Tag:Nelson Cruz
Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:04 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 3:09 am
 

Nelson Cruz homer sets postseason team record

Nelson Cruz

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- WIth one swing of the bat, Nelson Cruz made history.

In the fourth inning, Cruz took a Justin Verlander changeup deep into the night, giving Texas the margin of victory needed to win Game 1, 3-2. 

It also happened to be the homer that gave Cruz the franchise lead in postseason home runs, breaking a tie with Juan Gonzalez after smashing six home runs in the Rangers' run to the AL pennant last season. He registered surprise at the feat, not realizing what he had done.

"This is nice, you know," Cruz told CBSSports.com. "Here we don't worry about records, we worry about wins. That's the important thing. But you take it one at bat at a time and, hopefully, you get good results."

Cruz's homer came on a 2-0 fastball down the middle. While one might have thought Cruz was sitting dead-red for a fastball, he was paying attention earlier in the game.

"One of the at-bats, I don't remember [who it was], 2-0, [Verlander] threw a change-up. It was a change-up. I was trying to be aggressive," Cruz said after the game. "First at-bat he threw me some pitches out of the strike zone. So I told myself just to be patient and wait for the right pitch to hit.

Cruz had previously been 1-for-16 in the playoffs, as well as ending the season on a forgettable note with a .190/.205/.286 line after missing the first half of September with a strained hamstring. Throughout the ALDS, Cruz and manager Ron Washington maintained that it was only a matter of time before Cruz got his stroke back, as he was yielding positive results in batting practice.

"Defintely the last few games, I feel like I swung the bat well," Cruz said. "I was lucky enough -- but the situation, playoffs, you don't care about what you do. You want the results."

Despite the slump Cruz entiered the game in, he extended his LCS hitting streak to seven games, as well as notching an extra-base hit in each of the last four contests, with home runs in three of the games. After a poor offensive display against the Rays, Texas really needed Cruz to come through against Verlander for the Rangers to have any hope of winning the game. And he did.

"We certainly needed what he gave us tonight," Washington said. "We needed that big home run off of Verlander."

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 2:17 am
 

Rain delay, Verlander struggles affect Game 1

Verlander

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rain has become a staple of the postseason lately, with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay's World Series in 2008 affected by it, as well as the Yankees-Tigers ALDS earlier this year. And now, the ALCS has been affected as Game 1 just experienced a rain delay, and it may not be the last. Rain had been drizzling off and on for much of the game but all of a sudden the jets came on for a downpour and play was quickly stopped. The tarp came off just 20 minutes later, and play is expected to resume at 10:20 ET, but there is significant rain on the way expected to last until 12 a.m. ET, so this could be a long game. With more serious rain on the way Saturday, MLB's Joe Torre said that "this game will be played."

In the early going, the story has been Justin Verlander coughing up three runs, including two in the second. David Murphy tripled Mike Napoli in, with Ian Kinsler later singling Murphy in. But the biggest blast came in the bottom fourth, when Nelson Cruz reversed his playoff fortunes by launching a ball into left-center field. Prior to the homer, Cruz had been just 1-for-16 in the postseason, and also finished September with a .190/.205/.286 skid after beginning the month on the DL with a left hamstring strain.

Skipper Ron Washington did say during the ALDS that he felt Cruz was on the verge of breaking out, liking the swings he was taking in batting practice. Well, he proved right, but more astounding is the tough time Verlander has had. Through four innings, Verlander has tossed 82 pitches, 49 for strikes. It looks like as he's been getting squeezed pretty hard by home-plate ump Tim Welke, as the below pitch F/X plot bears out. By this zone, nine pitches were called balls that should have been strikes, and another four are close enough that being called a strike wouldn't cause anyone to blink.

Strike zone

Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson danced around trouble the first two innings and has been dazzling since, striking out the side in the fourth.

Follow the game live on CBSSports.com's Game Tracker.

