Baseball Today - October 16

Baseball Today - October 16

Baseball Today - October 16


Tuesday, Oct. 16

Boston at Cleveland (8:21 p.m. EDT).

Paul Byrd makes his first start for the Indians since winning Game 4 of the ALDS, facing Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox.


-Matt Holliday, Rockies, hit a three-run homer to cap a six-run fourth inning and Colorado held on to beat Arizona 6-4 and sweep the NLCS.

-Kenny Lofton, Indians, hit a two-run homer to help Cleveland beat Boston 4-2 and take a 2-1 series lead.


With their 21st win in 22 games, the relentless Colorado Rockies beat the rattled Arizona Diamondbacks 6-4 Monday night to sweep the NL championship series and advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The wild-card Rockies joined the 1976 Cincinnati Reds as the only teams to start a postseason with seven straight wins. Colorado has won 10 in a row overall and lost only once since Sept. 16.


Matt Holliday's three-run homer highlighted a six-run fourth inning and carried Colorado to their first NL crown. The slugger finished 5-for-15 (.333) with two homers and four RBIs in the series, earning him MVP honors. He has four homers in the postseason.


Daisuke Matsuzaka failed for the second straight time to make it out of the fifth inning in the postseason. He gave up four runs, six hits and two walks in 4 2-3 innings, striking out six while throwing 101 pitches. Matsuzaka, who took the loss, is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in the postseason.


Joel Pineiro agreed to a $13 million, two-year contract with St. Louis on Monday after thriving with the Cardinals down the stretch. The right-hander went 6-4 in 11 starts with St. Louis after being acquired from Boston at the trade deadline.


''It was fun to be a sinkerball pitcher tonight. That's what I live and die by. That's what I threw all night.'' - Cleveland right-hander Jake Westbrook, after giving up two runs in 6 2-3 innings to help the Indians beat Boston 4-2 and take a 2-1 lead in the ALCS.

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Re: Baseball Today - October 16

Indians, Red Sox to use off-speed pitchers in Game 4

CLEVELAND -- Fastball is a poor name for the pitch when Paul Byrd throws it.

Compare it with the speed of Tim Wakefield's knuckleball, though, and it's positively blazing.

So when those two starters square off in Game 4 of the AL championship series Tuesday night, patience will be a priority for Indians and Red Sox hitters.

''This may be the slowest-throwing right-handed matchup of all time in the postseason,'' Byrd said Monday before Game 3.

Byrd's fastest pitch barely flirts with the 90 mph mark. Wakefield sometimes throws a dipping, darting pitch that can't break 70 or a pane of glass.

Compare that with the Game 1 power pitchers, Boston's Josh Beckett and Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, and it might be difficult to believe all four fill the same role.

Wakefield can even give his own manager problems with his fickle flutterball that can be all over the place for a stretch and then close enough to the plate for batters to take a swat at it.

''He's the hardest guy to be a manager for of any pitcher I've ever been around,'' Boston's Terry Francona said. ''I think I learned real quick, sometimes to take both your hands, put them underneath you and sit there. Because of the way he pitches, if you don't do that, it can drive you crazy a little bit.

''At the same time, if you're patient enough to let him pitch, and he's pitching well, he won 17 games.''

Wakefield might have won more if he hadn't missed time with a back injury late in the season - the same problem that forced the Red Sox to leave him off the roster for their division series sweep of the Los Angeles Angels.

''I probably wouldn't have been any help to us in the ALDS and it didn't make any sense to try to fit a square peg into a round hole,'' Wakefield said.

Now he's eager to participate after throwing 77 pitches in a simulated game last week.

''The rest has done me well,'' he said. ''I'm ready to go.''

Wakefield was 17-12 with a 4.76 ERA this season. Byrd was 15-8 with a 4.59 ERA. Each started 31 games.

And each was the subject of speculation about whether they'd even get to start in the playoffs.

Cleveland manager Eric Wedge was questioned when he used Byrd rather than Sabathia on three days' rest in Game 4 of the AL division series. Byrd pitched five solid innings and the Indians beat the New York Yankees 6-4 to clinch the series.

''You know what you're going to get from Paul. He knows himself very well,'' Wedge said. ''He's pitched in a lot of big ballgames.''

Francona made it clear that he would use Wakefield in Game 4, instead of postseason star Beckett, even if the Red Sox trail 2-1 in the series. The main reason, he said, is how the short rest would affect Beckett.

The right-hander did pitch the clinching game of the 2003 World Series for Florida over the Yankees on three days' rest, but Francona said he's a different pitcher now.

Byrd is different than when he pitched for Francona in Philadelphia from 1998-2000.

He's certainly different than Indians fastballers Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, who pitched the first two games of the series.

''It comes down to the same thing. Swinging at strikes, getting balls up in the zone that you can do something with and lay off everything else,'' Francona said.

When Byrd ''is getting himself into hot water ... he's great at getting himself out of it,'' Francona said, ''because as the stadium gets louder, he has the ability to go softer, and that can be very effective.''

Not as soft as Wakefield.

