UNSOLICITED OBSEERVATIONS from The Man Cave, where I will sit tonight passing out Halloween candy (I’m saving the Reese’s Cups for myself).
The Cincinnati Reds did some paper shuffling Monday, nothing yet to cause conversations at the local pubs.
—As expected, they picked up the $12 million option on second baseman Brandon Phillips, keeping him under contract for the 2012 season.
Now they must negotiate with Phillips and his representatives for a new long-term contract that would begin in 2013 — and that one could get sticky. How much can they pay him? How much does he want? He says he wants to stay in Cincinnati and finish his career in Cincinnati. So…how long will he go?
—Also as expected, the Reds declined the $12 million option on closer Francisco Cordero, making him a free agent. But they can still re-sign him and he says he wants to stay. And it’s the same thing with Cordero. How much does he want to stay and how low will he go as far as numbers on a new contract.
—Ever hear of Denis Phipps? He’s the newest player on the Reds 40-man roster. He has played in the minors for seven years and the Reds placed him on the roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings in December.
Phipps, 26, is an outfielder who played two years in Dayton, hitting .238 in 2007 and .255 in 2008.
But he blossomed last year, splitting time at Class AA Carolina and Class AAA Louisville. He hit .328 in 82 games at Carolina and he hit .380 in 173 plate appearances at Louisville, with a .428 on-base average. And he combined for 12 home runs and 64 runs batted in.
The Reds lost lefthanded pitcher Matt Maloney, claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Twins. Relief pitcher Jared Burton and starting pitcher Daryl Thompson were optioned to Louisville.
THE WORLD SERIES is still a vivid memory and they just had the parade for the St. Louis Cardinals, but Las Vegas can’t wait.
They’ve already posted odds for the 2012 World Series champion. And they are showing no respect for the Cardinals, perhaps believing that manager Tony LaRussa’ retirement and first baseman Albert Pujols’ possible departure might make a difference.
The Cardinals are only 14 to 1 to repeat. They are behind Philadelphia (4 to 1), the New York Yankees (13 to 2), Boston (8 to 1), Texas (12 to 1) and equal with Detroit (12 to 1).
The Reds? They are 25 to 1, the same as — are you ready for this? — the Chicago Cubs. Highest odds belong to Houston, 100 to 1.
Gets your bets down now because these odds will change after winter trades and free agent signings.
THEY EVEN have odds on where free agent Albert Pujols will sign. The favorites are the Chicago Cubs at 7 to 4, with the Cardinals at 2 to 1 to re-sign him.
They list ten teams as possible landing sites for Pujols, but the Reds aren’t one of them.
SPEAKING OF Phillips, he and two other Reds are finalists for Gold Gloves, which will be announced this week. Also in the running is Jay Bruce and Joey Votto.
Phillips, Bruce, Scott Rolen and Bronson Arroyo won Gold Gloves last year, but Rolen and Arroyo are not in the running this year.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, watching the St. Louis Cardinals crush each other on the Busch Stadium infield grass as confetti flew and wondering how in the name of Albert Pujols they did it.
The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions for the 11th time, most in the National League, and seldom has an improbable team done so much.
SAY WHAT YOU want about manager Tony LaRussa, a man who is hard to love if you aren’t a St. Louis fan. And say what you want about pitcher Chris Carpenter and his abrasive personality. But you have to aim credit where it needs to be aimed and that’s where it goes.
And don’t forget David Freese, a very likable young man who could win the mayorality in St. Louis today. To think, he quit baseball his first couple of years in college to more absorb the academic environment. They wouldn’t have won the NLCS or the World Series without him.
THE CARDINALS WERE 10 ½ games behind in the wild card race on August 25. Not out of first place, out of the wild card race.
They were 7 ½ out with 20 to play. They were three out with five to play. And they passed the Atlanta Braves on the final day of the season.
Was that destiny calling on the telephone, or was it fate. It wasn’t Tony LaRussa asking for a relief pitcher, that’s for sure. But now all is forgiven for LaRussa’s phone foul-up in Game 6.
Then as huge underdogs, the Cardinals beat the Dream Team, the Philadelphia Phillies, in the NLDS. They were also underdogs to the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS, the team that finished ahead of them in the National League Central. And they beat the Brewers, too.
THEN THEY WERE down three games to two, one defeat away from losing it all in the World Series and they would become just a World Series footnote. They were down to their last strike twice in Game 6 and came back twice to tie the game and then win it in the 11th.
The footnote became a full chapter in baseball annals, a Game 6 to remember forever.
IT WAS AN incredibly entertaining World Series and Game 7 Friday was probably anticlimactic — one of the only games that wasn’t filled with drama and thrills and spills.
And why was that? Chris Carpenter made it like that. Even Mother Nature smiled on the Cardinals when Game 6 was rained out and the last two games were pushed back a day each. That enabled LaRussa to hand the ball to Carpenter.
He was pitching on only three days of rest and it didn’t look good in the first inning when the Rangers jumped on him for two runs.
That was it, though. After that, the Rangers were as helpless as a baby in a crib. Carpenter held the Rangers scoreless after that — two runs and six hits in six innings and eventually pushed his postseason record to 4-0.
Destiny? Fate? In the case of Carpenter, it seems it is more guts and heart.
THEN LaRUSSA nearly emptied his bullpen the final three innings — Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte. And they gave up nothing.
Rhodes retired the only batter he faced but it was oh so fitting that this man of 41 who has pitched 20 years in the majors, a guy who was an anchor in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen for two years, will wear a World Series ring.
The Cardinals tied it the bottom of the first on a two-run double on a full count by third baseman David Freese. Freese, who missed a large portion of the season with an injury, was the NLCS MVP and became only the sixth player to win both the NLCS and the World Series MVP.
ALLEN CRAIG, who did most of his damage in the postseason as a pinch-hitter, started for injured Matt Holliday for Game 7 and he broke the 2-2 tie in the third with a home run. Later in the game Craig went above the fence to rob Nelson Cruz of a home run.
Showing that the fates were on the side of the Cardinals this year, they scored two runs in fifth without a hit, without getting the ball out of the infield.
Texas set a World Series record by walkikng 41 batters and two surfaced in that hitless fifth. Scott Feldman walked Craig with one out and hit Albert Pujols with a pitch. Lance Berkman moved the runners to second and third by grounding out to first.
With two outs and first base open, Texas manager Ron Washington had no choice but to walk Freese intentionally to fill the bases, the first time this year Freese has been walked intentionally.
It looked as if Feldman had Yadier Molina struck out on a 2-and-2 pitch, but it was called ball three and he walked on the next pitch to force in a run.
C.J. Wilson came in to pitch and his first offering hit Rafael Furcal to force in another run — two runs, no hits, no balls out of the infield and a 5-2 lead.
Molina singled home the final run of the game in the seventh and the Cardinals bullpen retired the final nine Rangers in a row.
EVERYBODY thought the Cardinals were dead before the season even started when they lost their best pitcher during spring training — season-ending Tommy John surgery for Adam Wainwright, winner of 39 games the previous two seasons.
And injuries mounted during the season. Carpenter was out. Pujols was out. Freese was out. Holliday was out. Even manager Tony LaRussa (shingles) and pitching coach Dave Duncan (personal issues) missed time.
And the Cardinals bullpen was a mess and they ended up releasing closer Ryan Franklin. But at the trade deadline, the Cardinals gave up a budding star outfielder, Colby Rasmus, in a trade that most of the baseball world criticized.
But the Cardinals acquired starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and bullpenners Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczyski. Plus they acquired Arthur Rhodes after the Rangers released him.
It was bitter for the Rangers again after they lost last year’s World Series to the San Francisco Giants.
Destiny and fate may have played a role, but the Cardinals added the other necessary ingredients, especially in Game 6 when many teams would have said, “Hey, it’s over. We’re done.”
The Cardinals were never done.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching five cleanly played, high-level, exciting and Class A entertaining World Series games, Game 6 was one for the ages, one that everybody who saw it will talk about it 25 years from now.
Incredible, incredible, incredible. And for point of emphasis: INCREDIBLE.
There will be a Game 7, a winner-take-all game, after the St. Louis Cardinals twice came off the coroner’s slab, down to their last strike in the ninth and 10th innings. It enabled David Freese to rip a leadoff 3-and-2 pitch over the center field wall off Mark Lowe. When the ball plopped to earth on the grass behind the center field wall, the Cardinals were 10-9 winners, survivors of double jeopardy.
Incredible, incredible, incredible.
THIS IS HOW it went in the noise chamber of Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals trailed 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth. They had two outs and two on against Rangers closer Neftali Perez. He had two strikes on Freese. The Rangers were one strike away from their first World Series banner and the Cardinals were one strike away from a long winter’s nap.
But Freese drilled one hard to right. Very hard. Instead of sprinting toward the wall, right fielder Nelson Cruz drifted. He leaped a few feet from the wall, but the ball eluded his glove and banged off the wall, a two-run triple that tied it and turned Busch Stadium into Pandemonium Central.
Incredible, incredible, incredible.
ONE WOULD THINK that would put the stake in the vampire’s heart, the silver bullet into the werewolf’s chest.
Not yet. Not by a long, long, long shot.
Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton, hobbling and wobbling on a sports hernia that robbed him of his power, hadn’t hit a home run the entire post season.
Until Thursday. Until Game 6. Until the score was 7-7. Until the top of the 10th. St. Louis closer Jason Motte gave up a one-out single to Ian Kinsler and Hamilton struck with the highest authority, a two-run home run to right field and a 9-7 Texas lead.
Incredible, incredible, incredible.
ONE WOULD FIGURE the Cardinals would be dead and buried after Hamilton’s buzz bomb, completely deflated and defeated.
But the Cardinals, resilient as a new rubber band all year, down 10 ½ games in the standings on Aug. 25, bounced right back like a red rubber ball.
Down 9-7 in the bottom of the 10th, the Cardinals once again were one strike from oblivion and the Rangers were one strike from heaven.
Darren Oliver came into pitch the 10th, to close the final page on 2011 for the Rangers. Before one could say Stan Musial, the Cardinals had runners on first and second with no outs on singles by Descalso and John Jay, who was 0 for 16 in the World Series before getting hits his last two times.
By this time, St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa was out of position players and sent up pitcher Kyle Lohse to pinch-hit for Motte. Lohse bunted over charging third baseman Adrian Beltre’s head, but shortstop Elvis Andrus picked up the ball and threw Lohse out at first. The runners moved up to second and third with one out.
Texas manager Ron Washington brought in Scott Feldman to face Ryan Theriot. He grounded out to third, scoring Descalso to make it 9-8.
Albert Pujols, who might have been making his last appearance with birds on his chest — he becomes a free agent after the season — was, of course, walked intentionally.
