Tag:Chris Carpenter
Posted on: October 29, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Best game ever? How about best month ever?

The Yankees don't think it was such a great month. The Phillies are sure it wasn't a great month.

Oh, and the Red Sox? No, the last 31 days weren't exactly pleasant for them.

But it sure was great for the rest of us, the best month of baseball most of us have seen, or will see, in our lifetimes.

If it gets better than this, I won't complain. But I'm not planning on it.

We had the best single regular-season night ever, on the final night of the regular season, and maybe the best game ever, on the next-to-last night of the World Series.

We had so many great games that the best individual offensive performance in World Series history barely makes the list. So many that Chris Carpenter's three-hit 1-0 shutout in a winner-take-all Game 5 wasn't even his most important performance of the month.

This is the third year now that I've written a postseason recap, and it's the first time that the best game of the month wasn't the first game I saw. Nothing against Tigers-Twins (Game 163 in 2009) or Roy Halladay's no-hitter (Division Series 2010), but it's a better month when the drama builds.

This month, we saw Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera, Chris Carpenter, Nelson Cruz and David Freese. We saw squirrels. We saw Na-po-li. We saw history.

We saw Game 6.

What a month.

Here's a look back:

Best game: Some people are insisting that Game 6 of the World Series can't be called great, because there were physical errors early and possible managerial errors late. Sorry, but that's ridiculous. So it wasn't the best-played game ever. Fine. It had thrills, it had drama, it had plenty to second-guess, it had great performances and gritty performances. You go ahead and say it wasn't perfect. I'm going to say it was the best game I've ever seen.

Best moment: The flashbulbs going off when Albert Pujols batted in the seventh inning of Game 7 were great. Yes, it could have been his final Cardinals at-bat. But the best moment of the postseason -- Pujols' best moment -- was when he called time out to allow the Miller Park crowd to honor Prince Fielder, who very, very likely was stepping to the plate for his final Brewers at-bat.

Best chant: In the end, maybe this wasn't the Year of the Napoli, after all. But it sure was the month of the "Na!-Po!-Li!" at Rangers Ballpark. Mike Napoli became such an instant hero that I saw a Rangers fan who had altered his year-old Cliff Lee jersey, adding "Na-po" above the "Lee."

Best crowd: It was incredibly loud all month in Texas. It was louder than ever in St. Louis for the final outs of Game 7. But everyone who was at Miller Park this month came back raving about the atmosphere and the Brewers' fans (and everyone who was at Chase Field said there was barely any atmosphere for the Diamondbacks' two home games).

Best player: Tough call. Freese was a revelation, and not just in the World Series. Cabrera was outstanding. So was Ryan Braun. But Pujols was the guy I'll remember most, from his great defensive play against the Phillies to his historic three-homer game against the Rangers.

Best movie review: Moneyball took a beating every time Cardinals manager Tony La Russa took to the podium. La Russa went to see the movie the night Game 6 was rained out, and the next night he said that it "strains the credibility a little bit." La Russa, like others, complained about the portrayal of scouts, and about the lack of mentions of Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. "That club was carried by those guys that were signed, developed the old-fashioned way," La Russa said. "That part wasn't enjoyable, because it's a nice story but it is not accurate enough."

Most disappointing team: The Red Sox. The Phillies didn't make it out of the first round. Neither did the Yankees, who then apologized to their fans for their "failure." But Boston's collapse was so bad that it led to the departure of the manager and general manager who broke the curse. The Red Sox will recover, but they'll never be the same.

Best prediction: It's well established by now that I can't pick winners. But when the postseason began, I jokingly wrote that every series would go the distance. Turned out I was almost right, as 38 of a possible 41 games were required. Three of the four Division Series went the distance (and none were sweeps). Both League Championship Series went six games. And the World Series went seven, for the first time in nine years. Oh, and I even picked the World Series winner, Cardinals in 7, even if I did it because Rangers officials demanded that I pick against them.

Five who helped themselves: 1. Pujols. I'm not saying it makes a difference in his final free-agent price, but a great postseason reminded all of us how good he really is.

