Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:51 pm

In Game 7, home team has edge (or not)

ST. LOUIS -- You've no doubt heard by now that no road team has won a World Series Game 7 in 32 years.

The Cardinals won at home in 1982, the Royals did it in 1985, the Mets in 1986, the Twins in both 1987 and 1991, the Marlins in 1997, the Diamondbacks in 2001 and the Angels in 2002.

It's tough to win the decisive game on the road . . . except when it isn't.

There were three decisive Game 5's in the Division Series this month. Two of the three were won by the road team (Cardinals over Phillies, Tigers over Yankees).

The Rangers won a decisive Game 5 last year at Tampa Bay.

The Cardinals won Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series on the road.

In fact, over the last 10 years, there have been 18 decisive games in the postseason (Game 5 in the Division Series, Game 7 in the LCS or World Series), and the visiting team has won 11 of them.

After Game 5 three weeks ago at Yankee Stadium, Tigers manager Jim Leyland made the argument that it can actually be an advantage to be on the road, because there's more pressure on the home team (certainly true in the cases of the Yankees and Phillies), and because there are more distractions at home.

Oh, and about those eight straight road-team wins in Game 7 of the World Series?

Go back through eight more Game 7's, and it basically evens out. From 1965-79, the road team won seven out of eight Game 7's.

Posted on: August 26, 2011 8:28 pm

Verlander's 19 (soon 20) reasons why wins matter

It's fashionable now to say wins are a meaningless stat for starting pitchers.

Fashionable, and wrong.

When Justin Verlander beats the Twins Saturday to get to 20 wins for the first time -- and is there any doubt that he's going to do it? -- it will be treated as a big deal. And it should be.

It is a big deal.

The Tigers are in first place in large part because they have the best pitcher in baseball this year. And Verlander is the best pitcher because he basically always wins.

He has started seven games since July 15, and won every one of them. He has started 17 games since May 24, and won 15 of them.

If he beats the Twins on Saturday -- when he beats the Twins on Saturday -- he'll become the first big-league pitcher since Curt Schilling in 2002 to get to 20 wins before the end of August. He'll be the first to do it in the American League since Roger Clemens in 1997.

Some people are starting to talk about him as the American League's Most Valuable Player, and I get the argument. I'm not totally convinced yet, but I'm sure not ruling it out.

After all, Verlander's season has had great value. He has put the Tigers in first place.

And he has reminded us of the value of wins.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 25, 2011 1:21 pm

Indians awarded claim on Thome, hopeful of deal

The Indians are hopeful of working out a deal to bring Jim Thome back to Cleveland.

Thome, who began his career with the Indians but left as a free agent after the 2002 season, was placed on trade waivers by the Twins this week. The Indians were awarded the claim on Wednesday, sources said, and the two teams have until 1 p.m. ET on Friday to work out a deal.

The Indians wouldn't give up much in return for Thome, who is 40 years old and is hitting .248 with 12 home runs in 238 at-bats. Thome recently hit his 600th career home run.

Thome would fit with the Indians, with designated hitter Travis Hafner hurt and possibly out for the season.

Thome would be able to block a trade, but given his strong feelings for Cleveland, it's hard to believe that he would.
Category: MLB
Posted on: August 12, 2011 10:33 am
Edited on: August 12, 2011 10:41 am

Indians activate Choo from DL

Shin-Soo Choo, out since late June with a broken thumb, returns to the Indians lineup Friday night, a few days sooner than expected.

Choo made two minor-league rehab appearances at Class A Lake County, going 0-for-6.

If Choo can hit the way he did last year (.300 with 22 home runs, 90 RBI and an .885 OPS), he could give the Indians a big boost as they chase the Tigers in the American League Central. But Choo struggled this year, hitting just .244 with 28 RBI in 72 games before his injury.

After taking two of three from the Tigers this week, Cleveland is three games behind Detroit with 47 games to play.

To make room for Choo on the roster, the Indians designated Austin Kearns for assignment.
The Indians host the Twins this weekend. Minnesota will get Justin Morneau back from the DL on Friday.

Posted on: August 11, 2011 11:46 pm

3 to Watch: The Thome in Cleveland edition

CLEVELAND -- Jim Thome was playing third base for the Indians the day he hit his first big-league home run.

