Sports - Entering the 9th inning Tuesday trailing 5-2 to the New York Mets, the Philadelphia Phillies knew that with closer Billy Wagner unavailable to pitch due to muscle spasm in his throwing shoulder, anything was possible. Six runs and four relief pitchers later, the Mets witnessed just how valuable a good closer can be.
The Phillies batted around sending 11 batters to the plate in the 9th inning rally that helped lift them past the division rival Mets and take a 1 game lead in the NL East standings. The devastating blow came from 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins when he clocked a go-ahead two-run double to propel the Phillies to their 54th victory on the season.
“It started last year,” Rollins said, referring to the Phillies’ comeback from seven games behind the Mets with 17 to play to win the division. “You never give up.”
New York had played the spoiler in Joe Blanton’s first start with Philadelphia since being traded from Oakland. Blanton allowed five runs on eight hits in six innings of work in his NL debut but did not factor into the decision because of the late inning heroics by his teammates.
Johan Santana also did not factor into the game’s decision after pitching very well for the Mets. Santana tossed eight solid innings allowing only two runs on eight hits but got nothing to show for it after his bullpen could not close the game out.
“After seeing that, you can’t help feeling that you want to be out there,” said the sidelined Wagner, who has 24 saves in 30 chances. “A lot of different things might have happened if I was out there. I’d rather be the guy standing here taking the blame instead of letting my teammates suck on this one.”
The loss puts the Mets 1 game behind the Phillies in the NL East standings and 4 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wildcard race.
Sports - The Yankees have 27 more regular season games at the old Yankee Stadium. It looks like they are trying to win them all. Last night’s 8-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins gave the ‘Bombers’ their 5th win in a row and their 9th straight at home. The Yankees have been closing the gap on the Red Sox and the Rays and now trail Tampa by 3.5 games in the AL East. The streak has come just in time for a key series this weekend at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox.
Last night’s rout included more big hits from 2B Robinson Cano. Cano who suffered at the plate in the 1st half of the season is hitting .522 since the All-Star break and went 2 for 4 with 2 RBI. Bobby Abreu also went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI including a 2 run homer in the 6th inning.
The Yankees will finish up at home with the Twins on Wednesday before heading to Boston for a three game set with the Red Sox starting on Friday night. Red Sox vs Yankees tickets are still available for the series.
Sports - CC Sabathia threw his third consecutive complete game for the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night. Since joining the Brewers, Sabathia is 4-0 with an ERA of 1.36, and 31 strikeouts to only 8 walks. CC surrendered only three hits and two walks, handing the Brewers their 7th straight win.
Sabathia’s no-hit bid was ended in the sixth inning by a Brendan Ryan single.
The Brewers are now only one game behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central Division.
Sports - During January of next year the friendly confines of Wrigley Field will play host to the annual outdoor NHL game; the NHL Winter Classic. The Chicago Blackhawks will be matched up against the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Last year’s Classic featured the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres, and was played at Ralph Wilson stadium. The game set the NHL attendance record at 71,217, and was one of the most-watched NHL games in history.
Blackhawks executives hope that the 2009 Classic will resonate with the fans like the previous edition. The birds-eye-view camera angles and falling snow created an atmosphere that hockey fans raved about.
Prior to a Cubs game, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the classic will be played on January 1st at Wrigley.
2009 NHL Winter Classic Tickets are available now!
Sports - Nationals interim closer Jon Rauch was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Arizona Diamondbacks for second baseman Emilio Bonifacio yesterday. The move gives manager Bob Melvin a plethora of bullpen options. Melvin now has the luxury of using Juan Cruz, Tony Pena, Chad Qualls, or Jon Rauch to set up for Lyon in the 9th (or spot close if need be).
22-year-old Bonifacio was considered the best pure lead-off hitter the the organization, and was eyed as a long-term replacement for Orlando Hudson. Instead, he will be joining one of the youngest teams in the majors, and will have a chance to make an impact much earlier.
Sports - Chicago Cubs closer Kerry wood has been having problems with a blister on his right index finger. A new type of blister treatment that Wood has been receiving from team doctors may negate the need for a DL trip. Wood has been out since July 11th, but will attempt to throw on Wednesday. If the session is successful, Wood will be available to pitch at some point during the week.
Cubs starting pitching has been notching enough innings to give the bullpen a rest in Wood’s abscence.
Sports - After months of speculation, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher reported to training camp on Tuesday, contract extension in tow. The one-year deal could be worth as much as $18 million, including a $6 million signing bonus, a $1 million base salary raise, and $8 million in guaranteed money in 2012.
“It feels good because I did have four years left on my contract, we all know that. They didn’t have to do anything, that was obviously a nice deal they offered me,” said Urlacher.
