Posts Tagged ‘Matt Holliday’

Angel’s Stun, Sweep Sox

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

That glazed and puzzled look that has appeared on the faces of so many other post season teams (the St. Louis Cardinals yesterday, and the Chicago Cubs last year, to name just two) is now being worn by the Boston Red Sox. The A.L.’s wild card entry was stunned by a ninth inning rally in Boston on Saturday, and swept in three games by the Los Angeles Angels to be eliminated from the playoffs. The Bosox appeared headed for a sure win in their head-to-head match-up against the Belinskis, leading the Halos 6-3 heading into the 9th inning at Fenway Park — with their ace closer, Jonathan Papelbon on the mound. But with two outs, Papelbon’s down-and-out or up-and-in stuff failed him: Erick Aybar singled, Chone Figgins walked and Bobby Abreu doubled to tighten the contest. Even then, the Red Sox remained a simple grounder or fly ball away from victory. To set up a force out at every base, Papelbon walked Torii Hunter intentionally. That brought Vladimir Guerrero to the plate. On the very first pitch to one of baseball’s beset bad-ball hitters, Papelbon gave up a single to center. Guerrero’s hit, a leaning over-the-plate smack of a low and outside fastball, scored Figgins and Abreu and gave the Angels the 7-6 victory.

Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: The elimination of the Redbirds and Bosox now sets the wheels in motion for the offseason in both Boston and St. Louis. There’s a lot to do. Fans of “the Nation” face some big questions: about the future of David Ortiz and the cost of Jason Bay. The team is hardly in need of a major overhaul, yet the horses that have consistently put it into the off season are aging or hobbled. The entire left side of the Boston infield is in question: Mike Lowell can’t play third forever and the team has no ready answer at shortstop. “Phtttt . . . c’mon” — fans of the Nation say: what about Jed Lowrie? Well, what about him? Maybe Baseball Reference is lying, but their stats show him hitting .147 in 32 games. Hell, there’s a shortstop in Washington who hits a damn sight better than that and he’s no damn good at all . . .   

The Redbirds are younger, but the questions might be more pertinent: whether to pony up the big bucks it will take to keep Matt Holliday in left and (just like the Red Sox) what to do at third. Mark DeRosa is a free agent and while he likes St. Louis he will test the free agent market. Then too, while shortstop seems set for the River City Nine, rookie phenom Brendan Ryan hit a scorching .083 in the playoffs and looked shaky in the field. Redbird fans have the same reaction to this negativity as their Bosox buddies: “Oh yeah, well what about Troy Glaus?” Okay, right. Troy Glaus: who left his right shoulder somewhere in Toronto and hasn’t been the same since. Maybe he’ll return to his 2008 form (.270, 27 home runs), but it’s a pretty big maybe. Then too, number three starter Joel Pineiro is a free agent and would be a number one starter on most major league teams: including the Nats (now there’s an idea). Oddly, whether Holliday or DeRosa or Pineiro decide to stay in St. Louis might hinge more on the fate of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan than on how much money Billy DeWitt puts on the table. LaRussa and Duncan’s contracts are up and both are rumored headed to Cincinnati, to team up with their old St. Louis G.M. pal Walt Jocketty . . .

Rockies Even Series; Trolleys Stun Redbirds

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The Colorado Rockies held off the rallying Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday to take the second game in their five game series, 5-4. The key for the Purples was an unlikely two run homer off the bat of catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who hadn’t had a four base knock since May. Torrealba’s knock was complemented by solid pitching from Rockies’ starter Aaron Cook and bullpen aces Jose Contreras, Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Morales and all-world closer Huston Street (above). The Heltons, who won during the regular season by counting on the bats of an unlikely mix of new heroes, depended on the bat of yet another unknown newcomer: in this case it was left fielder Carlos “Cargo” Gonzalez. Gonzalez — a former Showboat prospect and a throw-in in the off season Oakland-Colorado Matt Holliday-for-Huston Street trade — spent much of the last two seasons in triple-A, while Denver’s front office waited for him to pan out. Gonzalez got his chance this year, after a series of injuries made room for him in the Colorado outfield. On Thursday, the fleet Venezuelan went 3-5 to spark the otherwise sleepy Rockies’ line up.

