Tag:Vance Worley
Posted on: September 16, 2011 1:58 am
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3 to Watch: The Beckett edition

BOSTON -- If Josh Beckett loses Friday night, maybe the Red Sox don't get to the playoffs.

But if Josh Beckett doesn't look healthy Friday night, maybe it doesn't matter whether the Red Sox get to the playoffs.

Not to put too much on Beckett, but there might not be a more important player in baseball to watch this weekend. At this point, there's no way there's a more important player on the Red Sox.

The Sox already have a wounded starting rotation, with Daisuke Matsuzaka out for the year, Clay Buchholz still not certain to return (and unlikely to start), and John Lackey owning the worst ERA in the big leagues (6.19) for anyone allowed to make 16 or more starts.

Lackey is still Boston's third starter, and the Red Sox really don't have a fourth or fifth starter. They may be in trouble in October (if they get there), anyway.

But with a healthy Beckett to team with Jon Lester atop the rotation, and a lineup that can still be very dangerous, they'd have a chance.

There's a reason the Red Sox are 19-8 in games Beckett has started this year. There's a reason that Beckett is the one Boston starter that the Rays worry about (they have no runs and two hits in 17 innings against him this year).

There's a reason I wrote, barely two weeks ago, that Beckett was the biggest difference between the Red Sox and the Yankees.

Just six days after I wrote that, Beckett sprained his right ankle in a Sept. 5 start in Toronto. He hasn't pitched since.

The Red Sox say he's healthy now. They say he should be fine, and under no real limitations, for Friday's start against the Rays.

The Red Sox also have a habit of not always being entirely truthful about injuries.

Is Beckett healthy? For Boston's sake, he'd better be.

Without him, they don't stand much chance in October. Without him, they may not even need to worry about October.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. No matter how good or how healthy Beckett is, there's no guarantee he wins, in Rays at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. That's because James Shields is pitching for the Rays, and Shields has two (of his 11) complete games, and one (of his four) shutouts against Boston. Shields hasn't lost to anyone since Aug. 16, when he gave up just three runs on three hits in a complete-game 3-1 loss to Lester at Fenway. As Shields pointed out Thursday, his six final regular-season starts will be Texas, Texas, Boston, Boston, New York, New York. He's halfway through that tough six-game stretch, and so far he's 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA.  The 29-year-old Shields is the oldest of the Rays' starters. In fact, if he's still around next year (they could trade him), Shields would be the guy who ends Tampa Bay's major-league record streak of consecutive starts by pitchers under 30 (currently at 751 games).

2. The first team to clinch a playoff spot was the Phillies, who did it earlier this week. But they didn't celebrate, waiting to clinch the division first. So the first team to spray champagne could be the Phillies, whose magic number is two going into Cardinals at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park (they'd also need a Braves loss to the Mets); or the Tigers, whose magic number is one going into Tigers at A's, Friday night (10:07 ET) at the Coliseum (they could also clinch with an Indians loss in Minnesota). The Phillies starter is Vance Worley, who might not make the playoff rotation but would be second or third for the Yankees or Red Sox. The Tigers starter is Doug Fister, who the Yankees and Red Sox probably should have tried harder to trade for in July.

3. Like the Rays, the Angels aren't done yet. They're 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the American League West, and four games back of the Red Sox in the wild card. Unlike the Rays, the Angels don't have five dependable starters. That's why the Angels will bring ace Jered Weaver back on three days' rest to start in Angels at Orioles, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Camden Yards. By starting Weaver on short rest now, the Angels will be able to start him on normal rest in their final series of the season, against the Rangers.


Posted on: September 8, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 11:48 pm
 

3 to Watch: The 'Discourage them' edition

The Phillies' goals for the rest of the season would seem to be simple.

Stay healthy (or get healthy). Get rested. Figure out a playoff rotation. Try to break the club record for wins (it's 101, and after a win Thursday the Phillies need just a 10-10 finish to break it).

This week, as the Phillies have faced two potential playoff opponents, manager Charlie Manuel threw another goal out there:

Intimidate the opposition. Look as unbeatable as possible.

"If you play really well, it could discourage them," Manuel said, in advance of this weekend's series in Milwaukee.

