Tag:David Freese
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 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.

PHI-STL NLDS Game 4
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.



For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 2, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2011 4:56 pm
 

NLDS Game 2 preview: Carpenter goes on short rest



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Cardinals at Phillies, 8:37 p.m. ET, Citizens Bank Park, TBS

Cardinals Phillies
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Jimmy Rollins SS
2 Allen Craig RF 2 Chase Utley 2B
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Hunter Pence RF
4 Lance Berkman LF 4 Ryan Howard 1B
5 David Freese 3B 5 Shane Victorino CF
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Raul Ibanez LF
7 Ryan Theriot 2B 7 Placido Polanco 3B
8 Jon Jay CF 8 Carlos Ruiz C
9 Chris Carpenter RHP 9 Cliff Lee LHP

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Carpenter vs. Phillies: The Phillies can't be too excited about facing Carpenter again as the Cardinals' ace has dominated Philly this season. In two starts against Philadelphia, Carpenter's allowed just a single earned run and beaten the Phillies in both outings. Most recently, he held the Phillies scoreless through eight innings in the Cardinals' 5-0 victory at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 18. On June 23 in St. Louis, Carpenter allowed one earned run on five hits in seven innings, striking out seven and walking one. Utley's had the most success of any Phillies hitter against Carpenter, going 7 for 15 in his career. Pence and Fielder have homered off of Carpenter, but Pence is 4 for 22 (.182) and Howard is 2 for 9 (.222). 

Lee vs. Cardinals: A full sixth of Lee's 42 walks this year have come against the Cardinals, as the Phillies left-hander is 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA in two starts against St. Louis this season. Six of those seven walks, however were in one game, a loss at Busch Stadium on May 16. In his last outing, he pitched a six-hit shutout on June 22 at Citizens Bank Park. Berkman's had the most success against Lee in his career, with five hits in 13 at-bats, including three doubles. Pujols, on the other hand, has just one hit in eight at-bats against Lee. The only Cardinals to homer off of Lee is Furcal, who is 2 for 3 in his career off of the lefty. 

NOTES

Full Playoff Coverage
  • According to Weather.com, there are possible showers Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park, but no real threat of prolonged delays.
  • Matt Holliday is out of the lineup again with a strained tendon in his right palm. Tony La Russa said before Game 1 that he'd be available to pinch-hit and hoped he'd be ready for Game 2. Holliday left the penultimate game of the regular season and hasn't played since.
  • Carpenter is starting on three days rest for the first time in his career. He threw a 105-pitch shutout over the Astros on the final day of the regular season to help the Cardinals win the wild card.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 2:43 pm
 

NLDS Game 1 preview: Holliday out vs. Halladay

Roy Halladay

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Cardinals at Phillies, 5:07 p.m. ET, Citizens Bank Park, TBS

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

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Lohse vs. Phillies: The former Phillie is 1-1 with a 1.76 ERA in two statrts against Philadelphia this season, beating Halladay and the Phillies on Sept. 19, allowing just an unearned run on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. Howard is 8 for 16 in his career against Lohse with two homers, while three of Raul Ibanez's nine hits (in 33 at-bats) against Lohse have found the seats. On the other hand, Utley is just 4 for 24 (.167) against Lohse. 

Halladay vs. Cardinals: The Cardinals may be wondering what the big deal about Halladay is -- Halladay is 0-1 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals this season. He picked up a no-decision on June 21 in St. Louis and then the Cardinals beat him last month, allowing four earned runs on six hits, while walking four. Berkman homered in the first against Halladay in their last meeting, setting the stage for a key Cardinals victory. Berkman has five at-bats against Halladay, with the homer and has also walked twice. Pujols is just 2 for 11 in his career against Halladay. 

