MLB General

The Full Count: Yankees clinch

A-rod looking as douchey as possible

1. Lucky Number 13: The Yankees continued the longest playoff streak in all of baseball by clinching a spot in October for the 13th consecutive year. They did so in style, beating the Devil Rays 12-4 as Cano and Jeter homered and Chien-Ming Wang won his 19th game of the season. Now the American League playoff teams are set, with Cleveland, Los Angeles, Boston, and the Yanks competing for the pennant. Unless there is a bizarre change in the standings in the last few days this season, New York will take on the Indians and the Angels will battle the Red Sox in the opening matchups. The Yankees’ run at the playoffs of course was expected before the season, but by the end of May many thought their season was over. That’s because they were one of the worst teams in the AL exactly four months ago, only a few games ahead of Tampa Bay. Since then, however, they’ve had the best record in the league, and with 15 wins in their last 20 games they will head to the postseason with momentum on their side.

2. Still Undecided: The National League playoff situation remains the exact opposite of the American League. While all four teams have clinched in the AL, no team has clinched a playoff berth in the NL. Many contenders seem to be slipping at the wrong time, particularly the Mets. They’ve had the NL East lead the majority of the season, but after losing 9 of their last 13 games, the Phillies are only one game back. The Phillies virtually eliminated the Braves by beating them 5-2; Atlanta would now need a complete miracle to make the playoffs. The situation in the NL Central remains uncertain, as it has been for about a month. The Cubs’ loss gave the Brewers an opportunity to get within a single game, but Milwaukee lost to the Cardinals and remains two back. The hottest team in the NL right now is the Rockies, who have won a franchise-record 10 consecutive games. They are now one game back of the Padres, and tied with Philadelphia.

3. Bye Bye, Barry: Barry Bonds has been extremely quiet ever since breaking the major league homerun record, as the sale of the 756 ball has received more attention than the man who hit it. Bonds has started to play less and less; in fact, until last night he hadn’t appeared since September 15. Now Barry deserves at least some recognition, as he appeared in his last game in a Giants uniform on Wednesday. Bonds, who will likely play next year as a DH for an American League team, has officially ended his tenure with the Giants. He won 5 MVP awards with the club, and hit over 500 homers with them alone. In his last game with the club, Bonds went 0-3 as the Giants lost 11-3 to the Padres. Jake Peavy picked up his 19th win for San Diego.

Player of the Day: Mike Lowell, Red Sox: 3-5, 5 RBIs in an 11-6 win over the A’s. Lowell, who leads the team in RBIs with 116, also set the club’s single-season RBI record for third basemen.

MLB General

The Full Count: Padres come up big

1. (Re)taking the Lead: The Padres’ tie with the Phillies atop the wild card standings didn’t last very long. As the Phillies lost to the Braves, San Diego beat San Francisco 6-4 with a huge rally in the ninth. Brian Giles hit a game-winning three run homer to cap off a four-run ninth. The 86-71 Padres are theoretically in the division race too, at two games back, but it is the wild card that gives them a better shot at making the playoffs. They will play their last division game of the year Wednesday at San Francisco before heading off to Milwaukee for their last series.

2. The New Contenders: The Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies are two late-season additions to the wild card race. They are the two hottest teams in the majors, and both won on Tuesday as well. The Rockies have won nine in a row, while the Braves have won eight of their last nine games, including a key 10-6 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. The win, powered by Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones homers, put the Braves at three games back in the wild card. The Rockies are even closer, at just one game back of the Padres. They beat Los Angeles, who is officially out of the race, by a score of 9-7. Troy Tulowitzki hit his 23rd homer of the year and Todd Helton added three hits for Colorado. The Rockies, who have scored the fifth-most runs in the majors, will play the Dodgers once more and then face the Diamondbacks for a season-ending three game set.

