Tag:Tim Lincecum
Posted on: September 18, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 10:21 pm
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3 to Watch: The doubleheader edition

BOSTON -- The Yankees don't have enough pitching. The Red Sox don't have enough pitching.

The low-budget Rays? They have enough pitching.

Crazy, isn't it?

If the Yankees or Red Sox had Matt Moore, you can be sure he'd be starting a game this week, with both teams faced with doubleheaders and cramped schedules.

The Rays have Matt Moore, the top pitching prospect who has scouts buzzing almost Strasburg-style. And while manager Joe Maddon talks about possibly starting him sometime in these final 10 days of the season, he's not yet listed among the Rays' probables.

While the Red Sox go into a doubleheader Monday with Kyle Weiland and John Lackey as their scheduled starters, and while the Yankees hope that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia aren't running out of gas (or, in Colon's case, stem cells), the Rays have the most solid rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Yes, part of it was drafting high all those years when they were bad (the same way the Yankees got Derek Jeter). David Price was the first player picked in 2007, and Jeff Niemann was the fourth player picked three years earlier.

But the Rays took Wade Davis in the third round, got rookie of the year candidate Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth round and found Moore, the latest phenom, in the eighth round.

Maybe they just make better decisions, or do a better job developing pitchers.

They do it so well that they could afford to trade Matt Garza last winter, and could deal Niemann or Davis -- or even Shields -- this winter. Shields would be the toughest to let go (far tougher than Garza), but he would also bring by far the most back to a team that needs offense and has little money to pay for it.

First, though, the great rotation has brought the Rays back into the wild-card race, and gives them a chance of winning it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Red Sox were rained out on May 17 against the Orioles and rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader this week, they probably figured it would be simply an annoyance as they prepared for the playoffs. Instead, it's a major headache for a Red Sox team struggling desperately to hold onto a wild-card ticket to the playoffs. And this doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) and night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, doesn't help. The worst part: The Red Sox are stuck starting rookie Kyle Weiland, who has yet to win and has made it past the fourth inning in just one of his four big-league starts. In the other game, they'll go with John Lackey, has the worst ERA of any regular big-league starter.

2. The Giants have won eight in a row, to put off elimination and put a little heat on the first-place Diamondbacks. The Giants are still five games out, but they go to Phoenix this weekend for three games with the D-Backs, so the race isn't over yet. But the Giants, who can't afford to lose, face Clayton Kershaw in Giants at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium. In five starts against the Giants this year, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He'll be going for his 20th win, so he'll be even more motivated. But his opponent, Tim Lincecum, will be pitching to keep the Giants' season alive.

3. While the Red Sox go with Weiland and Lackey in their doubleheader, the Rays will start Shields and Hellickson in Rays at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05) and night (7:05) at Yankee Stadium. Shields leads the majors with 11 complete games, which makes him perfect for a doubleheader. Wednesday should be interesting for the Yankees, too, if not nearly as crucial. Ace CC Sabathia, who is just 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts, goes against Shields, while inconsistent Phil Hughes faces Hellickson.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:00 am
 

3 to Watch: The White Sox crisis edition

If the White Sox somehow find their way back into the race in the American League Central, will Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams stop fighting long enough to enjoy it?

Should they?

Sometimes it feels like the White Sox only play well when they're in crisis. Sure enough, they've won seven of their last 10, during a stretch that included Guillen's strange demand for a contract extension and also, according to sources, a nasty pregame confrontation between Williams and one of Guillen's coaches.

Sometimes it seems that if things get ugly enough off the field, the White Sox respond by avoiding ugly play on the field.

The Sox are still 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers, which means they probably need to win at least five of the six remaining head-to-head meetings to have any chance at a miracle run.

The White Sox get their first chance this weekend in Detroit, with three meetings Sept. 12-14 in Chicago. Neither team's schedule is particularly taxing otherwise, which is better news for the Tigers, as the team holding a significant lead.

If there were close races elsewhere, we'd barely acknowledge Tigers-White Sox. But five of the eight playoff spots are basically wrapped up, and baseball is in real danger of a September without drama.

