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Tag:C.J. Wilson
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: August 11, 2011 11:46 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Thome in Cleveland edition

CLEVELAND -- Jim Thome was playing third base for the Indians the day he hit his first big-league home run.

On the same day Lonnie Chisenhall turned three years old.

Thome left the Indians to sign with the Phillies after the 2002 season.

On the same day the Indians traded for Travis Hafner.

Thome comes back to Cleveland this weekend with 598 home runs, and wouldn't it be great if he gets to 600 during this three-game series at Progressive Field?

He hit his first 334 home runs as an Indian, and his 186 home runs at Progressive Field are still far more than he has hit at any other ballpark (U.S. Cellular is second on his list, with 98).

And that's even though Thome played his first 70 home games at old Cleveland Stadium.

There's no one left on the Indians roster who was a Thome teammate in Cleveland. Chisenhall, now 22, is the Indians third baseman now.

But you know that Cleveland still means more to Thome than anywhere else he has played.

He's hit well on previous returns, going 35-for-114 (.307) in 34 games, with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. He's had three multi-homer games in Cleveland as a visitor.

He needs two in the next three games to get to 600 here, perhaps not likely but certainly not impossible.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Thome has never homered in 16 at-bats against Justin Masterson, the Cleveland starter in Twins at Indians, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Progressive Field. The Indians rearranged their rotation after Masterson went just two innings before a long rain delay knocked him out of his Tuesday night start against the Tigers. Why? That's simple. Masterson has been their best starter this year. "Masterson has been a No. 1 for us," manager Manny Acta said.

2. You never know what C.J. Wilson might say, but did you really expect him to go into his start at Oakland by saying, "I hate pitching there" and that "The players on [the A's] team hate me"? Maybe he'll like the Coliseum more and the A's players will hate him more if he wins in Rangers at A's, Friday night (10:07 ET) at the Coliseum.

3. The Brewers went into the season knowing they had little rotation depth in the minor leagues, but they survived Zack Greinke's injury because Marco Estrada was decent in his place, pitching well enough for the Brewers to win two of his four starts. Estrada last started on May 4, and the Brewers have used just their regular five starters since then. But Chris Narveson's freak injury -- he sliced open his thumb while trying to fix his glove -- has forced Estrada back into the rotation for Pirates at Brewers, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Miller Park. This is one of the Pirates games that Fox picked up for its Saturday game of the week, before the Pirates went into their skid.


Posted on: July 17, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 6:11 am
 

3 to Watch: The streaking Rangers edition

Since 1996, the Yankees have five World Series titles and no 11-game winning streaks.

The Rangers just won 11 in a row for the second straight year.

Since 2003, four teams have had a 12-game winning streak. Three of those four didn't make the playoffs, and the fourth didn't make the World Series.

Winning streaks make you look like you're the best team in baseball. All too often, the long season proves that you're not.

Winning streaks feel like they ought to be important. History shows that all too often, they're not.

So what does all this mean for the Rangers, who have swept the Orioles, A's and Mariners for their 11 straight wins?

Nothing, except that Texas has once again taken command of the American League West race, and has a chance to open up an even bigger gap with three games against the Angels this week in Anaheim.

With the Mariners' collapse -- they've lost nine straight, scoring just 11 runs total -- and with the A's continuing struggles, the Angels are the lone remaining challenger to Texas. And even the Angels have now fallen four games behind.

The Angels are supposed to be the Rangers' opposites. The Rangers are third in the league in runs, while the Angels are fourth from the bottom. The Angels are second in the league in pitching, while the Rangers are . . . moving up.

In fact, if there's anything to take from the 11 straight games they've won, it's that the Rangers' pitching has been outstanding. The team ERA through the 11-game streak is an impressive 2.09 (although maybe the three weak opponents had something to do with that).

Last year, the Rangers' 11-game winning streak came in June, and it was quickly followed by the Cliff Lee trade that turned Texas into a World Series team for the first time. It's hard to know whether this streak will be followed by any kind of impact trade -- or if the Rangers even need that kind of impact deal this year.

All we really know is this: If the Rangers win Tuesday, they'll be the first team since the 2006 Red Sox to win 12 in a row. If they win Tuesday and Wednesday, they'll be the first team since the 2002 A's to win more than 12 in a row (the A's won 20).

