Posted on: October 28, 2011 12:40 am
Edited on: October 28, 2011 12:42 am
ST. LOUIS -- At this point, how would you ever think the Cardinals can lose?
Seriously, what would convince you? Down 10 runs with one out to go?
They were done in the regular season, they seemed done a few times in the playoffs and they sure seemed done in Game 6 of the World Series on Thursday night.
In the ninth inning. In the 10th inning.
If needed, they no doubt would have gone to the 100th inning, and they still wouldn't have lost.
They're not done. They're still not done.
They won Game 6 in the 11th inning on hometown kid David Freese's home run, and now we're off to Game 7 on Friday.
How did it happen? I'm sure I'm missing something, but here goes:
Down to their last strike in the ninth, the Cardinals got a two-run game-tying triple from Freese, off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. Then, after Josh Hamilton's 10th-inning home run put the Rangers on the verge again, the Cardinals were down to their last strike again -- before Lance Berkman's single tied it again.
The ninth-inning rally began with an Albert Pujols double, his first hit since his historic three-homer Game 3. It was yet another in a series of possible Pujols final at-bats as a Cardinal in Busch Stadium, but it began the rally that helped ensure he'll play at least one more game.
And why not?
It's been a fantastic World Series. Thursday's game wasn't always pretty, with five errors, but it sure was exciting.
And now there will be a Game 7.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:40 pm
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Game 5 is where it's decided, right?
That's how it feels, when you go through four games and the World Series is tied. Game 5 is where it turns.
And that means this World Series just turned in favor of the Rangers, who beat the Cardinals in Monday night's Game 5 to take a three games to two lead.
That means it just turned in favor of Mike Napoli, whose two-run double broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth inning. It just turned in favor of Adrian Beltre, whose home run off Chris Carpenter tied the game in the sixth.
And it just turned in favor of Ron Washington, the Rangers manager who announced Monday afternoon that "I'm not as dumb as people think I am."
Washington's decision to break up the left-handed hitters at the bottom of his lineup got him the eighth-inning matchup of Napoli against Cardinals left-hander Marc Rzepczynski.
It got him a Game 5 win, which means everything.
Except when it doesn't.
Six of the last nine times a World Series was tied at two wins apiece, the team that lost Game 5 went on to win the title.
Overall, the numbers say just what you'd think, because 27 of 42 times that a World Series was tied 2-2 (65.9 percent), the team that won Game 5 won the title.
Whatever you think it means, the Rangers are now within one win of their first World Series title.
They got there, in part, by not letting Albert Pujols beat them in Game 5. And they did that, in large part, because Washington ordered him intentionally walked him three times.
The only other players to be intentionally walked three times in a World Series game were Barry Bonds, in Game 4 in 2002, and Rudy York, in Game 5 in 1946.
Bonds' Giants and York's Red Sox won those games.
Each of Pujols' intentional walks led to the Cardinals not scoring in the inning, in part because Matt Holliday's struggles continued. Holliday grounded into an inning-ending double play in the third, and also grounded out when Washington put Pujols on first to load the bases with two out in the fifth.
Then, in the seventh inning, Allen Craig was thrown out trying to steal, presumably after misreading a sign. Washington followed that by intentionally walking Pujols with two out and the bases empty.
Washington walked the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera with the bases empty in the American League Championship Series, in the inning that ended with Nelson Cruz's great throw to the plate.
Posted on: October 11, 2011 11:14 pm
DETROIT -- The Tigers are back in this series.
Now, can they stay healthy enough to have a chance to win it?
It was another wild night in the American League Championship Series on Tuesday, and at the end of it the Tigers had their first win. They trail the Rangers two games to one, with a chance to tie the series in Game 4 Wednesday, and with ace Justin Verlander returning for Game 5 Thursday.
Not only that, but Miguel Cabrera's bat looks healthier than it has in days, after a tie-breaking double in the fifth and a towering home run in the seventh.
Speaking of health . . .
Victor Martinez strained an oblique muscle while hitting a home run -- and stayed in the game. Delmon Young, who was off the roster and then back on with an oblique strain, was scratched from the original lineup when he was too sore to play.
Oh, and Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre could barely walk after fouling multiple pitches off his knee and lower leg -- and stayed in the game.
The Rangers depend on Beltre, but at least they have other healthier middle-of-the-order hitters.
With Brennan Boesch and Magglio Ordonez out for the year, with Young more questionable than ever and with Martinez suddenly questionable as well, the Tigers may not.
But they're back in this series, because of Cabrera, because Martinez and Jhonny Peralta also homered (the franchise's first three-homer postseason game since the 1984 World Series), and in large part because of starter Doug Fister, who allowed just two runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Fister is healthy. Cabrera is, too.