2. John Mozeliak. You think Cardinals fans will finally admit that it was a good idea to trade Colby Rasmus to help this team win now?

3. Mike Napoli. The Angels traded this guy for Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays then traded this guy for Frank Francisco. The Rangers will not be trading him.

4. Ryan Braun. MVP voting includes only the regular season, and not the postseason. But anyone who chose Braun over Matt Kemp in the National League race had to be happy to see him hit .405 with a 1.182 OPS in October.

5. David Freese. He was the best story of the month, the hometown kid who quit baseball after high school, and came back to become the World Series MVP. Now everyone knows him.

Five who hurt themselves: 1. C.J. Wilson. He's still going to get overpaid on the free-agent market, but imagine how much he might have gotten if he'd had a good October, instead of a lousy one.

2. CC Sabathia. He's still going to get a great new contract, too, but imagine how much he might have gotten if his postseason ERA was 1.23, instead of 6.23 (and if his waist size didn't expand just as fast).

3. Cliff Lee. The team he left went to the World Series without him. And the team he couldn't beat in Game 2, after his teammates gave him a 4-0 lead, went on to win the World Series.

4. Alex Rodriguez. Two years ago, he had a nice October and shed the label of postseason choker. This year, he went 2-for-18 against the Tigers and appeared on the back page of the New York Post as one of the Three Stooges (along with Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira).

5. Tony La Russa (for about 48 hours). I'm guessing Cardinals fans will now totally forgive him for the phone/noise/bullpen mess from Game 5. He's now the guy who has won two World Series in St. Louis, to go with the one he won in Oakland. Still one of the very best managers in the game -- in the history of the game, that is.


Posted on: October 26, 2011 6:27 pm
 

Rainout edge, if any, goes to the Rangers

ST. LOUIS -- Will Chris Carpenter start for the Cardinals if the World Series goes to Game 7?

I'm not sure about that, but I do know that Alexi Ogando, Mike Adams and the rest of the strong Rangers bullpen is better rested and more prepared now that a rainout delayed Game 6 by a day.

"That's a huge advantage for us," Adams said Wednesday. "It can only help us. We've pitched a lot, and now [on Thursday], we'll be fully rested.

"Any day of rest, we'll take it."

And more rest for the talented but heavily worked Rangers pen makes the rainout a slight advantage for Texas, no matter whether it puts Carpenter in play for Game 7 or not.

The Rangers will also have starters Derek Holland and C.J. Wilson available out of the bullpen for Thursday's rescheduled Game 6, as well as for a Game 7, if needed, on Friday. Manager Ron Washington repeated Wednesday, for the third straight day, that Matt Harrison will remain his Game 7 starter.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, for the third straight day, was mum on his Game 7 plans. He said he discussed it with pitching coach Dave Duncan, but that they opted not to make a decision until after Game 6.

"[They'll] want a probable," La Russa said. "Bob Gibson's here, so we'll send Bob."

With the schedule pushed back a day, Carpenter becomes a possibility, but the Cardinals ace would be starting on three days' rest. He has started on short rest just once in his career, in Game 2 of this year's Division Series against the Phillies, and he allowed four runs in three innings.

The recent history of starters used on short rest isn't good.

"I was told by Carp he'd be ready to go," La Russa said.

It's possible that La Russa could stick with Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse as his starter for a Game 7, with Carpenter available at the first sign of trouble. By doing it that way, he could shorten the innings Carpenter would be asked to throw on short rest.

La Russa said Wednesday that he expects Game 4 starter Edwin Jackson to be available in the bullpen for Game 6. As for Carpenter's availability out of the bullpen Thursday, La Russa hedged.

"No chance," he said, before pausing and then adding, "little chance."

La Russa said that in his opinion, the rainout won't be a factor in who wins the World Series.

"I don't think it adds anything to our competitive chances, or theirs," he said.