It was a dangerous move, but one Washington had to make, even with Lance Berkman coming to the plate — a guy who had homered earlier in the game and was hitting .409 in the Series.
Berkman fouled off two pitches and at 1-and-2 the Cardinals were down to their final swing of 2011. Again. Berkman delivered, a single to center field that scored the tying run, 9-9, and sent the winning run, Pujols, to third base.
With the chance to end it, Allen Craig grounded to third and the game spun and spiraled into the 11th inning.
Incredible, incredible, incredible.
THERE WAS much, much more to this game, but the ninth, 10th and 11th innings are how legends are born — Freese, Hamilton, Berkman.
Incredibly, the early portion of the game was so ugly it broke mirrors. The Cardianls made three errors. Third baseman Freese dropped a routine pop up. Left fielder Matt Holliday dropped a fly ball for an error and got picked off third base in the sixth inning with the bases loaded, one out, score tied, 4-4. He should have played this game in a Halloween mask.
Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs to lead off the seventh against Lance Lynn, turning the 4-4 tie into a 6-4 Texas lead.
The Rangers added another run in that seventh inning to make it 7-4, then Allen Craig homered in the St. Louis eight to make it 7-5 and set up the wild, woolly and wonderful finish.
Game 7 cannot possibly top Game 6 — no way, nohow. Well, maybe? Did I say Game 6 was incredible, incredible, incredible? It was.Tweet
The halo above Abner LaRussa’s head must have fallen Monday night during Game 5 of the World Series, fallen to his neck and choked him.
His decisions during and his explanations afterward when his St. Louis Cardinals lost to the Texas Rangers sounded like Abbott & Costello doing their Who’s on First routine.
The most curious was the dugout/bullpen telephone conversation, which happened in the eighth inning when the score was tied, 2-2.
WHEN MICHAEL YOUNG doubled to open the inning, LaRussa picked up the phone to talk to bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist. He would have done better to dial Donato’s and order a pizza, except he probably would have received a stomboli.
LaRussa said he told Lilliquist to get Marc Rzepczyski and Jason Mott ready. Instead, Rzepczyski and Lance Lynn began warming up, even though Lynn was supposed to be unavailable for this game.
Dotel struck out Adrian Beltre on three pitches and LaRussa ordered an intentional walk to Nelson Cruz.
That’s when LaRussa brought in the lefthanded Rzepczyski to face lefthander David Murphy. When Murphy singled off Rzepczyski’s knee to load the bases.
Now it gets as cloudy as the skies over Seattle. LaRussa later said that’s when he wanted righthaner Jason Motte to face righthander Mike Napoli, but Motte wasn’t warming up. Lynn was — and he wasn’t available.
So LaRussa stuck with Rzepczyski and Napoli banged a two-run double to make it 4-2, the final score.
AFTERWARD, LaRUSSA blamed it on telephone miscommunication between him and Lilliquist. Alexander Graham Bell never envisioned anything like this.
True? Probably so. What other explanation could there be other than maybe LaRussa mistakenly said Lynn when he meant Motte.
If LaRussa is baseball’s Einstein, as some believe, why wouldn’t he jump into the 21st century? Yes, baseball is still in the 20th century, using land line telephones between the dugouts and bullpens. Ever hear of cellphones and text messaging, Tony? Hey, how about Facebook?
It is easy to discern Lynn from Motte when it is written. And if Lynn wasn’t available, why didn’t Lilliquist say that when he thought LaRussa asked for Lynn to warm up?
What a mess, eh?
And there were other curious decisions. There was the ninth inning when Allen Craig walked and Albert Pujols, the tying run was at the plate.
With no outs and a runner on first, the Cardinals down, 4-2, Craig ran three times on a 3-and-2 pitch. Pujols fouled the first two, but struck out on ball four (the third 3-and-2 pitch) and Craig was thrown out a second base.
Asked after the game about the play, LaRussa merely said, “There was a mix-up.” Many thought Craig was guilty of bad judgement, but LaRussa gave no explanation.
But Pujols explained it. He put on the hit-and-run himself and later told writers he takes the blame, “Because nobody on this team gets thrown under the bus.”
AND THEN THERE another incident involving Craig. He walked with one out in the seventh and Pujols at the plate. Craig tried to steal second and was thrown out when the score was 2-2 and LaRussa said he was trying to get Craig into scoring position and get something going.
Scoring position? With Pujols at the plate, anybody on base is in scoring position. Pujols at the plate is in scoring position.
And how about the fifth when the Cardinals put the first two men on base with no outs. He had Rafael Furcal bunt the runners up a base. So when Craig struck out for the second out, with first base open, Pujols was walked intentionally and Matt Holliday grounded out.
FOR SURE, LaRussa did a magnificent job getting his team into the World Series, a team that was 10 ½ games out in September and scrambled to capture the wild card.
But one wonders about LaRussa’s brain circuitry in the postseason. Yes, he is aa guy with the second most wins as a manager in baseball history, behind John McGraw, but his postseason and World Series history leans more toward John Wilkes Booth than Abraham Lincoln.
Writer Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated did some quick research on LaRussa’s postseason odysseys and came up with these poignant events:
—LaRussa’s 1983 Chicago White Sox led the AL in runs scored and scored one run, total, in three straight losses to Baltimore. No phone calls were involved.
—LaRussa’s awesome Oakland A’s of 1988 lost the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games and, as Posnanski points out, Mickey Hatcher, Mike Marshall and John Shelby were Tommy Lasorda’s 3-4-5 hitters. No phone call were involved.
—LaRussa’s 1990 Oakland A’s were heavy favorites to annihilate the Cincinnati Reds, but lost in four straight. There was a phone call involved, but it was a call to Cincinnati pitcher Tom Browning telling him to get to the hospital pronto because his wife was having a baby.
—LaRussa’s 1996 Cardinals were up three games to one over the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS and lost the next three when they were outscored 32-1 — 15-0 in Game 7. No phone calls were involved.
—LaRussa’s 2004 team won 105 games, then lost four straight in the World Series to the Boston Red Sox and never once led a game. No phone calls were involved.
So the World Series shifts to St. Louis for Game 6 Wednesday and Game 7, if there is a Game 7. If there is a need to make a phone call, perhaps LaRussa should follow what E.T. did: Just phone home.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATINS from The Man Cave after hearing sad, sad news — Yeungling will not be available in Dayton on October 31, as advertised. Demand is so high by commercial outlets that the date has been pushed back to November 15. It’s like pushing Christmas back 15 days.
—Does anybody else wish Brian Wilson’s Taco Bell chalupa commercial “never happened?”
—Can you believe the Oakland Raiders gave up two top draft picks to sign Carson Palmer? Even worse, can you believe the Raiders put him in Sunday’s game a few days after signing him when he hadn’t played for a year?
Anybody know whatever happened to Chad Ochocinco? The Raiders might be looking for him. He has nine catchers in six games for 136 yards and New England teammate Wes Welker averages that many catchers per game.
—Is Wisconsin’s staggering prayer-answered last-play loss to Michigan State the worst thing that could have happened to Ohio State? Well, it might be a good thing because a loss liked that cuts deep and might take more than a week to recover. For sure, though, the Buckeyes will have to complete more than one pass Saturday against the Baders, even if Woody Hayes is sitting up in his grave saying, “I told you so, I told you so.”
—So much for the Detroit Lions Mystique. They’ve lost two straight at home with games at Green Bay and at New Orleans on the horizon. And speaking of New Orleans, after the 62-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, why don’t they just humanely put down the Colts the way they do thoroughbreds with broken legs. Without their thoroughbred, Peyton Manning, the Colts aren’t even ponies.
—Because they play each other, either Alabama or LSU is going to go down to defeat. So who plays the winner for the National Championship? Stanford? Boise State? Clemson? Red, blue or orange? I’d love to see The Big Blue of Boise State. Oklahoma State? The Cowboys will lose to Oklahoma.
—THEY KEEP SHOWING a commercial for iPhone 4S where users make calls to ask questions and the phone gives answers.
The St. Louis Cardinals needed iPhones Monday night in Game 5 of the World Series and the question would be: “How do we drive in runs with runners in scoring position?”
Because they couldn’t do that, the Cardinals find themselves down three games to two in the World Series with the Texas Rangers one win away from the title.
The Cardinals face heavy fines for littering after they went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and they stranded 12 runners in the 4-2 defeat. But thanks to pitcher Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals were still in it going into the eighth inning, tied 2-2. The only Texas runs came on solo home runs by Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre.
WITH THE CARDINALS ahead, 2-0, in the third, nine-hole hitter Mitch Moreland nearly hit one to Houston, driving one halfway up the upper deck in right field, where fans carry extra Kleenex in case of nose bleeds.
The Cardinals still led, 2-1, with two outs in the sixth when Carpenter, utilizing a breaking ball most of the night, threw one to Beltre low in the zone. Beltre went so low to get it that when he connected his back knee dragged on the ground. But the ball flew out of the park in left field for a 2-2 tie.
Most of the night the Rangers couldn’t get a runner in scoring position against Carpenter, who uses more than a hammer and nails to get people out.
BUT THE RANGERS broke through in the bottom of the eighth against the St. Louis bullpen after Carpenter departed after seven.
Octavio Dotel took over for Carpenter and his first pitch of the eighth to Michael Young ended up against the right center wall for a double.
Beltre struck out on three pitches and Nelson Cruz was walk intentionally, an intentional walk that backfired like an old Packard.
St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa replaced Dotel with Mark Rzepczyski. David Murphy hit one back to the mound that ricocheted off Rsepczyski’s knee toward second base. No play. Infield hit. Bases loaded. One out.
Mike Napoli, the World Series MVP so far, then drilled a two-run double to right center for a 4-2 lead.
OVER? NOT YET. Not with the always-battling Cardinals.
Closer Neftali Feliz started the top of the ninth by hitting Allen Craig with a pitch.
That forced the Rangers to pitch to Albert Pujols, the tying run. They had walked him intentionally twice in the game, once with two outs and nobody on base.
On a 3-and-2 pitch, LaRussa had Craig running on the pitch and twice Pujols fouled off the pitch. On the next pitch, high-and-outside, a ball, Pujols swung and missed and Napoli easily gunned down Craig.
Two outs. Nobody on. Game over? Not with the Cards. Feliz walked Matt Holliday and once again the tying run came to the plate in the personage of Lance Berkman, a power guy who hit 32 home runs this season. But Feliz struck him out.
Game over? Not yet. Catcher Napoli missed the pitch and it bounced off him and rolled up the first base line. Napoli chased it nearly 75 feet before catching up with it to flip to first.
Finally, game over.
Napoli has driven in nine runs in the first five games and the rest of the Rangers have driven in 10.
