Rangers Officially Eliminated; Rockies On the Verge

The Rangers have become the first team officially eliminated from the post-season this year. The Astros are the only other team that has been eliminated from either a divisional or wild-card race. They are officially on the outside looking in at the AL West, like the Rangers.

The Rockies, however, could be the next team to be totally eliminated. They go into the weekend with a tragic number of one in the NL West — a Dodgers win or Rockies loss and it’s over. They also have the lowest remaining tragic number in a wild-card race — six. With the Brewers and Braves tied for the second NL wild-card spot, the Rockies will be officially eliminated when any combination of their losses and Brewers wins totalling six, and Rockies losses and Braves wins totally six are reached.

The Astros, along with the Twins and Boston, both have tragic numbers of seven — combination of their losses and Tigers wins totally seven — for wild-card elimination. While the Astros already are eliminated in the AL West, the Twins have a tragic number of seven in the AL Central — combination of their wins and Twins losses — and the Red Sox tragic number in the AL East is two — combination of their losses or Orioles wins.

The battle for the No. 1 draft choice in next June’s draft right now features the Rangers (53-87) and the Rockies (56-84). The No. 1 pick has a bit more value this year because the team that finishes with the second worst record will get the No. 3 pick in June, not the traditional No. 2 selection.

 

Houston will be awarded the second pick in next year’s draft for its failure to sign overall No. 1 Brady Akin, who is expected to enroll in a junior college so he can be eligible for next year’s draft.

The Astros, however, won’t be a factor with Akin. After the bad feeligns created during negotiations this summer Akin will not sign a reconsent that would allow Houston to select him again.

De La Rosa and Coors Field a Perfect Match

Common sense prevailed.

Jorge De La Rosa and the Rockies agreed to a two-year contract extension on Wednesday. It’s worth $25 million according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com.
It’s a bargain — for both sides.

De La Rosa never could make things click with the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Brewers and Royals.He has been a success with the Rockies.

De La Rosa joined the Rockies in 2008 and is 44-14 at Coors Field in his career, a 759 winning percentage. That’s the second best home winning percentage among big-league pitchers since 2008 to Zack Greinke, who is 58-17 at his home ballpark in that time, a .773 winning percentage. Greinke has called Kauffman Stadium, Miller Park, Anaheim Stadium and Dodger Stadium home during that time.

De La Rosa’s .759 winning percentage if one of only five above .500 at Coors Field among starting pitchers with at least 30 decisions all-time. Ubaldo Jimenez is (30-19, .612), Jason Jennings (31-22, .585), Jeff Francis (34-29, .540) and Aaron Cooks (36-32, .529).

De La Rosa says the key to his success is that he has better command of his breaking ball at Coors Field. He says on the road he has trouble limiting the movement. What scouts say, though, is that De La Rosa is confident in his off-speed pitch, and that is vital to pitching at Coors Field.

It is an amazing turn of events consdidering for all his success at Coors Field he is 39-53 with a 5.03 ERA while pitching in every other park.

He is 68-44 with a 4.24 in his Rockies career after going 4-7 with a 6.23 in parts of three years with the Brewers, and 11-16 with a 5.64 ERA in two years with the Royals. He never got to the big leagues with the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox.

He has spent time in 11 different seasons in the minor leagues, where he is a combined 31-32 with a 4.05 ERA.

Pirates on Reds Alert

The season hasn’t gone well for the Reds.

This weekend they can share their angst with the Pirates.

The Pirates host the Reds in a weekend series, looking to improve their efforts to claim at least an NL wild-card berth for the second year in a row. The Pirates go into the weekend in third place in the NL Central, four games behind division-leading Milwaukee, and 2 1/2 back of second-place St.Louis. The Cardinals lead the NL wild-card race with San Francisco holding the second spot right now, two games ahead of the Pirates. Atlanta is No. 3 in the wild=card running, a half game ahead of the Pirates.

The Reds have fared well in their recent visits to Pittsburgh, winning nine of the last 13 games with the Pirates at PNC Park. That is despite the fact that in that same time span, dating back to May 31, 2013, the Pirates have a .630 home winning percentage (68-40) against all other teams, according to STATS LLC.

The Pirates are coming off back-to-back divisional series in which they took two out of three at Milwaukee and then at home against St. Louis. Andrew McCutchen, back after a stint on the disabled list earlier in the month because of a broken rib, went 8-for-23 with five runs scored, two home runs and four RBI in those six games.

The Reds, meanwhile, are in fourth place in the NL Central with a 65-69 record. They are 8 1/2 games back of division-leading Milwaukee and 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates. The Reds are 14-25 since the All-Star Break.

