Posted on: October 9, 2011 12:57 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 11:57 am

In victory, Hairston can laugh about out

Chris Young

Jerry Hairston Jr.By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- Jerry Hairston Jr. could joke on Saturday about the play Arizona's Chris Young made in the sixth inning of Game 5 of the National League division series -- but only because his team won.

A day after the Brewers' dramatic victory over the Diamondbacks, Hairston was asked about Young's catch that temporarily kept the game tied at 1. 

"Let me tell you something, if we would have lost, I probably wouldn't have slept for a week," Hairston said. "I was just saying please don't let that be the reason we don't win. I mean, he's a great center fielder, he really is. He made an unbelievable play. It's not like a guy who isn't a good outfielder, that's him. He's a great center fielder. He made an unbelievable play. I'm just glad that didn't affect the outcome of the game."

The ball was hit like a rocket -- and everyone expected two runs to score. Instead, the lead runner, Ryan Braun, had to go back to second and even though Young crashed into the wall, the runners weren't able to move up. Hairston was visibly upset, yelling after Young caught the ball.

"When I hit it, I thought it might have a chance to go out. I smoked it, but I know the panels were open, so the wind was blowing in. I thought at least it would short-hop the wall, double, at the very least. I had no idea he'd catch it," Hairston said. "When he stuck his glove up, I thought that was kind of cute, he's making an effort. When it landed in his glove -- I've never cried on the baseball field, but I came pretty close (Friday night). If we would have lost -- I play golf with him in the offseason all the time -- if we would have lost and he made that catch, I never would have heard the end of it. So I'm glad that we won. And he can have the catch. He's an incredible center fielder. He had a great postseason. I'm just glad we won."

However, when Yuniesky Betancourt hit a bloop single to give Milwaukee the lead, Hairston breathed a sigh of relief. And after the team won, he was able to laugh about it.

"At 35, I'm thinking double. … I was thinking at least two RBIs. Kennedy's a great pitcher and we had few opportunities to get him. I felt like we had a chance to get something going, maybe a big inning. It was just a time of the game, sixth inning, 1-1 game, I felt like that would propel us into the big inning. When he made that play, I thought maybe it's on their side.

"I just wanted to find a way to pick up a run. Yuni's been incredible all yea rand he was able to get that big hit for us. That was, I breathed a sigh of relief, but I knew that wasn't the end."

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 12:55 am

Four clinchers for Brewers' Counsell

Craig Counsell

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- You know in the movie Forrest Gump where the titular character keeps showing up in some of the biggest points of recent American history? Well, Craig Counsell may be a little like Forrest Gump.

Friday night he was there again in Game 5 of the NLDS when Carlos Gomez scored the winning run on Nyjer Morgan's 10th-inning single and it was the fourth time in his career he had been on the field for a walk-off winner in the final game of a postseason series.

The first, of course, was in 1997 when he scored on Edgar Renteria's single to give the Marlins a 3-2 victory in Game 7 over the Cleveland Indians.

Craig Counsell

The second came in 2001 as a member of the Diamondbacks when Arizona beat St. Louis in Game 5 of the NLDS. Counsell was on deck when Tomy Womack's single scored Miguel Bautista to send Arizona to the NLCS -- "I was on deck, so I was the first one to get the hug on that one," Counsell said.


The third was later that fall, when Counsell was on first base after being hit by a pitch when Luis Gonzalez singled in Jay Bell to give Arizona a Game 7 victory over the Yankees.


"It's good fortune," Counsell said. "To just be a part of four games like that -- that's the point of it. To be a part of, play in, those four games -- you can look at that and be pretty content with your career."

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 1:45 am

Eye on Photos: Cardinals eliminate Phillies

By Matt Snyder

The St. Louis Cardinals took down the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS, three games to two. Here's the series in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