The Phillies will likely open the playoffs against the Diamondbacks, who were 2 1/2 games behind the Brewers entering play Thursday. In that case, their second-round opponent would be either the Braves or the Brewers.

The Phillies swept the Braves in a three-game series. They opened a four-game series against the Brewers with a 7-2 win Thursday night.

The games barely matter in the standings, with both teams far ahead in their divisions. Manuel thinks they could matter in the minds of the players, especially if one team dominates the other.

"When I managed in the minor leagues, I had some big hitting teams," he said. "I always liked it when the other team watched us take batting practice. It scared them."

So Charlie, someone asked, does that mean you don't want your pitchers watching when Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder take BP?

"My pitchers can," he said, laughing. "My starting rotation can watch them."

Nothing will scare Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee et al, Manuel figures, probably correctly.

But there is some thought in Philadelphia that the one team that would really concern the Phillies would be the Giants, who knocked them out of the playoffs last year and also won two of three in Philadelphia in July (although the Phillies then won three of four in San Francisco).

The Phillies lost two of three to the Brewers in April, but the Phillies don't look at the Brewers the way they look at the Giants.

Not yet, anyway.

If the Brewers play really well this weekend, maybe the Phillies could be the team that gets discouraged.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. With Josh Beckett's ankle injury, the Red Sox have reason to worry about their starting rotation. They don't have to worry about making it to the playoffs. Right? Uh, I think that's right, but I also noticed that Boston's wild-card lead over the Rays shrunk to 6 1/2 games on Thursday night. And I noticed that the two teams have seven remaining head-to-head meetings, starting with Red Sox at Rays, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. Great pitching matchup Sunday, with Jon Lester going against James Shields, but especially with Beckett out, the Red Sox might be more focused on what happens Friday, when John Lackey faces Wade Davis. Of the 140 pitchers that have started at least 15 games in the majors this year, Lackey (6.11) is the only one with an ERA over 6.00.

2. For the last three weeks, the Angels have had an easier schedule than the Rangers, and that's no doubt one reason why the Rangers' lead in the American League West shrunk from seven games to 2 1/2 games. But the schedule turns starting this weekend, when the Rangers begin a homestand against the A's and Indians, followed by a trip to Seattle and Oakland. Meanwhile, in Anaheim, it gets tougher, including Yankees at Angels, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. At least the Angels have their top three starters set for the series, with Jered Weaver facing Bartolo Colon on Friday, Dan Haren against CC Sabathia on Saturday and Ervin Santana against Freddy Garcia on Sunday.

3. When someone asked Manuel the other day if there's any way Vance Worley could find his way into the postseason rotation, the Phillies manager said: "I think that's a question that should be asked." While the Yankees and Red Sox wonder if they have enough pitchers they would want to start in October, the Phillies seem to have too many. Worley has been outstanding, but it's still hard to see Manuel using him ahead of Roy Oswalt, especially since the manager is on record saying he expects Oswalt's velocity to pick up in October. Worley gets another chance to make his case in Phillies at Brewers, Sunday afternoon (2:10 ET) at Miller Park. It's an interesting case, as the Phillies have won each of Worley's last 14 starts. If the Phillies win Sunday, Worley will tie the Philadelphia club record of 15, set by Steve Carlton in 1972, his 27-win season. The last longer streak in the big leagues was by the 2005 Cardinals, who won 17 straight Chris Carpenter starts.

Posted on: July 24, 2011 9:01 pm
Edited on: July 24, 2011 11:16 pm
 

3 to Watch: The White Sox (or white flag) edition

The White Sox are having the most disappointing season in baseball. The White Sox could still win the American League Central.

The White Sox could be 1 1/2 games out of first place by Wednesday. Or the White Sox could be sellers by Wednesday.

It's a time of year where things change quickly, with teams assessing their needs and chances daily.

Even by that standard, the White Sox are a team to watch this week.

They begin the week two games under .500, and 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers. The Tigers are in Chicago for three games starting Monday night.

By the time the series ends Wednesday, the White Sox could be a true contender. Or they could be so far out of it that they go into full sell mode, looking to deal a pitcher like Edwin Jackson and perhaps outfielder Carlos Quentin.

Or maybe they're still left guessing whether they're in it or not. Maybe all they can do is to contemplate possible deals like the one the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Sunday, where they would trade a major leaguer for another major leaguer (in this case, a pitcher like Jackson for Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus).

