Tag: 2012 MLB Playoffs

Can the Texas Rangers Avoid Another Late-Season Collapse?

Rangers fans are hoping their team learned a thing or two from last season’s meltdown that left many in Texas sick to their stomachs. That 2012 team had hopes of returning to the World Series for a third-straight year, but a tumultuous nine-game stretch to finish the season saw a five-game lead and the division title disappear.

After an uninspiring performance in the Wild Card Game with Baltimore, the Rangers front office found itself facing difficult questions in the offseason. There were many writers and critics that saw the offseason as a complete failure.

Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and Co. failed to sign the prized free agent that was Zack Greinke, while Texas’ own free agents found other homes in Los Angeles (Josh Hamilton), Boston (Ryan Dempster, Mike Napoli, Koji Uehara), Philadelphia (Mike Adams) and Chicago (Scott Feldman).

No one thought Texas had lost all of its punch, but it appeared the team had some red flags as a result of all the offseason roster change. Nevertheless, the Rangers find themselves in September again with a situation similar to that of last year’s team: battling the Oakland A’s for the division crown with a likely consolation prize of a one-game wild-card matchup.

“Everything happens for a reason, and it just wasn’t meant to be for us last year,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said in an interview with Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram. “That’s baseball. We learn from that and make sure we don’t take anything for granted this year.”

Here, we take a look at the three similarities and differences between the 2012 and 2013 Texas Rangers‘ stretch run that could make all the difference in the outcome of the season.


Pitching Rotation

By the time September 2012 rolled around, the Rangers managed to put together a nice rotation with Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Ryan Dempster as the top four starters. Each of these four pitchers earned three wins in the month of September, and only Dempster had an ERA over 4.00. What absolutely killed this pitching staff was the No. 5 slot where Scott Feldman, Martin Perez and Roy Oswalt combined to go 0-4 with a 6.25 ERA for the month.

This year’s starting five has only two holdovers from 2012 in Darvish and Holland, both of whom are markedly improved pitchers in 2013. After a rough start Wednesday in Oakland, Darvish still maintains a 2.91 ERA and Holland a 3.07 ERA. They had 3.90 and 4.67 ERAs last year, respectively.

Matt Garza’s mediocre performance since arriving in Arlington is essentially a wash with last year’s big acquisition of Dempster, but there is still hope that he will turn it around and be a major contributor.

What makes this year’s rotation better, though, is the emergence of Martin Perez and the under-the-radar acquisition of former Ranger-killer Travis Blackley.

While Perez didn’t contribute much in 2012, his nine wins this season are tied for second on the team. He also has a nice 3.41 ERA that shrinks every game he pitches.

Blackley has shown he can hold his own in the back of the rotation. If he can find a way to eat up enough innings in his starts and keep the score close, it would at least be an improvement from what the Rangers had in 2012 in the five-spot.

Looking forward, the most important pitcher will be Darvish. Warranted or not, Yu has received criticism for his tendency to surrender the lead late in the game. If he is able to stay focused and continue to lead this staff, it will give the Rangers a brief moment to breathe down the stretch.



Gone from the Rangers’ offense are Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. Coupled with the suspension of Nelson Cruz, the lineup is definitely missing some of that familiar pop. Texas’ offense in 2013 isn’t nearly as dangerous as last year’s, but it is still capable of putting runs on the board.

Adrian Beltre has continued to fly under the radar. He is one of the best hitters in baseball, but he needs more help to get this team into the playoffs. Texas showed its versatility in the days following Cruz’s suspension by stealing bases and putting pressure on the other team’s defense. It may have to do more of the same down the stretch.

Leonys Martin, Elvis Andrus and Alex Rios have all swiped more than 30 bases this year, and Craig Gentry is another threat on the base paths.

The Rangers really just need for guys to play at their expected level in order to take some of the pressure off the pitching staff. There are plenty of guys who are capable of doing this.

David Murphy has struggled at the plate all season long and has lost playing time as a result. After a year in which he hit .304 and set career highs in other offensive categories, Murphy hasn’t been the same spark this year and has an average of .222.

Lance Berkman, if healthy, could also be a source for additional offense. Berkman is likely to retire after the season concludes, but if there is any life left in his bat the Rangers could certainly use it.



As good as the bullpen was in 2012, it is even better in 2013.

