If you didn’t watch it last night, you’ve probably heard about.  Last night’s Game 6 between the Cardinals and the Rangers was without question one of the greatest baseball games of all time.  It looked like the St. Louis Cardinals were trying to give the game away by committing 3 errors, allowing 2 runs to score.  The St. Louis bullpen exploded, giving up back-to-back homeruns to Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the 7th inning.  Ian Kinsler drove in another run to give Texas a 7-4 heading to the bottom of the 7th.  It looked like the wheels had finally come off for St. Louis and their taxed bullpen.  The Cardinals threatened in the bottom of the 8th, Allen Craig blasted a solo homerun to make it 7-5.  Rafael Furcal came up with the go-ahead run on base, but grounded out to end the threat.  Again, it looked like Texas was about to clinch the Series, Texas’s all-star closer Neftali Feliz was in for the ninth.  Albert Pujols got the rally started for the Cardinals with a one-out double,  Lance Berkman walked, Allen Craig struck out.  It all came down to David Freese with 2 on and 2 out.  The Rangers were a strike away from winning the World Series, but Freese lined a Feliz fastball (the second straight fastball from Feliz) deep into right.  Nelson Cruz appeared to have a read on the ball, but wary of the wall, he misplayed the ball, allowing the tying runs to score.  The Cardinals had mounted an improbable comeback.  Heading into extra innings it could be anybody’s game, but just as soon as the 10th inning had started, Josh Hamilton had absolutely drilled a Jason Motte fastball deep into the right field stands, a no-doubt about it home run.  Just as quickly as the Cardinals had come back from 2-down, they were down two again.  This time for the Rangers, Darren Oliver and Scott Feldman would try to close out the bottom of the Cardinals order.  But it was the bottom of the order that started the rally, Daniel Descalso started it off with a single, followed by a Jon Jay single.  Jay had been hitless in the World Series going into last night.  After intentionally walking Pujols, Lance Berkman came up with two out.  Berkman has been the Cardinals hottest hitter in the World Series, hitting .389 going into last night, and he had already homered earlier in the game to give the Cardinals a short-lived 2-1 lead.  Berkman delivered again, drilling Feldman’s pitch into the gap in right-center allowing Descalso and Jay to score, tying up the game.  Again, when it looked like it was over, the Cardinals fought back.  After getting a scoreless inning from Jake Westbrook, it would again be David Freese up to bat in the bottom of the 11th.  Freese worked the count and crushed Mark Lowe’s pitch deep into center field, capping off a day that saw Freese drive in the game tying, and game winning runs.  Now the scene shifts to Game 7 and the Cardinals will send Chris Carpenter to the mound on short rest.  The Rangers will counter with Matt Harrison, but Ron Washington completely emptied the Rangers bullpen last night.  If he has to go to the bullpen, he will be going to his starters C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland.  The Rangers also have huge questio.n marks with both Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz sustaining injuries last night, both are expected to play.  The Cardinals will be without Matt Holliday, who re-aggravated a hand injury while being picked off third base last night.  Holliday has struggled in the World Series, however, and although his presence in the lineup will be missed, the Cardinals probably get a defensive upgrade in the outfield.  Game 7 is where anything can happen, and this improbable and amazing offseason is coming to an end.  Who would have thought at the beginning of April that we’d be watching the Cardinals and the Rangers in Game 7.  I had picked the Cardinals, largely because they have Carpenter going tonight at home, now is their chance to cap off another improbable comeback.


Rangers Bounce Back

The Texas Rangers rebounded from a crushing defeat in Game 3 with 4-0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals last night.  The Rangers finally received the starting pitching performance they needed from an unlikely source.  Derek Holland pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out 7, and allowing only 2 hits, both to Lance Berkman.  Holland delivered the best start of his young career, and it was totally unexpected, Holland was sporting a 5.27 postseason ERA coming into last night.  All of course after the Cardinals 16 run, 15 hit outburst the previous night.  Holland attacked the Cardinals lineup by attacking the inside part of the plate, and feeding them a steady diet of low breaking balls.  Edwin Jackson kept the Cardinals close, despite walking 7 batters.  But after Jackson was lifted for Mitchell Boggs, Mike Napoli drilled the first pitch he saw from Boggs deep into the left field stands for a 3-run home run.  Other than Napoli’s blast, the game was literally all Derek Holland.  Now the series is evened up again 2-2.  The Cardinals will look to bounce back by sending Chris Carpenter back to the hill.  Carpenter is looking for his 9th postseason win, which would be the most among active pitchers.  The Rangers C.J. Wilson will be going for his first win of this postseason.  He has struggled in the playoffs, but pitched considerably better in Game 1, lowering his postseason ERA from 8.04 to 7.17.  If the Rangers win tonight, they would have a very nice one game cushion heading back to St. Louis.  If the Cardinals win tonight, they will be completely in the driver’s seat for the series, heading back home.  Pivotal Game 5 starts soon.

