Showing posts with label St. Louis Cardinals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label St. Louis Cardinals. Show all posts

Monday, August 1, 2016

White Sox trade Zach Duke to St. Louis Cardinals

Zach Duke
The White Sox hammered a few more nails into their 2016 coffin over the weekend, blowing two out of three games against the last-place Minnesota Twins.

That series isn't worth rehashing on this trading deadline day. The real question is, what will the Sox do before the 3 p.m. CDT deadline?

So far, the only Sox-related trade happened Sunday, when the Sox sent left-handed reliever Zach Duke to the St. Louis Cardinals for 23-year-old outfielder Charlie Tilson.

Duke is having a respectable year. He's 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in a league-high 53 appearances. He's got 42 strikeouts in 37.2 innings, so he has a good chance of providing value for the Cardinals - provided his arm doesn't fall off from the high number of appearances.

Non-contending teams don't need situational relievers, and Duke is under contract for $5.5 million for 2017. Given their situation, the Sox probably have better uses for that money than a guy who is going to pitch maybe 60 innings a year.

Tilson is a Chicago-area product. He played his high school ball at New Trier High School. This season, he's been playing at Triple-A Memphis, where he posted a .282/.345/.407 slash line with four home runs, 34 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.

The left-handed hitter might be a fourth outfielder, and even if that's all he is, that's not a terrible return for Duke. But I suspect Tilson will get a shot to prove he's more than that. With 57 relatively meaningless games to go, he could get a two-month tryout as the Sox's everyday center fielder.

It doesn't make a lot of sense for the Sox to continue trotting J.B. Shuck out there in center field. We already know he's not a long-term solution. Is Tilson? We don't know, but there's an opportunity now to find out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Adam Wainwright done for the season; Josh Hamilton returns to Rangers

There have been a couple big stories from around the league the past couple days. Most notably, the St. Louis Cardinals have lost their ace, Adam Wainwright, for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

Does this injury torpedo the season for St. Louis? Of course not. You may recall the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, despite Wainwright missing the entire season after having Tommy John surgery. If there's an organization that can adjust and sustain a loss like this, it is St. Louis.

Wainwright's absence gives hope to both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cubs, both of whom are off to good starts in the NL Central. But, I still think the Cardinals are the team to beat in that division even without their ace. St. Louis still has two reliable rotation veterans in Lance Lynn and John Lackey. Two of their young arms, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, are off to good starts this season, and they have options to fill that fifth spot.

Marco Gonzales is probably the best bet to get a call-up - eventually - but he's on the Triple-A disabled list with shoulder tightness right now. Jaime Garcia has major league experience and is another option, although he also has had some shoulder problems. You may see a guy like Tyler Lyons in the Cardinals rotation in the short run. I wouldn't bet against St. Louis piecing it together and remaining atop the division.

That said, if the Cardinals are going to get to the World Series and win it this year, I think they will need to go outside their organization and get some help. Wacha has never thrown 150 innings in a season, let alone 200. Martinez has never thrown more than 108 innings in a season, and he worked as a reliever for the Cardinals both last year and the year before. Both pitchers are just 23 years old, and it's just plain unrealistic, if not silly, to expect them to throw 220 to 240 innings this year -- regular season and, presumably, playoffs combined.

The asking price for Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels may be high, but the Cardinals may need to consider paying it -- not only to stabilize their rotation for this year, but for the future as well. This is Wainwright's second major injury, and he'll be 34 years old by the next time he takes the mound for the Cardinals. It might be time for St. Louis to acquire another veteran for the top of their rotation, while these younger guys such as Wacha, Martinez and Gonzales develop.

Aside from Hamels, there doesn't figure to be a premier starter on the midseason trade market, so don't be surprised if the Cardinals shop the middle tier for a starting pitcher, as well. Would Kyle Lohse be an option? He was formerly with the Cardinals, he's in the last year of his deal in Milwaukee, and the Brewers are off to such a bad start (4-16) that they might already be out of the race.

Wainwright has averaged 226 innings per year over his last five healthy seasons. Even though you expect a smart organization like the Cardinals to find a way to fill that void, that doesn't mean it will be easy.

Hamilton back to the Rangers

Josh Hamilton is less than halfway through a five-year, $125 million contract, but that didn't stop the Anaheim Angels from trading him to the Texas Rangers on Monday for nothing more than a player to be named later and cash considerations.

Hamilton, 33, was with Texas from 2008 to 2012. He was an All-Star in each of those five seasons and won the MVP award in 2010. However, he did not play well in two injury-plagued seasons with the Angels, and an offseason alcohol and drug relapse was apparently the final straw for the ownership group in Anaheim.

The Angels are eating most of the $80.2 million still owed to Hamilton, who is slated to make $23 million this year and $30 million in each of the final two years of the deal. Reports indicate Texas will be on the hook for only about $7 million of that.

Given Hamilton's .741 OPS over the last two years and personal problems, it's pretty clear the Angels simply wanted him gone. We'll see if Hamilton can regain his stroke in Texas, where he had a .912 OPS during his previous stint.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Giants win the pennant ... and Mike Matheny doesn't

Second-guessing managers is part of the fun of watching baseball -- especially during the postseason -- and we're putting St. Louis Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny on the hot seat tonight.

Here's the situation: Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals trail the San Francisco Giants 3 games to 1 and face a must win. The game is tied 3-3 going into the bottom of the ninth inning. St. Louis must hold or its season is over. And the pitcher Matheny turns to is none other than ... Michael Wacha?

Really? 

Yes, Wacha was one of the postseason heroes for the Cardinals in 2013. He won the NLCS MVP award, in fact. But that was then and this is now. It's been an injury-plagued season for Wacha. He missed two and a half months with a shoulder problem, and he wasn't good enough or healthy enough to make the St. Louis postseason rotation.

Wacha hadn't pitched in a game since Sept. 26, yet there he was to start the bottom of the ninth inning with the season hanging in the balance. Four batters later, the Giants were National League champions.