3. Power Play: The Brewers are edging closer to the playoffs, just two games back of the Cubs after a 9-1 win over St. Louis. They wouldn’t even be near contention without the contributions of MVP candidate Prince Fielder, who added two homers to his league-leading total. Fielder now has 50 home runs, the youngest player ever to reach that mark. Additionally, he and his father Cecil are the only father-son tandem in big league history to each have 50-home run seasons. Prince is having a truly unbelievable season for a second-year player, almost matching what Ryan Howard did last year. He has almost doubled his rookie homerun total (28) while also improving every other category known to man. He isn’t the leading MVP candidate, but he will pick up plenty of votes, especially because he reached the big 5-0.

Player of the Day: Victor Martinez, Indians: 2-4, HR (25), 3 RBIs in a 4-3 win over Seattle. Why isn’t Martinez one of the MVP candidates? He has been by far the Indians’ best hitter this season, with a .301 average and 110 RBIs, both leading the team.

MLB General

The Full Count: Padding the records

1. 759 and 133: Two recently set major league records were furthered in Wednesday’s Braves-Giants game. Bobby Cox, who set the major league record for most ejections with 132 on Tuesday, got tossed again while arguing a balk call on Tim Hudson. Also, ejected in separate incidents were first baseman Ryan Klesko and manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants, both for arguing balls and strikes. There was plenty of other excitement in this one besides the ejections. Barry Bonds hit homerun #759 into the stands in right-center, remarkably close to Hank Aaron’s image along the outfield wall. The crowd at Turner Field reacted mainly with boos, though a few (including me) were applauding with respect if not admiration. As far as the actual game went, the Braves won 6-3, thanks to Hudson’s excellent pitching and a sixth-inning rally. Hudson went eight innings with three runs allowed and two questionable balk calls. He is undefeated since the All Star break, and at 14-5, is among the contenders for the NL Cy Young award. The Braves won took control of this one when they scored four runs in the sixth, as they took advantage of Russ Ortiz’s inability to throw strikes. With the win they improved to 64-56 and moved passed the Phillies into second place in the NL East.

2. Here Come the Cards: Once in last place, the St. Louis Cardinals are now inching closer to the Brewers and Cubs in the NL Central. With four wins in a row (and seven wins their last ten games), the Cards are now just 3.5 game behind the Brewers for the division lead. Their pitching staff, which has taken a beating the majority of the season, is actually the reason for their recent success. Joel Pineiro, acquired from the Red Sox earlier this month, won his second start in a row on Wednesday. Pineiro pitched seven strong innings as St. Louis topped Milwaukee 8-3. Albert Pujols hit his 25th homerun and Scott Rolen went 4-5 to power the offense. Though the Cardinals still have a losing record (57-60), if they continue this success they will be viewed as a serious contender in the NL Central.

3. Nine-run ninth: The Mets scored 5 runs in the first, 5 runs in the ninth, and nothing in between. Their win over the Pirates on Thursday still wasn’t easy. Despite leading 10-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, this game was a close call for New York. The Pirates piled on 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth off Aaron Sele, including a Jason Bay two-run double. The Mets held on for the win when Billy Wagner came in for his 28th save. New York’s ninth inning was fueled by a throwing error by Pirates pitcher Shawn Chacon. After the error they scored four runs off of five straight hits. The win was the third in a row for the Mets, who kept a 3.5 game lead in the division.

Player of the Day: Russell Martin, Dodgers: 2-4, 2 HR (14), 3 RBI in a 6-3 win over Houston.

MLB General

The Full Count: Dice-K outduels Sabathia

Can I get some run support?

1. Duel of the Day: Pitcher’s duels don’t get much better than the one on Tuesday, when Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka and Cleveland’s CC Sabathia were at their best. Both went seven innings, with Dice-K allowing no runs and Sabathia one. The Red Sox ended up winning 1-0, with the only score coming off a Mike Lowell RBI single. For Sabathia, it was his third loss in his last four starts, dropping him to 13-5. Matsuzaka, meanwhile, is now 12-7 with a 3.79 ERA. Now all the hype surrounding him earlier has all but vanished, even though he’s pitching much better than he did earlier in the year. Sabathia, with a 3.70 ERA himself, may no longer be a Cy Young candidate, but he’s still an ace on one of the league’s best teams.

