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Sacrifice [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Aug 18th, 2010 by Dan

My friends have been talking about sacrifice and I’m feeling out of the loop. Today I’m gonna talk about sacrifice too.

The sacrifice hit and the sacrifice bunt.

IMGP4061 Conor Jackson Sacrifice bunt - Arizona Diamondbacks

These two stats are among my favorite because they represent something rarely seen in modern American baseball today: small ball. Today’s MLB player is much more concerned with blasting a home run than bringing in a run with a well-placed pop up. MLB pitchers focus more on their devastating fastball than being able to drop a simple bunt on a given day. It’s atrocious.

Sabrematricians will tell you (probably correctly, I haven’t run the math) that the sac bunt or sac hit is more statistically damaging than worthwhile. The probability of scoring, according to them, is not significantly increased enough by exchanging an out for a base. It’s now “Common Baseball Knowledge” that you shouldn’t play like this, yet you still see successful managers, like Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays, make great use of this antiquated play. In fact, that’s probably why it’s so useful.

Consider the state of the modern third baseman before the slight shift back into defense in baseball. His job was to be big, burly, a slightly better defender than the first baseman, and to hit home runs. The hits he gave up being bad at his job would be made up for with his bat. As the league accepted this as truth and third basemen became less defensively sound, the field of play was ripe for someone like Joe Maddon to exploit it. More bunts down the third base line mean more chances for the sac bunt to turn into a bunt hit instead because the third baseman is not a good defender, see what I mean?

Beyond the power of the sac play in today’s baseball, I’d also like to touch upon the feel-good nature of the sac hit or bunt. It’s not glamorous, but it’s one of the few moments in life you’ll have where you are rewarded for a good deed. See, in a sacrifice play you’re giving up your at bat to do what’s best for the team. You earn an out to move a runner. If you were strict about your statistics measuring, that would drop your batting average each time you did it. However, because baseball is a feel good sport, the sac hitter does not have an at bat counted against him and just gets an increase to his sac count. Happiness all around.

Fredi’s Gone: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
Jun 24th, 2010 by Dan

037

A lot of this happened last night.

Florida inexplicably went and replaced their manager, Fredi Gonzalez, yesterday and Edwin Rodriguez stepped in as interim manager. I still don’t understand why this happened, but I guess we’ll have a new manager next year.

23 June

NPB
Hanshin Tigers (9) at Hiroshima Carp (4). I was really hoping that Hiroshima would have a better showing coming off of some relatively solid interleague play. He’s on the wrong team, but Toritani had himself quite the night (4 H, 2 RBI). Go Toritani! The Carp record drops to 26-37-2, still in fourth.

Saitama Seibu Lions (8) at Rakuten Eagles (10). Remember when Rakuten had no offense to speak of? They’re lucky to have won this considering that Darrell Rasner only went 3.2 innings and gave up five. The Golden Eagles are now 31-35-1 and they’re closing in on fourth.

MLB
Kansas City Royals (1) at Washington Nationals (0). I hope Strasburg doesn’t end up one of those pitchers who never gets any run support from his team. Washington has been seriously struggling offensively of late, so I’m not too surprised, but it’s a waste of a quality start. Strasburg K-Kount (see what I did there?) is up to 41. The Nationals record is down to 33-40.

Florida Marlins (7) at Baltimore Orioles (5). Even though their winningest manager in franchise history was fired, the Marlins were still able to show up, offensively, and dominate the birds. Gaby Sanchez has been quietly making a case for Rookie of the Year with his offense while Chris Coghlan is definitely back to his old self, hitting 0.317 since his season low of 0.146 in April. That’s good enough to put his average at 0.280 now. The Marlins record improves to 35-36 while Baltimore drops to 19-52.

San Diego Padres (5) at Tampa Bay Rays (4). So frustrating. They’re still tied for second, but Shields’ loss to San Diego extends their losing streak to three. Maddon needs to sit down with his players, hash this out, and get them back on course, pronto. The Rays are now 42-29 on the season.

Late Inning Heroics: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter + Strasburg Start [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jun 2nd, 2010 by Dan

Peanuts!

Three of my teams managed to notch wins in the final innings of their respective games. It takes a lot of luck and skill to take a game in the 9th. Bravo, teams.

1 June

NPB
Hiroshima Carp (5) at Nippon-Ham Fighters (4). Eishin Soyogi gets the walk-off RBI single in the 9th to push the Carp ahead while Ryuji Yokoyama holds on for the save. Hiroshima’s record rises to 21-31-0 after the tilt.

Hanshin Tigers (2) at Rakuten Eagles (3). TEPPEI! Ok, so his cheer isn’t really conveyed with that text, but Teppei Tsuchiya made himself known with a single up the middle to win the game in the bottom of the 9th. Rakuten’s record improves to 25-28-1, tying them for fourth.

MLB
Baltimore Orioles (1) at New York Yankees (3). Last night was Baltimore’s big chance. The starters get harder from here. Tough break for Brian Matusz whose rookie season is not going how he anticipated it would. Baltimore drops to 15-37.