Despite the departures of shutdown middle relievers Koji Uehara and Mike Adams, the bullpen’s ERA is down from 3.42 to 3.02 this year. Spurts of dominance by Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, Jason Frasor and Neal Cotts have paved the way for another stellar year by closer Joe Nathan.

Nathan has been lights out this year. He’s converted on 38-of-40 save opportunities and nearly cut his ERA in half this season, down to 1.48.

Pitching Coach Mike Maddux has to be excited about the return of fireballer Neftali Feliz. After missing over 15 months due to elbow surgery, Feliz appears ready to contribute in the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

Former All-Star closer Joakim Soria could also play an important role in relief.

If the Rangers can hand the ball over to these guys with the lead, they are going to be in great shape in the playoff hunt.

All statistics are from MLB.com.

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San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt, Sandoval and the Final Days of Barry Zito

All season long, through the early good times and the recent bad-to-terrible times, I’ve implored San Francisco Giants fans—loyal and capricious alike—to stay on the ship. There is no worse non-criminal life form than the bandwagon fan—but the raging, pessimistic fan ranks a close second. (I call them “Quaids.” If you’ve seen the old Charlie Sheen movie Major League, you get the reference. But I’m not here to talk about the past.)

Even ardent fans will eventually reach a point of attrition, given enough exposure to shoddy, uninspired play unworthy of fan support. I reached mine when the Giants blew three winnable home games against a lousy Chicago Cubs team two weeks ago. Not because the Giants were losing—I’d never turn my back on my teams strictly based on losses. 

It was how they were losing. Walks, baserunning blunders, repeated failures to bring home men from second base with zero out—I wasn’t watching what I felt was major league baseball. I think most fans can tolerate (not accept) losing to a degree if the team is focused, playing hard, playing smart and aware of the situations they’re presented with. For a while, the Giants came up way short in all but the effort categories.

Since that Cubs debacle, San Francisco has played better—though far from superlative—baseball (not that it could have gotten much worse, but still). 

They kicked off a six-game trip taking two-of-three from the Philadelphia Phillies. Granted, it was a Phillies team minus Domonic Brown, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee (with Lee rumored to be held out of action as a 7/31 trade candidate, though he was officially resting a “stiff neck” as reported by CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa). One could argue the latter trio’s absence as addition by subtraction when you recall how SF schooled them in the 2010 playoffs, however.

On that trip, Brandon Belt got his swing back. All it took was a minor grip adjustment and some pressure by a rejuvenated Brett Pill to unleash the player who tore through the Pacific Coast and Arizona Fall Leagues, as well as the 2013 Cactus League.

After being benched in Philly, Belt went a hard 3-for-4 with a homer at Tampa in his return to the starting lineup. He next lit up the Brewers and Orioles in San Francisco to the tune of 11-for-25—many to the long-ignored opposite field—with two home runs, three doubles (all smoked) and five RBI. In fact, Belt has driven in five of the Giants’ past 11 runs and (excluding the two homers) scored three others.

Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum both re-discovered their ace stuff; in fact, as a whole, the entire starting staff has been dealing as of late. Since July 30 (Barry Zito‘s final start to date), The Freak and friends have thrown six or more innings in 10 of 12 starts and allowed a composite 20 runs in those 12 starts.

For their efforts, Giants starters own only a 4-2 record over that period—while they’re not being saddled with an excess of undeserved losses, they’re not being rewarded with enough wins (although the G’Men did a great job salvaging Cain’s eight strong innings with a late comeback off Philadelphia’s Jon Papelbon August 1.)

Though he’s fallen into a slump, Panda Sandoval continues to exercise better selectivity at the plate ever since his embarrassing flail at a pitch that went through his legs on July 3 at Cincy. Sandoval is never going to be Ted Williams or Barry Bonds in terms of condensing the strike zone, and no one is asking him to be. The guy can beat a “bad” ball with the best of ’em—Pablo’s productivity would suffer if his approach turned passive.

That said, not even he can do anything with a pitch headed straight for him—or a pitch thrown 58 feet. Or a pitch closer to a pitchout than a strike. Sandoval’s cold right now, but for the most part, he’s getting off good swings and not getting himself out—unlike his June cold snap coming off the injured list.

