rival with the winner headed to the World Series. What makes this matchup even more fun is that these two clubs don't like each other one bit.

There was a dust up late in the season between Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan and the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter. There was also an accusation by the Cardinals that the Brewers were using different graphics on the Miller Park scoreboards to create an advantage while the Cardinals were batting. And even Saturday, Zack Greinke got the ball rolling by making comments about Carpenter, which got Cardinals manager Tony La Russa upset.

It's a contrast in style -- if only in the surface style. The Brewers are young, brash and loud. The Cardinals sit on their porch and tell them to get off their lawn.

On the field, both teams have some impressive individual pitchers, but got to the playoffs on the strength of their bats. While the Brewers won the National League Central, the two teams split their 18-game series during the regular season. While it won't bring in the ratings like some bigger markets might, it should appeal to true baseball fans.

TEAM INFORMATION

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4, 5*)
90-72, NL wild card winner
ALDS
: Defeated Phillies in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Phillies-Cardinals
Manager
: Tony La Russa
Regular-season batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.78 ERA (8th), 1.31 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 651 plate appearances, 37 HR 99 RBI

Miwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, NL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Diamondbacks in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Brewers-Diamondbacks
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Regular-season batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd), .325 on-base percentage (5th), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.63 ERA (7th), 1.24 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597, 629 plate appearances, 33 HR, 111 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge…

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Jonathan Lucroy
 
Perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game also hit .305/.349/.465 this season … that's Molina if you weren't sure, or weren't watching Game 5 of the NLDS when he threw out Chase Utley at second. Molina seemingly does it all. Lucroy may be best known as the "guy who can't really hit," even if he hit a pretty respectable .265/.313/.391 with 12 homers.

First base: Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder
 

You want to talk about a heavyweight battle? You have perhaps baseball's best player versus a guy who had an MVP-worthy season. You also have two of the offseason's premier free agents. Fielder's 27, so who knows exactly who is going to get the bigger contract between him and the 31-year-old Pujols, but there's no question as to who is the better all-around player. Pujols is not only the most feared hitter in the league, he's also a guy who can beat you with his glove and his base running in addition to his bat.

Second base: Ryan Theriot vs. Rickie Weeks
 

Theriot's a much better second baseman than he his shortstop, so the good news is that he's at second base, although he's still not exactly a Gold Glover -- of course, neither is Weeks. Both garner their value with their bats, not their gloves. When healthy, Weeks is probably the better player. But he hasn't looked healthy and he was just 1 for 18 in the NLDS against the Cardinals. At the beginning of the year, this was an easy choice. Today it is, too, but it's the other way.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal vs. Yuniesky Betancourt
 

Once the Cardinals got Furcal from the Dodgers and he returned healthy, the Cardinals were a much better team. St. Louis has gone 30-20 in games which Furcal has played. Even though his stats are a less-than-impressive .255/.316/.418 with the Cardinals, the threat he brings at the top of the lineup coupled with how much he improves the team's defense, St. Louis is better because of him. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.

Third base: David Freese vs. Jerry Hairston Jr.
 

Freese may be one of the more underrated players the Cardinals have. While we all know about Pujols and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and even the likes of Molina and Theriot, Freese is a guy you have to watch in that lineup. He hit .297/.350/.441 this season, but injuries have been a problem in his career. When healthy, he's a vital part of the the team's offense after the big boppers. Hairston is a journeyman utility player -- and those are great to have. He's a fantastic role player that has been in some winning situations the last few years, but there's a reason he's moved around both on the field and to different clubhouses. He's always in demand, but he's no longer an everyday player.

Left field: Matt Holliday vs. Ryan Braun
 

If the first base matchup weren't so good, this one would be getting the headlines. Braun would be my choice for the MVP in the National League, and Holliday is one of the more underrated players in the game. Cardinals fans love to hate the guy because of what he hasn't done, while ignoring the production he has put up in a Cardinals uniform. The guy is an absolute monster. However, he's hurt right now -- and like the Theriot vs. Weeks argument, that looms large in this matchup.

Center field: John Jay vs. Nyjer Morgan/Chris Gomez
 

Morgan's the hot name right now for his outrageous and engaging personality. His Game 5 heroics even overshadowed the fact that he hit .188 in the NLDS. As bad as that is, it was better than Jay's .162. Morgan brings enough to the team to give Milwaukee the slight edge. 