THE CARDINALS took a 2-0 lead in the second when Texas starter C.J. Wilson walked the first two batters and both scored. One came home on Yadier Molina’s single, the only hit the Cardinals had with runners in scoring position. The other scored when first baseman Mitch Moreland bobbled a double play grounder. He did get the out at first, but a second run scored.
From that point on, the Cardinals put runners on, got them over, but couldn’t get them in.
In the third, the Cardinals had a runner on second with one out and the Rangers walked Pujols intentionally. Holliday grounded into a double play, a disease that infected the Cardinals all season. They set a club record by hitting into 169 double plays.
IN THE FIFTH, the Cardinals put their first two on. LaRussa had Rafael Furcal bunt the runners to second and third, leaving first base open.
Manager Ron Washington elected to pitch to Allen Craig and Wilson struck him out. That made it easy for Texas to walk Pujols intentionally, loading the bases with two outs and Holliday grounded to short.
During the season, Holliday was 6 for 12 after Pujols was walked intentionally in front of him. In the post season Holliday was 0 for 7 at that point.
A curious event happened in the seventh when Allen Craig walked with one out. With Pujols at the plate, Craig took off for second, perhaps a hit-and-run play. But the pitch was so high and outside that Pujols couldn’t swing and catcher Mike Napoli easy gunned down Craig.
Now there were two out and nobody on, the score 2-2, and Washington had Pujols again walked intentionally and Holliday finally produced, a single that sent Pujols to third and Holliday took second.
Washington used the intentional walk again, this time to Lance Berkman, loading the bases with two outs and making it look as if Washington’s decision to walk Pujols with two outs and nobody a monumental mess-up.
It wasn’t. David Freese swung at the first pitch and flied to center as the Cardinals stranded three more.
So the Cardinals boarded their plane for the trip home, hoping they didn’t leave any of their players stranded on the tarmac.
IT’S THE LAST week for Ask Hal in Sunday’s DDN, the last chance to have your question published. Send questions now to email@example.com.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching the Boring Bowl emanating from Cleveland. They should have given the Cleveland Browns The Ugly Cup. The Browns and Seattle Seahawks were more like World Cup soccer teams and the Browns won, two goals (field goals) to one in their 6-3 victory during which both teams acted as if the end zone was a gigantic water-filled moat.
GAME 4 OF THE World Series Sunday night was a gaudy example of why baseball is so difficult to explain to those who have no working knowledge of the game.
On Saturday night, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers, 16-7, with 15 hits, denting home plate so often they probably had to replace it.
On Sunday night, the same teams played again and the Cardinals couldn’t find home plate with a GPS, a detailed map and two National Park rangers. Texas won, 4-0. The difference?
A YOUNG-FACED left-hander named Derek Holland turned off the St. Louis bats like a plumber with a new wrench turning off a leaky spigot.
Holland, making $432,000, barely above the major-league minimum, held the Cardinals to no runs and two hits, walking two and striking out seven in 8 1/3 innings. That’s two hits in The Ballpark at Arlington, where runs usually flood across home plate like water flowing from the Red River.
On Saturday night, Albert Pujols alone had five hits for the Cardinals, three of the home runs. On Sunday, he had no hits, not even a loud foul ball, and in the eighth inning Holland struck him out with a 95 miles an hour fastball.
In addition to making the Cardinals look as if they were swinging wet rolled-up Wall Street Journals for bats, Holland gave the battered and ragged Texas bullpen a rest, especially a tattered Alexi Ogando.
Holland was still throwing 96 when he pitched the ninth, trying to complete his fifth complete-game shutout this season.
He didn’t quite make it. He issued a one-out walk in the ninth to Rafael Furcal on his 116th pitch and when Texas manager Ron Washington popped out of the dugout to go get him the crowd acted as if they’d just seen Billy the Kid wearing a mask and carrying a six-shooter.
Holland was cheered mightily when he walked to the dugout as closer Neftali Feliz trotted to the mound. Feliz jangled some nerves when he fell behind Allen Craig 3-and-0, then walked him on a full count.
That brought up Pujols with two on and one out and he flied to center on a 0-and-2 count for the second out.
Matt Holliday was next and once again Feliz fell behind 3-and-0. He threw a strike, then Holliday swung and missed strike two as the tension hit a zenith. Holliday fouled off a 99 miles an hour fast ball on 3-and-2 and fouled off another on a 98 miles an hour pitch.
Then Feliz blew strike three past Holliday.
SO THE SERIES is tied at two games apiece with Game 5 tonight in Texas before the event returns to St. Louis for Game 6 on Wednesday.
St. Louis starter Edwin Jackson wasn’t too shabby himself, except for an aversion to throwing a lot of strikes.
The Rangers scored a run in the first inning on a single by Elvis Andrus and a double to the right field corner by Josh Hamilton, on which Adrus scored from first.
And it stayed 1-0 and stayed 1-0 and stayed 1-0, despite Jackson’s propensity for issuing walks.
Then in the sixth inning he walked two more, Nelson Cruz and David Murphy. The walk to Murphy was Jackson’s seventh, the most ever issued by a St. Louis pitcher in a World Series game.
As one would expect at this juncture, St. Louis manager Tony LaRussa, a man of consistency and conviction, did what he always does at this point.
He took out Jackson and brought in Mitchell Boggs to face Mike Napoli. Before anybody could say, “That’s amore,” Napoli drilled a three-run home run and the score jumped from 1-0 to 4-0.
ON SATURDAY that lead would have been nothing, but with Holland acting like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike the Cardinals were helpless.
Texas fans held their breaths as Holland took the mound because he had given up five home runs in the postseason in 12 innings. But this Holland was the regular-season Holland, the one who was 9-2 in The Ballpark at Arlington this year and pitched four complete-game shutouts.
Holland, called ‘The Dutch Oven’ by his teammates, may be the best pitcher most people don’t know.
He is from Newark, Ohio and attended Wallace Community College in Alabama. He was a 25th round draft pick by the Rangers, but in 2011 he was 16-5 with a 3.95 ERA.
And he probably saved the Rangers’ season on Sunday. A loss and a three games to one deficit probably would have been deadly for the Rangers.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSEERVATIONS from The Man Cave, switching from the World Series just in time to see Michigan State’s Hail Mary touchdown pass against Wisconsin on the final play of the game, even better than the famous Hail Flutie thrown by Doug Flutie of Boston College to Gerard Phelan to beat Miami in 1984.
And without Instant Replay, Michigan State would have been denied because officials on the field said receiver Keith Nichol did not break the plane of the goal line after catching Kirk Cousins’ pass at the 1-yard-line when it was deflected in the end zone. The replay official called it a touchdown — and it appeared that Nichol did get the ball to the goal-line. Game over, Michigan State wins, 37-31, when it appeared the game was headed for overtime.
THEY DIDN’T have to use Instant Replay to see if any of the home runs hit by Albert Pujols cleared the fences Saturday night in Game 3 of the World Series in The Ball Park at Arlington.
Pujols, without a doubt the greatest player I’ve seen in 40 years of covering baseball, crushed three home runs as the St. Louis Cardinals mashed the Texas Rangers, 16-7, to take a two games to one lead.
Three home runs in a World Series game? Babe Ruth did it twice. Reggie Jackson did it once. Now Albert Pujols.
IT WAS A bizarre game from start to finish, especially after two pitching clinics in St. Louis with scores of 3-2 and 2-1. This one looked like a Texas-Texas Tech football game.
The Cardinals took a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning, but former Cincinnati pitcher Kyle Lohse couldn’t appreciate the prosperity.
The Rangers scored three in their fourth, two on a home run by Nelson Cruz, his seventh postseason home run this year. That cut it to 5-3.
Pujos was 0 for 6 in the first two games, but before this night was over he had five hits.
He led the fifth with a single and the Cardinals scored three more, including a two-run double by Yadier Molina.
TEXAS CAME BACK again in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three runs to slice the St. Louis margin to 8-6.
Then it was Pujols Time.
By now Alexi Ogando was pitching for Texas and he gave up a full-count walk to Ryan Theriot to open the bottom of the sixth. Rafael Furcal singled.
Ogando righted himself briefly by striking out Allen Craig, the guy who twice stroked RBI pinch-hits off Ogando in the first two games.
Pujols was next and launched one that nearly tore down the upper deck and might have landed in the Alamo in San Antonio had its flight not been interrupted by the upper deck façade. It was a three-run shot that made it 11-6.
When Pujols came to bat again in the seventh, Ogando gave up a two-out walk to Craig. Big mistake. Pujols was on deck. His second home run of the game cleared the left center fence, a two-run blast that made it 14-6.
The game was long over in the ninth, but Pujols punctured the night with his third home run, giving him five hits and six RBI.
PUJOLS WAS A bit of a goat in Game 2 when he messed up a cutoff throw that enabled the winning run to get into scoring position in the ninth inning of the 2-1 Texas victory.
And Pujols caught some grief from the media for not appearing in the interview room after that game, but Pujols said he wasn’t asked until 40 minutes after the game ended and wasn’t aware he was wanted.
He made a grand appearance after Saturday’s game.
AND, AS ALWAYS, it seems, there was a bit of controversy that surfaced in the fourth when the Cardinals led by only 1-0.
Pujols singled to start the inning and Matt Holliday hit a ground ball destined to be a double play. But the throw to first was inside the bag. First baseman Mike Napoli came off the bag, caught the ball, and clearly tagged Holliday on the shoulder and head before he touched first base. Out. Double play.
No, said umpire Ron Kulpa. Safe. Instead of two outs and nobody on, the Cardinals had a runner on first with one out and scored four runs.
EVERY TIME Pujols swings the bat, it becomes more evident that the Cardinals HAVE to find a way to sign this guy. He is a free agent after the season. Pujols and the Cardinals negotiated all spring and when they couldn’t reach an agreement Pujols cut off all talks about a new contract.
The Cardinals have five days after the end of the World Series to negotiate with Pujols. If they don’t make a deal, any and all teams can enter with their offers.
If the Cardinals don’t sign the guy, they better call out the National Guard to watch over Busch Stadium or fans might burn the place to the ground.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSEERVATIONS from The Man Cave after a scrumptious homemade chili dinner prepared by Tammy Greenberg at the Murray Greenberg abode, with an ample and adept assist from her mother, Gerry, who gave me a Cleveland Browns coffee mug filled with peanut-sized solid chocolate balls from Esther Price. What more could a man want?
The Texas Rangers are supposed to be keepers of the peace, not thieves in the night.
But the baseball version of the Rangers pulled off highway robbery Thursday night, right near Interstate 70 in St. Louis, Mo.
YES, THEY STOLE this one. How do you win when you score zero runs for eight innings? How do you win when the middle of your batting order goes 1 for 14 and looks clueless doing it?
