NLCS Game 6: Ryan Vogelsong overwhelms Cardinals, helps Giants force deciding Game 7

21 Oct

Score and situation: The NLCS matchup that seemed destined to go seven games will do just that after the San Francisco Giants locked up a 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night.

Leading lads: Ryan Vogelsong set the tone for the game by striking out the side in the first inning. He would settle in for another six strong innings, allowing only one run on four hits, while setting a new career high — regular and postseason — with nine strikeouts. In all honesty, it was his most complete and dominant outing in 2012, and it obviously could not have come at a better time for San Francisco.

At the plate, Marco Scutaro continued his torrid postseason with his fifth two-hit game in the NLCS. He also scored two runs and knocked in two more with a two-out double in the second inning that extended the lead to 4-0. Pablo Sandoval then made it 5-0 with a run-scoring single and that was pretty much all she wrote for St. Louis.

Head hangers: Chris Carpenter didn't have it early on and the pivotal second inning unraveled on him so quickly that manager Mike Matheny had little choice but to ride it out. That ended up working out pretty well for St. Louis as Carpenter was able to finish out with two strong innings and conserve the bullpen a bit, but the damage was already done with Vogelsong dealing. In the end, Carpenter tossed four innings with five runs allowed, only two of which were earned. That matched his Game 2 totals in those three categories, and should St. Louis ultimately lose this series Carpenter's two disappointing starts could be viewed as the difference.

[Also: Matt Holliday's bad back scratches him from NLCS Game 6]

As indicated by the line, Carpenter's defense didn't help him out much. In the first inning, David Freese couldn't handle a ground ball clean enough to get a potential out at the plate. In the second, Pete Kozma botched Ryan Vogelsong's butcher boy grounder and was unable to record an out. That allowed one run to score and opened the door to a big four-run inning.

Key play: The error by Kozma put Carpenter and the Cardinals in a very tough spot. Had he at least been able to retire Vogelsong at first, it's possible, if not likely, the bleeding would have been stopped at one run. Instead, the inning continued beyond Angel Pagan's strikeout that followed, with Scutaro and Sandoval driving in the those three back-breaking unearned runs.

Interesting stat: According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Cardinals have allowed 12 unearned runs this postseason after allowing only 45 unearned runs during the entire regular season. That was the fewest for any team in baseball.

What they'll be talking about: The Giants resiliency shines through again as they won their fifth straight elimination game this postseason. They will put that streak on the line in the winner-take-all Game 7 against a Cardinals team that has won six straight elimination games over the past two postseasons. Something has to give on Monday night. Which side will it be?

What's next: Game 7 will take place at AT&T Park in San Francisco and has a scheduled first pitch of 8:07 ET. The starting pitching matchup will feature a rematch from the low scoring Game 3 with Kyle Lohse on the hill for St. Louis and Matt Cain taking the ball for San Francisco. The Cardinals won that night, 3-1.

It will be all hands on deck for both sides as Game 4 starters Tim Lincecum and Adam Wainwright will be available out of the bullpen.

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Saturday trade shocker: Diamondbacks land Heath Bell, trade Chris Young to A’s in three-way deal

20 Oct

In a pretty significant three team trade that seemingly developed out of nowhere and reached a conclusion rather quickly, the Arizona Diamondbacks have acquired reliever Heath Bell, who struggled mightily in the first year of his three-year, $27 million contract with the Miami Marlins, while shipping away disappointing outfielder Chris Young to the Oakland A's.

Those are the two biggest names involved in the deal that was made official via announcements from all three teams involved on Saturday afternoon. Further details also have the Diamondbacks acquiring infielder Cliff Pennington from Oakland, which is interesting because the trade these two teams made on Aug. 21 involving shortstop Stephen Drew is what likely made Pennington expendable. And while the Marlins may just be thrilled to get rid of Bell's issues, attitude and most of his contract, they will also accept 22-year-old shortstop prospect Yordy Cabrera from Oakland.

