Tag Archives: 2011 baseball

Milwaukee Brewers Clinch The NL Central

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers won a game, then clinched their place in the postseason, too. Sound familiar?

It was 2008 all over again on an exhilarating Friday night at Miller Park, down to the eighth-inning, hysteria-inducing Ryan Braun home run and the tense moments that followed while the Brewers’ postseason fate was sealed hundreds of miles away.

A 4-1 win over the Marlins pushed the Brewers to the verge of the National League Central crown and turned Miller Park into a northern outpost of Wrigleyville. With Milwaukee’s magic number down to one, a sold-out crowd of 44,584 turned its attention to the scoreboard and watched the Cubs rally for a 5-1 win over the Cardinals.

With that, Milwaukee’s postseason ticket was punched.

With that, pandemonium.

“In 2008, when we went to the postseason for the first time in 26 years, you really realized how special it was to everybody in this city and this state,” Braun said. “Winning the division this time makes it that much more meaningful. This is what we set out to do from the beginning of the year.”

Back in ’08, they won the NL Wild Card on the final day of the season at Miller Park. Midseason acquisition CC Sabathia supplied the pitching gem. Braun snapped a 1-1 tie with a two-run homer in the eighth inning. Everybody — players, fans alike — watched on the scoreboard as the Marlins beat the Mets to seal Milwaukee’s spot in October.

Three years later, the similarities were striking down to the involvement of the Cubs and Marlins. Yovani Gallardo was the starting pitcher this time, working into the eighth inning. A July acquisition (Francisco Rodriguez) earned the win. Braun again snapped a 1-1 tie, this time with a two-out, three-run homer off Marlins reliever Clay Hensley that clanked off the scoreboard in center field.

Then, the wait through the final outs of Cubs-Cardinals. Then, a celebration that began in the clubhouse and worked back onto the field, where the stands remained full of fans.

“I told Corey [Hart] in the first inning, ‘This feels like ’08,'” Braun said. “The anxiety, the excitement from the fans. You could just tell they were waiting for an opportunity to go crazy.”

They went crazy after the Brewers won their division for only the second time in franchise history and the first time since 1982. For only the fourth time in 43 years of existence, the Brewers are bound for the postseason.

Gallardo scattered seven Marlins hits — four of them doubles — but allowed only one run in 7 1/3 innings thanks to 11 strikeouts on a record-setting night. He became the first Brewers pitcher to strike out 10 or more batters in three consecutive starts, with 12 whiffs against the Phillies on Sept. 11 and 13 more against the Reds on Saturday. He topped the 200-strikeout plateau for the third straight season, another club record. Of the seven 200-strikeout seasons in Brewers history, Gallardo owns three of them.

He conjured Sabathia on Friday night.

“You know, one of the things I learned from him, no matter what the situation is, he’d just stay relaxed and go out there and pitch his game,” Gallardo said. “That’s what I tried to do here tonight.”

Prince Fielder’s towering home run in the second inning and Marlins center fielder Bryan Petersen’s bloop single in the fourth accounted for the game’s only runs into the eighth inning, when an error charged to Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks gave the Marlins runners at first and second base with one out.

Enter Rodriguez, who struck out Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison with 10 tension-filled pitches, pumping his fist into his glove and pointing to the crowd as he worked his way back to the dugout.

“I have no words to describe it, the intensity, the adrenaline that I had when I was walking from the bullpen,” Rodriguez said. “Once I crossed that door, I knew I had to go for two strikeouts. I cannot let them get the opportunity to put the ball in play. That was my mentality.”

The Brewers rallied moments later. After Corey Hart doubled and Nyjer Morgan walked, Braun, 0-for-3 in the game and with only one hit in his last 16 at-bats, connected with a slider from right-hander Hensley and sent it to straightaway center field.

“That’s the difference,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “That’s the pros. That’s what you like to find, the guys who put the good numbers up, but they knock the runs in. Look at Fielder and Braun, more than 100 RBIs. That’s tough back to back, pick your poison.”

With the crowd roaring and a new Cubs-Cardinals score posted on the out-of-town scoreboard — a 1-1 tie had turned into a 4-1 Cubs lead — Brewers closer John Axford pitched the ninth inning. His 44th save tied Francisco Cordero’s franchise record.