The Reds offense has been in a post-All-Star funk, ranking 29th in the major leagues in runs (132) and average (.224). Only the Mets have scored fewer runs (125) and hit for a lower average (.216). Brayan Pena and Kristopher Negron (.274) have the highest averages among Reds regulars since the Break. Todd Frazier (.254) is the only other regular hitting higher than .231.

Cuban Inflation

Boston’s signing of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castilla to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal adds to pressures for including foreign players in a draft.

The Cuban market has increased markedly in the last few years.

Consider that in 2010 Cincinnati signed Aroldis Chapman to a six-year, $30.25 million deal. Three years ago, Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year, $35 million contract with Oakland.

Now comes Castilla.

The signing of Castilla gives the Red Sox an overload of outfielders. It could, however, all be part of the Red Sox plan to make a quick fix for 2015.

There has been talk they will attempt to re-sign Jon Lester, who was dealt to Oakland at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, and possibly James Shields. Both are potential free agents.

Knowing they need several veteran starters, they are in position to try to make an impact trade if they come up short in the free-agent market.

Given that Castilla is signed for seven years and that the Red Sox have indicated a desire to sign Cespedes to an extension past next season and also recently added Allen Craig, the Red Sox have the type of depth they could off a package that might even include elite prospect Mookie Betts.

Would that get Philadelphia’s attention and be the basis for a deal involving Cole Hamels, who has four years after this season remaining on his contract?

No, he wasn’t Oakland’s Cleanup Hitter

– Keep reading national stories that Oakland traded cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for lefty Jon Lester. For the record, Cespedes hit fourth in the A’s lineup in 21 of his 98 starts before the trade.

— Cespedes obviously was a key part of the A’s offense, but the struggles of late have dealt more with struggles of leadoff hitter Coco Crisp, who has battled injuries and a slump but has shown life in the last week.

–Funny how media that raved about the Tigers getting Dave Price and A’s getting Lester at the trading deadline are now panning the moves because both teams struggled in August. Now that’s true second guessing.

–Corey Dickerson’s right-field upper deck home run at Coors Field that tied the game with Miami in the ninth inning on Saturday was the 34th home run hit into the area since Coors Field opened in 1995 — the 18th by a Rockies player.

It was the first by a Rockies player since Carlos Gonzalez on July 31, 2010 hit a walk-off shot to cap off hitting for the cycle that night. Larry Walker is the all-time leader with eight upper deck shots during his days in Colorado.

–Angels Mike Trout struck out three times on Saturday against Lester. It was the 23rd time he has struck out at least three times in a game. That includes two games with four strikeouts, both of which have been this season.

Six of Trout’s three strikeout games have come against Oakland. Trout was 0-for-3 with a walk but no strikeout in his only previous plate appearances against Lester.

Marlins/Rockies Arms Race

The Marlins have the image of an organization that has developed plenty of strong arms.

The Rockies are the pitching deprived organziation.

There are a lot of ways to breakdown the subject, but in terms of pitchers who have won the most games in franchise history the Rockies actually have an edge.
Consider the nine winningest pitchers in the history of each franchise:

Marlins
Ricky Nolasco (Cubs) 81
Dontrelle Willis (Cubs) 68
Josh Johnson (Marlins) 56
A.J. Burnett (Mets) 49
Brad Penny (Dbacks) 42
Anibal Sanchez (Red Sox) 44
Ryan Dempster (Rangers) 42
Robbie Beckett (Marlins) 41
Pat Rapp (Giants) 37

2 of top 9 in wins in Marlins history are home grown


Top nine winners in Marlins history have won a total of 460 games

Rockies
AaronCook (Rockies) 72
Jorge De La Rosa (Dbacks) 68
Jeff Francis (Rockies) 64
Jason Jennings (Rockies) (58)
Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies) 56
Pedro Astacio (Dodgers) 53
Kevin Ritz (Tigers) 39
Jhoulys Chacin (Rockies) 37
Jamey Wright (Rockies) 35

Six of top 9 in wins in Rockies history are home grown.


Top nine winners in Rockies history have won a combined total of 462 games

Can Ubaldo Provide Relief

Baltimore is on its way to an AL East title.

And right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, in the first year of a four-year, $50 million deal, is headed to the bullpen.

Jimenez has made only one relief appearance in his big-league career, and it came in his big-league debut on June 26, 2006.

Jimenez is an interesting bullpen possibility because of his struggles to find a consistent delivery, and as a result challenges with the strike zone.

Jimenez had one of the most eye-opening half seasons in baseball back in 2010 when the then-Colorado Rockies right-hander went 14-1 with a 1.83 ERA in the first three months of the season. He had a no-hitter at Atlanta in that stretch.

Since then, however, Jimenez has struggled. He is 41-55 with a 4.44 ERA.

