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Archive for the ‘MLB Playoffs’ Category

Rangers earn first World Series trip, beat Yankees in ALCS

Posted by Joshua Kummins on October 23, 2010

By Paul White, USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said the road to the World Series in the American League usually goes through New York.

The Rangers have New York in their rearview mirror now — disposing of the Yankees 6-1 Friday in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series — but it was somehow fitting that it was Alex Rodriguez who got New York’s last look as the Rangers roared into the World Series.

“It was appropriate or ironic, I don’t know which,” said Rangers general manager Josh Daniels of the called third strike from Neftali Feliz that clinched the first World Series appearance for a franchise that was born in 1961 as the Washington Senators.

Rodriguez remains the face of Rangers past — a past efficiently exorcised Friday — and easily attracts the most wrath among the Yankees from Texas fans. It was his trade in 2004 from a Rangers team that had finished last four years in a row that began the slow and often painful building process that finally has paid off.

“I’ve only been here nine years,” said Daniels, a New York native. “It’s been a long time for me but it’s nothing compared to our fans.”

The fans — 51,404 of them — were on their feet as Feliz cruised through a ninth that was as dominant as the Rangers were for most of the series but almost anti-climatic thanks to a stifling eight innings from Texas starter Colby Lewis.

Save all that Cliff Lee talk for Wednesday in San Francisco or Philadelphia, when he’ll start Game 1.

Lewis, who pitched the last two seasons in Japan, made sure there would be no need for a Game 7 appearance from Lee, whose post-season effectiveness had been so much the talk of this series though he pitched just once.

The Yankees didn’t get a hit until the fifth, when Rodriguez led off with a double and eventually scored to tie the game 1-1. They had three hits all night and never mounted a threat after Texas’ four-run fifth broke open the game.

The Rangers had a runner on second with two outs when Yankees manager Joe Girardi elected to intentionally walk series MVP Josh Hamilton for the second time in the game. It worked two innings earlier when Yankees starter Phil Hughes got Vladimir Guerrero to pop up for the third out.

This time, Guerrero doubled to the wall in left-center field for a 3-1 Rangers lead. Girardi replaced Hughes with David Robertson and Nelson Cruz greeted him a two-run homer.

From there, it was back to the pitching that shut down the Yankees’ star-studded lineup and turned out to be the theme of the series.

“They were able to control our firepower,” said New York center fielder Curtis Granderson.

Indeed. The Yankees hit .201 in the series. Of their 19 runs, 10 came in three innings. The Rangers hit .304, scored 38 runs.

“You take away one inning (a five-run Yankees eight to win Game 1) and one game (New York’s 7-2 win in Game 5) and it was very one-sided,” Girardi said. “They out-hit us, they out-pitched us, out-played us and they beat us.”

Lewis, who also won Game 2, is a Rangers first-round draft pick from 1999 who had turned into little more than a journeyman before heading to Japan in 2008.

“He reinvented himself (in Japan),” Daniels said. “He shortened his arm action, smoothed out his delivery. He added a good cutter. He used to be a four-seam fastball, big-curve guy and tried to throw it by everybody. He’s almost a completely new pitcher.”

He needed to be.

Daniels remembered the old Lewis. Was he really worth bringing back?

“I asked that question,” Daniels said. “You have to ask that question. But, first, he was healthy. Second, he had matured. It takes a lot to pick up your family and move over there.”

Daniels’ questions were answered by his scouting staff.

Josh Boyd, director of pro scouting, pushed for signing Lewis. The Rangers were thorough, making sure more than one set of eyes saw Lewis pitching for the Hiroshima Carp.

“There was Joe Furakawa, Don Welke, A.J. Preller, Keith Boeck,” Daniels said, rattling through members of his scouting department who were part of the decision.

The Rangers took the chance on him as part of a rotation makeover that also included coverting C.J. Wilson from a reliever and trading for Lee in July.

“These guys came together,” said Washington, referring to his entire roster. “I love this team because all they do is show up and play baseball.”

They’ll show up again Wednesday.

BOX SCORE: Rangers 6, Yankees 1
ALCS MVP: Rangers’ Josh Hamilton wins award
SEASON OVER: Yankees chance for No. 28 ends
RECAP: How Game 6 played out
GALLERY: Images from the 2010 postseason
SCHEDULE: Postseason matchups, times and results

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Posted in MLB Playoffs, New York Yankees, Texas Rangers | Leave a Comment »

Roy Halladay tosses second postseason no-hitter

Posted by Joshua Kummins on October 6, 2010

by Rob Maaddi, Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA—Talk about a postseason debut.

Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history, leading the Philadelphia Phillies over the Cincinnati Reds 4-0 in Game 1 of the NL division series on Wednesday.

Don Larsen is the only other pitcher to throw a postseason no-hitter. He threw a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series against Brooklyn. The 54th anniversary of Larsen’s gem is this Friday.

“It’s surreal, it really is,” Halladay said. “I just wanted to pitch here, to pitch in the postseason. To go out and have a game like that, it’s a dream come true.”

Halladay took the Year of the Pitcher into the postseason. The excitement spread beyond Citizens Bank Park — the last two outs were shown on the video board at Target Field, where the Twins were preparing to play the Yankees, and Minnesota fans cheered.

The All-Star right-hander, who tossed a perfect game at Florida on May 29, dominated the Reds with a sharp fastball and a devastating slow curve in his first playoff start.

Halladay allowed only runner, walking Jay Bruce on a full count with two outs in the fifth, and struck out eight.

Halladay spent 12 seasons with Toronto, far from the postseason. A trade last offseason brought him to the defending two-time NL champions.