And whether the streak ends at 11, 12 or more, we also know that history tells us it's not as important as it seems.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. There's still no game-changer like Lee on the July trade market, but the market did get a lot more interesting with the news that the Rockies would listen on Ubaldo Jimenez. The asking price is admittedly huge -- according to the reliable Jon Heyman of SI.com, the Rockies wanted Manuel Banuelos, Delin Betances, Ivan Nova and Jesus Montero from the Yankees -- but at least there is an asking price. Most likely, Jimenez will make his next scheduled start, in Braves at Rockies, Tuesday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field, but you never know. It's a safer bet that scouts will congregate in Denver, where Derek Lowe is scheduled to start for the Braves a night before Jimenez is scheduled for the Rockies.

2. Rangers manager Ron Washington chose Jered Weaver to start the All-Star Game, but he also agreed to Angels manager Mike Scioscia's request that Weaver pitch only one inning. That enabled Weaver to start Saturday in Oakland (where he won for the 12th time this year), and it also set up Weaver to start against fellow All-Star C.J. Wilson in Rangers at Angels, Thursday afternoon (3:35 ET) at Angel Stadium.

3. I'm still not sure who baseball's best pitcher is -- Verlander? Halladay? Felix? I do know that CC Sabathia is baseball's winningest pitcher (he's 14-4, with wins in each of his last seven starts), and that he's also baseball's hottest pitcher (5-0, 0.45 in his last five starts, with nine walks and 50 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings, with a .449 OPS against). I also know that Sabathia has an All-Star matchup coming up, in Yankees at Rays, Thursday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. And I know that this is the last game of what the Rays saw as a critical 10-game stretch against the Yankees and Red Sox. By Thursday, the Rays figure to have a better idea of whether a run at the playoffs is realistic.


Posted on: June 16, 2011 9:49 pm
 

3 to Watch: The watch CC hit edition

Maybe I'm weird, but I love watching American League pitchers hit.

Read that carefully, because I didn't say I love watching American League pitchers strike out. Or ground weakly back to the mound.

I love it when they hit . . . which doesn't happen often.

But if I could name one highlight from 14-plus years of interleague play, it might be CC Sabathia's 440-foot home run at Dodger Stadium in 2008.

So if there's one thing I'm looking forward to this weekend, as interleague play resumes, it's watching Sabathia hit at Wrigley Field.

I know, he's done it before, going 0-for-2 with a sacrifice when he was pitching for the Brewers. I know, Sabathia has come to the plate 101 times in the big leagues (about half of them during his half-season in the National League), plus five more times in the postseason.

And I know, American League managers fear these interleague road games, worrying that a pitcher could get hurt while hitting or running the bases (as the Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang did in (also in 2008).

But just as I loved talking to Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson about his hitting, I love the idea of Sabathia swinging for the fences Sunday night at Wrigley.

No AL pitcher has hit a home run since 2009, when Josh Beckett homered in Philadelphia and Mark Buehrle hit one in Milwaukee.

In the 14-plus years of interleague play, American League pitchers have hit 16 home runs (none by a Yankee). Only Sabathia and Beckett have hit more than one, with two apiece.

Sabathia owns a .258 batting average in his 97 career at-bats, which means he has a higher career batting average than Dan Uggla . . . or Andruw Jones . . . or B.J. Upton.

And with three career home runs (he hit one in the National League with the Brewers), Sabathia has more than Francisco Cervelli or Chris Getz.

Anyway, there was a point this week where we all wondered if this weekend's Wrigley highlight would be the Yankee shortstop getting to 3,000 hits. Now, the highlight I'm looking for is Sabathia's 26th career hit -- but only if it's his fourth career home run.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. We interrupt all this talk of pitchers hitting to talk about a matchup of two pitchers who were traded for each other: Edwin Jackson, who went to the White Sox, and Daniel Hudson, who went to the Diamondbacks. They meet up in White Sox at Diamondbacks, Friday night (9:40 ET) at Chase Field. So far, since the trade, Jackson is 8-7 with a .383 ERA in 24 starts. Hudson is 14-6 with a 2.83 ERA in 25 starts. It's more one-sided than that, because Jackson is making $8.35 million and a free agent after this year. Hudson is making $419,000 and isn't even arbitration-eligible for another year. Oh, and Hudson is a .214 hitter. Jackson's career average is .147.

2. If Sabathia is the most successful AL pitcher at the plate, Justin Verlander is the least. In five years' worth of at-bats with the Tigers, Verlander is 0-for-16, with 10 strikeouts (although he does have five successful sacrifice bunts). He has never walked or been hit by a pitch, so his OPS is a perfect .000. Jon Lester is just behind him at 0-for-15, but Lester had a walk and a sacrifice fly last year. Verlander gets another chance at the plate in Tigers at Rockies, Sunday afternoon (3:10 ET) at Coors Field. He also gets another chance at the mound, which means he gets another chance to prove he's now the best pitcher in baseball -- which means a little more than his lack of success with the bat.

