The 2012 Major League Baseball postseason got underway Friday as the new Wild Card round made its debut. Both 2nd Wild Card winners rose to the occasion, as the defending champion Cardinals defeated the Braves in Atlanta among some umpire controversy and the Orioles took care of business in Texas against the 2-time defending AL Champion Rangers. The second chapter of the postseason gets underway Saturday evening as the Oakland Athletics head into Detroit to take on the Tigers, while the San Francisco Giants host the Cincinnati Reds. All eight remaining teams will be in action Sunday, as the Cardinals continue the quest to defend their title against the Washington Nationals, who boasted the best record in baseball. Meanwhile the Yankees will take on division rival Baltimore in a playoff series for the first time since 1997.
As September arrives so does pennant race baseball. With just over one month to play, 15 of the 30 major league clubs are within 2.5 games of a playoff spot. We are setting up for a September to remember prior to the upcoming glory of October baseball.
2012 MLB Power Rankings – September Pennant Chase Edition:
Looking like a lock for playoff baseball:
1.) Washington Nationals – (80-52) During the course of the 2012 season the Nats have been among baseballs best and most consistent squads. The lineup is loaded with very good players and the pitching staff has more depth than the average fan realizes. The big question remains: Can they win a title if they shutdown Stephen Strasburg? I still wouldn’t count them out.
2.) Cincinnati Reds – (81-53) Talk about a team with very few weaknesses. The Reds remain the only team in baseball that has kept their rotation in tact. A solid rotation, along with a potentially lethal bullpen in October could spell trouble for opponents as the season moves along. The funny thing is I’m just mentioning the offense which the Reds are best known for. A healthy Joey Votto will only add to the dynamic lineup that includes solid veterans and upcoming rookies.
3.) Texas Rangers – (78-54) The solid core from the past two American League Championships remain in Hamilton, Cruz, Andrus, Young Kinsler and Beltre. The questions this year will be whether or not the pitching staff can provide enough. The bullpen looks sharp but season ending injuries to Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz could potentially spell trouble.
The 2012 MLB trading deadline is only a little over one week away. As the regular season heads towards it final two months the time has come for teams to determine if they are going to buy, sell or stand pat.
What is the best way to determine what team are in a good position for a postseason run and what teams should look towards 2013?
Your answer is:
coolstandings.com provides an updated percentage chances of reaching the postseason for each team in the majors. Click here to read about how it works.
C – A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox (.286 avg, 16 hrs, 49 rbis)
The backstop for the squad has had a solid year on the South Side. Pierzynski has the most home runs and runs batted in of any catcher in the game this season. He also calls great games for a very good pitching staff.
1B- Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals (.252 avg, 15 hrs, 53 rbi’s)
After bouncing around the last few years, LaRoche has found a home in D.C. He is tied for fourth in rbi’s and 3rd in home runs at his position and has played a very good defensive first base. His offensive production is part of the reason the Nationals will be leading the NL East at the break.
We’re just over a month into the major league season and there are already plenty of story-lines unfolding. We should be in for fun-filled summer followed by an exciting September. Things can change quickly as a season progresses, these are my thoughts on the 2012 season keeping in mind its early May.
American League East:
Orioles – Pitching has been sensational, specifically the bullpen. Matt Wieters has been a force both offensively and behind the plate calling games. Chris Davis is having a nice bounce back year offensively, winning games after pitching the 16th & 17th innings is a bonus.
Rays – The franchise continues to excel despite a low-budget and limited fan support. Andrew Friedman is among the leagues best GM’s as he pieces together veteran pickups around excellent young talent.
The Sports with Balls Blog has been live for approximately eight months. As we push towards out 400th post I figured I’d take a few moments to highlight some of our most successful articles.
Editors’ Note: I went to the game Saturday so I didn’t get to chance to recap the game
Roy Oswalt was outstanding, throwing eight shut out innings and striking out nine, picking up the win over the Washington Nationals 5-0 on Saturday. One of the best things to see was Oswalt reaching 94 on his fastball several times and constantly reaching 91-93 on the gun. Wilson Valdez starting the scoring with a two run triple in the fourth inning. Hunter Pence would add a solo home run and Jimmy Rollins added a RBI single. Six of the Phillies’ nine hits came from the 5th-8th spot in the batting order. 44,658 was the attendance which was the biggest crowd in Nationals Park history. No, there was no rain delay. Yes, the Nationals did give away Ian Desmond bobble heads.
