Posted on: October 20, 2011 2:26 am
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter has had more memorable games. He's had more dominant games. He's surely had more enjoyable games.
But for 87 pitches over six innings in Game 1 of the World Series, Carpenter reached the bar he's set for pitching on guts and determination.
Given the degree of difficulty on this night, it surely was one of his most impressive outings for the Cardinals. And with a 3-2 Game 1 win over Texas, it surely will stand the test of time, too.
As if 49 degrees at game-time wasn't unpleasant enough, Carpenter admittedly received treatment on his elbow for swelling and discomfort following his NLCS Game 3 outing against Milwaukee. Both Carpenter and the Cardinals were adamant that he was fine, that he wouldn't have started otherwise.
But one clue as to the condition of his elbow is this: He threw only seven curveballs in 89 pitches, about 8 percent, according to the pitch-by-pitch feature on MLB.com's GameDay.
According to the web site FanGraphs.com, Carpenter threw his curveball 20.4 percent of the time in 2011.
What he did in Game 1 was feed the Rangers a steady diet of sinkers and cutters. And though he only got two 1-2-3 innings of the six he pitched -- the third and fourth -- he left after six with a 3-2 lead and the lethal Cardinals bullpen picked him up from there.
"When you throw Carp on the mound, you expect a quality start," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said in response to a question regarding Carpenter's elbow. "You expect him to be Chris Carpenter.
"I don't think he'd be out there if he couldn't do what he's been doing."
Because the Rangers and Cardinals have only played once in Interleague play, several years ago, very few of the Rangers have faced him. Michael Young, for example, had only six lifetime at-bats against the right-hander, and two hits.
Because of that, Young said he didn't notice Carpenter's curve count. But he did notice a few other things.
"He was keeping the ball down and getting strike one," Young said. "That was a big thing right there. A lot of balls down. He got ground balls. We did not have a lot of line drives, like we usually do."
"He was pitching, you know?" said Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who went 1 for 3 with a walk after being moved up to sixth in the lineup following his six homers in the ALCS. "He makes pitches when he has to."
Carpenter was not asked about his elbow during his appearance in the post-game media interview room. Of the weather conditions, he said that the balls "were a little slick with the breeze and the lack of humidity. But besides that, it's the same. It's another game, and we've pitched in weather like this before. I grew up [in New Hampshire] pitching in weather like this, so it was no big deal."
The fact that he threw so few curveballs, hard to say definitively whether that is a big deal. But Carpenter did exactly what the Cardinals have come to expect and appreciate on the latest biggest night of their season.
Plus, what his pitching line does not show is his fabulous defensive play in the first inning, when he made a diving catch of an Albert Pujols toss while covering first base two batters into the game. Carpenter caught the toss and tagged first to get the speedy Elvis Andrus on a sensational, athletic play.
"Great performance," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "They're a great hitting team. If you don't make a lot of pitches, they're going to bang you around. ...
"The thing about Carp, he was exactly what we needed."
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:20 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 7:24 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Adrian Beltre has played a long time for a guy who has never reached the World Series.
A long, long, long time.
"You got that right," Beltre says. "It took me 14 years. But I'm here, man."
Beltre's 1,959 regular-season games are the third-most among active players for a guy who has never set foot in the Fall Classic, trailing only Bobby Abreu (2,247) and Miguel Tejada (2,118).
But as that great baseball man, Branch Rickey, once said, luck is the residue of design. And Beltre's splashdown in St. Louis for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday is more design than luck.
When he signed a five-year, $80 million deal last winter to play third base in Texas, he had plenty of other options. One was with the Los Angeles Angels, though, as he told me this spring, he spurned them because he thought the Rangers had a better team and, as such, a better chance to go to the World Series.
Beyond the Angels, Beltre had a few other options as well. Oakland. Baltimore.
"If it was the money, I'd be somewhere else," he said. "Money wasn't my main issue. I could have had more money [elsewhere] or I could have stayed home in L.A.
"It was a hard decision to come here, but it's been the best one."
Beltre was everything the Rangers were hoping for. He played Gold Glove defense. He hit .296 with a .331 on-base percentage. He slammed 32 homers and collected 105 RBI in 124 games. Only a hamstring injury slowed him late in the year.
Now that he's back strong, the Rangers' lineup is as dangerous and deep as there is in the game. Their second consecutive World Series appearance proves that.
Beltre said he never felt pressure in Texas because he was surrounded by so much talent, guys like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli.
"I came here, but I wasn't the guy," says Beltre, who played exceedingly well in Boston in 2010 before signing with Texas. "I was just one of the guys.
"It's different when they bring you in to be the guy."
Asked about the Red Sox's meltdown and ongoing drama, Beltre quipped: "Why? What happened to the Red Sox? I don't watch TV."
Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:00 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 10:22 am
They've been serious underdogs since, oh, at least August. So why should now be any different as the Cardinals get set to tee it up with the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
Except, one thing that might be worth remembering: Last time the Cardinals were here, in 2006, the Tigers were supposed to maul them. Next thing anyone knew, David Eckstein was hoisting the MVP trophy.
Is NLCS MVP David Freese the new Eckstein?