How do you do it? The Rangers did it, beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1, with two runs in the ninth inning on a pair of lazy fly balls that were sacrifice flies — a huge victory. Instead of falling behind two games to none, the Rangers evened the series at a game apiece with the next three scheduled in Arlington, Tex.
THE GAME WAS a beauty. Well, Game One, a 3-2 victory for St. Louis, was a beauty. This one was gorgeous.
Starting pitchers Jaime Garcia of St. Louis and Colby Lewis of Texas gave up nothing. Zip, zero, nada.
It was 0-0 in the seventh when David Freese singled with one out for the Cardinals, giving him hits in 12 straight post season games. Yadier Molina flied to left for the second out, but Nick Punto singled.
IT WAS TIME for managers Tony LaRussa and Ron Washington to begin earning their suppers on this night. Up to this point, they had been mere spectators — no decisions to be made. Just ask their starting pitchers, “How ya feel, big guy?”
It was déjà vu all over again.
In Game One, sixth inning, tie game, pitcher Chris Carpenter was due up. LaRussa decided to pinch-hit for him, sending up Allen Craig.
Washington countered by bringing in relief pitcher Alexi Ogando. Craig singled to right to break the tie, 3-2, and that’s the way it ended.
Now it’s Game Two, seventh inning, two outs, two on. It is pitcher Garcia’s turn to hit. Once again LaRussa sent up Craig. Once again Washington brought in Ogando.
Same result. Ogando threw Craig a low and away fastball, same pitch as last time, and Craig ripped it to right field for the game’s first run, a 1-0 lead for St. Louis.
CRAIG BECME THE first player in World Series history to deliver tie-breaking pinch-hit RBI twice in the same World Series.
This time, though, it didn’t hold up.
It was still 1-0 in the ninth when LaRussa brought in Jason Motte. He doesn’t call Motte his closer, but Motte is his closer.
Leadoff hitter Ian Kinsler blooped a single into shallow left field on a 1-and-2 pitch. With Elvis Andrus batting, Kinsler stole second, by a whisker. Andrus then singled to right.
ST. LOUIS FIRST baseman Albert Pujols seldom makes a mistake, but he made a historic one on the Andrus hit. The throw was heading home and Kinsler stopped at third. But Pujols missed catching the cut-off throw and Andrus took second — and that beat the Cardinals.
Amazingly, LaRussa removed Motte and brought in left-hander Arthur Rhodes to face left-hander Josh Hamilton. Hamilton hit the first pitch semi-deep to right and Kinsler scored on the sacrifice fly.
In addition, Andrus moved from second to third, something he could not have done if Pujols had cut off the throw on the Andrus hit.
THAT ENABLED Michael Young to loft another sacrifice fly, this one off Lance Lynn, and the Rangers led, 2-1.
Texas closer Neftali Feliz tempted fate by walking Yadier Molina to open the bottom of the ninth. But Nick Punto fouled two bunt attempts (see, even the Cardinals mess up fundamentals) and then struck out on a 99 miles an hour scorchball. Skip Schumaker also struck out and Rafael Furcal flied to right.
Game over. And the Rangers stole this one without wearing masks, just very broad smiles.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, watching World Series managers Tony LaRussa and Ron Washington use the baseball field like Bobby Fischer moving pieces on a chess board.
Game 1 of the 2011 World Series was a beauty, a game the St. Louis Cardinals had to have with their ace Chris Carpenter on the mound at home.
And they got it as LaRussa continued to manipulate his team with the same dexterity he used in the playoffs, especially the bullpen.
IT HAD TO be a mind-bending decision for him in the bottom of the sixth inning. Carpenter had given up only two runs and was in complete charge, other than a two-run home run he gave up to Mike Napoli in the fifth that tied it, 2-2.
And that’s why LaRussa did what he did. The score was 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, David Freese doubled and took third on a wild pitch. But Yadier Molina struck out for the second out.
Texas manager Ron Washington elected to walk Nick Punto intentionally and it was Carpenter’s turn to hit.
Two decisions were made at this juncture. Washington removed his starter, C.J. Wilson, who had walked six batters (two intentionally). He brought in Alexi Ogando, who was nearly perfect throughout the playoffs.
Knowing one run might be the difference, LaRussa sent Allen Craig up to pinch-hit for Carpenter.
Ogando buzzed two fastballs past him, but Craig then sailed one down the right field line. Nelson Cruz tried for a sliding catch, but missed by inches and the game-winning run scored.
A SIMILAR SITUATION arose for the Texas manager in the seventh when the Rangers put two on with nobody out against Fernando Salas.
LaRussa brought in The Human Alphabet, Marc Rzepozynski and Washington sent up Craig Gentry to pinch-hit. He struck out.
Then Washington sent up another pinch-hitter, some character named Esteban German. Who? Esteban German. He didn’t bat a single time during the playoffs and hadn’t had an at-bat since September 25.
Rzepozynski struck him out on three pitches and the last one bounced in the dirt. It was Sandy Koufax versus Mario Mendoza.
And that was it. The St. Louis bullpen finished it off, with closer Jason Motte pitching a 1-2-3 ninth against heavy duty hitters Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.
The Cardinals did catch a break in the ninth. Beltre grounded out to third for the second out, but replays showed that the ball he hit bounced off his left foot and should have been a foul ball. There is nothing to say that Beltre, who had two hits, would have done anything, but he didn’t get that chance as umpire Jerry Layne and his crew missed the call.
So the World Series is St. Louis 1, Texas nothing - or more accuately, it is LaRussa 1, Washington 0.
ONLY TWO MORE Ask Hal columns this year and I need questions for this week’s penultimate edition. Send them ASAP to firstname.lastname@example.org.Tweet
The St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series, putting Cincinnati Reds fans into a bottomless funk and turning most of them into instant Texas Rangers fans, even if the only Texas Ranger they can identify is Chuck Norris in the TV series, “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
OK, so most of them know Josh Hamilton, too, but only because they rue the day former Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky traded him to the Rangers for Edinson Volquez.
Where does all this animosity come from when the subject is the St. Louis Cardinals?
It starts with manager Tony LaRussa, continues with pitching coach Dave Duncan, continues with pitcher Chris Carpenter and ends with Tony LaRussa.
The only exception is Albert Pujols. Fans don’t hate the guy, the fear him and they fear him with the respect that opposing managers don’t seem to get.
Opposing manager continue to pitch to the guy in crucial situations and they don’t just get their fingers burned, they end up with their entire bodies ablaze.
And this dislike of the Cardinals doesn’t just emanate in Cincinnati. In Wrigley Field, Cubs fans like them about as much as they like the Russian hockey team.
It continues northward, too, to Milwaukee, where Brewers fans think the Cardinals stink worse than limburger cheese.
Some jealousy may be involved because the Cardinals have won more pennants and more World Series than any other National League team. But the innate hatred wasn’t there back in the days of Stan Musial or the days of Bob Gibson or the days of Ozzie Smith.
In Cincinnati, there are many incidents that have built and built to the point most male Reds fans would rather beat the Cardinals than win a game of strip poker with Jessica Alba.
There are many incidents and they all seem to emanate from the St. Louis side of the Mississippi River.
It reached its zenith in August of 2010 when I approached Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips, just before a series with the Cardinals.
Phillips has missed a few games before the St. Louis series with a sore hand and I said to him, “I know you aren’t going to miss this series, sore hand or not.”
That’s all I said. No prompting, no further questions. It was if Phillips was awaiting the opportunity to vent.
During a long rant, he called the Cardinals, “Whiney bitches, all of them.” I wrote what he said and, as expected, it created a furor. I expected Phillips to recant, to say he was misquoted, or the comments were taken out of context.
When I walked into the clubhouse the next day, the first person I saw was Phillips and he headed my way and I thought, “Here it comes.”
Instead, he smiled broadly, gave me a fist bump, and said, “Great story.”
Of course, it led to an on field brawl the next day and in the aftermath both LaRussa and Reds manager Dusty Baker were suspended and fined. Phillips, pither Johnny Cueto and St. Louis pitcher Chris Carpenter and catcher Yadier Molina were fined.
Molina torched the brawl by picking a fight with Phillips when Brandon came to bat and tapped Molina on the shin guards, something Phillips did his first time up with every catcher. Phillps paid Cueto’s fine after Cueto, during the skirmish, kicked St. Louis catcher Jason LaRue in the head, ostensibly bringing on a concussion.
Phillips never once threw me under an 18-wheeler for writing what he said. I still believe he wanted it out there and it worked. The Cardinals swept the Reds in that series, but collapsed mightily after that and the Reds won the division. And Phillips has been unbelievably friendly toward me ever since.
Some of the incidents:
In 2007, Reds pitcher Aaron Harang, as mild-mannered as Clark Kent on Xanax, let a pitch slip in St. Louis and hit Gary Bennett in the head. He was OK and said he knew Harang didn’t do it on purpose, but LaRussa went into a loud harange that Harang should be suspended, even if he didn’t mean it, because he hit a player in the head.
Then there was an incident in which Duncan and LaRussa believed Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo was using an illegal substance tucked under his hat brim.
In 2010, LaRussa and Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter accused the Reds of not rubbing up the game balls sufficiently — not putting enough of the Delaware River mud on the balls to remove the gloss and slickness.
As so happened that day, Harang was pitching for the Reds and said he didn’t notice any difference in the balls from any other balls he had ever used.
And it was Carpenter who complained on a day he pitched about the smoke that enveloped Great American Ball Park when the Reds hit home runs and fireworks were set off. He said, like the Platters in their song, “Smoke Get in Your Eyes.”
Said Phillips gleefully, “Here’s a tip, dude. Don’t give up home runs.”
Fast forward to last season and Weathergate in St. Louis.
The forecast was bleak, but the Cardinals assured the Reds and the umpires that there was a window of opportunity at game time that would permit the game to progress.
Strangely, though, LaRussa started a relief pitcher, instead of the day’s scheduled starting pitcher. Reds starter Edinson Volquez warmed up and was ready to go.
A storm hit in the first inning, a storm so violent that a tornado ripped the St. Louis airport, forcing it to close.
After a delay, the game did continue and only then did LaRussa run out his starting pitcher. Volquez couldn’t continue.
The Reds, of course, accused the Cardinals of unfair gamesmanship, withholding weather information to their advantage.
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, who helped construct the current St. Louis team, was fired by the Cardinals, despite his success. Baker and LaRussa have had issues dating back to when Baker managed the San Francisco Giants and continued when he managed the Chicago Cubs.
So that’s the deep background and why Reds fans everywhere are hoping: “Rangers in four, only because they can’t win it in three.”Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching Ohio State Saturday and wondering if OSU coach Luke Fickell was rummaging through an old desk and found a playbook once used by Woody Hayes. One pass completion the entire game? And a 17-7 win? It truly was Woody’s old ‘Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust’ offense. That might be one way to keep the ball away from Wisconsin’s super octane offense Saturday in The Horseshoe.
