Oct 21

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Dodgers try to stay alive in NLCS.

Two nights ago the Dodgers were one out away from tying their NLCS at two games each with Philadelphia until Jimmy Rollins did what money players do.

Down by a run in the ninth with two outs, Rollins lined a two-run double off All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton into the right-center gap to push the Dodgers onto the brink of winter.

Hamels vs. Padilla

Hamels vs. Padilla


“This is big,” Rollins said. “The pressure’s all on them. … We understand we still have a job to do. We look forward to trying to close it out.”

With a win tonight, Dodgers manager Joe Torre said the pressure reverts back to Philadelphia because the series would return to Los Angeles. Torre knows it is possible. While managing the Yankees in 2001, New York lost its first two games against Oakland in the ALDS, but ran the table to advance. Then, in 2004, his Yankees blew a 3-0 series lead and lost to Boston in the ALCS.

Game 6 Friday in LA is contingent on the Dodgers beating Cole Hamels, who has given up eight runs in 10 1/3 innings this postseason.

“Any time you hand him the ball, I think he’s capable of going out there and shutting the other team out,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said of Hamels, who is 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA in seven career starts against Los Angeles.

Vicente Padilla starts for Los Angeles, and his biggest obstacle is Ryan Howard, who has driven in at least one run in eight straight postseason games, and is 5-for-13 (.385) with two home runs, eight RBI in this series.

Oct 21

Umpires hit new low ….

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, Major League umpires show they really are minor league. Although their ineptitude didn’t factor in the outcome of the game, what happened last night in Anaheim can’t be dismissed much longer.

Time for more widespread use of instant replay.

FIRST SWISHER PLAY: Not even close.

FIRST SWISHER PLAY: Not even close.

There were three more blown calls last night in the Yankees’ rout of the Angels. These calls were so bad you have to wonder what these guys were thinking, much less seeing.

“I’m just out there trying to do my job, and I’m doing the best that I can,” third base umpire Tim McClelland said after the game. “Unfortunately, on instant replay, it was two missed calls (by me).”

At least, McClelland was standup about it.

In the fourth inning, replays clearly showed Nick Swisher was picked off at second base, but Dale Scott, who had to have been no more than six feet from the play, ruled him safe. The phrase “out by a mile,” could apply here.

Later that inning, in what would seem to be a classic make up call, McClelland ruled Swisher left the bag early on a what would have been a sacrifice fly hit by Johnny Damon. Again, not even close on the replay, which also showed McClelland out of position.

FIASCO AT THIRD: I still can't believe it.

FIASCO AT THIRD: I still can't believe it.


The next inning, McClelland blew it big time on a play at third when Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged both Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano, with neither on the bag. McClelland unbelievably called Cano safe.

It’s not as if these guys have an agenda, but you have to wonder when you see calls such as those last night. Maybe, it will take such a bad call that will cost a team the Series before something is done and instant replay is used more widespread.

The Yankees are on the road to another World Series, and they dominated last night. We should be talking about them, and a potential meeting with powerful Philadelphia. Instead, we are talking about the umpires.

That’s not right.

Oct 16

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: Tale of two pitchers.

Two pitchers, one the Mets didn’t want and one they’d love to have, will be on display today in the second round of the playoffs.

Pedro Martinez, whom the Mets cut ties with in an effort to get younger and move toward the future, will start Game 2 of the NLCS for Philadelphia against the Dodgers. John Lackey, the pitching prize of the free-agent market, starts for the Angels at Yankee Stadium.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.

MARTINEZ: Get the ball while Mets stay home.


If Martinez wins, it will send Philly home with a 2-0 games lead. If Lackey wins, he will give the home field advantage to the Angels.

The Mets are watching at home for the third straight season.

After a series of injuries the past few years, the Mets decided they could live without Martinez, 37, will make his first playoff appearance in five years against the Dodgers, the team in broke in with in 1992. Martinez made nine starts with the Phillies, going 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA.

He told me last year he thought he could still pitch again, and proved it this year in a limited capacity. Weary of the injuries, and confident Mike Pelfrey would progress and they’d finally get something out of Oliver Perez, the Mets said good-bye to Martinez, who did not want to come back in a limited role or with a limited contract.

