Posted on: October 5, 2011 11:11 pm

Video: Manuel takes aim at Busch squirrel

By C. Trent Rosecrans

This isn't the NBA, so there's unlikely to be any guns in the Phillies clubhouse -- and that's a good thing for the Busch Stadium squirrel.

The squirrel ran across home plate as Roy Oswalt threw a pitch in the fifth inning, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was asked about it after the game:

The squirrel made his first appearance in Game 3, but that was just running across the field and then down the third-base line. On Wednesday, he made sure to be seen. And like just about everyone else, the squirrel has his own Twitter account -- and 5,146 followers as of 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The squirrel isn't concerned about Manuel, or at least he's not according to his Twitter.

More postseason coverage: Postseason schedule | Phillies-Cardinals series | 2011 playoffs

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 10:28 pm

This time Roberts slams Brewers

Ryan Roberts

By C. Trent Rosecrans

It seemed like the perfect opportunity -- the Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt up with the bases loaded once again. He couldn't come through -- but Ryan Roberts did.

For the fourth straight game at Chase Field, the Diamondbacks hit a grand slam, and for the second time in those four games it was Roberts, giving the Arizona a 4-1 lead in the first-inning. Chris Young followed with a solo homer to give Arizona a 5-1 lead after one.

That's a pretty good sign for the Diamondbacks, who were 83-8 this season when leading by two or more runs.

The Diamondbacks became just the fifth team in Major League history to hit two grand slams in one playoff series and the first since the 1977 Dodgers to do it in back-to-back games.

On Wednesday, Arizona's Willie Bloomquist singled to start the inning before Aaron Hill popped up, Justin Upton walked and Miguel Montero singled. However, unlike Game 1 when the Diamondbacks were aggressive in sending Bloomquist to the plate, third base coach Matt Williams held him up to leave the bases loaded with one out and Goldschmidt, the hero of Game 3, came to the plate.

Goldschmidt was starting at first in the place of Lyle Overbay despite hitting just .162/.279/.378 against lefties. But he was coming off a good game and manager Kirk Gibson put him in the lineup against Randy Wolf. It was the perfect setup to the perfect story, except he looked at a 1-2 pitch low and inside that home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman called for the third strike.

Wolf got no such help from Dreckman or anyone else when he tried to throw a 2-1 changeup past Reynolds, who hit it just to the fair side of the left-field foul pole for the Diamondbacks' fourth grand slam in as many home games. Roberts also hit the walk-off grand slam on the penultimate day of the season.

The Diamondbacks had six grand slams during the season, including one in each of the last two games of the season. But it's not just home runs when the Diamondbacks have the bases loaded, as a team Arizona hit .387/.421/.649 with bases loaded during the regular season.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 9:08 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 11:13 pm

Underrated play of Game 4: Pujols' throw to third

By Matt Snyder

Albert Pujols is still the best player in baseball and we saw it again on display Wednesday night. He didn't show us with his bat, as he so often does. It's not just the hitting. He's good at everything. Tuesday night, he stole third base in the first inning. Wednesday night, we were treated to his defensive and mental prowess in one fell swoop.

In the top of the sixth, with the Cardinals holding a one-run lead, Chase Utley broke for second with the pitch on an apparent hit-and-run. Hunter Pence hit a grounder to shortstop. As Rafael Furcal went to throw the ball to first base and record the easy out, Utley took a huge gamble and tried to get to third base. Pujols saw Utley take off, and came off the bag to get the ball and throw Utley out at third base. He got him by several feet with a perfect throw -- see the picture above. Had Pujols stayed on the base, Utley would have been on third with just one out and Ryan Howard coming to the plate. A sacrifice fly would then tie the game. But Pujols instinctively came off the bag and nailed the lead runner.

Pujols fills the stat sheet with the best of them. While he wasn't the best hitter in the league in 2011, due to a slow start, he still had a 150 OPS-plus -- meaning his on-base percentage plus slugging percentage was 50 percent better than the average hitter -- with 37 home runs and 99 RBI in 147 games. And that's the worst year he's had in a decade. But he's also a guy who does all the little things. Just like how people like to say lesser talented players (Ryan Theriot?) do the "little things." So does Pujols. That's why he's still the best player in baseball.

David Freese was the hero of Game 4 with the double, home run and four RBI, but don't forget about Pujols' defensive play. If he doesn't make it, it's entirely possible the game heads into the late innings tied at three. From there, anything can happen. Instead, we're going to be treated with Game 5 Friday night. Praise Freese and several other Cardinals, but don't forget about that soon-to-be free agent first baseman.

