Tag:Braves
Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:20 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 11:28 am
 

What was best play of Games 162?

Longoria

By Evan Brunell

The morning after baseball's latest contender for the most exciting final day of the regular season, we're left trying to figure out just which of the improbable, impossible events that led to a night to remember was best.

Rays coming back from 7-0? Evan Longoria whacking a three-run home run to pull the Rays within one? How about Dan Johnson, he of a .167 batting average in 260 plate appearances over the last four years jacking a game-tying home run in the ninth? What about Evan Longoria's game winner, shades of Mark McGwire's 62nd home run?

But there were plenty of other memorable plays. How about Robert Andino shocking the Sox with a game-winning single in the ninth? Or earlier in the game, when Dustin Pedroia whacked a homer to give the Sox a lead? The Phillies sending a dagger in the hearts of Braves with a Hunter Pence RBI single in the top 14th? But Craig Kimbrel, he of 40 saves on the year, had to blow the game for Pence to walk off. Similarly, Jonathan Papelbon imploded for the Red Sox, handing Baltimore the victory. The Cardinals razed their way to a 8-0 win, but how huge was St. Louis' five-run first on the strength of five run-scoring hits?

There are no shortage of amazing plays or occurrences from Wednesday night. We ask you: Which one was the best?



For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 29, 2011 3:35 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 3:37 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Baseball's amazing night

Evan Longoria

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Plain and simple, if you're a baseball fan, Wednesday night was flat awesome. It reminded you just why we have the greatest game out there, and that each and every of the 162 games of the season could end up meaning something. Three of the four games that were part of the wild-card races were tight, two of them going into extra innings with ninth-inning heroics. Although this space will be filled from the four big games of the night, there were several other worthy performances that shouldn't be overlooked -- like Mike Napoli's two-run homer against his old team giving the Rangers home-field advantage in the ALDS, Stephen Strasburg striking out 10 in six innings to earn his first win of the season, Trevor Plouffe's RBI single with two outs in the ninth to help the Twins avoid 100 losses and Miguel Bautista's two-hit shutout for the Mets. But what made Wednesday exciting was the four games that decided the wild cards -- Red Sox-Orioles, Yankees-Rays, Cardinals-Astros and Braves-Phillies.

Evan Longoria, Rays: Only two players in the history of the game have hit walk-off homers in their team's last game of the regular season to send their team to the postseason -- Bobby Thompson and now Evan Longoria. And Longoria didn't just hit the game-winner, he also gave the team the idea that it could come back with a three-run homer to cap a six-run eighth and pull the Rays to within a run of the Yankees. He also had a big defensive play, but more on that later. 

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals: While the other three games for the wild cards were taut nip-tuck affairs, Carpenter made sure the Cardinals had no worries, throwing a two-hit shutout in a 8-0 victory over the Astros. Carpenter finishes the season with a rather pedestrian 11-9 record and 3.45 ERA, but over the last month of the season he was 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA in six starts, including two shutouts.

Bud Selig: Yeah, everyone loves to complain about everything Bud does, but you've got to give credit where credit's due -- this ending the season on a Wednesday worked. Not only will it give us early games of the playoffs on a weekend, it gave us Wednesday night's excitement, without any other distractions. There were no football games to compete against, instead all of the sports world's eyes were on baseball. And anyone watching was rewarded in an amazing night.


Carl Crawford, Red Sox: It may not be fair to place the entire blame of Boston's disastrous 2011 on Crawford's shoulders, but when you have a $142-million contract, your shoulders have to be broad. Crawford was 1 for 4 on the night, but he'll best be remembered for not being able to run down Robert Andino's sinking liner that scored Nolan Reimold from second with the winning run. Crawford charged the ball and slid, but came up just short as the Red Sox lost for the 20th time in September. Crawford finished his first season in Boston hitting .255/.289/.405 with 11 homers and 56 RBI. Marco Scutaro's baserunning gaffe in the eighth inning will also be remembered as part of the team's epic collapse, but right now, Crawford's Q rating in Boston is lower than Bill Buckner's.