Tampa Bay Rays (7) at Toronto Blue Jays (6). Former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg blows the save in the 9th, allowing the Rays to pull ahead in a dramatic fashion thanks to a Sean Rodriguez bases-loaded double. This wild game also got Joe Maddon and Kevin Gregg ejected in the 9th. It was a fun one to watch. Tampa’s record improves to 25-18, putting them only 2.5 ahead of those accursed Yankees.

Milwaukee Brewers (4) at Florida Marlins (6). Nolasco has another night where he’s not super sharp, but the bats that awoke last night remain clubbing. Cogz (Chris Coghlan) managed three hits last night, including a home run, which is so reassuring to those of us who were worried about his huge slump. Sure, .237 isn’t .321, but there’s a lot of season left. Florida’s record improves to 27-26, good for third. When did the Phillies drop to second?

Washington Nationals (7) at Houston Astros (8). You can’t lose to Houston if you want to compete, Nats. Storen is still a little wild, Capps blows another save, and the Nats just can’t hold on in this wild one. Their record falls to 26-27 in last.

Stephen Strasburg

With that out of the way, the Nationals have finally announced the official first start of rookie Stephen Strasburg. He will get his first chance to strut his stuff on 8 June against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a home game that shouldn’t provide too much of a challenge. I’m gonna try to get tickets myself, but we’ll see if I can afford them.

Mike Stanton

In other prospect news, the Marlins are very close to calling up Mike Stanton, who has already hit 20 homers in the minors this year. Where he will go is anyone’s guess, but it’ll have to be Coghlan, Maybin, or Ross who is replaced.

Mar27/2009 CLE@SF  Buster Posey

San Francisco also finally called up Buster Posey whose bat presence will help the offensively struggling team. Will it help to propel them past the Friars? We shall see.

Frustration: The Weekend’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 3rd, 2010 by Dan

It's Blooper!

I did a search for "blooper" in Flickr to express my frustration and this unexpectedly came up. Not what I had in mind, but it relieves some of the stress.

My PS3 decided to stop reading discs correctly for the second time in its lifespan, temporarily halting my video game NPB season with the Carp just about to widen the gap between third and fourth by beating the Swallows. Hopefully I get the system back before next week, but it’s leaving me at a loss for stuff to play this week. Looks like L4D2 and Sam & Max will be getting my attention.

30 April

NPB
Chunichi Dragons (0) at Hiroshima Carp (9). Nothing like a solid, blowout, shutout win to get the weekend started.

Orix Buffaloes (1) at Rakuten Eagles (2). Winning the close ones is key. Rakuten’s weekend rotation is among the strongest in the NPB, so it’s nice to see them get wins.

MLB
Boston Red Sox (4) at Baltimore Orioles (5). The only thing better than the Sox losing to the Orioles in a game is being there in person to witness it (which I was).

Washington Nationals (7) at Florida Marlins (1). What happened Ricky?

Kansas City Royals (3) at Tampa Bay Rays (2). Probably the only time all year KC’s bullpen will outduel anyone. There’s a reason Maddon is riding the starters hard in Tampa. Still, it was a strong effort by Jeff Niemann, yet again.

1 May

NPB
Dragons (12) at Carp (6). Chunichi gives back as hard as it took.

Buffaloes (1) at Eagles (2). Two nights in a row!

MLB
Royals (4) at Rays (2). Another late inning loss despite solid pitching by David Price.

Red Sox (9) at Orioles (12). Daisuke Matsuzaka’s first start back doesn’t go quite like he hoped, giving up six earned (seven total).

Nationals (1) at Marlins (7). This is what I like to see. Way to go Volstad, who throws a complete game gem against the Nats and finally gets his stuff together this season.

2 May

NPB
Buffaloes (2) at Eagles (3). Whoa! Series sweep! This puts the Eagles tied for fourth with their 15-19-0 record!

Dragons (3) at Carp (4). Hiroshima takes the rubber game and holds on for the series win. 13-18-0 has them a game behind Yokohama and half a game up on the Swallows.

MLB
Nationals (3) at Marlins (9). Another solid win for Josh Johnson who was not as sharp as last time, but sharp enough. Both Florida and Washington end their weekend at 13-12, tied for third, 1.5 back from first.

Red Sox (2) at Orioles (3). Another sweep for the weekend. These three wins put Baltimore at 7-18. They’re still in last, but now they’re only 9.5 games back.

Royals (0) at Rays (1). An old fashioned pitching duel between Greinke and Davis ends with Wade on top. The Rays go into this week still in first with an 18-7 record and a 1.5 game lead.

The 2009 MLB All-Star Game [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jul 14th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

It’s that time of year again, the MLB All-Star game is upon us! Last night was the Home Run Derby and, despite being in his team’s stadium, Albert Pujols did not quite manage to make it to the third round. Instead the final competition was between Prince Fielder, of the Milwaukee Brewers, and Nelson Cruz, of the Texas Rangers. In the end, Fielder took it and even bashed in a homer over 500 feet.