Got all that?

Good. Now here are the exact financial details on Heath Bell's involvement in the trade as reported by the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer,

So the Marlins not only get rid of another major headache, they won't be forced to eat the majority of said headache's contract, and they also get a middle of the road prospect in return. Not a bad day at the office for president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and his crew. Not a bad day at all.

"This should be a positive change for Heath and the Marlins," Beinfest said. "After a disappointing 2012 season, Heath gets a fresh start and this move gives us clarity as we begin our offseason roster improvement."

Arizona general manager Kevin Towers has already confirmed that Bell will move into a setup role initially with J.J. Putz remaining their closer. That should take some pressure off Bell, although being removed from the closer's role didn't really serve him well or make him any happier in Miami. But hey, at least he's a lot closer to his home and family in San Diego. That should enhance the happiness factor a bit.

As for Oakland's haul, they add Chris Young to an already impressive outfield that includes Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith. It's possible another shoe will drop there, but just as likely Billy Beane will enjoy having depth and versatility to work with entering 2013. That would mean Young, who's connected for 34 home runs but hit for a lousy .234 average over the past two seasons, would have to earn his role. But that may just be the motivation he needs to finally reach his potential and sustain production at age 29.

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Diamondbacks add former manager Bob Brenly, ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume to broadcast team

19 Oct

In recent months we've had a pretty close eye on the Arizona Diamondbacks television booth due to the unusual circumstances surrounding broadcasters Daron Sutton and Mark Grace.

To recap quickly, at different points during the 2012 season both men disappeared from FSN Arizona broadcasts to deal with personal and professional issues. Sutton's absence was more mysterious at first because the team was vague when discussing his "indefinite suspension," but we later learned there were philosophical differences with the organization that went beyond his personal matter. Grace's situation was more cut and dry as he took an extended leave of absence in August after his second DUI arrest in 15 months.

Ultimately, the differences with Sutton were deemed irreparable, and with Grace's contract also running out, the team decided to overhaul their booth completely on Oct. 4. That announcement came as a surprise to few. In fact, at the time of Grace and Sutton's dismissal speculation about who would replace the duo was already well underway.

It appears the Diamondbacks' search was, too, because the team has already announced their replacements. And it turns out they landed two pretty big names to fill the roles.

Former manager Bob Brenly — who led the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship in 2001 — will handle the color commentating duties after leaving the same position with the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Of course, that's where Brenly formed a very entertaining and popular eight-year partnership with Len Kasper that many baseball fans are disappointed to see end. Brenly also spent three years in the booth with Arizona before going down to the dugout in 2001 and has called national broadcasts for Fox and TBS, so he's obviously polished and sound at his job.

His new play-by-play partner will be ESPN personality Steve Berthiaume, who hosted shows such as "Baseball Tonight" and also provided play-by-play during ESPN's extended College World Series coverage. Berthiaume's hiring had been rumored, but wasn't the near certainty that Brenly's was. It'll be interesting to see how he transitions from the studio to the full-time television voice in Arizona.


"We are ecstatic to be bringing in such a dynamic broadcast duo like Bob and Steve," team president and CEO Derrick Hall said. "Not only are we able to reach back to our roots with someone who has played such a significant role in our franchise's history, but we truly feel that Bob is the best analyst in the game today. With Steve, we believe that his ability to connect with our fans and his tremendous work on the national stage over the last several years makes him the perfect addition to the booth."

Difficult to argue with any of Derrick Hall's logic there. If Berthiaume's transition goes smoothly, Arizona should be set up with a good pairing for years to come.

While the new hires bring a tumultuous and at times bizarre situation in Arizona to a conclusion, they also leave openings at ESPN and in the Cubs broadcast booth. We've already heard names such current postgame analyst Todd Hollandsworth and MLB Network's Dan Plesac — who handled postgame duties with the Cubs in the past — linked to the latter job. It appears Mark Grace, who at one time would have been a logical candidate, will not be considered and recently retired Cub Kerry Wood is not interested.