If the Cardinals win Game 6, Washington will no doubt face another round of questions on starting Holland, who was brilliant in the Rangers' 4-0 Game 4 win. Don't expect Washington to make a change, though.

"Harrison is my seventh game pitcher," he said emphatically. "I am not changing the things we've done all year. That's why we're here."

Washington knows that as good as Holland looked on Sunday night, the 25-year-old left-hander's season was marked by inconsistency. Remember, this is a guy who threw a four-hit shutout on July 30 in Toronto, then followed it up five days later by getting knocked out in the second inning against the Indians.

Besides, Washington believes that the best thing a manager can do is to show his players a consistent front, and not be seen to be uncertain or panicky. He chose Harrison before the World Series began to start Games 3 and 7, and he won't change because Holland outpitched Harrison the first time around.

The Rangers players don't expect him to.

"Harry's been a massive part of our team," Michael Young said Wednesday. "He's earned it. But that's getting ahead of ourselves."

Up three games to two in the Series, the Rangers would obviously prefer that there isn't a Game 7.

They also would have preferred that Game 6 wasn't rained out. But if there's any advantage that comes from the rainout, I'm saying it goes to Texas -- Carpenter or no Carpenter.


Posted on: October 26, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 6:50 pm
 

After 51 years, the Rangers know how to wait

ST. LOUIS -- Wednesday was gray and gloomy at Busch Stadium. The weather forecast for Game 6 of the World Series? Ugly.

Kind of like most of the Rangers' franchise history.

They were born 51 years ago as the second Washington Senators, the second coming of a team that wasn't exactly successful the first time around. They moved to Texas just 11 years later, and played in a glorified minor-league ballpark for 22 years after that.

They never won a playoff series until last year, their 50th season. Their biggest-ever free agent signing was Alex Rodriguez, and it was basically a disaster.

They built this World Series team while in bankruptcy court.

"If people knew what has transpired over the last four years, it's an amazing story," franchise icon and club president Nolan Ryan said a few days back. "It's a phenomenal story."

And now that story includes a rainout that pushes back the Rangers' first-ever potential World Series clincher.

Perfect.

These guys already understand what it means to wait.

After all they've been through, one more day is hardly going to affect them.

"It's not like we're going to sit here and bite our nails," Michael Young said. "It's just a rainout."

Young, a Ranger since 2000, sets the tone in the Texas clubhouse. He knows what they've been through, knows what the organization has been through.

"I'm definitely appreciative of where we are," he said. "It's a lot of fun to be part of the group that has taken this organization where it hadn't been."

Young and the other Rangers players say that even they don't know the entire story of the bankruptcy, which forced Major League Baseball to basically take the team over from Tom Hicks, and then oversaw the sale to the ownership group that runs the Rangers now.

"I appreciate the bigger picture," manager Ron Washington said. "I really appreciate that Nolan Ryan and the guys, they kept it out of the clubhouse."

But even if they didn't know the details, the Rangers players couldn't escape everything going on around them.

"This organization has been through a lot," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It's my sixth year, and there's been lots of ups and downs just in my six years."

Part of that, Kinsler said, was simply changing the image of a franchise that had never won big. There was a sense of the Rangers as a team that could never pitch enough to win, or as a team that would fall apart after summers spent in the Texas heat.

"A lot of it was labeling," Kinsler said. "We were labeled as a team that just hit, a team in a hitters' park. The label was that we were so one-dimensional. To be able to turn that, change that, I think is huge."

They've changed it so much that they've been in the World Series two straight years, and that now they're within one win of a championship.

"We've been on quite a run," Kinsler said. "We've been the dominant team in the American League the last two seasons."

They've built something good, and they know it. They've built something that no one else could build with this franchise, through half a century, through Washington and then Texas.

They've built it, and now they'll wait one more day for Game 6, which stands as the biggest game this franchise has ever played.

They can wait another day.

And, oh, Nolan Ryan is right. It is a phenomenal story.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:48 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 12:14 pm
 

Bullpens are great, but in WS starters matter

ST. LOUIS -- The World Series managers announced their starting pitchers Tuesday.