So begins the liveblogging event of the year! I’ll be making updates through the evening and night.

Time: 1929

I’m really loving the MLB Network coverage of the All-Star game. The network is in its first year and it shows in their broadcast. There are some boom microphone errors and sound issues at times, even a video error or two, but they are enthusiastic about their presentation and having so much fun that it’s just too fun to watch. I hope that the channel sticks around for the long run.

1938

There have already been some great commercials. Pepsi has one of those “Forever Young” commercials with baseball that I’m a fan of and State Farm has a great commercial featuring MLB gear. My favorite part there is when the Cubs baby is being friendly with the Cardinals baby and the parent of the Cardinals baby turns their kid away.

Get the Braves dog! Chase him away!

2001

A lot is being made of St. Louis being the greatest baseball city because the fans are so knowledgeable. I think this is great, but St. Louis felt so abandoned the last time I was there. They have such a rich NL history, between their World Series wins, the legacy of Branch Rickey, Bob Gibson, and, more recently, Albert Pujols.

I hope the game starts soon so I don’t have to keep waxing poetic. Obama’s gonna throw the opening pitch!

They’re showing footage of Obama in the locker room. So cool. He’s just shooting the breeze with these players and some are pretty awestruck. The expression on Ichiro’s face as he has Obama autograph a baseball for him is great.

2008

Introducing the teams now (minus the starting 9 for both teams).

The AL

Trey Hillman
Don Wakamatsu

Adam Jones
Josh Beckett
Kevin Youkilis
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon
Mark Buerhle
Victor Martinez
Brandon Inge
Curtis Granderson
Justin Verlander
Edwin Jackson
Zack Greinke
Chone Figgins
Brian Fuentes
Justin Morneau
Joe Nathan
Mariano Rivera
Andrew Bailey
Felix Hernandez
Evan Longoria
Jason Bartlett
Carl Crawford
Ben Zobrist
Carlos Peña
Nelson Cruz

NL

Joe Torre
Tony La Russa

Justin Upton
Dan Haren
Ted Lily (boos? I thought these guys were nice)
Francisco Cordero
Brad Hawpe
Jason Marquis
Josh Johnson
Hunter Pence
Miguel Tejada
Orlando Hudson
Jonathan Broxton
Chad Billingsley
Prince Fielder
Trevor Hoffman
Johan Santana
Francisco Rodriguez
Ryan Howard
Jayson Werth
Freddy Sanchez
Zack Duke
Ryan Franklin
Heath Bell
Adrian Gonzalez
Matt Cain
Ryan Zimmerman

AL Manager and starting lineup:

Joe Maddon (Manager, Rays)

1. Ichiro Suzuki (RF, Mariners)
2. Derek Jeter (SS, Yankees)
3. Joe Mauer (C, Twins)
4. Mark Teixiera (1B, Yankees)
5. Jason Bay (LF, Red Sox)
6. Josh Hamilton (CF, Rangers)
7. Michael Young (3B, Rangers) – should have been Longoria =*[
8. Aaron Hill (2B, Blue Jays)
9. Roy Halladay (P, Blue Jays)

NL Manager and starting lineup:

Charlie Manuel (Manager, Phillies)

1. Hanley Ramirez (SS, Marlins) – GO HANLEY!
2. Chase Utley (2B, Phillies)
3. Albert Pujols (1B, Cardinals) – huge cheers, gigantic Pujols smiles, hat comes off like a curtain call
4. Ryan Braun (RF, Brewers)
5. Raul Ibañez (LF, Phillies)
6. David Wright (3B, Mets)
7. Shane Victorino (CF, Phillies)
8. Yadier Molina (C, Cardinals) – big applause
9.Tim Lincecum (P, Giants) – I love this guy!

They went and mowed the arch and a famous St. Louis building into the lawn. It looks very nice.

2021

5 presidents giving a speech.

Obama, Bush, Bush, Carter, and Clinton.

These speeches are pretty standard political and feel good stuff. Not too bad, nothing too special.

2031

Sheryl Crow sings the anthem. She’s from Missouri. She does a good job! There’s a flyover, as you’d expect.

Stan Musial and Obama are due out next. Pujols is due to catch the first pitch.

Thanks for spoiling the end of the House season FOX. Why are you advertising for September in July?

2037

Stan the Man comes in from RF on a cart carrying the baseball for the first pitch.

88-years-old. Man, we’re lucky this guy is still alive.

It looks like the players are all wearing their team’s actual uniforms. I like that. It shows where they’re from compared to just a league shirt.

Obama comes onto the field in a White Sox jacket to mixed reaction. There are definitely boos mixed in there.

Doesn’t matter, he throws a great strike to the plate, maybe a little low. After the pitch the cheers FAR outweigh the boos.