When the Oakland A’s got Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies in the Huston Street trade back in November of 2008, they thought their search for a big bat was over: the Stillwater, Oklahoma native was a three time all star and three time silver slugger and he’d been named the 2007 World Series MVP. But Holliday didn’t seem to fit in in Oakland (he hit an otherwise anemic .286 with 11 home runs in 93 games), and on July 24, 2009 Oakland A’s guru Billy Beane swapped him to St. Louis for three top prospects: Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson. In St. Louis, Holliday tore the cover off the ball — hitting .353 with 13 home runs in just 63 games, and propelling the Redbirds into the post season. He was just what Tony La Russa ordered.

Holliday’s post season experience gave St. Louis the confidence they needed against L.A. With Albert Pujols and Holliday in the middle of their order and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright their big guns as starters, St. Louis was set to head into L.A. to face Joe Torre’s big bats. L.A. took the first game, with a surprisingly shaky outing by Carpenter. But St. Louis came back to dominate the second game: and it looked like the Redbirds were set to even the series at one game apiece. But with two outs in the ninth ining and St. Louis leading, the otherwise sure-handed Holliday dropped a sinking liner off the bat of first sacker James Loney to give the Dodgers new life. Casey Blake then walked and former Nats Ronnie Belliard singled home the tying run, before Mark Loretta’s short centerfield single provided the 3-2 walk off win. “It’s tough to swallow,” Holliday said after the game. “Obviously, I feel terrible. But I just missed the ball. It hit my stomach. I think I can catch a ball hit right at me.” The Trolleys now lead the series, 2-0.

Nats Struggle In St. Louis

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Matt Holliday loves St. Louis. Since coming to the Cardinals, the former Colorado Rockies-Oakland Athletics outfielder is hitting .376 with a .438 OBP for the Redbirds. On Saturday, his three run homer all but decided the 9-4 contest, giving the loss to Nats’ starter Craig Stammen. And so after taking two of three from the struggling Cubs in Chicago, the Nats have now dropped two in St. Louis, but with hopes that the team can recover on Sunday in the final game of a three game set. On Sunday night, the Nats will travel to San Diego to take on the resurgent Friars, who are riding a  miraculous three game winning streak against the sinking Florida Marlins. Holliday’s homer came in the first, and while it did not seal the game for the Redbirds, it cast a bright light on the Cardinals’ strength since the trading deadline, when Holliday arrived: a team that could break out the big bats and score a slew of runs in backing what is one of the N.L. strongest starting staffs.

A disappointed Elijah Dukes struck out with the bases loaded in the 7th (AP/To Gannam

A disappointed Elijah Dukes struck out with the bases loaded in the 7th (AP/To Gannam)

“That’s what makes their lineup good,” Stammen said. “They’ve got multiple guys that can hurt you, back-to-back-to-back,” Craig Stammen admitted after the game. “When I went out there, I was like, ‘You know what? Have fun. Have fun trying to get the best hitters in the game out.’ And for the most part, it was kind of fun, except when they got me.” Stammen was not only victimized by Holliday. A key error by Cristian Guzman in the fifth inning helped the Cards score four unearned runs after two outs. Stammen defended his shortstop. Guzman has made enough plays for me this year that I’m not really worried about the one mistake that he makes,” said starter Craig Stammen. Adam Dunn provided Washington’s power, hitting his 35th home run in the 6th.

Down On Half Street: It seems the only time anyone in the N.L. Least can win a game is when they play each other. At least that’s the way it’s been lately. The Mets, reeling from a raft of injuries and the effects of age, were pummeled by the Cubs on national television on Saturday, 11-4, with Cubs supersub Jake Fox hitting a grand slam off of Mets youngster Bobby Parnell. Parnell is the hope of the future, but he’s had a rocky August. Nevertheless, the team pledges that “The Bobby Parnell Project” as they call it, will continue. Parnell is fairly philosophical about it all, admitting that his last outings have been “up and down.” Mostly down, actually . . .