Video: Manager Tony La Russa discusses his team's Game 4 win.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:42 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 10:35 pm

Instant Reaction: Freese carries Cards past Phils

By Matt Snyder

Hero: David Freese. Period. He put the Cardinals ahead for good with a two-RBI double and later tacked on a two-run homer. In a lineup with three of the better power hitters in the baseball, Freese drove in four of the Cardinals' five runs.

Goat: Remember back at the start of the year when people liked to say the Phillies have "four aces." Yeah, they actually don't. Roy Oswalt isn't an ace anymore, and it showed Wednesday evening. Much of the "four aces" talk has morphed into "three aces," but after Wednesday's outing, it's pretty safe to say no one will continue to insist Oswalt is still the same pitcher he was three years ago. He coughed up six hits and five earned runs in five innings, even after being spotted a 2-0 lead before he even took the mound.

Turning point: Freese's two-RBI double in the bottom of the fourth meant the Cardinals now had a one-run lead, instead of a one-run deficit.

It was over when ... Freese sent an Oswalt pitch into the grass that serves as a batter's eye over the center-field wall. There's no way the Cardinals felt confident with that 3-2 lead, but the 5-2 lead had to have felt pretty secure.

Next: They'll meet again in Game 5 Friday night with the season on the line. The loser goes home, the winner heads to the NLCS. We know the Phillies are sending Ace No. 1, Roy Halladay, to the hill. The Cardinals will likely go with Chris Carpenter. Buckle up, it's a pair of aces.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 6:57 pm

Victorino's first 2011 error was quite comical

By Matt Snyder

If you missed the first inning and only have looked at the play-by-play or box score of the Phillies-Cardinals NLDS Game 4, you missed a hilarious defensive play by Gold Glover Shane Victorino. Lance Berkman hit a shot into the gap, and when Victorino went to field the ball, he fell. And he threw the ball ... backwards. There's no need to further elaborate, as you can check out the GIF below.

(Via: SBNation)

Shane Victorino fall

It's OK to laugh. Victorino himself was laughing about it. Plus, it didn't cost the Phillies anything. The runner was going to score anyway and Berkman was stranded on third at the end of the inning. Amazingly, that was the first error Victorino committed all season, regular season and postseason included.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 5:04 pm

Arizona brings out the best in pitcher behavior

By Matt Snyder

If you watched Game 3 of the Brewers-Diamondbacks NLDS last night, you saw rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hit a grand slam. And you also saw Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum throw his mitt straight up in the air. Here you go:

Marcum glove flip a reminder of Lilly’s glove slam at Arizona

Being a Cubs fan, this definitely reminded me of something. Game 2 of the NLDS in 2007 between the Cubs and Diamondbacks. Ted Lilly slammed his mitt to ground in anger after allowing a three-run homer to Chris Young. See below:

Marcum glove flip a reminder of Lilly’s glove slam at Arizona

Must be that dry desert heat -- even with the roof closed? -- that brings out the humorous in pitchers' emotions in the NLDS at Chase Field. Randy Wolf takes the hill for the Brewers Wednesday night, so stay tuned.

Hat-tip: Big League Stew

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 5:37 pm

NLDS Game 4: D-Back fever, catch it. Please

By C. Trent Rosecrans

You'd think Tuesday's thrilling victory over the Brewers in Game 3 of the National League division series would be all the advertising the Diamondbacks would need to sell tickets to Wednesday's Game 4. You'd be wrong.

As late as Wednesday afternoon, the Diamondbacks official Twitter feed said there were "good seats still available" for Game 4.

Despite the team's surprising run to the National League West title, Arizona was still 18th in overall attendance on the season, averaging 25,992 per game -- up from 25,394 in 2010. Among playoff teams, only the Rays had a lower attendance. The Rays drew 18,878 per game, more than only the A's.

The Diamondbacks played before an average capacity of 53.4 percent, the seventh lowest in baseball. No playoff team had a worse percentage. Tampa Bay played in front of an average of 55.4 percent full crowds at Tropicana Field.

