Tag: MSN

Athletics’ Brandon Moss Homers Twice in AL Wild Card Game vs. Royals

Oakland Athletics first baseman Brandon Moss hit a two-run home run during the first inning of the American League Wild Card Game against the Kansas City Royals.

Moss wasn’t done with just one. He went deep again, this time a three-run shot in the sixth inning to give Oakland a 5-3 lead. 

[TBS, Vine]

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Pedro Martinez and TBS Postseason Crew Recreate ‘Boom Goes the Dynamite’ Debacle

Everyone loves the “Boom Goes the Dynamite” video clip circa 2005. Everyone, with the exception of some New York Yankees fans, loves Pedro Martinez. Put those two together, and magical things can happen.

The TBS postseason crew—led by Martinez, Cal Ripken Jr. and Gary Sheffield—put their own spin on the classic meltdown from Ball State news anchor Brian Collins.

It was only fitting that Martinez was the one who dropped the famous line.

Here’s the legendary “Boom Goes the Dynamite” clip:

The postseason gets started Tuesday night with the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals in the American League Wild Card Game at 7:30 p.m. ET on TBS. 

[MLBFanCave, YouTube]

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10 Red-Hot Hitters Poised to Shine Under 2014 MLB Postseason Pressure

There is certainly some truth to the idea that pitching wins championships, but a top-flight offense can go a long way in helping a team get that far. Without some offensive firepower, it’s awfully hard to reach October to begin with.

With the 10-team postseason field set and things set to kick off Tuesday night with the American League Wild Card Game between the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals, postseason baseball has officially arrived here in 2014.

What follows is a look at 10 hitters, one from each playoff-bound club, who finished out the regular season on a tear at the plate.

Based on their September numbers and the key spot they occupy in their respective team’s lineup, these 10 players look poised to shine in the bright lights of October.

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Predicting the 10 Biggest Breakout Stars of the 2014 MLB Postseason

Having a breakout season is a challenge for most players. Pulling it off in the postseason, when playing time is limited and every next play could potentially determine the season, is another story.

However, every year there are players who do just that, as they go from little-known prospects or under-appreciated veterans to playoff heroes and household names seemingly overnight.

With the playoff games set to begin Tuesday night, it’s time to preview some of the players who appear primed for a breakout performance this October.

Here’s a look at the biggest potential breakout stars for the 2014 postseason.

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MLB About to Enter Most Wide-Open Postseason in a Long Time

Here’s something that might sound weird coming from a guy who’s supposed to know baseball:

I have no idea who’s going to win the 2014 World Series.

Of course, I will make a pick at some point. What the heck. Everyone else does. But picking a winner this year presents a unique challenge. One that, as we’ll get into later, hasn’t come around in a while.

This challenge: Whereas most postseasons have at least one obvious favorite, the 2014 postseason does not. You can look at all 10 playoff teams and find just as many potential downfalls as advantages.

This is true even of the best of the bunch. The Los Angeles Angels won an MLB-best 98 games and, according to Baseball Prospectus, have an 18.8 percent chance of winning it all. But they’re also a fine place to begin a breakdown of why this year’s 10 teams are simultaneously poised to win and doomed to fail.


Los Angeles Angels (98-64, AL West champs)

Why They’ll Win

Well, Mike Trout is baseball’s best player. And around him in the Angels lineup are other quality hitters like Albert Pujols, Howie Kendrick and Kole Calhoun. Also, don’t overlook how the Angels bullpen, as manager Mike Scioscia put it to USA Today‘s Wayne Epps Jr. in August, “fueled our charge” in the second half with a 3.12 ERA and league-best WAR.


Why They’re Doomed

With Garrett Richards sidelined until 2015 and Matt Shoemaker still recovering from a rib-cage injury, the totally non-threatening duo of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson currently sits atop the Angels’ playoff rotation. Factor in Josh Hamilton’s ongoing injury troubles, and baseball’s winningest team has as many glaring weak spots as a video game boss.


Washington Nationals (96-66, NL East champs)

Why They’ll Win

In Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, the Nationals are bringing an excellent starting rotation into October. They also finished the year as one of the top five run-scoring teams in the second half, and more recently have enjoyed Bryce Harper’s return to form. And unlike in 2012, inexperience isn’t an issue.