For the second time in three games, the Phillies and Nationals sat through a rain delay. Before the rain delay, the Nationals got the scoring started off of Roy Halladay in the first inning. A Ryan Zimmerman sac fly and Danny Espinosa RBI single made it 2-0 Nats. Carlos Ruiz would quickly tie it up in the next half inning with a two run home run. Chase Utley hit his first home run in 75 at bats with a solo home run in the third inning. In the bottom of that inning, Jimmy Rollins pulled his right groin. He will go for an MRI on Monday. The rain came in the top of the sixth inning. Both starting pitchers, Roy Halladay and Chein-Ming Wang left after the delay. Phillies’ reliever Michael Schwimer made his major league debut in the bottom of the sixth inning. Of course, Danny Espinosa greeted him with a solo home run to tie the game. In the ninth inning of a tie game, Michael Martinez gave the Phillies the lead again with a one out RBI single. Antonio Bastardo tried to pick up ninth save of the season. With the Nationals down to their final out, Ian Desmond tied the game again on a solo home run. It was Bastardo’s first blown save of the season. After the Phillies went scoreless in the 10th inning, Brad Lidge came in to try and keep the Nats off the board. Ryan Zimmerman led off the inning with a double. Michael Morse was intentionally walked and then Jayson Werth singled to left. Danny Espinosa struck out and Lidge was a third of the way out of the jam. Unfortunately, Lidge hit Jonny Gomes with a pitch forcing in Zimmerman and thus ending the game.
Notes from both games:
-The traffic on 95 getting to the game was ridiculous.
- During the game, a praying mantis was in our section, I couldn’t stop staring at it.
-The Phillies clinched at least a .500 record on August 20th
-Really sucks Halladay couldn’t go back out because of the rain.
-I’m not going to get mad about Bastardo, dude has been lights out.
- Schwimer was really good after giving up the home run. He struck out four in three innings.
-I can’t trust Lidge at all.
-The Natinals, I mean Nationals have Chien-Ming Wang jerseys on display in the team store.
Every little kid dreams of it…3-2 count, 2 out, down a run, game on the line. Ryan Zimmerman lived it and came through in a big way. Zimmerman hit a walk-off grand slam with two out in the ninth inning to complete a furious comeback win 8-4. Ryan Madson reaaaaaaaally struggled, going 2/3s of an inning, giving up five hits, and six runs to take the loss. Todd Coffey pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the win. The game had a 2 hour and 22 minute rain delay in the first inning. Roy Oswalt was suppose to start the game, but Kyle Kendrick took his place because the Phillies didn’t want to risk injury with Oswalt’s back. He will start Saturday’s game now against John Lannan of the Nationals in a rematch of last Saturday’s game at Citizens Bank Park. The Braves defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier tonight which pushed the Phillies’ NL East lead back down to 7.5 games.
With it raining cats and dogs in the Philadelphia region, many wondered if tonight’s game in Washington would start on time. It did start on time, but didn’t last very long. Four batters into the game it began to rain, starting a long delay. An interesting situation started when the grounds crew started to take the tarp off. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel came on the field and walked towards right field, checking the grass. It seemed as if the Phillies were trying to postpone the game, but the umpires made the game start after the 2 hour and 22 minute delay. Livan Hernandez, the Nationals’ original starter, remained in the game. The Phillies did all their scoring in the third inning. Jimmy Rollins started it with a one out double. John Mayberry followed with a triple that was misplayed by Nationals’ left fielder Johnny Gomes that allowed Rollins to score. The next batter, Chase Utley would double home Mayberry. A Ryan Howard RBI single would come next. Three batters later, Carlos Ruiz would hit an opposite field single to score Howard with two out. Even Wilson Valdez got in to the mix with a single, but Raul Ibanez was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. Ian Desmond got the Nationals on the board with an RBI double in the bottom of the third. Wilson Ramos would make it a 4-2 game in the 5th inning on a solo home run. A Carlos Ruiz double in the sixth inning would be the only Phillies hit besides the third inning. The next batter, Wilson Valdez hit a line drive to Desmond who doubled off Ruiz at second base. I’m not going to go over the entire ninth inning…just watch this. That sums up what happened to Ryan Madson. He got unlucky, but ultimately gave up the walk off to Zimmerman.
