Tag:Chris Carpenter
Posted on: October 12, 2011 7:20 pm
 

NLCS hopes to dodge the rain

Octavio Dotel

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers starter Randy Wolf isn't starting tonight and he say he wasn't worried about getting Game 3 of the NLCS in ahead of rain here, but he did worry enough to check out the forecast. 

"According to my AccuWeather I have on my iPhone, we are not supposed to get any rain, so I think we are going to be OK," Wolf said. "It's usually pretty right, too."

The Weather Channel app on my iPhone said there was supposed to be rain all afternoon and possible through the night, but I haven't felt a drop yet, so maybe I should change apps -- even though the skies have been gray all day and it's looked like it could rain at any minute.

"Cautiously optimistic is kind of the way I would explain it," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said before the game. "They think -- the latest check was 3 p.m. They are going to check again at 5 p.m. They are optimistic that we can play. But they are also, by the way, they were very clear, the Commissioner does not want a lot of delays, interruptions and (the like.)"

Ron Roenicke said he'd talked to Joe Garagiola Jr. of the commissioner's office and they don't want anything to mess with the starters -- especially with the matchup of the team's two best pitchers.

"I think probably if we get to about the 6:30 mark is really an important time when -- if we are going to start this thing on time and what we are going to do. Because you get farther than that, and we run into a situation where we ran into this year, where both starters were warmed up and walking off the field and we had an hour-and-a-half delay," Roenicke said. "Something I'm sure the Yankee-Detroit game had something to do with that and what happened. So those are tough calls, because there's some times when -- right now it looks like it's drizzle, but something can happen later on where it builds up more."

With rain being the only thing to mar this postseason so far, it's obvious that baseball wouldn't want another game changed by the weather. Both the Detroit-New York ALDS and the ALCS have had delays and rainouts. The National League has been lucky so far -- helped by the fact both Milwaukee and Arizona have retractable domes. But of course, today's the first game the Brewers have had without a dome in the postseason, so there's rain in order.

Maybe it's just following Wolf.

"You know, my first years in Philadelphia, I was nicknamed the Rain Man, because it seemed like every time I pitched, it rained," Wolf said. "But I learned, you just get ready for the game and you don't worry about what the weather is, because that's another external thing you can't control. But I think (Yovani Gallardo), today, he's going to be ready to pitch; he always is. I don't think that will be much of a concern."

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:58 pm
 

Kotsay starting in CF for Brewers in Game 3

Nyjer Morgan

Mark KotsayBy C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Those hoping for a fight in the NLCS had the chances lowered a little bit when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke put out his lineup for Game 3 of the series with Mark Kotsay in center field and batting second instead of Nyjer Morgan.

Morgan, of course, got into a shouting match on the field last month with Cardinals' Game 3 starter, bringing the bad blood between the two teams to a boiling point. On Tuesday, Roenicke hinted that he'd be leaning toward a different center fielder for Game 3, but it was assumed it would be Carlos Gomez, not Kotsay getting the call. The stated reason was for defensive purposes.

"I always feel good when Kotsay is in the lineup -- especially when we start him, he seems to have a big day, something always good seems to happen when he's in there -- numbers matched up good," Roenicke said. "I think, too, if Nyjer had beens winging the bat well, I wouldn't have even thought about this, but I think it's the right thing to do here."

Kotay, a left-handed hitter, is 4 for 11 lifetime against Carpenter with a double and a home run. He's 0 for 5 with a walk so far this postseason,  Morgan is 0 for 4 in the NLCS and 3 for 20 in the playoffs.

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:17 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 1:28 am
 

NLCS Game 3: Cardinals riding high



By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' Game 2 victory wrestled homefield advantage from the Brewers as the National League Championship Series heads to St. Louis with Milwaukee needing at least one victory at Busch Stadium to ensure a return to the friendly confines of Miller Park.

Milwaukee struggled on the road this season, but still managed to go 4-5 at Busch Stadium as the two teams split their 18-game season series.