2044

Some of you readers don’t ever watch commercials anymore, but I, strangely, kind of like them. I inexplicably love the rollover minute AT&T commercials.

Top of the 1st – 2047

The NL takes the field! Lincecum’s last outing in Busch Stadium was a shutout. Wow, Lincecum only weighs like 167 lbs.

Busch Stadium has some cool little Cardinal friezes on the trim. Obama likes Maddon’s glasses. He asked Wakefield how to throw a knuckleball and, when asked if he had a good curveball, he said “If I did, I wouldn’t have run for president.”

Ichiro almost hit a homer his first time up. Wow. Went foul. Lincecum has such a great rhythmic windup and delivery. It’s so cool to watch.

Broken bat single. What else would you expect from the great Ichiro?

Ouch. Lincecum just nailed Jeter on the bottom of his fist. That was a loud collision. He wasn’t very happy. Worse off, two on, no outs for the AL.

Joe Mauer grounds to third and they almost get a double play, but Pujols’ foot comes off the bag.

Teixiera hits to Pujols and he botches the catch. AL up 1-0

Bay hits one out to CF and Victorino holds Mauer at third.

Hamilton gets one to Pujols who throws Bay out at second, but they can’t make the DP. AL 2-0.

Young hits it to Wright who gets the third out.

2102 Bot 1st

Hanley’s leading off against Halladay, lucky for the NL. Ramirez and the Marlins have done quite well against the Blue Jays this year. He hits it hard to 2B, but Hill is right there. One out.

Utley up to bat. Grounds to first. A quick one-two, but Pujols approaches. Can he turn this around?

The park is on its feet with a standing ‘O’. He’s got a lot of ground to make up by making that error. Pujols is such a patient hitter. I love that about him. Ball goes right to third and Michael Young finishes off retiring the side.

AL: 2 NL: 0

Top 2nd

Aaron Hill grounds to Hanley and he makes a great catch and out.

Halladay up to bat no. Should be an easy out, so work him hard Tim. Seems that Halladay didn’t even pack a helmet for the at bat. They put a sticker in front of Longoria’s Rays helmet so that he could have a helmet. What a moron. Of course you’re gonna hit Roy. It’s a game in an NL park. Timmy strikes Hallady out looking, but it was a solid at bat.

Ichiro is back up to bat. His at-bat motion is so iconic as e holds the bat out in front of him while the pitcher sets. Ichiro lines right out to Braun. Apparently Obama told Ichiro, after handing back the ball, “Here you go hall of famer.” That will be true, I’m sure of it.

2117 Bot 2nd

Braun steps up to the plate. Obama is now in the broadcast booth. Holy cow. “This is as much fun as I’ve had in quite some time.” Obama’s in a White Sox jacket. He says his wife thinks he looks cute in it. Braun takes it up to CF and Hamilton snags it.

Ibañez now up to bat. Shane hits one to Hill and it’s yet another out for the NL.

David Wright comes out to hit. Obama is reluctant to predict who will win the Series without more information. Wow, he just commented on how terrible the Nationals are. Wright gets a broken bat single to short right. NL finally gets a man on.

Wow, Victorino smacks one into right. Two on, two out. Victorino apparently gave Obama Macademia nuts at the white house.

Molina’s up to bat. Obama is agreeing that the AL has been better of late. Molina takes a base hit up to center. Wright runs it in, the throw to third is wild and Victorino is able to run into home from third on the botched throw. Way to go Molina. They’ve tied it up 2-2 and Molina gets some RBIs. Turns out the ball bounced off of Victorino’s shoulder. Halladay was covering home instead of third.

The NL pinch hits for Lincecum with Prince Fielder. Fielder bashes one into the LF corner and it bounces into the stands. Molina scores on the ground rule double and Fielder stays on second.
3-1 NL. Buerhle is warming up.

The Marlins send Hanley up to plate again. They’re joking that once Buerhle is done, Obama will leave. Hanley hits it back to Hill and gets tossed out at first.

Obama’s headed home. Good times. That was so great to see him just talking baseball like a regular guy.

Top 3rd

Ryan Franklin goes out to pitch for the NL squad against Jeter. Hits a comebacker to Utley and gets tossed out at first.

The catcher, Mauer, steps back up to the plate. I’ve gotta say, I kind of wish Lincecum could have stayed in the game longer. Joe lines out to Pujols who makes a great catch.

Interview with Halladay about what it was like, but the microphone went out. Sad. Teixiera comes right back up to the plate. Franklin almost strikes Teix out, but he barely gets a piece and stays up to bat. Strong grounder to Pujols and he gets the out.

The Taco Bell “If You Like Piña Coladas” commercial is hilarious. I guess I just like Taco Bell Frutista Freeze commercials playing during all-star games. I love the boss with the exploding fist bump.

2135 Bot 3rd

Buehrle is on the mound now and Utley flies out to Hamilton.

Big Al comes back up to bat. He’s got two guaranteed at bats. Maybe third. Teixiera has good positioning to catch the Pujols grounder so Pujols grounds out.