With the bases loaded and one out, Albert Pujols loomed on deck. An unassisted double play by Chase Utley got the Phillies out of the jam and helped them take Game 3. (Getty Images)
Skip Schumaker pleads his case on a catch. His side of the argument eventually won, as the umpires got together and changed the call. (Getty Images)
The big blow of Game 3 was Ben Francisco's pinch-hit, three-run homer. (Getty Images)
Albert Pujols swipes third base in the first inning of Game 3. (Getty Images)
Great view of the outfield scoreboard and the Arch in the background. (Getty Images)
Cliff Lee, Ace No. 2 for the Phillies, faltered in Game 2. (Getty Images)
Huge collision at home plate, which seem to be happening quite often in these playoffs. (Getty Images)
Tony La Russa hated the stike zone in Game 2, and he wasn't alone -- Yadier Molina shares his frustration. (Getty Images)
The big blow in Game 1 was Ryan Howard's towering home run. (Getty Images)
The Cardinals gained an early advantage in Game 1 with a three-run shot by Lance Berkman. (Getty Images)
Shane Victorino committed his first error of the season in Game 4 and it was a bit funny. (Getty Images)
Matt Holliday slides into home on David Freese's go-ahead, two-RBI double in Game 4. (Getty Images)
Chase Utley took a huge gamble when he headed to third base in Game 4, and Pujols nailed him. (Getty Images)
Rafael Furcal tripled to lead off the game in Game 5, and he was driven home on a Skip Schumaker double. That would be all the Cardinals needed. (Getty Images)
Yadier Molina threw Chase Utley out on a pivotal stolen base attempt. Had Utley made it, he would have been on second base with only one out and the Phillies trailing by one. (Getty Images)
Unfortunately, the series ended on a somber note, as Ryan Howard may have been seriously injured. (Getty Images)
Chris Carpenter decided to go all Rock Star after throwing a three-hit shutout to get the Cardinals into the NLCS. (Getty Images)
Being on the DL doesn't mean Adam Wainwright, left, misses out on the celebration. (Getty Images)

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:02 am

Grading the Brewers-Diamondbacks NLDS

Yovani Gallardo

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers starter didn't get the win on Friday, but he was a line for the victory before John Axford's blown save. Gallardo won Game 1 and overall he went 14 innings, allowed 10 hits, two runs, walked three and struck out 14. The only two runs he allowed were on solo homers. The right-hander was the team's opening day starter by default as Zack Greinke was injured in spring training, but Gallardo came through this season to prove his worth as a top of the rotation starter.

Chris Young. There were a lot of bigger names in this series, but few performed like Young. Perhaps the only thing he didn't do was celebrate after Game 5. He hit .389/.421/.944 with three homers in the series and made one of the greatest catches I've seen in a postseason game -- going deep to take away Jerry Hairston Jr.'s liner in the Brewers' sixth inning. If he doesn't make that catch, Milwaukee scores at least two in that inning and there may be no extra innings. Had Yuniesky Betancourt not followed with a bloop single, who knows what happens in Game 5? So why a B? Every player feels they could do just a little more to win a series, even one who had as dominant a series as Young. Consider this a B-plus held down by the curve of his team.

Managerial moves: There were some winners and losers on both sides. In the end, the managers weren't the reason the Diamondbacks are going home and the Brewers are ready for the NLCS -- the players were. The players put on an amazing display of baseball through five games and especially in the last game. Gibson was overaggressive in the first game, getting punished by pitching to Prince Fielder, but then used his bullpen masterfully in the fourth game. Roenicke was slow to his bullpen in the fourth game, but played the right notes in his lineup, especially using Hairston as his third baseman, with Hairston coming up with some big hits and big plays in the field.

The rest of the Brewers starters. Gallardo was fantastic -- the same can't be said for Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf. But that's the beauty of the five-game series. With one good starter and a competent bullpen, you can win the series. Greinke whined his way out of Kansas City, saying he wanted to pitch in the postseason, and when he got there, he was mediocre, allowing eight hits and four runs in five innings of a Game 2 no-decision. That said, he was better than either Marcum or Wolf. Marcum didn't make it out of the fifth inning in Game 3, giving up a grand slam to Paul Goldschmidt and seven runs overall. And then there's Wolf, who went just three innings and was probably in too long, allowing seven runs in those three innings -- including Ryan Roberts' grand slam. 

Road team woes. The home team won every game of this series, while the road teams struggled to score runs. Give credit to the pitching staffs for both teams, especially Gallardo and Josh Collmenter, but the team batting first struggled throughout the series. Milwaukee hit just .215/.278/.369 at Chase Field and Arizona hit just .229/.296/.400 at Miller Park.

