Posts Tagged ‘Joe Nathan’

Yankees Steal Game Two From Twins

October 10, 2009

The Minnesota Twins begged the New York Yankees to win Game Two of their American League Division Series last night at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees took them up on their offer.

The Yankees beat the Twins last night 4-3 in 11 innings on a walk-off homerun by Mark Teixeira to give the Bronx Bombers a two games to none advantage in their best-of-five series.

It’s very rare that the game-winning homerun isn’t the biggest story of the game. But in this game Teixeira’s homerun wasn’t even close to being the biggest story of this game. The biggest story of this game was how the Twins just imploded in every facet of the game.

I am starting to wonder if the Twins and St Louis Cardinals have a bet going on to see who can be more inept during the playoffs.

First, let’s start with Carlos Gomez’s awful awful baserunning in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Delmon Young on second, and Gomez on first, Matt Tolbert lined a single to right-centerfield.

As Young was attempting to score, Gomez rounded second, slipped, and was tagged out before Young touched home plate. The fact that Gomez slipped wasn’t the bad play–it could happen to anyone.

The blunder Gomez made was that when he slipped and was caught in no man’s land, he should have gotten in a run-down to ensure that Young would score. It was a horrible play that cost the Twins an ever so valuable run.

Nathan imploded last night

Nathan imploded last night

Second, there was the Twins pitching. I am not talking about Nick Blackburn because he was outstanding last night. I am talking about the Joe Nathan implosion that took place in the ninth.

The Twins had that game won. Up 3-1 going into the ninth and with Joe Nathan on the mound, you have to win that game. Nathan had a meltdown that would have made Trevor Hoffman proud.

Now facing Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Hideki Matsui in hopes of closing out a game is no easy task. But if you are supposed to be one of the best closers in the game, you have to get it down with a two run lead.

Nathan allowed a leadoff single to Teixeira and then came the Rodriguez AB. Nathan and Mauer’s approach to Arod made no sense. Nathan fell behind the count 3-0 and it looked like they were pitching around him.

At 3-0 to Arod, the battle is lost. I know it is a cardinal sin to put the winning run on base, but in that spot you have to do it. Nathan then proceeds to throw such a get-me-over fastball, that I am a surprised Arod didn’t come out of his shoes.

Okay, now the count is 3-1. At this point, you throw a cutter or something soft away and hope that you can use Arod’s aggressiveness against him. Maybe he will roll one over to short or foul it off to get the count to 3-2.

So what does Nathan decide to do? He throws a flat, mediocre fastball right down the middle of the plate.

Boom! Homerun and the game is tied at three.

Nathan had another meltdown again in the 10th when tried to pick off Brett Gardner at second base. Nathan threw the ball into centerfield and the Yankees had a runner on third with just one out.

After a Derek Jeter intentional walk, Nathan got Johnny Damon to line weakly to Orlando Cabrera. For some reason Gardner forgot to freeze on the linedrive and got doubled up. It was a terrible baserunning play by Gardner.

Third and finally for the Twins, there situational hitting was horrific in this game. The Twins left 17 men on base last night. 17!!! The icing on the cake was in the 11th inning.

The Twins had bases loaded and noboby out and DIDN’T SCORE! Young lined out to Teixeira, Gomez ground into a force out, and Brendan Harris flied out to center.

After watching his pathetic AB in that frame, I have come to the conclusion that Gomez is maybe the worst player in baseball. He has no skills outside of running. He would make for a perfect wide receiver on the Oakland Raiders.

Of course the biggest story of the top of the 11th besides the Twins not scoring was the inexcusable missed call by leftfield umpire Phil Cuzzi. Joe Mauer fit a flyball down the leftfield line that dropped about three feet in fair territory, but was called foul.

Mauer would have had a ground-rule double.

However, this was not the reason the Twins lost the game. You got the feeling that even if the Twins scored five runs in that inning, the Yankees would have scored six in the next.

The Twins did everything they could to give this game away. Now, their season is all but over.

Game Three is Sunday at 7:07 ET.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Twins And Tigers Remind Us All What Is Great About Baseball

October 7, 2009

When people ask me what was the greatest baseball game I ever saw, I always say it was Game Six of the 1986 National League Championship Series between the New York Mets and the Houston Astros.

The Mets won that game 7-6 in 16 innings to advance to the World Series. It was a game that was filled with so much drama, passion, and intensity that you could feel it with every pitch through the television set.

It was one of those rare sporting events that was so great, you know you were watching a classic as it unfolded and you would never forget where you were that day.

Nathan played in an all-time game last night

Nathan played in an all-time game last night

Yesterday, the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers gave everyone one of those games.

The Twins beat the Tigers 6-5 in 12 innings in a one-game playoff to clinch the American League Central title. For four-hours and thirty-seven minutes last night there were no salaries, no free agency, no arbitration, and no steroids.

Last night it was about two teams playing their guts out and leaving everything on field. The Twins and Tigers not only captured the 58,088 screaming fans in the Metrodome, but they captured millions watching at home.