-Tough loss, it happens. Easy to get over when you’re 80-43.
-Ryan Zimmerman is an incredible player, but why does he throw like a weirdo?
-Again, solid outing out of Kendrick
-Very selfishly happy that I get to Oswalt and not Kendrick.
- I was kind of hoping that I’d get to see a doubleheader tomorrow.
-I’m happy they got to Livan, but two base runners after the third inning is awful.
- If you rip Ryan Madson after this game, you’re an idiot. He’s been incredible the entire year, it’s just one bad game in otherwise a great season for him.
Since the last time we saw the Nationals, they took two out of three from the Reds in Cincinnati. The Nationals are actually one game worse record wise than the Reds which is crazy considering the Reds were a few defensive mishaps from being tied at 1 in the 2010 NLDS against the Phillies. The Phillies are coming off taking two out of three from Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dbacks came in on a six game winning streak and have the third best record in the National League since the All-Star break. Since DC fans only believe in the Capitals at the given moment, Nationals Park often becomes CBP South for Phillies fans. (Thus explaining the headline) Two great memories took place for Phillies fans in CBP South which were 2010 Opening Day when 40,000 Phillies fans booed the Nationals on their own field and the 2010 NL East was clinched on a rainy night last September.
Game 1- Livan Hernandez (7-11, 4.21ERA) vs. Roy Oswalt (5-7, 3.84 ERA). Livan was fantastic last Friday vs. the Phillies. He pitched into the seventh inning and allowed one unearned run. He even knocked in two runs on his own. Hernandez is either really good or gets bombed. He doesn’t throw very hard, topping out around 85 MPH, but throws up slow, slower, and even slower off-speed pitches. At times, he befuddles hitters, other times, hitters make him look very AAAish. The Phillies are hitting .300 against Livan as a team with Ryan Howard, Hunter Pence, Raul Ibanez, and John Mayberry posting an OPS north of .900 against him. Roy Oswalt was much more efficient in his second start since coming off the DL. Last Saturday, Oswalt pitched seven innings, giving up three runs, six hits on 96 pitches. It was Oswalt’s first win since June 12th against the Cubs. His career record against the Nationals is 6-4. Laynce Nix is 11 for 23 against Roy while Ryan Zimmerman is 7 fo 20 lifetime against Oswalt.
Game 2-John Lannan (8-8, 3.55 ERA) vs. Kyle Kendrick (7-5, 3.25 ERA) Lannan made one of the plays of the year when he flipped a ball to force out Ryan Howard at home in his last start. That was about all that went right for him that night. Lannan gave up seven runs in three innings, but only one of them was earned. His career record dropped to 1-11 against the Phillies. As one would expect with a 1-11 lifetime record, the Phillies have five players that post an OPS over .900 against John Lannan. Kyle Kendrick makes the start instead of Cole Hamels. Hamels complained of shoulder stiffness in his last start and will be skipped once. His MRI came back with no significant damage. Kendrick’s last relief appearance came on Friday when he pitched three innings after Hamels struggled in his outing. Kendrick’s ERA is 6.36 against the Nationals.
Game 3- Chien-Ming Wang (2-2, 4.22 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (15-4, 2.51 ERA) This will be Wang’s fifth start since recovering from his shoulder surgery. Wang has only struck out three hitters in 21 1/3 innings of work which makes Kyle Kendrick look like Nolan Ryan. Safe to safe, his hard sinker is a thing of the past. Halladay was scheduled to start against the Nationals in the last series before Mother Nature said no. On Tuesday, Doc was incredible for eight innings against the Diamondbacks before giving up his first lead in the ninth inning since 2007. He finished with fourteen strikeouts and his third complete game loss of the season. He’s 11-1 in his career vs. the Nationals.