NLCS

"Everybody talks about our home record, but we didn't go undefeated at home by any stretch," Brewers third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. said following Monday's loss.." It's a loss, but we've just got to go on the road and bounce back."

The Cardinals have won 15 consecutive get-away day games, tabbing their travels "happy flights." However, those "happy flights" leave a little bit of a hangover. In the games after their last 14 "happy flights," the Cardinals have gone 4-10.

Still, the Cardinals left Milwaukee happy, and with the series taking a much different complexion than it had after Milwaukee's Game 1 victory. Now, Milwaukee has to go on the road and depend on a starter that has struggled against the Cardinals and two more that have not been very good in the playoffs.

"(Winning Game 2) was big to us. We're 1-1, that was big to win, just because they've done well (in MIlwaukee)," Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay said following Monday night's victory. "But it was big for us to fight back and get a win after (Sunday's) game."

A win behind Chris Carpenter would put the Brewers on the ropes and could set the stage for the Cardinals' next happy flight to be after Game 2 of the World Series.

PITCHER MATCHUP

Gallardo vs. Cardinals: Yovani Gallardo has certainly been the Brewers' best -- and only consistent -- starter in the playoffs, going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his two starts against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. The rest of the team's starters are 1-3 with a 11.54 ERA in the playoffs.

However, Gallardo was 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals this season and is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 career starts against St. Louis. Among his four starts against the Cardinals this season were his best and worst performances of the season. On May 7, he allowed just one hit in eight scoreless innings, but on Sept. 1 at Miller Park, the Cardinals tagged him for eight earned in 4 2/3 innings.

Carpenter vs. Brewers: The Cardinals' right-hander is coming off a masterful victory over close friend Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NLDS. While Carpenter struggled in Game 2 start on short rest, but Carpenter is fully rested going into Tuesday's start.

Carpenter was 2-2 against the Brewers this season with a 3.86 ERA -- but he was 2-0 in two starts against the Brewers at Busch Stadium, including a four-hit shutout on Sept. 7.

Ryan Braun's struggled a bit against Carpenter, going 5 for 22 (.227) with a home run and six strikeouts. Prince Fielder is 8 for 26 (.308) with two home runs, five walks and eight strikeouts against Carpenter.

Pitching matchup advantage:

 

If both are on in Game 3, it should be the opposite of the slugfests we saw in Miwaukee. Even as Gallardo has developed into a frontline starter, Carpenter's history of success in big games (and on full rest) is too much to overlook.

LINEUPS

Brewers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Corey Hart RF 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Mark Kotsay CF 2 Jon Jay CF
3 Ryan Braun LF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Prince Fielder 1B 4 Matt Holliday LF
5 Rickie Weeks 2B 5 Lance Berkman RF
6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B 6 Yadier Molina C
7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS 7 David Freese 3B
8 Jonathan Lucroy C 8 Nick Punto 2B
9 Yovani Gallardo RHP 9 Chris Carpenter RHP

NOTES

  • In 23 of the last 42 NLCS -- including this one -- the loser of Game 1 has come back to win Game 2.
  • St. Louis' 17 hits on Monday night tied for the second most the team had ever collected in a  postseason game. The Cardinals had 20 hits in Game 4 of the 1946 World Series against the Red Sox and 17 in Game 7 of the 1934 World Series.
  • With his ninth LCS home run, Albert Pujols is now tied with George Brett and Bernie Williams for the second-most in baseball history. Manny Ramirez holds the record with 13 LCS home runs. Pujols now has 14 career postseason home runs, tied with David Justice for eighth most in history.
  • Fielder's homer in Game 2 gave him four postseason home runs -- the most by any Brewer. Ted Simmons and Paul Molitor each hit three.
  • Former Cardinal and Brewer (and Royal and Red Sox and Diamondback and Pirate) Jeff Suppan will throw out the first pitch in Game 3 at Busch Stadium.
  • This series has been rain-free -- so far. Rain is predicted for gametime on Wednesday.
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Posted on: October 11, 2011 2:20 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 2

Prince Fielder

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time since Nyjer Morgan called Albert Pujols "Alberta" in a tweet, the two men were side-by-side on the baseball field on Monday. When Morgan walked in the seventh inning, he didn't have anything to say to Pujols.