In fairness, I can't say Wacha didn't look healthy. His fastball touched 98 mph on the Fox Sports 1 radar gun. However, his command was absolutely terrible, which is exactly what you would expect from a pitcher who hadn't seen the mound in nearly three weeks. That's why he shouldn't have been out there.

Pablo Sandoval led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a base hit, and the pressure was on Wacha immediately. One out later, he walked Brandon Belt on four pitches. Then, he fell behind 2-0 to San Francisco left fielder Travis Ishikawa and was forced to challenge him with a fastball. Ishikawa answered that challenge, knocking the ball over the right-field wall for a three-run homer.

Giants win, 6-3. Series over. Season over for St. Louis.

It isn't like Matheny didn't have other options. His starting pitcher, Adam Wainwright, gave him seven innings of two-run ball. Reliever Pat Neshek worked the eighth and surrendered a 3-2 lead, giving up a solo home run to pinch-hitter Michael Morse. Everyone else in the Cardinals bullpen should have been available.

Why not bring in closer Trevor Rosenthal? Or hard-throwing Carlos Martinez? A left-handed reliever such as Marco Gonzales or Randy Choate wouldn't have been a bad call in that inning, either, because Belt and Ishikawa are both left-handed hitters, and Sandoval -- a switch-hitter -- is far less dangerous when he's hitting right-handed.

If Matheny had brought in any of those four relievers, it would have been a defensible move. Instead, he went with Wacha. Terrible choice.

The San Francisco victory sets up an wild-card World Series with the Kansas City Royals. Thanks to the stupid TV networks, we have to wait until Tuesday for play to begin.

Am I the only one who thinks it stinks there won't be any baseball on this weekend? 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Royals take 2-0 lead in ALCS; Bumgarner dominates Cardinals in NLCS

The Baltimore Orioles hadn't lost back-to-back home games since June 28-29 -- until the Kansas City Royals came in and won the first two games of the American League championship series.

The Royals scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning Saturday to come away with a 6-4 victory in Game 2 of the ALCS. They'll take a 2-0 series lead back to Kansas City, where the series resumes Monday night.

I'm happy for the Royals and their long-suffering fans, but as I watched Saturday's ninth inning unfold, I couldn't help but have a bit of sympathy for Baltimore fans. That game-deciding rally by the Royals was death by 1,000 cuts for the Orioles, and as a White Sox fan, I've seen that movie before in games against Kansas City.

Here's how the Royals manufactured their two runs: a swinging bunt infield single, a sacrifice bunt, a perfectly placed RBI double right down the first-base line, an error and a ground ball through a drawn-in infield for an RBI single.

As we noted yesterday, Kansas City has been on a power surge lately, and it got another home run from Mike Moustakas on Saturday -- his fourth of the postseason -- but the aforementioned go-ahead double by Alcides Escobar was more indicative of what we typically see from the Royals offense.

They swing for contact, they put the ball in play, they "hit 'em where they ain't," and they run the bases well. In that RBI situation, Escobar wasn't trying to do anything heroic. He hit the ball to the opposite field. It happened to be in the right spot, and he got the desired result.

When your team is playing against the Royals, you feel like they should be able to stop them, but they can't. Kansas City often creates rallies out of nothing. They put the ball in play. They come at you with speed. They keep the pressure on. They force teams to execute defensively.

That approach is the opposite of what you see from a lot of teams today, where offenses are focused on being "dangerous" at all times and hitters don't care if they strike out while swinging for extra-base hits. For the most part, the Royals are looking to single and double teams to death, and they just might ride that all the way to the World Series. They are now just two wins away.

Giants blank Cardinals in NLCS opener

There is no underdog story on the National League side of the bracket. The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals have combined to win the last four NL pennants. This NLCS is a clash of the usual suspects, with most people picking the Cardinals to win.

The Giants, however, drew first blood with a 3-0 victory behind ace Madison Bumgarner on Saturday in St. Louis.

The San Francisco left-hander set a postseason record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched on the road. He ran his streak to 26.2 innings with 7.2 spotless frames in this Game 1. He hasn't given up a run on the road in the postseason since 2010.

In case you were wondering, the previous record was 23, held by some guy named Art Nehf, who pitched in the 1920s. Kudos to any reader who knows anything about Nehf.

The Giants have now won 12 of their last 13 postseason games dating back to their World Series win in 2012. St. Louis is known for being at its best in October -- the Cardinals have made the NLCS four years in row -- but San Francisco also seems to save its best ball for the playoffs.

The teams face off in Game 2 on Sunday night.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Game 4 of the NLDS shapes up as a defining moment for Clayton Kershaw

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is widely considered the best pitcher in baseball. We'll make no argument to the contrary.

Kershaw's performance over the past four seasons has been without peer. This year, he finished 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA. He claimed his fourth consecutive National League ERA title, and that 1.77 mark was nearly half a run better than his closest competitor. He is a lock to win his third NL Cy Young award in the last four years.

Kershaw had a 1.83 ERA during the 2013 campaign, so that means he is just the second pitcher in the live-ball era to post an ERA of 1.85 or less in consecutive seasons. Hall of Famer Greg Maddux is the other.

Yes, Kershaw is the best in the game right now.

But you know what has eluded him to this point in his career? Postseason success. I've heard some people compare Kershaw to another former Dodgers' lefty, Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. Some say Kershaw may go down as the best pitcher to play in the live-ball era once he's all done. Who am I to say he can't do that? But if he is going to be considered better than Koufax, he better figure out a way to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs.

The Cardinals will take a 2-1 series lead over the Dodgers into Tuesday's Game 4 of the National League Division Series. Kershaw is taking the ball on three days' rest. The season is on the line for the favored Dodgers.

Normally, a team feels pretty good about sending its ace out there in a must-win game, but Kershaw's postseason numbers are inexplicably terrible.

In 10 postseason games (7 starts), he's 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA. He has lost each of his last three playoff starts, all against the Cardinals. In two of those outings, he got bombed.