Whoever the hire is will walk into a good situation with Len Kasper already comfortable and excelling in his role. But hopefully the selection can carry a tune a little bit, too, because whoever it is will definitely be asked to perform the seventh-inning stretch gimmick at Wrigley Field several times a year.

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NLCS Game 4: Cardinals one win from World Series return after 8-3 dismantling of Giants

18 Oct

Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals took command of the NLCS and put themselves one win away from a World Series return with an overpowering 8-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.

Leading lads: Adam Wainwright bounced back from his awful Game 5 outing against the Washington Nationals with a real gem. The Cardinals right-hander tossed seven strong innings with the only damage coming on Hunter Pence's monster second-inning home run. He also struck out five and earned his first postseason win as a starter.

The offensive attack for St. Louis was balanced and relentless. Game 3 hero Matt Carpenter was in the middle of most of it, reaching three times and scoring twice. Matt Holliday drove in a pair of runs with singles in the first and fifth. Jon Jay also delivered a two-run double off left-handed reliever Jose Mijares to blow the game open.

Head hangers: This was not the return to the rotation Bruce Bochy envisioned for Tim Lincecum. It was far from the worst we've seen from Lincecum this season, but it was even further from the workhorse Lincecum we saw in the 2010 postseason. In fact, the 4 2/3-inning outing was the shortest of his six career postseason starts, while the four earned runs and three walks equaled his previous highs. The only upside for San Francisco is that Lincecum's outing was short enough that he should be available out of the bullpen in Games 6 and 7 should they be necessary.

[Related: Jason Motte ready for his close-up]

Key play: The botched play at the plate in the fifth inning was chaotic and seemed to be the dagger for San Francisco. Center fielder Angel Pagan did a nice job keeping Matt Holliday's frozen rope single in front of him and started the process of what should have been an out at home. Unfortunately, Brandon Crawford's relay throw was in the grass and catcher Hector Sanchez went for the tag before securing the ball, allowing it to trickle away. Carpenter was dead to rights if the play was executed, but as it was he touched home and Holliday moved into scoring position himself setting up another Cardinal run.

Interesting stat: Busch Stadium has not treated Tim Lincecum well lately. Over his last 13 2/3 pitched in downtown St. Louis, he's allowed 11 earned runs.

What they'll be talking about: Was the decision to move Tim Lincecum back into the rotation worth it for Bruce Bochy? Some will say he didn't have much of a choice based on postseason performances from Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, while others will bring up how well Lincecum had performed in relief role this postseason. There should be a third camp pointing out that it probably doesn't matter at this point against a locked in Cardinals offense.

[Related: In case of emergency, Cardinals use Carpenter — Matt Carpenter]

Bochy's decision to go with Hector Sanchez behind the plate over Buster Posey will also get some ink and airtime. Along with the botched play defensively, Sanchez went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

What's next: The Cardinals will look to punch their ticket to the World Series, while the Giants will try to extend their season and get back at AT&T in Friday's Game 5. Left-hander Barry Zito will be given the task of saving the season for Bochy's squad. Mike Matheny will turn to All-Star Lance Lynn. First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 ET.

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NLCS Game 3: Matt Carpenter’s blast and strong bullpen help Cardinals retake series lead

17 Oct

Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals overcame Carlos Beltran's early exit, an effective Matt Cain and a 3-hour, 28-minute rain delay to secure a pivotal 3-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday. They now hold a 2-1 advantage in the series heading into Thursday night's Game 4 at Busch Stadium.

Leading lads: Filling in for the injured Beltran, Matt Carpenter made an immediate impact when he connected for a two-run home run off Matt Cain in the third. Relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Mitchell Boggs were also key contributors in the win, wiggling out of separate jams in the sixth and seventh innings while bridging the gap to Jason Motte.