Some of Sandoval’s more impressive “takes” of late include:                

  • a nasty 0-2 changeup from Phillie Antonio Bastardo on July 30 
  • a tempting Wily Peralta (Brewers) 2-2 curve on August 6
  • two back-foot breaking balls (from Milwaukee’s Jon Hand August 8 and Baltimore’s Bud Norris August 11, respectively) nearly identical to the July 3 leg-splitter

…among others he would usually pounce on.

Those unfamiliar with Sandoval won’t be impressed at a sixth-year major league hitter exercising dish discipline on its face, but what you must understand: Panda laying off dirt-dusters and third-eye heaters is no different than a crook returning a dropped wallet to the police station fully intact—it goes against everything that comes naturally to him. This is what makes Pablo’s batting slump so mystifying, but I’m confident he’ll wrap 2013 strong.

Zito predictably lost his rotation spot after the aforementioned loss in Philadelphia that left him with the following home/road splits (as a starter): 4-1. 2.45 ERA/0-7, 9.50 ERA (with a WHIP approaching 2.4, twice that of his home WHIP). And that doesn’t even include the eight road unearned runs.

This is the final year of Zito’s infamous seven-year contract; even with up to three rotation holes to fill at season’s end, there’s just no way a 36-year-old Zito with his 83-mph-and-dipping “fastball” returns in ’14 even on a Triple-A deal. I’ve defended and supported Zito for years, but even I have to admit that at this point…I’m not sure he’s a MLB pitcher anymore.

His curve is still filthy. His slider and changeup can be effective. But his command has never been worse, which is saying something since even in his outstanding Oakland years, Zito routinely finished among league leaders in walks and ran up high pitch counts. When going well, Zito can often escape jams and hitter’s counts with one of his off-speed pitches. When he can’t command them…you’re left with June-August 2013.

True, he’s had effective starts this year. So did Jamie Moyer in 2012. So did David Wells in 2007. So did Kirk Rueter in 2005.

Given the contempt in which Giants fans held the under-performing Zito in the first half of his tenure and how he earned their respect (if not admiration) with two clutch playoff starts in 2012, it’s fair to say Giants fans—at least the more astute ones—pulled for Barry to turn in a decent year on his way out of town, and for a while he obliged.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear he will go out strong, but Zito’s contribution to the 2012 champs along with his work ethic, stand-up attitude and exemplary representation of the Orange and Black inside and outside the lines over these last seven years should be loudly acknowledged at any future reunions.

After a much-needed off-day, the Giants take on a Nationals team that’s arguably the only one more disappointing than they in 2013. Though a combined 16 games under .500 and 29.5 games out of first place, these franchises do have something to play for. The star-studded series should be entertaining if nothing else. Thanks for reading and go, Giants!

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New York Yankees: 7 Ways Brian Cashman Botched the Current Roster

It is easy to forget that the New York Yankees won 95 games, had the second best run differential in the majors and the top-seed heading into the AL playoffs.

That’s because their season came to a crashing halt in the ALCS after the Detroit Tigers embarrassingly swept them out of the playoffs. The Yankees have not been swept out of a seven-game series since the 1976 World Series.

The players on the field are rightfully getting the brunt of the verbal abuse in the media for their disappearing act. However, GM Brian Cashman is the man who put this collective unit together and has to take part of the blame for the postseason collapse. With the payroll the Yankees maintain, winning the division isn’t something to pat your back on.

The Yankees need to be set up to win in October and there has been several decisions made by Cashman over his tenure that culminated in their worst postseason performance in nearly four decades.

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The New York Yankees Would Be Foolish to Trade Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez

Every time the New York Yankees are eliminated from the postseason, there are always cries from fans and the media for change, particularly of the radical kind. This year is no different, with several of them wishing for their scapegoats to be shown the door from the Big Apple. 

Many of the scapegoats include Curtis Granderson, whose options New York has picked up, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin, but none of them compare to the biggest one of all. 

Alex Rodriguez, the hero of the 2009 postseason which ended with the Yankees’ 27th World Championship, is indisputably the biggest scapegoat for the Yankees’ stunning defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez was three for 25 in this year’s playoffs with no extra base hits or RBIs and 12 strikeouts.

He was pinch hit for by Raul Ibanez in the ninth inning of Game Three of the Division Series (we know how that turned out) and was benched in both elimination games for the Yankees this season.