Kershaw went to the mound in a similar situation in Game 6 of last year's NLCS. The Cardinals were up 3-2 in the series, at home and looking to clinch. St. Louis roughed up Kershaw to the tune of seven earned runs on 10 hits over four innings. The Cardinals won, 9-0, and advanced to the World Series.

In Game 1 of this NLDS, Kershaw was staked to a 6-1 lead. He coughed up the whole thing, allowing eight earned runs on eight hits over 6.2 innings pitched. The Cardinals rallied to win, 10-9.

In Kershaw's last two playoff starts, he's allowed 15 earned runs on 18 hits over 10.2 innings pitched. Those aren't numbers you would associate with someone whose name is being mentioned alongside some of the all-time greats.

Most experts picked the Dodgers to win this series, because they figured the combination of Kershaw and teammate Zack Greinke would be too much for the Cardinals to handle. Greinke did his part in Game 2, a 3-2 Dodgers victory, and he's poised to pitch Game 5 back in Los Angeles if Kershaw can lead the Dodgers to a win in Game 4.

This game is a defining moment for Kershaw. His postseason failures are a black mark on an otherwise brilliant resume. As of this writing, we're just three hours from the first pitch of Game 4. I'll be interested to see how Kershaw responds in this pressure-packed start.

Monday, September 8, 2014

White Sox release 2015 schedule

The White Sox have struggled to a 9-23 record over their past 32 games, so it's clearly time to start thinking about next year. Major League Baseball on Monday released its 2015 schedule, allowing fans of losing clubs like the Sox to put aside the current misery and take a look toward what will hopefully be brighter days ahead.

The first question I always ask myself when the schedule comes out: When is the Sox home opener? The answer is Friday, April 10. For the second straight year, the Sox will host the Minnesota Twins in their first home game. But, it won't be the first game of the year this time. The South Siders will start the season on the road Monday, April 6, in Kansas City against the Royals.

The other thing I always look for are possible road trips to take with the team. Those opportunities will be aplenty in 2015, as the Sox take on NL Central opponents in interleague play next season. They'll be at Milwaukee (May 11-13), Pittsburgh (June 15-16) and St. Louis (June 30-July 1).

I'll probably look into making the trip down to St. Louis. It's a nice ballpark. The Cardinals are always a good team, and it's refreshing to be in a city where baseball in the most important sport.

Naturally, the Chicago media is always quick to mention the crosstown series dates when the schedule comes out. For the record, the Sox will play the Cubs six times next season instead of four, and the series is moving back to weekend dates. The two teams will play at Wrigley Field from July 10-12. The series at U.S. Cellular Field will be from Aug. 14-16.

It's no secret I hate the crosstown series. I haven't attended one of those games since 2008. It's overpriced. It's not fun to go. There are too many drunk people. There are too many fights. The rivalry brings out the worst in both fan bases. If the crosstown series were outlawed, I wouldn't shed one tear. I'll be selling my tickets to those games.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

San Francisco Giants become first team to win protest in 28 years

The San Francisco Giants on Wednesday became the first team in 28 years to win a protest filed with Major League Baseball.

On Tuesday night, the Cubs were leading the Giants 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning when a localized downpour caused the game to be delayed for more than four hours after the Wrigley Field grounds crew could not get the tarp on the field quickly enough.

The rain stopped, but the game could not be completed after umpires deemed the field conditions unplayable. The game was official, so the Cubs were awarded a rain-shortened victory.

The Giants, who are in playoff contention, were understandably unhappy and protested under the provisions of Rule 4.12 (a) (3), which states a game can be suspended due to a "malfunction of a mechanical field device under the control of the home club."

In this case, the "mechanical field device" is the tarp, which MLB determined had not been put away properly after its previous use. That's the home club's fault.

Therefore, the protest was upheld, and the game will resume at 4 p.m. Thursday with the Cubs batting in the bottom of the fifth inning and leading 2-0. The two teams have a regularly scheduled game at 7 p.m.

How rare is it for a protest to be upheld? The last time it happened was June 16, 1986.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were trailing the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-1, in the top of the sixth inning when umpires called the game after a pair of rain delays that spanned 17 and 22 minutes, respectively.

National League regulations required that umpires wait at least 75 minutes during an initial weather delay and 45 minutes during a second one before calling a game.

The umpires didn't do that, so the Pirates protested. The complaint was upheld. The game was resumed, and the Pirates lost anyway, 4-2.

The most famous upheld protest, of course, was the "Pine Tar Game," which was played on July 24, 1983, at Yankee Stadium.

The Kansas City Royals were trailing the New York Yankees, 4-3, with two outs in the top of the ninth inning when George Brett connected for a two-run home run to put Kansas City ahead, 5-4.

New York manager Billy Martin argued that Brett had too much pine tar on his bat. Umpires agreed and called Brett out. That was the third out of the top of the ninth, so the game ended with a Yankees win and a Brett tirade for the ages.



The Royals protested. The league office reversed the call, declaring that Brett's home run should count and ordering the game to be restarted from that point. Nearly a month later, on Aug. 18, Kansas City finished off a 5-4 victory.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis biggest winners at trade deadline

If there's one thing we learned at the MLB trading deadline, it's that GMs believe front-line starting pitching wins in the playoffs. On Thursday, we saw three contenders make bold moves to solidify their respective starting rotations for the stretch drive.

Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were each willing to include established major-leaguers in trades in order to acquire the front-line starters they coveted. All three of those teams now have a better chance to get to the World Series and win it than they did just 24 hours ago.

Thursday's frenzy started with a blockbuster deal between Oakland and Boston. The Red Sox sent ace pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A's in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

My initial reaction to this move was shock. How often do you see the cleanup hitter on the team with the best record in baseball (Cespedes) moved at the trading deadline? But the more I thought about this deal, the more I liked it for Oakland.