Right field: Lance Berkman vs. Corey Hart
 

Hart's another one of those players who gets lost among all the other good players in this series. He hit .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers this season, much of it out of the leadoff spot. But as good of a season as he's had, it pales in comparison to the season Berkman put together. A year after it seemed like he had nothing left in the tank, he was refueled with premium, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers.

Starting pitching: Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse vs. Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
 

Both teams needed to use their best playoff pitchers on Friday, meaning the Game 3 matchup in St. Louis of Carpenter-Gallardo should be a good one. Garcia's been a different pitcher on the road (the 3.33 ERA vs. 2.92 isn't so bad, but batters are hitting a robust .313 against him away from Busch Stadium and .230 in the shadow of the arch). Lohse and Wolf are wild cards, while Greinke should pitch better than he did against the Diamondbacks. Both have their solid points and their question marks. In the end, it may be too close to call.

Relief pitching: Jason Motte and co. vs. John Axford and co.
 

Give credit to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak for going out and improving the team's bullpen at the break. For much of the season, the bullpen was a weak point, but Mozeliak strengthened it during the season and the bullpen has become a strength. Milwaukee also went out and made a bold move for a setup man, picking up Francisco Rodriguez. Both teams have to feel good when their manager goes out to the mound to make a change.

Defense
 

Neither team is going to put on a clinic, but the addition of Furcal has improved St. Louis' defense to the acceptable level. Almost. With Pujols and Furcal they have players who can field the ball, so there's that. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop

PREDICTION

While these may not be the two best teams in the National Leauge, they certainly make for an intriguing matchup. No matter how many times each team says its letting bygones be bygones, they don't really like each other -- and the national spotlight could turn up the heat. The two teams split their 18-game season series, with each team going 5-4 on their home field. The way the Brewers play at home, they could be tough to beat here. In the end, I see it going the distance and the fact that four of the games are at Miller Park being the biggest difference. Brewers in 7.


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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

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


Posted on: September 30, 2011 9:22 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 9:34 pm
 

2011 NLDS matchup: Phillies vs. Cardinals



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Cardinals were left for dead in late August, trailing in both the NL Central and the wild card by more than 10 games. There was even talk they'd trade All-Star right fielder Lance Berkman once he cleared waivers. Instead, they held onto him and went 23-9 in the last five weeks of the season. A season-ending 8-0 win over the Astros propelled the Cardinals into the playoffs as the Braves lost in 13 innings. As their prize, the Cards now get to face the best team in baseball in a short series. The Phillies won the NL East for the fifth straight season and ended up with a franchise-record 102 wins. The Cardinals recently took three of four in Philly, but the Phillies weren't really playing for anything. What happens this time around? We'll soon find out. 

TEAM INFORMATION

Philadelphia Phillies (host games 1, 2, 5)
102-60, NL East champions
Manager: Charlie Manuel
Team batting statistics: .253 batting average (9th in NL), .323 on-base percentage (5th), .395 slugging percentage (7th)
Team pitching statistics: 3.02 ERA (1st), 1.167 WHIP (1st), 3.22 K/BB (1st)
Star player: SP Roy Halladay -- 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 220 K in 233 2/3 innings

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4)
90-72, NL wild card champions
Manager: Tony La Russa
Team batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Team pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (8th), 1.306 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .305/.349/.465, 37 HR, 99 RBI, 29 2B, 9 SB

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)  

Full Playoff Coverage
Game 1: STL @ PHI, Oct. 1, 5:07 p.m. ET. Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39) vs. Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35)
Game 2: STL @ PHI, Oct. 2, 8:07 p.m. ET. Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45) vs. Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40)
Game 3: PHI @ STL, Oct. 4 Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56)
Game 4: PHI @ STL, Oct. 5* Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69) vs. Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79)
Game 5: STL @ PHI, Oct. 7* TBD vs. Halladay
* if necessary

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Philadelphia: Carlos Ruiz
St. Louis: Yadier Molina

This is one of the best match ups in all of the playoffs, you have two of the best defensive catchers in the game and two of the best handlers of a pitching staff. Catcher is probably the toughest position in baseball and the toughest to judge. However, these two are at the very top when they have the gear on. 

Advantage: Tie

First base
Philadelphia: Ryan Howard
St. Louis: Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols struggled at the beginning of the year, but still finished with 37 homers and a .305 batting average. With the game on the line, who else in baseball would you rather have on the line? Nobody, that's who.