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Posted on: October 7, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 4:45 pm
 

Tigers vs. Rangers ALCS preview

By Evan Brunell

Detroit-Texas ALCS

The Tigers and Rangers share one thing in common -- both teams have AL pennants to their name in recent seasons, but fell short in the World Series. Jim Leyland took Detroit to the World Series in 2006, his first season with the club, winning 95 after the Tigers registered five straight seasons of at least 90 losses, including 119 in 2003. It's taken them some time to return to the postseason, but they're here after downing the Yankees in five games. Detroit will be leaning on the electric arm of Justin Verlander, who won Rookie of the Year in '05 but gave up 17 runs in 21 2/3 innings across the 2005 postseason. He'll get a chance at redemption against Texas, who appeared in the Fall Classic a mere season ago.

The revamped Rangers may have lost Cliff Lee, but their offense is as potent as its ever been in franchise history, adding Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli to its monstrous lineup. Seeking to become the first consecutive AL pennant champion since the 1998-2001 Yankees, Texas will be relying on C.J. Wilson and its formidable bullpen to keep the Tiger offense in check. However, Texas' own offense needs to play up to its billing, as the team scored just 16 runs in the LDS, least among any team. (Granted, Texas was the only advancing club to play a series in less than five games, bouncing Tampa Bay in four.)

TEAM INFORMATION

Detroit Tigers (host games 3, 4, 5*)
95-67, AL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Yankees in 5 games -- View coverage of ALDS Tigers-Yankees
Manager
: Jim Leyland
Regular-season batting statistics: .277 batting average (3rd in AL), .340 on-base percentage (3rd), .434 slugging percentage (4th)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 4.04 ERA (7th), 1.32 WHIP (8th), 2.27 K/BB (6th)
Star player: SP Justin Verlander -- 24-5, 2.41 ERA, 251 IP, 0.92 WHIP, 250 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, AL West champions
ALDS
: Defeated Rays in 4 games -- View coverage of ALDS Rangers-Rays
Manager: Ron Washington
Regular-season batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE? (Click player name for statistics)

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

Catcher: Alex Avila vs. Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba


Being a quality catcher is difficult to do. You have to be able to call a game, develop a rapport with pitchers, block balls effectively, have a gun for an arm... and oh yeah, hit too. The latter category is what Avila and Napoli excel at, as both rank 1-2 in baseball in catcher offense. Napoli of course, blows away Avila in offense, but the Ranger also has 28 less games at the position, in large part due to another capable catcher also on the roster in Torrealba -- but the Tigers have Victor Martinez, too. Defensively, Avila holds the edge, and this is just too close to call.

First base: Miguel Cabrera vs. Mitch Moreland, Michael Young


Moreland could feasibly be at first base the entire series, as he's a favorite of the club and all of Detroit's starters are right-handed, but Young could steal a couple games if the team wants to get Torrealba or Craig Gentry into the lineup. Either way, both these players pale in comparison to Miguel Cabrera who, if it wasn't for Justin Verlander lucking into 24 wins (to be clear, he's a very good pitcher, but win-loss records have nothing to do with player quality), he could very well be the favorite for the MVP award. Cabrera led all of baseball in doubles, batting average, OBP and decided to swat 30 homers too. Moreland is still scrapping to be a full-time player and Young just can't field.

Second base: Ramon Santiago vs. Ian Kinsler


This isn't even close. The Tigers have cycled through six second basemen this season, with five of them receiving at least 17 starts. Santiago won the job basically by default, as Carlos Guillen can't stay healthy, Ryan Raburn split his time between left and second then lost his job for a complete inability to hit and Scott Sizemore was traded. Santiago is like Raburn in that he can't hit, but can flash a solid glove. Kinsler, meanwhile, was one of the most valuable second basemen in the game.

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta vs. Elvis Andrus


Andrus can pick the ball, get on base and steal bases. Peralta can't steal any bases and can only play a passable short. But boy, can Peralta hit. Here's the thing, though -- people tend to overvalue offense because it's easily quantified, and you can see with your eyes the impact a bat can have. Stolen bases and defense, not so much. But they are important facets of the game as well, and when you factor everything in, this is a dead-even.