With a sellout crowd standing in the ninth and chanting “Let’s Go, Doc!” Halladay got a loud ovation when he jogged to the mound to start the inning.

Ramon Hernandez popped out to second baseman Chase Utley for the first out. Pinch-hitter Miguel Cairo then fouled out to third baseman Wilson Valdez.

Halladay then retired Brandon Phillips on a tapper in front of the plate to end it. Catcher Carlos Ruiz pounced on the ball and threw out Phillips.

Halladay pumped his fist into his glove as Ruiz rushed to the mound. Just like catcher Yogi Berra did with Larsen, Ruiz started to jump into Halladay’s arms. Unlike Berra, Ruiz didn’t wrap up his pitcher in a bear hug.

“I felt like we got in a groove early,” Halladay said. “Carlos has been great all year, he helps me get into a rhythm early, throwing strikes.”

Phillies aces Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels ran out of the dugout side-by-side to congratulate the other member of Philadelphia’s Big 3. Pretty soon, everyone in a Phillies uniform was part of the victory party.

“This is what you come here for,” Halladay said. “It’s a good team, they know how to win. … It’s been a great year, a fun year, we obviously have a ways to go.”

Cincinnati didn’t come too close to a hit. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins made the toughest play, going deep in the hole and making a strong throw to retire Joey Votto in the fourth.

Pitcher Travis Wood hit a sinking liner to right that Jayson Werth caught in the third. Pinch-hitter Juan Francisco hit a hard grounder up the middle in the sixth, but Rollins scooted over and made it look easy.

Halladay became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same year. He joined Nolan Ryan (1973), Virgil Trucks (1952), Allie Reynolds (1951) and Johnny Vander Meer (1938).

The last time a pitcher came close to a no-hitter in the postseason was quite a while ago. Boston’s Jim Lonborg went 7 2-3 innings against St. Louis in the 1967 World Series before Julian Javier broke up the bid with a double.

The Phillies led the majors in wins (97) for the first time in franchise history, captured their fourth consecutive division title and are trying to become the first NL team in 66 years to win three straight pennants.

They are prohibitive favorites in this best-of-five against the NL Central champion Reds, who are making their first postseason appearance since 1995.

Game 2 is Friday at Philadelphia.

The Reds led the NL in average (.272), homers (188) and runs (790). But they couldn’t do anything against Halladay, who won 21 games and is a strong candidate to win his second Cy Young Award.

A determined, intense Halladay got ahead of hitters and worked quickly. He threw first-pitch strikes to 17 of the first 18 batters.

Halladay even did it at the plate. He ignited a three-run, two-out rally in the second with an RBI single.

On the opposite side, 27-year-old Edinson Volquez looked like a postseason rookie. He never seemed to get comfortable on the mound, taking his time between pitches, tugging at his cap and long dreadlocks and breathing deeply. At one point, Hernandez, from his crouched position behind the plate, motioned for him to calm down.

Volquez allowed four runs and four hits in 1 2-3 innings. The hard-throwing right-hander was 4-3 in 12 starts this season after returning from elbow surgery.

Halladay was so eager to join the Phillies that he passed up a chance to test free agency after this season and signed a $60 million, three-year extension to complete a trade. Halladay probably would’ve received the richest contract ever for a pitcher if he held off, but he wanted to play in Philadelphia.

There was much talk down the stretch about Halladay’s inexperience in the postseason. The Phillies also have Oswalt and Hamels. Both pitchers have been dominant in previous playoff games, but Halladay got the ball and didn’t disappoint.

Halladay got his first strikeout in the second, fooling Scott Rolen on an 85 mph changeup. He caught Rolen looking at a fastball on the outside corner to start the fifth, and fanned him again on a 79 mph changeup in the seventh.

The Phillies gave Halladay all the runs he would need in the first.

Shane Victorino sliced a one-out double down the left-field line. He stole third and scored on Utley’s sacrifice fly to right. A fired-up Victorino slid headfirst barely ahead of Bruce’s strong one-hop throw, got up and patted plate umpire John Hirschbeck on the behind on his way to the dugout.

Ruiz drew a two-out walk in the second and Valdez bounced an infield single that shortstop Orlando Cabrera fielded on the second-base side of the infield. Halladay then hit a hard liner to left that fell in ahead of Jonny Gomes’ sliding attempt. Ruiz scored to make it 2-0. After Rollins walked to load the bases, Victorino chased Volquez with a two-run single.

With the crowd waving their white-and-red “Fightin’ Phils” rally towels, Victorino fouled off consecutive 3-2 pitches before lining a hit to left-center for a 4-0 lead.

The Phillies didn’t have their regular lineup for three straight games the entire season, and they probably won’t in this series. Third baseman Placido Polanco was scratched with a sore back.

The Phillies got swept by the Reds in the 1976 NLCS. Philadelphia won a franchise-record 101 games that season to snap a 25-year playoff drought. But the Phillies ran into the Big Red Machine, which swept through the postseason to win its second consecutive World Series title.

It’s a reversed situation now. The Phillies — call them the New Red Machine — are perhaps in the middle of a dynasty, while Cincinnati is the young team on the rise.

Notes: Former Phillies LHP Scott Eyre, a member of the championship team in ’08, threw out the first pitch. … The Phillies swept a tight four-game series in Philadelphia heading into the All-Star break, winning by scores of 4-3, 9-7, 1-0 and 1-0. … Soccer star David Beckham was on the field during Reds batting practice. … Halladay hit .141 (13 for 92) this season. … Rolen got booed by fans who still haven’t forgotten he forced a trade from Philadelphia during the 2002 season

Posted in Cincinnati Reds, MLB Playoffs, Philadelphia Phillies | Leave a Comment »