Advantage: Cardinals

Second base
Philadelphia: Chase Utley
St. Louis: Skip Schumaker

Even hobbled, Chase Utley is still one of the best second basemen in the game.

Advantage: Phillies

Shortstop
Philadelphia: Jimmy Rollins
St. Louis: Rafael Furcal

Furcal is struggling with a hamstring injury, and that really hurts the Cardinals because so much of his game is based on his speed. And when you start dealing with a speedster's wheels, they lose a lot of their effectiveness.

Advantage: Phillies

Third base
Philadelphia: Placido Polanco
St. Louis: David Freese

Casual fans may not know much about David Freese, but when healthy, the Cardinals' third baseman is an impressive hitter -- and right now, he's apparently healthy. Freese, 28, had a hit in eight of the team's last nine games.

Advantage: Cardinals

Left field
Philadelphia: Raul Ibanez
St. Louis: Matt Holliday

Holliday's status is unclear, but he is on the postseason roster. If Holliday plays, he's one of the game's best. That said, his palm is an issue. He took batting practice on Friday. Even at 80 percent, Holliday is a heck of a player.

Advantage: Cardinals

Center field
Philadelphia: Shane Victorino
St. Louis: John Jay

Jay has played well as the team's center fielder, hitting .297/.344/.424, but Victorino is having a great season. Not only did he hit 17 homers, he's also played Gold Glove defense.

Advantage: Phillies

Right field
Philadelphia: Hunter Pence
St. Louis: Lance Berkman

The former teammates provide perhaps the most intriguing matchup. Both have been the faces of the Astros franchise and are now beloved in their new homes. Berkman's wrapped up the Comeback Player of the Year award, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers and 94 RBI. Pence was an All-Star in Houston and even better in Philadelphia, where he's hit .324/.394/.560 with 11 homers in 54 games. Pence isn't a Gold Glover, but he's Willie Mays compared to Berkman in the outfield.

Advantage: Tie

Starting pitching
Philadelphia: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt
St. Louis:Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson

You may have noticed that the Phillies have a pretty good rotation.

Advantage: Phillies

Relief pitching
Philadelphia closer: Ryan Madson
St. Louis closer: Jason Motte

The Cardinals' bullpen has been bolstered by mid-season additions of Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel (the deal also allowed them to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen with the addition of Jackson). Since the trade, the Cardinals have the third-best bullpen ERA (2.86) in baseball. But the Phillies' pen has been stout all year long, while the Cardinals still have a bit of uneasiness when Tony La Russa makes one of his many visits to the mound.

Advantage: Phillies

Total advantage: Phillies (5), Cardinals (3), tie (2)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

CBS Experts
Evan Brunell: Phillies in 3
Gregg Doyel: Phillies in 3
Danny Knobler: Phillies in 5
Scott Miller: Phillies in 4
Trent Rosecrans: Phillies in 4
Matt Snyder: Phillies in 3

Trent's take: The Cardinals have the best offense in the National League and the Phillies the best pitching, so it will be interesting to see strength-on-strength, even though I'm always inclined to take pitching in that situation. The Phillies are the favorites, there's no doubt about that. The fact that Furcal and Holliday are hobbled by injuries doesn't hurt that idea, either. La Russa raised some eyebrows when he switched up his rotation on Friday, announcing he'd pitch Carpenter on three-day's rest in Game 2. If the Cardinals can take one of the first two games of the series, the pitching difference isn't as big in the second two games, which could make the series interesting. But there are still "ifs" to get to that point.

More Phillies-Cardinals NLDS coverage

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Posted on: September 23, 2011 1:14 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Moore drops jaws against Yankees

Moore

By Evan Brunell

Matt Moore, Rays:  A month ago, Matt Moore wasn't even in the majors. Thursday, he stopped a potential Yankees sweep by punching out 11 pinstripers in five innings, allowing just four hits and showing the world just why he's a top prospect and why the Rays aren't going anywhere any time soon. In his first start, Moore set a record for strikeouts in a debut, with teammate Wade Davis punching out nine in 2009.

