Tag:Ian Kennedy
Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:00 am

3 to Watch: The White Sox crisis edition

If the White Sox somehow find their way back into the race in the American League Central, will Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams stop fighting long enough to enjoy it?

Should they?

Sometimes it feels like the White Sox only play well when they're in crisis. Sure enough, they've won seven of their last 10, during a stretch that included Guillen's strange demand for a contract extension and also, according to sources, a nasty pregame confrontation between Williams and one of Guillen's coaches.

Sometimes it seems that if things get ugly enough off the field, the White Sox respond by avoiding ugly play on the field.

The Sox are still 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers, which means they probably need to win at least five of the six remaining head-to-head meetings to have any chance at a miracle run.

The White Sox get their first chance this weekend in Detroit, with three meetings Sept. 12-14 in Chicago. Neither team's schedule is particularly taxing otherwise, which is better news for the Tigers, as the team holding a significant lead.

If there were close races elsewhere, we'd barely acknowledge Tigers-White Sox. But five of the eight playoff spots are basically wrapped up, and baseball is in real danger of a September without drama.

If you want a pennant race, root for the second-place Giants this weekend against the first-place Diamondbacks, who lead San Francisco by six games. And if you like your drama on and off the field, root for the White Sox against the Tigers.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The next seven days might be the most crucial remaining stretch in the American League West, even though the first-place Rangers and second-place Angels will be on opposite coasts. The Rangers have six games at Boston and at Tampa Bay, which could give the Angels (six home games against the Twins and Mariners) a chance to eat into their 3 1/2-game deficit. It begins for Texas with Rangers at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. It could also be an interesting night for the Red Sox, who are starting to believe that Andrew Miller could help them in some role in the playoffs. Miller, the 6-foot-7 left-hander, shut out the Rangers for 6 1/3 innings last week in Texas.

2. The Diamondbacks have won nine in a row, and as everyone in Arizona no doubt knows by now, club president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers vowed to shave their heads if the team ever won 10 straight. That could happen Friday night, when Joe Saunders faces Matt Cain. But the most interesting pitching matchup of the weekend comes a day later, in Diamondbacks at Giants, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Ian Kennedy, a Cy Young candidate this year, faces Tim Lincecum, a Cy candidate every year.

3. The presence of Justin Verlander in the Tiger rotation makes it unlikely they'll lose enough games to blow a 5 1/2-game lead. But if the Tigers are to truly be dangerous in the playoffs, they'd likely need Max Scherzer to find some consistency, as well. Scherzer has a 1.64 ERA in three starts this year against the White Sox, but he gave up seven runs in three innings Monday night against the Royals. Scherzer faces Mark Buehrle in White Sox at Tigers, Sunday night (8:09 ET) at Comerica Park.

Posted on: August 17, 2011 8:59 pm

With Arizona winning, Upton is in MVP race

PHILADELPHIA -- Kirk Gibson has pushed the idea that the Diamondbacks could be like his 1988 Dodgers, that they could win without big stars.

They are winning. But Justin Upton is turning into a big star.

"He's got to be an MVP candidate," Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz said Wednesday. "Just like Ian Kennedy's got to be a Cy Young candidate."

Kennedy is 15-3 with a 3.12 ERA, which should put him in the running but probably leaves him trailing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and perhaps even Clayton Kershaw in the National League Cy Young race.

But Upton? Putz is right. If the Diamondbacks hold onto their surprising lead in the NL West, their 23-year-old right fielder would have a real chance at becoming one of the youngest players ever to win the Most Valuable Player award.

He won't be the youngest. Fred Lynn was 23 when he was both the MVP and the rookie of the year with the 1975 Red Sox. Upton turns 24 next week.

But Albert Pujols didn't win his first MVP until he was 25. Barry Bonds didn't win until he was 26. Alex Rodriguez was 28 the first time he won.

Entering play Wednesday, Upton led the league in doubles, total bases and extra-base hits. He had a .305 batting average, 25 home runs, 75 RBI and a .939 OPS.

"He's a difference-maker," bench coach Alan Trammell said.

"We've been playing well, and he's been pushing the train," said Chris Young.