Why They’re Doomed

That Washington’s offense strikes out more than any other National League postseason offense doesn’t bode well knowing that power pitching reigns supreme in October. Also, the Nationals bullpen regressed mightily in the second half. Lastly, the one guy who didn’t get postseason experience in 2012 is the guy lined up to be Washington’s Game 1 starter: Stephen Strasburg.


Baltimore Orioles (96-66, AL East champs)

Why They’ll Win

After leading the league in home runs, the Orioles are bringing a powerful offense to the postseason. They can catch the ball, too, as Baseball Prospectus rates the Orioles as the No. 4 team in defensive efficiency. And through a combination of talent and Buck Showalter’s managing, the Orioles bullpen had the league’s top ERA after the break.


Why They’re Doomed

With Matt Wieters and Manny Machado out with injuries and Chris Davis unavailable in the short-term due to a suspension, Baltimore’s offense is not at full strength. And though they pitched well down the stretch, a starting rotation of Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman doesn’t frighten anyone.


Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68, NL West champs)

Why They’ll Win

Clayton Kershaw is the King of the Mound-ain. Oh, and Zack Greinke‘s also really good. Elsewhere, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford broke out their big bats and helped the Dodgers offense finish second in runs after the break. Yasiel Puig has snapped out of a funk in the last couple weeks. Then there’s closer Kenley Jansen, who has been downright silly since mid-June. 


Why They’re Doomed

There’s a big drop-off in talent in the Dodgers rotation after Kershaw and Greinke, especially if Hyun-Jin Ryu’s balky left shoulder doesn’t start behaving. And though the Dodgers offense is strong, Hanley Ramirez isn’t nearly the threat he was last season. You also wonder about the bullpen, which was perilously thin outside of Jansen down the stretch.


Detroit Tigers (90-72, AL Central champs)

Why They’ll Win

Miguel Cabrera looked like himself in September. Justin Verlander also finished his season strong. If Miggy is really back, the Tigers have a fearsome lineup trio in him, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez. If Verlander is also really back, how does a postseason rotation of Max Scherzer, David Price, Verlander and Rick Porcello sound?


Why They’re Doomed

After being weak the last two seasons, this year’s Tigers bullpen is so shaky it probably couldn’t be trusted to protect an M1 Abrams tank from even so much as a swarm of butterflies. And while one wants to be optimistic about Miggy and Verlander, it’s hard to ignore how they weren’t themselves for most of the year. Then there’s how both Price and Porcello have been up and down recently.


St. Louis Cardinals (90-72, NL Central champs)

Why They’ll Win

In light of Adam Wainwright’s dead arm period clearly being over, Shelby Miller’s second-half breakthrough and Lance Lynn’s year-long excellence, the Cardinals have a strong rotation trio. Just as encouraging is how Matt Holliday has found his power and how Yadier Molina has had a month to get back on track following an injury. They also like to use evil black magic—commonly known as “The Cardinal Way”—in October.


Why They’re Doomed

Wainwright and Lynn are fine, but ERA estimators like FIP and xFIP suggest Miller drastically overachieved in the second half. And though Molina’s had ample time to get on track, he hasn’t hit a lick since his return. Matt Adams, meanwhile, hasn’t hit a lick since the break. The Cardinals also have a closer in Trevor Rosenthal, who’s had the command of Nuke LaLoosh in 2014.


Kansas City Royals (89-73, AL Wild Card)

Why They’ll Win

The Royals are cut out to win close games. James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Jason Vargas and Danny Duffy make for a strong collection of starters. Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland are a relief trio that can shorten games with the best of ’em. The Royals also have good defenders all around, especially in the outfield in Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Norichika Aoki.

Why They’re Doomed

Joe Posnanski said it best at Hardball Talk: “run scoring for [the Royals] is like manual labor.” With a league-average OBP and the fewest homers in the majors, this is absolutely true. And though the Royals have the talent to win close games, skipper Ned Yost has a tendency to mismanage said talent.


Pittsburgh Pirates (88-74, NL Wild Card)

Why They’ll Win

Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano saved their best pitching for the second half, and the Pirates have a strong bullpen led by the underrated Mark Melancon. Their offense is deeper around Andrew McCutchen than you might think, especially after Josh Harrison, Russell Martin, Starling Marte and Neil Walker all had strong second halves.


