Posted on: October 14, 2011 11:15 pm
 

La Russa, Cards bullpen blitz Brewers in Game 5

ST. LOUIS -- You won't see this often. You surely would never see this in the American League. But as Tony La Russa continues to put on a managerial clinic in this NL Championship Series, he actually, for one fleeting moment, put more trust in starter Jaime Garcia's bat than in his arm Friday night.

Yes, St. Louis' 7-1 blitz of Milwaukee, which gave the Cardinals a three-games-to-two lead in this NLCS, was a strategist's delight.

Fourth inning, La Russa called for eight-hole hitter Nick Punto to drop a sacrifice bunt to set up a one-out, second-and-third situation for Garcia. It paid off when Garcia roped an RBI ground ball to shortstop.

Fifth inning, La Russa promptly yanked Garcia with two out, two on and a three-run lead so reliever Octavio Dotel could face slugger Ryan Braun.

It was textbook when Dotel fanned Braun in what turned out to be the game-changing -- game-saving? -- at-bat. And you could see why La Russa pounced to quickly: Braun now is 2 for 10 lifetime against Dotel with eight strikeouts.

Um, that's K-K-K-K-K-K-K-K.

And Braun is probably about a month out from winning the NL MVP award this year.

Chalk up another one for the Cardinals' overpowering bullpen, whose long relief in short order quickly has become the star of this NLCS.

La Russa has managed with a sense of urgency throughout this series, but it seemed even more on display in Game 5. Easy to understand why, too: When a series is 2-2, Game 5 always is pivotal. But with this thing headed back to Milwaukee, given the way the Brewers dominate at Miller Park, it was more pivotal than usual.

Had St. Louis headed to Wisconsin having to win both games in Miller Park, well, it would have been worse than bad cheese curds for the Cards.

But now the pressure is squarely on the Brewers.

St. Louis winning one of the next two in old Milwaukee? Now, that's doable.

Posted on: October 14, 2011 8:48 pm
 

Angels to interview DiPoto, Orioles too

Jerry DiPoto, who nearly became Arizona's full-time general manager before the Diamondbacks turned to Kevin Towers last fall, is a wanted man in the executive ranks.

The Angels on Friday became the second team to obtain permission to interview DiPoto for their vacant general manager's job, according to sources, following the Orioles. Baltimore obtained permission from Arizona to speak with DiPoto on Thursday.

DiPoto becomes the third person from outside of their organization with whom the Angels have received permission to speak. Earlier this week, the Angels obtained permission from the Yankees to interview Damon Oppenheimer, executive vice-president of amateur scouting, and Billy Eppler, the Yankees' pro scouting director.

The Angels got an up-close look at DiPoto in July of 2010 while dealing with the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade. DiPoto then was the point man for Arizona, which had fired Josh Byrnes, and it was under DiPoto that the Diamondbacks acquired four pitchers from the Angels for Haren, including Joe Saunders and top prospect Tyler Skaggs.

Highly respected within baseball circles, DiPoto, comes from a playing and scouting background. A former major-league pitcher, DiPoto was Colorado's director of scouting before coming to the Diamondbacks as their director of scouting and player development.

Angels owner Arte Moreno, manager Mike Scioscia, president John Carpino and former GM Bill Stoneman are expected to have input on the hiring of Los Angeles' new GM.

In Baltimore, Orioles owner Peter Angelos, of course, will make the final decision on Andy MacPhail's replacement -- with significant input from manager Buck Showalter.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 8:03 pm
 

Brewers still sticking with Marcum in Game 6


ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers win Game 5 here tonight, they're up three games to two and in terrific shape.

They lose, they're down three games to two and in horrific shape.

Excuse the extremes, but with manager Ron Roenicke proclaiming that the Brewers are sticking with Shaun Marcum to start Game 6, there really doesn't seem to be much in between.

"Right now we are set on Game 6," Roenicke said. "I don't know what would come up to change my mind on that, but we talked about it quite a bit and we feel great with Marcum going."

What some folks thing could change Roenicke's mind, and what makes others feel not so great about Marcum starting, is the fact that he's surrendered 30 earned runs in his past 33 innings. Marcum has earned just two wins since Aug. 19.

The Brewers are insistent that Marcum has pitched well but simply run into bad luck.

Opposing hitters seem to be saying otherwise.

Roenicke, on the bad luck angle, said: "Some of it comes from not being quite as sharp. I don't think he's quite as sharp. But he is having bad luck. He'll give up a jam shot base hit, then the next guy will hit a ground ball between somebody and then he'll make a bad pitch and somebody will hit a homer off of him."