Craig Kimbrel, Braves: Atlanta's rookie closer led all big-league relievers with 126 strikeouts, finished tied for the most saves in the National League with 46 and may win Rookie of the Year in the NL. But his 2011 will forever be remembered for Wednesday night when he blew his eight save of the season, giving up a leadoff single to Placido Polanco. After striking out Carlos Ruiz, he walked Ben Francisco and Jimmy Rollins to load the bases. Chase Utley followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3, before Kimbrel was lifted from his 79th game of the season. Four innings later, the Phillies finally scored and then ended the Braves' season. Of Kimbrel's eight blown saves, three came in September, including a pivotal game on Sept. 9 in St. Louis against the eventual wild-card winners.

Greg Golson, Yankees:  Before Lognoria's heroics in the bottom of the 12th, Golson led off the top of the inning with a single, and then went to third when the next batter, Eric Chavez, singled. It appeared the Yankees would be able to push the go-ahead run across the plate, but Jorge Posada hit a grounder to third, and Golson was caught too far off the bag and Longoria tagged him out for the first out of the inning. Not only did Golson make the out, he also didn't even get into a rundown to let Chavez advance to third. Chris Dickerson then struck out and Brett Gardner grounded out to end the Yankees threat and set up Longoria's heroics.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 29, 2011 1:11 am
Edited on: September 29, 2011 2:04 am
 

Verlander, Kershaw win pitching triple crowns

By C. Trent Rosecrans

So, now that we've got that pesky playoff thing all figured out, we can get to the important stuff, like batting titles and the such, right?

OK, while eight teams still have something to play for, 22 other teams are done, and so are the regular-season individual titles. So what were the best marks in the biggest individual categories? Here you go:

American League
Batting average: .344 -- Miguel Cabrera
Home runs: 43 -- Jose Bautista
RBIs: 119 -- Curtis Granderson
Stolen bases: 49 -- Coco Crisp, Brett Gardner
Wins: 24 -- Justin Verlander
ERA: 2.40 -- Justin Verlander
Strikeouts: 250 -- Justin Verlander
Saves: 49 -- Jose Valverde

National League
Batting average: .337 -- Jose Reyes
Home runs: 39 -- Matt Kemp
RBIs: 126 -- Matt Kemp
Stolen bases: 61 -- Michael Bourn
Wins: 21 -- Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy
ERA: 2.28 -- Clayton Kershaw
Strikeouts: 248 -- Clayton Kershaw
Saves: 46 -- John Axford, Craig Kimbrel

If you want to know who led in other stats, you can check out our stats page.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 28, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 11:49 pm
 

Playoff race: Cards are wild in NL

Craig Kimbrel

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Craig Kimbrel may end up being the National League Rookie of the Year, but the lasting image of the Braves' closer in 2011 may be his blown save in the final game of the season that capped an epic collapse by the Atlanta in the NL wild-card race, as Atlanta lost 4-3 to the Phillies in 13 innings on Wednesday. The loss, coupled with the Cardinals' 8-0 victory in Houston, has given the Cardinals the National League wild card.

The Braves went 9-18 in September, losing their last five games and nine of their last 12, but none as painful as Wednesday's collapse.

Atlanta led 3-1 in the third and held onto the lead until the ninth, when Kimbrel blew his eighth save of the year. Kimbrel allowed a hit and three walks, giving up the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Chase Utley. Kris Medlen got the Braves into extra innings, but Scott Linebrink gave up two hits and walked a batter, with Brian Schneider scoring on Hunter Pence's infield single in the 13th.

Meanwhile, St. Louis had little drama on Wednesday, scoring five runs in the first inning off of Astros starter Brett Myers and cruising to victory. The win was the Cardinals' fourth in their last five games and 16th in the month of September. They also won 23 of their final 32 games. The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 8.5 games after losing on Sept. 2, but were able to make up the difference over the last month.