He was frequently replaced against RHP as he was completely overpowered by the likes of Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson, Miguel Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez, not a group you should be shut down by. 

Now it seems that his relationship with manager Joe Girardi and the ownership and front office has been irreparably damaged. Many wish for them to part ways this offseason.

However, this would be a foolish decision to make, and for quite a few reasons. Rodriguez has five years left on his deal with the Yankees and is owed at least $114 million. Why should the Yankees pay him to play for another team? That’s just a bad business and baseball move. They should not deal him at all costs like they did to AJ Burnett. 

There’s also the fact that A-Rod is still an above average player, especially at his position. Although he put up career worst numbers, he still put up a 112 OPS+, a .353 OBP, and led the Yankees in stolen bases until Ichiro arrived. He ranked 9th among all 3B in OPS at .783 and 8th in wRC+ at 114.

However, there’s also a concern other than the fact he struggled in the postseason. His numbers have seriously declined every year, and injuries have only catalyzed his decline. After surviving a hip injury in 2009 and carrying the Bombers to the title, he has suffered injuries to his knee, which held him to just 99 games last season, and a wrist fracture caused by a hit by pitch from Felix Hernandez. 

Overall, Rodriguez has batted under .280 in each of the past three seasons. His isoP (isolated power, slugging percentage minus average) has been under .200 in the last two season. According to some metrics, his bat speed has also declined, as seen when guys like Jim Johnson were able to blow their vicious sinkers past him in the postseason. 

Also, there is the problem with replacing him. Eric Chavez would not be able to hold together for a full 162 game season. Eduardo Nunez cannot hit RHP either and his fielding at any position is probably worse than Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax combined. 

The Yankees could pursue Chase Headley, who broke out in 2012, hitting 31 HRs, driving in 115 RBIs and put up a 144 OPS+ at PETCO. Unfortunately, the value he supposedly had at the deadline has only skyrocketed which could drive up the price on him.

So even if Alex is traded, the Yankees will have to spend or give away even more to find an adequate replacement. 

Unless you can find a way to get a team interested in his services that is willing to take at least part of his contract, Alex Rodriguez is not leaving New York anytime soon. And he shouldn’t.

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SF Giants: Should Tim Lincecum Be Converted into a Full-Time Reliever?

Tim Lincecum went through the worst season of his career in 2012, losing 15 games with a 5.18 ERA.

And, once he struggled and got the loss in a start in Game 4 of the NLCS, that was it for him starting. But luckily, the former ace and two-time Cy Young winner has found some success…out of the bullpen.

Out of the bullpen, Lincecum has allowed one run in 10 and two-thirds innings. He came in during Game 1 of the World Series with two on and two out in the sixth inning, and he struck out Jhonny Peralta. He struck out five of the seven batters he faced, twirling two and one-thirds perfect innings.

Lincecum was perfect, as he commanded his change-up and used his slider more freely, not worrying about the potential risk of getting tired from overuse of the pitch later in the game. He is now throwing everything he has at each batter, knowing that it’s unlikely he’ll face the same hitter twice in the same game.

The two-time Cy Young winner is 1-0 with an 0.84 ERA in the postseason (out of the bullpen,) and not including the time he came in during the third inning of a 2008 game because of rain, Lincecum has a career ERA of 0.82 in the bullpen.

Maybe he doesn’t like it there as much, but the reality is that he gets to pitch in more games. The Giants crowd roars when Lincecum and his long hair trot from the dugout to the bullpen mound. It’s happened four times at AT&T Park and twice on the road.

Lincecum’s ability to throw a lot of pitches on short rest will really help, and he can be counted on to chew up innings. If he continues to succeed, he could be a late-inning reliever or an inning-eater, providing decent relief for a whole season.

You may ask about who would replace him in the rotation, and I’ve got an answer. San Francisco has some money to spend, and it could use it on Kyle Lohse, James Shields or even Zack Greinke. The only challenge then would be assembling the rotation.

Ryan Vogelsong has a 1.42 postseason ERA, and he compiled a 3.37 ERA and 14-9 record in 2012 despite a rare rough patch. Madison Bumgarner went 16-11 with the same ERA, Zito went 15-8, and Cain compiled a 2.80 ERA and a 16-5 record.

