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Cards Have Upper Hand On Philly

By bullpenbrian - October 3, 2011 - 1:31 am Leave a comment.

Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Cliff Lee with an early 4-0 lead is suppose to be money in the bank. But those pesky Cardinals rallied for a 5-4 win to tie the series at 1-1. Dang it!

The Cards Game 2 win is arguably the biggest victory for any team this postseason, especially considering the series now shifts to Busch Stadium for Games 3 & 4.

At the very least, it’s yet another example of St. Louis’ ‘never say die’ attitude that carried them past Atlanta this September and perhaps to the NLCS and beyond.

What’s more, the Cardinals have a quite confidence knowing they took the season series 6-3 vs. Philly, including a crucial mid-September set in Philadelphia, in which they won 3 of 4 and defeated both Hamels and Halladay.

A split of the first two games squarely puts the pressure on Philadelphia, who carries not only the major’s best record (102-60), but also the lofty expectations of not just reaching, but winning, the Fall Classic.

As a Cubs fan, obviously, I can’t stand the thought of St. Louis advancing to play either Milwaukee or Arizona. But given the importance of its stunning victory Sunday night, I wouldn’t bet against LaRussa’s boys to do so.

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The Happiest Man In Baseball

By bullpenbrian - July 20, 2011 - 12:15 am Leave a comment.

Another tough-luck loss for Matt Garza.

Three of his last four starts have been terrific, well deserving of a win, but the Cubs just don’t score behind him.

-7/2  – Complete game 1-0 loss vs. White Sox
-7/14 – Seven shutout innings in 6-3 loss vs. Marlins (Marmol blew save)
-7/19 – Seven innings of 1-R ball in 4-2 loss vs. Philly (Marshall blew save)

Garza is (4-7) through 18 starts. His adjusted win record is (7-5). The Cubs have blown the lead in four of his starts, including Tuesday night.

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How huge was Starlin Castro’s first inning home run?

Cliff Lee entered the game having allowed one run or less in 6 of his last 7 starts. Castro erased that with one swing of the bat!

Lee, however, quickly returned to form looking more like the guy who went (5-0) with a 0.21 ERA in June.

He fanned six Cubs, walked none and left the game after six innings having tossed 89 pitches. Another ho-hum outing for the lefty.

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Goevany Soto’s throwing error marked the Cubs’ 85th miscue this season–worst in the majors.

Philly, on the other hand, sports the top fielding percentage in the National League with just 45 errors on the season.

The Philles have committed 2 errors over its last 73.0 innings played.

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More Reed Please
Since April 12 Johnson is batting .354 with an OBP of .384.
He continues to smash left-handed pitching at a .320 clip, including two doubles and a
single on Tuesday.
Why isn’t Reed in the starting lineup more often?

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Who’s the happiest man in baseball?
Jeff Keppinger, that’s who!
The utility infielder was traded from Houston to San Fran on Tuesday.
In less than 24 hours Keppinger went from the major’s worst team to a divsion leading
one–an improvement of 25 wins!

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Trader Jack McKeon on his decision to remove reliever Randy Choate in the ninth inning of Monday’s game against the Mets with a count of 2-0 against Lucas Duda:

-I’m interested in winning,” McKeon said. “I thought that was the right move. It’s nothing personal. I just had the feeling—this is the move I have to make. And it worked.”

-“I’m trying to emphasize how to win, leave your egos at the door. That’s No. 1.”

No surprise the Marlins have played winning baseball since McKeon took over in June (15-10).

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Wire Watch

Former Cubs:
-Chad Gaudin, DFA by Washington.
-Aaron Heilman released by Arizona.

-Baltimore transferred Brian Roberts from 15-Day DL to 60-Day DL.
-Mets activated Jose Reyes from the 15-Day DL.

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NL Central Watch

First place Pirates blank Reds 1-0.
Mets beat St. Louis 4-2.
Milwaukee tops Arizona 11-3.

Pit – x
Mil – 1.0
StL – 1.5
Cin – 5.0

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Pitching Greats At Wrigley Field

By bullpenbrian - November 4, 2010 - 12:01 am 6 comments.

I was excited to be back at the United Center Wednesday night. Mainly, I was thrilled to get my first look in the flesh at Marty Brodeur.

To see one of the greats of all-time between the pipes is like seeing a Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux pitch.

Brodeur has led the Devils to three Stanley Cup championships, is a four-time Vezina Trophy winner, a two-time gold medalist and a 10-time All Star. To say he’s the best ever in goal is no stretch.