Manager Mike Matheny asked his closer to record six outs, and Motte responded by setting them down in order to earn the first postseason six-out save by a Cardinals pitcher since Steve Kline in the 2001 NLDS.

Head hangers: Hunter Pence was at the center of San Francisco's two biggest wasted opportunities. Even though they broke through for a run in the third, they had a chance for a bigger inning after Matheny elected to intentionally walk Buster Posey to put runners at the corners. Hunter Pence proceeded to ground into an inning ending double play to kill that threat. In the seventh, it was Pence and Brandon Belt both going down on strikes with two runners on base. Pence ended up 0 for 4 on the afternoon. Belt was 0 for 3 with a walk. The Giants as a team were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position after starting the series 7 for 20.

Key play: Matt Carpenter's home run was the turning point and an emotional lift for St. Louis. But one play that might end up overlooked was Matt Holliday holding Pablo Sandoval to a single on a ball the Kung Fu Panda smoked off the left-field wall in the seventh inning. That changed the entire outlook on the inning, and guaranteed Buster Posey's single that followed did not score the game-tying run. Of course the Giants left both runners stranded.

Interesting Stat: The Giants experienced weather delays totaling 188 minutes during the regular season. The delay in Game 3 was 208 minutes.

What they'll be talking about: The status of Carlos Beltran's knee will get a lot of attention because his absence changes the dynamic of the Cardinals lineup completely. Granted, after Carpenter's home run you almost get the sense St. Louis can plug any player in at any position and it'll somehow work out for them, but this has to be viewed realistically. The Cardinals depth and postseason magic would be put to the ultimate test if Beltran misses time or is limited going forward.

What's next: The Cardinals will look to take a commanding 3-1 series lead in Thursday's Game 4, which is scheduled to begin at 8:07 p.m. ET. To get it, they'll need a bounce-back performance from Adam Wainwright, who was unable to get through four innings in the winner-take-all Game 5 against the Washington Nationals. Bruce Bochy confirmed late Wednesday night that he will turn to Tim Lincecum on Thursday and Barry Zito will make the start in Game 5.

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NLCS Game 1: Cardinals knock Madison Bumgarner out early, hold on for 6-4 win over Giants

14 Oct

Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals came out swinging in Sunday night's NLCS opener — sending Madison Bumgarner to the showers in the fourth inning — and then rode their bullpen to a 6-4 win over the San Francisco Giants.

Leading lads: NLDS heroes Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma were back wreaking havoc at the bottom of the Cardinals' order. In the fourth inning, the unheralded pair ignited a four-run rally with back-to-back doubles. Postseason Superman Carlos Beltran then punctuated that rally with a two-run blast.

It was also a productive night for David Freese, who got St. Louis on the board with a two-run homer in the second. The Cardinals bullpen also played an integral role in the win, holding San Francisco to two singles over the final 5 1/3 innings. In particular, Edward Mujica was dominant in striking out the side in the seventh. He was awarded the victory

Head hangers: Madison Bumgarner failed to bounce back from his dreadful NLDS outing against the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, he took a step back on Sunday night, allowing six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. His postseason ERA is 11.25.

Key play: Even though Carlos Beltran's home run extended the Cardinals lead to a seemingly comfortable 6-0, I immediately viewed it as a potentially huge play in the game. At 4-0, it already felt like it would be a difficult road for the Giants to come all the way back. At 6-0, it felt like it would take something special. And that proved to be the case. Even though the Giants erupted for four of their own in the fourth, they never could get over the hump created by Beltran's big fly.

Interesting stat: With his home run on Sunday, David Freese has now driven in 25 runs through his first 25 postseason games. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the only player with more RBIs through his first 25 postseason games is Lou Gehrig with 32.

