Matt Holliday’s hard slide takes out Marco Scutaro

15 Oct
by David Brown in Fantasy Baseball, General

SAN FRANCISCO — They are sensitive about hard slides here at AT&T Park, and Matt Holliday of the St. Louis Cardinals gave the San Francisco Giants reason to pause Monday night in Game 2 of the NLCS by sliding about as hard as one can into second base.

Holliday's take-out slide of Marco Scutaro in the first inning didn't get anybody seriously hurt, just scared, especially after Scutaro lay on a ground for a few moments to collect himself. On video replays, you can see Scutaro's left foot get caught in the dirt beyond second base. It was a good way to injure a knee, but Scutaro got up shortly and hit a single in his next at-bat. He hit a three-run single in the fourth inning (aided by Holliday error in left field), but Scutaro later left the game in order to have X-rays taken on his left hip. Manager Bruce Bochy announced after the game that X-rays were negative.

Holliday's slide appeared to be legal, though opinions differ on that. He started it just before reaching the second-base bag, touched the bag with his left leg and tackled Scutaro without leaving the baseline.

Watch this animation from the Fox broadcast, thanks to @cjzero

The slide was effective, helping to prevent the Giants from turning a double play on Allen Craig's grounder to short. But it also was brutal and dangerous — evoking the infamous slide by Scott Cousins that took out Giants catcher Buster Posey and broke his leg in 2011.

[Related: Disturbing accident before game will sideline Giants' Roberto Kelly]

UPDATE: After the game, Holliday said the play weighed on his mind, as he had "no ill intent" toward Scutaro and is not a dirty player:

"In hindsight, I wish I would have started my slide a step earlier," Holliday said. "But it was happening fast, and you're trying to get to his lower half so they can't turn the double play. Obviously, I didn't want to land on top of him. I hope he's OK. I know him, he's a good guy. I obviously trying to do any more than keeping us out of a double play."

Holliday said he asked Scutaro on the spot if he were OK, but Scutaro wasn't talking. Holliday said he had reached out again to check on Scutaro's condition.

"I'm not a dirty player," Holliday said. "I felt bad. When a guy has to leave the game, it bothers me. I hope he's OK. I'm a human being; I care about other people. I hope he's not injured."

He relayed a similar message to Posey, the Giants catcher, when Holliday came up to bat again the third inning. Holliday also said Posey would relay the message.

Holliday wasn't playing dirty on purpose, and the umpires didn't call him out for an illegal slide — whatever the nebulous rules are about that. So, "legal" is one thing. But should it be allowable to tackle someone on a baseball field? That's a question still left unresolved by Cousins/Posey and every other crash at home plate. Or, sometimes, second base. Football is a great sport, but its tactics don't belong in Major League Baseball.

"It looked like it was pretty late," Giants pitcher Matt Cain told Joe Buck of Fox Sports during an in-game interview. " ... We're just happy Scutaro is all right."

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who fed Scutaro with the throw, was even more certain.

"It was late," Crawford said. "It was hard and late. I'm sure it wasn't ... dirty intent or anything like that. I'm sure he wasn't trying to hurt him or anything. He was just trying to break up a double play. He was just a little later than he should have been."

So, should umpires have stepped in and called Holliday out?

"I don't know what the rule is," Crawford said. "I know you're supposed to be able to reach the base and he reached it — he slid on top of it. But I don't know what the rule is."

The Giants never attempted any payback against Holliday, or anyone else in the lineup, and the Cardinals seemed to go out of their way to diffuse the tension by avoiding more hard slides into second. Maybe that was coincidence. It will be interesting to see what Cain, the starter for Game 3, does Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis.

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Descalso’s heroics lead Cardinals to NLCS – Daniel Descalso | STL

12 Oct
Daniel Descalso homered and smashed a game-tying two-run single in the ninth inning on Friday, leading the Cardinals back from the brink of elimination to defeat the Nationals 9-7 in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS.
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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 4: A’s rally in ninth to stun Tigers, keep their amazing season alive

10 Oct

Score and situation: The Oakland A's Cinderella season continues thanks to an exhilarating ninth inning rally off Tigers closer Jose Valverde that resulted in a 4-3 victory. That forced a deciding Game 5 on Thursday night at the Coliseum.

Leading lads:The A's offense struggled putting hits together all night long, but they got it done when it mattered most. Josh Reddick started the rally with a lead-off single. Josh Donaldson followed with a double, moving Reddick to third. And then Seth Smith — the man who was known as Mr. Late Night in Colorado because of his incredible knack to come up with big hits after the seventh inning — tied the game with a two-run double to right center.