Early in the season, Roenicke said, Marcum's stuff was "a little crisper", and the manager insists that Marcum is still "throwing well." He called Marcum "our best pitcher" for the first two months of the season.

"And then I thought he was pretty steady from there on out," Roenicke said. "He still finished with a good year."

Said pitching coach Rick Kranitz: "The command part of his fastball needs to be better, and it needs to be down in the strike zone."

The issue isn't quite as urgent if Milwaukee beats St. Louis in Game 5, because then the Brewers have some wiggle room.

But if the Brewers lose and are facing elimination in Game 6 ... well, it will be interesting to see whether Roenicke sticks with Marcum, or whether his "Right now we are set on Game 6" comment meant right now as in Friday afternoon ... but not on Sunday afternoon.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Wolf huge as Brewers beat Cards, even NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- Numbers game? Here's one: Eight starting pitchers into this NL Championship Series, one finally produced a quality start. It came in Game 4 from the most unlikeliest of places: Soft-throwing veteran Randy Wolf.

And it could not have come at a more opportune time for manager Ron Roenicke's crew.

Brewers 4, Cardinals 2, and this series is dead even.

Which means one very important thing to both clubs:

Following Game 5 Friday night, this series is guaranteed to return to Milwaukee, where the Brewers practically have run the table this season.

That does not necessarily mean they'll do it again. But it does mean that if St. Louis has ideas of advancing to its first World Series since 2006, the Cardinals are going to need more out of their starting pitchers.

I know, that sounds like heresy when Tony La Russa has eight relievers on his playoff roster and, just a night before, folks couldn't heap enough praise on his hard-throwing pen. But asking them to be perfect every night is a tall order.

When Ryan Braun greeted reliever Mitchell Boggs with an RBI single in the fifth inning to snap a 2-2 tie and lift the Brewers into a lead they would not relinquish, you bet it was attention-grabbing: To that point, Cardinals relievers had retired 18 consecutive Brewers batters over the past two games.

But they've been pitching a lot of innings in a series marked by (marred by?) the brevity of innings from starters. Only Milwaukee's Zack Greinke and Wolf have lasted six or more innings. And only Wolf has surrendered three or fewer runs while doing so.

You would have predicted Chris Carpenter? Or Yovani Gallardo?

Wolf, tossing a riveting array of pitches from a slow curve (67, 68 mph) to a pedestrian fastball (90), kept St. Louis off-balance all evening. He left having allowed just two runs and six hits in seven innings. He whiffed six and walked just one.

Not that the Brewers were desperate for a performance like that after Gallardo's Game 3 clunker, but Bernie Brewer was seen pulling his winter sweaters out of storage up in Miller Park after that.

Now, it's a whole new series.

First team to get some decent starting pitching wins.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 8:27 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 8:30 pm
 

Orioles to interview Dbacks' DiPoto for GM job

The Orioles have received permission from the Diamondbacks to interview Jerry DiPoto as their search for a general manager to replace Andy MacPhail begins, sources have confirmed to CBSSports.com

DiPoto was Arizona's interim general manager after the Diamondbacks fired Josh Byrnes and before they hired Kevin Towers in 2010, after which he became their senior vice-president for scouting and player development. As interim GM, he was the point man for the Diamondbacks when they acquired four pitchers, including Joe Saunders and top prospect Tyler Skaggs, from the Angels for Dan Haren.

Highly respected within baseball circles, DiPoto, comes from a playing and scouting background. A former major-league pitcher, DiPoto was Colorado's director of scouting before coming to the Diamondbacks as their director of scouting and player development.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, of course, will make the final decision on MacPhail's replacement -- with significant input from manager Buck Showalter.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 7:59 pm
 

Kotsay conversation continues with Roenicke

ST. LOUIS -- Say this for Brewers manager Ron Roenicke: He's a man of his convictions.

One day after his Mark Kotsay decision became a flashpoint in Game 3, Kotsay was back in the lineup for the Brewers for Game 4, albeit starting in right field in place of Corey Hart instead of in center field.

Roenicke, meanwhile, steered part of his pre-game news conference back to his decision to play Kotsay in center field a night earlier.

"I know you guys hammered me for Kotsay yesterday, but Kotsay is a good outfielder," Roenicke said. "I didn’t put somebody out there who was a bad outfielder. I just didn't have Carlos Gomez in there. Carlos is a fabulous outfielder."

Roenicke again explained he likes Kotsay's offense and that's what he wanted from Kotsay in Game 3. And Kotsay did deliver: Two walks and a home run against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter.