Chris Carpenter threw a two-hit shutout for the Cardinals, who will face the Phillies in the National League Divisional Series, starting Saturday.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:57 pm
 

On Deck: Wild cards hinge on final day



By Evan Brunell


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

AL wild card: It's the final game of the season, and we've got two races currently tied. The first of them is the American League wild card, where the Red Sox and Rays are knotted at one apiece. Boston will send ace Jon Lester to the mound in the hopes of downing the Orioles. Lester has never lost against Baltimore, running up a 14-0 record. On the year, he has a solid 3.49 ERA but that mark is 6.97 over his last four starts, so there's concern there. He'll be opposed by Alfredo Simon. Meanwhile, down south, the Rays offer up their own ace in David Price to take down the Yankees. New York is already in the playoffs, so they could choose to rest some players and give the Rays a weaker opponent to play against. To that end, even the Yankees don't know who will be starting Wednesday night. Red Sox vs. Orioles, 7:00 p.m. ET | Yankees vs. Rays, 7:00 p.m. ET

NL wild card: Over in the NL, the Braves are new to this. The Red Sox have had an extra day to get used to the idea of falling into a tie, but Atlanta woke up Wednesday knowing the final game of the season was crucial to the playoff hunt. After all, if they lose and the Cardinals win, they're out. Fortunately, they have a pretty good pitcher heading to the hill in Tim Hudson, who will oppose Joe Blanton in what figures to be a bullpen game for Philly. On paper it's a mismatch, but the way the Braves has been playing lately is the complete opposite of St. Louis. Meanwhile, the scorching Redbirds offer up Chris Carpenter against the hapless Astros, who will send Brett Myers to the mound. Phillies vs. Braves, 7:00 p.m. ET | Cardinals vs. Astros, 8:00 p.m. ET

StrasburgNo walks: Stephen Strasburg has a very good chance to accomplish an incredible feat in his fifth and final start of the year. So far, he's walked absolutely zero batters in his 18 innings, striking out 14. That's a K/BB ratio of infinity. Thanks to the magic that is Baseball Reference's Play Index, I ran a query of all starting pitchers who had at least five consecutive starts with no walks in the millennium. There's been plenty of streaks of no walks allowed, most namely the amazing Greg Maddux who racked up two separate nine-game streaks of no walks allowed. If Strasburg gets through the game, he'll be tied with 15 others for five consecutive starts. Interestingly, Kevin Slowey accomplished the feat earlier this season, but before that you have to go back to Cliff Lee in 009, then Curt Schilling in 2006. Strasburg himself went six straight starts without a walk last season. He's opposing Chris Volstad in Jack McKeon's final game as Marlins manager. Nationals vs. Marlins, 4:10 p.m. ET

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 28, 2011 11:25 am
 

Who would have pitched in a Wild Card playoff?



By Evan Brunell

Major League Baseball will be changing its postseason structure either for the 2012 or 2013 season, adding one wild card per league. As a result, there will be a new playoff series of just one game, which we'll call the Wild Card Game, with both wild cards per league duking it out for a winner-take-all game for the right to advance to the division series.

If this change was in effect for 2011, both the Red Sox and Rays would have won the AL wild card, although the Angels would still have made things interesting. Over in the NL, the Cardinals and Braves would both have won the honors, with the Giants making a late run for it in September. So two collapses -- one each by Boston and Atlanta -- would effectively have been negated by this rule change. (That doesn't make the rule change bad; an extra one-game playoff is always fun and you don't know what teams would have done at the trade deadline with an extra potential postseason spot.)

The Red Sox would love to avoid a playoff game with Tampa and win the wild card outright. If there is a playoff game, then the Red Sox will be forced to start John Lackey in a winner-take-all game, which would not have been the case under the new rules. You see, Jon Lester is likely to pitch on three days rest this Wednesday to give Boston the best chance at winning the wild card. Under the new rules, though, Lester's start would not have been needed as Boston would have clinched a wild-card spot after Monday night's game. That means Bedard would have pitched Tuesday as he did and a warm body would have completed Boston's season on Wednesday, probably Tim Wakefield. That would have set Lester up for the Wild Card Game, working quite nicely in Boston's favor.