Third base: Wilson Betemit, Brandon Inge vs. Adrian Beltre


Adrian Beltre is an awesome player, there is no doubt about that. He posted the second-best season of his career and slugged three home runs to pace the narrative of Texas winning the ALDS. However, the gap between Beltre and the Tigers' crew isn't as large as one might think. Betemit rakes against righties, while Inge is capable against left-handers. But don't ask them to face the opposite-handed pitcher. Inge also has excellent defense at the hot corner and is a great late-inning replacement for Betemit. All told, the duo combines into a pretty good player. Good enough that the difference between Detroit and Texas at the spot is not significant.

Left field: Delmon Young vs. David Murphy, Craig Gentry


Young injured himself in Game 5 of the ALDS, but reports are that he should be fine for the ALCS. If not, Raburn will start in his place. Young has played his way into a 2012 role with the Tigers, but he's doing so on the backing of a hot streak that might not be sustainable long-term. He's a statue in left field and his value is tied up completely in swatting home runs. Murphy, meanwhile, parlayed a hot September into more playing time and has been sharing time with Gentry, with Murphy getting PT against right-handers and Gentry mostly playing against lefties. If Young wasn't performing well as of late, this would probably be a slight edge to the Rangers, but as long as Young's hot streak is carrying him, we'll call this even.

Center field
: Austin Jackson vs. Josh Hamilton


This isn't a difficult decision at all. Hamilton is one of the best hitters in the game and is the reigning AL MVP. Austin Jackson, meanwhile, rode a lot of luck to a .293 batting average last season that sank to .249 this year. He has strong defense, but is miscast as the leadoff hitter.

Right field: Magglio Ordonez vs. Nelson Cruz


At one point this season, Ordonez contemplated hanging his spikes up. Good thing he didn't, for he hit .365 from Aug. 21 to the end of the year and finished the ALDS with five hits in 11 at-bats, including a 3-for-3 effort in Game 2. When Ordonez is hot, he can still beat any pitcher, regardless of his advanced age. But his defense is questionable, and Nelson Cruz is a better hitter at this point. Although Cruz is slumping significantly, gathering just one hit in 15 trips to the plate during the ALDS against the Rays, he remains the better player.

Designated hitter: Victor Martinez vs. Young


A certain three-year-old, I'm sure, would pick Young here with an edge. But both Martinez and Young are remarkably similar in production at the DH spot, and the numbers are uncannily similar even though Young has played in 14 more games. Take a look:

Martinez: .330/.380/.470, 12 HR, 103 RBI
Young: .338/.380/.474, 11 HR, 106 RBI

How can you not call this even?

Starting pitching: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello vs. C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison


The order listed here is the order that both teams have announced will go in the ALCS, so let's judge it on these parameters. For one, the Tigers clearly lose by not being able to set up their rotation they way they wanted. Rick Porcello, obviously the lesser member of the quartet, will start twice while Max Scherzer only draws Game 4 after appearing in relief during Game 5 of the ALDS. Regardless, the Tigers still hold an overall edge here. You don't need me to throw more platitudes Verlander's way, and Fister has been a revelation since coming over from Seattle (although he's veering fast into overrated territory) and Scherzer is a quality pitcher whose potential breakout has been tantalizing pitchers for quite some time.

Over in Texas, C.J. Wilson is a great pitcher, but doesn't quite stack up to Verlander. Porcello matching up against Derek Holland pits a battle of proming young pitchers, especially Holland, who is showing signs of emerging into an ace but is lacks consistency and is prone to the wild inning if he lets the game get away from him. Lewis has an incredible postseason record, but his propensity to give up the long ball held him back in the regular season. Harrison impressed against the Rays by punching out nine but could only last five innings and the jury is still out on just how good a picher he is.

All told, yet another matchup where both teams look even -- but not quite, as Verlander is the man that tips the scales in the Tigers' favor.

Relief pitching: Jose Valverde and co. vs. Neftali Feliz and co.


Both Valverde and Feliz are good pitchers when on, but both can also be maddeningly inconsistent. The Tigers closer can point to his 49 of 49 record in saves, but he walks way too much to be reliable. Feliz, meanwhile, took a clear step back from last season when he closed 40 games as a rookie and lost his strong command. He's been much better since the All-Star break, though, and if I had to pick one closer, I'd take Feliz. Texas also has a vaunted setup corps, boasting Mike Adams (who is still one of the best relievers in the game despite a spike in home runs allowed), Koji Uehara, Alexi Ogando, Mike Gonzalez and Darrell Oliver most notably.