It’s not possible for things to be worse in Florida, but they (nearly) are. You get the feeling that this is a ballclub that is on the verge of taking itself apart. On Friday, versus the little brown priests, Chris Volstad barely made it to the top of the dugout steps before he was shipped out to New Orleans.  Volstad, all 6-8 of him, lasted 1.2 innings (but just barely) and gave up six earned runs. He had a 5.08 ERA in the show. (We’ll take him.) On Saturday, the Marlins (hoping to catch the Phillies) sent out their ace, Ricky Nalasco. But they forgot to bring their bats. In six innings they mustered four hits against no-name Friars’ hurler Wade LeBlanc. Don’t underestimate Wade — he has an ERA of 9.58. Either Wade looked like Roger McDowell, or the Phish looked like the Bad News Bears. One guess . . .

Up in Philadelphia, things are proceeding apace for the Phuzzies, who are breezing their way to a division crown. Out in South Philly, the guys who stand around on the corner and talk tough are even trying to figure out the dimensions of the statue to Cliff Lee that will grace the front of the Philadelphia Art Museum — where they never go. Right next to the one of that other great Philly cultural icon, Rocky Balboa. But the Cliff Lee Express was derailed on Saturday, when the Chops decapitated Lee in front of a sold out crowd at Citizens Bank Park. The Chops barrage of homers (Diaz, Escobar, Anderson, Jones) reached such a din that it was like listening to the 1812 Overture. “It’s hard to get good results when you’re throwing pitches belt high and down the middle of the plate,” Lee said after the game. “That’s basically what happened. I feel good about throwing strikes, working ahead and not walking people, but I put myself in positions to put them away and I missed up and down the middle. If you consistently do that, that’s what’s going to happen.” The final butcher’s bill? 9-1 Atlanta.

Josh Hammers Brewers

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Josh Willingham’s two grand slam home runs powered the Washington Nationals to a 14-6 rout of the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on Monday night. Willingham became the 14th player in major league history to hit two grand slams in a single game. The first Willingham blast was hit in the fifth, the second in the sixth. Ryan Zimmerman added one of his own (his 18th), in the eighth. The rap against Willingham is that while he has shown power, he usually homers with no one on base; presumably that rap will be forgotten after his impressive display in Milwaukee. The first recorded double grand slam game, according to major league baseball, took place in 1936, the last occurred in 2003 –when Bill Mueller hit two for the Red Sox.

You have to believe that the Nats’ were happy to come away from tonight’s contest with a win — Craig Stammen proved ineffective in four-and-two-thirds innings of work: he gave up nine hits and five earned runs before being relieved by Jason Bergman, who pitched to six batters and gave up two hits. Sean Burnett and Logan Kensing closed out the game without giving up a run. Burnett lowered his ERA to 2.53. Nyjer Morgan’s three-for-five night pushed him over the .300 mark; he is now hitting .303 and has become the club’s everyday centerfielder. Rightfully so: since joining the Nats, Morgan has hit .388.

Willingham standard

Willingham was not the only player to hit a grand slam tonight. Fernando Tatis hit a grand slam in the New York Mets 7-3 win against the Rockies. It was the New Yorker’s third win in a row; and Chicago Cubs’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off grand slam homer against the Astros in Wrigley Field. The Soriano homer gave the streaking Cubs a 5-1 win over division rivals Houston . . . The Cubs need all the wins they can get, now that St. Louis has solidified the middle of its line-up with the addition of Matt Holliday, who is hitting like he’s happy to be back in the National League. Holliday’s arrival, coupled with the return of Mark DeRosa from the DL and the addition of Red Sox castoff Julio Lugo gives the “new look Cardinals” one of the toughest line-ups in the NL. The Cardinals look like they can beat anyone — except the Phillies of course: this last weekend the Redbirds lost two of three to the Phuzzies, and were outscored 24-16 . . . The only thing the Cubs, Cards and suddenly mortal Trolleys need is for Philadelphia to get another pitcher. And they might — they’re still the lead team in the hunt for Blue Jay ace Roy Halladay. If the Phillies land Halladay, the Cards can start waving white flags from the top of Busch Stadium . . .