"You see my lips flapping?" Morgan said when asked about it after the Brewers' 12-3 loss in Game 2 of the NLCS. "It's the wrong time, you can't say nothing there."

The Brewers trailed 11-2 when the two finally got side-by-side, and Morgan said he was in no position to say anything to the Cardinals slugger, who had already driven in five Cardinals runs by that point.

NLCS

"Wrong time, you can't do it then," Morgan said.

Is that time coming?

"Maybe," Morgan said. "Stay tuned."

As for that tweet, Morgan said it's not something he regrets.

"That's just part of it, I said what I said, let's move on," Morgan said. "If they have to take some justice out of it, so be it?"

• Morgan's tweet was after he and Chris Carpenter got into a verbal altercation on the field. I asked him if he was looking forward to facing Carpenter in Game 3: "I'm looking forward to anybody -- what are you trying to stir up?"

• With the series tied at one game each and three more games coming up in St. Louis, Monday may have been Prince Fielder's last game at Miller Park in a Brewer uniform. I asked him if he'd given any thought to that: "No," he said.

Rickie Weeks on the bad call by first base umpire Sam Holbrook in the fifth inning that cost the Brewers at least a run: "You can't look at one call in baseball. It's one of those things. You might think the game went one play right there, but that's baseball. You can't worry about it," Weeks said. "That's just me. I thought I was safe, he called me out. He made the call. You can't go back and change it."

• Fielder on Weeks, who is playing on a bum ankle: "He's doing it right now on that ankle, it's impressive. We see it. He's tough. What he's doing, you couldn't ask anyone to do that, but he's doing it for the team and it's really awesome."

• Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina on picking up Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy's mask on a play at the plate in the fifth inning: "I was trying to take the mask. I don't want anybody to get hurt."

• Morgan on the Cardinals 12 runs and 17 hits: "That's all right. I think maybe they hit themselves out of the ballpark right there, they should have saved some of those."

• Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on his team's streak of winning the final game of a series, as Monday marked the 14th time in a row the Cardinals have boarded a plane as a winner: "It's kind of a neat reminder, let's finish off whatever it is, whether we're finishing off a game at home or on the road. We've won games on days we weren't traveling, either. But it's just -- you've got these grown men and they're like -- I don't think fraternity, they're too old… they're like summer campers or teenagers or maybe preteens -- they're just like kids. And it's enjoyable to listed to 'happy flight' things. Our fans were yelling when we got in the dugout, 'have a happy flight.' It's silly, but why not?"

• Jerry Hairston Jr. on Pujols: "He's pretty good, isn't he? He's arguably the best player of our generation. He's really good. It's one of those things, give him credit -- and not just Albert, but all the guys swung the bat well."

• Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse on Pujols' performance: ""hat's him, man. It's not surprising, know what I mean? It's amazing, but it's not surprising. He does the things he does. People ask me in the off-season, 'What's it like to play with him?' When he goes 1 for 3, it's like, 'Why didn't he get two more hits?'"

• Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on whether Shaun Marcum would pitch again in this series: "As far as I'm concerned, right now he's pitching again."

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 11:48 pm
 

Pujols powers Cardinals in Game 2 to even NLCS

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans
 

MILWAUKEE -- Albert Pujols changed the complexion of the NLCS with a mighty swing of the bat and a performance for the ages, as St. Louis clobbered the Brewers 12-3 in Game 2 to even the series at one game each.