Stroke of Greatness

Albert Pujols spent much of Friday dealing with criticism from the media, for the fact that he did not stick around in the clubhouse for interviews following Game 2.  He silenced all of his critics last night with quite possibly the single greatest hitting performance in a World Weries game.  Pujols went 5-6, hitting three home runs, driving in six runs, and scoring four runs.  Pujols joins Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players to ever hit three home runs in a world series game.  Pujols finished with 14 total bases, setting a World Series record.  Not only did the Cardinals re-take home field advantage, they stopped any momentum Texas had gained from their ninth inning rally Thursday night.  The Rangers will have to find a way to rebound from a crushing 16-7 loss.  They will send 25-year old lefty Derek Holland to the mound against journeyman right-hander Edwin Jackson of the Cardinals.  This game has to be seen as a must win for the Rangers, if they were go down 3-1, the series would surely be over with two of the next three games back in St. Louis.  The Rangers bullpen got taxed for 10 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings of work last night.  Hit especially hard was Alexi Ogando who threw 35 pitches, allowed 3 hits and 3 earned runs, and recorded only one out.  The Rangers need a good start from Holland tonight, if the Cardinals can get to the Texas bullpen, there’s no reason to think they won’t do what they did last night again.  And if the Cardinals win tonight, Chris Carpenter will be coming back to pitch in a closeout game, last time that happened, he outpitched Roy Halladay.  We’re heading to the third inning and the Rangers are up 1-0.

Split Decision

After two games in St. Louis, the World Series is tied 1-1.  The Cardinals took game 1, 3-2, an Allen Craig pinch-hit single drove in the deciding run.  It looked like deja vu last night when Craig had another pinch-hit single in the 7th inning to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.  But, for the first time this postseason, Tony LaRussa’s moves didn’t pay off.  After Jason Motte allowed singles to Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, La Russa lifted his closer, who had previously allowed only one baserunner in 9 innings this postseason.  With Josh Hamilton at bat, La Russa inserted veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes.  Hamilton pulled Rhodes pitch deep enough into right field to allow Kinsler plenty of time to score from third.  Michael Young followed with a deep sac-fly of his own, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead, that would hold up for the final.  Both teams received surprising, dominant starts from Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia.  There were a multitude of events that took place during the pivotal 9th inning.  The gutsiest move, was the first one, a stolen base by Ian Kinsler.  Kinsler beat the tag by a fraction of a second, but all of Fox’s replays showed Kinsler was in safe, and it was the right call.  The other event that will be highly examined, is Albert Pujols, a gold-glove first baseman, grazing the throw to the plate with his glove, essentially allowing Elvis Andrus to reach second base on a single.  This sets up LaRussa removing the flame-throwing Motte for the soft-tossing, veteran Rhodes.  Obviously, the numbers say go lefty-on-lefty, but Josh Hamilton is a former MVP, and among the best hitters in the game.  On top of that, he is clearly injured.  Hamilton’s groin has been bothering him and he has been unable to get his lower body into his swing.  Instead of challenging Hamilton with pure heat from Motte, LaRussa opted for lefty-lefty, but all Hamilton had to do against Rhodes was get the bat on the ball and make contact, exactly what he did.  Now the series heads to Arlington, where the Rangers scored more runs than any other team at their home ballpark.  Kyle Lohse will take the mound for the Cardinals tomorrow, and he has done nothing but struggle this postseason, going 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA, giving up a .310 batting average to opponents.  It could spell doom if the Cardinals were to fall behind early on the road, especially in Arlington, where the crowds have been fired up.  The Rangers will send lefty Matt Harrison to the hill.  Harrison has very good, but somewhat inconsistent stuff.  Tomorrow is definitely a chance for the bats to break out and for some runs to be scored.  I’m picking Texas to win tomorrow’s game, but the Cardinals only need 1 of 3 to send it back to St. Louis, and although I don’t think it will be tomorrow, I do think the series will return to St. Louis.

