Tag:Jeremy Hellickson
Posted on: September 25, 2011 11:03 pm
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NL MVP? Give me a day (or three)

I see Scott Miller went with Ryan Braun over Matt Kemp for National League MVP.

Today I agree with him. Yesterday I didn't. Friday I did.

He had to decide today, because our editors demanded a column. I have until Thursday, the day after the regular season ends.

Braun or Kemp?

Their numbers are similar. Braun took his team to the playoffs. Kemp played in a tougher ballpark, and with much less support in the lineup.

I've heard the arguments. I've heard from Kemp fans who say I'm crazy to even consider anyone else, and from Braun fans who want to know how I could vote for someone whose team hasn't played a meaningful game in months.

Normally, I wouldn't. Until last week, I barely considered Kemp as MVP.

He's having a special season. He deserves to be considered.

As of today, I'm not voting for him. Tomorrow, maybe I am.

All that matters is what I think Thursday. And we're not there yet.

As for the other awards:

AL MVP: An equally tough choice, but Scott's right, it's Justin Verlander. No single player has dominated this season the way he has.  I was a Curtis Granderson supporter when September began, I've been swayed by Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, but it's Verlander who should (and likely will) win.

NL Cy Young: I hate to go against Roy Halladay, but I love to go against Scott. So it's Clayton Kershaw, in a very, very close call.

AL Cy Young: I love to go against Scott, but I'm not crazy. It's Verlander, and it's not close.

NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson, and with apologies to Ron Roenicke, who did a fantastic job, it's not close.

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, whether or not his Rays end up in the playoffs.

AL Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson.

NL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel.


Posted on: September 18, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 10:21 pm
 

3 to Watch: The doubleheader edition

BOSTON -- The Yankees don't have enough pitching. The Red Sox don't have enough pitching.

The low-budget Rays? They have enough pitching.

Crazy, isn't it?

If the Yankees or Red Sox had Matt Moore, you can be sure he'd be starting a game this week, with both teams faced with doubleheaders and cramped schedules.

The Rays have Matt Moore, the top pitching prospect who has scouts buzzing almost Strasburg-style. And while manager Joe Maddon talks about possibly starting him sometime in these final 10 days of the season, he's not yet listed among the Rays' probables.

While the Red Sox go into a doubleheader Monday with Kyle Weiland and John Lackey as their scheduled starters, and while the Yankees hope that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia aren't running out of gas (or, in Colon's case, stem cells), the Rays have the most solid rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Yes, part of it was drafting high all those years when they were bad (the same way the Yankees got Derek Jeter). David Price was the first player picked in 2007, and Jeff Niemann was the fourth player picked three years earlier.

But the Rays took Wade Davis in the third round, got rookie of the year candidate Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth round and found Moore, the latest phenom, in the eighth round.

Maybe they just make better decisions, or do a better job developing pitchers.

They do it so well that they could afford to trade Matt Garza last winter, and could deal Niemann or Davis -- or even Shields -- this winter. Shields would be the toughest to let go (far tougher than Garza), but he would also bring by far the most back to a team that needs offense and has little money to pay for it.

First, though, the great rotation has brought the Rays back into the wild-card race, and gives them a chance of winning it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Red Sox were rained out on May 17 against the Orioles and rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader this week, they probably figured it would be simply an annoyance as they prepared for the playoffs. Instead, it's a major headache for a Red Sox team struggling desperately to hold onto a wild-card ticket to the playoffs. And this doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) and night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, doesn't help. The worst part: The Red Sox are stuck starting rookie Kyle Weiland, who has yet to win and has made it past the fourth inning in just one of his four big-league starts. In the other game, they'll go with John Lackey, has the worst ERA of any regular big-league starter.

2. The Giants have won eight in a row, to put off elimination and put a little heat on the first-place Diamondbacks. The Giants are still five games out, but they go to Phoenix this weekend for three games with the D-Backs, so the race isn't over yet. But the Giants, who can't afford to lose, face Clayton Kershaw in Giants at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium. In five starts against the Giants this year, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He'll be going for his 20th win, so he'll be even more motivated. But his opponent, Tim Lincecum, will be pitching to keep the Giants' season alive.