What they'll be talking about: Before Game 1 there was a lot of talk about whether or not Tim Lincecum would start Game 4 in place of Barry Zito. Perhaps that discussion will change to Tim Lincecum — who was excellent again in relief on Sunday — potentially starting Game 5 in place of Madison Bumgarmer, who is really struggling to find himself in October.  Bruce Bochy definitely has some thinking to do.

What's next: The series will continue on Monday night at 8:07 ET on Fox. The Giants will have quite the task on their hands as they attempt to even the series against a postseason giant named Chris Carpenter. They'll need a quality outing from their own starter, Ryan Vogelsong, and they'll need to maximize their scoring opportunities against the Cardinals' ace.

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ALCS Game 1: Tigers overcome late Yankees heroics, emerge with 6-4 win in extras

13 Oct

Score and situation: The Detroit Tigers walked the tightrope early and then nearly saw the entire game slip away thanks to Jose Valverde's ninth inning meltdown. Yet somehow, someway, they averted a complete disaster escaped with a 6-4 win over the New York Yankees in 12 innings on Saturday night in the Bronx.

Leading lads: Delmon Young was the offensive star for Detroit. He had three hits, including a home run off Derek Lowe in the eighth and the go-ahead RBI double in the 12th inning that proved to be the winner. He knocked in three.

Tigers starter Doug Fister was wobbly most of the evening, but tough as nails when he needed to be. Over his 6 1/3 eventful innings, he allowed 11 base runners, but escaped every situation unscathed. He was also struck hard on the wrist by a Robinson Cano line drive in the second inning. That he was able to continue beyond that point is a testament to his toughness.

[Related: Wrong call hurts Yankees in the second inning]

For New York, that man did it again. With the Yankees down to their final out, Raul Ibanez launched a two-out, two-run homer to tie the game against soon to be former Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Earlier in the inning, Ichiro Suzuki also connected for a two-run homer that cut Detroit's lead in half. He finished the night 4 for 6.

Head hangers: The Yankees left the bases loaded three times in the first six innings. Granted, one of those rallies was cut short by a blown call at first base, but their quality of at-bats with runners in scoring position left a lot to be desired. In fact, they went 1 for 10 in those situations outside of the ninth inning, with the lone hit being of the infield variety.

The disastrous postseason for Jose Valverde continues. After blowing the save in Game 4 of the ALDS, which forced Detroit to use Justin Verlander in Game 5, he was even worse in a non-save situation on Saturday night, blowing a 4-0 ninth inning lead by allowing the two two-run homers to Ichiro and Ibanez.

[Also: No show: Yankees try to disguise empty seats at ALCS by moving fans]

Key play: For the first 8 1/2 innings, the biggest play in the game was a missed call by first base umpire Rob Drake in the second inning that cost the Yankees at least one run, and potentially many more as New York's inning would have continued with the bases still loaded. That changed, however, when Raul Ibanez connected for his game-tying home run. And then it changed again in the 12th when Young doubled past a diving Nick Swisher in right field.

Interesting stat I: Raul Ibanez and Alex Rodriguez are now the only two players to hit two game-tying home runs in the ninth inning or later in the same postseason.

Interesting stat II: The Yankees have scored 11 runs in the ninth inning or later this postseason. That have scored nine total runs before the ninth inning.

What they'll be talking about: Derek Jeter's fractured ankle suffered in the 12th inning is the big story coming out. We'll likely hear a lot of questions about whether he should have even been out there, but the bottom line is Jeter's season is over. Also, was Jim Leyland watching the same game as everyone else? His loyalty to Jose Valverde in the ninth inning was mind-boggling, and it nearly cost his Tigers a big Game 1 victory.

[Slideshow: Derek Jeter breaks ankle in Yankees' loss to Tigers]

What's next: The roller coaster ride for New York continues on Sunday afternoon. After surviving and advancing against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night, the Yankees find themselves right back in trouble with a very important Game 2 starring them in the face, and they'll have to face it without their captain. That game is scheduled for 4:00 ET, and will feature a pitching matchup of Hiroki Kuroda vs. Anibal Sanchez.

