Pennant Races In Full Tilt Boogie | News

The Week Ahead: Pennant drives kick into high gear

By Doug Miller / | 08/06/12 10:00 AM ET

via The Week Ahead: MLB pennant drives kick into high gear | News.

We’re moving into the second week of August. The dog days are upon us. September isn’t that far away. That means October isn’t, either.

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen

In baseball terms, this means things are getting serious, and this week, we’ll start seeing how serious. This is the first full week of play after the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline and the second week of the open period in which we might see a few juicy waiver deals.

This means new faces in old places, and a whole lot of eyes on just how effective these marriages will be.

The Angels might be wondering more than anyone, having brought in the pitching prize of the trade season, starter Zack Greinke. Mike Scioscia‘s club gets a stern test of its mettle early this week in tough road games against the division-rival A’s, and Greinke’s contributions every five days won’t matter much if Scioscia’s bullpen can’t get it together better than it has in recent days.

“We’ve had a rough three weeks as far as our starters, and what our starters do obviously has an impact on your bullpen roles,” Scioscia said after watching his relievers struggle again Sunday in a 4-2 loss to the White Sox in Chicago.

“These guys are good. It’s not going to take long to reset, but we need to get our starters getting deeper into games and we have arms down there [in the bullpen] that will get the outs. It didn’t happen this afternoon, but it will.”

Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who are right there with the Giants and the surging D-backs in a wide-open National League West, did more than anyone at the Deadline, landing Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Brandon League. Then they got starter Joe Blanton in a waiver deal with Philadelphia.

So of course Blanton did his job Sunday, turning in six innings of two-run, five-strikeout ball in a no-decision, and Ramirez did his, winning the game against the Cubs with a walk-off hit.

Now they head into the new week with a revamped roster, three home games against struggling Colorado, and only a half-game division deficit. Things are looking up.

“I think this time of year we’re not so much worried about one game to the next,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We’re worried about getting a win and you try to get a win that day.”

Mattingly’s sentiments are shared among a number of clubs, including the team right there with the Dodgers, Bruce Bochy’s San Francisco Giants, plus the red-hot Reds, the first-place Rangers, the first-place Nationals, the AL East-leading Yankees and other contenders in an increasingly intriguing drive toward pennants.

For Cincinnati, which lost for the first time in six games on Sunday but remains in charge in the NL Central, the week will bring a road test: three games at Milwaukee and four at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. But the Reds are hungry.

“You get greedy, and you start winning every ballgame, and two out of three all of a sudden doesn’t appear to be good enough,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said Sunday. “We’ll take a 5-2 homestand. We want more; you always want more.”


The Chicago White Sox want more, now that they’re back in control of the AL Central. Their early big trade acquisition, Kevin Youkilis, homered again Sunday and is looking more and more like the Kevin Youkilis of 2007 and 2008. Their new reliever, Brett Myers, is fitting in.

This week, Robin Ventura‘s gang, which just took a series from the Angels, stays home for three against the Royals and three against the A’s. Lefty Chris Sale will be back on the mound after 10 days of rest. They hope to keep things rolling on the South Side.

“We’ve had a lot of games in the past couple months where we’ve swung the bats well, scored a lot of runs,” club leader Paul Konerko said. “But you like to see yourself win those close ones, especially against real good ballclubs.”

Contenders such as the Braves, Cardinals, Pirates and D-backs will be thinking the same things as they enter this pivotal week. So will the Orioles and Rays, a game apart for second place behind the Yankees.

What will the new week bring? More drama. More clues to what we might see in the Division Series, Championship Series and Fall Classic.

Just take it from Pirates MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, who homered Sunday in his team’s road win against the Reds, an exciting type of situation that only figures to intensify in coming weeks.

“Definitely,” McCutchen said when asked if it felt like October.

“I’ve never been in a playoff, but I’m sure it kinda feels like that.”