Texas' 3.79 bullpen ERA during the regular season was fifth-best in the AL and would have been even better with full years of all relievers mentioned sans Feliz and Oliver, who have been with the club all year. By comparison, the Tigers' two best relievers are Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit, but Alburquerque only pitched 14 1/3 innings in the second half and did not look good in Games 1 and 4 of the ALDS. The Tigers pen has a chance to be a good one, but Texas is the better bet to come out on top in the war of bullpens.

Defense


Defensive statistics are getting a bum rap these days, and it's understandable. Quantifying defense is a very difficult thing to do and no defensive metric out there can be relied on. However, when you have a large sample to draw from, multiple numbers to look at and enough of a disparity in the numbers, it becomes obvious which defense holds up. And that's the Rangers, who score well in defensive metrics, largely on the strength of Andrus, Kinsler and Beltre, while the Tigers are affected by the tin gloves of Betemit, Cabrera, and Young the most.

DetroitPREDICTION

Both teams shape up to be remarkably even all across the board -- even though both teams are the last two standing in the AL and it makes sense that they would be equals, it's not often you see such a balanced division. It will come down to the postseason mantra of good pitching always beating good hitting, and given the presence of Verlander, I'll give the nod to Detroit vanquishing Texas in six games, while Daniel Knobler likes Detroit too, but in seven.

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



Posted on: September 29, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 2:57 pm
 

2011 ALDS matchup: Rays vs. Rangers

By Evan Brunell

The Rays and Rangers will meet for the second year in a row. Last season, Texas came away with a victory, needing the maximum five games to do so. They would go on to advance to the World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. Both teams are in dramatically different places this time around, with the Rays team undergoing turnover while the Rangers' offense is one of the most fearsome in recent memory. Let's break down each team's position and determine who has the advantage....

TEAM INFORMATION

Tampa Bay Rays (host games 3, 4)
91-71, AL wild card champions
Manager: Joe Maddon
Team batting statistics: .244 batting average (25th in AL), .322 on-base percentage (13th), .402 slugging percentage (13th)
Team pitching statistics: 3.58 ERA (8th), 1.22 WHIP (2nd), 2.27 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: SP James Shields -- 16-12, 249 1/3 IP, 2.82 ERA, 3.25 xFIP, 65 BB, 225 K

Texas Rangers (host games 1, 2, 5)
96-66, AL West champions
Manager: Ron Washington
Team batting statistics: .283 batting average (1st), .340 on-base percentage (5th), .460 slugging percentage (2nd)
Team pitching statistics: 3.79 ERA (13th), 1.24 WHIP (5th), 2.56 K/BB (5th)
Star player: C Mike Napoli -- .320/.414/.631, 432 plate appearances, 30 HR, 75 RBI

SCHEDULE (Click here to view the entire postseason schedule)

Full Playoff Coverage

Game 1: TB @ TEX, Sept. 30, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Moore (1-0, 2.89 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)**
Game 2: TB @ TEX, Oct. 1, 7:07 p.m. -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. Derek Holland (16-5, 3.95)
Game 3: TEX @ TB, Oct. 3, 5:07 p.m. -- Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.39) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.95)
Game 4*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 4 -- Colby Lewis (14-10, 4.40) vs. David Price (12-13, 3.49)
Game 5*: TB @ TEX, Oct. 6 -- James Shields (16-12, 2.82) vs. C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)

* If necessary | ** all pitching matchups projected

TEAM BREAKDOWN (Click player name for statistics)

Catcher
Texas: Mike Napoli, Yorvit Torrealba
Tampa Bay: John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach

The Rays' catcher situation is like that of shortstop: Choosing between bad or worse. Jaso and Shoppach have both combined for extremely disappointing seasons while Napoli was one of the best offensive players in the game, robbed of his due because his counting statistics aren't up to snuff due to playing in just 113 games, but Napoli can do serious damage. Torrealba isn't a zero either, but most of his value comes on defense.