Milwaukee’s basher Braun comes up to bat. Little grounder to Jeter and the NL is back out on the field. The score remains

NL 3 – AL 2

2141 Top 4th

The NL has swapped pitchers to Dan Haren. Apparently he was in the Cards system before he was traded and they regret that. Jason Bay hits one out to Ryan Braun for the first out.

I don’t really think that Josh Hamilton deserves to be in the game today, but he’s on thanks to the way he hit in last year’s Home Run Derby. Hard hit pop fly that’s shy of the warning track. Victorino catches for the second out.

Young angers me because he’s in for Longoria, even though Longoria can’t play. He hits a single and it upsets me.

Haren has such a strange delivery when he doesn’t have anyone on the bag with that hesitation pause. Aaron Hill at bat and Molina contains a wild pitch to hold Hamilton at first. Grounder to Ramirez and it’s half-inning over.

Bob Dylan and will.i.am are not on the same level, sorry Pepsi.

Bot 4th

Ibañez pops out to third and Greinke’s on the mound.

That brings NY Met David Wright up to the plate with one out. Greinke has been fantastic this season and he proves it with a slider that just barely got called a strike on Wright who goes down looking.

Greinke’s a monster on the mound tonight. He gets Victorino to strike out swinging.

I’m pretty excited to see Funny People. Judd Apatow’s a comedic genius, but I wonder how his more serious offering here will do.

2155 Top 5th

Ryan Zimmerman takes over at third for the NL. Brad Hawpe takes RF for Braun. Crawford is up to bat for Greinke, I believe. He’s a speedy fellow. Takes a good pitch into CF and finds himself on first against Billingsley. Will Crawford try to steal?

The left-handed Ichiro will make a throw harder for Molina, but Mo is top notch. All Billingsley has to do is get it to the plate quickly to hold Crawford. Ichiro is also pretty fast, this is a bad situation. Crawford goes, hit-and-run, and Ichiro fouls it back, phew. Crawford’s got such great acceleration. Billingsley tries to catch Crawford sleeping at first, but fails. Utley makes a daring toss to 2nd to get Crawford out and his high toss is well handled by Hanley to get Carl out. The announcers don’t seem to be giving Hanley Ramirez his due. He really stretched to grab that.

Ichiro Suzuki on first. He’s also fast. Jeter at the bat. Quickly works an 0-2 count on Jeter. Billingsley is trying to keep the runners honest with plenty of tosses to first. The ball goes ripping at Pujols and he’s able to keep Ichiro off second, but Jeter’s too fast for the DP.

The hitless Joe Mauer comes up to bat. It’s been a good game so far. I’m loving the close score. Chad Billingsley falls behind Joe 2-0. Saw Jason Bay on the sidelines and, let me tell you, it sure is nice to not have Pedroia in the game with that stupid batting glove nonsense that he subjects everyone to each pitch. Braun kind of jobs to retrieve Mauer’s ball to LF and that allows Jeter to get into home from first base. I suppose it’s not really Ryan’s fault, Mauer’s a left-handed hitter and Ryan was positioned with that in mind.

Baltimore-native Mark Teixiera on base with Joe Mauer on second. Pujols makes yet another fantastic dive to throw out Teixiera for the third out.

NL 3 – AL 3

2209 Bot 5th

Carl Crawford remains in the game and Adam Jones pops in while Edwin Jackson comes up to pitch. Yadier Molina grounds out to Jeter.

Jackson’s success in Detroit is bittersweet for me. He’s doing so well out there that I can’t help but be happy for him, but I wish he were still pitching for the Rays. Ryan Zimmerman makes good contact, but he flies out to Hamilton in center.

Hanley is, thankfully, still in the game, but he grounds out to Michael Young, ending the inning.

I love that line in the Punch-Out Wii commercials, “I’m gonna make him cry like a little girl and then I’m gonna mop the floor with his tears.”

Top 6th

Remember when Gatorade wasn’t called G? Those were better days. Adam Jones is up against Trevor Hoffman and he sends one all the way out to Brad Hawpe in RF. It worried me for a second.

Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton gets himself a single to RF.

Lincecum could use a haircut, but his glorious mane probably gives him strength. Young could have used more strength as he hits into a 4-6-3 double play (that’s 2B Utley, to SS Ramirez, to 1B Pujols).

The Taco bell Roosevelts commercial is dumb, but I’m strangely drawn to it.

2219 Bot 6th

Jason Bartlett is mislabeled as Ben Zobrist at SS and Curtis Granderson is in CF while Victor Martinez is catching and King Felix Hernandez is pitching. The O-Dog, Orlando Hudson, flies out to Adam Jones in right.

The last Pujols at bat of the night. I’m hoping for some power from Albert, but grounds to Bartlett and the NL has two outs. I hope he doesn’t feel to badly, he’s had some great defensive plays.

An NL substitution in place with Justin Upton coming in for Ryan Braun. Upton is Rays player B.J. Upton’s younger brother. Another ball straight to Bartlett and Upton is the third out.