Why They’re Doomed

Problem No. 1: The Pirates are trusting Edinson Volquez to represent them in the NL Wild Card Game. Even if they survive that, Liriano’s recent control problems, Martin’s recent hamstring injury and McCutchen‘s relatively modest second half are all reasons for skepticism. And though he’s pitched well for Pittsburgh, it’s hard to trust Vance Worley as a playoff starter.


San Francisco Giants (88-74, NL Wild Card)

Why They’ll Win

Madison Bumgarner is unhittable when he’s on, and Jake Peavy has been on a roll since mid-August. Just as important, Buster Posey was arguably the best player in the league down the stretch. And if Tim Lincecum can be what he was in the 2012 postseason while Sergio Romo stays rejuvenated, Bruce Bochy’s bullpen will be able to shorten games to, oh, about four innings.


Why They’re Doomed

Though Hunter Pence can still give fine speeches, he and Pablo Sandoval were non-factors in September. Spark-plug leadoff man Angel Pagan is done for the year. On the mound, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong ran out of gas in the second half. Then there’s this: After starting 43-21, the Giants were a sub-.500 club.


Oakland A’s (88-74, AL Wild Card)

Why They’ll Win

Jon Lester has been terrific lately. Same goes for Jeff Samardzija. And also Sonny Gray. Anchored by stud closer Sean Doolittle, the A’s also have a bullpen that doesn’t get enough credit. Oh, and they finished the year with the best run differential in the majors. That means they’re better than their record, right?

Why They’re Doomed

Um…no. Pretty much any compliment at this point is owed to the team the A’s were, not the team they are. Worst of all is how they stopped scoring runs after Yoenis Cespedes was traded. Only Josh Donaldson and Josh Reddick pulled their weight down the stretch. And alas, Donaldson is all sorts of banged up.


Everybody get all that? Good, because it’s quiz time.

No, not really. But you get the idea. A season characterized by parity has, not surprisingly, produced four heavily flawed wild-card teams and six division winners with their own flaws. It’s difficult to look at this year’s playoff teams and confidently say this club or that club might as well put the bubbly on ice.

Which, if you take a moment for a brief trip back through time, usually isn’t the case.

There was at least one juggernaut-looking 100-win team in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2011. In the years there weren’t, at least one of the teams that fell short looked legitimately formidable.

In 2013, the Cardinals and Boston Red Sox were both 97-win teams that entered the postseason as very well-rounded clubs. Outside of them, the 93-win Tigers had a stacked rotation and the 92-win Dodgers were a team that nobody could beat once the calendar reached late June.

In 2012, the Nationals and Cincinnati Reds both had well-rounded clubs that flirted with 100 wins, while the 88-win Tigers had an excellent rotation backed by the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 50 years.

In 2010, a 97-win Philadelphia Phillies club had a pitching staff led by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and deadline acquisition Roy Oswalt, and they also entered the postseason off a 50-win second half.

In 2007, a 96-win Red Sox team had an exciting mix of veterans left over from 2004 and up-and-comers like Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury. A fellow 96-win Cleveland Indians team had a strong offense and a killer rotation duo in CC Sabathia and the former Fausto Carmona.

In 2006, both New York clubs won 97 games while a 96-win Minnesota Twins team rode a league-best second half and in-their-prime versions of Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Johan Santana and Joe Nathan into the postseason. 

Is the 2014 season really the most wide-open postseason in recent memory? If there are numbers that can say yes or no, they’re darn hard to find. But in light of how all 10 teams are entering October with very real potential downfalls and how recent postseasons have featured clear teams to beat, this sure feels like the most wide-open postseason to come around in a while.

But here’s the bright side: This is not a complaint.

It’s hard to fathom how putting 10 flawed teams in one postseason won’t result in back-and-forth games and, in turn, back-and-forth series. We might not watch the prettiest baseball throughout, but the games could still be thrilling and the series could all go long.

Though the 2014 postseason should be messy, it should also be fun.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

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MLB Playoffs 2014: Round-by-Round Picks and Predictions

If Major League Baseball’s postseason means one thing, it’s the opportunity to pick the winner of each series and determine ahead of time which team will be crowned World Series champs.

OK, the actual results matter too, but that doesn’t make predictions any less fun. Which is why you’re inexplicably drawn by the lure of finding out how everything is (possibly maybe perhaps) going to play out, even if Tuesday merely marks the official start of the 2014 playoffs as the Kansas City Royals host the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Game at 8 p.m. ET on TBS.