The Rays, for their part, would also have clinched a spot after Monday night, knocking the Angels out. The Rays could have opted to push Jeremy Hellickson, who started Tuesday against the Yankees, back to the Wild Card Game. It's far more likely, though, that David Price would have been pushed back to Thursday instead of drawing the ball on Wednesday. So the playoff game would have seen a Lester/Price battle. Instead, if there is a playoff game, we're looking at John Lackey and Jeff Niemann. Exciting!

In the National League, the Giants were eliminated on Sunday. That would have allowed the Cardinals and Braves, respectively, to reconsider their assignments of Jaime Garcia and Randall Delgado to the mound on Monday, respectively. Delgado certainly would have started, as he likely wouldn't have drawn the ball in the playoff game or the first couple games of the division series anyways. Garcia is a possibility, but with Chris Carpenter slated to go on Wednesday, he certainly would have been pushed back to the playoff game with Garcia starting on Monday in order to line up for the division series. Tuesday's starter in Jake Westbrook wouldn't have been considered for the start.

So who would the Braves have sent up against Carpenter if not Delgado? Derek Lowe? Nope -- he's in the midst of one his worst seasons, so would have started on Tuesday to ready for a Game 3 start in the division series. As we've seen, every team's Wednesday starter has so far fit the bill for a playoff game, and that holds true for Atlanta, as Tim Hudson would have drawn the start. So we're looking at a Carpenter/Hudson matchup. Not shabby at all.

Instead of both teams having to throw their best pitchers against other teams in a battle for the wild card, these pitchers would have gone up against each other in what would have promised to be an exciting day of Wild Card Games.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 1:35 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Red Sox, Rays, Cards get it done



By Matt Snyder


Red Sox offense. They really, really needed this one. And you have to give the Red Sox credit, they came through when it mattered. They fell behind 1-0 in the first inning, but then Jacoby Ellsbury hit a two-run homer. Marco Scutaro would also hit a 2-run homer later in the game. Still, the Red Sox pitching staff allowed seven runs against the Orioles and a huge effort was needed from someone offensively. It was provided by an unlikely source, as emergency catcher Ryan Lavarnway hit two home runs and drove home four in the Red Sox's 8-4 victory. The two blasts were the first two of his career and he became the youngest Red Sox player to homer twice in the same game since Nomar Garciaparra did it in 1997 -- and they were the exact same ago to the day (Ian Browne via Twitter).

Cardinals' offense. Starting pitcher Jake Westbrook was awful, and the Cardinals trailed 5-0 after three innings. It was of no matter in the end, though, because they'd piece together 13 runs in the final six frames to win the game. On the whole, the Cardinals pounded out 17 hits, including four doubles, a triple and two home runs. The biggest hits were Skip Schumaker's three-run double in the fourth, Ryan Theriot's go-ahead, two-run triple in the seventh and Allen Craig's three-run homer in the eighth to put the game out of reach.

Matt Joyce, Rays. Ben Zobrist hit a two-run homer earlier in the game and the Rays bailed themselves out with a huge triple play, but neither would have mattered if Joyce didn't come through with a pivotal three-run bomb in the bottom of the seventh to put the Rays on top 5-3. That was the eventual final score.

Bonus Up No. 1, Prince Fielder: Three home runs is a pretty decent night, don't you think? He hits home runs a lot (230 in his career now and he's only 27), but this was the first three-homer game of his big-league career.

Bonus Up No. 2, Jose Reyes: He went deep twice and maintained his percentage-point lead for the batting title.

Bonus Up No. 3, Jarrod Parker: The 22-year-old Diamondbacks' prospect made his major-league debut against the Dodgers. He went 5 2/3 shutout innings and allowed just four hits. If you don't take the D-Backs seriously yet, imagine them with Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Parker, Trevor Bauer (third overall pick this past June) and Archie Bradley (seventh overall pick this past June) in the rotation a few years from now. Oh, and Justin Upton's only 24. That's a strong foundation. And while we're here ... a walk-off grand slam after trailing 6-1 in the 10th? C'mon. Big ups to Ryan Roberts for imitating Kirk Gibson as he rounded the bases, too.