Cespedes is a big media name and a dangerous hitter, but he's not a great hitter, as his so-so .256/.303/.464 slash line will attest. From the seventh inning on, Cespedes has a slash line of .191/.236/.330 this year. This tells us there are plenty of ways to get him out with the game on the line. Opposing managers can bring in that power right-handed reliever to shut down Cespedes in the late innings. You don't have to fear him. You can pitch to him.

No doubt Oakland GM Billy Beane knows this, and that's why he was willing to part with Cespedes -- especially when the return is a legitimate ace with tons of postseason experience in Lester, who possesses a lifetime 2.11 ERA in the playoffs. During the Red Sox' run to the championship last year, Lester went 4-1 with 1.56 ERA in five starts. His only loss was a 1-0 defeat.

Lester is a money pitcher, and the A's are October ready with him, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in their rotation.

Beane's big move put the pressure on Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski to respond. Respond he did, acquiring Tampa Bay ace David Price just minutes before the trading deadline.

The Tigers paid a price, though, in the three-team swap. The deal cost them two players off their 25-man roster. Center fielder Austin Jackson is now a member of the Seattle Mariners. Left-handed starting pitcher Drew Smyly is now with Tampa Bay.

In a bizarre scene Thursday, the game between the Tigers and the White Sox had to be halted mid-inning so Jackson could be removed from center field at 3:56 p.m. EDT -- four minutes before the deadline.

Jackson is an inconsistent hitter, but make no mistake, the Tigers will not be able to replace his defense in center field. Who is going to play center field in Detroit now? Rajai Davis? Will they ask Torii Hunter to turn back the hands of time and move from right field to center? I don't know.

Maybe the Tigers are hoping fewer balls get hit into the outfield with the addition of Price.

There's no denying Detroit has a monster rotation now: Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. The first three on that list are former Cy Young award winners. Think they may be tough to beat in a short series?

Yeah, even with the hole in center field, I think so.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals made the boldest move among National League teams. On Wednesday, they added Justin Masterson to their rotation. They followed that up Thursday by acquiring John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig.

I like this trade for the Cardinals. Lackey has some age on him -- he's 35 -- but he's another guy who shines on the postseason stage (3.03 career ERA in 19 games). St. Louis knows that well, since Lackey shut the Cardinals down in the clinching game of the World Series last October.

Craig and his .237/.291/.346 slash line will not be missed in St. Louis, especially since his departure creates an opportunity for top prospect Oscar Taveras to play every day in the outfield.

Injuries have limited Kelly to seven starts this year. I suspect his 4.37 ERA and 1.457 WHIP also will not be missed in St. Louis.

Even if the Cardinals don't get Michael Wacha back, they have a front four of Adam Wainwright, Lackey, Masterson and Lance Lynn in their rotation. I don't think it makes them the favorite in the National League, but they would at least have a fighting chance in a short series against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their chances are certainly better now than they were before these deals.

There were several other deadline deals made on Thursday. We won't analyze all of them. This blog is already long enough. You can find a list of other trades here.

We'll wrap it up by saying Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were the biggest winners at the deadline. Who will be the biggest winner on the field? We'll find out between now and late October.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cardinals deal for Justin Masterson; Cubs add Felix Doubront

The day before the trading deadline proved calm Wednesday, with only two deals being made -- and only one affects the pennant race.

The St. Louis Cardinals acquired pitcher Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Double-A outfielder James Ramsey.

It's been a tough year for Masterson, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. He began the year as Cleveland's ace, but he has slumped to a 4-6 record with a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts. He is on the disabled list with right knee inflammation, but the Cardinals expect to activate him for a start Saturday against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

It's not surprising to see St. Louis move to upgrade its rotation, which is iffy once you get past Adam Wainwright.

Michael Wacha, who was the Cardinals' No. 2 starter in the postseason last year, is on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder problem. Joe Kelly recently came back from an injury, and Shelby Miller is talented, but inconsistent. Lance Lynn is respectable as a middle-of-the-rotation arm, but he's probably not the guy you would want starting Game 2 of a playoff series.

With Wacha on the shelf, the Cardinals don't have that second guy they can count on and pair with Wainwright. St. Louis has the prospects necessary to acquire another ace, such as Jon Lester or David Price, but perhaps they've decided the asking price is too high.

Instead, they are hoping Masterson can get healthy and regain his 2013 form, when he went 14-10 for the Tribe with a 3.45 ERA, 195 strikeouts in 193 innings and a league-high three shutouts.

He's capable of being a No. 2 guy on a contender, if the injury issues are past.

Cubs acquire Doubront from Boston

In a move of lesser consequence, the Cubs on Wednesday acquired struggling left-hander Felix Doubront from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a player to be named later.

Last week on MLB Network Radio, I heard Jim Bowden mention that Doubront had asked the Red Sox to either move him into the starting rotation or trade him.

The Red Sox elected to trade him.

Doubront won 11 games in each of the previous two seasons, but this year he was 2-4 with 6.07 ERA in 17 games (10 starts). A pitcher with an ERA over 6 is in no position to be telling team brass what his role should be. Doubront is lucky the Boston front office sent him to Chicago, and not to Triple-A.

Obviously, Doubront wants to start, and he might get that opportunity with his new team. The rebuilding Cubs have little to lose by giving him 10 starts or so between now and the end of the season.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sports Illustrated gives White Sox, Royals high marks for offseason moves

It isn't too often the White Sox earn praise from the national media, so I found it interesting Sports Illustrated gave GM Rick Hahn an A- for his offseason moves.

The Kansas City Royals were the only other American League club to earn an A- from the publication.

This offseason, the Sox signed free agent first baseman Jose Abreu, acquired center fielder Adam Eaton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that sent pitcher Hector Santiago to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and picked up third baseman Matt Davidson from the Diamondbacks in exchange for closer Addison Reed.

The Sox also added free agent pitcher Felipe Paulino and fortified their bullpen by signing veterans Ronald Belisario, Scott Downs and Mitchell Boggs.

