MLB General

The Full Count: Chris Carpenter for NL Cy Young

This year’s Cy Young

1. Cy to Carpenter: Who should win the NL Cy Young this year? While Johan Santana has virtually clinched the AL award, there is no clear favorite in the National League. But in our opinion, the league’s winner from last year is again its best pitcher this year. He is Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals, and he’s been dominant recently. Carpenter, who went 21-5 last year to take home his first career Cy Young, is 14-6 this year with a 2.84 ERA. Last night he shut down the Astros with a complete game, six-hit shutout. It was his second straight complete game in a row and third in his last six games. He’s won four straight decisions, and leads the NL in both ERA and WHIP. Carpenter has also been the only consistent starter for the Cardinals this season. That should be enough to add another Cy Young to his trophy case.

2. That’s offensive: It’s been well-established that the Florida Marlins have some good young players. Last night, many of them were at their finest. The Fish stomped the Mets 16-5, and while Anibal Sanchez failed in his quest for two straight no-hitters, it was all good news for Florida. Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera drove in three RBIs, giving him 109 on the year. All Star Dan Uggla went 5-5 and scored three runs. But it was outfielder Cody Ross that had the biggest day. Ross hit three homers, seven RBIs, and went 4-5 at the plate. All in all Marlins rookies hit five homeruns, setting a major league record. They passed Philly to improve to second place in the division and in the Wild Card race. They’re just two games out of the lead in the latter.

3. Keeping pace: As the Minnesota Twins won again yesterday, the White Sox needed to stay close to them by winning themselves. And, despite only recording four hits against starter John Lackey and the LA Angels, they still managed to win 3-2. Jose Contreras has his second consecutive 8 inning, one run allowed start. He had previously allowed five or more runs for four straight starts. But he improved to 13-7 as Bobby Jenks saved his 40th game of the year. The win left the Sox 3 games back of the Tigers and 1.5 behind the Twins for the Wild Card. This should be a fantastic race down the stretch.

4. Mid-field greatness: Where do the Yankees strengths lie? Well, they have many, but their greatest asset could be their middle infield. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano have been the best offensive shortstop-second base combination this season, at least in terms of batting average. Cano is hitting .336 and Jeter .345. While Jeter is second in the league, Cano doesn’t have enough at-bats to qualify. Anyway, his three-run double in yesterday’s game put the Yankees ahead for good over the Orioles. Jeter, meanwhile, continued his 21 game hit streak, a career high for him. He has 13 homers and 91 RBIs this year; Cano has 9 and 59 in less at-bats. That’s pretty good for a double-play combo.

5. Lefty #2 returns: Francisco Liriano, who is one of two lefty aces for the Minnesota Twins, is finally coming back to the mound. After missing more than a month, Liriano is off the disabled list and is set to return to the rotation as early as Wednesday. The 12-3, 2.19 ERA Liriano will pitch against the Oakland A’s. Assuming Liriano picks up where he left off, this could be a huge boost to the Twins in their push for the playoffs.

MLB General

The Full Count: Shutouts galore

2H, 1BB and 12K in 8 innings

1. Shut down and shut out: There were an inordinate amount of shutouts last night in the big leagues. Pitching prevailed as seven teams put up straight zeroes on the day. Let’s start with the American League, where three teams got blanked. The AL Wild Card race was affected, as the Twins won 8-0 while the White Sox lost 1-0. For the Twins, Johan Santana won his 17th game to take the lead in each of the pitching Triple Crown categories. The Sox lost to the Red Sox in David Ortiz’s return. Ortiz went 0-3 but the Red Sox escaped thanks to Kason Gabbard’s nice start. Elsewhere, the team that has allowed the most runs this season shut out the team that has scored the most. That’s right, it was Royals over Yankees, 5-0. For KC, Todd Wellemeyer went for a very long save, going 3.1 innings and striking out five. The Yankees still lead the Red Sox by 8 games while the Twins have opened up a 1.5 game lead on the White Sox.