Brodeur, unfortunately, left the game in the second period with a bruised right elbow. And to make matters worse, the Hawks lost 5-3 to a New Jersey team that ranked dead last in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, I’ve been fortunate to see numerous greats pitch at Wrigley Field.  Just in the past few seasons I’ve caught Pedro, Glavine, Oswalt, Lee and Halladay. But a few others I’d like to see remain.

Here’s my list in no particular order: Johan Santana, David Price, Ubaldo Jimenez, Felix Hernandez. Who else should I add?

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Freak Show In San Francisco

By bullpenbrian - November 2, 2010 - 11:30 am 2 comments.

This wasn’t the World Series I was looking for six days ago. The two teams I  wanted were there, but the five-game series was largely dominated by San Fran.

Other than the Giants’ brilliant starting pitching, neither side played well. There was a lack of drama and the big-ticket pitching match-ups never fully materialized. Just wasn’t a very memorable Fall Classic, unfortunately.

I still believe having two teams that were not expected to be league champions is good for baseball, despite the low TV ratings.  A competitive six or seven game series would have been better, of course, better  for the fans, and yes, better for television. But for me, this series was still better than watching New York vs. Philly.

Lots of praise was heaped on Cliff Lee, and rightfully so, but Tim Lincecum  reminded us he’s an ace, too. Lee loss both his starts. ‘The Freak’ won both of his. I think most fans, including myself, thought Lee would nab at  least one victory. Lincecum’s performances, however, was the deciding factor in the series.

Tim Kirkjian said it best about the Giants: “They’re not always pretty to watch, but they win.” Curt Schilling said on ESPN that he believes “the best team always wins.” For certain, the Giants had the better pitching, and better pitching usually wins.

Looking back, I think the Giants would have toppled either New York or Tampa Bay. The Yankees pitching is on par with Texas, and the Rays’ lineup is sub-par to Texas–not that such speculation really matters.

You could see Edgar Renteria’s three-run homer coming from a mile away. Lee was looking tired having allowed back-to-back singles to Ross and Uribe, which marked the first time a Giant reached second base all game.

When Lee missed badly on his first two pitches to Renteria, you knew a strike was coming next. Renteria didn’t miss it, clubbed the winning home run and pocketed the MVP Award. I understand Lee’s mentality to go-after hitters, but the decision not to pitch around Edgar will always be questioned.

Here’s to wishing Lee doesn’t sign with the damn Yankees this offseason. He’s a good fit for the Rangers, or any team for that matter, but anywhere other New York would suite me fine. St. Louis, however, would be tough to swallow!

I’m very interested to see were the Giants turn. Do they keep their castoffs that just won the title or start moving again in a younger direction?

And after watching San Fran’s starting pitching end 56 years of frustration, remind me again why the Cubs dealt Ted Lilly?

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DVR Reveals Lee’s Woes

By bullpenbrian - October 28, 2010 - 12:01 am Leave a comment.

My Wednesday night package for the Blackhawks had me scoreboard watching Game 1 from the 300-level seats at the United Center. Hawks vs. L.A. isn’t quite Lincecum vs. Lee, but that’s the beauty of a DVR.

Couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw SF leading 8-2 in the fifth. The Giants are far from an offensive juggernaut, and this was against Cliff Lee?

The DVR, however, revealed two things we haven’t seen from Lee this postseason. One, he regularly worked deep in the count. Two, he left the ball up in the zone.

The Giants’ patience paid off by forcing Lee to throw more than 100-pitches through 4.2 innings. This was key because not all their hits were hard, but had just enough wood to knock him out early.

The long layoff in between starts didn’t appear to be in Lee’s favor, either. Which was also the case with Roy Halladay after his no-hitter.

But I’d say the chances of Lee repeating his performance from Wednesday night are slim. He’ll be back to his regular routine, and he’s simply too good not to rebound.

Winning Game 1 is always a huge victory. (Game 1 winners have won the series 61-percent of the time). But it goes without saying what kind of confidence builder this is for San Fran–defeating a once unbeatable force in Lee.

The pressure, obviously, is squarely on Texas for Game 2. The offense was there having scored seven runs, but it’s all about the pitching. No question the biggest hurdle will be recovering from Lee’s hangover.

PS – Blackhawks won 3-1!

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Cliff Lee Yankees’ Daddy

By bullpenbrian - October 19, 2010 - 12:01 am 4 comments.

I picked the winner of Game 3 to win the ALCS. Texas in the World Series…who would have thunk it?