They didn't say who will pitch the sixth inning.

Or the fifth, for that matter.

Yeah, that was a joke, a weak one, but one even the Cardinals and Rangers starters themselves are telling after two playoff rounds that at least temporarily changed the way we look at starters.

No Cardinal starter went past the fifth inning against the Brewers. No Rangers starter has thrown a pitch in the seventh inning this entire postseason.

It's enough to make you forget that both these teams had decent to good rotations during the regular season. It's enough to make you forget that the Cardinals only got through the first round because of the best-pitched game of the playoffs so far -- Chris Carpenter's three-hit shutout in Game 5 against the Phillies.

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These two bullpens are good, and these two managers aren't afraid to use them. But it's not as if they're hoping to use them early.

Really, it isn't.

"No, we haven't completely changed the game," Cardinals Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse said with a chuckle. "We're not going with 12 relievers. But I was joking about that the other day, that we're not really starters."

The Rangers rotation actually had the third-best ERA in the American League in the regular season (3.65), behind only the Rays and the Angels. The Cardinals rotation was middle of the pack, eighth in the 16-team National League at 3.81.

Both were much better over six months than they've been over the last three weeks (5.43 for the Cardinals, 5.62 for the Rangers).

"Their starting staff, by the way, is no joke," the Cardinals' Skip Schumaker said Tuesday.

Both teams are staying with the same four starters they've used through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Cardinals will go with Carpenter in Game 1, followed by Jaime Garcia, Lohse and Edwin Jackson. The Rangers have announced C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis for the first two games, but haven't yet said whether Derek Holland or Matt Harrison will start Game 3 (the other would go in Game 4).

Lewis and Wilson are the only Rangers starters who have gone past the fifth inning in this postseason, with Lewis pitching into the sixth inning twice, and Wilson doing it once.

"Trust me, we like the attention we're getting in the bullpen, but we'd love for those guys to give us seven or eight strong innings," Rangers reliever Mike Adams said. "I would love to see one of these guys go eight."

The Cardinals feel the same way.

"I told someone that it's nice to know that next year I only have to go five, with the bullpen going four," injured Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright said. "But you take the ball with the intention of throwing the last pitch. There is some solace in knowing that if you don't, the bullpen has got your back."

In this postseason, the bullpen has had the back end of the game, and in too many cases the front end of the game, too.

In the World Series, don't be shocked if that changes.

"I really think the key is going to be the starters," Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said. "And both sides have very capable starters."


Posted on: October 7, 2011 11:07 pm
 

Cardinals head to NLCS -- and not the Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- The Cardinals were a deserving playoff team, and now they're a deserving second-round playoff team.

But what the heck happened to the Phillies?

Chris Carpenter was great. This Cardinals team is talented and tough.

But what happened to the Phillies?

Sorry, but for the second straight night, we had a Game 5 that was just as much about the losers as it was about the winners. And if Thursday was a "terrible day" for the Yankees, Friday was much, much worse for the Phillies.

They won more games than anyone. They have more aces than anyone. They sell out every night. They "know how to win."

And they just lost in the first round.

This isn't to take anything at all away from the Cardinals. Their all-Central Division NLCS with the Brewers should be loads of fun, with two teams with tons of history and plenty of animosity.

But what happened to the Phillies?

Sorry to keep coming back to it, but this team was a bigger lock than the Yankees or Red Sox ever were. This team has five straight division titles, and had been in three straight Championship Series.

This team had Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

This team is done. And the Cardinals aren't.

The Cardinals were pronounced done themselves, prematurely as it turned out, when they were 10 1/2 games back in the wild-card race in the waning days of August.

But they started winning, and didn't stop. And the Braves stopped winning.

They still had to play the Phillies, and in the fourth inning last Sunday night, they were down one game to none in the series and 4-0 to Cliff Lee in Game 2.

Ryan Howard, who drove in the first two runs that night, didn't get another hit in the series, and made the final disappointing out of the season for the second straight year. At times, it felt like the Phillies as a team never got another hit, with the exception of the Ben Francisco pinch-hit home run that won Game 3.

