Friday, October 21, 2016

Joe Blanton Bombed at Worst Time for Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers were bombed in the pivotal Game Five of the NLCS by the Chicago Cubs last night, and a former Phillies World Series hero surrendered the key blow.

By this point in the 2016 MLB postseason, fans of the Philadelphia Phillies already know that one of the subplots involves a handful of their former heroes who are now wearing Dodger blue.

Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Joe Blanton were all key performers at this time eight years ago as the Fightin' Phils fought their way to the franchise' second-ever World Series crown.

All three were eventually traded to the Dodgers. Utley went in August of 2015, and Ruiz this past August.

Blanton took a bit more of a circuitous route to this NLCS appearance. He was dealt by the Phils to the Dodgers back in August of 2012.

Over the next four years, Blanton bounced around four more organizations before signing back with the Dodgers this past January.

Reinvented as a relief pitcher, Blanton proved a revelation on the mound this season, appearing in a career-high 75 games for Los Angeles.

Blanton's numbers: 2.48 ERA, 1.013 WHIP, just 55 hits allowed over 80 innings pitched with an 80/26 K:BB ratio. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Philadelphia Phillies Top 25 Players of All-Time: #24 - Roy Thomas

The "Sports Talk Philly" site is doing a Top 25 Phillies of All-Time series, and approached me about doing some of the older players on their list. This is the first of my contributions for the series.
There are old-timers, and then there are OLD-timersRoy Thomas is the latter, a ballplayer who most modern Philadelphia Phillies fans have never heard of previously.
Thomas appeared with the Phillies in parts of a dozen seasons, first for a decade straight from 1899-1908, and then again over his final two seasons in 1910-11.
His brother Bill played one season in the big leagues, also with the Phillies, for six games in the 1902 season.
Thomas was a local product, born in Norristown and raised in the small community of Sheetz's Mill, just outside of Norristown.
Per Bill Lamberty at SABR, Thomas was raised by strict Christian parents who forbade him playing on Sundays, a practice that he would later take into his professional baseball career.
Thomas went to the University of Pennsylvania as well, earning an Ivy League degree in 1894, and starring for the Quakers baseball team.
After graduation, Thomas began to play semi-pro ball in the area. Finally coming to the attention of pro scouts, Thomas broke in with the Phillies in 1899 at age 25.
Thomas put together an outstanding 13-year big league career spent mostly with the Phillies. Upon his retirement, he was the head baseball coach at Penn for a decade, compiling a 106-43-3 mark from 1909-19.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Aroldis Chapman Tries to Overcome Domestic Abuse Allegation

The Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied at a game apiece in the 2016 National League Championship Series as the two teams get set for what should be three exciting nights of October baseball in L.A. beginning on Tuesday night.
In addition to being the most exciting time of the year in Major League Baseball, the month of October is also designated as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month here in the United States.
This month there will be a concerted effort to educate the public on this important issue. It is an opportunity, as the National Network to End Domestic Violence states, to “raise awareness about domestic violence” and to join efforts to end that violence.
One of the key players during this NLCS for the Chicago Cubs is closer Aroldis Chapman, obtained by the team just prior to this season’s non-waiver trade deadline from the New York Yankees.
A 28-year-old flame-throwing left-hander who defected from Cuba in 2009, Chapman is a four-time NL All-Star who holds the MLB record for throwing the fastest pitch (105.1 mph). He is the acknowledged hardest thrower in the game today, and one of the hardest throwers of all time.
In addition to being a key player on the baseball diamond this October, Chapman also has a link to that other October event relating to domestic violence awareness.
Chapman is an accused domestic violence abuser.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Blue Jays Could Beat Up Trevor Bauer in ALCS Game Three