They captured four friends, who weren’t Twins or Tigers fan, but were so into the game that they were texting back and forth on practically every situation that occurred. We all knew we were watching one of the best games we ever saw.

They even captured non-baseball fans like the girl sitting next to me at the bar last night. I could tell she didn’t know the difference between a curveball or a beachball, but she was taken in by game. “I can’t believe they got out that” she said referring to Joe Nathan getting out of a first and third jam with one out in the ninth.

There will always be people out there who say athletes — and in particular baseball players don’t care because they get paid so much.

Tell that to Tigers’ 3B Brandon Inge, who played the majority of the second-half on a knee so bad, he will require surgery at the end of the year.

Tell that to Fernando Rodney, who gave everything he had for three innings last night when he is only used to pitching one and deserved a better fate.

Tell that to catchers Gerald Laird and Joe Mauer, who after catching nearly 400 combined pitches, were blocking balls in the dirt in the 11th and 12th innings so textbook that you could show them to any kid who wants to become a catcher.

Tell that to Orlando Cabrera, a guy, who for some reason goes from team to team and all he does is win.

Tell that to Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenhire, two of the class acts in baseball, who managed last night’s game like a father would manage his son in a Little League game.

Were there mistakes in this game? Sure there were. Alexi Casilla not tagging up properly in the bottom of the 10th. Ryan Raburn’s unnecessary attempt at a diving catch, which led to a Michael Cuddyer triple in the bottom of the 10th. Miguel Cabrera not running hard from the get-go on Inge’s chopper to second in the 11th.

In any sporting event — especially one that goes into extra innings,  you can question a play in the game or a player’s actions. However, that doesn’t take away from how great the overall game was.

The Twins and Tigers gave us a show that captivated baseball.

For four-hours and thirty-seven minutes, the Twins and Tigers reminded us all what is great about America’s National Pastime.

Fantasy Week In Review, September 14-20

September 21, 2009

For the majority of fantasy baseball leagues, the playoffs are well underway. Since most leagues don’t allow pickups during the playoffs unless someone is injured, I am not going to list the potential pickups for this week.

Here are the fantasy studs and players who might be ruining some teams playoff chances.

Fantasy Studs

Miguel Olivo:.253/4/13. What was amazing about Olivo’s performance last week was that he walked three times. That accounted for a quarter of his walks for the 2009 season. Olivio has walked just 14 times this year.

Michael Cuddyer: .292/4/11. Cuddyer is filling in just fine for the injured Justin Morneau.

Wieters has turned it on in September

Wieters has turned it on in September

Matt Wieters: .480/2/10. Wieters has finally come around. It appears Wieters is getting more comfortable at the plate with each passing game.

Mark Teixeira: .520/2/9. Teixeira is making one last push for the AL MVP award.

Jason Bay: .471/3/9. Bay got off to a torrid start, slowed down in the middle months, and is now turning it on again.

Cliff Lee: 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA with 15 K’s in 20 IP. After a couple of rough starts, Lee bounced back nicely last week.

Jake Peavy: 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA and 13 K’s in 12 IP. It’s good to finally talk about Peavy on the field, rather than an off the field injury. Peavy still has his good stuff as his 13 K’s in 12 IP indicates.

Joe Nathan: Four saves with a 2.45 ERA and six K’s in 3.2 IP. With the Minnesota Twins on a hot streak, Nathan has been the beneficiary of some increased save opportunities.

Reasons for Concern

Roy Oswalt: The Houston Astros shut down their ace last week for the remainder of the season because of lingering back soreness. Was Oswalt another casualty of the World Baseball Classic.

In 2009, Oswalt had the lowest wins of his career (8), highest ERA of his career (4.12), had a higher WHIP than last year (1.241), and his K/9 rate dropped from last year (6.8 in 2009 and 7.1 in 2008).

With a full winter’s rest, I expect Oswalt to bounce back in 2009.

Is Hudson out of a job in LA?

Is Hudson out of a job in LA?

Orlando Hudson: It looks like Hudson will be splitting time with Ronnie Belliard the rest of the way. Hudson has struggled in September, only hitting .250 with a .690 OPS. Belliard, on the other hand has been raking this month.

Belliard is batting .308 with an impressive .903 OPS and is second on the team in RBI with 13.

If you have a better option at second base than Hudson–go with him.

Remember, you can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter at www.twitter.com/theghostofmlg

2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team

September 17, 2009

Yesterday, I did my 2009 All-Fantasy Bust Team. So of course, it’s only appropriate for me to do the 2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team.

Let’s not beat around the bush. Here is the 2009 All-Fantasy Breakout Team sponsored by the Jose Lima Foundation… “There’s a one-year wonder in all of us.”

Honorable Mention: Billy Butler, Jason Bartlett, Adam Kennedy, Justin Upton, Ryan Franklin, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, Heath Bell, Ben Zobrist

Catcher: Joe Mauer, .373/27/85

I know it’s hard to label Mauer as a breakout player because he has already established himself as one of the game’s best offensive catchers. However, Mauer has taken his game to another level in 2009.

