Tag Archive | "Ninth Inning"

Mike Minor Will Turn It Around Tonight

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Mike Minor Will Turn It Around Tonight

Posted on 26 May 2013 by Trish Vignola

The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets were left in suspended animation last night, but does anyone care? The Atlanta Braves, currently in first, have won six consecutive games. On the flip side, the New York Mets, currently in fourth (thanks to the Marlins being slightly worse), have lost six straight at home.

MikeMinor

Nonetheless, the teams had to wait until today before seeing if both streaks would continue. They are set to complete a suspended game before meeting in the regularly scheduled one about an hour later this Saturday night. Friday’s game is tied 5-5 heading to the top of the ninth, with the Mets actually rallying to tie in the eighth in the midst of a downpour. They drew within one on a Daniel Murphy single and scoring again on a wild pitch.

“It was tough to see. As tough as it was to see, I’m sure it was tough to get a grip on the ball and footing on the mound,” Murphy said to the Associated Press. “So, equal playing field and we were really glad to tie the score up there, and we’ll come out tomorrow and see if we can win an inning.”

The ninth inning presents an interesting decision for both managers. Atlanta’s Fredi Gonzalez is considering putting Anthony Varvaro, who blew the save Friday, back on the mound. “I could even run Varvaro back out there,” Gonzalez told. “It’s like going back-to-back days.” Mets manager Terry Collins will also turn to his bullpen, as opposed to giving the ball to scheduled Saturday starter Dillon Gee to pitch in the suspended game.

Might as well give the game to Atlanta now.

“I’m going to start the game with a relief pitcher,” Collins said to the Associated Press.

Uggh.

“Otherwise, if the thing’s over in 10 minutes, the guy’s already warmed up, now he has to sit for an hour. That’s not what I want to happen.”

Once the first game is over, Mike Minor (5-2, 2.78 ERA) will try to put an end to his road struggles against the Mets. I hope, being that I’m starting him for my fantasy baseball team tonight. His outings have been good as of late, so I was more confident in starting him than Barry Zito. Atlanta has won his last three starts, during which the left-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA with 20 strikeouts over 19 2-3 innings.

Minor set a season high with nine strikeouts and surrendered two runs and three hits in six innings of a 5-2 victory over Los Angeles on Sunday. Minor didn’t get the decision in that game. Ironically, Minor has a 5.63 ERA in seven career starts versus New York.

That’s his worst against any team he’s pitched at least 15 innings against. He’s turned in a pair of solid effort in his last two matchups, allowing three runs in 13 1-3 innings, but those games came at Atlanta. Minor, who went seven innings and gave up three runs in a 7-5 win over the Mets on May 3, has gone 1-1 with an 8.04 ERA in three career starts at Citi Field.

If the Mets though insist on running Ike Davis out there, fantasy owners like myself should be in pretty good shape for a Mike Minor turnaround.

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Pass the Cannoli! Italy is here to play some Baseball!

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Pass the Cannoli! Italy is here to play some Baseball!

Posted on 11 March 2013 by Trish Vignola

I write this article as Italy is prepared to go up 2-0.

TeamItaly

Che?

They beat the spaghetti out of Mexico and are about to beat the manicotti out of Canada.

Chi poteva aspettarselo? (Who saw that coming?)

The Italian contingency is feeling pretty good. They did not advance past the first round in the first two World Baseball Classics. However, this time around is different. They scored an early upset this year by rallying for two runs in the ninth inning Thursday to defeat Mexico, 6-5, in their WBC opener at Chase Field in Phoenix. Now, they invaded Canada.

Is it ironic that their uniform is Dodger blue? A franchise whose origin is beset in Italian-American lore (i.e. Brooklyn)? A couple of Dodgers — and another with a Dodger connection — were right in the middle of the action of Italia’s 2013 WBC journey.

Dodgers utilityman Nick Punto ignited Italy’s rally with a one-out double against Mexico (and San Francisco Giants’) closer Sergio Romo. However, even in the loss, Mexico (and Dodgers) first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had a big game. He reaching base in all five plate appearances with two hits, a pair of walks and by getting hit with a pitch. Gonzalez’s older brother, Edgar, didn’t fare as well. Playing left field, he got a poor jump on Punto’s double, which should have been caught. Anthony Rizzo‘s game-winning, two-run double also should have been caught, going off Gonzalez’s glove.

Mexico Manager Rick Renteria lamented to the Associate Press afterward that both plays “would have just been typically fly-ball outs.” Edgar Gonzalez had a hit in four at-bats, but also struck out three times. He wasn’t the only one to blame. Mexico (and Dodgers) third baseman Luis Cruz was 1 for 4 with a walk hitting third, in front of Adrian Gonzalez.

Italy wasn’t that much better for most of the game. Punto was 1 for 5 batting lead-off for Italy, which has former Dodgers slugger Mike Piazza as its hitting coach. However, they still eeked out the win. This afternoon, Italy played Canada at Chase Field. (Mexico will try to seek redemption against the United States later on today.) Nevertheless, Italy came out swinging even stronger. With folks like Pat Venditte, born in the beautiful Italian Villa of Omaha, Nebraska, Canada (Italy’s opponent) was looking straight into the barrel of a mercy rule. Let’s face it. Even with the controversial home run turned ground-rule double call, it was still a certainty.