And as for the concerns about his command, he has averaged 4.45 walks per nine innings since July 1, 2010, the highest ratio among active big-league starting pitchers with at least 40 starts in that stretch.

Little League World Series Memory No. 1

From the MLB.com Archives

McClendon remains a Little League ‘Legend’
Former big leaguer clubbed five homers in five swings during 1971 LLWS

By Tracy Ringolsby | Archive
8/21/2013 12:28 P.M. ET

Forty-two years later, the legend of “Legendary Lloyd” lives on.

Every August, when the Little League World Series takes center stage in Williamsport, Pa., Lloyd McClendon relieves that magical moment of his youth.

But for McClendon, the lasting impression is more than the fact he swung a bat five times in three games in Williamsport and hit five home runs, drawing intentional walks in his five other plate appearances and being proclaimed “Legendary Lloyd.”

What sticks in McClendon’s mind is picking up the newspaper that first morning he and his teammates from Gary, Ind., were in Williamsport and seeing the headline.

“I was 12 years old and really didn’t know the significance of it, and then you pick up the paper and it says, you know back then they didn’t say the word ‘black,’ so it says, ‘First All Negro-League Team to ever play in the Little League World Series.’ It was pretty unique.”

It was — and still is — a moment of pride for a community that could use a pick-me-up. Gary is a steel town. Automation, however, reduced the work force from close to 70,000 to around 7,000, according to city officials, and Gary is battling for survival.

That’s why moments like the ones enjoyed by McClendon and his teammates in 1971 are so important to the community.

“I’ve come to appreciate what we really accomplished,” said McClendon. “It’s [42] years now and people still talk about what we accomplished. I guess we did something special.

“I look back now with fond memories, obviously. We captured the hearts of Americans. Taiwan beat us in that championship game, but there were a lot of good things we accomplished.”

McClendon was All-State at Roosevelt High School in Gary. He earned a baseball scholarship to Valparaiso. Drafted in the eighth round in 1980 by the New York Mets, he was part of the package that went to Cincinnati in the Tom Seaver trade after the 1982 season. McClendon played in the big leagues with the Reds, Cubs and Pittsburgh, where he was a part of three consecutive National League East champions (1990-92).

Now the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers, he also coached the Pirates and then managed them for five years.

Those moments in Williamsport, however, overshadow all that.

It was a surreal time for the group of 12-year-olds. They had never been far from home, and had never had a national spotlight. ABC’s “Wild World of Sports” featured the championship game against Tainan City, which was on its way to its second Little League World Series championship in five years. Jim McKay and Mickey Mantle were the announcers for that gamed played 42 years ago Saturday.

“We got there, and I can remember this vividly — we got new uniforms, new gloves, new spikes. … We were in hog heaven. We’d never had new equipment before. ‘New’ was not in the vocabulary.

“My glove was a hand-me-down. I was the youngest of 10 boys, [and] that glove saw lots of action before it got to me.”

None of the nine previous McClendon kids stepped onto the national stage like Lloyd did.

“It was like I was in a fantasy world,” admitted McClendon.

In the quarterfinals, Gary beat the team from Kentucky. McClendon hit two home runs and was intentionally walked. In the semifinals, Gary beat the team from Madrid, Spain, with McClendon hitting two more home runs and drawing another intentional walk.

Then came the title game with Tainin.

Before the game, McClendon remembers, the manager of the Taiwan team said that he would not intentionally walk “Legendary Lloyd” because “we will lose face at home.”

“[Their manager] said he would rather lose than walk me,” McClendon recalled.

McClendon changed the thought process in the first inning.

He came to the plate with two men on base, and on the first pitch he was thrown, he unloaded a three-run home run. He was intentionally walked his next two plate appearances. Taiwan won the championship game in nine innings, the longest game in Little League World Series history. McClendon pitched the first eight innings, striking out 12.

McClendon wonders what could have happened had he gotten a chance to hit in the bottom of the ninth.

He was on deck when the game ended.

“There were runners on first and second with two outs,” McClendon recalled. “I was on deck. On a 3-2 pitch, the umpire called a ball a strike. If the kid in front of me had walked, they would have had to pitch to me.”

The loss was crushing at the time. The kids from Gary wanted the living dream to have a happy ending.

Years later, however, McClendon realizes that he and his teammates did score a victory in life, if not on the scoreboard.

“We were just having fun playing a kids’ game,” said McClendon. “Unlike a lot of kids today, we didn’t face that adversity, that pressure to succeed, that pressure to win, that pressure to be real good.

“I’d come from a neighborhood where the older parents watched over the kids, and they just wanted us to play have fun and enjoy the game. I was kind of shielded from that. In fact, when we went to the Little League World Series, we didn’t even know what the Little League World Series was until they announced we were going.”