Braun also made the game’s defining defensive play, a diving catch in the fifth inning to rob Omar Infante of a hit. Braun jumped up and fired to first base to complete an inning-ending double play.

“At first, I didn’t [think he would get to the ball],” Gallardo said. “But he made an awesome play. He did a great job. And then coming back and hitting that home run, that’s the kind of night he had.”

How did it feel to be the hero?

“It’s not my night; it’s our night,” Braun said. “It feels amazing. It’s something we’ve all done together. You just recognize it, embrace it and realize how hard it is to get to this position.”

Texas Rangers Capture The AL West Crown

ARLINGTON — A fabulous September has brought the Rangers their second consecutive American League West title.

After a 5-3 victory over the Mariners at the Ballpark in Arlington on Friday night, the Rangers ran their record to 14-6 for the month. The Angels’ loss to the A’s in Anaheim ensured the division title.

“We’re playing our best baseball right now,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said. “That’s what you’re looking for at the end of the season and that’s what we’re looking for going into the postseason. We wanted to get everything on track — defense, situational hitting, pitching — and that’s what we’re doing.”

The Rangers were 16-14 in their final 30 regular-season games last year.

“Last year we had a bunch of guys who had never experienced postseason before,” outfielder David Murphy said. “We could taste it and we were pressing in September. This month is different. Our experience is really helping. We haven’t thought ahead, we’ve stayed focused on taking care of business each day.”

The Rangers did so on Friday night with the division title within reach. Three home runs — including an inside-the-park shot by Craig Gentry — gave them a 5-0 lead after four innings. That was also Gentry’s first Major League home run.

Rangers starter Matt Harrison went six innings to earn his 14th win. Harrison had a one-hit shutout going into the sixth before the Mariners scored three runs off him. Manager Ron Washington went to the bullpen in the seventh with the combination of Darren Oliver, Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz locking down the victory.

“He was really good,” Washington said of Harrison. “He just lost his command a little bit. But he got us out of the sixth inning and the bullpen did the rest.”

“I was just trying to go out there and keep making pitches, and keep making them swing the bat, and try to keep them off the bases by not giving them any free passes,” Harrison said. “I had some stuff working early in the game, and then I ran into trouble in the sixth. I felt pretty good until then.”

Adrian Beltre gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a two-run home run. He has hit home runs in eight of his last 12 games. He also has 19 RBIs in his last 13 games, giving him 100 on the season. Josh Hamilton’s 25th home run made it 3-0 in the third.

Gentry came up in the fourth with one out and Nelson Cruz on first. He hit a line drive to left-center where both left fielder Mike Carp and center fielder Trayvon Robinson left their feet trying to make a catch. Both missed and the ball rolled to the wall. By the time Robinson recovered, Gentry was on his way around the bases.

“He hit one in the perfect spot,” Washington said. “He split the outfielders and did the rest with his legs. I think he slowed down a little bit so he wouldn’t pass Cruz.”

“That was just a tough play,” Robinson said. “We did exactly what we were supposed to do, just attack the ball. We just thought we could both get it, without any communication. Thank God we didn’t collide with each other or we probably wouldn’t be talking right now.”

Cruz, who is recovering from a strained left hamstring, had to stop at second to make sure the ball wasn’t caught. But he was able to get around the bases in plenty of time ahead of Gentry.

“I knew I couldn’t round first real hard because I didn’t want to run up on him,” Gentry said. “Luckily, they weren’t able to catch it. I stopped around first because I didn’t know if he was going to make it around second. Once I hit second base, I knew they were going to send me, so I tried to kick it into gear after then.

“I came in and asked, ‘That was a home run, right?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘I need that ball, that’s my first one.’ So [Washington] ran out there and got it for me. Yeah, that was special for me.”

Arizona Diamondbacks Take NL West Title

PHOENIX — For the fifth time in franchise history, the Arizona Diamondbacks are National League West champions.

The D-backs completed the worst-to-first transformation with a 3-1 win over the defending World Series champion Giants on Friday night at Chase Field.

The win was emblematic of the way the season has gone for the D-backs, who also won division titles in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2007. They got solid starting pitching, started slow offensively and rallied late to turn a lead over to the back end of the bullpen.

“That pretty much sums up our year right there,” said J.J. Putz, who closed out the game for his 44th save of the year.

It was Arizona’s Major League-leading 46th comeback win.