NOTES

Full Playoff Coverage
  • There is a 20 percent chance of rain at gametime, according to Weather.com, increasing to 50 percent by 7 p.m. The same weather patterens that postponed Friday night's ALDS could hurt both this series as well.
  • Matt Holliday remains out with an injured tendon in his right palm, but he is on the team's 25-man roster and expected to play later in the series. Tony La Russa said he could pinch-hit in Game 1 and hopes he can start Game 2. Berkman is getting the start in left, he started 16 games in left this season
  • The Cardianls left right-hander Kyle McClelland off the playoff roster because he's dealing with what the team is calling "dead arm." McClelland started the season in the rotation, but was moved back to the bullpen with the addition of Edwin Jackson.
  • Halladay, of course, pitched a no-hitter last year in the first game of the NLDS. It was also against an NL Central team that led the league in batting average.
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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 22, 2011 2:14 am
Edited on: September 22, 2011 2:22 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Garza, Arroyo dazzle in CGs

Garza

By Evan Brunell

Matt Garza, Cubs: Garza spun a bona-fide gem on Wednesday, taking out the high-octane Brewers staff with a complete-game victory, striking out 10 and allowing just six hits and one walk. He missed a shutout by one run, which crossed the plate in the third inning unearned. The Cubs' season hasn't quite gone as planned, but Garza has stepped up as an ace this season with a 3.35 ERA. Manager Mike Quade asked Garza to strike out in his last plate appearance and avoid a double play so Starlin Castro could get one more chance to get hit No. 200 at home, but Garza instead grounded to the pitcher. "I'm trying to hit, too, guys," Garza told the Associated Press. "I want 20 wins. I want 200 innings. I want 200-plus strikeouts. I was in my mode, so I'm going to go out there and compete. I'm not going to just give up."

Bronson Arroyo, Reds: Arroyo entered the game having given up 44 home runs, just four away from the NL record and six from baseball's record. However, those records appear safe after Arroyo shut out the Astros in a six-hitter. It pushes him to nine innings shy of 200 innings on the year, a distinction that Arroyo prides himself on reaching. "Durability is the mark of a starting pitcher," Arroyo, who has reached 200 innings six straight years, told the Associated Press. He'll go for another complete game against the Mets on Tuesday.

David Freese, Cardinals: Freese jacked a three-run home run in the seventh inning to pace the Cardinals to a hard-fought 6-5 victory over the Mets. Freese's 2-for-4 night wasn't extraordinary, but on top of that three-run blast, he chipped in with a two-run triple in the first to account for five of the Cards' six runs. Freese has battled injury the last few years but has shown he can hit when right, bumping his season line to .293/.339/.437.



Josh Beckett, Red Sox: With Red Sox Nation whipped into a frenzy over what could be an epic collapse by Boston, Josh Beckett delivered a vintage effort... until the seventh. In both the seventh and eighth, Beckett game up a combined four runs to finish the game with a line of six runs earned in 7 1/3 innings. He did limit the O's to seven hits and one walk, punching out eight, but a two-homer game by Mark Reynolds -- including a game-tying blast in the seventh -- derailed Beckett's outing.

Ross Ohlendorf, Pirates: The Pirates' Ohlendorf was coming off his first win in a year, his 2011 season marred by injuries. He couldn't keep the good times rolling against the Pirates, getting lit up for seven earned runs in just two innings. Ohlendorf, who has been a solid pitcher for the Pirates the last two seasons, saw his ERA spike to 8.29 and he appears in danger of being non-tendered this offseason, which would make him a free agent.

Alex Liddi, Mariners:  The first Italian-born and raised player in the majors couldn't handle the heat Tuesday, notching the golden sombrero as he whiffed in four trips to the plate. Liddi has shown power early on, ripping a home run in each of the last two games, but had nothing against Kevin Slowey and Co. on Wednesday. Liddi could feasibly be the M's third baseman next year as the team isn't expected to turn back to Chone Figgins, but will have to hold off Kyle Seager and hope Seattle doesn't make any offseason moves.

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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. 

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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