2. Back on Top: The New York Mets are back where they should be: on top on the National League. They have regained the league’s best record at 56-43, thanks to a 7-4 record since the All Star break despite tough opponents. The Mets held their own last week in a brutal road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles, going .500. Now they face Pittsburgh and Washington at home, the former of which they defeated 8-4 last night. John Maine pitched seven solid innings for his 11th win. The underrated Maine has been the Mets’ ace this year, with a 3.04 ERA and .219 opponents’ average. He is part of a pitching staff that ranks third in the NL in ERA. Their offense, though nowhere as near as good as last year, is at least above-average. If their pitching can remain excellent, which it has been, the Mets will remain the league’s best team.

3. I’ll be there for you: Bud Selig, after way too much controversy for such a minor issue, has announced he will be in attendance when Barry Bonds breaks Aaron’s homerun record. Bonds, whose 43rd birthday yesterday was spoiled by the Braves’ 7-5, 13-inning win, remains at 753 career homeruns. He hit two out last week against the Cubs, but has gone 2-14 since then. Selig could be forced to attend the Giants’ games for two weeks while waiting for Bonds to break the record. It’s still the right decision, and one that shouldn’t have taken so long for Selig to make. While the other sports’ commissioners are dealing with huge issues right now (dogfighting, ref betting), Selig gets to watch a great athlete beat a greater record. What Bonds may have done to get there should remain irrelevant for the commissioner of baseball.

Player of the Day: Craig Biggio, Astros: 2-4, Grand Slam (6) in the Astros’ 7-4 win over the Dodgers. This came on the day he announced he will retire after this season.

MLB General

The Full Count: Jake Peavy makes his Cy Young case

1. King of the Hill: Jake Peavy faced Rich Hill in a promising pitching matchup on Tuesday. But this one wasn’t close, as Hill continued his recent struggles while Peavy kept his major league leading ERA. Hill allowed five runs in six innings, the third start in a row he’s given up four or more runs. He allowed four homeruns to the Padres, all of them solo. Meanwhile, Peavy gave up just one run to improve to 6-1 with a 1.63 ERA. If the season ended right now, he would win the Cy Young in a landslide. On offense, Adrian Gonzalez hit his 11th homer and Mike Cameron hit two out to triple his season total. The Padres are just a half game back of the Dodgers now.

2. Twin Powers: The Twins’ three best players–Johan Santana, Justin Morneau, and Torii Hunter–all dominated in a 7-1 win over the Rangers. Santana had one of his best starts of the season, with 13 strikeouts and one run allowed in seven innings. He only surrendered a homer to Sammy Sosa, who now has 598 on his career. Morneau powered the offense with two homers, five RBIs, and three hits. With 13 homers, he is now second only to A-Rod in the AL in that category. Torii Hunter also continued his recent hot streak, with another homer and two ribbies. In his last nine games, Hunter has 5 homers and 17 RBIs. The Rangers, followed up back-to-back 14-run outings with 18 strikeouts on offense.

3. Youth over experience: For the second time in six days, Tim Lincecum of the Giants took on Roy Oswalt of the Astros. Last time, both pitchers were even and the game was decided in extras. On Tuesday, Lincecum got the better of the two-time All Star. Lincecum pitched a career-high eight innings and gave up two runs, lowering his ERA to 3.08. After a poor debut, Lincecum has made three straight quality starts. Oswalt gave up four runs in the loss but is still 6-3. Also worth noting for the Giants is how Barry Bonds has completely struggled lately. Since his last homer on May 8, he has no RBIs, just 5 hits, and a .191 slugging percentage. His OPS has fallen from 1.311 to 1.121, though that’s still good enough to lead the NL.