World Series Preview

The World Series is finally here! After 162 regular season games, and two rounds of the playoffs, we’re finally down to two teams left, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.  Both teams have been offensive powerhouses all year long,  and both teams were surprisingly, carried by their bullpens in their respective LCS’s.  The Rangers led all of MLB during the regular season with a .283 batting average, and were second only to the Yankees with 210 HRs on the year.  The Cardinals led the National League during the regular season with a .273 batting average and were the NL’s highest scoring team at 4.7 runs per game.  By virtue of the National League winning the All-Star Game, the Cardinals will have home field.  Of course, the question always asked about AL teams going to NL cities, is what will happen without the DH.  The Rangers lineup is stacked and they should be able to put runs on the board, but Ron Washington might want to tinker with his lineup.  The Rangers best hitter, Nelson Cruz, has been hitting out of the 7th spot.  With the pitcher’s spot now batting 9th, it will be much easier for teams to pitch around Cruz.  Instead of being protected by both David Murphy and Mitch Moreland, he now only has Murphy behind him.  On the other side, Tony LaRussa has been making all the right moves and pressing all the right-buttons this postseason.  When it comes to switching role-players in and out of the lineup, no one does it better than LaRussa.  Chris Carpeneter and C.J. Wilson will start tonight’s game.  Carpenter is the only elite pitcher in the series, and he’s going in games 1, 4, and 7 (if necessary).  If the series gets drawn out, one certainly would like the Cardinals chances with Carpenter on the mound.  Carpenter is 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA this postseason and opponents are hitting only .230 against him.  On the other side, Wilson, who had a teriffic regular season (16-7, 2.94 ERA , 223 1/3 IP) including his first all-star appearance, has struggled mightily in the postseason going 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA, all while allowing 29 baserunners in just over 15 innings of work.  Although the Rangers bullpen has been lights out in the postseason, they will need more from Wilson, and the rest of their starters in order to beat the Carpenter and the Cardinals pitching staff.  The Cardinals have home field, the better, more experienced pitching staff, and the guy at the helm is a Hall of Famer.  I’m predicting Cardinals in 6 games.  Unfortunately, I didn’t do a whole lot of writing this season, so I’m looking forward to writing some game recaps, as the World Series goes along.  The Rangers are in the World Series for a second straight year, any time a team is in the championship back-to-back, it is to be commended.  The Cardinals are one of the classic franchises in baseball, and anytime one of the original teams is in it, it’s always a good thing.

There’s No Place Like Home

After a disastrous 2-7 road trip to end April, the Dodgers are back on track.  They returned home last week to take three of four from the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Andre Ethier has four homeruns in the last three games, and James Loney has 6 RBI in those three games, as well. 
ethier homerun.jpgThe pitching staff allowed only 8 runs in the four games (after giving up 21 in three games in New York), the Dodgers saw continued improvement from the bullpen, Carlos Monasterios made his first start, and Xavier Paul has also broken out scoring 4 runs in 2 starts leading off in place of Rafael Furcal.  In really the only bad news for the Dodgers, Furcal has been put on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.  Jamey Carroll has been filling in at short.  The Dodgers continue the homestand this week with the Milwaukee Brewers today through Thursday, and the Colorado Rockies over the weekend.  The Brewers have struggled out of the gate to a 10-15 record.  They lost 3 of 4 over the weekend in San Diego, getting shutout three times.  The Brewers also lost 2of 3 at home to the Pirates, prior to that getting swept by the Chicago Cubs at home.  The Brewers were outscored in that series 25-4.  So the Brewers are reeling right now.   The Rockies have the Cy Young winner for the month of April, Ubaldo Jimenez who went 5-0 with a 0.79 ERA for April.  He has 6 wins overall, but that’s almost half of the Rockies 13 wins as a team.  The Dodgers are 1 1/2 games back of the Rockies for the 3rd spot in the division.  Will the Dodgers streak continue? 
ubaldo jimenez.jpg Clayton Kershaw will take the mound tonight looking for his 2nd win of the season.  He took the loss in the first game of the Pittsburgh series despite giving up only 2 runs in 6 1/3.  He’s given up only 5 runs overall in his last 19 1/3, but has an 0-1 record during that span.  But the Dodgers bats have come to life, and with some run support Kershaw should be just fine.  

Down and Out on the Road…Again

The Dodgers struggles on the road have continued over the past week.  They dropped 2 of 3 to the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals, lost the first-game of a doubleheader against the Mets today, Manny Ramirez, Vicente Padilla, and Jeff Weaver have been placed on the disabled list, and the Dodgers’ offense has gone into a slump, as evidenced by back-to-back shutouts, 1-0 in Washington on Sunday, and 4-0 earlier today in New York. 

run scoring on martin.jpg But once again, there are positives to build on in the trip.  Chad Billingsley appeared to have found himself (at least for one game) in Sunday’s loss to Washington.  Carlos Monasterios had a breakout performance in Saturday’s extra-inning victory over the Nationals.  And George Sherrill continues to get batters out as well.  In the 3-game series against the Reds, the Dodgers offense, was there, it was their pitching that let them down.  The Dodgers scored 30 runs in that series, but somehow managed to lose two of the games.  The offense went dormant in DC scoring only 5 runs in the three games.  A rainout yesterday forced today’s double-header, the Dodgers were held scoreless in the first game, losing 4-0, despite a strong effort from Hiroki Kuroda.  They are currently tied 3-3 in the second game.  The Dodgers will play their third game in 24 hours tomorrow at 10am West Coast Time.  After that, the Dodgers will finally return home for four games with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Dodgers offensive woes will end soon enough, the lineup is too deep to struggle for long.  Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Bellisario have returned to the bullpen, and both struggled in Washington, but their mere presence is a big help to the overworked bullpen.
bellisario sweating.jpg  The other question facing the Dodgers is who will start in place of Vicente Padilla.  It sounds as though recently called-up and demoted Jon Link will most likely get the start.  Despite all of this, at this early point in the season, the Dodgers remain only three games back of the first place San Diego Padres.