2. Shutouts, NL Edition: There were way too many shutouts last night to contain in just one article. The Cards took on the Nats, winning 2-0 behind Albert Pujols’ 5th homer in 3 days. That gives him 44 on the season, more than last year when he won the MVP. Milwaukee crushed LA with a Doug Davis complete game. Davis allowed just four hits while striking out eight on the day. Claudio Vargas helped the D-Backs earn a shutout win of their own as he outdeuled the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis. And finally, Bronson Arroyo of the Reds surged back after his recent inconsistency, going for a complete-game blanking of the Giants while his ERA dropped to 3.33. According to Elias Says, this was only the seventh time in major league history that there were seven or more shutouts in a single day.

3. What’s going on?: The Tigers lost again last night. The team that has held the best record in the majors for so long finally finds itself and its starting pitching in a slump. Detroit has only won 4 of their last 13 games and just 9 of their last 27. While the Tigers still hold the best record in the major leagues and Kenny Rogers is on fire, many are now questioning whether this team really is “for real.” Jeremy Bonderman blew a three-run lead last night and has not looked like himself for the past month and a half. Bonderman has a 5.05 ERA and a .280 opponents’ batting average since the break, and he along with Nate Robertson and Zach Miner declined in August. But the Tigers have plenty of time to solve their problems before the postseason begins–if they can hold on to their playoff spot.

4. Now they’re the worst: Could things get any worse for Cubs fans? How does a loss to the Pirates sound? That’s what happened last night, as Pittsburgh won their second game of a four-game series. The Pirates’ Jason Bay had one of his best games of the season, with 2 homers and 4 RBIs. He is just shy of his career highs in both categories, set last year. The Cubs declined to the notorious title of “worst team in the National League.” Basically, considering how relatively bad the NL is, they’re the worst team in the majors. The 55-83 Cubbies have gone 1-9 their last ten to cement this dishonor.

5. Hell does not freeze over: And the Cincinnati Reds’ Key Griffey is hurt again. For Griffey, who last played a full season in 2000, this shouldn’t be news. But he is a major contributor to a contending team, so this could be important. Girffey’s current malady is a dislocated toe that leaves him out indefinitely. The 36-year old has no guess as to when he might be back. Source:

MLB General

The Full Count: Yanks and Tigers battle it out

Man Sal Fasano is fat

1. Two top teams, two close games: The Yankees and Tigers, the AL’s top two teams, played a doubleheader yesterday after being rained out Tuesday. The results, not surprisingly, were two interesting games. The Yanks took Game 1 by a count of 2-0 behind the fantastic play of Chien-Ming Wang. Wang pitched seven-plus innings, allowing no runs and getting his 16th win of the year. That ties him with Roy Halladay for the highest win total in the majors. In Game 2, the tides turned and the Tigers won 5-3. Craig Monroe hit a three-run homer in the 9th off of Scott Proctor to win the game. The teams will play a game tonight that will decide the series. Jeremy Bonderman of the Tigers and Randy Johnson of the Yankees will take the mound.

2. Seventh-inning express: The Cardinals were looking to break up the Marlins’ 9-game winning streak when the two teams played last night. While starter Jason Marquis and the Cards got down 5-1 early, they battled back by scoring in 4 consecutive innings. A four-run 4th that included a Marquis RBI settled the score at 5-5. St. Louis tacked on three more runs before blowing the Fish out of the water in the 7th inning. They scored 5 runs, including an RBI apiece for their 3-4-5. The final on this one was 13-6, with Marquis getting the win in as crude a fashion as possible. The game marked St. Louis’ 70th win of the season, and they lead the Reds by 4.5 games.