So it’s safe to say the rotation wouldn’t have problems. Lincecum has had some struggles in the rotation, although he is perfectly capable of going deep into a game there. Bad luck played a part in Lincecum’s 5.18 ERA, and he also had some trouble pitching to Buster Posey. In fact, backup catcher Hector Sanchez became Lincecum’s battery mate, with Posey moving to first base. 

Some may argue that the lack of chemistry between Posey and Lincecum would be a cause for concern, since three of the other four starters always pitch to Posey (and Zito pitches to him sometimes). But out of the bullpen, Lincecum has pitched 6.1 scoreless innings to Posey, his 2010 postseason battery mate.

He has done well pitching to Sanchez, too. Sanchez caught 4.1 innings of one-run ball from Lincecum in Game 4 of the NLDS, which was a relief appearance. So, there is no way that Lincecum will shy away from a catcher and force Posey to leave a game because he is unwilling to pitch to him (Posey).

Lincecum won’t shy away from anything, and he has done a great job accepting his role, avoiding sulking and finding some success. You could argue that Lincecum’s bullpen relief is the reason that the Giants are still playing, since he got the win in Game 4 of the NLDS, another elimination game, while saving his fellow relievers for Game 5.

That could happen again in the regular season, and there’s a good chance of it. But first, manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean have to put Lincecum in the bullpen.

And no, that’s not a punishment. I’ve been preaching Lincecum’s second -and past success for what seems like forever, and I’m still a huge fan of him. I was shocked when he was excluded from the NLDS rotation, only to watch him go 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in the NLDS.

Then, I realized having Lincecum in the tool shed for almost 162 games every year would be better than having him start 30-35 games. He can send the crowd into a frenzy just by jogging to the bullpen, which is very valuable. He can be one of those pitchers who realize throwing their best stuff at a team for a short period of time can really help, without the risk of facing the hitter again.

I don’t expect this to happen, and I think he can build on his World Series and postseason success to regain his form in the rotation. His confidence will be there, and you can expect Lincecum to go through some rigorous offseason workouts to ensure success in 2013. But there is a good argument that Lincecum can be replaced in the rotation and be used as a key reliever, and that he can fill in in the case of an injury.

Because now, he has experience pitching in the rotation and the bullpen. He’s got confidence in his stuff out of the bullpen, and he can definitely succeed in either role.

But if Lincecum is in the bullpen, and the Giants find a decent replacement, the rotation will retain its elite status and the bullpen will fall into the category of elite. 

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St. Louis Cardinals Credit Their Success to ‘The Matheny Way’

ST. LOUIS–The St. Louis Cardinals are back at it again—defying all the odds to keep driving deeper into October. They met a hiccup in their plans on Friday night when they lost Game 5 of the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants.

When your team has a pair of Mr. Octobers, the chance to keep a game or series alive is always present.

The Cardinals have been quick to credit their success so far in 2012 to rookie manager Mike Matheny for his methods and positive attitude.

“I was thinking about Mike Matheny and he’s a man of very few words, compared to a lot of people,” David Freese said prior to Game 5 of the NLCS. “But, when he speaks, it’s meaningful.”

Freese, like most members of the team, has an immense respect for Matheny both as a manager and a man.

“He’s got our back, from day one,” he said. “That’s cool to see.  He’s out here having a good time and he’s just loving this, I know that.”

While the players have an immense amount of respect for their “new” manager, Freese said he knows that feeling is mutual.

“He trusts his players,” he said. “He’s a guy that, he’s very prepared, just like Tony.  He throws his team out there and puts them in situations that they can succeed in.”

If anyone on the team is equipped to speak about Matheny’s trust in his players, it’s Jon Jay.

The decision to make Jay the everyday outfielder meant everything to the young man now crowned as the Cardinals lead-off hitter as well.

“We had Carlos Beltran here, and he’s done everything that you can do in center field,” Jay said. “And he was a great center fielder. For him to come up to me and say that to me, that was big to me.”

When a new manager takes over, young players particularly get concerned because they don’t know if their role will remain the same.  

“The past two seasons for me I was battling to try to get in the lineup,” Jay said. “I knew that was my role. I knew that was what it was going to take for me to be in the roster.”

One of the things players have regularly touted about Matheny, is that he focuses on a player’s skills, not their faults.

That can be huge for team morale.