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Giants coach Roberto Kelly struck by line drive during batting practice, suffers head injury

13 Oct

A scary scene played out at AT&T Park on Saturday afternoon during what should have a quiet and laid back batting practice session for the San Francisco Giants as they prepare for Game 1 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.

According to several writers at the ballpark, including Comcast Sports Nets' Andrew Baggerly, Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of MVP candidate Buster Posey and remained on the ground for several minutes while trainers tended to him and players gathered around to show their support.

For a few heart-stopping moments that was a lot of concern in the park about his condition, especially considering he was struck in the head, but eventually Kelly was able to get to his feet and walk off. Though he did need assistance from two trainers to steady himself.

According to Baggerly's colleague Amy Gutierrez, Kelly was immediately taken to a nearby hospital where he will be evaluated for a possible concussion.

She also noted Kelly was not wearing a helmet when the incident occurred. During his job as a first base coach Kelly is required to do so, but there are obviously no such requirements for coaches or anybody during a batting practice session. But considering how often injuries like this occur, it might be time for some more thought to be put into players and coaches safety during BP.

Anyway, that's a discussion for another time. For now, we just wish Roberto Kelly a speedy recovery and hope to see him backing doing his job soon.

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Tags: , Andrew Baggerly, , CSNBaggs, , Giants coach Roberto Kelly, , , Park, Roberto Kelly, ,
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NLDS Game 5: Cardinals overcome 6-0 deficit to defeat Nationals, advance to NLCS

12 Oct

Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals world championship defense continues after they rallied from a 6-0 deficit to defeat the Washington Nationals on Friday night. Washington put on an offensive clinic early on, scoring six of their runs in the first three innings, but the Cardinals simply refused to go away, chipping away one by one until breaking through against Drew Storen for four runs in the ninth to win it 9-7.

Leading lads: It's always somebody different for St. Louis. On Friday night, it was Daniel Descalso, who also homered in the eighth, coming through with a two-out, two-run single off the glove of Ian Desmond to tie the game in the final frame. Rookie shortstop Pete Kozma followed with the biggest hit of his young career, driving in the winning tallies with a two-run single of his own.

Carlos Beltran was a big reason the Cardinals were able to battle all the way back. He reached base in all five of his plate appearances. Their bullpen, led by Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, did a nice job too by holding Washington off the board from the fourth inning until the seventh. Jason Motte was the winner after pitching the final two innings.

The Cardinals comeback overshadows a big night for Bryce Harper, who erupted from his 1 for 18 slump with a first inning RBI triple and a third inning solo home run off Adam Wainwright. Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse each hit two-run homers for Washington.

Head hangers: Attempting to pitch for the third straight day, Drew Storen was unable to muster the effectiveness he needed to silence the Cardinals' bats in the ninth. He'll receive most of the attention, but it's important to remember Cy Young contender and 21-game winner Gio Gonzalez was the one handed a 6-0 lead, and he struggled to get through five innings. He ended up walking four and gave three of the runs back to St. Louis before Davey Johnson pulled the plug.

After missing out on the fun during the Cardinals championship run in 2011, this wasn't the defining outing Adam Wainwright was looking for. Wainwright had no answer for Washington's offensive attack, lasting 2 1/3 innings. He allowed six earned runs on three home runs, two doubles, one triple and one single. There were no cheapies in that bunch, but he'll have a chance to bounce back in the NLCS.

Key play: Without question, Daniel Descalso's game-tying single was the biggest moment in the game. Pete Kozma's game-winner is right behind it. But overall this was one championship team never losing confidence and simply refusing to give away at-bats or accept certain defeat. Just tip your cap to the Cardinals.

Interesting stat I: The Cardinals have now won six straight postseason games when facing elimination. According to Elias, they're the third team to accomplish that feat, and no team has won seven elimination games in a row.