Mauer has flirted with .400 at times this season and has already hit more homeruns this season (27) than he has in the last two seasons combined (16).

Morales has had a breakout 2009

Morales has had a breakout 2009

First Base: Kendry Morales, .306/30/98

Coming into this season, Morales had 12 HR’s with 45 RBI and a .249 avg. in 127 career games. This year Morales has 30 HR’s and 98 RBI in 136 games.

Morales is only 26 and should be a fixture on fantasy teams for years to come.

Second Base: Aaron Hill, .286/32/86

Hill missed the majority of the 2008 season with a concussion. Hill has come back with a solid 2009 season and has given fantasy owners a legitimate power source at second base.

Hill is only 27, so he should be coming into his own at the plate.

Shortstop: Marco Scutaro, .284/12/60/.381 with 13 SB’s

Until this year, Scutaro was a fantasy afterthought. Come to think of it, he was an afterthought to most major-league GM’s. I will just come out and say it — Scutaro was a scrub until this year.

Now, Scutaro is second in the majors in walks, and has provided owners with a solid average and OBP all year.

Third Base: Pablo Sandoval, .322/21/77

Sandoval has rewarded fantasy owners who followed him at the end of the 2008 season. In 2008, Sandoval hit .345 in 41 games for the San Francisco Giants.

Sandoval has been a fantasy beast in 2009 and at only 23-years-old, he should be a force in fantasy baseball for years to come.

Outfield: Nyjer Morgan, .307/3/39 with 42 SB’s

Coming into this year, Morgan was a 29-year-old career minor leaguer, who only had 293 career AB’s. This year, Morgan has blossomed into a legit fantasy contributor.

Morgan’s greatest asset is his speed and with 42 steals this season, he won fantasy owners the stolen base category many weeks.

Outfield: Michael Bourn, .294/3/35 with 57 SB’s.

Bourn always had the speed, but the issue has always been whether or not Bourn could hit at the major-league level. Coming into 2009, Bourn was a career .237 hitter with a .299 OBP.

Bourn in 2009 has answered his critiques. Bourn has more walks in 2009 than he had in his first three seasons combined. If he is walking more, it means he is getting on base more.

Bourn is tied for second amongst all outfielders in stolen bases with 57 and tied for fifth in runs with 90.

Outfield: Nelson Cruz, .266/32/71

Cruz was labeled as a classic “AAAA” player. A great minor league player, but never could do it at the major-league level. All Cruz has done in 2009 is give fantasy owners who have him 32 homeruns.

In his first four seasons with the Texas Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers, Cruz hit a combined 22 homeruns.

Greinke has been fantasy's best pitcher

Greinke has been fantasy's best pitcher

Starting Pitcher: Zack Greinke, 13-8 with a 2.19 ERA

Greinke lost 17 games in 2005 and pitched in just three games in 2006. Those days are a distant memory for Greinke. In 2009, he is baseball’s best fantasy pitcher.

Greinke leads the majors in ERA, WHIP, and shutouts. He is also second in strikeouts with 216. Greinke should be a fantasy ace for here on out.

Starting Pitcher: Wandy Rodriguez, 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA

Rodriguez wasn’t even drafted in my fantasy draft. Now, he is a legit No. 2 pitcher in all fantasy formats.

Starting Pitcher: Scott Feldman, 16-5 with a 3.65 ERA

Coming into 2009, Feldman had a grand total of seven wins in four major-league seasons. Now, he leads the American League in winning percentage and is tied for third in the majors with 16 wins.

What were the odds of that at the beginning of the season? Five million to one?

Closer: David Aardsma, 35 saves with a 2.09 ERA

If Feldman was a surprise, then Aardsma is five surprises wrapped into one. Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted Aardsma’s season.

Aardsma didn’t have a single save or an ERA under four coming into 2009. Now Aardsma is having just as good a year as Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jonathan Broxton.

Incredible.

Billy Wagner Returns, Increases Trade Value

August 21, 2009

Not much as gone right for the New York Mets in 2009. Poor fundamental play, mediocre pitching (Mets’ pitchers lead baseball in walks), and most importantly injuries have derailed the Mets’ season.

Wagner was throwing heat last night

Wagner was throwing heat last night

Well, last night they may have caught a break in an otherwise dismal season, as former closer Billy Wagner returned to the mound last night against the Atlanta Braves.

Wagner, who was coming off  Tommy John surgery last September, came out firing last night. Wagner needed just 14 pitches (nine of them strikes) to retire Reid Gorecki, Chipper Jones, and Brian McCann. He struck out Gorecki and McCann.

The most impressive thing about Wagner’s performance last night was that he hit 96 mph on the gun at one point.

Wagner has cleared waivers, so the Mets have until September 1st to try to trade him. As long as the Mets pick up the remaining $3.5 million or so on Wagner’s contract, the Mets should find a suitor for the lefty.