I wonder if Russell Martin is sitting in Pirates’ camp somewhere, pretty excited…excited he missed out on this mess.

Somewhere, even Joe DiMaggio is pretty excited. My family lineage is finally in the news for something more than the lack of Pope or “Big Ang” from Mob Wives.

Seriously, Italy deserves credit. It wasn’t like they were knocking off Team France. (Sorry, they didn’t make the preliminary round. If any country is rife to be made fun of, it’s France.) Team Canada isn’t a bunch of stiffs. This might not be hockey but Canada is pretty good at our national past time. Canada features strong major-league talent, including the Reds’ Joey Votto, Justin Morneau of the Twins, and pitchers John Axford, Philippe Aumont and Shawn Hill. However, this time around, Italy was just a little better.

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Bullpen Idol – The Mets search for a closer

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Bullpen Idol – The Mets search for a closer

Posted on 04 February 2013 by Trish Vignola

The way things are going…Mr. Met might be the closer.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, high-fives Mr. Met as Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, left, and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, right, look on after it was announced that the 2013 All-Star game will be hosted by the Mets at Citi Field, during a news conference at New York's City Hall,  Wednesday, May 16, 2012. The Mets last hosted the All-Stars in 1964, the year Shea Stadium opened. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Frank Francisco‘s time as Mets closer looks like it’s coming to an end. General manager Sandy Alderson signed veteran relievers Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins to Minor League deals earlier this week and they still aren’t done adding bullpen help. As per mlb.com, Alderson has made “no secret” that he would like to add at least one veteran reliever to a Major League deal.

Several intriguing options are available. The Tigers did not make a serious attempt to sign Jose Valverde. Their former closer lost his ninth-inning duties during Detroit’s World Series run last season. Although 33, Valverde saved 35 games in 40 chances with a 3.78 ERA last season. Statistically speaking, that was technically his worst season in years. Valverde has saved 277 games over a 10-year career with the D-backs, Astros and Tigers. He posted a 3.11 lifetime ERA with more than a strikeout per inning.

The Mets are still gauging the health of Brian Wilson. They have scheduled a second visit to watch the former Giants closer pitch. Whether the Mets sign Wilson depends in large part upon how they assess his recovery from Tommy John surgery. In a telephone interview with mlb.com, Alderson confirmed the team’s continued interest.

Brandon Lyon is available. His checkered career includes ninth-inning duties in Arizona and Houston. Familiar face Francisco Rodriguez is available as well. He served as the Mets’ closer from 2009-11. Only 31 years old, Rodriguez could help the Mets. He would though have to accept a significant decrease from the $8 million he made last season. Francisco is infamous in New York for assaulting his girlfriend’s father following a 2010 game at Citi Field.

Rodriguez and Valverde are both represented by Scott Boras, notorious for extracting top deals for his clients. Nonetheless, mlb.com reports the Mets have made it clear that they are not going to overpay for their bullpen.

Compromise is possible. Kyle Farnsworth‘s recent deal with the Rays signaled that the market for relief pitchers has softened considerably. Farnsworth, a former closer, can make no more than $3 million through base salary and incentives.

“There are still a bunch of names out there,” the insider reported to mlb.com, indicating his club’s preference to acquire one big name as opposed to two lesser ones. “The value now with the Farnsworth signing, it’s obviously changed considerably from where it was earlier in the winter. There are still several — maybe even more than that — guys that we think can help us at the back of the bullpen.”

If the Mets sign even one of them, it could spell the end of Francisco’s time as closer. Alderson has made it abundantly clear in recent weeks that he is not committed to his incumbent ninth-inning man, who still has one year and $6 million remaining on his contract.

Francisco fell out of favor with the organization after posting a 5.53 ERA in 48 appearances last year. He then underwent surgery after the season to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Speaking on SNY’s Hot Stove show Thursday evening, Alderson went as far as to say he is not “terribly comfortable” with the idea of Francisco as his Opening Day closer.

“Coming out of last season, looking with what Frankie has been dealing with in the offseason as far as his elbow is concerned, I don’t know that we could have a lot of confidence in where we are,” Alderson said. “I hope that Frankie is able to step up. We’ve taken a lot of the time to look at other possibilities and ways that we can shore this up. At this point, we have added some pitching, but more at the front end of the bullpen as opposed to the back end.

“I think we’re going to have another guy or two between now and Spring Training. Now whether it’s a back-end guy that will really compete with Frankie, or whether Frankie is the guy going in and the competition comes from Bobby Parnell or someone else, who knows? We’ll just have to see.”