The hero this time was Paul Goldschmidt, whose two-out triple to right off Sergio Romo in the eighth scored Ryan Roberts and Justin Upton.

“A lot of come-from-behind wins — they never give up,” D-backs GM Kevin Towers said. “We’re dangerous late. We kind of lull them to sleep early, and late in the game the bats come out. It’s just exciting. Goldschmidt, who spent half of the season in [Double-A] Mobile, to come up with the big hit like that against arguably one of the greatest right-handed sliders there is in the game is pretty incredible.”

That the D-backs are division champions is also pretty remarkable given the fact that they lost 92 and 97 games over the past two seasons and did not look like a juggernaut this spring.

“Tonight,” D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick said when asked when he finally believed his team would win the division. “I’m realistic and I really felt like this year was a year to restore the franchise and that we could do that, but this is more than I imagined, so I’m very proud of them.”

Roberts led off the eighth with a double to left-center on a ball that just ticked off the glove of a diving Justin Christian, and after Aaron Hill sacrificed Roberts to third, the Giants intentionally walked Upton.

San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy then brought in lefty Javier Lopez to face Miguel Montero, and he got him to pop out to shallow center.

Romo came on to face Goldschmidt. After falling behind 0-2, Goldschmidt took a pitch for a ball before lacing a liner down the right-field line.

“We bring a guy from Double-A up here that gets the big hit to clinch it,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. “That’s significant because that’s how important it is to have an organization on the same page.”

The Giants got on the board first when Orlando Cabrera led off the fifth inning with a homer to left field.

For a time, it seemed like Matt Cain would make that hold up as the Giants starter handcuffed the D-backs through the first six innings.

Finally in the seventh, the D-backs were able to break through.

Goldschmidt drew a one-out walk and came around to score when Chris Young followed with a double to left-center.

The D-backs could do no further damage in the frame, however, as Cain was able to retire John McDonald and pinch-hitter Geoff Blum after issuing an intentional walk to Gerardo Parra.

“They’re a team that really does play to the end,” Cain said. “They find different guys every night to sparkplug the offense. They carry that little bit of swagger through the game, and I think that’s been beneficial for those guys.”

Several Giants stayed in the dugout after the game to watch the D-backs celebrate on the field. Romo, however, was not one of them.

“I didn’t want to see that reminder that I didn’t make the pitch I needed to make,” he said.

Joe Saunders didn’t get the win, but the D-backs left-hander had another quality outing, allowing just the one run over his seven innings of work.

“They’re a quality ballclub and I knew Matt Cain was going to come out and do his stuff,” Saunders said. “In order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, so we did that tonight. Hats off to them, they’re an amazing club and it just goes to show you how good we are and how good we can be.”

Philadelphia Phillies Clinch 5th Straight NL East Title

Philadelphia Phillies Clinch 5th Straight NL East Title

By ROB MAADDI, AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Hunter Pence clutched a bottle of champagne and jumped around like an excited child opening Christmas presents.

The Philadelphia Phillies won another division crown, and Pence is along for his first postseason ride.

Roy Oswalt threw seven dominant innings, Raul Ibanez hit a grand slam and the Phillies clinched their fifth straight NL East title with a 9-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.

“I’ve waited for this moment a long time,” said Pence, the All-Star outfielder who joined Philadelphia in a trade from last-place Houston on July 29.

“It’s incredible, and I’m enjoying the moment. We’ve got a lot of work to do still. The expectation is to win the World Series, but this is one of the steps you gotta make, and to me it’s my first time, so this is great.”

In a season where nothing less than a World Series championship would be considered a success, there wasn’t much of a party on the field. The Phillies had a been-there, done-that attitude toward winning the division last year, and this time was no different.

Players ran onto the diamond a bit faster than usual, but they simply exchanged handshakes, hugs and high-fives as if this was an ordinary game in April. They did at least put on shirts and hats proclaiming themselves division champs.

The fans didn’t even scream all that loud, even when the Phillie Phanatic ran on the field with a big flag that said 2011.

Once they reached the clubhouse, however, the Phillies popped open the bubbly and celebrated their achievement.

“I’m excited for a guy like Hunter who has never been here before,” Chase Utley said. “It’s a long season and you never know what’s going to happen.”

With the Four Aces leading the way, the Phillies are seeking their third NL pennant in four years and second World Series title.