Will the Mets get a top prospect for Wagner? Absolutely not. Teams aren’t going to give up a lot for a 38-year-old coming off major surgery. But for the Mets, getting one prospect back is better than getting nothing back for Wagner.

Here are the teams that I think would be a good fit for Wagner…

Florida Marlins – The Marlins have been looking for bullpen help all season and Wagner would give the Marlins another lefty in the pen to go along with Dan Meyer and Renyel Pinto.

The Mets have already traded with the Braves this year (Ryan Church for Jeff Francoeur), so trading within the division won’t be an obstacle.

Tampa Bay Rays – Former New York Yankee’s great Randy Choate has a 4.37 ERA and Brian Shouse has a 4.66 ERA. With JP Howell closing, the Rays could use another left-handed setup man.

Chicago Cubs – The Cubs already tried one former closer coming off surgery in BJ Ryan (released in July), so why not give Billy Wagner a try?

Minnesota Twins – There interest would really depend upon on how much they really think they are in it. They are 58-63, but only 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.

If they think they are still in it, then Wagner makes a lot of sense. I have been saying forever the Twins need a power arm in the pen to get to Joe Nathan.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Anyone else find it strange the Angels have been so quiet on the trade front this season? They are usually one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to pursuing free agents and trades and yet we haven’t heard a peep from them about acquiring anyone.

I feel they still need another arm or two in the pen (13th in the AL in bullpen ERA) and if they decide to do something, Wagner makes a lot of sense for them.

It Might Be All Over For the Twins In 2009…

August 14, 2009

After the Minnesota Twins lost to the Chicago White Sox last year in a one-game playoff, I was one of the many people who thought the Twins would come back in 2009 and have a tremendous season. After all, there was a lot to be excited about if you were a Twins fan headed into the 2009 season.

Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer were moving full throttle into the prime of their careers, the pitching staff was not spectacular, but it was pretty solid, Joe Nathan was still one of the best closers in the game, and it was the last year of the Metrodome. You had to think the Twins would send the “Homer Dome” out on a positive note, right?

Well, after losing two out of three to perhaps the worst team in baseball in the Kansas City Royals at home – including a 14-6 spanking on Tuesday night, it’s really starting to look like 2009 is not the Twins year. The Twins are now 55-59 on the season and are five games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central and 10 games out of the Wild Card spot.

This is what the Metrodome may look like in late September

This is what the Metrodome may look like in late September

August has been a rough month so far for the Twins. The main culprit – pitching. Through the first 10 games, the Twins pitching staff is 3-7 with a 6.38 ERA. The 6.38 ERA is 29th in baseball only in front of the before mentioned Royals.

You know things are going bad when Joe Nathan doesn’t even have a save attempt in August.

Can the Twins turn this around in the next month and a half? I think it is going to be tough. The Twins can’t rely on an ace to get them out of a losing streak like the Tigers can with Justin Verlander (yesterday was a perfect example) and they just have the arms in the pen this year.

The only thing the Twins can hold on to is the fact that as bad as they have played, they are only five games out first place in the AL Central. If they could ever muster a streak of seven out of ten or eight out of ten – they can be right back in it.

The Twins were one game away from a playoff spot in 2008. With the way they are playing now – I am not sure that will be the case in 2009.

Live Blog: MLB All-Star Game…

July 15, 2009

It’s been awhile since I have done a live blog, so what better time to do one than the 80th All-Star game in St. Louis. I have always been a big fan of the All-Star game, so this should be fun. I am just praying this game does not go deep into extra innings like last year’s game.

Game – American League vs. National League

Date – 7/14/09

Starting Lineups

American League

1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF

2. Derek Jeter, SS

3. Joe Mauer, C

4. Mark Teixeira, 1B

5. Jason Bay, LF

6. Josh Hamilton, CF

7. Michael Young, 3B

8. Aaron Hill, 2B

9. Roy Halladay, P

National League

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS

2. Chase Utley, 2B

3. Albert Pujols, 1B

4. Ryan Braun, RF

5. Raul Ibanez, LF

6. David Wright, 3B

7. Shane Victorino, CF

8. Yadier Molina, C

9. Tim Lincecum, P

Top 1st

Tim Lincecum deals the first pitch of the 80th All-Star game at 8:50 est time and it is ripped by Ichiro down the rightfield line, but foul.

Starting this game at 8:50 est. pretty much eliminates anyone under the age of 15 who lives on the east coast from seeing the end of this game – good job Bud Selig

Ichiro rips a single to right. He is such a good hitter. Being down 0-2 in the count didn’t phase Ichiro one bit.

OUCH!!! With two strikes, Derek Jeter gets hit in the hand with a changeup. Every Yankee fan just took a deep breath. Jeter appears okay.

Lincecumis really all over the place in this inning. He quickly falls behind Mauer 3-1.

Wow, what a quick play by Molina. Mauer hits a ball a foot infront of home plate, Molina pounced on it, and got Ichiro at third. Wright made a terrible throw to first, which pulled Pujols off the bag. Mauer would have been out with a good throw.