On the same day Lonnie Chisenhall turned three years old.

Thome left the Indians to sign with the Phillies after the 2002 season.

On the same day the Indians traded for Travis Hafner.

Thome comes back to Cleveland this weekend with 598 home runs, and wouldn't it be great if he gets to 600 during this three-game series at Progressive Field?

He hit his first 334 home runs as an Indian, and his 186 home runs at Progressive Field are still far more than he has hit at any other ballpark (U.S. Cellular is second on his list, with 98).

And that's even though Thome played his first 70 home games at old Cleveland Stadium.

There's no one left on the Indians roster who was a Thome teammate in Cleveland. Chisenhall, now 22, is the Indians third baseman now.

But you know that Cleveland still means more to Thome than anywhere else he has played.

He's hit well on previous returns, going 35-for-114 (.307) in 34 games, with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. He's had three multi-homer games in Cleveland as a visitor.

He needs two in the next three games to get to 600 here, perhaps not likely but certainly not impossible.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Thome has never homered in 16 at-bats against Justin Masterson, the Cleveland starter in Twins at Indians, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Progressive Field. The Indians rearranged their rotation after Masterson went just two innings before a long rain delay knocked him out of his Tuesday night start against the Tigers. Why? That's simple. Masterson has been their best starter this year. "Masterson has been a No. 1 for us," manager Manny Acta said.

2. You never know what C.J. Wilson might say, but did you really expect him to go into his start at Oakland by saying, "I hate pitching there" and that "The players on [the A's] team hate me"? Maybe he'll like the Coliseum more and the A's players will hate him more if he wins in Rangers at A's, Friday night (10:07 ET) at the Coliseum.

3. The Brewers went into the season knowing they had little rotation depth in the minor leagues, but they survived Zack Greinke's injury because Marco Estrada was decent in his place, pitching well enough for the Brewers to win two of his four starts. Estrada last started on May 4, and the Brewers have used just their regular five starters since then. But Chris Narveson's freak injury -- he sliced open his thumb while trying to fix his glove -- has forced Estrada back into the rotation for Pirates at Brewers, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Miller Park. This is one of the Pirates games that Fox picked up for its Saturday game of the week, before the Pirates went into their skid.

Posted on: July 22, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: July 22, 2011 1:03 pm

3 to Watch: The legit Pirates edition

The Cardinals are a game out of first-place in the National League Central, and one out of every five games left on their schedule is against the Pirates.

Is that good or bad?

Isn't it great that we're even asking that question?

We are asking it, because even here in late July, we're still asking whether the Pirates -- the first-place Pirates -- are for real. We're still asking if they're just a great story, or if they're more than that.

"They're legit," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

They're 51-45, six games over .500. Or as the skeptics like to point out, six wins over Houston over .500, because if you take out their 12 games against the awful Astros, the Pirates are right at .500 against the rest of the league.

They're 51-45, and if they were in the National League East, that would leave them 10 1/2 games out, and we'd consider them sellers. They'd be 4 1/2 behind the Giants in the National League West, without any real chance of winning.

But they're not in the East and they're not in the West. They're percentage points up on the Brewers and a game up on the Cardinals, who come to Pittsburgh this weekend for a series like none that PNC Park has ever seen.

The games Friday and Saturday are already sold out. The game Sunday is close to selling out.

People are excited, as they should be. The Cardinals are impressed, as they should be.

"Maybe if this were May or June, you might discount teams," Matt Holliday said. "But this is late July."

The Cardinals and Pirates haven't played since the first week of the season, when the Pirates won two of three in St. Louis. The Cardinals scored just seven runs in the entire series.

"I said it then," Lance Berkman said. "If they get pitching like that all year, they'll be tough."

They haven't gotten pitching like that all year, not yet. But they've got pitching like that through 96 games, and they are tough.

"Their young players are into their second or third year, and they have a better idea," La Russa said. "And they've pitched well. It's a very familiar formula.

"And it works."