Top 7th

It’s been a great game so far. This tie has got my heart rate at a nice, high level. Go NL! You guys can do it! Pujols comes out for Adrian Gonzalez after a curtain call from his hometown. Francisco Cordero is up to pitch and Aaron Hill flies one to Justin Upton. It hasn’t been mentioned, but Jayston Werth seems to be in CF for Shane Victorino.

Crawford is back up again? Scary. Hits it straight to Miguel Tejada (when did he come in?) and gets thrown out.

Last year’s Derby winner Justin Morneau of the twins comes up to bat and he whiffs for two straight strikes. Line drive to Zimmerman ends the inning and we go into the 7th inning stretch while my keyboard gives me problems every time I try to push the ‘h’ key.

I guess it’s a good thing that they support the country with “God Bless America” now, but I miss “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The lady who’s singing GBA is way over fake tanned. She’s almost orange. Looks like Kevin Nealon in the most recent episode of Weeds. That’s not a good thing, they were making fun of him for it for a lot of the episode. Her name was Sarah Evans. Sarah, you did a great job, I’m not harping on that at all, just, you know, cut back on the fake tanning stuff.

2233 Bot 7th

Looks like Jonathan Papelbon won’t get to close again today. Brad Hawpe comes within inches of a home run, but Carl Crawford robs all chances with his amazing catch. So close.

The Houston Astros send in Miguel Tejada for the second NL batter of the inning. He hits one out to the warning track and the bubblegum chewing Adam Jones gets the ball.

Two exciting hits precede Jayson Werth’s at bat. He doesn’t take the first pitch, unlike the previous two batters. Werth’s goatee makes him look like an evil villain to me. Ugh, now I’m watching Jonatan Papelbon make his stupid lip-pursing ‘O’ that he does before each pitch. I hate that stupid look so much, but it’s just based on Red Sox resentment. Werth works up to a full count. Come on NL, score a run on Papelbon again. Make me happy. Jayson is really keeping this at-bat alive with plenty of foul balls and a full count on top of that. Swing and a miss and the NL goes down with no extra points thanks to Carl Crawford.

2242 Top 8th

Heath Bell of the Padres is now pitching for the NL. First pitch almost hits Bartlett in the head. Wow, that was wild. Bartlett taps one to Tejada who sets and throws Jason out at first.

Curtis Granderson gets up to bat now in the 8th. Bell has a really short, quick windup and throw. It’s awkard and hard to follow. Granderson makes it to third on a triple…great. Now he’s in position for a sac fly. It’s up to you Bell.

For some reason the NL decides to intentionally walk Victor Martinez. I guess it makes sense, setting up for the DP, but everyone on this club is a pretty darn good hitter.

This puts the speedy Adam Jones up to bat and the infield returns to double play depth. I’m feeling pretty tense about all of this, especially as the announcers claim that Heath Bell has never pitched in any all-star situations. He works the count to 0-2 on Jones. If the NL don’t get the DP, they’v egot Youkilis up next. Damned if you do…

Jones gets himself a sac fly and the score becomes 4-3 AL. Ugh.

Now we’ve got the Youkilis up to bat and things could turn ugly. Base hit to center. AL has men on first and second.

Ben Zobrist, the Zorilla, steps up to bat. He has homered from five different positions this season, according to the announcers. Pence strikes him out swinging. Hurts to see, but I’m happy for it.

AL 4 – NL 3

Bot 8th

Brandon Inge is now in the game along with Joe Nathan. Brian McCann is at bat with his glasses. Poor guy had a Lasik procedure go terribly wrong and had to return to glasses. He pops up for an easy out to Victor Martinez.

That brings everyone’s favorite Ryan Zimmerman to the plate. Flies out to cross-town rival Adam Jones.

We’ve got power hitter Adrian Gonzalez at the plate now, hopefully to save the NL. It’s crazy how well this guy hits considering that the Padres play in a hitter hostile park. Nathan walks Gonzalez. Let’s make something happen now.

O-Dog time. Orlando Hudson up to bat. Grounder up the middle deflects off of Bartlett’s glove despite a terrific dive allowing Adrian Gonzalez to get to third.

This allows the NL to put Ryan Howard up to bat. A great pinch hitter for the Phillies, let’s see if he can make something great happen. The shift is put on for Howard. Will the St. Louis native be the key to the NL victory in this game? The stadium is going wild for Ryan. Howard quickly gets to 0-2. Orlando Hudson takes advantage of the up and away pitch to steal second. Two in scoring position now and the count gets up to 2-2. It is tense in my living room right now. Ryan Howard makes a stupid check swing at a ball in the dirt and the NL ruins a great chance. So close! We’ve still got one more inning, don’t worry!

2309 Top 9th

Man, I’m getting tired. Last year I made it much longer, but I wasn’t working then. K-Rod comes up to pitch against Inge who hits a broken bat grounder to Tejada for the 6-3 out.