Player of the Day: Kyle Davies, Braves: 8 innings, 1 run, and three RBIs in an 8-1 win over the Mets.

Stat of the Day: After only recording three RBIs in the first 32 games this year, Felipe Lopez of the Nationals has 13 RBIs in his last 13 games, including a 6-RBI effort on Tuesday in a win over Cincinnati.

San Francisco Giants

Barry Bonds’ brother would like to be heard

We strongly believe that relatives of athletes should be seen and not heard (see Wilma McNabb) so it comes as no surprise that by opening his mouth, Bobby Bonds Jr. makes us hate Barry Bonds even more.

Hank Aaron does not even want to support Barry. Being a black man going through what he went through in the past and not supporting my brother, it kind of makes me look at him like, ‘Are you serious, brother? Are you serious?’

Cut the steroids out, just look at my brother as a human being. He stole bases, he ran, he caught the ball. It’s so hard to justify what’s going on with baseball and how they’re treating him.

First of all, he’s actually criticizing Hank Aarons? Is this like black on black crime or something? Why should Hank Aaron support a guy breaking his record by cheating? Most athletes will say that records are made to be broken but they hope that it’s done by someone with more talent than them or worked harder, not by someone who has more syringes.

Second, hate to break it to you bro, but Barry Bonds sucks as a human being as well. Yes, that’s right, he ran, he caught the ball, he stole bases… in the past. Now all he is is a roided up mass of muscle waiting for one pitch to knock over the fence. You’re driving a forklift in NJ while Barry is making $15M this year. That’s insane. That’s just completely insane.

[]: Kid Brother Takes His Cuts

MLB General

The Full Count: Return of the Rocket

1. He’s (almost) baaaacck: Roger Clemens is back with the team he won two World Series titles with. The Yankees, who have been desperate for starting pitching since the beginning of the season, signed the Rocket in a $28 million deal pro-rated over four months (so he’ll make $18.5 million). While this deal comes as unsurprising, it could have a huge effect on the league this season. When Clemens returns to the mound within the next month or so, the Yankees with have a solid rotation: Clemens, Mussina, Ming-Wang, Pettitte, and Hughes. But since an already old team is adding a 45-year-old pitcher, it also shows the Yankees need a World Series title this year. As Clemens moves from the National League back to the American, he’ll see a rise in ERA from the past two seasons. But with increased run support, he will have a better record than he did with the Astros, and he will help make the Yankees at least competitive with the Red Sox for the division title. I still favor Boston to win it, but Clemens certainly makes the race more interesting.

2. Phenom meets phenom: Barry Bonds didn’t play on Sunday Night Baseball against the Phillies, but the game was still interesting due to a lot of offense and a matchup of young pitchers. The Phillies sent their ace-to-be Cole Hamels to the mound to face the Giants’ Tim Lincecum in his major league debut. Lincecum had lit up the minor leagues for a 0.29 ERA in five starts this year, but he allowed two homers (including a shot to Ryan Howard) and struggled with his control. After four innings and 100 pitches, Lincecum left with 5 runs and 5 walks allowed. Hamels allowed 5 runs as well, but only 3 of them were earned and he had 9 strikeouts. He was credited with the win and improved to 4-1 on the year. Another thing worth noting for the Phillies was the emergence of a new weapon on the basepaths. Pinch-runner Michael Bourn came in on first, stole two bases on two consecutive pitches, then scored on a routine grounder to short that usually would have been an out. The Phillies may only be 14-17, but they certainly have a lot of offensive weapons.

3. Detroit Dominance: The Tigers may have just faced the pitiful Royals over the weekend, but they took advantage of them and extended their winning streak to 7 games. A three-game sweep of Kansas City gave Detroit a share of the division lead with Cleveland. On Sunday they dominated 13-4 and had four different players with a homerun. Gary Sheffield hit his third homer of the past five games and has suddenly heated up after a cold April. Also, rookie pitcher Chad Durbin had one of his better starts with 7.2 innings and just 2 runs allowed. The 19-11 Tigers will be tested with back-to-back road series against the Red Sox and Twins over the next week.