"Chicago still has questions about how much offense it will get at catcher and in the middle infield, but there’s no doubting that general manager Rick Hahn has had a very good winter," wrote Joe Lemire of SI.

The Royals drew praise for fixing their two major positional weaknesses -- right field and second base. Right fielder Norichika Aoki was acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers, and veteran Omar Infante was signed to address the issue at second base.

Kansas City signed left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas to take the spot in the rotation vacated by free agent Ervin Santana and also retained starting pitcher Bruce Chen. The Royals also picked up former Twins third baseman Danny Valencia, who could form a platoon with Mike Moustakas, who has had his troubles hitting left-handed pitching in the past.

"Coming off their first winning season since 2003, the Royals effectively targeted their needs," Lemire said.  

On the National League side, the Cubs received a C after a mostly quiet offseason in terms of roster moves. The North Siders added starting pitcher Jason Hammel, relievers Wesley Wright and Jose Veras and backup catcher George Kottaras. They also acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano from the Miami Marlins in exchange for outfielder Brian Bogusevic.

The main offseason news for the Cubs was the hiring of manager Rick Renteria, whom they hope will do a better job of mentoring young players than the fired Dale Sveum.

SI's Cliff Corcoran wrote Renteria's hiring is "a move [the Cubs] hope will prove to be their most significant of the offseason."

Who won the offseason in the National League? SI says it was the St. Louis Cardinals, the defending league champions.

The Cardinals earned an A+ after remaking their infield. St. Louis signed free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta and traded third baseman David Freese in order to move Matt Carpenter from second base over to the hot corner. They also added veteran Mark Ellis, who gives them insurance in the event Kolten Wong fails to earn the second base job. They also upgraded their outfield defense with the addition of Peter Bourjos, who was acquired from the Angels in the Freese deal.

"Thanks to their strong farm system, the Cardinals were able to have a practically perfect offseason," Corcoran wrote.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

White Sox add relief pitcher Mitchell Boggs

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports the White Sox have signed relief pitcher Mitchell Boggs to a one-year, $1.1 million deal.

This will be a reclamation project for pitching coach Don Cooper. Boggs was once a solid reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals. From 2010-2012, he appeared in 190 games, threw 201 innings and compiled a respectable 3.08 ERA over that span.

Boggs' best year with St. Louis was 2012, when he went 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA. That season, he allowed just 56 hits over 73.1 innings.

But something went terribly wrong for Boggs last year. His ERA ballooned up to 11.05 in 18 appearances with the Cardinals, who were forced to demote him to Triple-A. Boggs was traded midseason to the Colorado Rockies, where he had a 3.12 ERA over nine appearances and 8.2 innings.

Walks were a problem. Boggs issued 20 free passes in 23.1 innings at the major league level last year. He's going to have to get that cleaned up this spring to be effective for the White Sox.

I find no fault with this signing. It's a one-year commitment for not much money. If Boggs regains his 2012 form, he will be an asset to the Sox bullpen. If he fails, he can be released without too big of a financial hit.

Maybe Cooper has watched Boggs on film and believes the pitcher can make the necessary adjustments to be effective again.

Coop will fix 'em? 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Does anyone want these five MLB free agents?

Ubaldo Jimenez
Does your favorite team still need a starting pitcher? Well, there are two free agents out there who might interest you. Both of them had ERAs of 3.30 or better last season -- in the American League, no less.

How about a middle-of-the-order hitter? There are two free agents available who can almost certainly give your team 20 home runs and about 75 or 80 RBIs.

Need defense? The starting shortstop from last year's World Series championship team is available, too.

The Super Bowl is over, and it's almost time for spring training to begin. However, pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are without contracts. Also without a job are first baseman Kendrys Morales, outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Stephen Drew.

All five players were given qualifying offers to return to their 2013 teams on a one-year, $14.1 million deal. All five declined and elected free agency. Here on Feb. 4, the waiting game continues for each player.

Why? Phil Rogers explained it in a recent column on MLB.com. Any team that signs one of these five guys would have to give up a first-round draft pick to that player's former team.

These days, teams are a little slower to part with those draft picks. Remember when the St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols in free agency? Don't cry for the Cardinals because they used the compensatory draft pick they received from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to select pitcher Michael Wacha, who was last seen helping the Cardinals to the 2013 NL pennant.

And don't cry for the Angels either. When they lost Mark Teixeira in free agency after the 2008 season, they received a compensatory draft pick from the New York Yankees and used it to select outfielder Mike Trout, who is probably the best young position player in the sport today.

So, if you're wondering why decent major league players like the five listed above are still looking for work, look no further than the rules about compensatory draft picks. GMs are now figuring the loss of a valuable draft pick into the "cost" of signing these free agents, and accordingly, they aren't willing to give as much money to guys like Ervin Santana. Clubs are going to wait until the last minute to sign these players, once the price comes down to bargain levels.

Eventually, these five players are going to get a contract with somebody. You won't need to cry for them either, because they won't go hungry. But they probably aren't going to get the money they believe they're worth, and they may not even get the $14.1 million they could have had by staying with their 2013 teams.

Most -- if not all -- of these players would already be signed if they weren't tied to draft pick compensation. But this is the gamble they took when they refused those qualifying offers, and here they sit on Feb. 4.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brian McCann near deal with Yankees; Jhonny Peralta to Cardinals

The first major free-agent domino has fallen as reports indicate veteran catcher Brian McCann will sign a five-year, $85 million deal with the New York Yankees.

That's a high price to pay, but the Yankees were willing to ante up-- especially since Chris Stewart and Austin Romine were their catchers last season. McCann's numbers have remained consistent throughout his career with the Atlanta Braves. He has hit 20 home runs or more in six consecutive seasons, and seven out of the last eight seasons.

Being a left-handed hitter, he should be able to duplicate -- if not slighty improve -- those numbers at Yankee Stadium, which has a short porch in right field.

The Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels were among the other teams reportedly interested in McCann. The questions with the Yankees remain: Will they sign second baseman Robinson Cano? And can they do it without paying a king's ransom in luxury tax? 

Cardinals agree to terms with Peralta

Maybe I spoke too soon Saturday when I said all those nice things about the Cardinals. Do they really think putting Jhonny Peralta at shortstop makes them better?

Apparently so, because reports say Peralta is going to sign a four-year deal with St. Louis.

The Cardinals should have gone defense first with that position. Peralta can hit, but he can't field. St. Louis has no shortage of hitting. Maybe the Cardinals know free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran is leaving (to Detroit?), so they feel the need to replace his offense.

I'd like the signing a little better if they were planning to put Peralta at third base. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cardinals trade David Freese to Angels in four-player deal

I've been saying over the last couple months that I'm jealous of the St. Louis Cardinals' success. I think they are a smart organization. They seem to make the right moves at the right time.

And I agree with their decision to trade third baseman David Freese. The Cardinals sent Freese and reliever Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Friday, in exchange for center fielder Peter Bourjos and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk.

Why do I think it was smart to move Freese? Well, I think injuries are taking their toll on the 2011 World Series MVP. Freese slumped to just nine home runs and 60 RBIs in 2013, after totaling career highs in both home runs (20) and RBIs (79) in 2012.

Freese looked like a guy who has injuries to his knees, ankles or both in the playoffs this year, when he was limited to a .179 batting average. If you look at his swing, it was all upper body. He couldn't use his lower half at all, and that robbed him of his power. It's not an accident those home run totals were cut in half. In addition, he lost all his range at third base. St. Louis manager Mike Matheny was using Daniel Descalso as a defensive replacement for Freese in the late innings of close games throughout the postseason. That's a sure sign that something isn't quite right with Freese. It was time to cut him loose.

I also like the return St. Louis got in this deal. The Cardinals don't have many weaknesses, but outfield defense was among them. John Jay is a decent offensive player, but defensively, he shouldn't be playing center field every day. Bourjos can play a Gold Glove-caliber center field. Will he hit a bunch? Probably not. He's a career .251 hitter. However, the Cardinals have the luxury of batting him eighth. With Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Matt Adams on the roster, the Cardinals don't need Bourjos to hit. They just need him to run the ball down in center field. He will do that.

Who will play third base for the Cardinals? Carpenter will make the move from second base. That opens a spot for at second for former top draft pick Kolten Wong, who struggled in limited playing time this year but is ready for a full-time shot.

As for the Angels, I understand why they traded Bourjos. They have a crowded outfield with Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and J.B. Shuck. But I don't think third base was their biggest hole. The Angels don't have much starting pitching, Once you get past Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, there is really nothing there -- especially now that Jason Vargas has left for Kansas City.

With Freese, the Angels are acquiring more of what they already have: veterans hitters. What that team really needs is some rotation help, and I'm surprised they moved Bourjos for something other than a starting pitcher.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shane Victorino stars as Red Sox complete World Series victory

It was pretty clear the St. Louis Cardinals were not going to let Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz beat them in Game 6 of the World Series on Wednesday night.

Ortiz, who entered Wednesday's play batting .733 for the series, went 0-for-1 with four walks -- three of them intentional -- in Game 6. However, the St. Louis strategy failed, thanks to Boston outfielder Shane Victorino.

Victorino went 2 for 3 with four RBIs as the Red Sox beat the Cardinals 6-1 and claimed their third World Series title since 2004.

The decisive moment came in the bottom of the third inning. With Jacoby Ellsbury on second base and one out, Ortiz was intentionally walked for the first time. After Mike Napoli struck out and Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch, the table was set for Victorino. With the bases loaded and two away, the right fielder ripped a 2-1 fastball from St. Louis starter Michael Wacha off the Green Monster in left field for a bases-clearing double. The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead with one swing of the bat, and well, that was pretty much your ballgame.

Boston tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning, another frame that featured an intentional walk to Ortiz. Napoli and Victorino both foiled the strategy with RBI singles, and Boston had a 6-0 advantage.

I can't fault the Cardinals for going around Ortiz. They were bound and determined to make someone else swing the bat. Other Boston hitters stepped up and got the job done in RBI situations, so give them credit.

St. Louis, meanwhile, failed miserably in the clutch. The Cardinals were just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position in Game 6 and could not capitalize against Boston starter and winning pitcher John Lackey. The best opportunity for St. Louis came in the seventh inning. Trailing 6-1, the Cardinals had the bases loaded with two outs for their leading RBI man, Allen Craig. But Boston reliever Junichi Tazawa retired Craig on a routine grounder to first. The Red Sox lead was never threatened again.

The Cardinals hit a major league record .330 with runners in scoring position this season, but their greatest strength failed them at an inopportune time on Wednesday night. They could get runners on. They just couldn't get them in.

When the Red Sox had scoring opportunities, they delivered. And that's why they are partying in Boston right now.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Don't wanna get picked off here in this situation, Part II (Kolten Wong Edition)

During the NLCS, I was making fun of Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Nick Punto for getting picked off at an inopportune time.

With that in mind, I would be remiss if I didn't call attention to the terrible baserunning by St. Louis infielder Kolten Wong on Sunday in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the World Series.

The Cardinals were trailing the Boston Red Sox 4-2 when pinch hitter Allen Craig hit a ball off the right field wall with one out in the ninth. Craig, hobbled by foot and ankle injuries, cannot run at all right now and only reached first base on the deep drive that would have been a double under normal circumstances. Understandably, Wong was summoned to pinch run for the injured Craig.

After Matt Carpenter popped up, Carlos Beltran was the last hope for the Cardinals. If you're St. Louis, Beltran is probably the guy you most want representing your last hope. He was up there representing the tying run, and he has 16 career postseason home runs to his credit. One swing of the bat and the game could be tied.

Well, Beltran never got that swing because Boston closer Koji Uehara (pictured) picked Wong off to end the game. To be fair, Wong slipped on his way back to first base, but nevertheless, such a baserunning miscue is intolerable.