They’ve taken care of the first step. Now they’ll use the 12 remaining games to get ready for the postseason. It’s still uncertain who the Phillies will face in the best-of-five first round when the NL playoffs begin Oct. 1.

“This is the first step,” slugger Ryan Howard told the crowd that remained after the game. “We’re gonna try to go all the way and we’ll need you guys.”

The major league-leading Phillies (98-52) are four wins away from setting a single-season club record.

None of those accomplishments will matter if they don’t finish the season with a championship parade on Broad Street.

“It’s an extraordinary effort,” team president David Montgomery said. “Clearly, it’s a team that has its priorities in order.”

Mike Stanton Belts His 30th Home Run Of The Season!!!

Mike Stanton Belts His 30th Home Run Of The Season!!!

During Sunday afternoons 4-3 loss to the San Diego Padres, Mike Stanton hit a home run that ultimately meant little to the outcome of the game.

But, as a Marlins’ fan who still tries to find reasons to watch the team play while they are playing for nothing, I enjoy watching Stanton hit – especially when he makes contact!!!

Home Run #30 is in the books.  Let’s see what else the kid can do…

Not too shabby for a guy that is just 21 years old…

Atta Boy Mike!!!

Mike Stanton’s Grand Slam In The 10th Innings Catapults The Marlins To A Win Over The Mets!!!

Mike Stanton’s Grand Slam In The 10th Innings Catapults The Marlins To A Win Over The Mets!!!

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

What a great end to a game that should never had reach the tenth inning.

Thank you Mike for ensuring that the team that deserved the ‘W’ got the ‘W’!!!

GO FISH!!!!

Marlins Move Josh Johnson To The 60-Day DL

Marlins Move Josh Johnson To The 60-Day DL

By Joe Capozzi

 

PHILADELPHIA — Not long ago, Josh Johnson was one of the best pitchers in baseball and the Marlins were the National League wild-card leaders.

But Johnson hasn’t pitched in a month because of a shoulder injury and the Marlins are reeling through one of the worst stretches in franchise history – 8-19 since their ace got hurt.

The latest loss, 8-1 to the Philadelphia Phillies, came in the first game of a doubleheader Wednesday and dropped the Marlins to 1-13 in their past 14 games, the first time since 1999 that Florida had lost 13 games during a 14-game stretch. The 1998 team that finished with 108 losses had the only other two 1-13 stretches in franchise history.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez said he thinks Johnson’s absence has played a psychological role in the team’s skid because Marlins players initially thought the two-time All Star’s absence would be brief.

“First, it was two weeks. Pretty much everybody was like, ‘OK, two weeks. Maybe we can handle that as a team.’ But now it’s getting longer,’ Rodriguez said. “I can see the players feeling that loss. They have to pass that. They have to grow through that.”

Because his recovery has been slower than expected, the Marlins have been reluctant to predict a target date for Johnson’s return. But Rodriguez on Wednesday gave his most optimistic outlook: July 16, the day Johnson is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list.

Johnson was transferred to the 60-day DL late Tuesday to make a roster spot for right-hander Elih Villanueva, who was called up from Class AA New Orleans and allowed eight runs in three innings Wednesday in the first game of the doubleheader.

Villanueva was optioned back to New Orleans after the game and replaced by veteran infielder Jose Lopez, who was called up from New Orleans to start at third base in the second game.

Johnson, who last started a month ago Thursday, still hasn’t thrown off the mound yet. But Rodriguez said the team believes Johnson will be completely healthy a few days before he’s eligible to come off the disabled list on July 16. The Marlins are in Chicago that day for a series against the Cubs.

“He’s going to be ready to go before the 60 days. But why not? Let’s wait the 60 days and make sure he’s 100 percent,” Rodriguez said.

That means Johnson – who posted a league-best 0.88 ERA in six starts in April – will have missed two months of the season. Meanwhile, the rest of the Marlins’ staff hasn’t exactly stepped up in his absence.

In their past three games, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad and Villanueva have combined to allow 24 runs in 11 2/3 innings.

Florida has two starting pitchers with the worst ERAs in the National League – Javier Vazquez (7.09) and Volstad (6.07). The team entered Wednesday with an NL-worst 5.16 ERA for June.

“By the third or fourth inning, when you’re down by seven, eight runs, it’s hard to stay focused in the game,’ Rodriguez said.