On a day of great hitting, Tim Lincecum pitched a complete game, striking out fifteen while giving up only four hits against the Ahoys. The fifteen strike outs tied a franchise record held by Gaylord Perry. Lincecum is now 11-3 with a 2.30 ERA . . . The Giants are agog over landing Cleveland Indians’ Ryan Garko, a player they say they “coveted.” Really? It’s possible to “covet” Matt Holliday or Roy Halladay . . . but . . . Not that it was a bad deal: Garko is hitting .285 with eleven home runs. The Giants needed a bat and gave up relatively little to get a good one. Still, Garko is no Matt Holliday (whom the Redbirds, rightly, “coveted”) and you have to believe the Giants will need an even bigger bat to compete for the wild card. The Giants just lost two of three to the Rockies — their competition in the NL West. They’re now nine games behind the Dodgers and one game behind those same Rockies in the wild card . . . that said, the Giants’ acquisition of Garko plugs the hole they had at first base, which means it’s unlikely they will pony up for Nick Johnson, whose price was likely much steeper than the one they paid for Garko . . .

Friars Sizzle Nats

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

The San Diego Padres capitalized on four Washington Nationals’ errors Friday night to take the first of a three-game set from our Anacostia Boys, 6-2. After taking two of three from the Mets, the Nats reverted to the sloppy defense that had characterized the first part of their season: two errant throws to first base, a dropped pop-up in foul territory and the misplay of a rolling double in the left field corner. That’s one error on Garrett Mock, one on Jason Bergman, one error on catcher Josh Bard and one on left fielder Adam Dunn. “It was just a bad effort,” interim Manager Jim Riggleman said after the game.

Trade Winds: The St. Louis Cardinals got their man, trading three prospects to the Oakland A’s for outfielder Matt Holliday. The key to the trade for Oakland was the acquistion of third baseman Brett Wallace, who may eventually end up at first for the white elephants. The former Rockie, Holliday paid immediate dividends for the Redbirds, going four for five with one RBI in the Cardinals 8-1 win over the Phillies. Beset by uncertainty over their own financial situation — and with ownership of the ballclub undetermined — the Cubs will have difficulty matching the Cardinals’ upgrade. The Holliday trade reflects the kind of mid-season moves that both the Cards and Cubs are noted for: needing a big bat in May of last year, the Cubs signed free agent Jim Edmonds — a move that fueled their run to the NL Central flag. This year, it’s the Astros who need the bat, particularly after it was announced that Astros’ first baseman Lance Berkman was being sent to the DL for a calf strain.

 

New Redbird Matt Holliday Went 4-5 Friday (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

New Redbird Matt Holliday Went 4-5 Friday (AP Photo/Tom Mihalek)

The news in the NL Central will have an immediate impact on the Nats: it effectively takes the Cardinals out of the running for Adam Dunn (whose availability they reportedly inquired about this last week), while Berkman’s injury puts Nick Johnson on the table for the Astros. Houston called up Edwin Maysonet from triple-A Round Rock to take Berkman’s place, but he’s not the answer at first. The regular first base backup is Darin Erstad, but he’s also injured. Johnson seems a perfect fit for the Astros, with his high OBP and good glove. Astros’ players say they will “step up” to replace Berkman, but it will be difficult to replicate his numbers. “I’ll just say Lance, being honest and sincere, is a piece of our team that is going to be difficult to replace,” Astros’ outfielder Carlos Lee, who leads the team in RBIs, said. “The quality of player and what he means to this lineup, it’s going to be difficult to replace Lance. I think we’ll have to get it together and carry all the weight.”

Trade rumors involving Nationals’ players have escalated over the last week: the Phillies are said to be interested in Josh Willingham, the Tigers in Willingham and Dunn and, most recently, the Rangers have reportedly sent scouts to look at Nationals’ hitters. The Nats are said to be looking for “prospects” — primarily pitchers. The trade of Willingham to the Phillies becomes less likely if the Phuzzies pony up a handful of their best prospects (and pitcher J.A. Happ) to Toronto for Roy Halladay. And shipping Dunn or Willingham to Detroit (where the Nats are said to be scouting the Tigers’ double-A affiliate) seems perverse — trading players who are actually performing for a bunch of 21-year-olds who might (or might not) turn into major league players. That we got. Then too, a trade of Willingham to either Philly or Detroit means that we will be forced to watch a struggling Austin “Mendoza” Kearns (.198) learn how to hit. A good decision — but only if you want to drive what’s left of your fanbase out of the ballpark.