It would be one thing if Wong was representing the tying run. If that were the case, the stolen base would be in play. Down one run, you might be thinking about getting a big lead and a good jump. But down two runs? With a power hitter at the plate? You're not running in that spot. Wong's job in that situation was to take a one-way lead, not get picked off and run when Beltran hit the ball. It was a simple task, but he blew it.

The Red Sox finished off the 4-2 win and the best-of-seven series is now tied, 2-2.

Obstruction call was correct

A quick word about the ending to Game 3: The obstruction call on the last play of the game that awarded St. Louis a 5-4 victory was the correct one. It doesn't matter that people "don't want to see a World Series game end that way." Rules are rules, and the umpires enforced the rules. If the pitcher had committed an obvious balk, should the umpire not call it because it's the ninth inning of a World Series game? I believe he should, and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous.

I felt no sympathy for the Red Sox whatsoever. The umpires weren't the ones who got into a second-and-third, one-out jam. The umpires weren't the ones who threw the ball away. The Red Sox did that, and they deserved to lose.

I think Boston has a well-run organization, a good front office, a good manager, and I respect the Red Sox for the success they've had on the field over the last 10 years. But I grow tired of their whiny fan base very, very quickly.  I have a feeling if Boston doesn't win this series, the fans are going to be bitching and moaning about this obstruction thing for the rest of their days.

Spare me. I don't want to hear about it. Don't make any movies about this call. Don't write any books about it. I don't want to see or hear any crap interviews from celebrity fans about the injustice of it all. I don't want to see any stupid documentary about this incident 10 years from now. Take the pain. It's over. The Red Sox players moved on quickly and took care of business in Game 4. The fans better move on as well. It's anybody's series now, and both teams have every opportunity to win. There will be no excuses for either side when it's over. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rookies pitch Cardinals to Game 2 victory

One thing we learned from Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday night: If you're really good, a lack of experience doesn't matter.

The St. Louis Cardinals used three rookie pitchers, starter Michael Wacha and relievers Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal, to beat the Boston Red Sox 4-2 and even the series at a game each.

None of those three pitchers is older than age 23, but you never would have known it by the poise they showed in the hostile environment at Fenway Park.

We've come to expect excellence from Wacha, who is 4-0 in four postseason starts now. But, in a way, this effort was more impressive than his previous ones because he did not have his good stuff Thursday night. His command was off. He walked four people and needed 114 pitches to get through six innings. Still, he surrendered just two runs, both on a home run by David Ortiz in the sixth inning. I didn't think Wacha had his real good fastball in this game. There was a lot of 91 and 92 on the radar gun, whereas he had been hitting 94 and 95 in previous starts. Still, he persevered against a strong lineup and gave his team a chance to win.

Martinez, who features a 98 mph fastball, worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning, moments after the Cardinals had score three runs in the top of the inning to take the lead for good. The 23-year-old also worked the eighth inning and pitched his way out of two-on, two-out jam.

Rosenthal had the ninth, and well, he was pretty damn good. He struck out the side while consistently hitting 98 and 99 on the gun.

It helps to have power arms in the bullpen, and that's one of the reasons I picked the Cardinals to win the World Series before the playoffs started. Sure, they are inexperienced, but those high-90s fastballs allow them to get away with some mistakes location-wise.

A lot of people have talked about how good Boston's bullpen has been this year, and rightfully so. We saw last night the guys at the back end of the St. Louis bullpen are no slouches either. Coming right at guys with heat; that's how you close out a game.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Does homefield advantage matter more in Game 1 than in Game 7?

I was thinking earlier today about how the World Series is a matchup of Goliath vs. Goliath this year. Both the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals were the best and most consistent teams in their respective leagues throughout the season. Both teams won 97 games. They appear to be evenly matched.

You don't always get a matchup like this in this era of wild-card teams and expanded playoffs. A lot of years, you see that 88-win team sneak into the postseason, get hot at the right time and end up playing in the World Series. Not this year. This really is a case of the two top clubs going head to head.

Unfortunately, you never would have known that by watching Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Red Sox kicked the snot out of the Cardinals, scoring five runs in the first two innings and coasting to an 8-1 victory behind ace left-hander Jon Lester (pictured).

St. Louis is not known as a great defensive team, but to call its effort sloppy in this game would have been an understatement.  The Cardinals packed three errors and three other misplays into those game-deciding first two innings alone. We don't need to detail them all here; you can read about them in Jeff Passan's column on Yahoo. Suffice to say St. Louis looked like a bunch of scaredy-cats. The Cardinals made a bunch of defensive mistakes that big-league players should not make on the big stage.

Of course, it's only natural to be nervous before taking the field for Game 1 of the World Series, even for seasoned veterans. That leads me to the point of this blog: I think that homefield advantage matters more in Game 1 than it does in Game 7. Why? Well, I think it's easier to overcome those nerves and settle into your game when you're playing in your home park, in a comfortable environment, in front of 40,000 people who are cheering for you. Boston settled in quickly Wednesday night and played a solid, clean game. The Cardinals, in contrast, were blown off the field before they could get their feet under them.

In case you were wondering, the home team has now won Game 1 in each of the past four World Series. It is indeed an advantage. And in each of the previous three series, that Game 1 winner has gone on to claim the championship.

Just how important is it to win Game 1? Well, since 2003, the Game 1 winner has gone on to win the World Series in nine out of 10 years. The only exception was 2009, when the New York Yankees dropped Game 1 at home before recovering to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.

For me, the biggest edge that comes along with homefield advantage is getting those first two games at home. It increases your odds of winning that first game, and if you win that first game, it puts you in the driver's seat toward winning the World Series. That's where the Red Sox are at right now after Game 1. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013 World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Since we left off, the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals have each clinched the pennant in their respective leagues. They will open the World Series on Wednesday night in Boston.

To get ready, let's take a look at three players from each team whose performance could swing the outcome of the series one way or the other.

