Posted on: October 29, 2011 3:38 am
ST. LOUIS -- The cute little girl leaned into the microphone and spoke.
"I love my dad," Ava Carpenter, 6, said.
Not long after, her pop, the Cardinals ace who earned the win in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, chuckled.
"Yeah, but she's got a crush on David Freese," Chris Carpenter said.
On a noisy Friday night in St. Louis after the Cardinals won their 11th World Series title in franchise history, who didn't? Freese, the Series MVP who batted .348 with a homer and seven RBI, emerged into an overnight sensation.
But crushes come and go.
Everyone knows true love lasts forever.
While Freese is on the launching pad toward potential great things ahead, Ava Carpenter's dad already is there. The Cardinals now have played in three World Series during his time here, winning two. He's so thrilled to be here, he signed an extension in mid-September that will keep him in the St. Louis rotation through 2013.
And to that, add this: Carpenter is the first pitcher ever to win two elimination games in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before winning Game 7 of the World Series on Friday, he beat Philadelphia's Roy Halladay 1-0 in Game 5 of the Division Series.
Carpenter says these Cardinals are the best group of guys with whom he's ever played. And Friday, he gave them something to remember him by.
Working on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, Carpenter immediately spotted the Rangers two runs in the first inning when Josh Hamilton and Michael Young boomed back-to-back doubles.
But after that ... he threw five shutout innings during which he surrendered only two hits against a potent Texas lineup.
Carpenter said he felt "pretty good" in the first inning. He liked the pitch to Hamilton that turned into a double, but he left a pitch up to Young that became the inning's other double.
"Coming back out for the second, I didn't know how long they were going to let me go," Carpenter said. "So I was just trying to do everything I can to get one out at a time. If it was for two innings, one inning, three innings, four innings ... I had no idea. And nobody said anything to me about it.
"So I just continued to go out and try to make pitches, and as the game went on, I felt stronger. My stuff got better, my command got better and I was able to make some really good pitches when I had to."
Turned out, it was more than enough.
And after the debacle of Game 2 in Philadelphia during the Division Series when he allowed four runs and five hits in three innings while starting on short rest for the first time in his career, there probably won't be many more skeptics if and when he is asked to do it again.
"These guys, again, never gave up," Carpenter said, raving about his teammates, and who else does he think takes the lead in that department?
"This team is unbelievable," Carpenter said. "Most amazing team I've ever been a part of."
Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:13 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Lighting does strike twice in the same spot. We just saw it. Right here in St. Louis.
One night after Allen Craig pinch-hit and slapped an RBI single to right field against Texas reliever Alexi Ogando to win Game 1 ... he did it again in Game 2. Reruns? So soon?
Hold on -- not quite. In a tense and taut game as crisp as an autumn leaf, Craig's seventh-inning hit didn't quite win it for the Cardinals this time. It spotted them a 1-0 lead ... which only gave the heretofore vaunted St. Louis bullpen the chance to cough it up. Which it did.
Texas 2, Cardinals 1, and this World Series is tied at a game apiece and heading to Texas.
Craig's was an amazing, incredible moment given that pretty much the exact same thing occurred 24 hours earlier. Only difference was, the Rangers and Cardinals were 2-2 in Game 1 when Craig batted with two out and runners on first and third in the sixth.
Game 2, it was 0-0 with two out and runners on first and third in the seventh.
But instead of allowing Craig to become the hero on consecutive nights, Texas' AWOL offense showed up in the ninth with two runs on back-to-back sac flies from the aching Josh Hamilton (groin) and Michael Young.
Talk about eeking one out.
Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus greeted Cardinals reliever Jason Motte with singles to start the ninth. Then, in a move revealing why he never did name Motte as the club's official closer, Tony La Russa hooked him for matchups. Veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes was summoned to face Hamilton, and the Texas lefty hacked at the first pitch and tied the game.
Then Young poked a fly ball deep enough to score Andrus against Lance Lynn.
The Cardinals had been three outs from seizing a 2-0 lead in this World Series and knocking the wind out of the Rangers.
Instead, the Cards were left to wonder what hit them instead.
And this, folks, is just getting good.
Posted on: October 20, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 9:06 pm
ST. LOUIS -- How bad is Josh Hamilton's strained groin?