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Chris Carpenter took the loss in one of those three April games against the Pirates, even though he allowed just one earned run in six innings. It was his first loss to the Pirates in seven years, a span in which he had gone 10-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Carpenter faces Paul Maholm in Cardinals at Pirates, Friday night (7:05 ET) at PNC Park. Carpenter will be followed by Jaime Garcia on Saturday, and Kyle Lohse on Sunday, assuming Lohse's right middle finger cooperates. He was examined by a doctor in St. Louis, and cleared to pitch. For the Pirates, Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton will follow Maholm in the rotation.

2. When the Mariners played so well in the first half, general manager Jack Zduriencik's job looked safe. Now the Mariners have lost 12 in a row, and people are asking again whether Zduriencik will survive. The more immediate question is when the Mariners will win a game, now that they're within two of tying the record for the longest losing streak in club history. The best chance might come in Mariners at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, when Felix Hernandez pitches against John Lackey. According to the Mariners, Hernandez has the lowest career ERA at Fenway (1.49) of any pitcher with five or more starts there. On Saturday, in the game that could tie the record, it's Blake Beavan against Josh Beckett.

3. The Twins are going for it in the American League Central, although if they collapse this weekend against the Tigers, maybe they'll change their minds. They lost Thursday night to Justin Verlander, dropping to 0-6 against Detroit this season. The most interesting matchup of the weekend may come in Tigers at Twins, Sunday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Target Field, when Francisco Liriano faces Rick Porcello.

Posted on: July 21, 2011 5:47 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 5:48 pm

Twins going for it, want to add reliever

Twice in the last five years, the Twins have won the American League Central after trailing by six games in September.

So yes, they think they can win when they're down by five games in late July.

In fact, according to sources, the Twins' recent run of success has caused them to shift their trade-deadline focus, to the point where they're now looking for a reliever who they could team with Matt Capps and Joe Nathan at the back of their bullpen.

The Twins are still five games under .500, heading into a weekend series with the Tigers that begins with Carl Pavano facing Justin Verlander on Thursday night. They've won 29 of the last 43, after falling to 20 games under .500 and 16 1/2 games out of first place on June 1.

With Justin Morneau on the way back from the disabled list, the Twins now believe the division is winnable.

"They always believe they ought to be in the pennant race," said ex-Twin Nick Punto, now with the Cardinals. "Definitely don't count them out."

For more trade deadline news, click here.
Posted on: June 22, 2011 1:17 pm
Edited on: June 22, 2011 2:08 pm

With great run, Twins have a (7.7 percent) chance

The Twins have been the hottest team in baseball for three weeks. They've won 15 of 17, tying the Diamondbacks (the Diamondbacks!) for the best 17-game stretch by any team this season.

And they're still seven games under .500.

They've made a great run. They no longer look done.

But the computers at Baseball Prospectus might have it right when they still say that the Twins have just a 7.7 percent chance of making the playoffs (the computers at Cool Standings are even less charitable, putting the Twins' chances at 3.4 percent).

Here's why:

As hot as the Twins have been, they'd still need to play at basically a 100-win pace the rest of the way to have any shot at winning the American League Central. To win even 87 games, which is the fewest wins any AL Central winner has had in the last decade, the Twins would need to go 55-36 from here on in.

You know how many Twins teams have gone 55-36 or better in the last 91 games? Three -- the 2006 team that ran down the Tigers, the 1969 team that lost to the Orioles in the playoffs, and the 1965 team that went to the World Series.

You know how many teams went 55-36 or better in the last 91 games last year? One -- the 97-win Phillies.

It's not at all unheard of for a team to play that well. But only the best teams do it.

And remember, that only gets the Twins to 87 wins.

It's easy to get excited about a team playing as well as the Twins are now. The Twins' history tells you that they're a team that can't be discounted, once they give themselves a chance -- as they now have done.

But teams win 15 of 17 -- and many of them then fade.

In fact, of the 18 teams that had a 15-2 stretch at some point from 2005-2010, 11 went on to make the playoffs and seven didn't. Not one of the 18 went on to win the World Series.

The Twins have plenty going for them. Joe Mauer just came back, and they have other key players who could get healthy soon.

They've given themselves a chance -- maybe a 7.7 percent chance, maybe a little better than that.

But even now, this isn't going to be easy.

Category: MLB
Tags: Twins
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