Jemile Weeks, Athletics: It was a beautiful day for Weeks, who rapped out a 3-for-3 night while slugging -- used in the weakest terms possible -- his first home run of the year. Weeks isn't known for power, but is hitting .303 with 21 stolen bases on the season. Weeks has been pretty bad defensively and earned Eye on Baseball's tin glove award but has sewn up a starting spot next season.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, Rockies: When the Rockies picked up Kouzmanoff at the trade deadline, there was a bit of a muted rumbling as people wondered if the failed third baseman could succeed in Colorado. You see, Kouzmanoff had a few solid years in San Diego, flashing power and solid defense. However, he played in a pitcher's park, and Oakland was no better when he was dealt in 2010. Despite hitting 23 homers in 2008, Kouz has sank to .218/.277/.317 this year before Thursday's game where he bashed a homer and collected three hits. It's a blip on the screen for Kouzmanoff, who has failed to impress in Colorado and now looks like he might be washing out entirely.



Jason Motte, Cardinals: Jason Motte prevented the Cardinals from pulling to one game behind the Braves for the NL wild card. OK, it wasn't just Motte, but boy. He walked three of five batters, starting the ninth with a 6-2 edge. After three walks plus an error, a run had scored and then Mark Rzepcynski and Fernando Salas gave up back-to-back hits to tie the game up. An intentional walk and merciful strikeout later, Willie Harris delivered the capping blow with a two-run single. Motte is considered the favorite to close for the Cards next year but isn't helping his cause lately.

Phil Humber, White Sox: Humber was one of the first-half season surprises, but the second half has been about injuries and regression. Humber was torched for seven runs in six innings against the Indians and has now allowed four-plus runs in seven of his last nine starts. His ERA is still good at 3.86, but the White Sox would do well to only consider him a No. 4 starter.

Bartolo Colon, Yankees: Colon and his newfound arm got bombed by the Rays, giving up seven runs (five earned) in three innings.  Colon also gave up seven hits and walked one while striking out just one, and those are numbers that a Yankee fan won't care to see because not only dd Colon have a bad start, he deserved every part of it by giving up eight baserunners even as the Yankees wondered what the brown things on their hands were for, committing four errors in the game. At this point, does Colon even make a start in October?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:52 am
 

Report: Cards sign Carpenter to 2-year extension

Chris CarpenterBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Albert Pujols may or may not be a Cardinal the next two years, but Chris Carpeneter will be. St. Louis has signed right-hander Chris Carpenter to a two-year, $21-million contract extension, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The team has not finalized the deal, but will do so later this week, Strauss writes.

The team had a $15 million option for 2012, but this replaces this and saves the team roguht $3 million a year. The contract doesn't include another option and no appearance incentives.

The Cardinals are hoping to lock up key pieces before having to deal with the Pujols situation this offseason. According to the Post-Dispatch, the team has already reached out to shortstop Rafael Furcal and right-fielder Lance Berkman about extensions. General manager John Mozeliak has also said the team would pick up the team's two-year, $21 million option on Adam Wainwright.

St. Louis also has to decide on what to do with second baseman Skip Schumaker, who is arbitration-eligible after the season and it also has a $7 million option on catcher Yadier Molina.

The team's opening day payroll was just more than $109 million and will only drop if the team doesn't keep Pujols.

Starter Edwin Jackson is a free agent and unlikely to return. The team also has an option on left-hander Arthur Rhodes, one it is unlikely to exercise.

Also arbitration eligible are infielder Ryan Theriot and right-handers Kyle McClellan, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 5, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Did La Russa's inaction send the wrong message?

Tony La RussaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Now don't get me wrong, Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball, the biggest cog in the Cardinals' machine and the best thing to happen to Tony La Russa since Jose Canseco discovered syringes -- but did La Russa's actions -- and non-actions -- this week send the wrong signal to Cardinal players not named Albert?

You may remember there was a little brouhaha earlier this week after Pujols was hit in the hand (admittedly unintentionally by everyone from Pujols to La Russa) by Brewers reliever Takashi Saito. La Russa went nuts, called Brewers fans "idiots," and had his pitcher, Jason Motte throw at the Brewres' Ryan Braun. Not only did Motte (who laughably denied intent afterward) throw inside and miss Braun with his first pitch, he then drilled him in the back with his second pitch.

"I don't want to even hear about Braun getting a little pop in the back when we almost lose [Pujols] in several ways," La Russa said after the game with the Brewers.

So fast forward to Thursday night: bases loaded, one out and Marlins right-hander Clay Hensley on the mound with David Freese at the plate. Hensley, who had struggled with control all night (and had already hit Matt Holliday up and in on the hand) hits Freese not in the hand, but in the head.