Video: Arizona manager Kirk Gibson still believes it was a great season.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 1:14 am
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:12 am

Grading the Cardinals-Phillies NLDS

By Matt Snyder

The Game 5 pitcher's duel. We talked about how great the CC Sabathia-Justin Verlander pitching matchup would be over in the ALDS for what seemed like weeks. Well, the Game 1 attempt was screwed up by weather. In Game 3, Verlander was dominant in several stretches, but still allowed four runs while Sabathia was a disppointment. So we never really got the pure baseball fan's dream of a 1-0 game where two pitchers absolutely stifle the opposition. Thank you, Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter. Friday night's Game 5 in Philly was pure bliss to those who love old-school pitcher's duels. Halladay allowed a triple and then a double to start the game, falling behind 1-0. After that? The two pitchers combined to throw 17 shutout innings, allowing only seven hits and one walk, while striking out 10. Now that is a pitcher's duel. Carpenter was the star, but they both put on a show.

Cardinals' offense. They were the best offense in the NL in 2011, so scoring 19 runs in a five-game series is not "A" material, but c'mon. These guys were facing the Phillies' pitching staff, the best staff in the NL during the season. Gathering 10 doubles, three triples and two home runs is pretty impressive. They also battled back from a four-run deficit against Cliff Lee in Game 2 and got some pretty timely hits from David Freese in Game 4. And remember, Matt Holliday was banged up. So while we can't exactly say they came through with flying colors and carried the team -- this series was certainly a team effort -- the offense was good enough to earn a solid "B."

The Phillies' vaunted rotation. Roy Halladay was unhittable if it wasn't the first inning. Cole Hamels had a good, albeit inefficient outing. So we aren't really looking at those two. But Cliff Lee couldn't make a 4-0 lead stand up in Game 2, when the Phillies could have essentially put the Cardinals away. He gave up 12 hits and five runs in six innings. And Roy Oswalt was bad in Game 4, when the Phillies could have eliminated the Cardinals. The offense was a major reason the Phillies lost this series, but they've been overcoming a mediocre offense all season -- ranking seventh in runs scored and still winning 102 regular-season games. This team was built around its starting pitching, and if the starters all lived up to their billing as aces, the Phillies would have swept. Two of the four didn't get it done, so that's a "C," and the Phillies are done for the season.

The squirrel overkill. Why do we have to take mildly amusing events and run them into the ground? When the squirrel ran on the field during play in Game 3, it was funny. When a squirrel -- maybe even the same one -- ran toward home plate during an Oswalt pitch in Game 4, it was hilarious. The @BuschSquirrel Twitter account was a nice short-term touch, I guess. But then we were bombarded with two days of squirrel jokes and TBS even had a feature once Game 5 started about squirrels on the field in Philadelphia. And they acted like it was a coincidence, no less. Yeah, I bet it was.

Ryan Howard's disappearing act. Note: This has nothing to do with his injury on the final play of the game. As an aside here, people often try to make accusations as to who we favor, etc. I can tell what I'm rooting for in these playoffs. Four things, in no particular order, are what I want out of every game: 1. Well played, close game; 2. Good weather; 3. No umpiring mistakes altering the outcome of the game; 4. No major injuries. In Game 5 of the NLDS between the Phillies and the Cards, I got what I wanted from Points 1-3. But point four I didn't. And that sucks. But it doesn't take away from the fact that Howard had a huge start to the series and then just completely disappeared. After a two-RBI single in the first inning of Game 2, Howard had six RBI already. He had 15 plate appearances the rest of the series and was 0-for-15 with six strikeouts. That doesn't cut it for the highly-compensated cleanup hitter. And if he did come through with possibly even one big hit, the Phillies might be headed to the NLCS right now.

Video: Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is angry about his club being eliminated.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 12:20 am
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:11 am

Howard suffers Achilles injury on final out

Ryan Howard

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The visual told you all you needed to know, as the Cardinals celebrated their 1-0 victory over the Phillies, the man who made the last out sat on the ground in apparent pain. And it wasn't just the pain of an ended season, it was real, physical pain as Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard suffered an Achilles injury after ground out to Ryan Theriot to end the game.

Howard told reporters after the game he fears he tore the tendon (via Matt Gelb of the Phialdelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb on Twitter). 

Full Playoff Coverage

"It felt like my bat came around and hit the back of my Achelles," Howard told reporters after the game. "I tried to run and felt a pop and it felt like the whole thing was on fire. I tried to run, but felt like I was litterally on a flat tire. I tried to get up, but I couldn't go." 

It was a rough ending for a rough night for Howard, who went 0 for 4 on the night. However, he wasn't alone as the first four batters in the Phillies lineup went just 1 for 15 in the game and the bottom four went 0 for 12 against Chris Carpenter.  Howard not only went hitless on Friday, he finished the series with just two hits and none in the last three games of the series.