When the team left Williamsport, however, everyone knew who McClendon was.

He was — and is — Legendary Lloyd.

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Tigers: Is Relief in Sight?

The Tigers reinforced an already dominate rotation by acquiring Dave Price from Tampa Bay at the trading deadline on Thursday.

The Tigers are in position to win their division, but that’s not their focus, anymore. They are intent on winning a world championship.

The biggest question for the Tigers in their bid for a sixth world championship isn’t the start of the game, but rather the end.

The Tigers go into Price’s Detroit debut against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday with a bullpen that ranks 28th in major league baseball with a 4.53 ERA. The only worst bullpen ERAs belong to the Rockies (4.71) and Astros (5.00). And it’s not like the Tiger bullpen has been overworked. Tiger relievers have been asked to work 290 innings, second fewest in the major leagues to Cincinnati,where the bullpen has pitched 288 2/3 innings.

Concern about the bullpen s why the Tigers also acquired Joakim Soria from Texas last month. Soria is initially being used in the seventh inning with Joba Chamberlain assigned to the eighth and Joe Nathan the ninth-inning closer. Soria is also insurance for Nathan.

Nathan has put together six decent weeks, having converted nine of his last 10 save opportunities, and unscored upon in 12 of 16 appearances since June 13, when he had a 6.85 ERA. He has had two stumbles, both against the Indians. He blew a save at Cleveland on June 21, and suffered a loss in a 5-2 decision against the Indians at Comerica Park on Ju;y 29 when he gave up three ninth-inning runs.

Soria will be interesting to watch. He seems to thrive on save situations. Before his trade from the Rangers he had allowed only three earned runs in 18 1/3 innings in save situations. He has been charged with 12 earned runs this season in 17 2/3 innings of non-save situations.

 

A Race Is Brewing in NL Central

The Milwaukee Brewers have let the rest of the NL Central back into the title chase.

While the Brewers have lost eight of nine games since June 29, Cincinnati has gone 7-4, and St. Louis and Pittsburgh are both 6-4. So much for that 6 ½ game lead the Brewers had over St. Louis after games of June 28.

The Brewers are now just two games up on the Cardinals, 2 ½ up on the Reds and 4 ½ in front of the Pirates. The only other division with even two teams within 4 ½ games of first place is the AL East where Baltimore leads Toronto by 2 ½ games and the Yankees by three.

Matt Garza does start in Thursday against Philadelphia in an effort to help the Brewers avoid being swept in a four-game series with the Phillies. Garza’s last two starts have resulted in the Brewers last two wins.

The rotation has struggled. It is 1-6 with a 5.20 ERA in the last nine games. Only Houston (6.13), Colorado (6.28) and Texas (8.15) have a higher ERA since June 29. The Brewers bullpen hasn’t even had a save opportunity. Closer Francisco Rodriguez has worked just one scoreless inning the last 10 days.

The real problem is the offense. Ryan Braun, who has missed the last three games with back soreness, is hitting .350 since June 29, the only Brewers regular above .250. Carlos Gomez has hit only .194 and hasn’t scored a run. Aramis Ramirez has hit .194, Khris Davis .143 and Juan Segura .103. The first base combo of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds is a combined 6-for-34.

Quickly

–Toronto’s lineup misses the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, out since last Saturday with a right quad strain. He’s third in the AL in home runs with 26, but can make a quick impact. He has hit two home runs in a game six times. Jose Abreu of the White Sox, who shares the major-league lead of 28 home runs with Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, has four multi-home run games.

–In 1958, Harry Anderson of the Philadelphia Phillies led the NL with 95 strikeouts – for the season. With four days left before the All-Star Break there already are six big-league player who have reached triple figures in strikeouts – B.J. Upton, Atlanta, 111; Ryan Howard, Philadelphia, 110; George Springer, Houston, 109, Ian Desmond, Washington, 108; Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia, 106; Giancarlo Stanton, Miami, 101, and Tyler Flowers, Chicago White Sox, 100.

–Defending world champion Boston hasn’t even been above .500 since May 14. They have lost seven of the last nine games, and both wins have been walk-off victories.

Memories

Eighty years ago July 10, Carl Hubbell was the star of the All-Star Game, striking out five consecutive Hall of Famers. After the first two batters of the came reached base, Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx. The second inning began with Hubbell striking out Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.

Fifty years later, July 10, 1984, Fernandez Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden combined to strike out six AL batters in a row. Valenzuela struck out Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson and George Brett in the fourth inning, and Gooden struck out Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Alvin Davis in the fifth. Gooden, at 19, was the youngest All-Star in history.

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