3. I probably shouldn't be getting your (or my) hopes up about watching Sabathia hit. He started two games in National League parks last year, and went 1-for-5 (a single), with three strikeouts. The year before, he went 1-for-4 (also a single). So no guarantees when he starts against Randy Wells in Yankees at Cubs, Sunday night (8:05 ET) at Wrigley Field.

Posted on: June 16, 2011 5:51 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 9:44 pm
 

Something to remember: C.J. Wilson loves to hit

This week at Yankee Stadium, C.J. Wilson hit more home runs than he allowed.

Might be worth remembering come November.

First, because Wilson might be the top free-agent pitcher available when this season ends (and he certainly didn't hurt his status by holding the Yankees to two runs in eight innings). Second, because the Rangers' left-hander really seemed to enjoy that home run he hit -- even if it was in batting practice.

This guy loves to hit.

"I saw Rick Ankiel before '01 [when Ankiel was a pitcher], and I thought I brought a lot of the same stuff to the table," Wilson said. "I never wanted to pitch until I got drafted."

Does that mean Wilson will want to sign with a National League team, so he could at least hit a few times a game?

You're going to have to draw your own conclusions on that one, because he wouldn't go there.

"I'm not going to answer that question," Wilson said.

He would answer a question about pitching under National League rules, which he won't get to do this weekend against the Braves -- his next start is Tuesday at home against the Astros -- but will get to do on June 28 in Houston.

"It's fun, and it's easier pitching in the National League," Wilson said. "You've got the pitcher hitting, and you've got the eighth-place hitter. We've put lineups out there with Mitch Moreland hitting eighth. C'mon, Mitch Moreland can hit a ball 500 feet.

"This is the way the game started, with pitchers hitting. It's more fun. If I got 50-60 at-bats during a season, that'd be great."

Instead, Wilson has five at-bats in his career, plus one against the Giants in the World Series. He's still looking for his first hit.

But he did hit that home run -- a second-deck home run -- in batting practice on Tuesday.

"It's OK, but it's 318 down the line," Wilson said. "It's easy to hit a home run here -- really easy, extremely easy."

But the Yankees, who lead the majors with 103 home runs (and have hit 62 in 40 home games), didn't reach the seats against Wilson. He became just the third opposing pitcher in the new Yankee Stadium history (since 2009) to go eight innings without allowing a home run.

Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee each did it twice.

One more thing to remember come November: Wilson isn't a big fan of the Yankee Stadium mound.

"It's terrible," he said earlier this week. "It's like clay and silt."

Oh, and one last thing to remember: CC Sabathia loves hitting, too. He loved the National League. And when it was the American League Yankees who made by far the biggest offer when Sabathia was a free agent in the winter of 2008-09, Sabathia went to the league where he couldn't hit regularly.


Posted on: June 15, 2011 9:15 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2011 11:00 pm
 

Gordon? Gordon! Awesome!

NEW YORK -- Jackie Moore remembers the day Brian Gordon told him he wanted to pitch.

"He came to me and said he felt his career had stalemated," Moore said Wednesday. "I agreed to give him a shot on the mound.

"And now he's going to be pitching in Yankee Stadium."

He's going to start for the Yankees on Thursday afternoon against the Rangers, making his first big-league start at age 32, five years after he told his Triple-A manager he wanted to give up playing the outfield.

And Moore, Gordon's manager at Triple-A Round Rock in 2006 (as an outfielder) and 2007 (as a pitcher), will be in the other dugout as the Rangers' bench coach.

"I hope we win 1-0," Moore said.

Gordon, signed by the Yankees just this week, has played 1,206 games in the minor leagues, 168 as a pitcher and the rest as an outfielder. He has pitched in three major-league games, all as a reliever, all as a September call-up with the Rangers.

C.J. Wilson remembers him.

Wilson, the Rangers' starter Thursday, was a 15-game winner and an American League champion last year. He's 7-3, and on the way to becoming perhaps the most sought-after free-agent pitcher this coming winter.

But he shared a bullpen with Gordon for a few weeks three years back, and Gordon made an impression. Tuesday night, Wilson looked up and saw the news that Brian Gordon had signed with the Yankees.

"I said, 'Gordon? Gordon! Awesome!,'" Wilson said Wednesday. "[He's] a really hard worker. I remember being a fan of his. He's a good dude."