As the American League Championship Series moves north of the border into Canada on Monday night, the host Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in desperate straits.
The Blue Jays trail the visiting Cleveland Indians by two games to one in the best-of-seven series, and simply cannot afford to fall into a 3-0 hole.
There have been 35 postseason series in Major League Baseball history that started with one team running out to a 3-0 lead.
Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have won, rallying from that 0-3 deficit to take four straight from the arch-rival New York Yankees, a springboard to the BoSox ending their “Curse of the Bambino” by eventually winning the World Series.
Grant Brisbee with SB Nation did a nice breakdown of this situation when the Baltimore Orioles fell behind the Kansas City Royals by 3-0 in the 2014 ALCS, and when the Chicago Cubs fell behind the New York Mets 3-0 in last year’s NLCS.
If the Jays are to save their season and get into this series, they are going to need a big effort in front of the frenzied fans at Rogers Centre.
Fortunately for the Blue Jays, they may have just the antidote to their ills in Cleveland starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.
The 25-year-old right-hander is now in his third full big league season

Saturday, October 15, 2016

MLB Prediction: 2016 National League Championship Series

The 2016 National League Championship Series between the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers and NL Central champion Chicago Cubs begins on Saturday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The host Cubbies, who famously have not won a World Series since 1908, went wire-to-wire to win their division going away by 17.5 games with a 103-58 record.

The visiting Dodgers last won the Fall Classic back in 1988. They struggled early, falling below .500 as late as May 22nd. 

But the club rallied over the summer, and stormed past the arch-rival San Francisco Giants in late August, ultimately winning the division by four games.

Manager Joe Maddon then guided the Cubs past those Giants in the NLDS in four games, but not without drama.

Chicago won the first two games, but San Francisco won game three and held a 5-2 lead into the 9th inning of Game Four, looking to tie things up and force a winner-take-all deciding game.

The Cubs rallied off an embattled Giants bullpen, scoring four times in the top of the 9th for a 6-5 victory which advanced them into the NLCS for a second straight season. They were swept a year ago by the New York Mets.

The Dodgers found themselves in even more dire straights in their NLDS against the Washington Nationals.

Los Angeles trailed the Nats by two games to one, and Game Four rolled into the bottom of the 8th inning at Dodger Stadium tied at 5-5 with the hosts facing elimination.

But the Dodgers came up with a run to win it, then took a dramatic 4-3 victory in Game Five back in Washington thanks to big relief work from Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw.

Dodgers Aided by Ex-Phillies Postseason Experience

Eight years ago tonight, the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers by a 5-1 score in Game 5 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium to win the National League pennant.
That team would go on to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in five games to win just the second World Series crown in what was then 126 seasons of Phillies baseball.
Three key players on the team that dispatched the Dodgers and won it all in that fall of 2008 are now playing different, but no less important roles for Los Angeles as the NLCS opens on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.
Chase Utley was a 29-year-old superstar second baseman, the best in the game at the position, back in the 2008 season.
That year in the midst of his prime as a player, Utley hit for a .292/.380/.535 slash line with 33 home runs, 104 RBI, 113 runs scored, 41 doubles and 14 stolen bases.

Friday, October 14, 2016

MLB Prediction: 2016 American League Championship Series

The American League Championship Series kicks off on Friday night with the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians hosting the AL Wildcard Toronto Blue Jays.

Terry Francona's Tribe went 94-67 in winning their division by eight games over the Detroit Tigers.

Manager John Gibbons guided the Jays to a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for 2nd place in the AL East at 89-73, four games behind the Boston Red Sox.

The Jays then defeated the O's in dramatic fashion in the AL Wildcard Game on a three-run walk-off home run by Edwin Encarnacion in the bottom of the 11th inning.

That victory bought Toronto a date with the AL West champion Texas Rangers in the ALDS, and the Blue Jays swept Texas in three straight games by 10-1, 5-3, and 7-6 scores.

Meanwhile, the Indians faced off with the Bosox in their ALDS. Cleveland also swept, taking their three games by scores of 5-4, 6-0, and 4-3.

The two clubs met seven times during the regular season, with Cleveland coming out on top in four of the seven games.