"In all honesty, if this was the regular season, I'd probably be on the disabled list," the Texas slugger said Thursday afternoon before batting practice as the Rangers prepared for Game 2 of the World Series. "But we don't have that luxury right now."
It is a miserable time for the 2010 AL MVP to come up lame, but as Hamilton said several times during the conversation, "it is what it is."
No matter, he is in the lineup and batting third for the Rangers in what becomes a vital Game 2 after they dropped Game 1 to St. Louis here Wednesday night 3-2.
Hamilton said he suffered the injury about two months ago.
"It was right at the point when it first started where I could warm up" and loosen it up, Hamilton said. "Then there was a point where I couldn't.
"Now I'm at the point where, whatever."
The key, he said, is making adjustments.
"Square the ball up and just really not use my lower half," he said. "Because I can hit line drives."
The groin injury has robbed him of his explosiveness, he said, which inhibits his ability to put the ball over the fence. He does not have a home run in 45 at-bats this postseason.
He said he feels his groin when he swings, "running and throwing ... whatever else baseball has. If I have to go from first to third, if I have to leg out a double, beat out an infield hit. ..."
Manager Ron Washington said Thursday that he has not considered removing Hamilton from the lineup.
"He's been dealing with it ... and he's come up big for us," Washington said. "You know, at this point of the year, we've all got nagging injuries. He had one, and he'll figure out a way to get through it, and we'll figure out a way to help him get through it."
Washington explained that "even if Hamilton doesn't do anything, he makes a difference just with his presence in our lineup. And I want his presence in it."
General manager Jon Daniels is on the same page as Washington.
"I think that's what this time of year is about," Daniels said. "It didn't start yesterday. He was hurting in Detroit and he played very well in Games 5 and 6. You tip your cap. He's playing hurt. It is what it is."
Hamilton batted .308 with five RBI in the six-game ALCS with Detroit. Four of his eight hits were doubles.
He estimated that he's somewhere between "75 and 80 percent" and added, "I'm comfortable playing at that level." Check swings also bother him to the point where a shooting pain goes through his groin that might last 15 or 20 minutes, he said. Or, severely inhibit his effectiveness in the rest of that at-bat.
As Daniels inferred, many players are playing in pain at this point in the season.
"You show up at spring training 100 percent, and it's a gradual decline after that," Michael Young told colleague Danny Knobler during the ALCS.
Hamilton acknowledged that his groin is getting progressively worse, and it seems it could be a race to the finish line between Hamilton and the Rangers' World Series run.
"We've got six games left," he said. "I'll do everything I can to be productive in the six games to help this team win.
"All I want to do is help my team win, anyhow. A sacrifice fly, whatever."
Posted on: October 18, 2011 7:20 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 7:24 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Adrian Beltre has played a long time for a guy who has never reached the World Series.
A long, long, long time.
"You got that right," Beltre says. "It took me 14 years. But I'm here, man."
Beltre's 1,959 regular-season games are the third-most among active players for a guy who has never set foot in the Fall Classic, trailing only Bobby Abreu (2,247) and Miguel Tejada (2,118).
But as that great baseball man, Branch Rickey, once said, luck is the residue of design. And Beltre's splashdown in St. Louis for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday is more design than luck.
When he signed a five-year, $80 million deal last winter to play third base in Texas, he had plenty of other options. One was with the Los Angeles Angels, though, as he told me this spring, he spurned them because he thought the Rangers had a better team and, as such, a better chance to go to the World Series.
Beyond the Angels, Beltre had a few other options as well. Oakland. Baltimore.
"If it was the money, I'd be somewhere else," he said. "Money wasn't my main issue. I could have had more money [elsewhere] or I could have stayed home in L.A.
"It was a hard decision to come here, but it's been the best one."
Beltre was everything the Rangers were hoping for. He played Gold Glove defense. He hit .296 with a .331 on-base percentage. He slammed 32 homers and collected 105 RBI in 124 games. Only a hamstring injury slowed him late in the year.
Now that he's back strong, the Rangers' lineup is as dangerous and deep as there is in the game. Their second consecutive World Series appearance proves that.
Beltre said he never felt pressure in Texas because he was surrounded by so much talent, guys like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli.
"I came here, but I wasn't the guy," says Beltre, who played exceedingly well in Boston in 2010 before signing with Texas. "I was just one of the guys.