Carpenter was brilliant in Friday's Game 5. The Cardinals got a run against Halladay early on, with a Rafael Furcal triple and then a Skip Schumaker double.

The Cardinals had a great night, and a great series.

But what happened to the Phillies?
Posted on: October 5, 2011 8:45 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 9:34 pm
 

Cardinals win sets up 'dream matchup' in Game 5

ST. LOUIS -- The Phillies didn't want or need this tension.

Baseball should love it.

The Phillies and Cardinals are headed to Game 5. That means Roy Halladay is headed for a meeting with Chris Carpenter.

The Phillies didn't want it, because the alternative was celebrating Wednesday night in St. Louis and heading to their fourth straight National League Championship Series. Instead, they'll play Game 5, because the other Roy (Oswalt) gave up a two-run double and a two-run home run to David Freese, and the Cardinals won Game 4, 5-3.

And now it's Halladay vs. Carpenter, in a matchup of ex-Blue Jays teammates who have gone on to win Cy Youngs elsewhere.

Perfect (even if the Phillies don't agree).

"I think it's a dream matchup because the two guys are great," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday afternoon. "They have maintained a relationship. I mean, you can't ask for anything better scripted than that.

"It's as special as it gets."

This Phillies-Cardinals series has already been special, with close games and comebacks. It deserved a Game 5.

And now it gets one.




Posted on: July 22, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 1:03 pm
 

3 to Watch: The legit Pirates edition

The Cardinals are a game out of first-place in the National League Central, and one out of every five games left on their schedule is against the Pirates.

Is that good or bad?

Isn't it great that we're even asking that question?

We are asking it, because even here in late July, we're still asking whether the Pirates -- the first-place Pirates -- are for real. We're still asking if they're just a great story, or if they're more than that.

"They're legit," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

They're 51-45, six games over .500. Or as the skeptics like to point out, six wins over Houston over .500, because if you take out their 12 games against the awful Astros, the Pirates are right at .500 against the rest of the league.

They're 51-45, and if they were in the National League East, that would leave them 10 1/2 games out, and we'd consider them sellers. They'd be 4 1/2 behind the Giants in the National League West, without any real chance of winning.

But they're not in the East and they're not in the West. They're percentage points up on the Brewers and a game up on the Cardinals, who come to Pittsburgh this weekend for a series like none that PNC Park has ever seen.

The games Friday and Saturday are already sold out. The game Sunday is close to selling out.

People are excited, as they should be. The Cardinals are impressed, as they should be.

"Maybe if this were May or June, you might discount teams," Matt Holliday said. "But this is late July."

The Cardinals and Pirates haven't played since the first week of the season, when the Pirates won two of three in St. Louis. The Cardinals scored just seven runs in the entire series.

"I said it then," Lance Berkman said. "If they get pitching like that all year, they'll be tough."

They haven't gotten pitching like that all year, not yet. But they've got pitching like that through 96 games, and they are tough.

"Their young players are into their second or third year, and they have a better idea," La Russa said. "And they've pitched well. It's a very familiar formula.

"And it works."

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Chris Carpenter took the loss in one of those three April games against the Pirates, even though he allowed just one earned run in six innings. It was his first loss to the Pirates in seven years, a span in which he had gone 10-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Carpenter faces Paul Maholm in Cardinals at Pirates, Friday night (7:05 ET) at PNC Park. Carpenter will be followed by Jaime Garcia on Saturday, and Kyle Lohse on Sunday, assuming Lohse's right middle finger cooperates. He was examined by a doctor in St. Louis, and cleared to pitch. For the Pirates, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton will follow Maholm in the rotation.