Teixeira hits a slow groundball that hits off of Pujols’ glove and goes into short rightfield. Jeter scores to make 1-0 American League.

That was a potential double play ball that Pujols mishandled. Some bad defense by the NL in the first inning. They should be out of this inning.

First and second with one out for Jason Bay.

Bay singles to center. Bases loaded.

Boy, the NL is really asleep on defense. Hamilton gets a hard groundball to first, Pujols gets Bay at second, but Lincecum is late covering first, and the run scores.

2-0 American League. We can eliminate Tim Lincecum from winning the MVP award tonight.

Michael Young grounds to Wright for the third out.

Not a very good start for the NL.

Bottom 1st

Hanley Ramirez leading off for the NL, hits a rope, but right to Aaron Hill. One out.

How many recruiting talks do you think Roy Halladay has gotten in the past two days? 40? 50?

Halladay gets Chase Utley to ground out to Teixeira. Two quick outs here in the bottom of the first.

Now here comes Pujols. Maybe he will make up for that terrible error he made in the top of the first.

Pujols hitting, Mauer catching, and Halladay pitching – it doesn’t get any better than that.

Michael Young is the man. Pujols hits a frozen rope to third. I mean a real screamer. Young snags it and casually throws to first to get Pujols. Now that is how you play defense.

After one it’s 2-0 American League

Top 2nd

Hill grounds to Ramirez for the first out.

Roy Halladay is hitting. I don’t think he planned on this happening. With the luck the Blue Jays have been having with injuries, Halladay will get clocked in the hand here.

He doesn’t and Halladay K’s for the second out.

A much better start to the second inning for Lincecum.

Ichiro hits a linedrive, but right at Braun in rightfield for the third out.

Bottom 2nd

Braun flies out to center for the first out.

President Obama is in the booth with McCarver and Buck. Obama is neck and neck with Bill Clinton as the president you would most want to hang out with.

Ibanez grounds to Hill for the second out. Halladay is making this look easy.

Even when Halladay gives up hits, he splinters bats. Wright bloops one to rightcenter for a hit. His bat shattered in a 100 pieces.

Victorino singles to right. First and second with two outs for Molina.

How about this. Molina singles to center, Wright scores, and Hamilton trying to throw out Victorino at third – hits him in the back and the ball rolls into foul territory.

Victorino scores andwe are tied at two. Molina goes to second on the throw.

Last night’s HR Derby champion Prince Fielder will hit for Lincecum.

Amazing how quickly things change in an inning. Halladay was crusing and a broken bat got a rally started.

Fielder smokes one down the leftfield line for a ground rule double. Molina scores and it is now 3-2 NL.

Ramirez grounds to Hill for the third out.

What an inning for the NL. Three runs with two outs.

After two complete in St. Louis, it’s 3-2 National League

Top 3rd

This is odd, Cardinals’ closer Ryan Franklin is in the game for the NL. I don’t think I have ever seen a closer come into an All-Star game this early before.

Jeter grounds to Utley for the first out.

Mauer lines to Pujolsfor the second out.

Teixeira grounds weakly to Pujols for the third out.

Well that was easy for Franklin. A very impressive inning.

Bottom 4th

Chicago White Sox lefty, Mark Buehrle into the game for the AL. With Buehrle pitching, this inning might last five minutes.

Utley hits a can of corn to center. One down.

Man, does Buerhle work quickly.

Pujols grounds to Teixeira for the second out. Teixeira showed his range on that groundball, as he played that way off the bag at first.

Braun grounds to Jeter at short and in less than five minutes the inning is over.

I wish more pitchers worked like Buerhle.

It’s still 3-2 NL after three.

Top 4th

We start the fourth and McCarver and Buck have been very tolerable tonight. It must be a full moon.

Dan Haren from the Arizona Diamondbacks is now in the game for the NL.

One pitch, one out. Bay flies out to Braun in right.

Hamilton flies out to semi-deep center.

Young singles to left. Michael Young loves playing in All-Star games.

Aaron Hill up. Every kid outside of Toronto just asked their dad “who is that?”

Hill grounds hard to Hanley Ramirez, but Ramirez gobbles it up, and gets Hill to end the inning.

Bottom 4th

Just saw a commercial for the new GI Joe movie. It looks terrible. I was a HUGE GI Joe fan growing up, so I hope the movie is better than it looks. I am not optimistic.

The Kansas City Royals’ Zack Greinke is in for the AL.

One pitch, one out. Ibanez pops up to Young at third.

I hope Greinke goes two innings tonight. It will let the world see who he is.

And this is why – Greinke throws a wicked slider to Wright to strike him out. That was nasty.

Greinke just toyed with Victorino. Got him to swing at a pitch in the dirt and two feet out of the strike zone.

One-two-three for Greinke

This game is moving rather quickly. Still 3-2

Top 5th

The next pitcher for the NL is the Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley.

Carl Crawford hitting for Greinke.

Crawford hits a single to center. With Crawford at first and Molina behind the plate, this should be interesting.