Player of the Day: Trot Nixon, Indians: 5-5, 4 RBIs in a 9-6 win over Baltimore.

Stat of the Day: Padres starter Jake Peavy has struck out at least 10 batters in three consecutive games, while throwing for only seven innings in each game.

Walk Off: An ESPN poll about Barry Bonds shows only 58% of people think he should be in the Hall of Fame. This goes to show the complete unintelligence of baseball fans. Even if you think Bonds cheated in every way possible, he was a Hall of Famer before his alleged steroid use. His is the best hitter in a generation, and should be a unanimous Hall of Fame selection in addition to being considered one of the greatest hitters ever. He has broken more records than anybody since Babe Ruth. Don’t let the crappy person Bonds is diminish his unbelievable numbers.

MLB General

The Full Count: Streaking Giants move into first place

1. Eight is Great: One of the more surprising teams this season has been the San Francisco Giants. Expected to be one of the worst teams in the NL by many, they have moved up to first place with a league-high 8 consecutive wins. They just swept the Dodgers, who gave up their division lead. Bonds didn’t go deep on Thursday, but Ray Durham and Bengie Molina each had two RBIs, and starter Russ Ortiz somehow found a way to pitch well. Brad Penny (3-0, 1.95 ERA) continued his success for Los Angeles, but the bullpen blew a 3-1 lead for him. The Giants, who have the highest winning streak in the majors so far this year, will look to extend it as they face division foes Arizona and Colorado over the next week.

2. Bartolo is Back: Remember when Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young in 2005? Most people probably don’t due to his injury-riddled 2006. But now, after two starts this year, Colon looks to be an ace again. He improved to 2-0 after shutting down the Devil Rays. He pitched 7 innings, with one run allowed and 11 strikeouts. The Angels offense gave him plenty of support, with 11 runs, including a homer by Vlad Guerrero. The Angels were struggling at the beginning of the year, but now after three straight wins, they’re in first place. Their rotation, when healthy, could be the best in baseball: Colon, John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar, and Jered Weaver.

3. Still no pitching: Desperate in their search for capable starting pitching, the Yankees gave one of their best prospects, Phillip Hughes, a major league start. While you can’t draw conclusions based on one outing, Hughes doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement over the other guys they’ve tried out. He only lasted 4 innings against the Blue Jays, allowing 4 runs and throwing 91 pitches. But for Toronto, AJ Burnett gave his best start of the year against the Yanks’ great offense: 7 innings, 5 strikeouts, no runs allowed. The 6-0 win for the Blue Jays was New York’s sixth straight loss after getting swept by the Red Sox and Devil Rays. They are currently in last place.

Player of the Day: Josh Beckett, Red Sox: 8 innings, 2 runs, improved to league-best 5-0 in a 5-2 win over Baltimore.

Stat of the Day: Sammy Sosa’s two homeruns against the Indians made Jacobs Field the 44th park he has homered in. That is a major league record.

MLB General

The Full Count: Bad + Bad = extra innings Bad

Hell, even Garner looks bored

1. Longest Game of the Year: There have been quite a few extra-inning contests this year, but none as long as the Astros-Pirates game on Wednesday. The Astros always seem to get involved in the really long games, and this one lasted 16 innings. The winner of this marathon was the Pirates after Adam LaRoche hit a walk-off single. It was his first career hit at PNC Park, and only the 7th hit overall this year for LaRoche, who has been in a slump since the season started and is only hitting .106. The teams combined for 15 different pitchers, 30 different hitters, and 476 pitches thrown.