3. No support: Roger Clemens must just have bad luck. Once again, his Astros failed to give him anything resembling run support. Clemens pitched 7 innings, shutting out the opposing Brewers and striking out 9. However, the `Stros offense didn’t give him a run, so he was left stuck with a no-decision and a 2.29 ERA. But thankfully for Astros fans, this wasn’t another 1-0 loss–it was a 1-0 win! They won on a ninth-inning groundout by Aubrey Huff that scored Mike Lamb. The Astros have now won 5 games in a row and are 3 games out of the Wild Card.

4. Plenty of support: Jon Garland has not had any problem with run support this season. He has a 16-4 record, giving him the second-highest winning percentage in the majors, despite a pedestrian 4.47 ERA. He ranks fourth in the AL in run support, and the ChiSox’s leading offense helped him out yesterday too. Garland threw 8 innings but allowed 4 runs to the D-Rays. The Sox scored three runs in the 8th inning to make the final score 5-4. Jermaine Dye continued his streak of madness by going 3-5, while Jim Thome contributed in his return with an RBI. Tampa’s Delmon Young went 2-3 with 2 RBIs in his second major league start, numbers identical to his first start. The Sox keep on rolling with 3 straight wins and are now just 4.5 back of the Tigers.

5. Plenty of injuries, not enough time: Here’s what you’ve been waiting for: your semi-regular Full Count injury update! We’ll start off with Carl Pavano in this edition. Most people have forgotten Pavano existed, as he has been sidelined ever since the middle of last year. Apparently he had been concealing from the Yankees that he had a car crash, breaking his ribs in the process. The team told him not to pitch for two weeks. But there’s even worse news for Mark Mulder, the Cardinals pitcher who has struggled to stay unhurt the entire season. He has severe shoulder problems and will likely miss the rest of the season. The Twins have good and bad news about two of their pitchers. Francisco Liriano threw off a mound for the first time since hitting the DL on August 8. It’s still undetermined when he’ll start. The Twins’ Brad Radke, meanwhile, will miss his next start and has not pitched since the 25th. That’s all for this edition of the Full Count semi-regular injury update. Hope you enjoyed it.

MLB General

The Full Count: Who is Gary Bennett?

1. Take a walk: Who is Gary Bennett? Most people besides Cardinals fans have no idea. But for one weekend, Bennett has captured the baseball world with his performance. After hitting a walk-off single and driving in both Cardinals runs in their 2-1 win on Saturday, he followed that up with an even more impressive performance. With the game tied 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth yesterday, Bennett hit a walk off rand slam that capped a Cardinals sweep of the Cubs. The career backup catcher helped win two games as the Reds lost two, giving St. Louis a three game lead in the division. Here are two interesting tidbits about the NL Central: every team in the division has a three game streak going of some sort (either winning or losing), and the bottom three teams in the division have each allowed exactly 666 runs.

2. Seeing double: Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams are arguably the greatest Yankees from their 98-01 three peat. And yesterday they did something as a duo that they had never done before. Both Jeter and Williams homered twice against the Angels on Sunday as the Yankees won easily 11-8. Williams had his first multi-homer game of the season and drove in 6 RBIs. Jeter continued his incredible success this season with his two blasts and three runs. Both Williams and Robinson Cano went 4-5 on the day as the Yankees extended their divisional dominance. They lead by 6.5 with one week left before September.

3. Rebound: Mark Buehrle needed a good start. His ERA had inflated to almost 5 after multiple bad performances since the All Star break. But yesterday Buehrle finally got what he needed: a win. He allowed one run in 7 innings against the Twins for his 11th victory this year. He has 11 losses, however, and his ERA is still over six since the break. But he gave the White Sox a win in their last game of the series against Minnesota, though they still remain a half-game back of the Twins. The Tigers also won yesterday, meaning the White Sox remain 5.5 back.

4. Logjam atop the NL Wildcard: Cincinatti, which looked like they could even challenge for the division title, lost 3 in a row over the weekend to the Giants leaving them in danger of being caught in the wildcard race. The Padres did not help themselves by going 1-2 over the weekend and remain 1/2 game back. Meanwhile, the Phillies were rained out on Sunday but remain 1 game back after splitting the first two with the Mets. And of course, don’t count out San Francisco, who have moved to within 2 games. Should be a photo finish.