There are other big candidates. Both Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun of the Brewers have huge numbers. Matt Kemp has had a great year with the Dodgers, although he'll lose votes because his team hasn't been in the race.

But if the Diamondbacks win the division, Upton certainly has a chance, whether he wants to hear it or not.

"I just brush it off," he said. "I want to get this team to the playoffs, whether it's with me doing it or someone else, just get there."

Posted on: August 14, 2011 7:48 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:58 pm

3 to Watch: The Giant series in Atlanta edition

Before they were champions, the Giants were just trying to get out of Turner Field with their season still alive.

They trailed the Braves by a run with two out in the ninth inning of Game 3, an out away from going down in the series two games to one and facing elimination the following night. In 27 2/3 innings against Braves pitching, they had scored just five earned runs.

In their entire magical month, the Giants would never come closer to going home disappointed.

They made it out of Atlanta, thanks to a big hit from Aubrey Huff and a couple of big errors from Brooks Conrad, and then an Alex Gonzalez error and a Cody Ross hit the following night.

They went on to win it all, and they never came as close to elimination as they were on that Sunday night at Turner Field.

The Giants are back in Atlanta this week, and while it's an exaggeration to say that they need to save their season again, they certainly aren't coasting back to the playoffs. With 11 losses in their last 16 games, the Giants have allowed the Diamondbacks to grab a two-game lead in the National League West.

If they get to October, the Giants could well run into the Braves again (although based on the standings after the weekend, the NL West winner would open against the Phillies). They'd face a different Braves team than the one they beat last October, because Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens missed that series with injuries, and Dan Uggla and Michael Bourn weren't yet with the Braves.

Even so, the Giants only outscored Atlanta 11-9 in the four playoff games, and just eight of the Giants' 11 runs were earned. The Giants hit .212 with a .583 OPS in the series.

They won, and they went on to win it all.

But they'll never forget those nights at Turner Field.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. At the July 31 deadline, the Braves refused to trade any of their four big pitching prospects. Now two of the four are in the big leagues, and a third -- Randall Delgado -- will arrive in time to start in Giants at Braves, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Turner Field. The 21-year-old Delgado has made just two starts in Triple-A, but he won both and didn't give up a run in either of them. Delgado made a spot start for the Braves earlier this year, losing to the Rangers. He joines Mike Minor in the rotation (Minor will face Tim Lincecum on Thursday), while Arodys Vizcaino is in the bullpen, and Julio Teheran (who made two spot starts earlier in the year remains in Triple-A.

2. Justin Verlander, who won his 100th game last Thursday in Cleveland, has the most wins of any active pitcher under 30. No surprise there. But did you realize that Ervin Santana is second, with 85? And did you realize that Santana's ERA since the All-Star break is 1.09, the best of any big-league starter? Santana makes his most important start yet, facing C.J. Wilson in Rangers at Angels, Wednesday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. The Rangers, who led the second-place Angels by just one game a week ago, opened up a four-game lead on Sunday, heading into the four-game series that begins Monday night.

3. Santana has the best ERA in baseball since the All-Star break. Ian Kennedy has the most wins, with six (to go with a 2.14 ERA). Kennedy and the surprising Diamondbacks get a big test this week, with a trip that will take them to Philadelphia (where they'll see both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee) and to Atlanta. Kennedy faces Vance Worley in Diamondbacks at Phillies, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

Posted on: July 3, 2011 5:11 pm

D-Backs, Rays team up on final vote

I loved the "Punch A.J." campaign the White Sox ran to get A.J. Pierzynski elected as the final All-Star in 2006.

But now, it seems, it's all about teaming up.

The Diamondbacks and Rays announced Sunday that they'll work together to try to get votes for Ian Kennedy of Arizona and Ben Zobrist of Tampa Bay.

It's the same thing the Phillies and Tigers did two years ago, when their "Bran-Torino" campaign succeeded in getting both Shane Victorino and Brandon Inge voted into the game. It's the same thing the Reds and Red Sox did last year, when they succeeded in getting Joey Votto elected, but saw Kevin Youkilis lose out to Nick Swisher.

Can it work for Arizona and Tampa Bay?