Hero: Coming into Monday's Game 2, Pujols hadn't homered in a postseason game since 2006, spanning 46 at-bats. He had also notched just five RBI in his previous 23 postseason games. Those numbers can be thrown out the window after Pujols' monster 4 for 5 game with a homer, three doubles and five RBI. He also scored three times and was just generally Pujolsian. The Milwaukee fans let out a huge cheer when he grounded out in the eighth, even though their team was already behind 11-2.

Goat: The Brewers had a chance to get back in the game in the fifth inning with bases loaded and one out, trailing 7-2. Rickie Weeks, who had homered in his previous at-bat, faced Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn. On the first pitch Weeks hit a tailor-made double play ball to Rafael Furcal. Weeks, though, was busting his tail down the line and beat the throw from second baseman Nick Punto -- except first base umpire Sam Holbrook called him out, ending the inning and Milwaukee's best chance at making the final four innings interesting.

Turning point: When Pujols turned on Marcum's first-inning fastball in the first, he admired his shot a little bit, flipped his bat and let the Brewers know they were in for trouble.

It was over when … Pujols hit the ball over Nyjer Morgan's head for his third-inning double, scoring two and giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

Next: The series shifts to St. Louis for Game 3, Wednesday night at 8:05 p.m ET with the top starters for each team taking the mound -- the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and the Brewers' Yovani Gallardo.

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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 8, 2011 1:14 am
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:12 am
 

Grading the Cardinals-Phillies NLDS



By Matt Snyder


The Game 5 pitcher's duel. We talked about how great the CC Sabathia-Justin Verlander pitching matchup would be over in the ALDS for what seemed like weeks. Well, the Game 1 attempt was screwed up by weather. In Game 3, Verlander was dominant in several stretches, but still allowed four runs while Sabathia was a disppointment. So we never really got the pure baseball fan's dream of a 1-0 game where two pitchers absolutely stifle the opposition. Thank you, Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter. Friday night's Game 5 in Philly was pure bliss to those who love old-school pitcher's duels. Halladay allowed a triple and then a double to start the game, falling behind 1-0. After that? The two pitchers combined to throw 17 shutout innings, allowing only seven hits and one walk, while striking out 10. Now that is a pitcher's duel. Carpenter was the star, but they both put on a show.

Cardinals' offense. They were the best offense in the NL in 2011, so scoring 19 runs in a five-game series is not "A" material, but c'mon. These guys were facing the Phillies' pitching staff, the best staff in the NL during the season. Gathering 10 doubles, three triples and two home runs is pretty impressive. They also battled back from a four-run deficit against Cliff Lee in Game 2 and got some pretty timely hits from David Freese in Game 4. And remember, Matt Holliday was banged up. So while we can't exactly say they came through with flying colors and carried the team -- this series was certainly a team effort -- the offense was good enough to earn a solid "B."

The Phillies' vaunted rotation. Roy Halladay was unhittable if it wasn't the first inning. Cole Hamels had a good, albeit inefficient outing. So we aren't really looking at those two. But Cliff Lee couldn't make a 4-0 lead stand up in Game 2, when the Phillies could have essentially put the Cardinals away. He gave up 12 hits and five runs in six innings. And Roy Oswalt was bad in Game 4, when the Phillies could have eliminated the Cardinals. The offense was a major reason the Phillies lost this series, but they've been overcoming a mediocre offense all season -- ranking seventh in runs scored and still winning 102 regular-season games. This team was built around its starting pitching, and if the starters all lived up to their billing as aces, the Phillies would have swept. Two of the four didn't get it done, so that's a "C," and the Phillies are done for the season.

The squirrel overkill. Why do we have to take mildly amusing events and run them into the ground? When the squirrel ran on the field during play in Game 3, it was funny. When a squirrel -- maybe even the same one -- ran toward home plate during an Oswalt pitch in Game 4, it was hilarious. The @BuschSquirrel Twitter account was a nice short-term touch, I guess. But then we were bombarded with two days of squirrel jokes and TBS even had a feature once Game 5 started about squirrels on the field in Philadelphia. And they acted like it was a coincidence, no less. Yeah, I bet it was.