“We need consistency on the mound. Other than Anibal Sanchez, we haven’t got that. We need a starter to keep us in the game because we haven’t showed offensively that we’re going to blow (teams) away.’

This isn’t the first injury for Johnson, who will need at least two rehab starts before he’s ready. Last season, he had back and shoulder issues that ended his season a month early. He also underwent reconstructive elbow surgery on Aug. 3, 2007.

“That’s one of the things he needs to work on – try to stay healthy,’ Rodriguez said. “Sometimes it’s out of his control. If you point out anybody in the clubhouse who’s a hard worker and tries to keep himself in good shape, that’s J.J.’

Marlins’ Josh Johnson Placed On DL With Shoulder Inflammation

Marlins’ Josh Johnson Placed On DL With Shoulder Inflammation

Terrible news for Marlins’ fans; Great news for the National League East…

MIAMI (AP)—Once Josh Johnson(notes) fessed up that his throwing shoulder hurt, he felt better.

Now the Florida Marlins ace hopes a stint on the disabled list will allow him to quickly heal. Inflammation in Johnson’s right shoulder sent him to the DL on Saturday.

Although Johnson is tied for the major league lead with a 1.64 ERA, the back of his shoulder has bothered him all season. He didn’t tell the Marlins about the extent of the soreness and stiffness until Thursday after a bullpen session.

“It took everything I had to go and say something,” he said. “Once I did, it was something lifted off my shoulders. Let’s get it right and get it back to feeling like it did at the beginning of the season.”

The move is retroactive to Tuesday, meaning Johnson might only miss two starts. The Marlins hope he’ll be able to pitch the first day he’s eligible to come off the DL, which would be June 1 at Arizona.

Johnson’s not sure he’ll hit that target date.

“I’m hoping,” he said. “You never know with this kind of stuff. You’ve got to get all the inflammation out of there. From there it should be fine.”

Right-hander Jay Buente(notes) was selected from Triple-A New Orleans and will start Sunday against Tampa Bay for Johnson.

“He’s impossible to replace,” Buente said. “I’ll just go out and be the pitcher I’ve been up to this point.”

Buente was converted to a starter this season at New Orleans, where he went 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 10 games, including five starts.

Because of poor run support, Johnson is only 3-1 in nine starts, but opponents are batting .185 against him, lowest in the NL. Last year Johnson went 11-6, made the All-Star team for the second consecutive time and led the NL with an ERA of 2.30.

Rays manager Joe Maddon was sorry to learn about Johnson’s injury.

“People might think I’m nuts, but I really would have liked to see him pitch Sunday,” Maddon said. “I like the idea of facing the best. You see how you stack up. Hopefully we’ll get him next time.”

The DL stint is the first for Johnson since he underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in 2008, but he was shut out down for the final three weeks of last season because of an ailing back and shoulder.

His current shoulder discomfort is less severe than last season, he said.

“In September I was sore without even throwing,” he said. “Now I don’t feel it until I start throwing. It was something I could throw through, but now is not the time to throw through it.”

The velocity of Johnson’s fastball was down at least 2 to 3 mph in his most recent start Monday against the New York Mets, but he blamed cool, rainy weather. He took a line drive off his right forearm in that game and was pulled as a precaution after five innings, but his forearm was fine the next day.

Manager Edwin Rodriguez said the Marlins’ medical staff is confident Johnson’s shoulder will quickly mend.

Pay Attention Baseball Fans – Mike Stanton Has Hit 5 Home Runs In His Last 7 Games!!!

Pay Attention Baseball Fans – Mike Stanton Has Hit 5 Home Runs In His Last 7 Games!!!

Simply stated, Mike Stanton is in the zone right now.  When he makes contact, he is hammering the ball. 

GO FISH!!!

Josh Johnson VS Roy Halladay Tonight. I Cannot Wait!!!

Josh Johnson VS Roy Halladay Tonight.  I Cannot Wait!!!

It’s not very often when two of the best pitchers in the sport battle one another.

Even more, it’s even less rare when the two teams competing are battling for first place within the same division.

And even more than that, it is uber-rare when said pitchers are your two most favorite hurlers in the entire sport.

Am I looking forward to the game tonight between the Marlins and the Phillies?

You bet your ass I am!!!

GO FISH!!!