Crawford remains in the game. I can’t be too mad at the guy for catching that out since he’s a Rays player, but I want the NL to win so badly. K-Rod strikes out Crawford. It was a fantastic pitch.

The AL squad sends Justin Morneau to the plate for their third man of the inning and he knocks one back that Jayson Werth barely catches. What a great play.

2315 Bot 9

It’s crunch time for the NL. We’re down to the final three outs and the scary-good Mariano Rivera is on the mound. Justin Upton grounds out to Bartlett. One down.

The second batter to step up is Brad Hawpe who was robbed a home run his last at bat. The AL dugout seems so cheery. It also seems overfull. Hawpe goes down looking on a pitch to the outside. Brad Hawpe looked lost. Two outs.

Our final hopes rest on Miguel Tejada’s bat. Tejada hits a shallow fly to Zobrist and the AL wins it 4-3.

The streak of losses continues.

It didn’t quite go as long as other years, but that dramatic robbery by Carl Crawford really changed this game.

Maybe next year NL. See you guys for another live blog next year!

The Price is WRONG [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jun 24th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

There was a lot of talk about the mistakes Joe Maddon was making in not bringing David Price up at the start of the year. I think last night speaks volumes about why he thought he needed more work.

Price gave up ten runs to spearhead a 10-1 loss to the Phillies last night, meaning that he was embarrassed by a pitcher more or less twice his age (Jamie Moyer, age 46).

It’s days like these that I’m glad I can at least root for the Marlins, who won last night against the Orioles and took two of three from the Yankees this weekend. Not only did Hanley Ramirez snap his homerless streak against the Yankees, he hit himself a grand slam last night to bust open the game. Of course, the Marlins bullpen gave up so many runs that the game went on to the 12th inning, but still, go Hanley.

While I’m up here, I think it’s worth laughing at the Yankees AND the Blue Jays for each dropping two games to the Nationals last week. Way to play to win.

Last week was also notable for being the day I saw, in the flesh, Matt Wieters hit his first big league home run against the Mets. In a strange coincidence, I also heard Wieter’s second home run while listening to the Orioles at Marlins game last night.

Daisuke Matsuzaka landed himself on the DL due to sucking, since Boston can’t send him to the minors. It’s an interesting practice, but basically all a team has to do is get a sanctioned doctor to sign off on some sort of injury and, BAM, instant DL stint. This is how we get loony injuries like an anxiety disorder diagnosed through blood work. Dice-K has been having a tough season, likely from WBC-related exhaustion, so this should hopefully get him all better. Too bad he cost the Red Sox 103M$, because he sure hasn’t seemed all that worth it yet.

And that’s all I’ve got for now. Here’s hoping that the Nats take two of three from the Sox, the Marlins keep moving up the standings, and the Rays start beating the Phillies.

Not Quite As Predicted [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
May 27th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

I think it’s safe to say at this point in the season that things aren’t quite going as I predicted. It’s not the end of the world to be five games back in late May, but it just isn’t coming together for the Rays who are behind the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays in the AL East. Fortunately for the Rays, the Blue Jays seem to be choking against even the most trivial of AL East teams :cough: the Baltimore Orioles :cough:, but the fact of the matter is that the Rays have to start playing better to keep it alive.

Good thing the stars aren’t aligning against them, right?

Right???

Akinori Iwamura, a heavily underrated cog in the machine is out for the entire season. Not just a few weeks, the whole rest of the year. Jason Bartlett is out with a sprained ankle. Pat Burrell is still out hurting with a stiff neck. Scott Kazmir, who has been pitching poorly anyway, is out on the DL too. This is some serious personnel out for the next two weeks or so. Joe Maddon has been starting Reid Brignac, Willy Aybar, and Ben Zobrist to replace the missing players, but this is clearly not ideal. The Rays are definitely being tested right now, so it would be good for the replacement players to step up instead of…well…

David Price, the holy grail of AL rookies finally got the call up to the bigs to pitch on Monday, only it didn’t go quite as planned. Poor control managed to get him through only 3 1/3 innings with five walks and six strikeouts and, luckily only two earned runs. Some say it was because he sat for quite some time while his team racked up a 10-0 lead. The only real problem is that the bullpen, clearly not expecting their rookie phenom to throw over a hundred pitches in three and a third, couldn’t hold the 10-2 lead that Price left them with. That’s right, the Rays actually lost the game 11-10 Cleveland. Pathetic.

Pick it up Tampa, you’re making me look bad! I know you can outplay the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox, you’ve done it all year already.

Here’s some perspective: last season the starters had an ERA of 3.95 and the bullpen had a 3.55 mark to bring the team to the World Series. Meanwhile, the Rays are sporting a 4.95 starting ERA with 4.16 in the bulllpen. While I’m sure you’re admiring the neat statistical anomaly that the starting pitching’s ERA has risen by exactly one point, it still shows that the key factor in the Rays not performing this season resides in the pitching staff.