Derek Lowe, Braves. Four innings, six hits, five earned runs, a loss and the Braves are now tied in the NL wild-card race. Oh, and Lowe makes over $15 million a year.

Bronson Arroyo, Reds. How about this one? According to Elias Sports Bureau -- via a Reds' press release -- Arroyo is now the second pitcher in major-league history to have allowed at least 40 home runs and less than 50 walks in the same season. We've all heard the phrase "trust your stuff" when pitchers walk too many hitters. Maybe Arroyo should trust his stuff a bit less. Trade some of the bombs for free passes.

Russell Martin, Yankees. He hit into a huge triple play, but that's just a ground ball with bad timing. My issue came when he tried to beat the throw by diving into first base. See last night's 3 Up 3 Down -- the Nick Punto entry -- for the rant relating to that. (What, is it spreading?)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 11:42 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:05 am
 

Playoff Race: NL wild card tied, too



By Matt Snyder


Just as is the case in the American League, 161 games isn't enough to decide the NL wild-card winner. After the Braves were destroyed by the Phillies, 7-1, the Cardinals came through with a come-from-behind victory. Both teams now have an 89-72 record with just one game to play, even if they've arrived at that record in much different ways. The Braves are limping into Wednesday with a 9-17 September record. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are 17-8 in the month. Since August 25, the Cardinals have made up 10 1/2 games on the Braves, so this is an epic comeback. The whole season counts, though, so everything comes down to one final game ... unless they both win or both lose. Then we get one more. As an aside, this is where baseball gets it right. There aren't tiebreakers off the field. You decide who gets in on the field.

If they're still tied after Wednesday night's action, a one-game playoff will be played in St. Louis Thursday night. Let's check out the pitching matchups for Wednesday's action.

Phillies at Braves, 7:10 p.m. ET
Tim Hudson (16-10, 3.23) gets the all-important start for the reeling home team. He's the best healthy starter the Braves have at this point, as three of their nine wins this month came in his starter. So things have worked well on at least one front for them. The bad news is last time Hudson faced the Phillies, he was knocked around a bit and took the loss. He's been OK in three starts against the Phillies this year, though, as he's got a 3.48 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 20 2/3 innings.

Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.03) is Hudson's counterpart for the night. He's only made one start since returning from injury and was limited on a pitch count. He worked two innings, allowing only a hit and striking out three. Expect the Phillies to take a Johnny Wholestaff approach like the Yankees will against the Rays. The Phillies aren't playing for anything other than health and sharpness. It's possible many regular starters are rested as well, though they won't play again until Saturday. Still, this game should be ripe for the Braves' taking.

Cardinals at Astros, 8:05 p.m. ET
Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.59) takes the hill for the Cardinals. He is locked in right now, too. In his past four starts, Carpenter has a 1.45 ERA in 31 innings. He shutout the Brewers and threw eight scoreless innings against the Phillies during that stretch. Carpenter's only faced the Astros once this season, when he went seven innings and allowed just two runs on eight hits. He has a 2.87 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in nine career starts at Minute Maid Park.

Brett Myers (7-13, 4.31) is the Astros' starter. Before Cardinals fans get all giddy, here's Myers' line in September: 4-0, 1.23 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 21 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. So he's throwing the ball better than he has all season right now. He hasn't faced the Cardinals since July 26, but he threw eight innings and allowed just three earned runs, taking the hard luck 3-1 loss that day. He was shelled in his previous outing against the Cardinals this season, though, while Albert Pujols, Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday sport gaudy career stats against him. So the pitching matchup is a tossup on paper. The Cardinals, however, have a much better offense and are playing for the postseason.

So if I had to predict, I'd say we're headed for a one-game playoff after both the Braves and Cardinals win Wednesday. But you can't predict baseball. One game left and anything can happen with these two teams. This is what it's all about.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com