Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The End of Summer: Labor Day Weekend NL Wild Card Wrap-Up

The Phillies held on to take 2 of 3
in Atlanta
Good morning, baseball fans. Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend, as usual it was not long enough. But, the weekend did produce great baseball and more shrinkage of games between the contenders in the NL Wild Card standings. Let's go straight to the weekend that was:

  • Atlanta Braves: If Braves fans want to party with their short-term memory, they'll still be celebrating today the dramatic, walk-off bomb by Chipper Jones on Sunday night which saved them from being swept by the surging Phillies. While it was certainly an amazing comeback, it still doesn't take away the Phillies winning 2 of 3 over the weekend after Atlanta just lost 2 of 3 on the road at the hands of the San Diego Padres. Yesterday's victory over the Rockies--while being held to just 5 hits--drew only 24,848 fans at Turner Field. I don't know if the fans in Atlanta have forgotten this shot after the final play in 2011, but they're headed in the same direction as of today. The Bobby Cox years are over & the NL Wild Card race is getting tighter by the inning, this kid doesn't want to cry again.

  • National lampooning of the Cardinals

  • St. Louis Cardinals: My suggestion last week was, "...they need more from their big-game players...". Well, the Cardinals got rocked by the Nationals, losing 3 of 4 this weekend & only narrowly escaped being swept. They squeaked out a win vs. the Mets yesterday, but their powerhouse offense has been adequate at best over the past 7, 8 days. It's a sign of troubling times when Skip Schumaker is the catalyst as was the case yesterday. The Cardinals are doing their best to keep the below teams in the race.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: Not quite dead? Who knows with this team. Did any team in contention have a worse weekend? No. No way. Not even close. The Pirates went 0-4 for the Labor Day weekend, but still find themselves only 2.5 games out of the 2nd NL Wild Card spot. Losing yesterday's opener vs. the lowly Houston Astros had better serve as a wake-up call. Where it begins & ends: Andrew McCutchen is 6 for 22 with only 2 extra base hits and 1 RBI over the last 7 days.
  • LA Dodgers: The Dodgers lost the first two vs. Arizona on Thursday & Friday, only to bounce back and reel off 3 straight wins vs. the D-Backs (2) & Padres (1). All 3 wins were one-run games, 2 in walk-off fashion. Character victories. Perhaps the trades are starting to payoff not only in the win column, but in the clubhouse, too.
  • Arizona D-Backs: began their 4-game series vs. the Dodgers winning the first two, but then lost the next two in Los Angeles 2-1 & 5-4 (walk-off). THEN Arizona opened their series in San Francisco with yet another 1-run loss, also suffering via walk-off in 10 innings. The D-Backs early September schedule is the toughest of the contenders and they are beginning to fade as predicted.

    Apparently, the place to be this past
    week at Miller Park
    Milwaukee Brewers: How are these guys remaining relevant? The long ball. They've hit 18 HOME RUNS in their last 7 games!! Let's put this into perspective: they have one more home run than doubles in their last 7 games, their team OPS is .944 during that span. Last report had Bernie Brewer being treated for minor chafing & scabbing on his rear end in the ER. They're 11-4 in their last 15, but not many around the league could probably name their starting pitchers beyond Yovani Gallardo. Nobody asks how it gets done in September, just if a team can get it done. Color me ridiculously INcorrect in my previous assessment of the Milwaukee Brewers.
  • Philadelphia Phillies: Yes, they SHOULD have swept Atlanta this past weekend, but Chipper Jones put a stop to that (Dang it, I so do respect that guy). The huge positive is they took 2 of 3, which is what I had declared last week as a requirement to maintain the miracle pace. Another big win yesterday vs. Cincinnati and as before, taking 2 of 3 here is almost certainly the tall order of the week. However: Look out. There is a low hum slowly growing louder in the basement of these contending team's apartment & every club on the floors above can hear it. It is the engine of the Phillies & their roster which is rich in post season experience, brimming with confidence having come from behind before in September is revving it up. Are they still a long shot to qualify? Yes, but so were the Cardinals last year & the Phillies are showing no signs of being non-believers as they are 11-5 in their last 16 games, 4-1 in their last 5. Stat: The Phillies are 106-62 in September since 2006. They have a knack for this.

  • This week's forecast:
    Please don't make Bill Mazeroski
    cry, Pirates
    • Braves: 3 more at home vs. Colorado, then 3 on the road in New York. If the Braves want to make a statement, it would be to seize & handle these 6 "winnable" games. In need of a good kick in the butt: Jason Heyward is 3 for his last 25 with 2 doubles, no HR, & zero RBIs.
    • Cardinals: Their next 5 are all at home vs. the Mets (2) & Brewers (3). If there was any time for St. Louis to make some distance, this week is it.
    • Pirates: 2 more at home vs. Houston and then 3 hosting the Cubs. That's 5 home games vs. 2 teams that have a combined record of 93-176. Paint murals on the clubhouse hallways of Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Bill Mazeroski, Doug Drabek....hell, even Kent Tekulve & his bus driver glasses (and a WS Ring), ANYTHING to get these guys motivated.
    • Dodgers: 2 more at home vs. San Diego, then a trip up the PCH for a huge 3-game series in San Francisco. They have the scariest mid-September schedule as Sept 7th through Sept 23rd puts the Dodgers against the Giants, D-Backs, Cardinals, Nationals, & Reds....Mommy!
    • D-Backs: 2 more at San Francisco and then 3 in San Diego. After that? They face the Dodgers & Giants again. Tough stuff. It would surprise me to see Arizona still mentioned among the wild card hopefuls in the next 2 weeks.
    • Brewers: 3 more at Miami and then 3 at St. Louis, followed by 3 at home vs. Atlanta. These are the games which will probably determine the Brewers' fate in remaining a contender.
    • Phillies: 2 more at Cincinnati, then 6 straight at home vs. Colorado & Miami. Again, taking 2 of 3 from the Reds will be huge. Thinking of Live Blogging while in attendance this Friday vs. Colroado, pictures an' all. I fully anticipate you all breaking Friday night plans to tune in.
    Have fun and have a great week everyone!

    1 comment:

    1. Great blog Question: Is John Mayberry generating better bat speed lately or
      just getting some fat pitches ? I want him to succeed but it seems to me
      you can get him high and tight and low and away with regularity. In the
      field he's a black DiMaggio. A pleasure to watch him gliding under a fly ball.