Four of the seven were one-run games, and six were close finals. However, the Jays did spank the Tribe by a 17-1 score on July 3rd.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nationals Anthony Rendon is a Difference Maker

The visiting Washington Nationals had just taken a 2-1 lead over the host Los Angeles Dodgers in the top of the third inning in Monday's third game of a tied National League Division Series game at Dodger Stadium.
With Bryce Harper at third base and one out, Nats third baseman Anthony Rendon stepped in against Dodgers' 28-year-old quasi-rookie starting pitcher Kenta Maeda.
Maeda may be a "rookie" by Major League Baseball standards and qualifications, but he has eight years of experience in the Japanese Central League as the ace of the Hiroshima Carp.
Rendon worked Maeda to a 2-2 count over a half-dozen pitches, and then on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, ripped a 91 mph fastball deep into the left-center field stands for a two-run home run.

The blast would prove to supply the winning runs in what would ultimately become an 8-3 Nationals victory at Chavez Ravine, putting Washington up by two games to one in the NLDS.
In a lineup that includes high-profile 2015 NL MVP Harper, franchise icon Ryan Zimmerman, veteran postseason hero Jayson Werth, and 2015 postseason star Daniel Murphy, Rendon can often get lost, especially to the average baseball fan.
But ask any Nationals player and fan, and they will tell you that the 26-year-old Rendon is a key to any success that the team enjoys.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Philadelphia Phillies 2016 Season in Review

When Grapefruit League action ended and the Philadelphia Phillies left their spring training home in Clearwater, Florida back at the end of March, there were few who held high hopes for the coming 2016 season.
The Fightin' Phils had ceased any serious fightin' after a .500 season in 2012, one which put an end to a streak of five consecutive NL East crowns and nine straight winning seasons.
Entering 2016, the club and its fans had suffered through three consecutive losing seasons, including a 63-99 debacle a year ago that was the franchise' worst since 1972, and left them at the very bottom of Major League Baseball.
So when 2016 opened with the Phillies getting swept out of Great American Ball Park by the host Cincinnati Reds, it just seemed like the team was in for more of the same.
After two weeks, they were still struggling along at 6-9 after losing four of their five games leading up to that point.
Then something suddenly and quite unexpectedly changed. The Phils walked-off the Washington Nationals and their own former closer, Jonathan Papelbon, on a mid-April Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

That thrilling victory sparked a run of winning baseball, the likes of which had not been seen down in South Philly since the 2011 Phillies were setting a franchise record by wrapping up a 102-win campaign.
From that point through mid-May over a full month of the baseball calendar, the Phillies went 18-8 and surged up the NL East standings.
For a few heady hours following a 4-2 afternoon home win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, May 18th, the Phillies were tied for first place in the division.
That night, the Nationals stomped the New York Mets, pushing a half-game up on the Phillies, who would never again reach the top of the standings this season.
There were fans who were getting carried away with things here in Philly during that run, believing that it was possible that the club was ahead of schedule in their rebuilding program, and that perhaps they were ready to at least stay in the NL Wildcard conversation over the summer.
Alas, it wasn't to be.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

NL Wildcard: Why the (Giants / Mets) Will Win

Topping last night's dramatic extra-innings walk-off victory by the Toronto Blue Jays over the Baltimore Orioles is going to prove difficult for the combatants in Wednesday night's NL Wild Card Game.
The New York Mets of the NL East will host the San Francisco Giants of the NL West at Citi Field in a game between two teams who were headed in somewhat opposite directions as the 2016 MLB regular season wound to a close.
The Giants were sitting at 57-33 on July 10 following a 5-1 homestand, and were leading the division by 6.5 games at that point.
On that same date, the Mets were at 47-41, in second place in their division, six games out. They would eventually fall below the .500 mark, to a low of 60-62 following an 8-1 drubbing at AT&T Park to the Giants on August 19.
Following that victory, the Giants had slipped back a bit at 68-54, but were still on top of the NL West. They would remain there for just one more day.
From the date of that Giants thumping of the Mets in San Francisco, the Mets would surge to a 27-13 finish, rising from third in the division to the top NL Wild Card position.
San Francisco, on the other hand, had already been playing shaky ball. They would really fall back after that point, finishing the season with a 19-21 mark that left the Giants scrambling for a playoff berth in the final days.
So the two teams who meet tonight in Queens resemble very little those two who met back in mid-August.