If he will be content with a No. 5 slot, he’ll get some attention this winter. No, the Mets won’t be one of the teams, but he could stay in Philadelphia.

Martinez likes the team and it will be good again next summer.

Martinez hasn’t pitched since Sept. 30, but manager Charlie Manuel isn’t concerned, saying, “I think he knows how to pitch.’’

Martinez’s last playoff appearance was in 2004 with Boston, and one of the story lines today will be facing former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez.

“Well, nobody can say I know how to pitch Manny.” Martinez said. “Manny is such a great hitter, and he’s someone that makes adjustments as he sees the game develop.”

The Angels are a team in a zone, having swept Boston in the Division Series. They’ll face CC Sabathia tonight at the Stadium.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.

LACKEY: On top of FA pitching list.


The Angels know how to beat the Yankees, dispatching them from the playoffs twice since 2002. The teams split 10 games this year.

“I don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to measure yourself against an organization like the Yankees. It might take a century before you would get there,’’ Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “But I think our guys feel good at the way they go about their business, the way that they play the game hard, the way that they push the game.’’

But, it all begins with pitching, and tonight that is Lackey, who beat the Yankees in July when he gave up two runs in seven innings.

“I’m not going to get intimidated by anybody,” Lackey said.

Lackey is a bulldog type, he gives innings when he’s healthy, but he’s missed considerable time in each of the past two seasons. That will give the Mets pause as they were bitten all year by injuries. It would just be the franchise’s luck to sign him and have him go down.

Lackey leads a relatively thin free-agent market that includes Erik Bedard, Jon Garland, Andy Pettitte, Jose Contreras, Rich Harden, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Randy Wolf.

There are some good names, but nobody outside of Lackey who could be called a No. 1.

Sep 26

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #154; Maine optimistic.

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #154

METS CHAT ROOM: Game #154

John Maine is one of the things the Mets hope to salvage from this dead season. Maine, who spent the bulk of the season on the disabled list, is the perfect example not to get too excited over the phrase, “will have surgery but is expected to be ready for spring training.

Maine underwent shoulder surgery last September, but was sidelined again with the generation of scar tissue which irritated the nerve and caused weakness in the arm. There has been a drop-off in velocity which Maine hasn’t regained. However, he’s looking at it as spring training when a pitcher gradually builds up his arm strength over five or six starts.

Maine will make his third start since coming off the disabled list tonight at Florida and will get another before the season ends. Maine is hoping get back enough strength to where he can look at going to his normal offseason program.

Maine is coming off a strong outing last Sunday against Washington in which he gave up two hits in five scoreless innings. He threw 75 pitches and could go as high as 90 against the Marlins. In his first start off the DL, he gave up a run in three innings at Philadelphia.

“I’m happy with it,” Maine told reporters about his progress. “I think I went out and did my job. I think you can always be a little more pleased with your performance when you look back at it. But I thought I did okay.

“I don’t go out there thinking it’s going to hurt. You can’t. It hasn’t hurt. I’m hoping it’s behind me.”

There had been speculation Maine would not be offered arbitration and would be cut loose. However, the pitching-depleted Mets will undoubtedly offer arbitration considering how well he has pitched. Maine can become a free agent after the 2011 season.

Maine took a step back last season after winning 15 games in 2007. He is 6-5 with a 4.13 ERA this season.

***

NOTE: Something has come up and I don’t think I’ll make the chat room. Please carry on without me and have a great night.-JD

Sep 24

This Day in Baseball History ….

Looking Back

Looking Back

On this day in 1991, the Mets’ Howard Johnson hit his 37th homer to set a National League record for switch-hitters. Johnson will finish the season with 38 homers and 117 RBI.

It has been a rough season for Johnson, who, as with most Mets’ coaches, is getting heat for the team’s collapse.

In particular, Johnson is under scrutiny for the team’s poor power showing, especially that of David Wright, who reached double-digits in homers this month with a pair at Philadelphia.

Wright and Jeff Francoeur are planning to work with Johnson in the off-season.