Interesting stat II: Adam Wainwright is the first pitcher to allow three home runs in a winner-take-all game since Bob Gibson in back in the 1964 World Series. You probably won't be surprised to hear the Cardinals managed to win that game as well.

What they'll be talking about: There will be some second-guessing of both managers for sticking with their starters as long as they did. In Matheny's defense, Wainwright did rally to strike out the side in the first after falling down 3-0 in the first three batters. He looked good in the second inning, too, before things unraveled again in the third. I'm not sure I can think of a defense for Davey Johnson, though. He had a chance to pull Gonzalez with a 6-1 lead, and then watched two more important runs score on a wild pitch and bases loaded walk.

Also, the Cardinals are moving on to face the other National League team that refuses to die in postseason play, the San Francisco Giants. What, or who should I who, will give in that series?

What's next: Game 1 of the NLCS is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:07 ET in San Francisco. There's no official word on who will take the mound in the Game 1 for the Giants, but it appears Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong are the leading candidates. The Cardinals have already announced they'll be going with Lance Lynn.

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ALDS Game 5: Yankees punch ticket to ALCS with 3-1 victory over Orioles

12 Oct

Score and situation: The New York Yankees finally fought off and eliminated the resilient Baltimore Orioles with a 3-1 win on Friday. The Orioles stayed on the Yankees' heels throughout the regular season in the AL East race and pushed them to the limit in the postseason, but New York ultimately prevailed in the decisive Game 5.

Leading lads: Much like Justin Verlander on Thursday, CC Sabathia was at his best when the Yankees needed it most. Sabathia was untouchable for the first seven innings, allowing only one hit. He did allow one run in the eighth, but wiggled out of a bases loaded situation to preserve the lead, and then pitched a perfect ninth for the complete game victory.

Curtis Granderson entered the game 1-for-16 in the series, but stepped up with a monster home run into the second deck and a single. That's great news for the Yankees and could be an encouraging sign for the ALCS as Granderson is more than capable of carrying their offense through a series if he continues heating up.

Head hangers: For all of the talk about Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher struggling for the Yankees, Baltimore's Adam Jones was just as unproductive. Jones, who inked a six-year, $85.5 million contract during the season, finished the series 2-for-23 and had no walks, runs or RBIs.

J.J. Hardy (.136) and Mark Reynolds (.158) also contributed little for Baltimore in the LDS, and that was punctuated by failures to come through against Sabathia in the eighth inning.

Key play: Nate McLouth's rocket down the right field line may have nicked the foul pole. The immediate ruling on the field was foul, and that call was upheld by an inconclusive replay.

Mark Teixeira delivered the Yankees' first hit with a single leading off the fifth. He then immediately stole second base after the Orioles regrettably neglected to hold him on. That put him in scoring position for Raul Ibanez's RBI single that gave New York a 1-0 lead. Any of those three plays would be a great choice from the Yankees' perspective.

Interesting stat: The Orioles .187 team average is the lowest by a team in the ALDS since the Boston Red Sox hit .158 in 2009. The Red Sox were swept by the Los Angeles Angels.

What they'll be talking about: Did it really nick the foul pole? That's the question Orioles fans will be asking for a long time. I agree with 'Duk when he says there was not enough indisputable evidence to overturn the call, but I wonder why the umpires didn't take a longer look at the replay considering the circumstances and the numerous camera angles they were provided for a postseason game. It there was ever a call worth delaying the game a few minutes, that would be it.

The late-arriving crowd and extremely subdued atmosphere in the first few innings already has a lot of people talking.

Also, Baltimore's decision to not hold Teixeira on first base after his single was risky and ultimately proved to be costly. Teixeira was slowed by a calf injury over the final month of the season, but the Orioles should have been more protective of those 90 feet.

What's next: There's no rest for the weary Yankees as they will turn right around and host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday night. Joe Girardi will likely turn to veteran Andy Pettitte as his starter, while Jim Leyland is expected to counter with Doug Fister.

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