5. Let’s hope he doesn’t throw a bat: The Devils Rays are expected to call up Delmon Young from the minors on Tuesday. Just this April, Delmon was suspended 50 games for throwing a bat at an umpire after he disagreed with a call. The Rays find themselves with an open roster spot after Jonny Gomes hit the DL and sent Ty Wigginton down to Triple-A. They are trying to determine if Young can be their everyday rightfielder next season.

MLB General

The Full Count: Mets vs Cardinals as good as advertised

Bill Clinton approves this series

1. NLCS Preview?: In possibly the best overall matchup possible between National League teams, the Cardinals took on the Mets last night in Flushing. The result was better than anyone could have even anticipated, as the best offensive players for each side really took off. Albert Pujols hit a 3-run homerun in the third and followed it up with a fourth-inning grand slam. His 2 homeruns and 7 RBIs gave him 38 and 105 for the year, and he completely carried his team’s offense for the night. For the Mets, Carlos Delgado hit two blasts of his own, including a towering grand slam that gave him 400 career homeruns. But the Cardinals were still winning 7-6 heading into the 9th inning. That’s when Carlos Beltran stepped up. The slugger, who was 0-4 going into the inning, hit a walk off two run homerun to win the game for New York. It was one of the best games of the year in the NL, and there are still two games to go in this series.

2. NL West Showdown: We can’t believe we’re saying this after months of NL West bashing, but there is actually a watchable series in the division. The Dodgers are taking on the Padres in a battle of the top two teams in the West. So far, the Padres have absolutely dominated the season series over the division leader. They have taken 10 of 13 from LA, including a 1-0 win last night. Jake Peavy pitched a great game to continue his recent success, while Mike Piazza drove in the only run of the night. Peavy has had one of the more puzzling seasons of any pitcher. While he is third in the league in strikeouts and has a good 1.23 WHIP, Peavy owns an awful 7-12 record. That’s due in part to poor run support, and in part to Peavy’s underwhelming 4.35 ERA. But he won last night as the Padres won their third in a row to close the gap between them and the Dodgers to two games.

3. Next step: division lead: With the Cardinals loss, all the Reds needed to do was win to put them one game back of the division leaders. They did more than that. Cincy annihilated the Astros 14-0, crushing them in every way possible. Offensively they put up 4 runs in the second and 8 in the third. Brandon Phillips started the scoring with a solo shot, while Scott Hatteberg and Adam Dunn tacked on two more homers. Then Kyle Lohse, who had been simply awful before being traded from the Twins to the Reds this year, pitched his fourth straight quality start with 8 shutout innings. His masterpiece gave Lohse his first win as a Red and his ERA is now 1.65 with the team. Now at 66-60, Cincinnati is one game back of St. Louis and has the same amount of victories as the Cardinals. They are closing in on the team that has won two straight Central division titles.

4. AL Roundup: There were plenty of events in the AL yesterday as well. The Seattle Mariners ended an 11 game win streak with a 6-5 defeat of the Yankees. Adrian Beltre hit a walk-off homer, his second of the night and 15th of the year. The Red Sox continued their poor play with a 4-3 loss to the Angels, keeping them 6.5 back of the Yankees. Also, Kenny Rogers pitched 7 shutout innings for the Tigers as they beat the White Sox again, 4-0. Marcus Thames continued the Detroit tradition this year of unknown players stepping up, with a homer, a triple, and 3 RBIs. And finally, the Blue Jays improved after last night’s embarrassment, defeating the Athletics 4-3 as AJ Burnett won his 4th consecutive start. Fortunately, Jays manager John Gibbons didn’t challenge Burnett to a fight for the 3 runs he allowed.