"It's different when they bring you in to be the guy."
Asked about the Red Sox's meltdown and ongoing drama, Beltre quipped: "Why? What happened to the Red Sox? I don't watch TV."
Posted on: September 24, 2011 12:40 am
Maybe if they run into the Phillies in this year's World Series the guy will return to haunt them. But on a wild Friday when the Rangers became the third team in one night to clinch a division title, a budding dynasty continued to grow without Cliff Lee.
Yes, C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando helped prove there should be no doubting the Rangers' rotation. Adding Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre to a core featuring Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler was plenty.
And in the end, after beating Seattle 5-3 and then watching the Angels lose to Oakland 3-1, the Rangers proved it once and for all.
AL West champions for a second consecutive year, and that's not the autumn wind blowing in. It's a changing of the guard.
Where once the road to the AL West title led through Anaheim, that trail is now as dusty and abandoned as some of the old California gold mining spots. Where the Angels won five of six AL West titles between 2004 and 2009, the Rangers now have gone back-to-back for the first time since 1998-1999. Clmbing the charts with a bullet, and looking to finish with a better record than AL Central champ Detroit so they can open the playoffs at home on Friday.
Apparently, losing Lee didn't gut them as badly as just about everyone but the Rangers themselves thought it would. More impressively, Texas, 14-6 so far in September, is playing as well this month as it has all season.
Posted on: August 17, 2011 9:18 pm
Last winter, the Rangers tried hard to trade Michael Young.
Wednesday, Texas manager Ron Washington called him the team's Most Valuable Player.
You never know in this game, and Young, already highly respected by teammates and opponents alike, has zoomed to the top of the list with the way he's handled what during the winter and even spring was a very awkward situation.
"As far as I'm concerned, he is the MVP," Washington said before Wednesday night's game in Anaheim. "It could be on this team. It could be in the league.
"He's certainly the MVP for us."
A designated hitter most of the season after the Rangers signed free agent Adrian Beltre -- the move the precipitated the Rangers' very public exploration of a Young trade -- Young is back at third, however temporarily, while Beltre's left hamstring heals on the disabled list.
Entering Wednesday's game, Young was second in the AL in batting (.340), tied for fourth in RBI (85), second in hits (165)seventh in total bases (242) and tied for fourth in doubles (35).
He was second in the league in hitting against left-handers (.365) and tied for fourth in batting against right-handers (.331).
Teammate Josh Hamilton (.304, 15 homers, 67 RBI) won the AL MVP award last season.
"If we get lucky enough to hold on [to first place in the AL West], I'm more than certain he'll be considered for [league] MVP," Washington said, correctly, of Young. "He'll have to be a strong candidate, because he's going to drive in 100 runs."
"I appreciate support from my manager," Young said when the comments were relayed to him. "I love playing for Wash. We have a ton of respect for each other. It's been a great relationship.
"I definitely appreciate hearing that from my manager."
Young stopped short of saying his production and Washington's support are vindication for what happened over the winter.
"Not really," Young said. "Either you're motivated or you're not. If you need external factors to motivate yourself, you're probably not well off in the first place.
"I have a lot of goals, but they all start and end with the team."
Could he have envisioned this entire scene -- his numbers, the Rangers threatening to run away with the AL West and him wearing a Texas jersey the entire time -- this spring?
"Once I got to spring training, yeah, this is the way I envisioned it," Young said. "I'm a ballplayer. I don't want anything during the winter. I want quiet winters.
"But once I got to spring training, it's all about baseball."
It sure was, and it sure is. Retaining Young made the Rangers deeper, and as they wait for Beltre's hammy to heal, they haven't missed a beat. And while Young has DH'd more than he would like, his affinity for Washington and for this particular group of teammates have softened that blow.
"I've always appreciated him," Washington said. "I've appreciated him a lot more this year because we've had to rely on him a lot more. The past couple of years, he had some help. That help has dissipated, with Vlad Guerrero gone and now with Beltre down. Michael has stepped up.
"Everything he's given us this year, we've needed."
Posted on: May 23, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 11:25 pm
One key reason why Tampa Bay's James Shields currently leads the AL in both complete games (three) and shutouts (two), ranks second in innings pitched (76 2/3) and fourth in ERA (2.00)?
He's doing exactly what he set out to do this spring: Keep the gopher balls away.