That set the stage for Coco Crisp — who had been 0 for 4 in the game coming into his at-bat — to pull a single into right field. It looked like we were setting up for a dramatic play at the plate, but the hard-charging Avisail Garcia overran the ball and Seth Smith scored easily to clinch the win.

Head hangers: Unlike Jim Johnson earlier in the evening, Jose Valverde had a two-run cushion and some margin for error entering his save opportunity. That margin was gone quickly, though, and Detroit's closer was unable to stop the A's avalanche. It probably won't make him or his teammates feel any better, but he's not the first closer these A's have broken since their run started in June.

Key play: Everything that happened in the bottom of the ninth was critical, but I really believe the double by Josh Donaldson was the key to the whole thing. Reddick's single was a good start and definitely woke the crowd up. Smith's hit obviously tied the game. But Donaldson's double sandwiched in between ratcheted up the pressure on Valverde and tied the whole thing together for Oakland.

What they'll be talking about: How will the Tigers recover from this gut-wrenching defeat? Three outs from the ALCS, they now have to collect themselves and attempt to kill a team that refuses to die on Thursday night. Good luck.

What's next: Can we handle two Game 5's in one day? We better hope so, because that's exactly what we're getting. The Game 5 in Oakland will begin at 8:30 ET. Jarrod Parker will get the ball for Bob Melvin's club. Justin Verlander, so close to starting Game 1 of the ALCS on Saturday, now has to quickly focus on a do-or-die start in less than 24 hours.

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Greg Maddux’s tricky slide showed Ichiro the way back in ’93 (Video)

09 Oct
by David Brown in Fantasy Baseball, General

Many who watched Ichiro make like Keanu Reeves in "The Matrix" with his "breakdancing" slide Monday night in Game 2 of the ALDS probably got a sense of déjà vu. TBS broadcaster John Smoltz was among them. But their mind wasn't playing tricks. They really had seen it before.

Nearly 20 years ago, Smoltz's teammate, pitcher Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves performed a similar dodge against the Pittsburgh Pirates. And Bucs catcher Don Slaught made the same mistake Orioles catcher Matt Wieters did: Rather than waiting at home for the runner to come to him, he chased Maddux all around home plate but didn't tag him until after he had scored.

In the Associated Press story published the following day, Pirates pitcher Bob Walk said he thought he was watching something out of the Stanley Cup playoffs:

"It looked like hockey. He's on a breakaway and he's trying to fake out the goaltender."

The date: May 5, 1993. The place: Three Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pa. It was the spring after Sid Bream's infamous slide in the NLCS narrowly eluded Mike LaValliere, sending the Braves back to the World Series and turning away the Pirates, who were only beginning the most frustrating period in modern team history. Stars such as Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Doug Drabek had left and the Bucs were on their way to the first of 20 straight sub-.500 seasons. Maddux and the Braves were actually struggling to stay at .500 themselves, but they'd figure it out, and head back to the playoffs/win the Cy Young anyway.

But they'd irritate the Pirates at least one more time.

With one out in the third inning of a scoreless game, Maddux reached on a single against Bob Walk and went to second on a grounder by Otis Nixon. Jeff Blauser followed with a line-drive single to center, and Maddux got a good jump before rounding third. Outfielder Andy Van Slyke came up throwing and fired to Slaught on the fly — but his throw was to the first-base side of home, putting Slaught in position of having to reach and dive to tag Maddux.

"I had nowhere to go. I wasn't ready to run him over and I wasn't ready to slide," Maddux said.

So he improvised, jumping over the tag attempt and making a U-turn before standing his ground momentarily. Then, like Deion Sanders returning a punt, Maddux juked to his right to avoid another lunge by "Sluggo" Slaught, who fell briefly to all fours. Seeing his chance, Maddux dived for the plate and slapped the upper-right-hand corner with the fingers on his left hand — on the arm closest to Slaught, who had gotten up to make one more fruitless lunge.

Maddux said he thought about playing it cool after his initial jump, but quickly determined a ruse wouldn't work.

"At first I thought, 'I'll just walk away and everyone will think I got the plate.' But Slaught knew, so I tried to [fake] him out."

Umpire Jeff Kellogg signaled safe, and Maddux can be seen exclaiming something like "Fun, yeah!" Slaught and Walk (who was standing over the plate, almost like an umpire, as this went down) pleaded, but they had been toasted by a base-running master. The Braves led 1-0, but they didn't score again and fell 4-1 to the Bucs.