If you want a pennant race, root for the second-place Giants this weekend against the first-place Diamondbacks, who lead San Francisco by six games. And if you like your drama on and off the field, root for the White Sox against the Tigers.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The next seven days might be the most crucial remaining stretch in the American League West, even though the first-place Rangers and second-place Angels will be on opposite coasts. The Rangers have six games at Boston and at Tampa Bay, which could give the Angels (six home games against the Twins and Mariners) a chance to eat into their 3 1/2-game deficit. It begins for Texas with Rangers at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. It could also be an interesting night for the Red Sox, who are starting to believe that Andrew Miller could help them in some role in the playoffs. Miller, the 6-foot-7 left-hander, shut out the Rangers for 6 1/3 innings last week in Texas.

2. The Diamondbacks have won nine in a row, and as everyone in Arizona no doubt knows by now, club president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers vowed to shave their heads if the team ever won 10 straight. That could happen Friday night, when Joe Saunders faces Matt Cain. But the most interesting pitching matchup of the weekend comes a day later, in Diamondbacks at Giants, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Ian Kennedy, a Cy Young candidate this year, faces Tim Lincecum, a Cy candidate every year.

3. The presence of Justin Verlander in the Tiger rotation makes it unlikely they'll lose enough games to blow a 5 1/2-game lead. But if the Tigers are to truly be dangerous in the playoffs, they'd likely need Max Scherzer to find some consistency, as well. Scherzer has a 1.64 ERA in three starts this year against the White Sox, but he gave up seven runs in three innings Monday night against the Royals. Scherzer faces Mark Buehrle in White Sox at Tigers, Sunday night (8:09 ET) at Comerica Park.


Posted on: August 14, 2011 7:48 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:58 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Giant series in Atlanta edition

Before they were champions, the Giants were just trying to get out of Turner Field with their season still alive.

They trailed the Braves by a run with two out in the ninth inning of Game 3, an out away from going down in the series two games to one and facing elimination the following night. In 27 2/3 innings against Braves pitching, they had scored just five earned runs.

In their entire magical month, the Giants would never come closer to going home disappointed.

They made it out of Atlanta, thanks to a big hit from Aubrey Huff and a couple of big errors from Brooks Conrad, and then an Alex Gonzalez error and a Cody Ross hit the following night.

They went on to win it all, and they never came as close to elimination as they were on that Sunday night at Turner Field.

The Giants are back in Atlanta this week, and while it's an exaggeration to say that they need to save their season again, they certainly aren't coasting back to the playoffs. With 11 losses in their last 16 games, the Giants have allowed the Diamondbacks to grab a two-game lead in the National League West.

If they get to October, the Giants could well run into the Braves again (although based on the standings after the weekend, the NL West winner would open against the Phillies). They'd face a different Braves team than the one they beat last October, because Chipper Jones, Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens missed that series with injuries, and Dan Uggla and Michael Bourn weren't yet with the Braves.

Even so, the Giants only outscored Atlanta 11-9 in the four playoff games, and just eight of the Giants' 11 runs were earned. The Giants hit .212 with a .583 OPS in the series.

They won, and they went on to win it all.

But they'll never forget those nights at Turner Field.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. At the July 31 deadline, the Braves refused to trade any of their four big pitching prospects. Now two of the four are in the big leagues, and a third -- Randall Delgado -- will arrive in time to start in Giants at Braves, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Turner Field. The 21-year-old Delgado has made just two starts in Triple-A, but he won both and didn't give up a run in either of them. Delgado made a spot start for the Braves earlier this year, losing to the Rangers. He joines Mike Minor in the rotation (Minor will face Tim Lincecum on Thursday), while Arodys Vizcaino is in the bullpen, and Julio Teheran (who made two spot starts earlier in the year remains in Triple-A.