It might be tough, based on voting history. Neither the Rays nor the Diamondbacks did well in the overall fan balloting. Neither team had a player elected. Maybe if they can come up with a snappy slogan, that would help.

Kennedy is up against Victorino, Michael Morse, Andre Ethier and Todd Helton in the NL. Zobrist is facing Alex Gordon, Adam Jones, Paul Konerko and Victor Martinez in the AL.

Voting continues through 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, at mlb.com.
Posted on: May 29, 2011 8:59 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2011 9:15 pm

3 to Watch: The first-place Diamondbacks edition

Nobody ever remembers who was in first place on Memorial Day, and for good reason.

The last three World Series champions didn't lead their division on Memorial Day. Of the 30 teams that won division titles over the last five years, only 15 were in first place on Memorial Day -- and two of those were only tied for first.

So first place on Memorial Day means nothing?

Well, it's better than first place at the end of April, and we always make a big deal out of that. It's better than first place one week into the season, and we always seem to think that's significant.

In fact, if the Diamondbacks had begun the season 14-2, we'd be calling them the surprise of baseball.

Instead, they've won 14 of their last 16 -- the first team to win 14 of 16 at any point this year -- and they'll reach Monday's Memorial Day meeting with the Marlins as the first-place team in the National League West.

Don't tell them it doesn't mean anything. Before Sunday, the Diamondbacks hadn't held first place since late in the 2008 season.

Don't tell Zach Duke it doesn't mean anything. As outstanding Diamondbacks PR man Shaun Rachau pointed out on Twitter, this is the first time Duke has been on a first-place team at any time after April 10 -- because he spent his first six seasons with the Pirates.

The Pirates have been something of a surprise themselves this year, but they still haven't held first place by themselves for a single day. And they haven't been in first place on Memorial Day since 1991.

A few more facts about the Diamondbacks, and their Kirk Gibson/Kevin Towers-fueled revival:

-- They're 18-9 in May, best in the National League and second only to the Red Sox in the majors.

-- With two games remaining in the month, the D-Backs still have a chance at the third 20-win month in franchise history. And no, neither one came in the 2001 championship season. Arizona went 20-8 in August 1999, and 20-6 in June 2003.

-- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Duke became just the second pitcher ever to throw seven shutout innings and hit a home run in his first game for a team. The other was Jason Jennings, who threw a complete-game shutout and hit a home run in his big-league debut for the Rockies.

-- We shouldn't forget that Towers built the bullpen that helped the Padres to their surprise 2010 season (although he wasn't there to enjoy it). Now, Towers has rebuilt a Diamondbacks bullpen that was a major-league laughingstock in 2010. Arizona's bullpen ERA is 3.33, which isn't anywhere close to last year's 5.74.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Diamondbacks were one of baseball's best teams in May. Anibal Sanchez was one of baseball's best pitchers, with a 3-0 record and 1.53 ERA for the month. So it's fitting matchup for the final day of May, with Sanchez starting for Florida in Marlins at Diamondbacks, Tuesday night (9:40 ET) at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks starter is Ian Kennedy, who is 3-0 with a 2.02 ERA in May.

2. The last time the Rangers saw the Rays, they were facing David Price in Game 5 of the American League Division Series. That night in St. Petersburg, the Rangers had Cliff Lee on their side, and they won. The Rangers will see Price again, in Rangers at Rays, Wednesday afternoon (1:40 ET) at Tropicana Field. No Lee, but Colby Lewis will start for Texas. One thing in the Rangers' favor: Wednesday is June 1, and June was Josh Hamilton's month last year (.454, 9 home runs, 31 RBI).

3. The Pirates haven't been in first place, but they have been significantly better than they were last year -- especially on the road. Last year, they were just the third team in the last 50 years to fail to win 20 games on the road, joining the 1962 and '63 Mets. The Pirates went 17-64, matching the '63 Mets for the worst road record in the 162-game era. The Pirates are 15-13 on the road this year, heading to New York for a series that includes Pirates at Mets, Wednesday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field. Their starter Wednesday is Kevin Correia, who leads the majors with six road wins. Zach Duke led the 2010 Pirates in road wins, with three.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com