A good dude with a great story.

Gordon pitched and played the outfield in high school in Texas, but the Diamondbacks made him a seventh-round draft pick as an outfielder in 1997. He wasn't a terrible hitter (.275 in 10 seasons), but he went through three organizations and couldn't get past Triple-A.

So in 2007, he went to Moore, his manager at Round Rock (in the Astros organization), and asked for a chance to pitch.

He went to the Rangers, and then to the Phillies. He was in his second season with Philadelphia's Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate when he opted out of his contract this week to sign with the Yankees.

And now he's starting, in the spot left vacant when Bartolo Colon went on the disabled list. Moore, that manager he approached and asked for a chance to pitch, will be watching.

"It's a feel-good story for baseball," Moore said. "Stay with it, get a break, and all of a sudden you're pitching at Yankee Stadium."







Posted on: June 15, 2011 7:49 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2011 8:24 pm
 

Rangers (most of them, anyway) happy for Mavs

NEW YORK -- That wasn't Dirk Nowitzki taking batting practice Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

But it was Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson, with a Dirk Nowitzki shirt.

"I bought 25 Mavericks shirts and gave them to everyone," Wilson said.

So the Rangers were all supporting their Texas neighbors?

Not exactly.

"That reminds me," Wilson said. "Mike Napoli has to dye his hair blond like Nowitzki."

Napoli grew up in South Florida, so it was all right that he was rooting for the Heat in the NBA Finals, Wilson said. But a deal is a deal, and the deal was that if the Mavs won, Napoli would dye his hair.



Posted on: June 12, 2011 7:33 pm
Edited on: June 12, 2011 7:34 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Central showdown(s) edition

When the Indians stumbled, they let other teams back into the American League Central race.

But how many teams?

The Tigers have spent the last two days in a virtual tie with the Indians, so obviously they're in it.

The White Sox have the best record in the division over the last 37 days (22-13), and they're now just 3 1/2 games out of first place. So no matter what anyone said last month, they're obviously in it, too.

But what about the Twins? They're still nine games out, which only looks good because 11 days ago they were 16 1/2 games out. They're still 13 games under .500, which only looks good because 11 days ago they were 20 games under.

The players  who are out of the Twins lineup still look better than the players who are in the lineup, but that changes when Joe Mauer comes back (maybe as soon as Thursday). Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are all on the way back, too.

I never thought the White Sox were out of it, even when they were 10 games out in early May. I did think the Twins were out of it . . . but now I'm starting to wonder.

I thought the big series this week would be Indians at Tigers, but now I'm starting to think White Sox at Twins could end up mattering just as much.

Either way, this should be a fascinating week in the Central.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. If there's one thing that separates the Tigers from the other contenders, it's that no one else in the Central has an ace as dependable as Justin Verlander. Verlander has been at least a 17-game winner in four of his first five big-league seasons, and he's headed there again. The Tigers have won six of his last seven starts, beginning with his May 7 no-hitter and heading into his start in Indians at Tigers, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park. Verlander is 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA in that span. Compare that with Justin Masterson, Cleveland's Tuesday starter, who hasn't won since April (despite a 3.79 ERA in his last eight starts).

2. The Yankees spent the first part of the weekend talking about who would fill in for Joba Chamberlain in the seventh inning. They spent the last part of the weekend talking about who would fill in for Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Chamberlain (Tommy John surgery) will be out longer than Colon (left hamstring strain), but finding someone who can do what Colon has done figures to be tougher than finding someone who can do what Chamberlain has done. The Yankees have yet to name a starter for Rangers at Yankees, Thursday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium, which is the next time Colon's spot in the rotation comes up. It's also the day Chamberlain has his surgery, and the day C.J. Wilson faces the Yankees for the first time since he lost Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Oh, and it's Derek Jeter's last chance to get his 3,000th hit at home, barring a long slump on the upcoming trip to play the Cubs and Reds. For what it's worth, Jeter is 5-for-14 (.357) against Wilson in the regular season, but went 1-for-7 against him in last year's ALCS.

3. Without Mauer, Twins catchers have had the worst OPS in baseball (.495, with an incredible .184 batting average). Without Mauer, the middle of the order has been a big problem for the Twins, along with the middle of the infield and the middle of the bullpen. No matter how well the Twins have played recently -- three wins in four games over the weekend against the Rangers, nine wins in their last 11 games overall -- there's no chance the Twins get back in the AL Central race without Mauer, who may be back for White Sox at Twins, Thursday afternoon (1:10 ET) at Target Field.



 
 
 
 
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