2. Justin Verlander, who won his 100th game last Thursday in Cleveland, has the most wins of any active pitcher under 30. No surprise there. But did you realize that Ervin Santana is second, with 85? And did you realize that Santana's ERA since the All-Star break is 1.09, the best of any big-league starter? Santana makes his most important start yet, facing C.J. Wilson in Rangers at Angels, Wednesday night (10:05 ET) at Angel Stadium. The Rangers, who led the second-place Angels by just one game a week ago, opened up a four-game lead on Sunday, heading into the four-game series that begins Monday night.

3. Santana has the best ERA in baseball since the All-Star break. Ian Kennedy has the most wins, with six (to go with a 2.14 ERA). Kennedy and the surprising Diamondbacks get a big test this week, with a trip that will take them to Philadelphia (where they'll see both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee) and to Atlanta. Kennedy faces Vance Worley in Diamondbacks at Phillies, Thursday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.



Posted on: August 4, 2011 9:09 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2011 10:16 pm
 

3 to Watch: The second wild card (now!) edition

The teams with the two best records in the American League meet this weekend, and it means next to nothing.

Baseball's top rivalry resumes this weekend, with first place on the line, except that in this case, second place is basically as good as first.

If commissioner Bud Selig has the best interests of baseball in mind, he'll forget about Alex Rodriguez's supposed poker games, and do the one thing that would make this version of Yankees-Red Sox truly important.

Can we get the second wild-card team added for this year?

I realize it can't happen. I realize baseball is heading towards adding the second wild-card team in 2012, and that's the best we're going to get.

But if you're one of those who still don't believe in the concept, just look at what the current system has done to a series that should be great.

The Red Sox and Yankees have been separated by no more than 2 1/2 games in the standings since the middle of May. The Red Sox have dominated the first nine head-to-head meetings, winning eight of them, but the Yankees have done better against everyone else.

The Red Sox have been winning like crazy, but so have the Yankees.

It's a great race, except for one thing: They're both going to the playoffs, and there's only a minimal reward for winning the division rather than the wild card.

In fact, if the season ended today, the division winner would play the Tigers, which means facing Justin Verlander twice in a five-game series. The wild card would play the Rangers, who may be better overall, but don't have a Verlander-like ace.

A second wild-card team solves most of this.

With a second wild-card, winning the division means avoiding a one-game play-in against a team like the Angels. It means not just an extra day of rest, but also the chance to save your best available pitcher for the first game of the Division Series.

Yes, the Yankees already want to beat the Red Sox, and vice versa. But in the current system, in a year like this, with both teams nearly guaranteed a playoff spot and little distinction between a division winner and a wild card, there's very little penalty for not winning the division.

And that's too bad.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Yankees didn't trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline, general manager Brian Cashman suggested that Bartolo Colon would be as good a No. 2 starter as anyone he could acquire. So let's see how Colon matches up against Jon Lester, his mound opponent in Yankees at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Lester has won both his starts against the Yankees this year, despite giving up seven runs in 12 innings. He's won his last five starts against the Yankees, dating back to last year. Colon has lost both of his 2011 starts against the Red Sox, despite going 10 1/3 innings and allowing just three earned runs.

2. One of those pitchers the Yankees passed on, and the only one who realistically could have slotted as a No. 2 starter, was Ubaldo Jimenez, who debuts for Cleveland in Indians at Rangers, Friday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark. He faces Derek Holland, who has three complete-game shutouts in his last five starts, and also shut out the Indians in June at Progressive Field.

3. The Phillies broke their five-year string of trading for a starting pitcher at midseason, in large part because they knew Roy Oswalt was coming back from the disabled list. The Phillies also decided against trading for a reliever, in part because Oswalt's return means that either he or Vance Worley can move to the bullpen for the playoffs. Oswalt returns from the DL in Phillies at Giants, Sunday afternoon (4:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Tim Lincecum, the guy Charlie Manuel said was "good, not great," starts for the Giants.

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.


Posted on: July 15, 2011 8:05 pm
 

Manuel fine with Bochy's All-Star moves

NEW YORK -- Tim Lincecum, who was on the All-Star team but didn't pitch, starts for the Giants Friday night.

Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, both asked to pitch two innings in the All-Star Game, won't pitch for the Phillies this weekend.

And yes, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was the guy managing the National League All-Stars. But Phillies manager Charlie Manuel isn't complaining.