ALTHOUGH IT WAS cold and windy, the Building Bridges/Hal McCoy baseball clinic Saturday was a bravo event, mostly because of the efforts of University of Dayton baseball coach Tony Vittorio. This guy knows how to get the attention — and keep it — from boys and girls 9 to 13. He had them wide-eyed and attentive for four hours.
If I’m a talented baseball player looking for a great education I’d want to play for UD and Vittorio. He puts a capital ‘P’ on positive and a capital ‘E’ on enthusiasm.
A QUICK DECISION: The Cleveland Browns are a sad-sack outfit and the Cincinnati Bengals are much better than expected. That should have been self-evident on Week One when the Bengals beat the Browns, but I’m not only stubborn, but a slow learner.
Maybe all those front-running Bengals fans will return to all those empty seats in Paul Brown Stadium.
OK, BACK to baseball.
They staged Game 6 of the ALCS Saturday in Arlington, Tex. and a slow-pitch softball game broke out. Texas 15, Detroit 5.
They staged Game 6 of the NLCS Sunday in Milwaukee and another slow-pitch softball game broke out — or was it home run derby. St. Louis 12, Milwaukee 6.
So it is Texas and St. Louis in the World Series. After watching St. Louis starting pitchers taking showers before the fifth inning in every NLCS game and watching the Rangers and Nelson Cruz whack away, take the Rangers in five games. Chris Carpenter might win one game for St. Louis. Might.
They’ll miss Adam Wainwright in the World Series.
There were six home runs hit in the first three innings Sunday in Milwaukee and it looked as if they might have to call the Chicago Cubs (who are hibernating for the winter) and ask them for their surplus baseballs.
THE CARDINALS scored four runs in the top of the first off Milwaukee starter Shaun Marcum, who was gone after the first inning. Lance Berkman, 1 for 17 in his career against Marcum, slugged a run-scoring double to make it 1-0 and David Freese crushed a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw. For the series he was 7 for 9 with 10 RBI when he swung at the first pitch.
Corey Hart, the world’s tallest leadoff batter, got one run back in the bottom of the first off St. Louis starter Edwin Jackson with a home run and it was 4-1.
Lefthander Chris Narveson replaced Marcum for the second inning and St. Louis leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal matched Hart with a home run. But Furcal’s came with two-outs and for the series St. Louis scored 16 two-out runs to one for Milwaukee.
AMAZINGLY, Milwaukee scrambled right back into it with three runs in the bottom of the second when Rickie Weeks hit a home run, Jerry Hairston had an infield hit and catcher Jonathan LaCroy homered to cut the St. Louis margin to 5-4.
That didn’t matter to St. Louis. The Cardinals scored four in the third to make it 9-4 as Albert Pujols led the inning with a home run, Nick Punto hit a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Allen Craig punched a two-run single up the middle.
Craig batted for starter Edwin Jackson, so Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa used five pitchers out of the bullpen to finish off the Brewers.
Back-to-back doubles by Jerry Hairston and Yuni Betancourt scored a run for the Brewers in the fourth and Milwaukee was still within squinting distance at 9-5.
IT ALL CAME crashing for the Brewers in the fifth when their major weakness was exposed — defense, the lack thereof. They made three errors, one by Hart in right field and two on one play by third baseman Hairston — they didn’t exactly play the ‘h’ out of defense. The errors led to two runs and an 11-5 St. Louis lead.
The Brewers pushed across a run in the fifth and suddenly the bats went as silent as the Milwaukee crowd the rest of the way.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after a nice ravioli and sausage dinner at Tony’s Italian restaurant in Englewood, which is very good, but it isn’t Charlie Gitto’s in St. Louis. Nothing is. The last time I was in St. Louis I had lunch three straight days at Gitto’s and had sausage linguine all three days — and I pity the players I interviewed with my garlic breath.
The Milwaukee Brewers fixed their rotation shortcomings in the off-season by obtaining starters Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum.
But they didn’t fix their defensive dilemma and deficiencies.
And it surfaced glaringly Friday night in Game 5 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals when the Brewers kicked the ball around like an English Division I soccer team en route to a 7-1 defeat.
Boot, boot, boot.
And it wasn’t just errors that show in the box score, although the Brewers made four Friday. It also surfaces in plays that should be made but aren’t.
It started in the second when a ball that ordinarily is caught by a decent outfielder wasn’t caught. And that’s why it wasn’t caught because Milwaukee right fielder Corey Hart has a clanky glove that he couldn’t get through an airport metal detector.
The Cardinals had two on with one out when Yadier Molina, 1 for 15 in the series with runners in scoring position, drove one toward the right field wall — a catchable ball. But as Hart drifted back the ball ticked off his glove and banged off the wall for a run-scoring double.
One out later, Nick Punto grounded to third and it skipped right between third baseman Jerry Hairston’s legs, like a ball going through a croquet wicket, and two more runs scored on the error to push it to 3-0.
ST. LOUIS MANAGER Tony LaRussa, for whom the unconventional is conventional, pulled one of his curious moves in the fourth. And, of course, it worked.
With runners on first and second and no outs, he had Nick Punto bunt the runners up a base, even though pitcher Jaime Garcia was the next hitter.
Garcia, who swings the bat with authority, grounded to the right side and the Cardinals had another run as David Freese, who moved from second to third on Punto’s bunt, scored on the grounder to make it 4-0.
Defense, or lack thereof, surfaced again in the sixth. The Cardinals had a runner on second with two outs when Milwaukee shortstop Yuni Betancourt fumble-fingered Jon Jay’s third-out grounder.
Instead, that brought up Albert Pujols and, yes, you know what happened. Single to left, another unearned run and a 5-1 St. Louis lead.
It happened again in the ninth. A throwing error by pitcher Estrada opened up the inning for a two-run double by Matt Holliday and a 7-1 knockout punch.
Milwaukee starter Zack Greinke battled hard all night with not much stuff and a sieve defense behind him. He is a strikeout pitcher and, amazingly, he didn’t strike out anybody and over his first 75 pitches only one St. Louis hitter swung and missed a pitch.
AND LaRUSSA WAS at it again, too. Even though Garcia had a 4-1 lead with two outs and two on in the fifth inning, he took him out with Ryan Braun coming to the plate.
Octavio Dotel came in and struck out Braun and the St. Louis bullpen, which struggled most of the season, took it from there again.
During the first five games of this NLCS the St. Louis bullpen has pitched more innings than the starters and over 20 2/3 innings the bullpen has given up three runs, a 1.31 ERA. In the five games, the least number of outs the bullpen had to get was 12. And it was 13 Friday.
An exhibit Friday: the Brewers put their first two runners on in the eighth and LaRussa brought in Mr. Alphabet, Marc (He’d like to buy a vowel) Rzepczynski. He retired Ryan Bruan on a grounder and struck out Prince Fielder. Then Jason Motte came in to retire Rickie Weeks on a grounder.
So the Cardinals own a three games to two lead, needing only one win in two chances in Milwaukee, starting Sunday.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATION from The Man Cave, where I ran out of cigars and Yuengling at the same time. Nobody ever accused me of being a plan-ahead guy but both LCS games kept me riveted to the screen with no time for puffs and sips.
The Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers desperately needed outstanding performances from their starting pitchers Thursday.
And both got it — in spades.
In the case of the Tigers, it was no shocker. Manager Jim Leyland sent 24-game winner Justin Verlander to the mound, needing a win against the Texas Rangers to avoid elimination.
THERE WAS A kicker, though. Leyland was without set-up pitcher Joaquin Benoit and closer Jose Valverde, both used up the last few days. So Verlander needed to go deep into the game. And he did — 133 pitches worth. He went 7 1/3 innings and turned a 7-4 lead over to the bullpen, a bullpen without its two best operatives.
But lefthander Phil Coke was the real thing, surviving a two-out uprising in the ninth when it was 7-4.
Josh Hamilton, a pain in the side, butt and neck with a bat in his hand, ripped a double.
COKE IS A lefthander and Leyland had a right-hander ready in the bullpen, but he stayed with Coke to face righthander Michael Young. When Young singled home Hamilton, it was 7-5 with the tying run was coming to the plate. It was Mike Napoli, who wrecked the Tigers Wednesday.
Still, Leyland stayed with Coke, a refreshing move, when Napoli grounded into a fielder’s choice to end it.
So the Tigers, down three games to two, go back to Texas, where they lost the first two games of this ALCS series.
MILWAUKEE’S ASSIGNMENT was tougher. Manager Ron Roenicke had to send lefthander Randy Wolf to the mound, his fourth best pitcher behind Yovanni Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum.
And it didn’t look good when Wolf fell behind, 2-0, on home runs by Matt Holliday in the second and Allen Craig in the third.
That was it, though. Wolf was not wearing sheep’s clothing. The Cardinals would score no more against Wolf, who pitched seven innings and turned over a 4-2 lead to the bullpen.
Roenicke had the luxury Leyland didn’t, though. His two best relief pitchers, K-Rod and John Axford were ready, willing and able.
K-Rod went 1-2-3 in the eighth. Axford, like Detroit’s Coke, got the first two outs in the ninth before pinch-hitter Lance Berkman singled, bringing the tying run to the plate.
But Furcal bounced into a game-ending fielder’s choice and the Brewers evened the NLCS at two games apiece, with Game 5 Friday night in St. Louis.
THE SIXTH INNING was the game-decider in Detroit.
In the top of the sixth, with the score 2-2, the Rangers filled the bases with one out. But Ian Kinsler grounded to third. Brandon Inge stepped on third and fired to first for an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Raburn singled to left. Then came a play that showed that Lady Luck was with the Tigers — a play that should convince the Tigers to put the third base bag on display for all Detroit fans to see.
Miguel Cabrera hit one down the third base line and it struck the inside corner of the third base bag, right on the chalk line, and bounced high over third baseman Adrian Beltre’s head for a double and Raburn scored all the way from first for a 3-2 lead. Victor Martinez then tripled for another run and Delmon Young cracked a two-run home run and it was 6-2.
Notice anything about that inning? Raburn single. Cabrera double. Martinez triple. Young home run. That’s a natural cycle — single, double, triple, home run, in order. It’s the first time in postseason history a team had a natural cycle in an inning.
And the home run was Young’s second of the game.
IN ST. LOUIS, after the two home runs gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead, the Brewers tied in in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Prince Fielder and Hairston Jr., the former Cincinnati utility player who is having a mammoth series, and a single Yuni Betancourt.