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Players Who Benefited Most With A Change In Scenery

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Players Who Benefited Most With A Change In Scenery

Posted on 14 January 2013 by Guest Writer

Fantasy baseball value can fluctuate depending on the situation that a player is in. Pitchers have a better chance to pick up wins on a good team, while hitters have a better chance of racking up runs and/or RBI when they have talent surrounding them. With so many changes already this offseason, which three players will benefit the most?

dickey3

Ryan Madson
After spending his entire career in Philadelphia, Ryan Madson headed to Cincinnati last offseason. He went down with an arm injury before Spring Training ended though, causing him to undergo Tommy John surgery. Now healthy, Madson has signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels who just happen to need a closer.

Before his injury, Madson was emerging as one of the best ninth-inning guys in fantasy baseball. If he can hold onto the job for the Angels, he will get a ton of opportunities to close games as they figure to be pretty good this year.

Shin-Soo Choo
He might just be going down I-71 in Ohio, but Shin-Soo Choo will be going from one of the worst offenses in 2012 to one of the best in 2013. The Reds play in a hitter-friendly ballpark, and he will be flanked with a number of solid hitters to make life easy for him. If Choo stays healthy, he will get a chance to play every day and improve his already impressive all-around numbers.

R.A. Dickey
Dickey won the National League Cy Young Award last season, but is there a chance that he could be even better in 2013? It might seem unrealistic, but several factors could play into things.

For starters, Dickey will be on a team that should win quite a few more games than the Mets. The Toronto Blue Jays are built for 2013, and he will have an offensive squad behind him that could possibly help him pick up a few more wins.

Another thing working in Dickey’s favor is the element of surprise. In the National League, most hitters have seen the knuckleballer quite a bit. In the American League, many will be seeing it for the first time. This should give Dickey a strong advantage against even the most powerful lineups.

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The Mets Say Goodbye to Larry Wayne….Thank God!

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The Mets Say Goodbye to Larry Wayne….Thank God!

Posted on 09 September 2012 by Trish Vignola

New York Mets fans have been on a first-name basis with Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones since 1995. It was then that Jones hit his first of many big league home runs at Shea Stadium. To make matters worse, it was a ninth inning game winner. Since that day in May, Jones has been readily identified by one name…kinda like Yogi, the Babe or Snooki.

Chipper Jones is one of the only visiting baseball players I can think of whose New York identity rose to the one-word level. A certain familiarity exists with him in these parts. It is one that has bred a degree of contempt for the Braves third baseman in Gotham. Jones has been a formidable foe, something it pains me to write. However, MLB.com says it better. “He has been the primary party pooper in the Mets’ recent history.”

Whether identified as Larry, Mets fans’ preferred way of taunting him, or Chipper, Jones has been synonymous with defeating the Mets since…I don’t know, forever? New York, as well as New York Mets fans, has come to regard Jones as they once regarded Pete Rose. They loathe him, but secretly would have given their right arm for him.

Few opposing players have battered the Mets during their 51 seasons as Jones has during 19 of them. Jones undermined the Mets at every turn. A shot at Shea, a sac-fly at Citi, and that doesn’t even touch what he did to them in Atlanta. Jones and Mike Schmidt have hit 49 home runs each against the Mets. Only Willie Stargell hit more has hit more. Only Stargell and Schmidt have driven in more runs against the Mets than Jones at 158 as well. Although Jones didn’t do much against the Mets last night, he is probably contemplating what lasting damage he can inflict on the Flushing faithful in his final five games against them.

Yes, it’s always been Larry Wayne against the entire borough of Queens.

Before the first pitch was thrown in last night’s game, the Mets saluted the player who so often has personified a wet blanket in Queens.
“After what Chipper did against us that year [1999], he had to be the MVP,” former Mets third baseman Robin Ventura said this summer to MLB.com. “If I was managing then, I probably would have held up four fingers [intentional walk] when he was on deck.” That’s a no brainer for even slowest armchair quarterback.

Ventura and some of his contemporaries recall vividly how Jones single-handedly created a path of destruction through the Mets’ September. The Braves led the Mets by one game with 12 games remaining for both teams. They played three games in Atlanta.

• Sept. 21: Jones hit home runs in the first and eighth innings against Rick Reed and Dennis Cook. The Braves won, 2-1. I had one helluva headache that night.

• Sept. 22: Jones hit a two-run home run in the first inning against Orel Hershiser and walked and scored the Braves’ final run in the eighth. The Braves won, 5-2. I think I threw a high heel at the wall.

• Sept. 23: Jones hit a three-run home run in the fifth inning against Al Leiter. The Braves scored four times in the inning and won, 6-3. I cried in the shower.

Sigh.

“It was the high point of my career,” Jones said earlier this season to MLB.com. You think?! “I had four hits in the series, all home runs. That was as good as it gets for one player. You know you’ve carried your team in a real important series.” If none of the other Braves showed up to the ballpark that series, it wouldn’t have mattered.

“Lots of guys have a big series, or they get real hot and you can’t get them out for two or three days,” Leiter said years afterward. “But Chipper was like a bomb that went off, only at the perfect moment. He just leveled us that series.”

Larry Wayne will not be missed, but he’ll never be forgotten.

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