As I watch what actually has turned out to be an interesting season opener between the Yanks and the Sox (in the Michael Wilbon voice), I guess there’s no better time than the present to give you my 2010 MLB season preview. Here are 10 storylines to watch as America’s pastime opens 2010 in earnest tomorrow.
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It’s been another busy winter for the Yankees, though this time with a tighter grip on the purse strings. The 27-time World Champs signed former farmhand Nick Johnson as their DH and added journeyman Randy Winn to provide a capable outfielder off the bench. But the other additions came through trades. Curtis Granderson, fresh off a career-high 30 home runs with the Tigers (written as he takes Josh Beckett deep with two outs in the second inning), was brought in for pitchers Phil Coke, Ian Kennedy, and top prospect Austin Jackson. The rotation was strengthened by the acquisition of Javier Vasquez (another former Yankee returning to the Bronx) for misfit Melky Cabrera. Vazquez and the reintroduction of Phil Hughes to the rotation stabilizes the back-end of one of the best starting fives in the AL, while Chan Ho Park and Joba Chamberlain’s return to the bullpen gives them depth there. Despite playing in baseball’s toughest division, the Yanks are still a front-runner to take home another World Series Title.
Phil me up again? Continue reading
For the Philadelphia Phillies, the first step on the way to a repeat as world champions will be a five-game series against the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS. Last time these two met in the postseason, the Rockies swept the Phillies in three games during the NLDS as they went on to take their first National League pennant. These two meet once again in 2009, with the memories of 2007 fresh in their minds.
The Rockies win if: Their pitching can keep the Phillies’ bats cool. The Phils come into the postseason with four days of rest since their last truly meaningful game, which could mean a slow offensive start for the defending world champs, especially with legitimate ace Ubaldo Jimenez ready to go in game one. This task is made more difficult with the recent loss of starter Jorge De La Rosa for the series, but a return to All-Star form by Aaron Cook may make up for that. If Colorado can keep the likes of Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth off the bases, then Rocktober will be extended through at least next week.
The Phillies win if: Their bullpen can hold up their end of the bargain. The final nine outs of the ballgame have been one giant puzzle for Charlie Manuel this season, and he will have the rough job of piecing together a save each night of the playoffs when the stakes are raised. The combination of Brad Lidge, Scott Eyre, Ryan Madson, and possible either J.A. Happ or Pedro Martinez will have to regain the confidence of the 2008 edition to ensure that the Phillies don’t look more like the 2007 team.
The X-factor: The ballparks. Coors Field and Citizens Bank Park are not known for their famous pitching duels. Both parks, in fact, are considered to be more of a launching pad than Cape Canaveral, which means the long ball will probably make its appearance early and often in this series. When you add the power-hitters on both sides of the series, you may end up seeing more crooked scores than usual in a playoff series.
The Verdict: While they are not the bullpen of last year, the Phillies relievers know what it takes to play late into October. Despite the possibility of hiccups from the relief corps, Colorado has noted struggles against left-handed pitchers, and the Phillies are loaded with southpaws. Both Eyre and Happ get a workout while Howard and Werth take advantage of the friendly dimensions of both home stadiums. Despite putting up some tough competition, the Rockies will ultimately miss the talented arm of De La Rosa and lose the series in four games.
-Tom Hagan, ’11
After another Brad Lidge blown save last night, the Phillies needed a win this afternoon to split a four-game series at the Houston Astros. However, the offensive funk struck again for the Phillies as they lost their third straight game to the Astros, 3 to 4.
Coming off of 19 straight scoreless innings, fans were hoping Cole Hamels would able to complete his third straight shutout. While he looked good early on, Hamels was roughed up with a three-spot in the fifth inning, and ended up lasting six innings, allowing four earned runs, striking out six and walking two on his way to earning the loss. Former Phillie Michael Bourn proved to be the bane of existence for the Fightins’, as his stolen bases in the fourth and fifth innings led to two runs that were the difference in the final score. There were a few bright spots in today’s game however, as Jimmy Rollins, Ben Francisco, and Jayson Werth all had solo home runs today. Continue reading
After Brad Lidge gave his all-too familiar “there goes the game” stare to the outfield last night, Phillies fans feared dropping two straight to the last place Pirates with the struggling Cole Hamels on the mound for the Fightins’. Since his gem against Dan Haren in Arizona, Hamels has struggled with both location and emotion on the mound, seeming more like the Phils’ fifth starter instead of World Series MVP. However, something must have reminded Cole of Chase Field tonight, as he pitched another gem tonight helping the Phillies beat the Bucs in 10 innings by a score of 4 to 1.
Hamels pitched eight shutout innings, walking two while striking out seven over 123 pitches. If not for a Ryan Madson blown save in the ninth, he would have also notched his eighth win on the year. This Cole Hamels looked like the man who led off each of the Phillies’ playoff series with a winning effort during the 2008 World Series Championship. While he sometimes struggled with command, Hamels came back from tough spots to hold the Pirates’ offense at bay all night long. Continue reading
After a devastating loss to the Atlanta Braves yesterday, the Fightin’ Phils looked to take the rubber-match of the three-game series at Turner Field. After an hour and forty-five minute rain delay, the nationally-televised game had first pitch at 9:45 PM. Continue reading
While Brad Lidge was on the mound reinforcing fears about the Phillies’ bullpen death, fans could have used a little confidence boost. The most likely source of that boost, though, could have used an ice bag.
The news of Lidge’s eighth blown save and fifth loss of the season today could have been tempered with good news from Brett Myers first rehab start. But Myers never made that start, and no one is quite sure exactly why. Continue reading
All is right in Phillies’ land once again.
The boys from the City of Brotherly Love just wrapped up a three-game sweep over the Cubs at Wrigley to move five games up in the National League East over Atlanta and Florida (with the Marlins still left to play today). The surge comes after the Phils were swept by Florida to reduce their cushion in the East to three and a half games.
With that kind of cushion, there is one question that begs to be asked: why, with a five-run lead in today’s game, was Cliff Lee on the mound for to throw 122 pitches? Continue reading