Last year, his 34 home runs allowed were the most in the American League.
This year, his seven surrendered do not even rank in the top 10.
Shields told me this spring that he thought there were a couple of easily explainable reasons why he was so disappointing in 2010 at 13-15 with a career-high 5.18 ERA.
"Bad baseball luck," he said during an early-March conversation in Port Charlotte, Fla. "Take away two or three bad games, and my ERA's 3.60 and nobody's talking about it."
Shields, who dominated the Marlins with 13 strikeouts in Sunday's complete-game win, figured that if he could minimize home runs in 2011, his ERA would drop. And if those two things happened, he'd be well on his way to a rebound year.
Those seven homers allowed in 2011 translate to one surrendered per 42 batters faced.
In 2010, he yielded one homer per 26.4 batters faced.
Not even close.
"I wasn't as good as I wanted to be last year," Shields said. "But there were a lot of positives: 200 innings [203 1/3, to be exact], 180-odd strikeouts ."
He keeps going at his current pace in 2011, there will be far more positives this season.
For both Shields and the Rays.
Likes: Texas' Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz and Philadelphia's Chase Utley all coming back this week. ... Knuckleballers. Boston's Tim Wakefield and the Mets' R.A. Dickey just keep on truckin'. ... Lars Anderson's Sports Illustrated cover story this week on the tornado devastation in Alabama. Beautifully done and heartbreaking. ... Music from the old Detroit band The Rockets on iTunes. Loved them back in the day (late '70s, early '80s) and had much of their stuff on vinyl, but it was never released on CD. Hadn't heard the songs in many years, but they stand up very well to the test of time. A shame they never hit it big nationally, because they could rock. ... Minka Kelly on the new Charlie's Angels in the fall. Hello girls, this is Charlie. ...
Dislikes: Red Sox-Cubs 1918 throwback uniforms.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Really love your peaches
Posted on: April 23, 2011 9:12 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 12:00 am
Guess life isn't going to be a tire swing all summer for the Texas Rangers, after all.
Not that the Rangers themselves ever expected to run away with the AL West, but when they were 9-1 and owned a four-game AL West lead on April 11, you sure heard some chatter in other quarters about the possibility.
Now, Hamilton is out for up to two months with a broken bone in his arm, and Saturday the Rangers disabled their closer with soreness in his shoulder before Saturday's game with Kansas City. Maybe Texas doesn't miss a beat, but if ever there was a time for an AL West rival to make an early-season move, this is it.
Question is, is anybody in a position to do so?
The Angels actually left Texas in first place on Wednesday night after taking two of three from the Rangers. But Boston devours Los Angeles like kids gobble Easter candy and, in winning the first three of a four-game weekend series -- the latest a 5-0 cakewalk on Saturday -- helped dump the Angels back into second place. The Red Sox have won 12 of their past 13 against the Angels, including nine of 10 in 2010.
Oakland ranks 13th in the AL in runs scored. Only Minnesota (57) had scored fewer than the Athletics (66), and Bob Geren's team needs to hit .500 (they were 9-11 before Saturday's game with Seattle) before worrying about passing the Angels and Texas.
The Angels had stabilized some after losing three of their first four, though Vernon Wells was still hitting just .183 with one homer and four RBI into Saturday night's game and the club's bullpen had walked an AL-high 41 batters -- five more than next-most Kansas City.
This isn't exactly how Wells would prefer to introduce himself to Southern California fans, though the nine-year veteran isn't panicking.
"It's not my first time," Wells says of a slow start. "I've hit .180 for the month of April before."
Not quite, but close: .191 in April, 2005.
Meantime, the Angels still are not sure when slugger Kendrys Morales, out since surgery to repair a fractured leg last May, will return.
"Early, it was really hurting us, especially with Rodney, Kohn and Jepsen," Scioscia says. "Obviously, they've got to work on command issues to get where they need to be. It's not a good trend.
Angels pitchers have walked 17 batters in the first two of the four games against Boston, 10 by the bullpen.
"We have some power arms down there [in the bullpen], but power arms that should be able to command counts better than we've seen," Scioscia says. "It will work its way out as the season goes on."
The Rangers, no doubt, figure the same thing about their current spate of injuries. And the run-challenged Athletics, about crossing the plate. And Seattle ... well, let's not get carried away here.