“As far as motivation for Mike, he’s always positive,” Jay said. “That’s the No. 1 thing. That’s something that definitely rubs off on us. He’s never negative about anything.”

That’s saying something considering the Cardinals struggles throughout portions of the season. Having a manager trying to keep the team focused and telling them he believes in them is vital during a slump, and it appears Matheny has worked hard at that.

“When we went through our stretches where things weren’t so hot, he was always positive,” Jay said. “He kept believing in us and kept telling us how much talent we had on this team and how much we all cared about each other. And I think that’s been the big thing this year—just staying positive.”

Adam Wainwright also touted Matheny’s leadership abilities and acknowledged.

“Well, I think he’s a man of immense character,” Wainwright said of his rookie manager. “I think he’s a role model, a leader that we look to, leads by example, a guy who never gets flustered, always is in smooth control of his mind and his body. But, I don’t know, he kind of brings that leadership, maybe like a Tony Dungy or somebody like that, that quiet strength you just kind of feed off of.”

With the Cardinals headed back to San Francisco with hopes of wrapping this series up, focusing on the positive is crucial.

The key to wrapping up the NLCS on the way to the team’s fourth World Series berth in nine years is going to be for Matheny to keep his team focused.

He pointed out Friday that distractions are nothing new to the Cardinals. Between the pressure to win the series at home and the media circus that arrives with the playoffs, the team has played through its share of distractions.

Matheny said he works hard to keep them prepared for those distractions.

“We’ve had discussions, they’ve talked amongst themselves,” he said. “We go out and we play the game and the team that can take the distractions and put them aside and just go out and do your job is the team that’s going to have a higher likelihood of winning.”

This team has the ability to get the job done. They have two more opportunities to make that happen.

 Corey Noles is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

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Why the Yankees Have Mentally Lost Alex Rodriguez for the Rest of His Career

This was not a good night for the slugging New York Yankees‘ third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

His team dropped a close 2-1 game to the Detroit Tigers in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series to fall into a 3-0 hole.

Two of New York’s tabloids have reported that he was flirting with female fans after being subbed for Saturday and—despite hitting two home runs off of Justin Verlander in his career—was benched Tuesday night like he was for last Friday’s deciding ALDS game against Baltimore.

While Rodriguez smiled broadly at times in the dugout during Game 3, there now is a pretty substantial rift between the prized slugger and the Yankees’ brain trust of manager Joe Girardi and General Manager Brian Cashman.

The public words for the benching were said to be for performance as the Yankees tried to put a lineup for Game 3 that featured speed and small ball.

The simple “no comment” that were making the rounds through the press, however, might have told a tea leaf reader a different story.

It will be very hard whenever the Yankees’ 2012 season ends for Rodriguez and Girardi to get back on the same page.

The first benching was clearly designed to spark a fire with his high-dollar superstar, but the lack of production that haunted Rodriguez through the Baltimore series followed him for the first two games at home against the Tigers.

He was pinch-hit for in Game 1 before the Yankees fought back to force extra innings.

On Tuesday, he never even had a bat in his hand as the Yankees finally chased Verlander in the ninth for a run and had the go-ahead run on first base.

Girardi‘s pinch-hitter to face Phil Coke? Nick Swisher.

In five days, we have gone from kick in the pants to outright mistrust.

The problem going forward for the Yankees and Rodriguez is that as much as they do not want to be together anymore, his $29 million in salary will be nearly impossible to move unless New York is prepared to eat a substantial portion of it. His deal still has four years to run.

It does not seem likely that either Girardi or Cashman will be going anywhere for 2013 as the Yankees have battled the Tigers very hard for a team staring down a 3-0 deficit.

If the Yankees will not trust him to play in the biggest games of the year and he has been benched for their last two—then what reassurances will he get that it will not happen again.

Rodriguez was so unhappy with Joe Torre that he opted out of his contract for free agency the night the Boston Red Sox swept the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies.

As Rodriguez tries to figure out what his best for his future, it is hard to see him really caring much either way at this point about the Yankees.

Never considered a beloved player in New York, this signifies the beginning of the end in pinstripes for Rodriguez.

Unless there is a front office house cleaning this off-season, this relationship will continue to strain and eventually will break, if it has not already.

