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Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds Eat Crow As St. Louis Cardinals Sweep

For Brandon Phillips, firing up your team should probably not involve getting teams into fights.

Phillips, easily one of the best players and leaders for the Cincinnati Reds, may be the reason why the St. Louis Cardinals swept their recent series, ending today with the Cards winning 6-1.

Yesterday’s scrum proved to be a major boost for both teams. For Cincy, it showed that they have a fire, which will keep them in the NL Central race with perennial contenders from the Gateway to the West. For the Redbirds, it showed that firing up a proven team can backfire, especially when given the chance to send a message on the road.

What Phillips said was not wrong, albeit strongly opinionated. The problem lies within the person he started it with, catcher Yadier Molina.

Molina is arguably the best defensive catcher of the last decade, and has been a force while taking his place behind home plate. On top of that, Molina is the receiver for one of the best trios of starting pitchers in the 2010 season. That trio includes Adam Wainwright, Chis Carpenter, and the budding Jaime Garcia.

Molina is a leader in his respective clubhouse, just like Phillips, but Phillips can only do so much after getting the fire started. Molina is a part of every pitch in any game that he is catching. If he wants to make sure you never hit a pitch, he can do that with the talent he has throwing to him. If he wants you hit, he has the power that will make sure you get hit.

Molina can occasionally hit the ball, too. His fired up solo shot in yesterday’s victory is proof that Phillips got someone fired up.

The race in the NL Central will be one of the best in baseball as the season reaches its stretch run. The brawl on Tuesday and the sweep of the Reds by the Cards will also have an effect on the next few days and series. The players for both clubs will not forget what happened during the past three games, and it appears the Cardinals have responded in a more positive fashion than the Reds have.

Do not be surprised if Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto misses a start in the next coming days, as Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue has been put on the disabled list with concussion-like symptoms and bruised ribs, courtesy of Cueto’s best attempt to kick like a swimmer in the air.

Both teams have Thursday off before big series. The Cardinals return home for a visit with the rival Chicago Cubs, and Cincy welcomes Josh Johnson and the Florida Marlins to the Queen City.

Hopefully for the Reds, Brandon Phillips likes the Flying Fish more than the Redbirds, who flew out of Cincinnati with the sweep, and sole possession of first place in the NL Central.

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The 2010 All-Chicago Baseball Team

With half of the Crosstown Classic played, it is almost as traditional to pick the best of the two clubs as to play the series.

To the disdain of the North and South sides of Chicago, both the Cubs and White Sox are less than stellar this year, combining for a record of 56-69 before action on Tuesday. Despite the lack of pizazz in this year’s series and the addition of the BP Cup, fans still come out in droves to watch.

The basics determine who gets the nod at each position (hitting, defense, etc.), but looking at how a certain player is performing may get him the nod over a player with better statistics.

This is the list, for better or for worst…

Reminder: All stats are from before play on Tuesday.

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Stephen Strasburg Debut: Rookie Delivers, Nationals Win Behind 14-K Performance

So much for first game jitters.

In the much-anticipated arrival of pitcher Stephen Strasburg to the majors, the flame throwing right-hander gave fans a glimmer of hope in a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

From the moment Strasburg took the rubber Tuesday evening, he was in control despite the home run given up to Delwyn Young.

In seven innings of work, Strasburg gave up four hits, struck out 14 (yikes!), and walked none. Not bad if you started him in a league that uses K/BB ratio as a category.

The 14 K’s were third most for a starting pitcher in their major league debut.

Getting a chance to watch the game in it’s entirety, there were a few things that stuck out:

4: Pitches that Strasburg had command of this evening. His 4-seamer, 2-seamer, change-up, and slurve (or slider-curve hybrid as he has been quoted naming it) were all lively and nearly untouchable. His 16 first pitch strikes out of 24 batters faced shows that.

7: Innings pitched. More than most probably expected to see. With about a 100 innings pitch limit (a total of 150-160 expected for the season including the minors) available for the rest of the season, it figured Strasburg would get roughly 15-20 starts.

If the Nationals manage to contend this season, that number could be an issue.

Over 30,000: Fans in attendance, a rarity since the opening of Nationals Park. The standing room only crowd gave the stadium an electric atmosphere, which it deserves. Great stadiums should not be so barren.

1,000: Plus fans that left after Strasburg was pulled. That is a crying shame. Your team was winning and playing well even after he was hooked. Enjoy the last two innings and support the whole team.

69: Percent, the strike percentage of Strasburg’s 94 pitches. Not too shabby for a first ML start…or any.

Yes, this is a VERY small sample size of what may turn out to be an amazing career, but the hype of his first start was achieved and lapped.

As a fan of game-changing and organization-changing players, Stephen Strasburg could lead the charge as the Washington Nationals fight for respectability in what can be a very competitive National League East.

This small and disappointing club has earned the right to have young talent play for them, and those back-to-back 100 loss seasons may be paying off a lot sooner than some may have anticipated.

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Galarraga, Game of Baseball, Robbed of 21st Perfect Game

Life is not fair. Ask Armando Galarraga.

The Detroit Tiger pitcher was one out away from a perfect game against the Cleveland Indians, when a close play at first base involving Galarraga covering, was ruled in favor of hitter Jason Donald.

He was out, as Galarraga clearly had control of the ball and foot on first before Donald reached the base.

Umpire Jim Joyce, who made the call, was booed mercilessly immediately after the call, and for the rest of the time he was on the field.

The only excuse Joyce may be able to give is that it was a bang-bang play, and he could not be sure the Tiger right hander had complete control of the ball in his glove.

As much as that may be plausible, Galarraga and anyone at the game, or watching it on television was robbed of history in many ways.

This would have been the first time in baseball history three perfect games were thrown in one season, let alone two within one week. It also would have been the third in one season, the first time that would have happened since the 19th century.

Jim Joyce is not a bad umpire, but he clearly cost a pitcher a chance at a dream come true.

Galarraga was just a stop gap pitcher for Detroit this season, and earned his spot with the trade of Dontrelle Willis to Arizona for reliever Billy Buckner. Do you think this would have happened if the D-Train made a pit stop again in Detroit? No way.

I was able to watch this unfold live on MLB Network via Fox Sports Detroit. I am a White Sox, but also a fan of history. It was by chance that I even saw this happen, because I am also a Chicago Blackhawks fan. The game was being recorded so I could watch it with my dad when he got home from work. What a moment of chance for me to see another perfect game, but it was not meant to be.

To all of Detroit, Galarraga, and baseball fans, I am sorry for your loss.

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The 5 Best Interleague Match-ups This Weekend

Interleague baseball has been the source of many good and bad feelings within the baseball community. Fans love it, fans hate it.

What interleague brings to a stadium near you is the ability to see teams you normally would not get to see (unless your team sees them in the World Series, or you travel to other ballparks a lot).

There is also the inter-city rivalries, (New York, Chicago, L.A.), and inter-state rivalries (California, Missouri, Florida) that fans will pay to see.

I, personally, do not pay much attention to interleague play because to me it is just another day and another game. Despite that, there are always some added bonuses, like good pitching match-ups and hot teams looking to stay on fire against another team in the same situation.

This weekend poses of few of the aforementioned.

(All stats courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)

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