Advantage: Rangers

First base
Texas: Mitch Moreland, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Casey Kotchman

Kotchman came out of nowhere to give Tampa fantastic value out of first base, hitting at a .306 clip and providing his usual stellar defense at first place. While no one expects Kotchman to keep this up next season, what matters is right now. And right now, Kotchman is head and shoulders better than Moreland, although if Texas goes with Torrealba behind the plate and Napoli at first base, this conversation changes.

Advantage: Rays

Second base
Texas: Ian Kinsler
Tampa Bay: Ben Zobrist

Both Kinsler and Zobrist had excellent seasons -- both at the plate and in the field. Picking one or the other amounts to nitpicking as both players have 30 stolen bases. Zobrist holds a small edge in batting average and Kinsler holds a small one in slugging percentage. Even fielding numbers aren't any help. This is as even as it gets.

Advantage: Tie

Shortstop
Texas: Elvis Andrus
Tampa Bay: Sean Rodriguez, Reid Brignac

As mentioned before, Tampa's shortstop spot is horrible. Between Rodriguez, Reid Brignac and Eliot Johnson, Rays shortstops combined to hit .193/.256/.282. League average was .266/.321/.386. That's simply awful, awful production. The Rangers clearly win out here, with Andrus' solid bat and strong glove.

Advantage: Rangers

Third base
Texas: Adrian Beltre
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria has been one of the best third basemen in the game for a long time. Up until this year, you could have argued that he was the best AL third-baseman for years running. Alas, Beltre's second straight excellent season has supplanted Longoria, coming off a down year. Beltre's 32 homers rank fifth in the AL, and he missed a month and a half! Add in his all-world defense, and he runs away from Longoria even though Longo is still a threat and hit .289/.454/.589 in September.

Advantage: Rangers

Left field
Texas: David Murphy
Tampa Bay: Desmond Jennings

Murphy looked like he would have a lost season, but turned it on down the stretch and forced the Rangers to move Josh Hamilton to center for the playoffs in order to get Murphy's bat in the lineup. It's easy to remember that Jennings debuted with fantastic numbers in August, but September told a very different story. All in all, both players have things working both for and against them and nothing quite standing out.

Advantage: Tie

Center field
Texas: Josh Hamilton
Tampa Bay: B.J. Upton

This is pretty easily Hamilton's domain here after Upton hit just .243. Hamilton remains one of the best players in the game despite being injury-prone. When he's on the field, he produces. Upton can't say the same, although he turned on the jets at the right time for Tampa and had a productive September.

Advantage: Rangers

Right field
Texas: Nelson Cruz
Tampa Bay: Matt Joyce

Here's an interesting matchup. Cruz missed time with injury but when he was right, enjoyed yet another productive season, missing 30 homers by just one blast. Cruz's calling card is power, while Joyce counters with a better overall game, flashing a strong glove. With both players' offensive games basically evening out, the balance tips to defense, and Joyce wins there.

Advantage: Rays

Designated Hitter
Texas: Michael Young, Napoli
Tampa Bay: Johnny Damon

Yet another win for the Rangers on offense. We all know what Napoli can do, but Young figures to get most of the at-bats at DH. Despite Young having to adjust to the DH spot on a full-time basis for the first time in his career, Young coolly racked up 106 RBI and should get some MVP attention. Damon, by comparison, falls far short.

Advantage: Rangers

Starting pitching
Texas: C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis
Tampa Bay: Jeff Niemann, James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson

The Rays win here, although Rangers fans will probably beg to differ. Yes, Wilson had a fantastic season -- you can't take that away from him. But Shields, Price and Hellickson all had excellent years as well. No one's shorting Holland and Harrison here, but at best, these two pitchers are no better than fifth best overall with three of the first four spots belonging to Tampa. The Rays are in the postseason for their pitching, not their offense.

Advantage: Rays

Relief pitching
Texas closer: Neftali Feliz
Tampa Bay closer: Kyle Farnsworth

Feliz's future as a closer was in doubt even as late as early August, but he clamped down the rest of the way and will pair with Mike Adams for a formidable 1-2 punch. There isn't a soft underbelly of middle relief either, and this bullpen has the potential to pick up the slack left over from the starting rotation to beat Tampa. But the Rays have taken a completely remade bullpen and turned it into an elite corps, too. Tampa's relief ERA of 3.73 is 10 spots higher than Texas' 4.11, but Texas' bullpen is different after importing Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez. Let's call it even.