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2012 NLCS: Why Game 3 Has Now Become a Must-Win for the St. Louis Cardinals

Even though the St. Louis Cardinals have developed a penchant for comebacks when they are down to their last out in postseason series over the past few seasons, Game 3 of the 2012 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants is a must-win game for St. Louis.

After the two teams split the first two games in San Francisco, the series has shifted to St. Louis for the next three games. Since each team has an outstanding pitching staff, momentum is tremendously important.

Following their Game 2 win, the Giants have the edge in this category and they will be looking to build on it.

Things have begun to click for the Giants offensively, as Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence have gotten a lot of support from the likes of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco. Pagan has two home runs and five RBI this postseason, while Blanco has driven in four men in the two series.

A Giants offense that is running close to its peak production level should be trouble enough for the Cardinals.

In addition to their offense, the Giants starting rotation lines up very well for the rest of the series.

With Matt Cain heading to the mound in Game 3 for the Giants, the Cardinals are facing a tough matchup. Cain is the ace of the Giants staff, and he will look to swing the series in San Francisco’s favor.

St. Louis has arguably their best pitcher on the mound for Game 3. If the Cardinals cannot pick up a win with Kyle Lohse pitching, then they are in big trouble.

A Game 3 loss would concern the Cardinals because the Giants have starters that could keep them scoreless in any of the games remaining in the series.

Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito will likely be pitching in Games 4 and 5 of the NLCS (h/t Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle). Chances are that they will be pitching against Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.

Lincecum may have struggled this season, but his second half and his performance out of the bullpen this October have demonstrated that he is very close to being back at a Cy Young-level. In three appearances out of the bullpen this postseason, Lincecum has given up just one run on three hits in 8.1 innings.

This is obviously a boon to the Giants’ starting rotation, and the Cardinals will have a difficult time picking up a win against Lincecum if he brings his “A” game.

While Zito performed poorly in his last start of the NLDS, that does not mean that he will be an easy matchup for the Cardinals lineup. Even if the Cardinals are able to pick up one win against Lincecum or Zito after a Game 3 loss, they will be in a precarious situation.

As the series shifts back to San Francisco for what would be the final two games of the NLCS, the Giants would have their two best pitchers ready to take the hill. The feverish AT&T Park crowd will also be behind the Giants in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS if they happen, and that advantage cannot be overlooked.

Madison Bumgarner put together a disastrous start in the opening game of this year’s NLCS, going 3.2 innings and giving up six earned runs. However, the Bumgarner should be back on his game and he should keep the Cardinals’ offensive production in Game 6 to a minimum.

Should the Cardinals be able to get past Bumgarner and force a Game 7, it will almost certainly be Cain facing off against them. Cain would be working on full rest for a pivotal Game 7.

For a team that has made its living off of late-game and late-series comebacks, the Cardinals could be in deep trouble if they put themselves in a situation where they need one against the Giants.

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2012 ALCS: Justin Verlander Dominant Again as Tigers on Brink of Sweep

This looks, well it looks far too easy. Justin Verlander was dominant again this postseason, going the 8 1/3 innings of three hit ball for his third victory in these playoffs, as the Detroit Tigers defeated the New York Yankees 2-1.

With the win, the Tigers moved to within one game of a stunning sweep and their second World Series berth since 2006.

Delmon Young’s second solo-blast of the series, making it 1-0 off Phil Hughes in the fourth inning, gave Verlander all he would need for eight innings. 

Hughes would depart shortly thereafter with a back injury. And while the Yankee bullpen was solid the rest of the night (5 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, one unearned run), it ultimately did not matter because Verlander stymied New York’s offense.

As a matter of fact, the only hitter to reach base until the ninth inning was Ichiro Suzuki, who went 2 for 3 with a pair of harmless singles.  Eduardo Nunez hit a solo home-run to left field in the top of the ninth to cut the deficit to one.

Verlander only struck out three, but in many ways was more dominant against a more balanced Yankees lineup than the one he overpowered in Oakland six nights ago. Mixing his fastball with a change-up all night, the Yankee hitters simply could not square up the ball for the first eight innings. 

The insurance for Detroit came by way of MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, whose double in the fifth plated Quintin Berry.

Berry reached to start the inning on an error by third baseman Eric Chavez, who was playing for the benched Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez and Nick Swisher were benched by New York manager Joe Girardi in an obvious move to get some production out of those spots in the order.