American League
NY Yankees 63 44 .589 5-5 W1 8/5 vs SEA, W 6-2 8/6 @ DET, 7:05 PM
Texas 63 44 .589 5-5 L1 8/5 @ KC, L 6-7 8/6 @ BOS, 7:10 PM
Chi White Sox 59 48 .551 7-3 W1 8/5 vs LAA, W 4-2 8/6 vs KC, 8:10 PM
The top two Wild Card teams from each league make the postseason and play each other in a one-game playoff.
Detroit 58 50 .537 5-5 W4 8/5 vs CLE, W 10-8 8/6 vs NYY, 7:05 PM
Oakland 58 50 .537 5-5 L2 8/5 vs TOR, L 5-6 8/6 vs LAA, 10:05 PM
LA Angels 58 51 .532 0.5 54 4-6 L1 8/5 @ CWS, L 2-4 8/6 @ OAK, 10:05 PM
Baltimore 57 51 .528 1.0 54 6-4 W2 8/5 @ TB, W 1-0 8/6 vs SEA, 7:05 PM
Tampa Bay 56 52 .519 2.0 53 5-5 L2 8/5 vs BAL, L 0-1 8/7 vs TOR, 7:10 PM
Boston 54 55 .495 4.5 50 5-5 W1 8/5 vs MIN, W 6-4 8/6 vs TEX, 7:10 PM
Toronto 53 55 .491 5.0 50 4-6 W2 8/5 @ OAK, W 6-5 8/7 @ TB, 7:10 PM
Seattle 51 59 .464 8.0 46 8-2 L1 8/5 @ NYY, L 2-6 8/6 @ BAL, 7:05 PM
Cleveland 50 58 .463 8.0 47 1-9 L9 8/5 @ DET, L 8-10 8/6 vs MIN, 7:05 PM
Minnesota 47 61 .435 11.0 44 7-3 L1 8/5 @ BOS, L 4-6 8/6 @ CLE, 7:05 PM
Kansas City 45 62 .421 12.5 43 4-6 W1 8/5 vs TEX, W 7-6 8/6 @ CWS, 8:10 PM
National League
Cincinnati 66 42 .611 8-2 L1 8/5 vs PIT, L 2-6 8/6 @ MIL, 8:10 PM
Washington 65 43 .602 6-4 W2 8/5 vs MIA, W 4-1 8/6 @ HOU, 8:05 PM
San Francisco 59 49 .546 4-6 W3 8/5 @ COL, W 8-3 8/6 @ STL, 8:15 PM
The top two Wild Card teams from each league make the postseason and play each other in a one-game playoff.
Atlanta 62 46 .574 8-2 W1 8/5 vs HOU, W 6-1 8/6 @ PHI, 7:05 PM
Pittsburgh 61 46 .570 6-4 W1 8/5 @ CIN, W 6-2 8/6 vs ARI, 7:05 PM
St. Louis 59 49 .546 2.5 53 7-3 W3 8/5 vs MIL, W 3-0 8/6 vs SF, 8:15 PM
LA Dodgers 59 50 .541 3.0 52 6-4 W3 8/5 vs CHC, W 7-6 8/6 vs COL, 10:10 PM
Arizona 55 53 .509 6.5 49 6-4 L2 8/5 @ PHI, L 4-5 8/6 @ PIT, 7:05 PM
NY Mets 53 56 .486 9.0 46 5-5 L1 8/5 @ SD, L 3-7 8/7 vs MIA, 7:10 PM
Philadelphia 49 59 .454 12.5 43 5-5 W2 8/5 vs ARI, W 5-4 8/6 vs ATL, 7:05 PM
Miami 49 60 .450 13.0 42 4-6 L2 8/5 @ WSH, L 1-4 8/7 @ NYM, 7:10 PM
Milwaukee 48 59 .449 13.0 43 4-6 L3 8/5 @ STL, L 0-3 8/6 vs CIN, 8:10 PM
San Diego 46 64 .418 16.5 38 4-6 W1 8/5 vs NYM, W 7-3 8/6 vs CHC, 10:05 PM
Chi Cubs 43 63 .406 17.5 39 3-7 L5 8/5 @ LAD, L 6-7 8/6 @ SD, 10:05 PM
Colorado 38 68 .358 22.5 34 2-8 L3 8/5 vs SF, L 3-8 8/6 @ LAD, 10:10 PM
Houston 36 73 .330 26.0 29 2-8 L1 8/5 @ ATL, L 1-6 8/6 vs WSH, 8:05 PM

x – clinched playoff berth


Amaro Busy Making Moves – Domonic Brown Recalled

Pence, Victorino Gone – Blanton Next?