2. When the Mariners played so well in the first half, general manager Jack Zduriencik's job looked safe. Now the Mariners have lost 12 in a row, and people are asking again whether Zduriencik will survive. The more immediate question is when the Mariners will win a game, now that they're within two of tying the record for the longest losing streak in club history. The best chance might come in Mariners at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, when Felix Hernandez pitches against John Lackey. According to the Mariners, Hernandez has the lowest career ERA at Fenway (1.49) of any pitcher with five or more starts there. On Saturday, in the game that could tie the record, it's Blake Beavan against Josh Beckett.

3. The Twins are going for it in the American League Central, although if they collapse this weekend against the Tigers, maybe they'll change their minds. They lost Thursday night to Justin Verlander, dropping to 0-6 against Detroit this season. The most interesting matchup of the weekend may come in Tigers at Twins, Sunday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Target Field, when Francisco Liriano faces Rick Porcello.




Posted on: June 10, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: June 10, 2011 10:49 am
 

3 to Watch: The CC sees the Indians edition

CC Sabathia won't pitch against the Indians this weekend, so the Yankees left-hander will have plenty of time to go see his ex-teammates.

If he can find any.

It hasn't even been three years since the July 2008 trade that sent Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee to start off the latest Indians rebuilding project. But the lineup from Sabathia's final Cleveland start includes just two players (Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo) who are still with the Indians now.

The current lineup, which has the Indians (barely) holding on to first place in the American League Central, features two players (Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta) who were acquired in the Sabathia trade, another (Carlos Santana) who was acquired in the Casey Blake trade three weeks later, and another who (Asdrubal Cabrera) was acquired in a deal two years earlier when the Indians traded the guy who just became the Marlins hitting coach (Eduardo Perez).

"They seem to be able to trade everyone and start over," Sabathia said this week. "That's what they did when they traded for Cliff [Lee] and Grady [Sizemore]."

He's right. Sabathia was 21 years old and in his second year with the Indians when Cleveland traded Bartolo Colon to Montreal for Lee, Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. That trade built the Indians team that lost to the Red Sox in the 2007 American League Championship Series.

Four years later, Colon is Sabathia's teammate in New York, and the Indians have rebuilt again, with the trades of Sabathia, Lee, Blake and Victor Martinez playing big parts in it. And while it's hard to believe they can hang on to win the AL Central -- their lead over the fast-charging Tigers is down to one game, heading into the weekend -- the young players acquired in those deals have inspired renewed hope for the future.

One part-time Indians fan now pitching for the Yankees is inspired.

"I was excited [earlier this year], and I am excited," Sabathia said. "It's a really good team."

It's an Indians team that needs a few wins, after a 4-11 stretch that has seen Cleveland's division lead drop from seven games down to one.

Sabathia wouldn't go so far as hoping the Indians win this weekend, but after they leave town Monday, you can bet he'll be pulling for them again -- even if all his old friends are gone.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Carlos Zambrano created a stir last week, when he said the Cubs were "playing like a Triple-A team." But scouts who have watched the Cubs recently say Zambrano had truth as his defense. The Cubs have been awful of late, even if Zambrano (2.03 ERA over his last four starts) hasn't. Zambrano has actually outpitched Roy Halladay (3.41) in that span, but Halladay's Phillies won all four of his start, while Zambrano's Cubs won only two of his. Now they meet, in Cubs at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

2. You think Sabathia has a hard time finding ex-teammates who are still in Cleveland? How about Colon? The last time he pitched for the Indians, his manager was Charlie Manuel, his closer was Bob Wickman, and the Indians lineup featured Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Travis Fryman. Oh, and Frank Robinson was in the other dugout, managing the Expos. Colon has faced the Indians eight times since (going 4-3 with a no-decision), and will again in Indians at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

3. If Cardinals-Cubs is the old rivalry in the National League Central, and Cardinals-Reds is the "new rivalry," then what do we call Cardinals-Brewers? They're in first and second place, respectively, they have some history, and they meet this weekend. The matchups even work out, with Zack Greinke facing Chris Carpenter in Cardinals at Brewers, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Miller Park. Greinke has some history with the Cardinals, too. He faced them six times in the I-70 interleague rivalry with the Royals, and hasn't lost to them in four appearances since 2005.


 
 
 
 
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