Thing is, with Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo starting, there is an argument to be made that you want your best defense behind him. But Roenicke held fast to his reasoning, explaining that part of it, too, is that Gomez "hasn't started against a right-hander in, I don't know, four months?"

"Sometimes you want somebody in there that has a chance to get hot," Roenicke said. "Kotsay did what he was supposed to do yesterday. He got a home run and two walks in front of our big boys. That's what he was supposed to do.

"OK, he got caught off of second base. Kots, I know, wasn't happy about that play. But he did what he was supposed to do."

Likes: The Tigers have had such a good season, it would have been a shame to see them go down to Texas in five games in a heap of injuries. I'm glad to see that go at least six ... and I hope this NL Championship Series between the Cardinals and Brewers goes six or seven games, too. ... Make it seven, for both. ... If Reese Witherspoon truly is "showing her sexy side" in the flick This Means War due out in February, then sign me up. ... The beautiful weather continues in St. Louis. Great run Thursday morning through downtown and around the Jefferson Memorial National Monument, the park area where the Arch is located. ... New Tom Waits is always a good thing. ... The chicken parmesan at Charlie Gitto's Italian joint downtown.

Dislikes: Friendly's closing its doors for good via bankruptcy. I'll always remember those summer nights in 1982 with Jeannie, and other friends, when Friendly's was a post rec-league softball stop and the Reese's Pieces Sundaes were quite the treat. And the Fribbles. All gone now, sadly.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I'm the hat on the bed
"I'm the coffee instead
"The fish or cut bait
"I'm the detective up late
"I'm the blood on the floor
"The thunder and the roar
"The boat that won't sink
"I just won't sleep a wink
"You're the same kind of bad as me"

-- Tom Waits, Bad as Me

Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:18 pm
 

Brewers need pitching, quick, in NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- Are the Brewers now in as large a hole as the Tigers? No, they are not.

It only seems like it.

Following Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, Milwaukee, still very much in this series, trails St. Louis only two games to one. But given the way the rest of their rotation is bumbling around, the Brewers are wounded badly when Yovani Gallardo starts and they don't win.

Starting pitchers named neither "Yovani" nor "Gallardo" in this postseason have compiled a 11.52 ERA while going 1-3 in five postseason starts.

Being that Milwaukee's Game 4 starter contains the names "Randy" and "Wolf, the Brewers can only hope that trend changes.

Gallardo, now 1-8 career against the Cardinals, did not pitch like the ace Milwaukee thinks he is. He was lit up for four runs in the first inning before calming down.

Part of that wasn't completely his fault: Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke gambled and lost by starting veteran Mark Kotsay, 35, in center field. He liked Kotsay's numbers against Chris Carpenter (4 for 11, .364 batting average). But Kotsay could not get to a fly ball smacked into the left-center gap two batters into the bottom of the first, a play that Carlos Gomez certainly would have made. That helped fuel St. Louis' early rally.

But Kotsay had nothing to do with Gallardo's back-to-back walks of Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman later in the inning. Those were critical, too.

Bottom line is, this series still should have a very long way to go. Milwaukee is facing nothing like its Midwestern (across Lake Michigan) neighbor. Detroit is down three games to one and on the verge of extinction for 2011.

The Brewers are just one win from evening things up against St. Louis. But with Wolf, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum rolling up next in the rotation, it sure looks as if the Cardinals were licking their beaks, er, chops as they left Busch Stadium late Wednesday night.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:32 pm
 

Angels to interview Yanks' Oppenheimer, Eppler

Looking to begin re-stocking a gutted front office, the Angels have received permission from the New York Yankees to speak with two key members of general manager Brian Cashman's staff.

Damon Oppenheimer, 49, long-time Yankees' executive who currently is executive vice-president for amateur scouting, and Billy Eppler, 35, the club's pro scouting director, will interview with the Angels as the club looks to replace Tony Reagins, according to a major-league source.

Tim Mead, executive vice-president of communication for the Angels, would neither confirm nor deny that the Angels approached the Yankees about Oppenheimer and Eppler.

"We have initiated the start of the search process and will be speaking to some clubs," Mead said Wednesday night.

The opening was created when the Angels fired Tony Reagins as GM earlier this month. In a thorough gutting, the Angels also this month fired Reagins' top two assistants, Ken Forsch and Gary Sutherland, scouting director Abe Flores and longtime scout Rich Schlenker.

It also is believed that Jerry DiPoto, Arizona's senior vice-president of scouting and player development, is on the Angels' short list of candidates.

Mead did not list a timetable for when the Angels would like to have a new GM in place.

"We're going to be very thorough and do everything possible to find the right person," Mead said. "We will take the time it takes to select the right person."
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com