What a great play by Chase Utley. Ichiro hits a ball between first and second, Utley gets the ball, pivots, andgets the lead runner in Crawford at second.

What a great play. Ichiro now at first with one out and Jeter up.

My roommate from college Odie just sent me a text “Ichiro is a dope, let crawford steal.” I agree. The fastest man in baseball is on first and Ichiro is up there hacking.

The NL is flashing some leather. Jeter hits on his classic inside-out balls to the right side, but Pujols dives andgets the lead runner at second.

The first inning must have been a wake up call for the NL.

This brings up Mauer with Jeter on first and now two outs.

Is Joe Mauer the best hitter in the game right now or what? Billingsley throws a curve on the outer half and instead of trying to pull the ball, Mauer goes with the pitch and laces it down the leftfield line.

Jeter running all the way, scores from first. We are now tied at three.

Pujols really wants to make up for that first inning error. He makes another diving stop off of a Teixeira groundball and flips to Billingsley for the third out.

Pujols saves a run, but the AL ties the game heading into the bottom of the 5th.

Bottom 5th

Edwin Jackson the new pitcher for the AL

What is the story with hitters swinging at the first pitch when there is a new pitcher in the game?

Molina on the first pitch grounds to short for out No. one.

Ryan Zimmerman up at the plate. Zimmerman replaced Wright in the top half of the inning and is batting in the pitchers spot.

Zimmerman just missed one. He flies out to deep centerfield.

Ramirez on the first pitch grounds out to Young at third.

Wow what an inning for Jackson. Four pitches and three outs. Not a bad day’s work.

3-3 still as we head to the bottom of the sixth

Bottom 6th

The all-time saves leader, Trevor Hoffman into the game

The first batter he will face is the Orioles’ Adam Jones. Right now every Mariners’ fan is saying “I can’t believe we got rid of this guy.” Jones is hitting in Jason Bay’s spot in the lineup.

Jones hits a rocket to right, but Hawpe tracks it down at the warning track. One out.

Hoffman is not fooling anyone. Hamilton jumps all over the first pitch and singles to right.

Young hits a hard groundball, but right at Utley. After a brief bobble, Utley and Tejada are able to turn the four-six-three double play.

I was a little surprised Hoffman was used so early. I would have thought because he is the all-time saves leader, he would have been used to close out the game.

Bottom 6th

The Seattle Mariners’ ace Felix Hernandez has been called upon to pitch for the AL.

Orlando Hudson will hit for Utley andmost likely come into the game to play second.

Okay, once again we are first pitch swinging. This game counts right Bud?

Hudson hits one deep to right but Adam Jones is there for the first out.

Pujolsgrounds to short for the second out.

Not too many people on the east coast get to see “King Felix” pitch, but he is a dandy. He really can become a legit ace. He has no-hit stuff every time he goes to the mound.

Justin Upton is now hitting for Ryan Braun. A great matchup here of two of the best young players in the game.

Another groundball to short. The sure-handed Jason Bartlett gets Upton to end the inning.

We are getting down to the nitty gritty as Gorilla Monsoon used to say.

Top 7th

Classy move by Charlie Manuel as he lets Pujols go out to take warmups andthen replaces him with Gonzalez so he can get a standing ovation from the Cardinal fans.

Francisco Cordero is the new pitcher in the game for the NL. He is the Cincinnati Reds’ lone representative for tonight.

Aaron Hill up for the third time and he flies out to Upton in in left.

Crawford up for the second time. On the first pitch he grounds to Tejada at short. Two outs.

Justin Morneau up for the AL. He replaced Teixeira at first and is hitting Ichiro’s spot.

That was a quick inning for Cordero. He gets Morneau to line weakly to Zimmerman at third.

Bottom 8th

My buddy Tom just sent me a text “Close game and these idiot managers are using pitchers for one inning each.” Kind of agree. With a lot of the pitchers having pitched on Sunday and after last year’s marathon, I am surprised pitchers aren’t going more than one inning.

A new inning, a new pitcher for the AL. Jonathan Papelbon is in the game for the AL.

OH WOW!!! Carl Crawford makes the play of the game so far. Brad Hawpe on Papelbon’s first pitch (of course) hit a fly ball deep to left and Crawford leaped over the wall to make the catch and rob Hawpe of a HR. Great catch.

Two pitches and two bombs off of Papelbon. Miguel Tejada flies out to deep right but Adam Jones is there to make the catch.

Papelbon is pitching to Victor Martinez. A sign of the future?

Papelbon is throwing his fastball at 89 mph. Someone should tell him this game counts.

Papelbon strikes out Jayson Werth to end the inning. That fastball was 94 mph, so Papelbon got into the groove towards the end of the AB.

It’s still 3-3 heading into the eigth and this game has extra innings written all over it. Lovely

Top 8th

Heath Bell is into the game for the National League.

The first pitch he throws is over the head of Jason Bartlett. Nice pitch.

Bell does better on his second pitch as he gets Bartlett to ground to short.

Curtis Granderson up for the AL. He crushes one to left and the ball  hits off the base of the wall. Granderson digs for third and he makes it.