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ALDS Game 2: Rookie Wei-Yin Chen shines as Orioles even series with Yankees

08 Oct

Score and situation: In what's shaping up to be a classic LDS, the Baltimore Orioles evened things up with the New York Yankees by holding on to a 3-2 win on Monday night.

Leading lads: Chris Davis had the biggest hit of the night, driving in two runs with a two-out single in the third. That gave Baltimore their first lead of the night and they never looked back from there thanks to a great effort from lefty Wei-Yin Chen. The rookie allowed only two unearned over 6 2/3 innings in his postseason debut. Relievers Darren O'Day, Brian Matusz and Jim Johnson were nails, as usual, bringing home another one-run victory for Baltimore.

Head hangers: Nick Swisher had a chance to be a hero for New York but flew out with the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the seventh inning. He finished the evening 0 for 4 and is now an astonishing 1 for 33 in his postseason career with runners in scoring position.

A-Rod, meanwhile, went 1 for 5 with two big strikeouts. He's hitting .111 for the series.

Key play: Buck Showalter's decision to intentionally walk Robinson Cano as the go-ahead run set up that critical at-bat for Swisher. Brian Matusz made his skipper look pretty good by retiring Swisher to end the threat. I'd also nominate Robert Andino's diving grab in the first inning that resulted in a double play and Mark Reynolds' RBI single in the sixth since that insurance run ended up being the difference.

What they'll be talking about: There were several interesting plays and moments in this one. Of course Ichiro's incredible maneuvering around home plate to avoid Matt Wieters' tag is the one that stands out the most. A-Rod tricking J.J. Hardy into stopping at third base when he likely would have scored on Adam Jones' third-inning single was another one. Andy Pettitte was excellent in defeat and his performance was encouraging should the Yankees advance. And of course Buck Showalter's strategy in the seventh. All worth discussing.

What's next: The series moves to New York for the the pivotal Game 3, which is currently scheduled for Wednesday night at 7:30 ET. That start time will be pushed back one hour, however, if the Detroit Tigers complete a sweep of the Oakland A's on Tuesday. What we don't believe will change is the starting pitching matchup. The will feature Hiroki Kuroda going for the Yankees and Miguel Gonzalez for the Orioles.

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Orioles lead Yankees 3-1 after 6 innings in ALDS (Yahoo! Sports)

08 Oct

New York Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte throws to the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of Game 2 of the American League division baseball series on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Chris Davis hit a two-run single to back a solid start by rookie Wei-Yin Chen and help the Baltimore Orioles take a 3-1 lead over Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees after six innings Monday night in the second game of their AL division series.

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Moore plays hero, Nats capture NLDS Game 1 – Tyler Moore | WAS

07 Oct
Tyler Moore laced a go-ahead pinch-hit two-run single in Sunday's 3-2 NLDS Game 1 victory over the Cardinals.
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Chipper Jones’ final at-bat: Single to right (Video)

03 Oct
by David Brown in Fantasy Baseball, General

Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves continue their season in the NL wild-card game later this week. More baseball might come after that. But as far as the regular season goes, this was it for Chipper: A pinch-hit, line-drive single to right field against A.J. Burnett in the sixth inning Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park:

It was classy of Burnett to step off the mound to give Pirates fans a chance to give Jones a standing ovation before the first pitch. Even better for his own legacy, Chipper came around to score a run on a single by J.C. Boscan, and the Braves went on to beat the Pirates 4-0. Even double-dog better for a fan (or fans): Chipper tossed his batting gloves into the stands after crossing home plate. Everything must go, folks!

Here's what Chipper's final career batting line looks like:

• 2,726 hits, 468 home runs, 1,512 walks, 1,409 strikeouts, 1,623 RBIs, 1,619 runs scored, .303 batting average, 549 doubles, 150 stolen bases, 4,759 total bases, 2,499 games.

More walks than strikeouts — you gotta love that. And, as @GiantsNirvana and others have noted, he's one of only seven players with at least 10,000 at-bats to finish with at least a .300 batting average, a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage. The others: Frank Thomas, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker. That's just sick. I'd say Chipper lived up to his hype of 20 years ago, and then some. Now, the .300/.400/.500 distinction doesn't adjust for ballparks, or eras — so it's not to fair to say that Chipper is one of the seven best ballplayers of all time. But he's in the ballpark. And he's being missed already.

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Raul Ibanez plays hero as Yankees defeat Sox – Raul Ibanez | NYY

02 Oct
Raul Ibanez came up big for the Yankees Tuesday, blasting a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth and a walk-off single in the 12th in a comeback win over the Red Sox.
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