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“We are not rebuilding- we are retooling. It is my job to bring a contender every year.”

-Ruben Amaro Jr.

Bucs bolster bench, acquire Sanchez from Miami

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Marlins send Mujica, Sanchez in separate deals

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The Marlins made two deals as Tuesday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline approached, acquiring Minor League third baseman Zack Cox from the Cardinals for reliever Edward Mujica and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez from the Pirates for first baseman Gaby Sanchez. More»


Mujica comes to Cards in deal with Marlins

Edward Mujica

The Cardinals’ attempts to fortify their bullpen for the season’s final two months has led them to right-hander Edward Mujica, who the club acquired from the Marlins about an hour before Tuesday’s 3 p.m. CT non-waiver Trade Deadline. More»

Orioles, Phillies talking again about Blanton

With Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, talks between the Orioles and Phillies regarding pitcher Joe Blanton picked back up. More»

Atlanta addressed weaknesses at Deadline

Paul Maholm.

As Braves general manager Frank Wren spoke to media members just after midnight on Tuesday, he appeared relaxed and deservedly satisfied. One week after gaining the surprising revelation that Ryan Dempster was balking at the chance to come to Atlanta, Wren completed what he and many others view as a better deal. More»

Phils land Schierholtz, prospects

hunter pence

After sending Shane Victorino to the Dodgers, Philadelphia announced they have traded fellow outfielder Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. The Phillies received catching prospect Tommy Joseph, outfielder Nate Schierholtz and Class A right-hander Seth Rosin in the deal. More»

Pence to the Giants for Schierholtz, prospects

Giants add Pence, send three to Phillies

hunter pence

The Phillies traded right fielder Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for outfielder Nate Schierholtz, catcher Tommy Joseph and right-hander Seth Rosin on Tuesday. The Phillies also sent cash considerations to the Giants. More»

Moves multiply as teams try to beat Deadline

Shane Victorino

We’re down to the final few hours before baseball’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, and trade talk dominates the game. Talk has given way to action, and the annual flurry of moves is well under way.More»

Cubs complete deal that sends Soto to Rangers

geovany soto

Geovany Soto moved up in the standings on Tuesday, traded by the Cubs to the Rangers for Minor League right-handed pitcher Jake Brigham and a player to be named or cash consideration. More»

Dodgers deal again, get Victorino from Phillies

Shane Victorino

The Dodgers added veteran outfielder and leadoff hitter Shane Victorino to their collection of stars in a trade with the Phillies for reliever Josh Lindblom and Minor League pitcher Ethan Martin on Tuesday.More»

Mariners trade League, Delabar in pair of deals

Brandon League

Right-hander Brandon League was dealt to the Dodgers for a pair of Minor Leaguers, while fellow reliever Steve Delabar was traded to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames. More»


Pirates acquire Snider from Blue Jays for Lincoln

The Pirates got into the non-waiver Trade Deadline eve action late Monday night, acquiring outfielder Travis Snider from the Blue Jays in exchange for versatile right-hander Brad Lincoln. More»


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Phils Win 1st Spring Exhibition Over FSU 6-1

Phils’ first taste of game action is win over FSU

Luna homers as part of five-run seventh for Philadelphia

By Todd Zolecki /
CLEARWATER, Fla. — A five-run seventh inning broke open a close game against Florida State University as the Phillies took a 6-1 victory in their opening contest of the spring.
Florida State University College of Motion Pic...

FSU Campus

The Phillies used Wednesday’s exhibition against the college team as an opportunity to get a look at some of their younger arms in camp.

Austin Hyatt is 25, but he still qualifies as young.

He started the game and struck out three in two perfect innings at Bright House Field.

“I’m one of the few starters whose first time it is in camp, I guess one of the younger guys, so I was happy to be called upon,” Hyatt said.

English: Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguer J...

Joe Savery

Hyatt went 12-6 with a 3.86 ERA at Double-A Reading last season, making the Eastern League All-Star team in the process. Hyatt needs more seasoning in the Minor Leagues, and there certainly is no need to rush him with a big league rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley and Joe Blanton.

Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Michael Schwimer, Joe Savery, Phillippe Aumont and B.J. Rosenberg each threw a scoreless inning, for the Phils, who were paced on offense by Hector Luna (1-for-1, HR, two RBIs, walk) and Tyson Gillies (1-for-2, two runs, RBI, stolen base).

Hunter Pence doubled in his spring debut, while Pete Orr and Tuffy Gosewisch also recorded two-base hits.

Hyatt said he plans to soak in everything possible while he is in big league camp.

“I try to sit back and listen, pick up some things here and there,” Hyatt said. “But the guys, they make you feel welcome at the same time, so it’s not as intimidating as it may seem. It’s an honor to be around them.”

Hyatt is hoping to open the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and continue the progress he made last season.

“It definitely gets more exciting when you get closer,” he said. “It’s what you kind of work your way up the Minors for, to get closer, so yeah, I realize if you pitch well for a season, you could be there. It is nice to think about.”

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

What’s In Store For Joe Blanton This Season?

Can Blanton bounce back in 2012?

COREY  SEIDMANcontributor.png

Four of five rotation spots are set for the Phillies heading into 2012 — it’s hard to envision Vance Worley being asked to do anything but pick up from where he left off.

Joe Blanton, however, has a small chance of losing his starting job to Kyle Kendrick or one of the many depth-starters the Phillies signed this off-season.

It is unlikely, but if Blanton shows up to Spring Training out of shape or still feeling pain in his elbow, he could quickly become an unusable and untradeable asset.

Ricky Bottalico touched on this subject Tuesday on Comcast SportsNet’s “Phillies Hot Stove.”

“[Blanton’s] gotta come in there, prove that he’s healthy, make sure he’s coming into Spring Training at 100 percent,” Bottalico said. “If he does not do that, I think there could be problems for the Phillies. You’re basically in a situation where you may have to eat $8 million.”

Phillies pitcher Joe Blanton warming up before...

Trade talks surrounded Blanton from the day after the Phillies signed Cliff Lee last winter until Blanton went on the shelf for the first time with a sore elbow. At one point, Blanton’s three-year, $24 million contract looked appealing to teams in need of a middle-of-the-rotation starter. But now, he’ll have to come back and make a handful of quality starts to generate any real trade value. Without doing so, no team will be willing to take on a significant portion of Blanton’s salary or part with an attractive enough minor leaguer to make a trade worthwhile.

“If he does come back healthy, either you give him a job as a fourth starter, or you throw him out to the wolves and see what you can get for him,” Bottalico said.

Of course, it’s a bit of a catch-22, because while you can’t trade Blanton without him proving his value, if he does come back and pitch well, the Phils might not have a reason to deal him. The upcoming season is Blanton’s last under contract with the Phillies.

Bottalico thinks Blanton can bounce back, but it should be noted that Blanton wasn’t all that effective even when healthy in 2010. In that season, Blanton had a 4.82 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 176 innings. His control was very good, but his strike-throwing came at the expense of allowing 10.6 hits per nine innings, one full hit over his career mark. He was a bit unlucky, stranding two percent fewer baserunners than usual and seeing his balls in play drop for hits 32 percent of the time rather than 29 percent. But it wasn’t as if his high ERA could have been blamed solely on misfortune.

Blanton has been with the Phils since midway through the 2008 season, but he is still one of the toughest players to predict moving forward. His National League resume includes one impressive season in which he struck out five percent more batters than ever before (2009), one slightly less than mediocre year (2010) and one season riddled with injuries (2011).

What stood out during that 2009 season was Blanton’s changeup. Whether it was the result of a full season under changeup-maven Rich Dubee or just a fluke, Blanton that year saved 1.98 runs on every 100 changeups. Since the start of 2010, the pitch has cost Blanton 8.1 runs.
The Phils won’t need a ton from Blanton next season… 175 innings with a 4.40 ERA would suffice based on the context of Charlie Manuel’s team. Whether Blanton reaches those goals is dependent on the health of his elbow and the strength of a secondary pitch – if not the changeup than his slider.

For more statistical musings from Corey Seidman, visit Brotherly Glove and Phillies Nation SEIDMAN ON TWITTER


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