Meanwhile Florida is sitting 5.5 games back too in the NL East battling through some pitching injuries and just playing mediocre ball. I know they were playing much better last season, so it hurts to see a better squad where they are right now. On the plus side, they’re not starting Emilio Bonifacio, but they also took a big hit when Cameron Maybin didn’t hit at the start of the season. The once proud 11-1 team is now sitting at 21-26. Pick it up Marlins!

The Fish also only managed to win one of three against the Rays and were soundly spanked in the ones they lost. That was also the series that Iwamura got hurt, which makes it even more painful.

Here’s hoping for better news next week.

Almost Time… [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Apr 1st, 2009 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

We’ve finally arrived at the last WMQ before the baseball season. Congrats are in order for us all, but I honestly don’t know how we made it so long without our beloved baseball. Here are a few quick notes about things that have been going on:

Everyone’s hurt! From Cole Hamels to Alex Rodriguez, there are tons of stars hurting who might not be ready for Opening Day starts. It’ll be a chance for some younger players to showcase their talent, but, if I were them, I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much, it’ll only be for a month or so this year, then it’s back to the bench or the minors.

Speaking of the minors, David Price has been sent back down. Many call it a travesty, asking “How awesome do you have to be to stay in the show?” but I have faith in the Rays skipper. Joe Maddon is no fool and if he thinks that Price can do with some time in the minors before he comes up, then I think it’s probably not that bad an idea. Look at Evan Longoria, American League Rookie of the Year for 2008. He started last season in the minors in April and then he came up and spanked the AL.

The Marlins are batting former leadoff man Hanley Ramirez at third again this season, an expirement that mostly failed last year. I imagine that the Fish realize that they’ve just gotta make it happen at some point. He’s just got too much power behind his bat to hold him in the one hole.

The Cubbies have selected their closer and it’s NOT Carlos Marmol. A rough spring in both the WBC and Spring Training caused Lou Piniella to select former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg instead. Marmol’s disappointed, but, as I’ve heard from multiple sources, the outs by the set-up man are just as important. There’s no reason to think that his club is spurning him an important job, he’s still gotta make vital outs.

The season starts on Sunday, with the Phillies against the Braves. Get ready for a wild one! I’m gonna hold off predictions perhaps until next week, but possibly until the end of the month. We’ll see what happens with my schedule. Ah, baseball, I can almost taste you…

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Men’s Basketball, Hustling Woes, Pennant Race
Aug 20th, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ‘em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Basketball

Delaying my post for the day has given me the opportunity to comment on the American victory over Australia in Olympic Men’s Basketball. Many speculated that this would be the game that gave Team USA some trouble, and they were right in that respect. Team USA struggled in the first half, but a clutch three-pointer in the last few seconds of that same half put the US in a winning state of mind. Kobe and Team USA burst out with 14 straight points (nine coming from Bryant) and the rest of the game was in America’s hands.

Argentina (gold medalists from the 2004 games) and either Lithuania or Spain will be the next challenges for the Men’s team on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Let’s hope that the Redeemed Team (as the media is calling them) is able to keep the momentum going. There’s no space for error in these final matches.

B.J. Upton

The Rays have been having some problems with their star players recently, but this time it doesn’t come from injuries. There have been at least two benchings on recent memory of center fielder B.J. Upton for lack of hustle and he continues to make some very lazy and stupid mistakes. I applaud Joe Maddon, the Rays GM, for benching Upton as punishment for his indolence, but I’m not so sure that it’s having any effect. More similar incidences (although not as blatant, hence, not as punishable) have been taking place that show that Upton might just be getting petulant and not quite caring that his team’s 4.5 game lead is plenty tenuous, especially against the Red Sox. Which brings us to…

Pennant Races

AL East remains firmly, but not definitely in the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. Strong performances against the always tough Angels in two games already have kept the Rays exactly where they want to be. They’re not quite in the clear yet, with series against the White Sox, Red Sox, and Twins remaining this season, but I can’t help but think that they could clinch the AL East for the pennant. We probably won’t be seeing a magic number for the Rays until they hit late September, but I’m excited, especially since the Crawford and Longoria injuries haven’t slowed them down.

Meanwhile, my precious Marlins sit four games back from the first place NY Mets, having dropped close games against the Cardinals and Cubs to put them so far back. The Phils sit only one game back, waiting for the inevitable meltdown of the Mets due to their piss-poor bullpen, especially with Billy Wagner’s potentially season-ending injury. All the Fish have to do to get themselves back up to speed is play well in non-league play in their series against the Giants, Cardinals, Astros, and Diamondbacks. The Giants and Astros should be easy play, but the rest should be much tougher, even though the Marlins traditionally play well against the Diamondbacks, mainly because the Diamondbacks are actually in the pennant race against the Dodgers. The rest of the series are against the Phillies, Mets, and Nationals, which make for some key, very important series over these last 5.5 weeks. If they perform well, I just might get my dream of seeing an all-Florida World Series.

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