''Surely, a knuckleballer takes it to the extreme,'' Wedge said. ''But you go up there and you've got some people with experience with it.''

The Indians will have to go from hard-throwing Daisuke Matsuzaka in Game 3 to Wakefield. The Red Sox will have a smoother transition with sinkerballer Jake Westbrook, who throws harder than Byrd, on the mound Monday.

Byrd wasn't spectacular in the division series, allowing two runs, eight hits and two walks with two strikeouts in five-plus innings.

But he was good enough.

''That's the way my career has gone, has just been trying to grind it out with less-than-average stuff and make something out of not too much,'' Byrd said.

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Re: Baseball Today - October 16

Matsuzaka Boston's $103 m| illion man, flops again

CLEVELAND -- The $103 million man has been almost worthless for Boston in the playoffs.

Daisuke Matsuzaka failed for the second straight time to make it out of the fifth inning in the postseason. His bust of a start resulted in a 4-2 loss to Cleveland on Monday night that put the Red Sox down 2-1 in the AL championship series.

This isn't what the Red Sox expected last offseason when they paid the Seibu Lions $51,111,111 for Dice-K's rights and agreed to a $52 million, six-year contract.

Matsuzaka's most important numbers these days are 0 and 6.75 - his postseason wins and ERA.

He allowed three runs over 4 2-3 innings in his postseason debut against the Los Angeles Angels, but Boston recovered to win 6-3 on its way to a sweep. In this one, he gave up four runs, six hits and two walks in 4 2-3 innings, striking out six.

He threw 101 pitches after tossing 96 against the Angels.

''The more pitches you throw, especially to dangerous hitters, the better chance you give them,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. ''I mean, that's the same concept that we talk about all time. They kind of reversed it on us.''

Matsuzaka thrived on the world stage, but he's flopped this October.

''It's a lot of pitches, so it's a lot of deep counts,'' Francona said.

He pitched for Japan in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and was the MVP when Japan won the first World Baseball Classic in March 2006. His most impressive pressure performance may have been the 1998 Japanese high school title game when he pitched a no-hitter.

He faded with the Red Sox this year, finishing 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA. He struggled with his control, especially from the stretch.

Dice-K started strong against the Indians, retiring the side in order in the first on a groundout and two strikeouts. He even got Victor Martinez on a grounder to start the second and fanned Jhonny Peralta after Ryan Garko singled.

Then Kenny Lofton, a major leaguer when Matsuzaka was 11 years old, drove Dice-K's first pitch into the right-field seats for a two-run homer. During the regular season. Matsuzaka allowed a team-high 25.

He did get out of a first-and-second jam in the third by striking out Victor Martinez. That began a stretch of five straight outs, three on strikeouts. But after fanning Trot Nixon, he wouldn't retire another batter, allowing five straight to reach.

Asdrubal Cabrera and Travis Hafner hit RBI singles, and when Martinez slapped a single to left despite being caught off balance by a pitch, Boston manager Terry Francona had seen enough.

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Re: Baseball Today - October 16

Pineiro agrees to $13 million, 2-year contract with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Joel Pineiro agreed to a $13 million, two-year contract with St. Louis on Monday after pitching well for the Cardinals down the stretch.

The right-hander went 6-4 in 11 starts with St. Louis after being acquired from the Red Sox on the trade deadline, and could have opted for free agency. The deal includes a $500,000 signing bonus and salaries of $5 million in 2008 and $7.5 million in 2009.

''We felt very strongly at the time of the trade that Joel had the ability to improve our starting rotation once he had time to condition himself for that role,'' interim general manager John Mozeliak said. ''We are extremely pleased to have re-signed Joel and project him to be a steady performer for us, much like he did down the stretch this past season.''

Pineiro is the third pitcher retained since the end of the season, with the Cardinals also picking up an $8 million option on closer Jason Isringhausen and re-signing right-hander Russ Springer.

Pineiro was in Boston's bullpen before the trade, making 31 relief appearances. He had a 3.96 ERA the last two months with St. Louis, closing out his surge by helping to knock the New York Mets out of the postseason in a 3-0 victory on Sept. 27.

The 29-year-old worked into the sixth inning in seven of his starts, and the team was 7-4 when he pitched.

Pineiro is 65-60 with a 4.47 ERA in 227 games for his career, including 159 starts. He combined for 30 victories for the Mariners in 2002 and 2003.

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Re: Baseball Today - October 16

ALCS Preview

Boston (4-2) at Cleveland (6-1)

Now just two wins away from a trip to the World Series, the Indians will hand the ball to veteran Paul Byrd (15-8, 4.59 ERA) tonight in Game 4 of this best-of-7 series, while Boston will counter with veteran Tim Wakefield (17-12, 4.76).

After rallying for a Game 2 victory in Boston on Saturday, Cleveland came home last night and led wire-to-wire en route to 4-2 victory and a 2-1 lead in the series. The Indians are on an 18-4 run at home and a 9-3 roll when playing as an underdog.