There are other teams to watch this week, notably the Rays, who have fallen 6 1/2 games out in the wild-card race after losing two of three in Kansas City. But the Rays were already telling teams that they don't plan to move pitcher James Shields.

But no team has been as disappointing this year as the White Sox, and no team will be as interesting to follow over the next few days.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Partly because of the trade deadline, and partly because Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee won't start in the series, the Giants' visit to Philadelphia doesn't feel as big as it probably should. It's still worth watching, and it's worth noting that the Phillies allowed fewer runs over the first 100 games of the season (332) than any team since the 1989 Dodgers. Vance Worley is one of the surprising reasons for that, and Worley faces Tim Lincecum in Giants at Phillies, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

2. The White Sox began the second half by beating Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on back-to-back days in Detroit, then missed a chance to sweep the series when they lost to Brad Penny. They get Verlander and Scherzer again in this series, with Verlander facing Mark Buehrle in Tigers at White Sox, Tuesday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field. Also worth watching: Jake Peavy's velocity when he faces the Tigers on Wednesday. In Peavy's last start, in Kansas City, his average fastball was below 90 mph.

3. The Mariners are also a team to watch this week, and not just because they've lost a club-record 15 straight. On a market short of starting pitcher, the M's have made Jason Vargas and Doug Fister available, and those two start Monday and Tuesday against the Yankees. They have not made Felix Hernandez available, and they're hoping that Felix won't be trying to break a 17-game losing streak when he faces Phil Hughes in Mariners at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will be hoping that Hughes looks a lot better than he did in his last start, last Friday against the A's. The M's have won each of Hernandez's last five starts against the Yankees.



Posted on: July 24, 2011 9:00 pm
 

3 to Watch: The White Sox (or white flag) edition

The White Sox are having the most disappointing season in baseball. The White Sox could still win the American League Central.

The White Sox could be 1 1/2 games out of first place by Wednesday. Or the White Sox could be sellers by Wednesday.

It's a time of year where things change quickly, with teams assessing their needs and chances daily.

Even by that standard, the White Sox are a team to watch this week.

They begin the week two games under .500, and 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers. The Tigers are in Chicago for three games starting Monday night.

By the time the series ends Wednesday, the White Sox could be a true contender. Or they could be so far out of it that they go into full sell mode, looking to deal a pitcher like Edwin Jackson and perhaps outfielder Carlos Quentin.

Or maybe they're still left guessing whether they're in it or not. Maybe all they can do is to contemplate possible deals like the one the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Sunday, where they would trade a major leaguer for another major leaguer (in this case, a pitcher like Jackson for Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus).

There are other teams to watch this week, notably the Rays, who have fallen 6 1/2 games out in the wild-card race after losing two of three in Kansas City.

But no team has been as disappointing this year as the White Sox, and no team will be as interesting to follow over the next few days.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Partly because of the trade deadline, and partly because Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee won't start in the series, the Giants' visit to Philadelphia doesn't feel as big as it probably should. It's still worth watching, and it's worth noting that the Phillies allowed fewer runs over the first 100 games of the season (332) than any team since the 1989 Dodgers. Vance Worley is one of the surprising reasons for that, and Worley faces Tim Lincecum in Giants at Phillies, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

2. The White Sox began the second half by beating Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer on back-to-back days in Detroit, then missed a chance to sweep the series when they lost to Brad Penny. They get Verlander and Scherzer again in this series, with Verlander facing Mark Buehrle in Tigers at White Sox, Tuesday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field. Also worth watching: Jake Peavy's velocity when he faces the Tigers on Wednesday. In Peavy's last start, in Kansas City, his average fastball was below 90 mph.

3. The Mariners are also a team to watch this week, and not just because they've lost a club-record 15 straight. On a market short of starting pitcher, the M's have made Jason Vargas and Doug Fister available, and those two start Monday and Tuesday against the Yankees. They have not made Felix Hernandez available, and they're hoping that Felix won't be trying to break a 17-game losing streak when he faces Phil Hughes in Mariners at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will be hoping that Hughes looks a lot better than he did in his last start, last Friday against the A's. The M's have won each of Hernandez's last five starts against the Yankees.


 
 
 
 
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