It obviously did not work.

Having extended Detroit’s starting pitchers scoreless innings streak to an incredible 30 1/3 innings before letting up a home-run to Nunez, Verlander managed to retire Brett Gardner on a tapper back towards the mound to get out number one. 

Detroit manager Jim Leyland then removed him after his 132nd and final pitch.  Phil Coke then retired Suzuki and gave up a pair of singles to Mark Teixiera and Robinson Cano (snapping his 0 for 29 slump in the postseason).

But with the tying run in scoring position, Coke bounced back and struck out Raul Ibanez on a 3-2 slider to end the game.


With the win, Detroit is in position to sweep its way into the World Series for the second time in seven years.To do so, they will have to beat Yankees ace CC Sabathia.

The Tigers will counter with Max Scherzer as they attempt to win the American League pennant.

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Matt Holliday Versus Marco Scutaro: The NLCS Slide Seen ‘Round the World

Was Matt Holliday‘s slide into Marco Scutaro in the first inning of Game 2 of the NLCS a dirty play?

While Holliday’s intent was almost assuredly not to injure Scutaro, the fact is that Scutaro did have to eventually leave the game because of the collision. Scutaro‘s status is in question for Game 3 as he deals with a hip strain and sore knee suffered from the collision.

Still, even though Holliday slid late and hurt Scutaro, he doesn’t come across as a dirty player, and the Giants players and coaches didn’t think it was a dirty play.

Holliday said that he wished he had started his slide earlier, and Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, Holliday’s former teammate in Colorado, vouched for Holliday’s character after the game.

So, the question of whether it was a dirty play really comes down to your judgment on Holliday’s intent. Based on everything I’ve read, it seems that Holliday accidentally slid late; therefore, it wasn’t a dirty play. If he had sharpened his spikes before the game a la Ty Cobb and spiked Scutaro, that would be dirty, but that’s not what happened.

However, the better question might be if that was a legal play. Giants manager Bruce Bochy was adamant that the slide was illegal.

There’s reason to think Bochy‘s assessment is correct. The rulebook states, “In sliding to a base, the runner should be able to reach the base with his hand or foot.”

By the time Holliday finished his slide, his arms were taking out Scutaro‘s legs, and thus he was not in a position to touch the base with his hand or foot, in my judgment.


The rulebook goes on, “A runner who, in the judgment of the umpire, contacts or attempts to make contact with a fielder with a slide or roll block that is not a bona fide effort to reach and stay on the base may be called out for interference and, when appropriate, a double play may be called.”

Holliday’s slide may have been an attempt to hit the base and stay on it, but it failed miserably, as he started the slide at the base and by the time he was finished he was not in position to be able to stay on the base.

Thus, had the umpire judged the play as I did, calling an automatic double play for an illegal slide would have been quite reasonable. Alas, the umpire did not make that judgment, and his judgment ultimately was the final verdict on the legality of the play.

In my mind, it was an illegal slide, but the umpire judged that Holliday could have still contacted the base with his hand or foot even while his body was annihilating Scutaro and appeared to be nowhere near the base.

So, the play was ultimately legal because the umpire deemed it so. It was also a clean play in that Holliday doesn’t seem like a malicious player and no one on the Giants has called it a dirty play (to my knowledge). He should have slid sooner, and he admitted as much.

It’s a shame that Scutaro was injured on the play, and it will be a bigger shame if he misses any more time or can’t play as effectively going forward.

Personally, I do think the play should have been ruled illegal, and I also think Major League Baseball needs to do more to protect players from these types of collisions around second base and home plate. 


Dave Cameron of FanGraphs suggested today that MLB should institute a rule in which base runners are ejected for making contact with fielders the way that Holliday did in Game 2. This type of rule would go a long way to preventing the type of collisions that injured Scutaro last night and catchers like Buster Posey and Carlos Santana in brutal home plate collisions in recent seasons.

The players are the commodity. They are the reason fans go to games, and doing everything to keep them healthy should be of vital importance.

If Posey’s career had ended in that brutal home plate collision last year with Scott Cousins, we all would have been deprived of watching one of the greatest offensive catchers to ever come along. Is losing someone so valuable worth it because home plate collisions have always been a part of the game?

In my mind, that makes about as much sense as preventing minorities from playing because that’s the way it used to be.

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