In their 18th World Series in club history, the Cardinals are about to tangle with a Texas team that has not lost consecutive games in nearly two months. The Rangers have played 40 games since their last back-to-back losses, when they dropped three in a row at home against the Red Sox from Aug. 23-25.
Of course, they're also about to tussle with a Texas team that ripped through Detroit in the AL Championship Series without obtaining a win from a starting pitcher. Sound familiar? Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter earned the Game 3 win despite only going five innings, and the St. Louis bullpen earned the other three wins.
The Airborne Rangers surely will be favored in the World Series, given that behemoth AL lineup and a bullpen in which Alexi Ogando qualifies as a lethal weapon.
"It's going to be very interesting," Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal said moments after his team eliminated Milwaukee in the NLCS. "We've got to keep playing the way we do. We've got to keep playing good defense and getting a hit when we need it."
"The Rangers are scary," third baseman David Freese said. "They're a scary team. They've been doing it all along the last few years. You look at that lineup, you look at that staff, that's going to be a battle. And I think we're a team that can match up with them a little bit. They're confident. We're confident."
As the champagne sprayed, Manager Tony La Russa said he had not had time to give much thought to Texas, other than him and pitching coach Dave Duncan quietly sneaking a conversation Saturday night about which way to set up the Cardinals' rotation. La Russa said they had one plan for if the Cardinals won in Game 6 on Sunday -- the plan that presumably will be put into motion -- and another plan for if the Brewers extended them to Game 7 on Monday.
Being that ace Chris Carpenter was set to start Game 7 ... surely, he'll now get the ball for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night in St. Louis.
"Texas has an unbelievable team," reliever Octavio Dotel said. "They have great players. They have great hitters, great pitchers, a great bullpen.
"What is going to happen, I don't know. We've got to go game by game, one by one, and see what happens. Not try to win it all in one game."
Dotel talked about Texas' "great right-handed hitters", mentioning Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young.
The Cardinals will go from the very familiar against the Brewers (both in the NL Central, they faced each other 18 times this season) to the totally unknown against the Rangers (they did not face each other in interleague play this year).
"Throw strikes," reliever Jason Motte said. "You've gotta get ahead of guys. Mix and match. I've seen those guys play. If you go 2 and 1 or 3 and 1 [in the count], it's going to be a long series."
The one man who might know the most about both of these teams is Cardinals reliever Arthur Rhodes. Practically a senior citizen now in baseball years (he's 41), Rhodes started the season with the Rangers, where he went 3-3 with a 4.81 ERA in 32 games, before Texas released him on Aug. 8. St. Louis signed him three days later.
Used strictly as a left-handed specialist, Rhodes was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA for the Cards, working only 8 2/3 innings in 19 games.
"Those are my friends," Rhodes said of the Rangers. "But I've still got my team right here. I love St. Louis. These are my boys.
"We'll do our thing. We match up good with them. We have a similar lineup, but I know our bullpen is better than theirs."
Said Freese: "I definitely have been watching the ALCS, for sure. And that's been some good ball over there. That's a dynamite team, and we definitely have to be ready for them."
Posted on: May 23, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 11:25 pm
One key reason why Tampa Bay's James Shields currently leads the AL in both complete games (three) and shutouts (two), ranks second in innings pitched (76 2/3) and fourth in ERA (2.00)?
He's doing exactly what he set out to do this spring: Keep the gopher balls away.
Last year, his 34 home runs allowed were the most in the American League.
This year, his seven surrendered do not even rank in the top 10.
Shields told me this spring that he thought there were a couple of easily explainable reasons why he was so disappointing in 2010 at 13-15 with a career-high 5.18 ERA.
"Bad baseball luck," he said during an early-March conversation in Port Charlotte, Fla. "Take away two or three bad games, and my ERA's 3.60 and nobody's talking about it."
Shields, who dominated the Marlins with 13 strikeouts in Sunday's complete-game win, figured that if he could minimize home runs in 2011, his ERA would drop. And if those two things happened, he'd be well on his way to a rebound year.
Those seven homers allowed in 2011 translate to one surrendered per 42 batters faced.
In 2010, he yielded one homer per 26.4 batters faced.
Not even close.
"I wasn't as good as I wanted to be last year," Shields said. "But there were a lot of positives: 200 innings [203 1/3, to be exact], 180-odd strikeouts ."
He keeps going at his current pace in 2011, there will be far more positives this season.
For both Shields and the Rays.
Likes: Texas' Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz and Philadelphia's Chase Utley all coming back this week. ... Knuckleballers. Boston's Tim Wakefield and the Mets' R.A. Dickey just keep on truckin'. ... Lars Anderson's Sports Illustrated cover story this week on the tornado devastation in Alabama. Beautifully done and heartbreaking. ... Music from the old Detroit band The Rockets on iTunes. Loved them back in the day (late '70s, early '80s) and had much of their stuff on vinyl, but it was never released on CD. Hadn't heard the songs in many years, but they stand up very well to the test of time. A shame they never hit it big nationally, because they could rock. ... Minka Kelly on the new Charlie's Angels in the fall. Hello girls, this is Charlie. ...
Dislikes: Red Sox-Cubs 1918 throwback uniforms.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Really love your peaches