With unforeseen injuries and unexpected player performances bound to alter the landscape at any time, a lot can change between now and the night the new champions are raising the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of October.

But if you’d rather have the (potential) results before then, you’ve come to the right place. What follows is one guess as to how everything will unfold between now and the start of the World Series on Oct. 21.

And sure, trying to figure out how the Fall Classic will go this far in advance might seem silly, but we’ll give that a shot too.

After all, our last set of predictions turned out to be on point, so who knows?

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Derek Jeter Receives Standing Ovation Before 1st At-Bat in Boston’s Fenway Park

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter‘s final career games will wrap up in Boston’s Fenway Park, and so far Red Sox Nation has shown nothing but class toward the Captain. 

In his second-to-last game, the Boston crowd gave Jeter a standing ovation on his way to the plate for his first at-bat. 


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Joe Girardi Reportedly Blasted Yankees Players in Home Finale Pregame Speech

Derek Jeter might have given the New York Yankees a memorable moment with a walk-off single in his last-ever home game, but manager Joe Girardi is still not happy about the season.

While the rest of the baseball world was focused on the tribute to the future Hall of Fame shortstop, Girardi kicked off Thursday night’s home finale with an angry tirade at the team after a disappointing year.

Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reported news of the team-only speech:

According to clubhouse sources who were present for the critique, and backed up by interviews with more than a half-dozen players, most of whom spoke to ESPNNewYork.com off the record for fear of angering their manager, Girardi chided some players for being overweight and others for not being “hungry” enough.

One source described Girardi as “angry,” and said he even took a brief timeout to allow the players, led by CC Sabathia, to present Jeter with the original painting of The New Yorker’s Sept. 8 cover depicting the shortstop waving goodbye, and an expensive watch, before returning to Part Two of his tirade.

The manager did not deny the event when asked about it, explaining:

I addressed the team just to let them know what I expected of them next year. I think that obviously there’s a lot of disappointment when you don’t make the playoffs. And the expectation is, the reason you play the game, is to make the playoffs and win the World Series. We need to get better, and I let them know that.

I felt we had chances to make it and we just didn’t execute. I told them we had work to do to get better.

While his emotional speech might have taken some of the luster away from Jeter early on, Girardi does have a lot to complain about after another miserable season. With two games remaining, the Yankees accumulated an 83-77 record. One more loss would mark the team’s worst winning percentage since 1992.

Additionally, this is the second year in a row the Yankees have missed the playoffs. It’s just the third time since 1995 the squad has not been part of the postseason.

Although Girardi led this team to a World Series title in 2009, things have not gone the way he had hoped lately, and it would not be surprising to see him on the hot seat next season.

There is clearly a lot of talent on the roster, with the highest payroll in baseball, but Girardi will hope to see more production out of this group in the future.

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Derek Jeter Injury: Updates on Yankees Star’s Status and Return

Derek Jeter‘s final series as a member of the New York Yankees could end with a whimper. The soon-to-be retired star was taken out in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against Boston at Fenway Park for undisclosed reasons. 

According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, Jeter was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning with the Yankees losing 9-0:

There was no immediate word on why Jeter was removed from the game, but the 40-year-old captain seemed to be moving gingerly as he returned to the dugout after legging out a third-inning infield single. It seemed odd that manager Joe Girardi would take him out that early, even with the Yankees trailing 9-0 after a poor performance from starter Masahiro Tanaka.

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News provides more details on the move from Girardi:

Jeter confirmed he is ago for tomorrow, (via Feinsand):

After getting a walk-off hit in his final game at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, Jeter sat out Friday’s game against the Red Sox before returning to the lineup today. Girardi said the plan was for him to play tomorrow as well, per Matthews, although it bears watching whether he’s healthy enough to do so. 


If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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MLB Rookies Who Will Play Huge Roles in 2014 Postseason

With the regular season coming to an end in a matter of days and the postseason set to begin next week, every playoff team will soon be forced to make difficult decisions regarding its roster.

The number of players a team can roster will drop from the 40 previously allowed in September back to the standard 25 next month. As a result, teams will craft their postseason rosters based on their own strengths as well as the perceived weaknesses of their upcoming opponent.

Many of baseball’s top rookies have a realistic chance of cracking their team’s postseason roster this year, though there will be even more players denied the opportunity to play in October.

Here are five rookies who could carve out huge roles in the 2014 postseason.

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