2. Man on Fire: Bonds hasn’t been this good since 2004. He hit a first-inning, three-run homerun on Wednesday against the Dodgers, giving him 7 on the year and 741 for his career. Barry Bonds has now homered in three of his last four games, and leads the league in homers, slugging, and OPS. He’s 14 short of the career homers record, and he Willie McCovey as the Giants’ all-time RBI leader. The Giants won 6-4 over the Dodgers, with Noah Lowry getting the win and Armando Benitez the save. For Benitez, it is his 6th save of the year with an ERA of 2.45.

3. Dueling Complete Games: You wouldn’t expect a matchup between Jarrod Washburn of the Mariners and Joe Blanton of the A’s to turn into a pitcher’s duel, but it did. Both hurlers threw complete games, but Blanton allowed two solo homeruns while Washburn shutout the A’s. Jose Guillen and Kenji Johjima both went yard, supplying all the offense the Mariners needed. Oakland’s loss combined with the Angels’ win over Tampa results in a tie atop the AL West standings.

Player of the Day: Jake Peavy, Padres: 7 innings, 2 hits, no runs, 16 strikeouts. He struck out nine straight from the second to fourth inning.

Stat of the Day: Joel Zumaya hit a batter and then walked four straight against the White Sox. It is only the second time a reliever has issued a free pass to five straight batters in the last 40 years, according to Elias Sports.

MLB General

The Full Count: Need run support? How about 4 HRs in a row?

1. Streak to a Sweep: Daisuke Matsuzaka was pitching for the Red Sox, but he was completely overshadowed by the team’s offense in a 7-6 win over the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. Boston tied a major league record with four homeruns in a row in the third inning, all off Yankees rookie Chase Wright. Manny Ramirez started the streak with a deep shot over the Green Monster in left-center. Then JD Drew, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek each hit shots of their own, two of which also went over the Green Monster. That got the fans going at Fenway and sent Chase Wright out of the game. Still, the Yankees were leading 5-4 in the 7th inning, until Lowell hit another homer, this one a three-run blast. Dice-K got the win for Boston despite allowing six runs in seven innings. Ironically, he had come into the game as the pitcher with the least run support in the AL. This game marked only the 5th time in major league history that a team hit four homers in a row, and the first time in 43 years for an AL team. The Los Angeles Dodgers did it last September against the Padres, in a streak that also featured JD Drew. Boston swept the Yankees over the weekend, but New York will seek revenge next week at Yankee Stadium.

2. Bonds is Back: Barry Bonds may be 42 years old and well past his prime, but he can still mash. The slugger hit solo homeruns on Saturday and Sunday, providing the majority of the Giants’ 3 runs in those games. The team still won both games due to back-to-back complete games by Barry Zito and Matt Cain. The Bonds homers gave him 6 on the year and 740 for his career, 15 short of Hank Aaron’s record. He is tied for the NL leads in homers, and ranks first in on-base percentage, slugging, and OPS. At this rate, we might see baseball’s most prestigious record fall before the All Star break.

3. Back on top: For those who thought the Braves’ early season success is a fluke, it’s time to reconsider. The team has played the Mets twice and won 4 out of those 6 games. On Sunday, a Glavine vs. Smoltz pitching matchup turned out to be a game filled with offense. Atlanta’s Kelly Johnson hit two homers, including a shot to leadoff the game and a three-run blast that won the game for the Braves. Smoltz and Glavine allowed a combined 9 runs as the Braves came out on top 9-6. For the Mets, Jose Reyes continues to be the National League’s best player. He is hitting .370 with league-leading totals in runs and steals. The Braves now lead the division by a half-game.

Player of the Day: Scott Rolen, Cardinals: 5-6, HR (2), 3 runs, 3 RBIs in a 12-9 win over the Cubs.

Stat of the Day: Albert Pujols has 5 homers and 12 RBIs this year. Oddly, 4 of his homers and 10 of his RBIs have come on Sunday. He is hitting .438 on Sunday, as compared to .166 on all other days.