Thursday, September 29, 2011

Heroes & Goats

Just an unbelievable night of baseball  last night. Extra inning games, walkoff home runs, dramatic 9th innings... The night had it all. And when the dust had finally settled we had both of our ties broken and the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals are going to the playoffs. Here's a look at who the heroes were, and who were your goats:


Hero: Chris Carpenter
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The 36 year old Carpenter pitched perhaps his best game of the season last night when the Cardinals needed it most. While he didn't have any shortage of run support, he led 5-0 before he even took the mound, Carpenter made sure the Astros would never threaten. The big right-hander finished with a complete game 2-hit shutout and fanned a season high 11. Oh yeah, and he drove in a run too.

Goat: The Astros
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Yeah, that's right. I'm going to call out the whole team for this one. Way to go down fighting, guys. 2 for 29 with 11 strikeouts on offense, 7 earned runs in 9 innings on defense. Even throw in an error there for good measure. I suppose that sums up the entire season really. 56-106. If that doesn't say goat right there, nothing does.


Hero: Hunter Pence
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One of the many Astro transplants now playing in Philadelphia, Pence reached base 5 times, threw out Dan Uggla at home in the 6th when the Braves still lead 3-1, and delivered a broken bat single to drive in the winning run in the top of the 13th.

Goat: Craig Kimbrel

The flame throwing rookie finished the year with 46 saves and 127 strikeouts in just 77 innings, but he'll be remembered for issuing 3 walks in the bottom of the 9th with a 3-2 lead and surrendering Chase Utley's sacrifice fly to send the game into extra innings. It was Kimbrel's 8th blown save of the year and second in the month of September.

Bonus Goat: The Braves
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They weren't as bad as Boston, but the Braves went just 9-18 in the month of September and a combined 0-9 against the Cardinals and Phillies as they blew an 8 1/2 game lead that they held as late as September 5th.


Hero: Robert Andino
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This guy absolutely KILLED the Red Sox this month. On the 19th he hit a 2-run home run off of Kyle Weiland in what ended up being a 6-5 Orioles win. On the 20th, he stepped in against Jonathan Papelbon down a run with 2 outs and the bases loaded in the 8th and he deposited a 3-2 pitch into the rightfield corner for a 3-run double in a 7-5 win. On the 26th he hit a 2-out inside-the-park 3-run home run off of Josh Beckett to turn a 3-2 game into a 6-2 game, and now tonight he was once again in the middle of things. After Nolan Reimold doubled home pinch runner Kyle Hudson to tie the game, Andino - facing Papelbon again - looped a single in front of a sliding Carl Crawford allowing Reimold to score the game winner. It was Andino's 9th run batted in against Boston this month and 10th against them this season. Oh by the way, he only has 36 rbis TOTAL this year.

Goat A: Jonathan Papelbon
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I'm not going to solely put this one on the Sox closer though he did come within a strike of winning this game before letting it slip way along with Boston's postseason aspirations. He quickly struck out Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds to start the inning, but Chris Davis ripped a double to rightfield and then Nolan Reimold, down to his last strike hit one into the alley in right-centerfield for another double tying the game. Then it was Andino once again getting to Paps for the game winning it. Papelbon blew just 3 saves all year, 2 of them against this Orioles thanks to Robert Andino. It was also Papelbon's first loss of the season.

Goat B: Marco Scutaro
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The veteran shortstop turned a nifty double play in support of Jon Lester, but his baserunning may have cost the Sox a chance at the postseason. Carl Crawford doubled into the alley in left centerfield in the 8th inning, but Scutaro hesitated between second and third to make sure the ball got down before proceeding. And as a result J.J. Hardy's relay throw from centerfielder Adam Jones cut him down at the plate. It's a tough call, but Scutaro was already almost halfway to third when Reimold laid out for the ball. If somehow he catches it, there's no way Scutaro isn't doubled off of first base. At that point, you've just gotta go for it, consequences be damned. And in this instance it cost him. And ultimately it cost the team as they REALLY could have used one more run.

Bonus Goat: The  Red Sox
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Boston entered play on September 1st with a record of 83-52. In September they lost 20 of 27 games and now there's not going to be an October. For the most part anything that could have gone wrong for them, did go wrong. The starting pitching fell apart, the bullpen started having issues, mental errors, physical errors... You name it. I'm not saying the guys didn't play hard or give it their all or anything like that, but I defy you to find a guy completely guilt free in what was just an epic collapse.


Hero A: Dan Johnson
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I'm not sure that you've ever had a more unlikely hero. Dan Johnson entered last night's game with 9 hits in 83 at bats on the season. I'll save you the trouble of doing the math, that's a .108 batting average. That's HORRIBLE. Facing Corey Wade with 2 outs in the 9th inning, down by 1, Johnson quickly falls behind 1 and 2. At this point, I gave the Rays absolutely zero chance to win this game. And I wasn't even aware of what a horrible season Johnson was having. But Johnson proceeded to hit a rocket that just cleared the rightfield wall tying the game at 7 in one of the most improbable comebacks in baseball history (If you missed it, the Rays were down 7-0 in the bottom of the 8th). And now nobody's going to remember that Dan Johnson finished the regular season with a batting average lower than what I had in college.

Hero B: Evan Longoria
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Johnson wasn't the only hero. One inning earlier it was Evan Longoria's 3-run home run off of Luis Ayala that turned last night's blowout into a nailbiter for the ages. And then, with one out in the bottom of the 12th, Longoria hit a line drive that narrowly cleared Tropicana Field's left field fence, mere minutes after Baltimore had walked off against the Red Sox. Suffice it to say, that wouldn't have been a home run at Fenway Park, but it doesn't matter now. The Rays are in and the Red Sox are out.

Goat: The Yankees?
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I don't know that you really have a true goat in this one. I'm sure Red Sox fans want to put this one on the Yankees, and I suppose that's fair, I mean they did blow a 7-run lead in the 8th inning. Relievers Boone Logan and Luis Ayala combined to allow all 6 runs in the 8th, so they deserve some blame. Greg Golson got himself tagged out at third base when the Yankees had runners at the corners and nobody out in the 12th. That was kind of bone-headed. Joe Girardi didn't exactly do anything to try and win the game marching 11 pitchers out there and finishing with a lineup that included such household names as Ramiro Pena, Golson, Austin Romine and Brandon Laird. But at the end of the day, I don't think anyone in pinstripes cares, because they're still going to the playoffs.

Speaking of which, we've had all this craziness the past few nights and the playoffs haven't even STARTED yet!! Get ready for an exciting postseason.

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