Advantage: Tie

Total advantage: Rangers (5), Rays (2), Tie (3)

PREDICTION (click here to see full postseason predictions)

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

Evan's take: The Rangers are a fearsome club, there's no doubt about that. The offense is awe-inspiring and the pitching has the ability to hang tough with Tampa Bay. The Rangers basically cruised to the division title in September, so it's easy to overlook the club because of lack of press, but those who overlook the club are making a mistake. I selected the Rays in four because in the postseason, I believe far more in pitching than offense. I also give credence to how teams played down the stretch. Tampa went 17-10 in September (of course, Texas went 19-8, so there's that) and was in playoff mode for two weeks, constantly playing must-win games then seeing it all pay off when Evan Longoria's second homer of the night went over the fence to give T.B. the wild card. The combination of pitching and the hot hand tilt me toward predicting the Rays to advance.

More Rangers-Rays ALDS coverage

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 10:12 am
 

Pepper: Ortiz says it's time to panic



By C. Trent Rosecrans

The Wild Cards were all sewn up -- or so we thought.

While it appeared the Braves and Red Sox would cruise to the Wild Card (or the AL East title for Boston), but in the last week, things have gotten interesting. St. Louis swept Atlanta to move just 4.5 games behind Atlanta and Tampa Bay is now just 3.5 games behind the Red Sox as Boston finished a 1-6 road trip, including being swept by the Rays.

Still, there's not a whole lot of baseball left, the two favorites are still favored by mathematicians to hold onto their leads. So it's not time to panic, right?

"Hell yeah, you've got to panic at this point, but you're not going to do anything panicking but playing better," Boston's David Ortiz told reporters (Boston Herald). "Of course you're freaked out, you go on this road trip, 1-6, it's not good. We've got these guys breathing down our next and we're not in first place, either."

Give him credit, Ortiz is always entertaining and this time he's right. The team should worry about the Rays and can't get too worked up about it because panic doesn't help a team play any better. It's an interesting balancing act, playing with urgency, but not panic. Baseball's a tough game that's even tougher when you press.

Cuddyer's homer helped save teammate: Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer hit two game-winning homers in a minor-league playoff series in 2001 to lead his team to a victory in the best-of-five series. If his team had lost the series, teammate Brad Thomas and his wife, Kylie, had already booked a flight home to Australia. The couple would have started its journey on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2001. With the win, Thomas and his wife had to stay for the next series.

"He credits me for saving his life," Cuddyer told MLB.com. "I mean, I don't know about that. It was just a twist of fate."

Thomas is currently on the Tigers' 60-day disabled list.

Cuddyer also wrote about the incident on FoxSports North.

Wainwright remembers: We all have our own personal stories about where we were on Sept. 11, 2001 -- I drove from Athens, Ga., to Washington, D.C., the day before to go to see PJ Harvey at the 9:30 Club on Sept. 10, 2001. I still have the ticket stub and a September 12, 2001, Washington Post to share with my kids some day. Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright was in New York for the Red Sox-Yankees game on Sept. 10, 2001, and then cancelled a morning meeting near the World Trade Center the next day in order to get on the road to Cooperstown with his brother. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Waiting on Theo: Matt touched on this yesterday, but word is Tom Ricketts is willing to wait for his dream GM, Boston's Theo Epstein. While MLB looks down on major offseason announcements before the end of the World Series, those decisions happen all the time and are usually uncovered before the official announcement. However, there is a real wait if one of those interviewed and hired is still working. That could be the case with Boston's Epstein, reportedly Ricketts' top pick. If Epstein is in the least bit interested, Ricketts will wait. [Chicago Tribune]

Beckett to throw: Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett will test his injured right ankle in a bullpen session Monday and could return to the rotation by the end of the week -- welcome news to the Red Sox. [Boston Herald]