The NL MVP, Ryan Braun, broke the tie with a run-scoring single in the fifth and the Brewers made it 4-2 when a run scored on an error by St. Louis second baseman Ryan Theriot.
So far, nearly every game of both the NLCS and ALCS have gone to the last at-bats, just the way it should be when a World Series spot is at stake.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching both playoff games, wondering if I’m watching the Texas Brewers or the St. Louis Tigers.
As Dean Martin sings it, “Back in ol’ Napoli, that’s amore.”
And deep in the heart of Texas, they certainly are in love with Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli, a one-man wrecking crew Wednesday night in Detroit when the Rangers beat the Tigers, 7-3, in 11 innings.
So the Rangers are one win away from the World Series, leading the Tigers three games to one, with the Tigers sending 24-game winner Justin Verlander to the mound Thursday to save the season.
DETROIT MANAGER Jim Leyland made a desperate gamble in the bottom of the 11th with the score tied, 3-3, and in blackjack vernacular, he busted.
Josh Hamilton led the 11th against Detroit closer Jose Valverde. Hamilton is a notorious first-pitch swinger — he led the majors in first-pitch swing this year.
Valverde hung a slider on the first pitch and Hamilton jerked it into the right field corner for a double.
Valverde recovered to strike out Michael Young and it was decision time. Adrian Beltre, limping on a bad leg, hadn’t hit the ball out of the infield. But with first base open, Leyland decided to walk him intentionally and face Napoli.
Napoli owns the highest batting average in the majors this season, .368, but didn’t have enough at-bats to qualify for the title. Since coming off the disabled list just before the All-Star break he batted .383. And he hit 30 home runs.
And he came through, lobbing a single to center that scored Hamilton for a 4-3 lead. Nelson Cruz put the cork in the bottle with a three-run home run. And my question? “Hey, Leyland, what were you thinking?”
NAPOLI starred on defense, too, The Tigers had Miguel Cabrera on third base with one out in the bottom of the eighth with the score tied, 3-3. Delmon Young flied to medium-depth right field to Nelson Cruz. Cabrera tagged and tried to score by bowling over Napoli. Cruz’s one-hop throw beat Cabrera by 10 feet so he tried to shoulder-blast his way past Napoli. Didn’t work. Napoli applied the tag and held the ball as he tumbled to the dirt.
Now it was the bottom of the 10th and fleet afoot Austin Jackson was hit by a pitch. He tried to steal second and Napoli’s perfect peg wiped him out.
FANS OFTEN ASK about what I see covering baseball and I always tell them, “Hardly a week goes by that I don’t see something I’ve never seen before.”
It happened again Wednesday in the eighth, scored tied, 3-3. There was one out and nobody on base. Nobody on base!!! Texas manager Ron Washington decided to walk Miguel Cabrera intentionally. Curious, very curious. Why?
Well, the next batter was Victor Martinez, who was batting more than .400 going into September when the batter in front of him was intentionally walked.
And he did it again. Martinez singled to right, sending Cabrera to third with one out. Washington’s hide was saved, though, when Cabrera tried to score on Delmon Young’s fly to right and Nelson Cruz obliterated him.
ON THE OTHER channel, Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke put my head to shaking in the first inning.
Rafael Furcal singled, stole second, then scored on Jon Jay’s double. With first base open, Roenicke decided to pitch to Albert Pujols, a guy the Brewers haven’t been able to get out forever. In fact, he doesn’t just get hits, he gets extra base hits.
So the Brewers pitched to him and, of course, he bounced a ground rule double on one hop over the left field fence for a run-scoring double. Before the inning was over, St. Louis led, 4-0.
CINCINNATI REDS manager Dusty Baker is often criticized for his lineup manipulations, but he isn’t the only manipulator.
In the Detroit-Texas game, Leyland decided to play Brandon Inge at third base. Inge is a 34-year-old journeyman who was sent to Triple-A Toledo in mid-season. As a 10-year player, he could have refused and become a free agent.
But he wanted to stay with the Tigers so he reported to Toledo before getting a late season recall by the Tigers. With the Tigers trailing, 3-2, in the seventh inning, Inge led the inning by ripping a 0-and-2 98 miles an hour fastball off Alexi Ogando over the wall to tie it.
In the Milwaukee-St. Louis game, Roenicke decided to bench Nyger Morgan and play Mark Kotsay in center field. Why? Kotsay was 4 for 11 against St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter.
In the third inning, Kotsay drilled a leadoff first-pitch home run off Carpenter, cutting the St. Louis lead to 4-3.
Carpenter, dealing with less than illustrious stuff, left after the fifth inning. Milwaukee starter Gallardo shut down the Cardinals after that first inning but left after fifth.
It became a bullpen battle and the much- maligned St. Louis bullpen strung zeroes after Carpenter, retiring the final 12 Brewers in a row, with closer Jason Mott getting the final four. And the Cardinals took a two games to one lead in the NLCS.
ONLY THRE E MORE Ask Hal columns this year and there is still time for you to make Sunday’s DDN with your question. Send them by noon Thursday to email@example.com.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSEERVATIONS from The Man Cave, awaiting lunch tomorrow with good friend Ron Brookey, an Ohio High School Baseball Hall of Famer, and Mike Sakal. Brookey coached major-league catcher Steve Yeager at Meadowdale High School. Sakal formerly worked at the Dayton Daily News and now lives in Phoenix. He is bringing me a book he did with Babe Ruth’s granddaughter — and she autographed it.
In 2003, when I was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I was walking with my family after the ceremony up a side street in Cooperstown toward a restaurant on Main Street.
As we passed a bed & breakfast house, a lady came running toward me, waving a program and yelling, “Mr. McCoy, Mr. McCoy. Will you sign my program?”
I said, “Of course, what’s your name?” She said, “I’m Babe Ruth’s granddaughter,” and I said, “I should be getting your autograph.” I didn’t - but now I’ll have it, along with some photos in the book of Babe Ruth that have never been seen before.
IT WAS A game the Detroit Tigers had to have — and they went out and got it. Down two games to none after two games in Texas, the Tigers came home to Motown and pinned a 5-2 defeat on the Rangers.
They received fantastic pitcher from Doug Fister, a guy they obtained from Seattle at the trade deadline and he finished the year 8-1 for the Tigers.
On Tuesday, with the weight of Detroit on his back, he gave up three straight hits to start the game, the third a run-scoring single by Josh Hamilton.
To the Tigers and their fans, it must have seemed as if they were about to be swallowed by the Detroit River — one run home, two on, nobody out. But the Tigers then turned a double play and Fister took it from there.
After that run and three hits, Fister pitched into the eighth inning (7 1/3 innings and the Rangers scored one run and poked only four more hits. The second run came in the eighth inning on a ground ball, the run charged to Fister because he put the runner on.
He turned a 5-1 lead over to Joaquin Benoit with one out in the eighth. That’s pure gold. Because of Benoit and closer Jose Valverde, the Tigers were 80-0 this season when they led after seven innings.
AND THE TIGER offense turned massive and cavernous Comerica Park into Great American Ball Park for one night — home run heaven.
Catcher Victor Martinez, formerly with the Cleveland Indians, hit the first pitch of the fourth inning into the left field seats to tie it, 1-1 — but he strained his oblique on the swing and barely could complete his trot around the bases.
The Tigers took the lead in the fifth on a two-out 0-and-2 double into the right field corner by Miguel Cabrera.
Jhonny Peralta (his folks obviously didn’t know how to spell Johnny), another former Indians player, hit the first pitch of the sixth inning over the wall for a home run and a 3-1 Tigers lead. But they didn’t stop there. Andy Dirks singled and stole second. Austin Jackson singled to center, his third hit of the night, to make it 4-1.
The fifth run came on another home run, a drive to left field by Miguel Cabrera.
AFTER THE RANGERS scored a run in the eighth, the ball was turned over to closer Jose Valverde, owner of 51 straight saves this year — 49 straight during the season and two for two in the post-season.
Josh Hamilton: doubled to left on a 1-and-2 pitch (Don’t we know this guy from somewhere?).
Michael Young: struck out swinging on three pitches (He had no chance.).
Adrian Beltre: drove one down the first base line and first baseman Miguel Cabrera made a diving stop and threw to Valverde covering first (Beltre twice fouled balls off his legs earlier in the game and was slew-footed down the line or might have beat it out.)
Mike Napoli: flied out to the right field corner, close to the wall (And the Tigers are 81-0 when leading after seven and Valverde is 52 for 52 in saves this year).
Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted before the game that even if the Tigers lost Tuesday and faced a four-game sweep elimination on Wednesday, he would not bring back 24-game winner Justin Verlander for Game Four on only three days of rest.
That is now a non-factor. Verlander will pitch Game 5 Thursday in Detroit.
THE THIRD ANNUAL Building Bridges/Hal McCoy Baseball Clinic is set for Saturday (October 15) at a new venue, The University of Dayton’s Time-Warner baseball field on Edwin Moses Blvd. adjacent to UD Arena.
It is open to boys and girls, ages 8 to 13, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free shirts and hats are provided and gloves, too, if a participant doesn’t own one. Lunch is also provided.
Instruction is provided by the UD, Wright State and Sinclair College coaches and players. UD’s team will play a scrimmage game at 2 p.m.
The first 125 applicants are guaranteed spots and can be secured at Building Bridges, 2157 Salem Avenue. For information call Carolyn at 937-496-7800.
ONLY THREE Ask Hal columns remaining this year and here is your chance to be in Sunday’s DDN. Send those great questions before Thursday to firstname.lastname@example.orgTweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, watching the Detroit Tigers and remembering the 1984 World Series.
The Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in five games. After Game 5, several writers boarded a press bus for the 12-block ride from Tiger Stadium to the hotel. As we sat on the bus, it began rocking. Some fans bashed out the headlights with baseball bats (where did fans get baseball bats?) and it appeared they might turn over the bus.
We disembarked and began walking down the middle of Michigan Avenue toward the hotel, passing a burning taxicab. Dick Fenlon, a columnist for the Columbus Dispatch said to me, “Wonder what these fans would have done had they lost?” And I said, “Somebody was really upset about their cab fare.”
IF THERE IS going to be a World Series in Motown this year, the Tigers are going to have to work their tails off.
They are down two games to none to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS after another incredible game Monday night in Texas.
It went 11 innings and ended abruptly with the first walk-off grand slam home run in the history of Major League postseason play, a blast hit by Nelson Cruz, who had an eventful night.
THE TIGERS led, 3-2, in the seventh inning when Cruz hit a game-tying home run off Max Scherzer.
In the bottom of the ninth, with Detroit closer Jose Valerde on the mound, Adrian Beltre doubled off the wall and Mike Napoli was walked intentionally. Cruz was then hit with a pitch, a Valverde fastball that hit Cruz on the wrist and ricocheted off his rib cage.