Are there enough healthy Tigers around them?
Posted on: July 3, 2011 3:34 pm
For all the complaints about fan voting, how much different would the All-Star lineups look if the players picked them instead?
In the National League, the players and fans agreed on the starter at all eight positions. In the American League, they agreed at six of the nine spots (including designated hitter).
The only differences were at shortstop (fans took Derek Jeter, players took Asdrubal Cabrera), third base (fans took Alex Rodriguez, players took Adrian Beltre) and at the third and final outfield spot (fans took Josh Hamilton, players took Jacoby Ellsbury).
A few other All-Star items of note:
-- The late votes helped, with four changes in the final week of voting (all four going in favor of someone the players voted for). Alex Avila (over Russell Martin), Prince Fielder (over Albert Pujols), Jose Reyes (over Troy Tulowitzki) and Matt Kemp (over Matt Holliday) won the fan vote, after trailing with a week to go.
-- As always, there will be changes in the rosters this week. Some are almost guaranteed, as five All-Stars (Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, James Shields, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez) are scheduled as of now to pitch next Sunday. They'll remain on the All-Star team, but will be ineligible to pitch, and another pitcher will be added to the team in place of each one. You can almost bet that there will be more changes, because of injuries.
-- As of now, here are the other 25 pitchers scheduled to start Sunday: Derek Lowe, Chris Volstad, Jordan Zimmermann, Ramon Ortiz, Mike Pelfrey, Ted Lilly, Edinson Volquez, Jaime Garcia, Brett Myers, Paul Maholm, Randy Wolf, Zach Duke, Tim Stauffer, Matt Harrison, Jon Lester, Brett Cecil, CC Sabathia, Carlos Carrasco, Scott Baker, Dan Haren, Trevor Cahill, Felipe Paulino, Jake Peavy and either Alfredo Simon or Mitch Atkins.
-- For all the talk of how New York dominates the voting, only two New York players have ever been the leading overall vote-getter. Darryl Strawberry of the Mets led in 1986, and Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees led in both 2007 and 2008. Only one Red Sox (David Ortiz in 2005) has led, and no Phillie has ever led. Jose Bautista is the first Blue Jay to lead, and the Blue Jays are the 20th different franchise to have an overall vote leader. No team has had more than two, but a Mariner has led in eight different years (five by Ken Griffey Jr., three by Ichiro Suzuki).
-- The 10 franchises that have never had an overall vote-leader: Rockies, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Phillies, Marlins, Astros, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Rays.
-- The Yankees still ended up with the most All-Stars (barring final-week changes), with six. The Phillies, Braves, Giants and Tigers had four apiece. But what might be more surprising is that 14 of the 30 teams had only one All-Star picked on Sunday.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 8:45 pm
Edited on: January 21, 2011 9:36 pm
Remember when I said the Angels had to do something big, that they had to land someone big, that if they didn't get Carl Crawford and they didn't get Adrian Beltre, they had to get someone big?
Maybe I was wrong.
The Angels just got someone big, someone who hit 31 home runs last year, someone who has been on the All-Star team three times. After a winter in which the Angels seemed to fear every big contract, the Angels just got someone with one of the biggest contracts in the game.
And it's hard to get away from the thought that they were better off when they were doing nothing.
Now they've traded Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells, and the question people in baseball were asking Friday night was, "Why?" Or, more accurately, "WHY????"
Wells was once a good player, but he's now 32 years old and still has four years and $86 million remaining on a contract that until Friday was considered one of the most untradeable in the game. And the Angels, incredibly, took on the entire $86 million (although they'll save about $11 million on Rivera and Napoli).
The Angels are obviously convinced that Wells' 2010 season (31 home runs, an .847 OPS and stunning home-road splits) is the sign of a mid-career bounceback, and maybe a sign that Wells' earlier problems were a result of a wrist problem (see colleague Scott Miller's column from last May).
But what if it isn't?
Any big free agent is a risk. Any big trade is a risk. But as Scott said when I told him of the trade Friday night, this one feels like a slugger who has been striking out all night and goes up in the late innings and just swings wildly for the fences.
Maybe the Angels hit a home run with Wells. Just as likely, it's just another strikeout -- and a hugely expensive strikeout, at that.
Crawford would have been a risk, too, but he would have helped change an Angels offense that has gotten older and less athletic as the years have gone on. Wells, who is 32 and signed through 2014, does none of that.
He gives the Angels a guy who once led the league with 49 doubles -- but that was eight years ago, when he was 24. He gives a guy who has three 100-RBI seasons -- but the last of those was five years ago, when he was 27.