Weeks to go slow: Rickie Weeks returned to the Brewers' lineup on Sunday, walking and being hit by a pitch in his only plate appearances and was taken out of the game after four innings. The team plans on taking it slow with him. The Brewers are off on Monday and manager Ron Roenicke said he would try to get Weeks back into the game on Tuesday and maybe increase his innings. Weeks missed six weeks after suffering a severe left ankle sprain. [Appleton Post-Crescent]

Cruz ready to return: The Rangers are in the closest playoff race in baseball, leading the Angels by 2.5 games and they get some good news on Tuesday when Nelson Cruz says he'll be ready to return from the disabled list. Cruz went on the DL on Aug. 30 with a strained left hamstring and ran in the outfield on Saturday. The Rangers don't have any minor-league affiliates still playing, so the team will activate Cruz without a rehab assignment. [MLB.com]

Zimmermann bored sitting out: Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann hasn't pitched in two weeks and won't pitch in the final two weeks of the season. The good news is that next season he won't have an innings limit. With Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals have the building blocks for a very good rotation. [Washington Post]

Prado struggling: An All-Star in 2010, Atlanta's Martin Prado his having a disappointing 2011. The 27-year-old super utility player is hitting .261/.307/.385 this season, well below the .307/.356/.454 line he put up in his first five seasons in the big leagues. The prolonged slump is costing him sleep, Prado told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Romine relishes chance: While Jesus Montero garnered headlines when he was called up, the Yankees have a better catching prospect, Austin Romine. With injuries to Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli, Romine made his big-league debut on Sunday. Romine had thought his season was over after Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre finished its season, but Joe Girardi needed a replacement and got in touch with Romine on Saturday. Girardi hadn't been able to get in touch with the catcher, so he had to go to the Angels' clubhouse to talk to Romine's brother, Andrew, an infielder with the Angles, to get a better number. Austin Romine replaced Montero in the ninth inning, catching Mariano Rivera, who recorded his 599th career save. [MLB.com]

ThunderBolts to White Sox: Just two years ago Dylan Axelrod was pitching for the Windy City ThunderBolts of the independent Frontier League. On Wednesday, he'll be throwing in the Windy City again, but for the White Sox in place of former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. [Chicago Tribune]

Mo Coco: Reds closer Francisco Cordero is willing to re-negotiate his $12 million option for 2012 and general manager Walt Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that an extension is a "possibility." Cordero, a whipping boy in Cincinnati, has had an outstanding year, recording 32 saves with a 2.30 ERA with five blown saves. Since coming to the Reds in 2008, Cordero has 145 saves and 23 blown saves, converting 86 percent of his chances with a 2.94 ERA. The Reds don't have an obvious candidate to take over in the ninth inning if they decline his $12 million option. He was the team's highest-paid player in 2011 and his $12 million in 2012 would be the tied for the team's highest-paid player along with second baseman Brandon Phillips, who also has a $12 million option for 2012 that the team is expected to pick up.

Eat before you go: We see a report like this just about every year, but it's always a good reminder -- if you want your food handled properly before you eat it, you've got to make sure to do it yourself. [CBS Chicago]

Bourjos takes blame: We all have those people we know or work with that will never admit fault -- there's always some crazy excuse or reason something went wrong, and it's never their fault, it's some extenuating circumstance. The Angels' Peter Bourjos is not that guy. His error doomed the Angels on Sunday, and instead of complaining about the sun or anything, taking full responsibility for the play that killed his team. [Los Angeles Times]

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Posted on: September 4, 2011 12:28 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 12:30 pm
 

Playoff race: AL West may be the only one left

Mark Trumbo

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Here's a breakdown of the AL West race, with all data through games of Sept. 3

Texas Rangers
Record: 79-61
22 games remaining: 9 home, 13 away
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .512
Baseball Prospectus expectancy of division title: 92 percent

Los Angeles Angels
Record: 75-64, 3.5 GB
23 games remaining: 10 home, 13 away
Winning percentage of remaining opponents: .481
Baseball Prospectus expectancy of division title: 8 percent

The two teams have one series remaining head-to-head -- three games in Anaheim on the last three days of the season, Sept. 26-28. Texas leads the season series 9-7.