Despite offseason neck surgery and a sore back, Urlacher was ok’ed to participate in training camp activities.
“I feel fine, I feel great,” Urlacher said. “I’m not worried about that. Our doctors cleared me. I trust them, so if they tell me I’m OK, I’m OK. I feel fine, I haven’t had any effects from my neck, from my back, nothing. So just get out there and start playing.”
Sports - Since the end of the 2007 season, the Oakland Athletics have traded a rotation worth of pitchers. Joe Blanton was dealt to the Phillies, Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin went to the Cubs, and Dan Haren went to the Diamondbacks. Now the A’s are looking to trade closer Huston Street.
The A’s are dealing their players and amassing prospects, which continues to be Billy Beane’s M.O. when the team is not in contention. Despite being tied for second place, the A’s are ten games behind the AL West leading Angels.
Possible destinations for Street include the Mets, White Sox, Dodgers, Brewers, and Reds. An Adam Dunn for Huston Street deal may not be out of the question.
Sports - It’s been an ugly couple of months for Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, but the captain has battled through his recent struggles to make sure that his teammates are ready to play day in and day out. In the eyes of manager Terry Francona, this leadership alone will make up for a slump any day of the week and that is why Varitek has consistently been in the line up.
“I won’t hit for him. We need him. I believe in him. I will always believe in him. When times are tough, you don’t waver from that,” Francona said. “If we want to get where we ultimately want to get, the faith in him will bear itself out.”
Francona’s faith paid off Monday night as Varitek connected on his eight homerun of the season off of Seattle’s starting pitcher Jarrod Washburn (4-9) to give Boston a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning. The Sox would tack on two more runs in the eighth inning behind a Jed Lowrie single to left that drove home Coco Crisp and Kevin Youkilis to make the score 4-0, which would be the games final.
“I had a good first two months, then a horrendous month and a half. I mean, some of the toughest time of my career,” Varitek said. “It’s there—I’ve already shown it’s there. I’ve just got to keep stringing it together.”
One player that certainly appreciated the lift from his captain was battery-mate Jon Lester who pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings en route to his eighth victory on the season. Coming into the game, Lester had never pitched very well in his hometown of Seattle. In his two previous starts vs. the Mariners, Lester had allowed nine earned runs in only 10 innings of work for an 8.10 ERA, his worst against any AL opponent.
“Unlike the last couple times here, I didn’t have the distractions or anything,” Lester said after being able to sleep in his own bed and then notching his fifth start of the season without allowing a run, including his May 19 no-hitter against Kansas City.
Lester was able to locate all of his pitches for strikes and was able to get a lot of groundball outs which is always a good sign. He struck out seven, allowed three fly outs and the rest were on the ground.
“It’s nice to come back home and pitch halfway decent,” he said.
With one out in the eighth inning, Willie Bloomquist laced a line drive right off of Lester’s right shin for an infield single that would end his night on the mound. The bases were loaded when he was taken out of the game and he was relived by Jonathan Papelbon who was able to get Raul Ibanez to ground into a double play to end the threat. Papelbon would go on to record his 29th save of the season retiring the side in order in the ninth. This was Papelbon’s first five out save of the 2008 season.
The win keeps Boston 1 ½ games behind the Tampa Bay in the AL East. The Rays also were victorious Monday beating Oakland by the score of 4-0 as well.
Looking ahead, Boston has a big home series coming up this weekend against the New York Yankees. New York has been playing much better baseball as of late, winning their last eight games at Yankee Stadium and are now only 4 ½ games behind the Rays and 3 games behind the Sox in the division standings.
Another reason why the series will be hyped is the return of Red Sox DH David Ortiz. After spending over six weeks on the DL for a wrist injury he suffered on May 31, Ortiz will be ready to go barring any setback in his minor league rehab assignment this week in Double-A Portland. In his four minor league games this week (three in Pawtucket and one in Portland), Ortiz has gone 5-12 (.417 average) connecting on three homeruns and seven RBI’s. The Big Papi is definitely ready to rejoin the Red Sox this weekend.
Red Sox vs Yankees Tickets are still available for all three games at Fenway.
Sports - Wednesday night was not so lucky for the Atlanta Braves. Former .400 average hopeful Chipper Jones strained his left hamstring trying to run out a grounder in the 4th inning. Just two innings later, Tim Hudson left with right elbow tightness after 6 shutout innings. Hudson has tossed only 68 total pitches. Hudson said the large number of splitters he threw may have led to the tightness.
“I don’t foresee it being that big of a deal,” Hudson said. “It doesn’t feel too bad. It just feels like tight muscles.”
Jones will miss a few games, but will most likely not be going on the DL. The Braves will miss Chipper’s offensive production as they open up a series against the NL East co-leading Philadelphia Phillies.