It was frightening and sickening. You never want to see a player hit in the head. It's an awful sight nobody wants to see -- least of all the man responsible, Hensley. But wasn't the principle the same? You don't throw at one of Tony's guys inside or high? Does the judge and jury in sunglasses need to make his verdict and dole out retribution? That's the message that was loud and clear on Tuesday.

Or was it?

The first pitch to the next Marlins batter after Freese went down? An 81 mph changeup low and slightly in from Kyle Lohse to Logan Morrison. No retaliation, no "stinger," no nothing. The second pitch? A sinker called for a strike. Morrison then singled on Lohse's fourth pitch, another changeup.

Is the lesson learned hear that a shot to the head is less dangerous to one at the hand? Or is it that Pujols is more valuable not just on the field but as a person than a 28-year-old with 144 big-league games under his belt? Hit Albert and your team will pay. Hit one of the other guys? It's OK, just don't hit Albert. If I'm one of the other guys, I first worry about my fallen teammate and then wonder if I'm important enough for my manager to care about.

But hey, La Russa sure sent a message against the Brewers -- Saito won't ever hit another guy because Motte twice threw at Braun. So since La Russa didn't go all outlaw justice on the Marlins, Hensley doesn't have any idea that it's bad to hit a player in the head, right? He needs La Russa's guidance to understand hitting someone in the head with a baseball is a bad idea.

Maybe not.

"It's unacceptable," Hensley told reporters after the game (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). "I could have seriously hurt somebody. You never want to go out there and hit people, much less hit them in the head."

Maybe, just maybe, having your pitcher hit another player doesn't teach a lesson -- they can figure it out on their own without help from the other team's manager. Could it be that teaching a lesson via a "stinger" only escalates the problem? Nope, that's not La Russa's code -- and he's apparently the keeper of the code, so only he can decide that. 

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 5:03 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Offense rules in NL Central

By C. Trent Rosecrans
2011 All-Star Game

SEE THE OTHER DIVISION ALL-STARS: AL East | AL Central | AL West | NL East | NL West

The National League Central has the most teams, some of the game's brightest stars and perhaps its best story in the Pittsburgh Pirates. How deep is the talent in the NL Central? The last two men to win the National League MVP are first basemen in the division and neither makes this NL Central All-Star team. The pitching isn't too deep, at least in terms of starters, but this lineup can absolutely mash the ball.

Ramon HernandezC Ramon Hernandez, Reds: This one is a surprise, as Yadier Molina -- perhaps the game's best defensive catcher -- is an All-Star and a deserving one at that. But the nod here goes to the guy Reds manager Dusty Baker calls "Clutch Man Monie." On opening day, his three-run homer gave the Reds a walk-off victory and he's been producing at the plate since, including a ninth-inning homer yesterday against Brewers closer John Axford and the delivered the game's winning hit in the 13th inning Wednesday night in St. Louis. Hernandez's overall line -- .316/.374/.526 -- makes up for the difference between his defense and Molina's. Molina is hitting a respectable .279/.329/.408, but Clutch Man Monie has been money, especially for a player who is still essentially splitting time with Ryan Hanigan.

Prince Fielder1B Joey Votto, Reds: Votto was the National League MVP in 2010, but Prince Fielder's been the league's MVP for the first half of this season. Fielder is hitting .302/.418/.588 with 22 home runs and 71 RBI, tied for the most in the league. Votto's been good as well, but Fielder's power numbers put him over the top. So why is Votto listed here instead of Fielder? Because as I filled out the lineup card, I looked and had Votto as DH and Fielder at first. Anyone who has seen those two with gloves on their hand know you'd rather have Votto (especially with Starlin Castro also in the infield) playing the field. So Fielder wins the spot, but Votto gets the nod, if that makes sense.

Lineup
No. Name Team Pos
1 Andrew McCutchen PIT CF
2 Rickie Weeks MIL 2B
3 Joey Votto CIN 1B
4 Prince Fielder MIL DH
5 Lance Berkman STL RF
6 Ryan Braun MIL LF
7 Aramis Ramirez CHI 3B
8 Ramon Hernandez CIN C
9 Starlin Castro CHI SS

Rickie Weeks2B Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Another Brewer nips a Red. While Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips is far and away a better defensive player, Weeks is having an incredible offensive season so far. Weeks is hitting .275/.345/.476 with 15 home runs. Phillips has 10 more RBI, but that's not all that surprising considering Weeks is used as a leadoff man. 