3. While the Red Sox go with Weiland and Lackey in their doubleheader, the Rays will start Shields and Hellickson in Rays at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05) and night (7:05) at Yankee Stadium. Shields leads the majors with 11 complete games, which makes him perfect for a doubleheader. Wednesday should be interesting for the Yankees, too, if not nearly as crucial. Ace CC Sabathia, who is just 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts, goes against Shields, while inconsistent Phil Hughes faces Hellickson.

Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:36 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 12:25 am
 

Do the Rays have a chance? Sure they do

BOSTON -- Do they have a chance?

Yeah, they have a chance.

Do they have a good chance?

Ask again tomorrow.

The Rays looked great Thursday night in winning the opener of their four-game must-win series in Boston, holding the Red Sox to six hits in a 9-2 rout. Boston's lead in the American League wild-card race, which was nine games on the morning of Sept. 3, is now down to three games just 13 days later.

With 13 games remaining in the season -- including three more games this weekend -- of course the Rays have a chance.

And if they beat Josh Beckett on Friday night -- and especially if Beckett doesn't look fully recovered from the ankle injury that cost him a start last week -- then you might say the Rays have a good chance in their improbable run at a playoff spot.

A run, by the way, that they don't consider that improbable.

"I think this is what we expected from the first day of spring training, to be in this race," Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon said Thursday afternoon.

They believe they can win, and they believe they can beat the Red Sox head-to-head, at Fenway Park.

They should. The Rays have won 18 of their last 29 games at Fenway, dating back to 2008 and including the American League Championship Series that year.

This season, the Rays have beaten the Red Sox 10 times in 15 games, and they've now won six in a row.

"Against us, their pitchers have a plan, and they follow through on it," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "They're a hard team to play."

The Red Sox are something of a mess right now. Their lineup is beat up, to the point where Francona said Thursday night that third baseman Kevin Youkilis (hip and sports hernia) won't play Friday.

The starting rotation is worse. The Red Sox had to start rookie Kyle Weiland on Thursday, and he didn't make it out of the third inning. They'll start struggling Tim Wakefield in the final game of the series Sunday.

Compare that to the Rays, who are able to run a solid starter out there every night. Thursday, it was Jeremy Hellickson, a 13-game winner who may well be the American League rookie of the year. Friday, against Beckett, it will be James Shields, who leads the majors with 11 complete games and gave up one run in 8 1/3 innings against the Red Sox last weekend in Florida.

But that's what the Rays are, and that's how they've managed to get this far, after losing Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and their entire bullpen off last year's division winners. They pitch, they play defense, and sometimes, they hit enough.


Posted on: September 11, 2011 10:10 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Let's panic! edition

In the September without pennant races, something strange is developing.

Pennant races.

Real, live pennant races. The kind of races that get you excited, if your team is doing the chasing, or make you nervous, if your team is trying to hold on.

The kind of races that make you . . .

"Hell yeah, you've got to panic," David Ortiz told reporters Sunday, after his Red Sox were swept by the Rays to shrink their wild-card lead to just 3 1/2 games (with the Rays coming to Boston this week for four games).

Panic!

They know the feeling in Texas, where the Rangers once led the Angels by seven games, but were just 1 1/2 games up as of Sunday morning (and back to 2 1/2 games as of Sunday night).

They're starting to feel it in Atlanta, where the Braves once led the wild card by nine games, then ended a bad week with just a 4 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals.

And yes, they know it in Boston, where they panicked at 0-6, and at 2-10. Yeah, they're going to panic, now that one more week like the last one would see them looking up at the Rays in the standings.

Eight days ago, the computers at coolstandings.com said the Sox were 99.6 percent sure to make the playoffs. Now, after seven losses in eight games (including three straight to the Rays), those same (panicking) computers dropped it to 88.2 percent.

Frank Wren knows the feeling. The Braves general manager said he was watching those computer readings a year ago, watching them drop from 95.8 percent to 60.1 percent.

The Braves did make the playoffs, although their spot wasn't guaranteed until the Giants beat the Padres on the final day of the season, three hours after the Braves played their last scheduled game.

It made for a fantastic final weekend, even if it also made for a lot of nervous moments for Wren and for Braves fans.

For baseball's sake, the best thing that can happen now is that the Red Sox-Rays race goes to the final weekend, that the Rangers-Angels race comes down to the two teams' three-game series in Anaheim the final three days of the season, and maybe even that the Cardinals get close enough for the Braves to shout, "Panic!"

Too much to hope for?

Maybe so, but on Labor Day, even one pennant race seemed too much to hope for.