Game 4: Diamondbacks at Brewers, 9:37 p.m. ET, Chase Field, TBS

Brewers Diamondbacks
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Corey Hart RF 1 Willie Bloomquist SS
2 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B 2 Aaron Hill 2B
3 Ryan Braun LF 3 Justin Upton RF
4 Prince Fielder 1B 4 Miguel Montero C
5 Rickie Weeks 2B 5 Paul Goldschmidt 1B
6 Yuniesky Betancourt SS 6 Chris Young CF
7 Carlos Gomez SS 7 Ryan Roberts 3B
8 George Kottaras C 8 Gerardo Parra LF
9 Shaun Marcum RHP 9 Joe Saunders LHP


Wolf vs. Diamondbacks: The left-hander has had trouble against Arizona this season, losing both his starts and putting up a 6.08 ERA in 13 1/3 innings pitched. On July 5 he gave up seven runs on 10 hits in six innings of a Brewers loss at Miller Park, while he was better on July 18, allowing just two earned runs (three total) on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings at Chase Field. Justin Upton is just 5 for 20 (.250) against Wolf, but two of those five hits are homers. Lyle Overbay, Parra, Roberts and Young also have homers against Wolf.

Saunders vs. Brewers: Saunders earned a no-decision in the Diamondbacks' loss to the Brewers on July 20, allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings. He's 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA in two career starts against Milwaukee. Braun is 2 for 6 in his career against Saunders with two homers. Prince Fielder is hitless in six plate appearances against Saunders, striking out three times and walking once.


Full Playoff Coverage
  • The roof will be closed for Game 4 at Chase Field.
  • Saunders injured his left hand in batting practice earlier in the series.
  • Goldschmidt gets his third consecutive start over Overbay. Goldschmidt has struggled against left handers this season, hitting just .162/.279/.378 with two homers in 43 plate appearances. Overbay was 3 for 8 with a double and a homer against Wolf in his career, but had four strikeouts.
  • Gomez and Kottaras are making their first starts of the series. Kottaras has an RBI double and a walk in his only two plate appearances against Saunders. Gomez is 4 for 13 with a double and triple against the Diamondbacks starter.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 5, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 5:02 pm

NLDS Game 4: Holliday in lineup


By Evan Brunell

Phillies at Cardinals, 6:07 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium

The long national nightmare is over: Matt Holliday is in the lineup for the Cardinals, as CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler writes on site.

Phillies Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Jimmy Rollins SS 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Chase Utley 2B 2 Skip Schumaker 2B
3 Hunter Pence RF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Ryan Howard 1B 4 Lance Berkman RF
5 Shane Victorino CF 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Raul Ibanez LF 6 Yadier Molina C
7 Placido Polanco 3B 7 David Freese 3B
8 Carlos Ruiz C 8 Jon Jay CF
9 Roy Oswalt RHP 9 Edwin Jackson RHP


Oswalt vs. Cardinals: Oswalt has seen the Cardinals plenty, spending 10 years in Houston. He has 197 2/3 innings of history against St. Louis, posting up a 3.19 ERA. He made three starts against the Redbirds in 2011, with a eerie 3.21 ERA, very similar to his career marks. In those three games, Yadier Molina went 4-for 5 and Lance Berkman 3-for-5. Jon Jay is the lone Cardinal to have hit a homer off Oswalt this season, but over his career (and counting the postseason), Albert Pujols has seven homers in 102 plate appearances. Rafael Furcal and Molina also hit Oswalt well historically.

Jackson vs. Phillies: Jackson has bounced from team to team the last few seasons, but has only faced the Phillies once in the regular season, giving up five runs in five innings back on July 28, 2010 while with the Diamondbacks. Over Jackson's career and including the postseason, Raul Ibanez has faced Jackson the most, seeing him nine times and collecting two hits and walks apiece. Only Joe Blanton -- a long reliever for Philadelphia in October -- has gone deep against Jackson. There's no question the Phillies have minimal experience against Jackson, which could work in the right-hander's favor.


Full Playoff Coverage
  • Get a load of this statistic, brought to you by the Associated Press: "Placido Polanco singled in the ninth [inning of Game 3], ending a 0-for-29 slump against St. Louis in the postseason. He was 0 for 17 with Detroit in the 2006 World Series."
  • Roy Oswalt is undefeated in the postseason, running up a 5-0 record. Win-loss records mean absolutely nothing when evaluating how good a pitcher is, but it's a nice little narrative. His ERA in the postseason is 3.25.
  • Edwin Jackson has never started in the playoffs but did relieve in the 2008 World Series for Tampa Bay, throwing two innings of one-run ball against Philly.
  • This could be Albert Pujols' final game as a Cardinal and/or at Busch Stadium.
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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