Playoff race

The Angels headed into Texas on a six-game winning streak at the end of August, but then dropped two of three at Rangers Ballpark and split a series against the woeful Mariners. The Angles split their first two games against the Twins, who like the Mariners enter Sunday with a 58-80 record, before returning home with another shot against the Mariners. The Rangers, on the other hand, finish their series against the Red Sox on Sunday before heading to Tampa Bay to face the Rays for three.

While the Angles and Rangers are at the top of the division, the other two teams in the division could decide their playoff representative -- Los Angeles has three more games against the Mariners and six more against the A's, while the Rangers play the A's and Mariners six times each the remainder of the season.

Since taking two of three from the Angels, the Rangers are 3-2 against the Rays and Red Sox, with another series against the Rays starting on Monday at Tampa Bay. Texas hasn't exactly struggled to score runs this year -- ranking third in the majors in runs scored -- but the return of Adrian Beltre isn't going to hurt. After missing more than a month with a strained left hamstring, Beltre is 3 for 11 with 4 RBI in three games since his return. The Rangers don't expect outfielder Nelson Cruz back until at least the middle of this month, so Beltre's return is a welcome sight.

The Angels made up for a rare bad start by ace Jered Weaver with rookie Mark Trumbo's grand slam and Vernon Wells and Peter Bourjos added solo homers in the team's 10-6 victory on Saturday. Another rookie, 20-year-old Mike Trout, could be the Angels' x-factor. Widely considered one of the game's elite prospects, Trout's played like it in his second stint in the big leagues, hitting .406/.500/.844 with four homers since being called up on Aug. 19. 

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Posted on: August 29, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:33 pm
 

Berkman an option as Rangers rental

By Matt Snyder

Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz left Sunday night's game with a strained left hamstring and the odds are pretty good he hits the disabled list. The Rangers won't make any moves until Cruz's MRI comes back, but if he does hit the disabled list, they'll be forced to use two from the group of David Murphy, Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry to flank Josh Hamilton in the outfield on a daily basis. Needless to say, that leaves the lineup void of some significant punch in Cruz's absence. That is, of course, unless the Rangers acquire Lance Berkman of the Cardinals.

Yes, Berkman has reportedly cleared waivers, so the Cardinals could listen to offers from any team. DallasNews.com is reporting that Berkman is an option for the Rangers, should Cruz hit the DL.

A deal is certainly possible. The Cardinals have fallen out of the NL Central race due to an insane surge by the Brewers (27-5 in last 32 games) and Berkman's a free agent at the end of the season. Thus, they probably wouldn't even want much back for him. If Berkman wanted to return to St. Louis in the offseason, he'd be free to do that, too.

The action must be fast, because in order to be eligible for the postseason roster, the Rangers would need to acquire Berkman by September 1.

An interesting twist in the situation is that Berkman chose the Cardinals over the Rangers as a free agent because he -- incorrectly, as it turns out -- believed the Cardinals had a better shot at the postseason. In fairness to Berkman, that was before Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright was injured.

Berkman, 35, is certainly familiar with the state, as he played parts of 12 seasons with the Astros before being traded to the Yankees last season. He's enjoyed a resurgent 2011 campaign, as he's hitting .289/.405/.570 with 30 homers, 81 RBI and 73 runs.

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Posted on: August 28, 2011 10:41 pm
Edited on: August 28, 2011 10:42 pm
 

Cruz leaves game with strained hamstring

By Matt Snyder

Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz doubled in the sixth inning of the Rangers' Sunday night game against the Angels and had to be pulled from the game for a pinch-runner immediately due to a leg injury. It turns out Cruz has a strained left hamstring (Evan Grant via Twitter). Obviously there's no further word on the prognosis for Cruz, but a hamstring injury almost certainly means a trip to the disabled list for the talented-yet-injury-prone slugger.

Cruz has had several DL stints in the past two seasons with leg injuries, specifically two last season with a strained left hamstring. When he's on the field, he's one of the more feared home run hitters in the game, but he can't seem to avoid lingering injuries for long stretches at a time. In the last three seasons, Cruz has homered at a pace of 39 for every 162 games. Of course, he hasn't played more than 128 in a season and it looks like he'll fall short of that mark again, if he does hit the 15-day DL.

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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