Ryan Howard's disappearing act. Note: This has nothing to do with his injury on the final play of the game. As an aside here, people often try to make accusations as to who we favor, etc. I can tell what I'm rooting for in these playoffs. Four things, in no particular order, are what I want out of every game: 1. Well played, close game; 2. Good weather; 3. No umpiring mistakes altering the outcome of the game; 4. No major injuries. In Game 5 of the NLDS between the Phillies and the Cards, I got what I wanted from Points 1-3. But point four I didn't. And that sucks. But it doesn't take away from the fact that Howard had a huge start to the series and then just completely disappeared. After a two-RBI single in the first inning of Game 2, Howard had six RBI already. He had 15 plate appearances the rest of the series and was 0-for-15 with six strikeouts. That doesn't cut it for the highly-compensated cleanup hitter. And if he did come through with possibly even one big hit, the Phillies might be headed to the NLCS right now.

Video: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is angry about his club being eliminated.



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Posted on: October 7, 2011 11:06 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 11:35 pm
 

Morgan's strange journey from villain to hero

Nyjer Morgan

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The most dramatic turnaround of 2011 wasn't the Arizona Diamondbacks -- they were close, but not quite it -- instead, it was the guy who ended the Diamondbacks' season, Brewers center fielder Nyjer Morgan.

For all the T-Plush love that's been spread over the last couple of months, it's easy to forget how 2010 ended for Morgan. The last month-and-a-half of the 2010 season included an eight-game suspension, a $15,000 fine, incitement of a benches-clearing brawl, a clothesline from the Marlins' Gaby Sanchez in said brawl, had another suspension that was ultimately rescinded, was called out by his manager after running over Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson, called out his manager, was benched and also ran over Marlins catcher Brett Hayes and was tagged out when a slide would have won the game. Yeah, it was a rough 2010. 

Brewers 3, Diamondbacks 2

And 2011 didn't start out too hot, either. It's easy to forget now, but Morgan started spring training with the Nationals. He was a target in spring when Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco hit him in a spring training game and that drew the ire of Morgan, who didn't charge the mound, but took his base. He got in another altercation with the Cardinals before he told a reporter he felt he was on his way out of Washington. That upset then-Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, but it turned out to be reality, as two days later he was sent from the Nationals to the Brewers in exchange for minor-league infielder Cutter Dykstra.

Even when he got to the Brewers, he had a struggle of a different kind, with two disabled list stints in the first two months of the season -- one for a deep thigh bruise and another for a broken middle finger. He also had to share playing time with Carlos Gomez once he got back.

In Milwaukee, though, he endeared himself to the home fans with his intensity and personality, as well as his Twitter precense (@The RealTPlush). 

While it hasn't been all roses in Milwaukee-- there was an overly "aggressive" celebration in San Francisco and a dustup with Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter and subsequent Twitter "insults" to the Cardinals and Albert Pujols.

But in the end -- or at least after the NLDS -- Morgan is the team's emotional leader on a team with two legit MVP candidates.

"He's just -- he's a joy to have, I'll tell you," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. I don't care about all the little issues we have. This guy, I love him on this team. I like him as a really nice young man. He came through big, again, when we needed him."

Morgan had the winning hit in Friday's Game 5 over the Diamondbacks, driving in Gomez in the 10th. He was front and center in the team's celebration (and in the FCC's 'to do' list), but he's also a major reason the Brewers are going to play for the right to go to the World Series.

After, Morgan even reflected on his journey from Public Enemy No. 1 to Milwaukee hero.

"I mean, it's a lot. Just everything that I've had to overcome. Just the stuff that people go out there and perceive about me," Morgan said in the post-game news conference, while wearing a Brewers' branded Army helmet. "And just everything that -- all my haters. I just wanted to show them that I can play this game. Even though I've got a fun, bubbly personality and everything like that, I still come to win and I'm a winner."

For everything you can say about Morgan, on Friday, at least, you have to give him that.

 


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