St. Louis Cardinals

1. Michael Wacha - The rookie right-hander is 3-0 in three starts this postseason, and he's allowed just one run in 21 innings pitched, with 22 strikeouts and just 12 baserunners (8 hits, 4 walks) allowed. He has the element of surprise in his favor. Nobody in Boston's lineup has ever faced him. Can he continue to pitch like a budding ace? If so, the Cardinals have the advantage in starting pitching in this series. Ace Adam Wainwright will start Games 1 and 5, while Wacha will get Games 2 and 6.

2. Allen Craig - The first baseman hasn't played since Sept. 4. He's been out with a foot injury, but he is slated to DH in Games 1 and 2 in Boston. If Craig can chip off the rust quickly, his bat is a huge asset in the middle of the St. Louis lineup. In 134 games this year, he posted a .315/.373/.457 slash line and had 13 home runs and 97 RBIs. We'll see if Craig is healthy enough to play first base when the series shifts to St. Louis, but even if he can only DH and pinch hit, his return to the active roster could be pivotal.

3. Yadier Molina - One of the things I like about the Red Sox offense is their speed at the top of the order. Boston was third in the American League in stolen bases with 123, with Jacoby Ellsbury (52 steals), Shane Victorino (21 steals) and Dustin Pedroia (17 stolen bases) accounting for most of them. However, few catchers in baseball can neutralize an opponent's running game as well as Molina. He threw out 43 percent of runners who tried to steal against him this year, and has caught 45 percent for his career. Will Boston be able to run against Molina? We shall see.

Boston Red Sox

1. John Lackey - This guy is back from the dead this year. Lackey posted a 6.41 ERA in 2011 and missed all of 2012 after elbow surgery. But this year, he's rebounded to post a 3.52 ERA and has pitched much better than his 10-13 regular season record indicates. He beat Detroit ace Justin Verlander 1-0 in Game 3 of the ALCS, which in hindsight might have been the most pivotal game of that series. Lackey will be matched up with Wacha in Game 2. Does he have another big effort in him? We know the veteran isn't afraid of the big stage. He won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie with the Anaheim Angels.

2. David Ortiz - It's been a slow postseason for the Boston designated hitter. He's batting just .200 with three home runs and seven RBIs in the playoffs. All of his damage was done in two games. He had a two-homer game in Game 2 of the ALDS against Tampa Bay, and a game-changing grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS against Detroit. The Red Sox need Ortiz to get some things done on occasions other than Game 2 of this series. When the series shifts to St. Louis, Boston skipper John Farrell will have to choose between Ortiz and Mike Napoli at first base. You figure Ortiz gets the nod, since St. Louis has all right-handed starting pitchers. But, Napoli is 6-for-16 with two home runs in his last four games. The decision becomes harder if Napoli stays hot and Ortiz stays cold.

3. Koji Uehara - Most championship teams have a few guys who come out of nowhere to have career seasons. No question Uehara is one of those guys for the Red Sox. The 38-year-old reliever went 4-1 with 21 saves, a 1.09 ERA and a 0.565 WHIP in the regular season. Those are all career bests. Uehara has continued his excellence in postseason play. He's allowed just one run in nine innings, and he has posted five saves. In three of his five saves, he has pitched more than one inning. That's huge, because Boston's starting staff doesn't get deep into games. Knowing Uehara can come on in the eighth inning and get the job done allows Farrell to shorten the game a little bit.

I'm not real good at making predictions, but before the playoffs I said St. Louis had the most balanced team in the field of eight. So, I should probably forecast them as the winner. I think the Red Sox have a real shot at this thing, but I'll stick with my original thought and say Cardinals in six. You can all laugh at me if I get proven wrong.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Detroit roughs up Jake Peavy, evens up ALCS

With his team trailing 2-1 in the ALCS coming into Wednesday night's Game 4, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland shuffled his lineup.

He moved Torii Hunter into the leadoff spot, moved Miguel Cabrera into the No. 2 hole and dropped the slumping Austin Jackson from first to eighth in the batting order.

Was it the right move? Well, you can't argue with Wednesday's results. The aforementioned three Tiger hitters combined to go 5 for 11 with six RBIs as Detroit defeated the Boston Red Sox 7-3 to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-all.

Detroit roughed up Boston starter Jake Peavy, scoring five runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to take a commanding 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.

I think, though, that the success of Leyland's lineup shuffle was more of a coincidence than anything else. Quite simply, Peavy had a horrible game. I've watched most of the right-hander's starts over the last four years, and normally his strikeout-to-walk ratio is around 4 to 1. On this night, Peavy uncharacteristically walked three batters in the fateful five-run second inning alone, including a bases-loaded free pass to the struggling Jackson. Peavy had no command of the strike zone whatsoever.

I'm not really sold on the idea that the Tigers are out of their slump now. I think they were the fortunate beneficiaries of a terrible performance by a starting pitcher who is normally pretty good.

We'll see what happens in Thursday's Game 5. If Detroit cuffs around Boston ace Jon Lester, then I'll be convinced that Leyland's lineup juggling has actually made an impact.

Dodgers stay alive in NLCS

Speaking of offensive breakouts, Los Angeles finally got its bats going with four home runs Wednesday in Game 5 of the NLCS. Adrian Gonzalez homered twice, while Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis also went deep as the Dodgers stayed alive with a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals still lead the series, 3-2, and the scene shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night.

Despite all the home runs, the most critical moment of this game came in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score after Los Angeles pitcher Zack Greinke struck out Matt Adams and induced Yadier Molina to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Dodgers were one mistake away from finding themselves in a big early hole in an elimination game. Instead, they got out unscathed, and you had it feeling it was going to be their day from that point forward.

Los Angeles will send its ace to the mound in Game 6. Clayton Kershaw will try to lead the Dodgers to a series-tying victory. His mound opponent will be Michael Wacha in a rematch from Game 2, which Wacha won 1-0. Should be another great pitching matchup in a postseason full of them.