Aramis Ramirez3B Aramis Ramirez, Cubs: It's easy for Ramirez to get lost among the Cubs' mounting losses, but the 33-year-old is having a solid season, which may be his last with the Cubs. The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for 2012, with a $2 million buyout. The Ricketts family may want to find a cheaper option, but Ramirez has produced this year, hitting .298/.346/.495 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI. He's also playing a decent third base, much better than his reputation would suggest. 

Starlin CastroSS Starlin Castro, Cubs: Sure, he's a mess defensively, but the kid can absolutely rake. Castro is hitting .305/.334/.428 with two home runs and 38 RBI, while stealing 10 bags as well. The 21-year-old is the player the Cubs will build around in the future, and for good cause. He also doesn't have a lot of competition in this division. The Pirates' Ronny Cedeno has been good defensively, but lacking offensively. The Cardinals' Ryan Theriot is hitting well, but was a below-average defensive second baseman and now he's playing short and then there's Yuniesky Betancourt, who has been terrible offensively and defensively.

LF Ryan Braun, Brewers: Talk about a stacked offensive division -- in left field you've got Matt Holliday and Braun. Braun, though gets the nod. He's been healthy (of course, Holliday's problems may make his numbers more impressive) and produced, hitting .320/.402/559 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI. He's also stolen 19 bases to boot.

Andrew McCutchenCF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: If Bruce Bochy doesn't want him, I'll sure as heck take him as my starter in center. A Gold Glove-caliber fielder, plus a .291/.389/.491 slash line and 12 homers and 15 stolen bases. McCutchen should be in the MVP discussion with the season he's had. If it weren't for McCutchen, Michael Bourn would be the pick. Bourn's hitting .288/.350/.399 with 35 stolen bases. Between those two and Cincinnati's Drew Stubbs, you could put together a heck of a relay team.

Lance BerkmanRF Lance Berkman, Cardinals: Sure he's a first baseman playing in the outfield, but who cares because he's made up for his atrocious defense with an offensive rebirth. The Cardinals gambled on Berkman this offseason and have been rewarded to the tune of .287/.399/.598 with a league-leading 23 home runs and 62 RBIs. The division also has Jay Bruce, Corey Hart and Hunter Pence, so it has right fielders to spare (not to mention Jon Jay, who played right field while Berkman was playing first for Albert Pujols.)

Prince FielderDH Prince Fielder, Brewers: This is a bit of a cheat, since I initially picked Fielder at first base. The decision here was between Votto and Holliday, and in a toss-up, I went with the reigning MVP, although either has a good case. Votto's hitting .319/.434/.497 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI, while Holliday is hitting .320/.417/.570 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI. Votto's seen fewer pitches to drive than he did a year ago, but is still producing. And once I was filling out the lineup card, I went with Votto at first base and Fielder as the DH.

Johnny CuetoSP Johnny Cueto, Reds: This division doesn't have a Cy Young candidate in the bunch, but does have several good young pitchers, including the 25-year-old Cueto, who started the season on the disabled list but is 5-3 with a 1.77 ERA in 11 starts this season. The Cardinals' Jaime Garcia is 8-4 with a 3.23 ERA and one of the best young left-handers in the game and Chicago's Matt Garza has been a victim of pitching for the Cubs, going 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA and an xFIP of 2.86.

Sean MarshallRP Sean Marshall, Cubs: The Cubs' left-hander is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA, striking out 43 in 41 1/3 innings, while walking just nine. His xFIP is 2.27 and he's induced ground balls on 60.4 percent of the balls put in play, a good characteristic for a middle reliever, who will often come into the game with runners on base. Apologies to the Reds' Bill Bray and the Cardinals' Jason Motte.

Joel HanrahanCL Joel Hanrahan, Pirates: Hanrahan leads the division in saves with 25 and hasn't blown a single save this season.  Of the eight runners he's inherited this year, none of scored. He has 33 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings and eight walks. He's allowed just six earned runs (good for a 1.37 ERA). The division has several good starters, including the Reds' Francisco Cordero (17 saves, 1.69 ERA), the Brewers' John Axford (23 saves, 2.90 ERA) and the Cardinals' Fernando Salas (15 saves, 2.41 ERA).

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