This was the September without pennant races . . . until it wasn't.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Since June 29, the Angels are 16-0 when they've started Jered Weaver or Dan Haren in a home game. That's nice, but it doesn't exactly help them this week, with neither Weaver nor Haren starting in a three-game series -- on the road -- in Oakland. The Angels begin a 10-game trip to Oakland, Baltimore and Toronto with Angels at A's, Monday night (10:05 ET) at the Coliseum, with Joel Pineiro on the mound. The last time the Angels were in Oakland, they lost three of four, allowing the Rangers to increase their AL West lead from 1 1/2 games to four games.

2. Should the Braves be worried that they have rookies starting all three games of the series that ends with Marlins at Braves, Wednesday afternoon (12:05 ET) at Turner Field? Not necessarily. The Braves have lost eight of their last 11, but all three wins in that stretch were started by rookies, including one by Randall Delgado, who starts Wednesday against the Marlins.

3. The Cardinals don't have any games remaining against the Braves (or against the Brewers, who they trail by six games in the NL Central). The Rangers and Angels don't meet until the final three games of the season, by which point we'll either have tons of drama or none of it. But the Rays are in Boston this week, for four games beginning with Rays at Red Sox, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Fenway Park. Unless Tampa Bay stumbles badly in three games before that in Baltimore (and even then, only if the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays at home), this weekend should be interesting. The Rays have Jeremy Hellickson, James Shields, Jeff Niemann and David Price set to go in the series. The Red Sox haven't even announced their starter for Thursday yet, and still don't know whether Josh Beckett will pitch in the series. One last thing to think about (for now) on Rays-Red Sox: If this race goes to the final six days of the season, the Yankees could have a big impact on it, with three games at home against the Sox followed by three at Tampa Bay. Imagine if the Red Sox need the Yankees to beat the Rays for them! Panic!
Posted on: August 13, 2010 10:50 am
Edited on: August 13, 2010 10:55 am
 

3 to watch: The Beat S.D.? edition

In San Francisco, they hate the Dodgers. It's that simple. They hate Dodger Blue. They hate Tommy Lasorda.

In San Diego, they hate the Dodgers. No doubt about it. There's nothing they love to chant more than "Beat L.A.!"

But the Dodgers aren't going to be at AT&T Park this weekend. The Padres are.

The Dodgers aren't leading the Giants by 2 1/2 games in the National League West. The Padres are.

Who knows if Giants-Padres hatred is even possible. Maybe this is the weekend we find out.

Thank you, Jonathan Sanchez.

Sanchez is no Brandon Phillips, but he did "guarantee" that the Giants will sweep the Padres in these three games, and then go on to make the playoffs.

"We're going to play San Diego now and we're going to beat them three times," he said, after losing his last start, Sunday in Atlanta. "If we get to first place, we're not going to look back."

No, it's not exactly "little bitches" material. And he's no Joe Namath.

But it's better than everyone getting together and laughing about the Dodgers being nine games out.

Or is it?

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Padres know how good Sanchez can be, because he no-hit them last year. He hasn't beaten them in four meetings since, but two of those were 1-0 losses to Mat Latos earlier this season. Sanchez may be happy to know that he won't be facing Latos in Padres at Giants, Friday night (10:15 ET) at AT&T Park . Clayton Richard, who has a 6.69 ERA over his last seven starts, will open the series for the Padres, with Latos facing Madison Bumgarner on Saturday, and Wade LeBlanc opposing Tim Lincecum on Sunday.

2. Now this is a rivalry, Cubs and Cardinals. Except that the Cardinals just got done fighting with the Reds, and the Cubs aren't a factor in the National League Central. And Carlos Zambrano, who starts in Cubs at Cardinals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Busch Stadium , has done a lot more to anger Cubs fans than he has to upset Cardinal fans. Chris Carpenter, who played a big part in stirring up the Cardinals-Reds feelings, starts for St. Louis.

3. This is not a rivalry, Orioles and Rays. But with the O's seemingly revived under Buck Showalter, it'll be interesting to see whether they have any effect on the American League East race. Including this weekend, the Orioles have nine games remaining with Tampa Bay, six games left with the Red Sox, and six left with the Yankees. We may know more by the time 24-year-old Jake Arrieta faces 23-year-old Jeremy Hellickson, in Orioles at Rays, Sunday afternoon (1:40 ET) at Tropicana Field .



 
 
 
 
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