That filled the bases with no outs, but Valverde retired David Murphy on a shallow fly to left and Mitch Moreland hit into an inning-ending double play — first base to home and back to first.
THEN CAME the 11th and the Rangers filled the bases again with no outs against Ryan Perry.
Michael Young, who hadn’t had a hit in the first four postseason games, led the 11th with a single to left. Adrian Beltre singled to center. Mike Napoli hit one to right center and right fielder Andy Dirks tried for a diving catch. It ticked off his glove and hit center fielder Austin Jackson on the leg, stopping the ball, and preventing Young from scoring from second, but filling the bases.
That brought up Cruz and the fourth pitch from Perry ended up in the left field seats for a 7-3 Rangers victory. As painful as the pitch that him was to Cruz, the ball he hit halfway to Houston hurt the Tigers much, much more.
Texas gave rookie lefthanded starter Derek Holland an early 2-0 lead, but he couldn’t throw strikes and gave up a three-run home in the top of the third to Ryan Raburn, ending Holland’s night. In 2 2/3 innings, he gave up three runs, four hits (three for extra bases), four walks and he hit a batter.
But that was all the Tigers would get. Scott Feldman replaced Holland and gave up no runs and one hit over 4 1/32 innings.
The Tigers had their chances, too. They, too, filled the bases in the top of the ninth. But Victor Martinez popped out to shortstop — a ball Elvis Andrus nearly droppe. The ball popped out of his glove, but he trapped it against his chest.
Right then, it was evident it was the Rangers’ night.
All was not lost for Detroit sports fan, though, The Detroit Lions are now 5-0 after they manhandled the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, 24-13.
AS FOR THE NLCS, that series is 1-1 after the Milwaukee Brewers felt the nasty sting of Albert Pujols in Miller Park, a 12-3 hammering. Did I say the Brewers would win the World Series? Did I really mean that?
Pujols had four hits worth 10 total bases — a home run and three doubles — and drove in five runs. And why do managers continue to pitch to this guy in crucial situations?
Pujols drove in the game’s first four runs — a two-run homer in the first and a two-run double in the third, igniting the Cardinals to their lop-sided, one-sided victory.
Pujols is a free agent after the season and is asking for the Gateway Arch, all rights to river traffic on the Mississippi River and five restaurants on Italian Hill in St. Louis.
Negotians between Pujols and the Cardinals were cut off after spring training, but the Cardinals certainly have to find a way to pay the man who is the face, heart, soul, kidney and liver of that franchise.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, stuffed after Nadine made my favorite meal — meal loaf and baked beans, with her homegrown banana peppers and green peppers. Sorry, she doesn’t pass out her recipe but I sometimes make the beans — brown sugar, lots of Montgomery Inn sauce, a dash of mustard, diced onions and chopped up bacon. Be sure to keep the Gasex handy.
Watching the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday afternoon reminded me of how former heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar Johansson of Sweden described his punches: “Toonder and lightning.”
That, for sure, is the Milwaukee Brewers. The ‘toonder’ is Ryan Bruan, for sure the NL MVP, and Prince Fielder. The ‘lightning’ is the rest of the Brew Crew’s lineup — all of whom can sting like a bee (in keeping with the boxing theme).
THE BREWERS TOOK Game one of the NLCS Sunday, 9-6, using “toonder and lightning” in the fifth inning.
The love between the Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals is on the same level as the love between the Cincinnati Reds and Cardinals. There is none.
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Braun hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the first. The next batter was Fielder and St. Louis pitcher Jaime Garcia hit him with a pitch. Umpire Gary Darling, knowing the volatile history between the two teams, immediately warned both benches.
From there the Cardinals pecked at Milwaukee starter Zack Greinke and constructed a 5-2 lead, three coming on a home run by David Freese.
THE BREWERS, though, certainly should not have been worried. They have won every game started at home this year by Greinke, a former AL Cy Young winner whom the Brewers acaquired last winter from the Kansas City Royals.
Garcia took that 5-2 lead into the fifth inning, but the toonder and lightning struck so fast he didn’t have time to take a second breath.
—Corey Hart dribbled a single to left, a grounder that narrowly eluded third baseman David Freese and shortstop Rafael Furcal.
—Jerry Hairston, the former Cincinnati Reds utility player, doubled to the left field corner.
—Ryan Braun pushed a ball the opposite way into the right field corner and it one-hopped over the wall for a two-run ground rule double and St. Louis led, 5-4.
—Prince Fielder extracted his pound of flesh revenge from Garcia on the next pitch, a two-run home run over the right field wall and Milwaukee led, 6-5.
GARCIA’S DAY WAS done and his head had to be spinning — Four batters, four runs.
But the Brewers didn’t stop against Octavio Dotel.
—Rickie Weeks grounded up the first base line and Dotel fielded it and threw low, wide and ugly past first baseman Albert Pujols and Weeks reached second on the error.
—Rafael Betancourt smoked a two-run homer to make it 8-5 — six batters up, six runners home.
WHEN THE BREWERS lead entering the eighth inning it usually, “Thanks for coming and drive home safely.”
The eighth inning belongs to set-up man Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez. On Sunday, he struck out the first two in the eighth, issued a two-out three-and-two walk to David Freese, but he retired the next batter on the first pitch, a fielder’s choice.
The ninth inning belongs to closer John Axford, a guy who blew three save all year, but only one in which the Brewers lost — Opening Day, in Cincinnati, grand slam home run by Ramon Hernandez.
Nick Punto — called strike three.
Rafael Frucal — swinging strike three.
Jon Jay — grounder to Axford.
THE GAME WAS played with the Miller Park roof open, which suits the high-powered Brewers. With the roof open, the ball is like a steel pinball — flying out of the park or bouncing hard off the walls. After Sunday’s game, the Brewers are 30-10 with the playing field uncovered.
And here’s a tip. The Brewers are going to win the World Series. They have home field advantage, including the World Series, giving them that one extra game in Miller Park, a piece of turf they defend like alligators in a swamp.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSEERVATIONS from The Man Cave, sad that one team had to lose in the Milwaukee-Arizona Closed-Roof Series. Like ‘em both. And then there was the St. Louis-Philadelphia series and it was sad to see either one of them win. Dislike ‘em both.
THIS IS WHAT makes baseball so great. You just never, never, never know. Just ask the Brewers Then ask the D-Backs.
The Brewers thought they had the Diamondbacks buried in the eighth inning, but it took 10 innings and ended dramatically when Milwaukee’s Nyjer Morgan, 2 for 15 in the series, banged a one-out walk-off single to center field for a 3-2 victory. Morgan was acquired during the season from the Washington Nationals.
The Brewers led the Diamondbacks, 2-1, entering the ninth inning of Game Five of the NLDS Friday.
They were 81-1 this year when leading after eight innings. They had John Axford to close it out, owner of a club record 47 saves, 43 in a row since blowing one in Philadelphia April 18.
Done deal? Nope.
Gerardo Parra, owner on zero hits in this series, drove Axford’s first pitch to the wall for a double. Pinch-hitter Sean Burroughs blooped a single to shallow left, sending Parra to third. Willie Bloomquist, a guy who had a glass of Gatorade with the Reds in 2010, dropped down a perfect safety squeeze to tie it, 2-2.
And the Diamondbacks had runners on first and second with no outs, but Axford retired thd next three to preserve the 2-2 tie — spelling the end for Arizona.
There is hope for the 2012 Cincinnati Reds, if you see where the Brewers and the Diamondbacks came from.
In 2010, the Brewers were under .500 (77-85) and finished third, 14 games behind the Reds. The Diamondbacks were pathetic in 2010, dead last in the NL West at 65-91 and 27 games out of first place.
Both teams, under new managers (Ron Roenicke for the Brewers and Kirk Gibson for the D-Backs), came back to win their divisions.
It brought to mind Eric Turner’s song “Written in the Stars,” which TBS used to show highlights throughout the ALDS and NLDS. The lyrics, “Seasons come and go, but I will never change, because I’m on my way” certainly fit the Brewers-D-Backs series.
Well, the Brewers are headed for the NLCS after the dramatic and well-played 3-2 victory over the Diamondbacks.
The D-Backs lived and died in this series with The Big Bang Theory. Home run or nothing. They hit 10 in the five-game series to four for Milwaukee.
Their first run this night came on a first-inning home run by Justin Upton.
AND THIS IS why baseball is so charming — as witness Milwaukee’s sixth inning. The Brewers had runners on second and first with one out.
Former Cincinnati Reds infielder/outfielder Jerry Hairston drilled one to straightaway center. Way Back. Chris Young turned on his heels and chased it to the wall, snagging it with an over the shoulder catch, a Willie Mays special. Two outs.
Then Yuniesky Betancourt blooped one to center field that plopped in front of Young, a run-scoring hit to give Milwaukee a 2-1 lead, a hit that went about half as far as Hairston’s out.
And, of course, there were late dramatics. K-Rod, a closer the Brewers acquired at mid-season from the New York Mets, grumbled after he arrived because he thought he would be the closer in Milwaukee, too. But he was the set-up guy because John Axford is Milwaukee’s closer.
K-Rod entered in the eighth and put two on with one out. He struck out Paul Goldscmidt, but walked Young to fill the bases. He squirmed out of it by getting Ryan Roberts to ground into a fielder’s choice.
So, it was Axford Time in the ninth. But it was a bad ninth, a blown save. He made up for it in the 10th, a rare two-inning appearance for him, and went 1-2-3, to set up Morgan’s heroics.
LOVED THE competitive spirit in the Brewers-D-Backs series.
In Game One, D-Backs pitcher Ian Kennedy came up and in on Rickie Weeks and hit him. He did it again Friday. And he also buzzed Ryan Braun.
Then early in the game, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt slid high and hard into second baseman Weeks, trying to break up a double play. When Goldschmidt came to bat, Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo tucked one under Goldschmidt’s stubbly chin.
THE THIRD ANNUAL Building Bridges/Hal McCoy Baseball Clinic is set for next Saturday (October 15) at a new venue, The University of Dayton baseball field on Edwin Moses Blvd. adjacent to UD Arena.
It is open to boys and girls, ages 8 to 13, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free shirts and hats are provided and gloves, too, if a participant doesn’t own one. Lunch is also provided.
Instruction is provided by the UD, Wright State and Sinclair College coaches and players. UD’s team will play a scrimmage game at 2 p.m.
The first 125 applicants are guaranteed spots and can be secured at Building Bridges, 2157 Salem Avenue. For information call Carolyn at 937-496-7800.
WANT TO argue with me? Foxsports.com asked me to pick the Top Ten Major League players of all-time at each position, a daunting challenge. Check my choices at Foxsports.com. I picked all eight positions, starting pitches, relief pitchers and designated hitters.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching with sheer delight as the Evil Empire (sorry, Yankee fans) become extinct for 2011, so now they can take their $200 million payroll and buy a few more players this winter.