5. Winning games, losing money: While the Yankees continue to spend, spend, and spend some more on free agents, few people think about whether the team has the funds to support their gigantic $200 million payroll. Well here’s the answer: they don’t. Yankees GM Brian Cashman (what a name!) reported yesterday that despite all the money the team is making, they are still losing money due to revenue sharing. Last year they made the most money in baseball with $277 million in revenue, but still lost $50 million overall. Perhaps this isn’t a good time to remember their $1 billion-plus new stadium that the team has to finance in part.

MLB General

The Full Count: Chipper’s streak ended

Not that kind

1. Streak vs. Streak: 3 streaks were on the line when the Braves traveled to St. Louis yesterday. Each team had winning streaks to keep up, as both came into the game undefeated in July. But the most important streak on the line was Chipper Jones’ 14 straight games with an extra-base hit, tying a major-league record. Unfortunately, Chipper could not break the 80-year-old record, “only” managing 3 singles on the day. But that was the only bad news for the Braves, as they routed the Cardinals 15-3. This marked the fourth game in a row the Braves had scored in double digits; they have 51 runs in those games. Brian McCann homered for his third straight game (a grand slam), Wilson Betemit had 4 hits and drove in 5, and red-hot Adam LaRoache went 4-4 with a homer. The Braves piled up 20 hits in all, crushing Jeff Weaver in his first start as a Cardinal. Though Chipper may not have extended his streak, he’s now hitting .333, good for third in the NL. The Braves are now closing in fast on the Wild Card lead, and though 7 teams are ahead of them, none seem as dangerous as the perennial playoff contenders.

2. Different Directions: That’s where the Cleveland Indians and the LA/Anaheim Angels are headed. The Angels, despite starting the year in last place, have won 7 in a row and are only a half-game back of the division-leading A’s. Meanwhile, the Indians are further away from playoff contention than you are, having lost 8 of their last 10 games. Last night (as always in baseball) the hottest team prevailed, as the Angels doubled up on the Tribe 10-5. Jake Westbrook was shattered for seven runs in just 3.2 innings, as the Angels 3-4-5 hitters drove in 2 runs a piece. The Indians are now 21 games out of first place after narrowly missing the playoffs last year.

3. Stung by the D’Backs: In the NL West division this year, things can change very quickly. That has been showcased by the remarkable emergence of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who started the month in last place but are now in second. Last night they beat up on divisional foe Los Angeles 8-3, with rookie Enrique Gonzalez winning his third major-league start. Eric Byrnes homered with 3 RBIs for Arizona as they cruised to another victory. So now, despite being 46-46 and outscored on the season, the Diamondbacks find themselves 3 games back of the Padres for the division lead. The bottom half of the West–the Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies–are all on significant losing streaks.

4. E for Everybody: Monday’s slate of games featured many more errors than usual. The Yankees committed 4–including 3 by A-Rod–and still beat the Mariners (3 errors). Texas had 3 missteps themselves, and it showed as they were pummeled by Toronto 10-1. But it doesn’t end there. The Royals, Giants, Nationals, and Phillies committed 2 errors each–and all of them lost. So on the day 12 of 24 teams had at least one error, and those teams went 4-8. It just shows how important defense is in baseball and how sloppy teams usually don’t win.

5. Superstar available–for a price: It is by now common knowledge that Philadelphia outfielder Bobby Abreu is on the trading block. But teams will have to have deep pockets in order to acquire him. Abreu’s current contract includes a full no-trade clause, and for him to waive it he’s going to need something in return. That will either be an extension on his current 5 year, $64 million contract or an agreement to pick up his $16 million option for 2008. That means only large-market or playoff-contention teams should be in the running for Abreu. As usual, the Yankees and Red Sox will be potential suitors, in addition to the Mets and Tigers. Wherever he lands, he isn’t the best player available. That title goes to Alfonso Soriano, though he will likely be equally expensive.