Grandersonat third with one out and the infield comes in.

Victor Martinez is up and he is getting intentionally walked. That stinks for Martinez. Manuel is walking Martinez to get to Adam Jones.

HeathBell looks like his heart is racing a million beats per second.

Well, Manuel’s strategy backfires as Jones hits one to the warning track in right. Granderson scores to make it 4-3.

Kevin Youkilis is up for the first time and he promptly singles to center.

First and second with two outs for the Rays’ Ben Zobrist.

Bell gets Zobrist swinging, but the damage was done. One run on two hits and two runners left on base.

At the end of seven and a half, it’s the American League four and the National League three

Bottom 8th

New York native Joe Nathan in the game for the American League. The AL is going to go with Nathan for the eighth andthen Mariano Rivera for the ninth. The NL is in trouble.

The Braves and Ron Kittle impersonator, Brian McCann up at the plate to face Nathan.

McCannon a 2-1 pitch pops up to Martinez behindthe plate. One down here in the bottom of the eighth.

Zimmerman swinging at the first pitch, flies to right for the second out.

Here is the best player that nobody knows about – Adrian Gonzalez

FOX just showed Bud Selig with George Will. And there is your reason for a baseball team in Washington.

Good AB by Gonzalez. Down in the count 1-2 and he works a walk.

Another two out rally by the NL. Hudson singles up the middle and now we have first andthird with two outs.

Ryan Howard is coming up to pinch hit. Manuel was picking his spot for Howard and this is it. Very similar to the 2003 All-Star game in Chicago where Mike Scioscia was picking his spot for Hank Blalock in the late innings.

Blalock hit a pinch hit two-run HR off of Eric Gagne to give the AL the win.

They just showed Brian Fuentes warming up. Well, if he is not in the game to face Howard why on earth is he warming up?

Howard is swinging for the downs. Two fastballs, two Ruthian cuts, and now it is 0-2.

Hudson steals second. That’s kind of a good and bad move. Good in that it eliminates the double play and now a single scores two runs. Bad in that this might take the bat out of Howard’s hands.

No 2003 moment here as Howard swings at a pitch in the dirt for strike three.

We head to the ninth with the AL still clinging to a 4-3 lead

Top 9th

The next pitcher up for the National League is the New York Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez.

His first batter will be the Tigers’ Brandon Inge. Of course Inge swings at the first pitch and grounds to short.

Carl Crawford up. He is 1-2. With his catch and with nobody else really standing out tonight, he might win the MVP.

Striking out won’t help his cause. That was a great changeup by Krod.

Morneau rips one into the left-centerfield gap, Werth tracks it down, and makes the catch. What a catch by a guy who is normally not a centerfielder.

This is it. We head to the bottom of the ninth with the AL leading 4-3

Bottom 9th

If the NL is going to come back, they are going to have to do it against the best in the business in Mariano Rivera

Justin Upton will try to get things started for the National League.

Barlettis silky smooth at short. He made a tough, back-handed play look very easy. He gets Upton for the first out

Brad Hawpe, who was robbed of a HR by Carl Crawford will try to hit one a little further against Rivera.

Joe Buck just said Brad Hawpe is a very good defensive rightfielder. I am guessing Buck hasn’t seen Hawpe’s UZR lately.

Hawpe goes down looking on a perfect pitch on the outside corner.

Now it’s up to Miguel Tejada to keep it alive. He doesn’t.

Tejada pops up to Zobrist at second to end the game.

That’s a wrap. The American League wins again 4-3. The American League will have homefield advantage in the World Series.

Like I suspected, Carl Crawford wins the MVP award. This might be the first time in All-Star game history that a guy won the award for a catch.

It was a good game, well played, and it only took 2:31 to play. A little disappointed that Tim Wakefield didn’t get to pitch, but what can you do.

Over 3,000 words later, I am calling it a night. Good night everyone!!!

Picking My 2009 American League All Star Team…

June 17, 2009

Yesterday, I picked my 2009 National League All Star team. So today, I will pick my 2009 American League All Star team.

Like yesterday, I will follow the same rules that American League manager, Joe Maddon has to follow. I will pick 33 players and each team in the American League has to have a representative.

Starters

C. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

1B. Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins

2B. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers

SS. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

3B. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

OF. Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox

OF. Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

OF. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners

SP. Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals

Much like the National League, there were six positions set and three up for debate. At first base you can debate that Kevin Youkilis or Mark Teixeira could start for the AL. But if you look at the stats, Morneau is having a better all around year than both Youkilis and Teixeira.

Greinke gets the start for the AL

Greinke gets the start for the AL

At second base, I choose Ian Kinsler of Aaron Hill based on Kinlser having more HR’s, RBI and SB’s than Hill. Hill wasn’t too far behind in the HR and RBI category and is batting almost 40 points higher than Kinsler.

You could make the case for Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay or Justin Verlander to be the starting pitcher for the American League. I choose Greinke because of his almost record breaking April and he still leads the AL in ERA.