He's a big name, and the Angels will have an easier time saying they've made a splash with this move (unlike in December, when general manager Tony Reagins said he'd made one by signing middle reliever Hisanori Takahashi).
But it's hard to get away from the thought that this splash will hit them right between the eyes.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 2:42 pm
So Adrian Beltre is headed for Texas . Anyone want to hear what Arte Moreno has to say now?
It doesn't really matter what the Angels owner says now, does it? It doesn't matter if he says again that he's going to spend whatever it takes to put the Angels back in the playoffs (that was October ). It doesn't matter whether he says that he couldn't sign Carl Crawford because he would have had to raise ticket prices, but that he had made "what we believe is a significant offer" to Beltre (that was December ).
It doesn't matter now, because Crawford is in Boston, and Beltre's deal is all but done in Texas.
It doesn't matter, because now not only have the Angels shown they're not prepared to compete financially with the big boys, but they've shown they can't even compete financially with the big boys in their own division.
There's still more than a month to go to spring training, which means that theoretically there's still time for the Angels to salvage their winter. But while there's still time, the shelves are now bare.
Beltre was the last significant position-player free agent on the market. The top pitchers still available, closer Rafael Soriano and starter Carl Pavano, are not high-impact guys (and Pavano doesn't fit the Angels, anyway).
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times suggested that the Angels' next move could be a reunion with Vladimir Guerrero, the designated hitter they discarded last year because they thought he was too old. He'll be 36 by spring training.
Guerrero had a bounceback year with the Rangers, but there's little question that the Rangers are better off with Beltre at third base and Michael Young as the designated hitter. Beltre improves them defensively, and he could be an offensive upgrade as well (although Guerrero did drive in 115 runs).
For the Rangers, Beltre is a nice consolation prize, after they tried and failed to re-sign Cliff Lee. By signing him, the Rangers improve their team, but also prove to an newly energized fan base that they plan to compete in the winter as well as they did in the summer.
That's more bad news for the Angels, who for so long considered the American League West to be theirs.
With Kendry Morales coming back from the injury that cost him much of the 2010 season (and cost the Angels their best chance to compete), the Angels could have been division favorites had they signed Crawford, or even Beltre.
They're still not a bad team, but all the momentum in the West now belongs to the Rangers. Even the A's -- and remember, they finished ahead of the Angels last year, too -- have gotten a little bit better this winter.
They've signed Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi. And their owner has done a lot of talking.
Maybe he'll give another interview this week.
Unless it's to announce a big-time move (and at this point, what could that be?), I don't care.
Posted on: December 17, 2010 5:28 pm
A few days after the Angels ended their disappointing season at 80-82, owner Arte Moreno told the Los Angeles Times that he was angry enough to take action.
"We know where our weaknesses are, we know where we are thin, we know where we have to go to market," Moreno said to columnist Bill Plaschke. "It's going to cost money, but our fans need to know what we're committed to winning."
Today, Moreno told the Times that the Angels never actually made an offer to Carl Crawford, because the price was too high (Crawford signed with the Red Sox for seven years and $142 million), because the agents never really gave the Angels a chance and because he didn't want to raise ticket prices.
Plaschke reported in October that Moreno was vowing to "spend whatever it took to return his team to the playoffs."
And now in December, Moreno explains the Angels' lack of a big offseason move (so far) by talking about "smart business."
He said that the Angels have now made "what we believe is a significant offer" for free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre. Maybe they'll sign Beltre. Maybe they'll even sign Rafael Soriano, too.
But the fact of the matter is that for yet another winter, the Angels lost out on the player that they themselves had identified as their top target (in this case, Crawford).
I guess it's "smart business" to sound as disappointed and angry as your fans are. And maybe it's "smart business" to stay away from some of this winter's free spending.
But I'll also say now what I said when the Winter Meetings ended a week ago in Orlando: If the Angels want to compete with the big boys of the American League come October, they're going to need to find a way to compete with them in the winter, too.
And if Moreno wants to talk about how committed to winning he really is, at some point he's going to need to step up and prove it.
Posted on: September 2, 2008 11:40 am
It's just not nearly as rare as it once was.
A decade ago, a cycle was nearly as rare as a no-hitter. Through 1999, modern baseball had seen 204 cycles, 202 no-hitters.
Since then: 38 cycles, 12 no-hitters.
I'm not sure it means anything. Sure, we're in an era that favors hitters, but wasn't that also true in the 1990's? And yet, there were more no-hitters than cycles in the '90s (31-24).
A little cycle trivia: The Padres have been playing for 30 years, and yet they've never had anyone hit for the cycle. Neither Tampa Bay nor Florida has had a cycle hitter, either. And the Tigers once went 43 years (1950-93, or George Kell to Travis Fryman) without anyone hitting for the cycle.