"They didn't get overused," Manuel said Friday. "[Bochy] earned the right to manage the team, and he can manage it any way he wants to."

Halladay, the NL starter, threw 19 pitches in his two innings. Lee followed him and threw 25 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.

Two things to note here:

First, Manuel managed the last two NL All-Star teams, and last year he used both Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson for two innings. He knows that managing the All-Star team can be a thankless job.

Second, while it's true that neither Halladay nor Lee will pitch this weekend against the Mets, that's only partially All-Star related. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee is a strong proponent of giving his starters extra rest during the season, and planned to push Halladay's next start into next week regardless of whether he pitched in the All-Star Game or not. Manuel said Lee might have started Sunday if he hadn't appeared in the All-Star Game, but that he may have been pushed into next week, too.

As it is, the real losers are the Cubs, who will see both Halladay and Lee in the series that begins Monday at Wrigley Field.


Posted on: May 27, 2011 10:05 am
Edited on: May 27, 2011 11:09 am
 

3 to Watch: The King defends his crown edition

It's been a quiet start to the season for Felix Hernandez. Even the talk that he'll be traded seems to have died down, either because of the Mariners' continued strong denials, his own declarations of how happy he is in Seattle or the team's decent start to the season.

Meanwhile, as of now Hernandez isn't even in the top 10 in the American League ERA race. He leads the league in strikeouts and he's third in innings pitched, but if the Cy Young vote were held today, he'd barely receive a vote.

And none of that means he won't repeat his title.

Through 11 starts, Hernandez actually has better numbers than he did at this point last year. He's 5-4 with a 3.01 ERA, as compared to 2-4 with a 3.50 ERA through his first 11 starts of 2010.

Last year, the Mariners were held to one run or none in three of his first four losses. This year, they've been held to no runs, one run and two runs in three of his first four losses.

And that means this Saturday's start against the Yankees is King Felix's biggest of the year so far.

The strongest voices against Hernandez in last year's Cy debate weren't the ones complaining about his so-so 13-12 record. Rather, they were the ones complaining that he didn't pitch in important games, and pitched in the weak-hitting American League West.

The strongest counter-argument was Hernandez's record against the Yankees. He won all three of his starts against New York, allowing just one run on 16 hits in 26 innings.

As Felix defenders have said all along, the bigger the stage, the better he pitched.

The stage isn't huge this weekend, but the Yankees are the highest-scoring team in the American League. The Mariners are playing so well (and the division is so weak) that they're just 1 1/2 games out of first place.

It's a late-night Saturday start, but it's still the Yankees, and it still would be a great place for Hernandez to launch his reelection campaign.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Every day, it seems, I talk to another baseball person who mentions how unimpressive the Indians were in spring training, and how shocking it is that they still have the best record in baseball. But they do, and they even survived Grady Sizemore's latest trip to the disabled list, with Sizemore expected to return this weekend. Still, the doubters are going to doubt, and wonder if this is the week the Indians' collapse begins. Coming off two straight home losses to the Red Sox, they now get Tampa Bay's two best starters, beginning with David Price in Indians at Rays, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field. Josh Tomlin, who is 6-1 and has held opponents to a .182 batting average, starts for the Indians.

2. Even with Buster Posey, the Giants have scored the fewest runs in the National League. Even with Buster Posey, the Giants' margin of error has been slim, their first-place record built largely on a 14-5 record in one-run games. Now the Giants don't have Posey, and they go on the road to face a Brewers team that is finally healthy and has won six straight and 13 of 16. The good news for the Giants: They open the series with Tim Lincecum on the mound, in Giants at Brewers, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Miller Park. The bad news: The Brewers starter is Shawn Marcum, who has won his last six decisions.

3. Hernandez hasn't even been the most-talked-about starter in his own rotation, which he shares with 22-year-old Michael Pineda. Pineda looks great, and his start against the Yankees on Friday is worth watching, too. But Felix is still the King, and that puts Yankees at Mariners, Saturday night (10:10 ET) at Safeco Field on this list.


 
 
 
 
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