An Elimination Game was scheduled Thursday night in Yankee Stadium, Game 5 of the ALDS between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees.
Instead, a spring training game broke out as managers Jim Leyland and Joe Girardi went through pitchers like wine at a tasting party.
By the end it was a wonder Girardi didn’t summon Conan O’Brien from the blimp to pitch an inning or two.
His hand was forced early when starter Ivan Nova had to leave after two innings with a stiff forearm.
From there it was funeral procession from the bullpen — Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, starter CC Sabathia (his first relief appearance in the majors), Rafael Soriano, David Robertson.
THE TIGERS struck quickly in the first, back-to-back one-out home runs by Don Kelly, a surprise starter at third base by Leyland, and Delmon Young for a 2-0 lead.
Young is the much-younger brother of former Tigers first baseman (and Cincinnati Reds outfielder/first baseman) Dmitri Young.
When Dmitri played for the Reds he said one day, “Wait until you see my little brother, Delmon. He’s way better than me.”
He probably is. His home run was his third of the series. But he had to leave the game in the seventh inning, running in from his left field position holding his side.
Sabathia gave up a run in the fifth when his former Cleveland battery mate, catcher Victor Martinez banged a run-scoring single for a 3-0 lead.
Detroit starter Doug Fister, acquired from Seattle at the trade deadline, shut the Yankees down for four innings. Young, by the way, was an August acquisition by the Tigers in August via trade with the Minnesota Twins.
THE YANKEES broke through in the fifth on a two-out home run by Robinson Cano, who earlier in the series hit a grand slam home run.
And they moved to within 3-2 in the seventh when they filled the bases with one out, but scored only one. A-Rod, who always struggles mightily in the post-season, struck out. But Joaquin Benoit walked Mark Teixeira for force in a run.
But with the bases still full, Benoit faced Nick Swisher, who had three home runs in his lastg six at-bats against Benoit. Benoit struck him out. The Yankees also had the bases loaded with one out in the fourth, but Jorge Posada popped out and after Fister fell 3-and-1 behind on Brett Gardner he coaxed an inning-ending pop up.
The Yankees had a runner on base with two outs in the eighth when Derek Jeter nearly pulled off a miracle. His long fly ball was caught in front of the short right field wall.
SO IT WENT to the ninth with everything on the line — seemingly Mission Impossible for the Yankees.
The Tigers were 79-0 when leading after seven innings and Detroit closer Jose Valverde was 49 for 49 in save opportunities.
Say what you want about New York’s Mariano Rivera, undoubtedly the best closer ever. But not even he ever had a year like Valverde.
VALVERDE, WEARING his clear blue-framed Oakleys, faced the meat, potatoes and dessert of the Yankees order in the ninth — Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and A-Rod.
Down went Granderson on a 3-and-2 pop fly to left.
Down went Cano on a first-pitch shattered bat fly to center.
Down went A-Rod (making $32 million this year), a swinging strikeout on 1-and-2.
And down went the Yankees.
Leyland pulled a smart move when he permitted Justin Verlander to do his bullpen work before Thursday’s game, a 56-pitch workout, making it clear that Leyland would not use his best starter in relief on this night.
And it worked. Now Verlander is ready to pitch Game 1 of the ALCS against the Texas Rangers.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after spending four hours in the eye doctor’s office for a five-minute examination during which no good news was delivered.
Everybody knows that St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Cincinnati. But you have to give the devil his due, you really do.
While the Cincinnati Reds had more than their share of debilitating injuries, the Cardinals probably had more — including right from the get-go in spring training when starting pitching Adam Wainwright was lost of the season.
And the injuries kept on coming.
BUT THERE THE Cardinals were Wednesday night, beating the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-3, to even that NLDS at two games apiece with the deciding game arriving Friday night.
And I wonder. I just wonder what the Dusty Baker-bashers would be saying if he had done some of the things LaRussa did Wednesday night.
First of all, second baseman Ryan Theriot had four hits in Game 3 Tuesday. Did he play Wednesday? Well, he didn’t start. LaRussa started Skip Schumaker and he responded with two hits until he left in mid-game with an injury and then Theriot entered the game.
AND THEN THERE was third baseman David Freese, one of the many Cardinals players who spent considerable time on the disabled list this season. Freese hit a two-run double in the fourth and a two-run homer in the sixth — four RBIs. What did LaRussa do? He took out Freese in the seventh inning for defensive purposes.
Can’t you just hear the Baker-bashers howling at the moon?
How about Arthur Rhodes, the man who owned the eight inning last year for the Reds? LaRussa is using him as a one-batter pitcher.
In Game 1 Rhodes came in to face Ryan Howard and struck him out. Then left. In Game 2 Rhodes come in to face Howard again and retired him. Then left.
On Wednesday, Rhodes came in to start the seventh inning and struck out Raul Ibanez. Then left.
When Rhodes came in, he was replacing starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who had a 5-2 lead. And wouldn’t the Baker-bashers yip and yap if Dusty made that kind of move?
CLOSER JASON MOTT started the ninth with a 5-3 lead. He had walked 16 batters all year, but quickly fell behind 3-and-0 to Shane Victorino. He then threw nine straight strikes. He got Victorino on a 3-and-2 ground ball, struck out Raul Ibanez on three pitches — the last on a 98 miles an hour fastball — then ended it on a 0-and-2 pitch to Placido Polanco, a shallow fly ball.
So Gave 5 goes back to Philadelphia with a dream match-up — Chris Carpenter against Roy Halladay. They are close friends, former teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays. And how good might the Jays be with Halladay and Carpenter still in their rotation?
Speaking of Jackson, while the Reds did nothing more at the trade deadline than trade Jonny Gomes, the Cardinals made a major move that helped push St. Louis into the playoffs. They traded Colby Rasmus, a problem-child for LaRussa, to Toronto to obtain Jackson and relief pitcher Ocatvio Dotel, who has been practically perfect so far in the postseason
THE OTHER NLDS is going to a fifth and final game, too.
The blackl-clad Arizona Diamondbacks, thriving on the grand slam home run, evened their series with the Milwaukee Brewers with a 10-6 victory.
In Game 3, rookie first baseman Paul Goldschmidt ripped a grand slam home run.
He came up again in the bottom of the first against Brewers lefthander Randy Wolf Wednesday in Game 2 with the bases loaded. This time he struck out for the second out.
No sweat, The next batter, Ryan Roberts pulled one down the left field line into the Arizona bullpen for a grand slam and a 4-1 lead. Then Chris Young added spice with a home run to make it 5-1.
ARIZONA MANAGER Kirk Gibson, probably the NL Manager of the Year, made an unconventional move, too.
With his team leading, 5-3, in the bottom of the third, the D-Backs put runners on second and third with two outs. Gibson pulled starter Joe Saunders for pinch-hitter Collin Cowgill. He delivered a two-run single.
A familiar name to Reds fans teook over in the fourth for Saunders, Micah Owings.
The D-Backs finished the night with four home runs, two by Young, and they scored 18 runs in their two home games at Chase Field.
LAST CHANCE this week to get your question for Ask Hal in Sunday’s DDN. Send them by noon Thursday to email@example.com.Tweet
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after spending 2 ½ hours deleting 525 e-mails (the same e-mail) from somebody who thinks it is tremendously humorous to foul up somebody’s e-mail box.
Wasted $7.75 Saturday night (senior citizens half-price ticket - age has its privileges) to view Moneyball. While it is a nice baseball movie, there isn’t much substance to it.
Right up front, I am not a Moneyball guy. I don’t subscribe to many of the Bill James theories on which Moneyball is based. He doesn’t believe in sacrifice bunts (a waste of an out) and puts no value into stolen bases (one of baseball’s exciting plays).
Also right up front, some of the best people in baseball are scouts and many are some of my best friends. The movie totally makes fun of scouts, turns them into a bunch of buffoons. The only laughs the movie gets is when Oakland general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) makes fun of his scouts. Of course, Nadine loved watching Brad Pitt spit tobacco juice into a paper cup throughout the movie.
Moneyball (the movie) also makes Oakland manager Art Howe resemble an idiot and a foof. Art Howe is one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet and of the many times I encountered him when he played and when he managed he in no way resembled the way he was portrayed in the movie.
Yes, the Oakland A’s, with Beane as the GM adhering to the Bill James theories, won 103 games in 2002, including a 20-game winning streak. But they lost in the playoffs to the Yankees. Beane is still general manager/part owner and the A’s haven’t made it to the World Series. In fact, the last four years these are how many games they finished out of first place: 9, 22, 24½, 18.
Moneyball also made a big deal out of the Boston Red Sox hiring Bill James and the fact they won the World Series in 2004.
How many have they won since? Once, in 2007. They haven’t been in the World Series since. Are they in the playoffs this year? The Moneyball theory is designed for small market teams to find ways to acquire undervalued players, players who come cheap but are good players. Last time I checked the Red Sox had the third highest payroll in baseball ($161 million).
So what did you think of the movie?
Don’t get me wrong. I love the small market teams and I am rooting hard for Tampa Bay and Arizona in the playoffs.
The amazing thing is that Tampa Bay, with a payroll under $45 million every year, is competitive nearly every year. How do they do it? They do it with scouting and a fabulous minor-league system.
DURING THE season, I host an on-line chat for FoxSportsOhio.com in which I communicate with fans from the first inning through the eighth inning for all Cincinnati Reds home games.
There are about a dozen regulars, loyalists who are there every night. Several of them gathered with me Sunday at the El Cazador restaurant in Englewood for lunch and conviviality. Nate Lowe came all the way from Toledo and Scott Davis came over from Columbus.
We met while the Cleveland Browns were getting their helmets handed to them by the Tennessee Titans, so thankfully I didn’t have to watch it.
WENT TO the Dayton Agonis Club (of which I am a member in good standing, if you can be a member in good standing with that irreverent outfit) to hear Miami University basketball coach Charlie Coles speak.
If there is a more entertaining speaker in southwestern Ohio, I’ve never heard him or her.
At the front of his talk, he said some very nice things about me and thanked me for being supportive of manager Dusty Baker, “Even though you and I are two of the very few people who seem to like the guy.”
Coles said he loved reading Ask Hal on Sunday and then said something very foolish (but nice). He said, “I don’t know why the Reds haven’t hired you as manager years ago.” And after everybody in the Reds front office quits laughing, be it known, he was kidding.
SPEAKING OF Ask Hal, while the Reds players are playing golf and Homer Bailey is hunting in the wilds, Ask Hal continues and I need those questions. Send them now to firstname.lastname@example.org.Tweet