Despite last night’s loss, the Red Sox are still 9-4 in their last 13 visits to Cleveland. The Red Sox also still lead the overall season series 6-4, going 3-2 at Jacobs Field.

Byrd was solid in his first postseason start since 2005, leading the Indians to a 6-4 series-clinching victory at the Yankees in Game 4 of the A.L. Division Series. Byrd surrendered two runs on eight hits and to walks in five innings, improving his career playoff record to 2-1 with a 5.04 ERA in six games (four starts).

Byrd has actually pitched better on the road (8-4, 3.52) than he has at Jacobs Field (8-4, 5.68). That road record includes an 8-4 win at Boston on May 30, when the righthander scattered nine hits over six innings, allowing just two runs (one earned). For his career, Byrd is 4-2 with a 4.12 ERA against the BoSox.

Wakefield was left off Boston’s postseason roster in the divisional series as he dealt with a back problem. The veteran knuckleballer last pitched on Sept. 29 against Minnesota, earning a 6-4 win after allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits in seven innings. Although Wakefield is 6-2 in his last eight starts, he had an 8.76 ERA in his five September outings.

Wakefield went just 7-8 despite a decent 4.26 ERA in 16 road starts this year, compared with 10-4 with a 5.27 ERA at home. He did not face the Indians this year, but for his career, he’s 9-8 with a 4.50 ERA against the Tribe, including 5-4 with a 4.64 ERA at Jacobs Field.

Wakefield is 5-5 with a 6.12 ERA in 16 lifetime playoff appearances (nine starts), but 5-1 with a 3.89 ERA in eight LCS games (four starts).

The under was 12-4 in Wakefield’s 16 road starts this year. However, the over was 10-6 when Byrd pitched at home and is 6-2-1 in his last nine outings overall (playoffs included).

The under is 4-0 in the four meetings between these teams at Jacobs Field.


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Re: Baseball Today - October 16

ALCS game 4 preview
By Josh Jacobs 

Cleveland is sure making the ALCS one close shootout until the end. Last night the Tribe walked off the diamond of Jacobs Field with the lights on the scoreboard indicating a 4-2 win over the hot hitting Red Sox.

Well, Boston’s hot bats may have taken a dip in some cold water and Cleveland’s slumping right hander Jake Westbrook seems to have had an epiphany with his sinker. Westbrook tossed 6.2 innings last night, surrendering just seven hits and two earned runs.

With the Indians in the driver’s seat for the time being, Tuesday night’s game, which is set to begin at 8:00 p.m. EDT, will pair up two off speed hurlers.

First under the microscope is Cleveland’s veteran starter Paul Byrd (1-0, 3.60 ERA). This scrappy right hander is an 11-year veteran who packs nothing special in terms of pitch selection, but gets the job done by throwing a high ratio of strike to balls. The term gas or fastball should in no way be used in the same sentence with Byrd.

In the last four years Byrd has pitched 29.2 innings versus the Red Sox. His 3-1 record with a 3.03 ERA against Boston has been a success story, and giving up well under a run per inning is even more evidence of Byrd’s effectiveness.

There is one weak spot that Byrd has succumbed to this season, and that’s his weak performance when hurling at home. His record of 8-3 has been very solid at Jacobs Field (mainly due to Cleveland’s batting order able to post a high rate of run support), but opposing hitters have done damage. In 95 innings of work at home this season, Byrd has surrendered a .328 BAA, while coughing up 1.4 hits per inning (132 total hits) with 15 long balls that found the seats.

The main reason for Byrd’s eight wins at home; run support. In 31 starts this year, Cleveland has backed up their starter by proving him with 5.4 runs of support.

The Indians are 5-1 in Byrd’s last six starts when their opponent scores two runs or less in the previous game. Cleveland has also gone 4-1 in Byrd’s last five starts during Game 4 of a series.

Walking out of Boston’s dugout to start Game 4 will be knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield. With 14 years of major league experience under his belt, Wakefield found himself riding the bench during the ALDS series. He’s been plagued by a balky back in the last few weeks, making his last start on Sept. 29 against Minnesota.

As far as his numbers go, Wakefield has been a sizable force on the road. Although he only went 7-8 away from Fenway Park during the regular season, Wakefield has held down opposing batters to a low .249 BAA.

Wakefield’s numbers are one large anomaly. By that I mean, even with solid run support (5.2 runs of support) and holding opposing teams to just 2.8 runs per game, Wakefield has managed to rack up a bloated 4.26 ERA. One reason for the conflicting numbers is his 40 base on balls. Putting men on base and not being able to get out of the jam is a good reason for the 7-8 record that tells a different story.

More numbers to put your head in a bind before selecting a winner in this contest; Boston is 7-1 in Wakefield’s last eight starts following a quality start in his last appearance, but are 0-4 in Wakefield’s last four starts versus a team with a winning record.

On an offensive note, the Sox where held to just seven hits and two earned runs in Game 3. We can’t call this a developing trend since Boston has averaged 5.4 runs per game its last 10. But on the flip side, the Tribe’s lumber has been impressive, averaging 5.6 runs in their last 10.

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