Oct 15

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: NLCS Game #1: Phillies at Dodgers

Game #1: Philadelphia at Los Angeles.

Game #1: Philadelphia at Los Angeles.

The Phillies didn’t exactly sprint into October, but they are here and they know what’s at stake. And, even before the first pitch, they know it will be tougher this season.

It is always tougher to repeat, and the Phillies aren’t boasting of slicing through the Dodgers in five games as they did last autumn.

“Believe me, we came back here to win,” said Philllies manager Charlie Manuel. “I have more determination probably than I had last year, and I mean that from the fact that that’s how much I want it, and I think I know how much our players want it.”

The Phillies are trying to become the first repeat champions since Joe Torre’s Yankees won three straight, 1998-2000.

“When you repeat, you basically have to go through a tougher season to get there,” said Torre, now manager of the Dodgers. “You’ve got a bull’s-eye on your back. Everyone seems to put on their Sunday best to play you. You always get the best pitchers matching up.”

In at match-up of lefthanders, Clayton Kershaw starts for the Dodgers against Cole Hamels.

Kershaw lost twice to the Phillies this season, but he said he’ll still attempt to be aggressive.

Kershaw was 0-2 against the Phillies in the regular season, but he plans an aggressive approach.

“I’m not trying to sit up there and walk people or try and pitch around someone else,” Kershaw said. “You can’t go out there with that mindset. They’ve got a great lineup. But the pitcher’s job is just to go right after them with your best stuff.”

Oct 10

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Dodgers stymie Pujols; go for sweep.

The Cardinals were a pick of mine to advance. I thought the Dodgers’ pitching was suspect and Albert Pujols could take over a series. So far, I have been wrong. The Dodgers have limited the Cardinals to five runs in the two games and go for the sweep today in St. Louis.

Of course, if Matt Holliday could catch a line drive the NLDS would be tied at a game apiece. He couldn’t and it is not.

PUJOLS: Cardinals need his bat.

PUJOLS: Cardinals need his bat.

That play was a major storyline. So is the Dodgers’ unwillingness to pitch to Pujols. Like Barry Bonds a few years ago, Pujols is to be avoided.

Pujols, the NL MVP favorite, hit .327 with a major league-leading 47 homers and 135 RBI. He as also intentionally walked 44 times, most in the majors. In the first two games of this series the Dodgers have limited him to a single in six at-bats. They’ve walked him intentionally the three times he came to the plate with runners in scoring position.

“To me, Albert is just out there in a class by himself,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Friday. “It may cost me, you know, a three-run homer instead of a two-run homer. But I’m still going to make somebody else beat me.”

The Cardinals have the power to complement Pujols, but Los Angeles’ pitching has been too good.

“One of the reasons we were a lot better in the last half of the year is we have protection behind him,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “If Albert keeps getting on base, we’ll pick him up.”

For the Cardinals, who stranded 14 runners in Game 1, it has to happen soon.

Oct 09

Be careful what you wish for ….

A lot of Mets fans are hoping the team will take the plunge on free-agent outfielder Matt Holliday, whose defense prowess is why the Cardinals are down 2-0 in their NLDS with the Dodgers.

Holliday dropped a line drive for what should have been the final out in Game 2 yesterday and enabled the Dodgers to rally in the ninth inning. That the Dodgers rallied is not a surprise, as they won 23 games in their final at-bat this season. It was how sudden that was shocking.

There’s no doubting Holliday’s offensive ability, but his defense has been suspect and left field is a difficult position to play in Citi Field. Not that the Mets are going to splurge on what it would take to land him, but defense is a priority.

So, is his glove worth the risk just to have his bat?

Oct 08

Talkin’ Baseball: The Playoffs continue.

No real surprises last night in the first day of the Division Series. The Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers all won as the home teams rolled. Of the three losing teams, I see only the Cardinals of rebounding to take their series.

Obviously, the defending world champs aren’t a media darling. They have another afternoon game today. Cole Hamels is starting and could give the Phillies a chokehold in their series with the Rockies.

Oct 04

Something with your morning coffee ….

I am always thinking about ways to enhance and improve the blog. I like the little snippets This Day in Baseball History and They Said It … I am thinking of combining the two and adding some other trinkets in one larger post. This could work. Tell me what you think. Several small posts or one big post?

This Day in Baseball History

This Day in Baseball History

The Mets were filled with hope on this day in 2006, even after knowing Orlando Hernandez wouldn’t be available for the playoffs. Hernandez pulled a muscle running and would be scratched from the rotation.

The Mets opened their National League Division Series with a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Shea Stadium. Carlos Delgado had four hits, including a homer, and Cliff Floyd also homered to power the Mets. David Wright added three RBI.

DELGADO: Big day vs. Dodgers

DELGADO: Big day vs. Dodgers

Guillermo Mota would get the victory in relief.

The game will always be remembered for the relay from Shawn Green to Jose Valentin to Paul Lo Duca that nailed two Dodgers at the plate.

The Mets would go on to sweep Los Angeles, but lose in the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals, with Game 7 ending when Carlos Beltran took a third strike on a nasty curveball from Adam Wainwright.

The Mets were filled with such promise then and entered the following season as heavy favorites to reach the World Series. However, the Mets blew a seven-game lead with 17 remaining and their playoff window further slammed shut with another collapse in 2008.

They are a reeling franchise today.

They Said It

They Said It

As this miserably disappointing season draws to a close, there has been wonder of what torturous way the Baseball Gods would end this mess known as 2009.

Said David Wright: “We already had a game-ending triple play. I’m excited to get it over with.”

While it is a season the Mets would love to forget, it will always be one they’ll forever remember.

In addition to that game-ending triple play, there were other memorable moments, such as Luis Castillo’s dropped pop-up at Yankee Stadium; Daniel Murphy’s dropped fly ball that let in the winning runs in a game at Florida; Ryan Church’s failure to touch third base in Los Angeles; a wild-pitch by Sean Green to lose a game in Philadelphia; blowing a five-run lead in a loss to the Pirates; losing two games in one week on grand slams; Francisco Rodriguez’s meltdown in Washington; and Mike Pelfrey’s three-balk game in San Francisco.

BY THE NUMBERS

95: Homers hit by the Mets this season. They are the only team in the majors to hit less than 100 home runs. In contrast, the Yankees lead the majors with 242 homers.

A QUICK GLANCE AT TODAY’S GAME.
Nelson Figueroa has the honor of starting the final game of the Citi Field’s first season today against Houston. Figueroa, a member of the Mets’ patchwork rotation in September, lost five games for the month.

ELSEWHERE IN SPORTS
The Twins and Tigers enter the final day of the season tied. Should there be a one-game playoff, it would be Tuesday in the Metrodome, as the stadium is reserved for the Vikings-Packers on Monday night. … In an odd bit of scheduling, both the Giants and Jets are out of town today. The Giants are in Kansas City, while the Jets are in New Orleans to face the undefeated Saints.