The series, of course, is far from over, but the Rangers have been in control since the first inning of Game 1. And with Cliff Lee, Ron Washington’s bunch knows anything is possible– including toppling the mighty Yankees.

Lee just makes it look so easy out there. Poised, in control and hardly a sweat to wipe off his brow. The man’s not only dominated this postseason, but holds a career 7-0 record and 1.26 ERA in October. Unreal!

How many pitchers in baseball can do what Lee did Monday night at Yankee Stadium? Eight innings, two hits, 13 strikeouts…against NY…in October. I know this much–not many.

Lee’s been so ridiculous he’s become the first pitcher to achieve double digits in strikeouts three times in one postseason. Which means what?

It means we’re watching one of the best postseason pitchers ever. And for those who are wondering, that is possible for players not wearing a Yankees or Red Sox uniform.

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Cliff Lee Best Pitcher In Baseball

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2010 - 12:01 am 2 comments.

Clifton Phifer Lee has become my favorite lefty since Tom Glavine retired.
Probably because Lee pitches like Glavine–with grace and with his head.

Earlier this year I hailed Lee as the best pitcher in baseball.
He showed why during the ALDS against Tampa Bay:
(2-0), 1-ER in 16 innings pitched, 21 strikeouts and zero walks.
Simply ridiculous!

Hard to believe Lee was passed over on waivers when the Indians shipped him to Triple-A Buffalo in July of 2007. Granted he was (5-8) with an unsightly 6.38 ERA at the time, but just a year later he would rebound to win the AL Cy Young Award going (22-8) with a 2.54 ERA.

Then try and wrap your brain around the Indians trading Lee to Philadelphia, who in turn dealt him to Seattle, who then made a joke of it by dealing Lee to Texas. And this is how the league treats its best starting pitcher in the game!

But that’s what I love most about Lee, his desire to succeed is stronger than his left arm. He’s handled the negatives, the trades and the pressure with absolute poise. He’s delivered at every stop, made every team he’s on better and dominated opponents throughout.

The only way it gets better from here is if Lee leads the Rangers past New York.  And I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he does.

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Who’s The Best Pitcher In Baseball?

By bullpenbrian - June 24, 2010 - 12:33 am 2 comments.

Cliff Lee is plain sick.

The 31-year-old spun his second consecutive complete game, beating the Cubs 8-1, while lowering his ERA to an AL best 2.39. His four complete games this season leads the AL.

Lee has not walked a single batter in his last four starts. He’s issued just four free passes all year. His strikeout to walk ratio–a remarkable 19:1. Unheard of!

To put that in perspective, Brett Saberhagen remains the lone starter since 1901 to complete an entire season with a double-digit ratio in that figure. Lee, however, is well on his way to becoming the second.

Despite suffering three losses in 11 outings, Lee has a 2.70 ERA in those defeats, limiting the damage to nine earned runs in 30 innings pitched. Again, just sick.

There’s a case Lee’s the best pitcher in baseball! And whoever get this guy via trade–and he will be traded–becomes an immediate threat to advance to the World Series. The best starting pitcher in baseball traded three times in three years–what’s next?

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Cliff Lee Yankees’ Daddy

By bullpenbrian - October 29, 2009 - 12:30 am Leave a comment.

Cliff Lee is the Yankees’ daddy.

The southpaw was simply spectacular in Game 1: nine innings, 122 pitches -80 for strikes- and just 32 batters faced, a mere five more than the minimum 27.

Lee’s been a Yankees killer throughout his career, too. The Bombers entered the game batting a meek .197 all-time against the left-hander, and it showed Wednesday night.

The lone Yankee exception is Derek Jeter who’s found some measure of career success against Lee batting 11-for-27 entering Game 1 of the World Series.

Jeter, in fact, improved on his mark with three hits, two singles and a double, not that it mattered much on the scoreboard.

It’s likely Lee gets two more starts in the series. And if the Yanks can’t figure Lee out in at least one of those starts, Philadelphia repeats as world champions with Lee earning the series MVP Award.

Who’s your daddy now New York!

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Cubs Season Slipping Away

By bullpenbrian - August 14, 2009 - 1:47 am 2 comments.

Philadelphiacubs

You can just feel the playoffs slipping away.

The Cards lead the Central by 4.5 games with less than 50 games to play.

And while I sat in section 209 watching Cliff Lee and the Fightin’ Phils complete a convincing three-game sweep of the Cubs, I thought about a scene from the movie Cast Away.

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