Reserves – Pitchers

Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

Edwin Jackson, Detroit Tigers

Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Kevin Millwood, Texas Rangers

Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox

Jonathon Papelbon, Boston Red Sox

Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins

Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

Scott Downs, Toronto Blue Jays

Andrew Bailey, Oakland A’s

Picking the reserve pitchers in the AL was not an easy task. The most glaring omissions were Cliff Lee (2.88 ERA), Erik Bedard (2.47 ERA), and Brian Fuentes (leads AL in saves with 17).

The A’s needed a representative, which knocked Lee out of the game.

I also would have loved to put Frank Francisco and his 0.47 ERA on the team, but he has not pitched in about a month and is currently on the DL.

Reserves – Position Players

C. Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians

C. AJ Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox

1B. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox

1B. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

2B. Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays

SS. Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays

3B. Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers

3B. Michael Young, Texas Rangers

UTIL. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

OF. Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

OF. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

OF. Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays

Zobrist will be stretching in St Louis

Zobrist will be stretching in St Louis

If picking the reserve pitchers was not an easy task, then picking the reserve position players was an impossible task. I really don’t envy Joe Maddon.

I had to leave off stars like Miguel Cabrera, Adam Lind, Dustin Pedroia, Nick Markakis, Johnny Damon, Russell Branyan and Chone Figgins. All of those players have a legitimate case to be on this team.

Here is the player breakdown by team:

4. Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers

3. Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers

2. Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Seattle Mariners

1. Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Oakland A’s

What do you think of this team? Anyone I left off you feel should be on this team?

Twins Need 8th Inning Ace….

May 18, 2009

After watching the first 3 games of the Yankees and Twins series, it is blatantly obvious the Twins need a better bridge to Joe Nathan and a power arm in their pen. The Twins are lacking that guy you give the ball to in the 8th that just comes in, throws 95 and just blows people away. They are missing their version of Ryan Madson, Scot Shields (pre 2009), Carlos Marmol or Octavio Dotel.

The Twins have a nice bullpen. It’s probably good enough to win the division, but it’s not a championship caliber bullpen. Jose Mijares has a power fastball from the left side and has stuck out a batter per inning this year (12 IP/12 K’s). Other than Mijares, the Twins have average arms in Matt Guerrier, Luis Ayala, Craig Breslow and Jesse Crain. They would be great in a league of 85 mph pitchers, but baseball is a game of 95 mph pitchers.

The guy the Twins should have made a move for in the offseason was Juan Cruz. I know they wouldn’t have signed Cruz to a free agent contract because they would have had to have surrendered a 1st round pick. However, there were rumors of them pursuing an NBA-like sign-and-trade with the Diamondbacks. Cruz would have been a perfect fit for the Twins. As we all know, Cruz went on to sign with the Royals and is pitching quite well for them.

The Twins could use Valverde

The Twins could use Valverde

So how do the Twins get their power arm? Well, they have a couple of options. First, they can try to go internally. Anthony Swarzak, one of the Twins top pitching prospects (#6 by Baseball America) is off to a good start in Triple A. In 7 starts he has a 2.25 era and has struck out 32 in 44 innings. Swarzak has a fastball in the low 90’s and perhaps they can use him like they used some guy named Santana years ago. That is, put him in the bullpen, let him get his feet wet and let him dominate for an inning or two. I think that strategy worked out pretty well for Santana.

The second option they have is to make a trade. Peter Gammons in his latest article had a list of some relievers who might be on the market. Huston Street, John Grabow and Russ Springer wouldn’t make much sense for the Twins because in my opinion they aren’t much different from what they already have. A guy like Jose Valverde from the Astros would make a lot of sense. Valverde throws gas (high 90’s) and would make a great 1-2 punch with Nathan.

Hopefully the Twins can find a better bridge to Nathan because right now they are in desperate need of an 8th inning ace.

Team USA Adds Hawkins And Hanrahan…

March 2, 2009

In a follow up to my Team USA Losses Nathan post, it was announced today that Astros reliever LaTroy Hawkins will replace Nathan on the roster.

There is something I never thought I would write. “LaTroy Hawkins replaces Joe Nathan.” I understand Hawkins had a 0.43 era with the Astros last year but LaTroy Hawkins? Really? Team USA must be at the bottom of the barrel for available players.

Hawkins replaces Nathan on Team USA

Hawkins replaces Nathan on Team USA

I don’t see why Team USA felt the need to add another set-up guy to the roster when they already have Howell, Putz, Shields, Ziegler, Lindstrom and Thornton on the roster. I would have used Nathan’s spot on a starting pitcher. How about asking that Halladay guy if he would like to pitch?

In other Team USA news, Washington Nationals Closer Joel Hanrahan will replace BJ Ryan on the roster. Ryan pulled out of the WBC because he felt his “mechanics” weren’t right.

With Brian Fuentes missing the first round of the WBC because of “family issues” and with Joe Nathan and BJ Ryan out of the WBC, look for Team USA to use Jonathon Broxton as the closer throughout the tournament.