Howard, a St. Louis native, is scheduled to have an MRI on Saturday. A ruptured Achilles could mean a lengthy rehab that would cut into a good part of the 2012 season. The 31-year-old is under contract through the 2016 season with $125 million left on his contract.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 12:17 am

East or West Coast? High payroll? See ya ...

By Matt Snyder

When Ryan Howard grounded out to end an absolutely brilliant pitchers' duel between Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay, the Phillies were eliminated from the playoffs by the Cardinals. In the bigger picture, all teams in the East divisions were now eliminated -- just as are the top nine payrolls in baseball, according to the figures from the start of 2011.

Full Playoff Coverage
The Tigers are now the big boy, of the four remaining teams. They entered 2011 with a $105,700,231 payroll, ranking 10th in the majors. The Cardinals followed, ranking 11th, with the Rangers checking in at 13 and the Brewers ranking 17th. This isn't a commentary on how spending doesn't benefit teams, because the Yankees and Phillies only lost Game 5 in their respective series by one run. Spending also gives those teams a larger margin of error on big free agent signings, so don't overreact and say spending causes losing. It most certainly doesn't. But we do have to give credit where it's due here. The four remaining teams in the 2011 postseason were not big spenders. They were more middle-market spenders who assembled quality teams with shrewd front-office moves. Oh, and they aren't from the East, too. That seems to matter to many fans.

We so often hear the lament of the national fans, that they are sick of seeing the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. Well, they're all gone now. Lament no more. We've got Detroit, Texas, Milwaukee and St. Louis represented. It's a great cross-section of what those coastal types might call flyover country. Being an Indiana resident, I think it's pretty cool myself.

Maybe FOX isn't happy that the World Series doesn't have the New York and Philadelphia markets (or Boston ... or Chicago ... or Los Angeles), but pure baseball fans will tune in and enjoy a great product no matter who is playing. We just witnessed four dramatic series, none of which were sweeps and three of which went the absolute distance -- all ending with one-run decisions in Game 5. That's a great product. Period.

Oh, by the way, parity police: The Rangers and Brewers have never won the World Series. The Tigers haven't won it since 1984. The Cardinals have won the World Series one time since 1982.

One could spin this as the playoffs of the underdog, though that wouldn't really be accurate in the cases of at least the Rangers and maybe all four. Maybe it's the playoffs of the less fortunate (or medium fortunate, to be more accurate)? Or the adept spenders? The non-coasters? Whatever it is, it's been extremely entertaining thus far and that doesn't appear to be going away any time soon. Make no mistake about it, these two League Championship Series and the ensuing World Series are absolutely compelling. Stay tuned, it's going to be three total must-watch series. Even if the teams don't play in the largest of markets.

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Posted on: October 7, 2011 11:09 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 2:03 am

Cardinals win pitcher's duel, advance to NLCS

By Matt Snyder

Hero: There's no question here. Chris Carpenter went out and dominated with no margin for error. He was spotted a one-run lead in the first inning, and then fellow ace Roy Halladay locked in for the Phillies. Carpenter himself probably knew he was going to have to throw a shutout. And he did.

More Playoff Coverage
Goat: The Phillies offense. Yes, Carpenter was masterful and, yes, Roy Halladay gave up two extra-base hits to start the game. But are we really going to blame Halladay for allowing one run to the best offense in baseball? On the flip-side, the Phillies mustered just three hits and four base-runners -- the fourth was on a Yadier Molina error. They've got to give their pitching staff more help than that.

Turning point: We're going to have to be flexible with the term here, because there wasn't really a big turning point. The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead after two batters and held it the entire game. So we'll go with this: With runners on first and third in the in the bottom of the fourth inning, Raul Ibanez sent a Carpenter pitch deep to right field. It nestled into Lance Berkman's glove on the warning track and the only real threat to the Phillies scoring multiple runs was averted.

It was over when ... Ryan Howard grounded out to end the game. He's liable to hit a home run at any second, so the 1-0 lead was never safe until the game was finally over.

Next: The Cardinals head to Milwaukee to face off against the Brewers -- in what has become a pretty heated rivalry. Now we'll get to see it for seven games. Will there be any T-Plush vs. Chris Carpenter issues? What happens if the Brewers pitch Albert Pujols inside and Tony La Russa has a pitcher dot Ryan Braun? The list could go on and on, but there's no need to get into all that right now. It's gonna be incredible entertainment, but this night is the time for both NL Central teams in the playoffs to celebrate their victories. They can look ahead Saturday.

Video: Carpenter, La Russa speak about the victory.

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