Today was just about the craziest day in baseball that I can remember. So many things were on the line going into the final day of the 2011 season. In some scenarios we would have had the pleasure of watching two one-game playoffs on the same day; that didn’t happen, but here’s some stuff that did:
The Brewers capped their best season in franchise history, becoming the first Brewers squad to earn 96 victories. Their win versus the Pirates also earned them home field for their NLDS match-up against the NL West-Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Yovani Gallardo will start game 1 for Milwaukee at home on Saturday.
Zack Greinke surpassed 200 strikeouts while earning his 16th win of the season Wednesday night; he improved his record at Miller Park this season to 11-0 (the Brewers are 15-0 in Greinke starts at home). Greinke and Yovani Gallardo are the only two teammates in Brewers history to have 200 punch-outs in the same season.
Prince Fielder earned a walk in his final at-bat of 2011. That walk left his batting average for the season at .299, leaving the quest for his first .300 season short once again. The base-on-balls did however give Fielder more walks (107) than strikeouts (106) for the season. Pretty neat.
Ryan Braun did not win the batting title, going 0-for-4 while Jose Reyes got on base via a bunt single in the first and was subsequently pinch-ran for per his request so that his average would remain higher than Braun’s. Bush. League. Braun finished the year at .332, Reyes at .337.
Albert Pujols recorded the first season in his career in which he failed to hit .300 and drive in 100 runs. Pujols finished with a .299 average and 99 RBI.
The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp hit his 39th home run Wednesay; however that left him one short of becoming the fifth player in MLB history to record a 40/40 season.
Following Boston’s knack for collapsing, Adrian Gonzalez (.338) lost the AL batting title to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.344) after leading the race for almost every single day throughout the year.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde finished the season a perfect 49/49 in saves.
Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox were literally one strike away from a victory, yet the Boston closer ended up blowing the save and allowing Baltimore to win. Three minutes later the Tampa Bay Rays, who had just gotten out of a first and third nobody out situation in the eighth, walked-off with an Evan Longoria homer that squeaked inside the left field foul pole. Tampa Bay was down 7-0 to the Yankees going into the eighth inning, but thanks to sound baseball and a three-run Longoria bomb, the Rays pulled within one going into the ninth. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon pinch-hit Dan Johnson for Sam Fuld with two outs and the bases empty. Johnson was hitting .105 with one home run on the sesason. On a 2-2 pitch, Johnson crushed a home run deep into right field which barely snuck fair for a home run. The Rays were literally one strike away from losing, yet they scratched and clawed their way to an improbable AL Wild Card birth.
And lastly one more word about the NL batting title race I’ve been covering for quite some time… I think this excerpt from Tim Kurkjian’s ESPN.com article titled “Remembering the Amazing Ted Williams” says it best, and keep in mind how Reyes asked to be removed after a first inning bunt single…
“When he got to the final day of the season, a doubleheader at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Williams was hitting .3996, which rounded off to .400. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin gave Williams the option to play that day. Williams said if he couldn’t hit .400 from the beginning to the end of a season, he didn’t deserve it.
“I asked him about that final day,” Gwynn said, “and he said, ‘Hell yeah was I going to play.”’
Williams went 4-for-5 in the first game, the Red Sox overcame an 11-3 deficit to beat the A’s, 12-11, and Williams raised his average to .404. He insisted on playing the second game, and he went 2-for-3 to finish the season at .406. In the doubleheader, with all the pressure of .400, he went 6-for-8. “
1. Philadelphia Phillies (49-30, 1st in NL East by 5.0 games)
No team has more wins than Philly, now imagine if Chase Utley starts to hit…
2. New York Yankees (45-31, 1st in AL East by 0.5 game)
The Yankees own baseball’s best run differential (+97), having scored 399 runs and given up only 302.
3. Boston Red Sox (45-32, 2nd in AL East, 0.5 GB)
The BoSox lead all of MLB in runs (405), batting average (.278), on base percentage (.353), and slugging (.450).
4. Milwaukee Brewers (44-35, 1st in NL Central by 3.0 games)
Ryan Braun (.308 avg, 16 hr, 59 rbi, 17 steals) and Prince Fielder (.305 avg, 21 hr, 68 rbi, 51 walks) are both on pace to have career years.
5. San Francisco Giants (44-34, 1st in NL West by 1.5 games)
The reigning champs continue to get outstanding pitching performances from their starters, and closer Brian Wilson is a legitimate contender for NL Cy Young (5-1, 2.50 ERA, 23/25 saves).
6. Tampa Bay Rays (44-34, 3rd in AL East, 2.0 GB)
Behind James Shields’ stellar season (6 complete games, 3 shutouts), the resurgent Rays find themselves 2 games back in the division, having won 8 of their last 10 contests.
7. Detroit Tigers (42-36, 1st in AL Central by 1.0 game)
Brennan Boesch has given the Tigers ample production out of left field, batting .299 with 10 homers and 38 runs batted in.
8. Cleveland Indians (40-36, 2nd in AL Central, 1.0 GB)
The Tribe seems to be treading water as of late, but continue to find ways to win thanks to breakout star Asdrubal Cabrera (.293 avg, 12 hr, 44 rbi).
9. Atlanta Braves (44-35, 2nd in NL East, 5.0 GB)
Jair Jurrjens is turning out to be yet another Atlanta ace, boasting a 10-3 record with a scintillating 2.07 ERA.
10. Texas Rangers (41-38, 1st in AL West by 2.0 games)
Despite losing three straight decisions, Rangers rookie Alexi Ogando (7-3) still boasts a 2.87 ERA and an even better 1.03 WHIP.
If the season ended today:
1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox
2. Jose Bautista, RF, Blue Jays
3. Curtis Granderson, CF, Yankees
1. Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers
2. Matt Kemp, CF, Dodgers
3. Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers
AL Cy Young
1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers
2. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels
3. James Shields, SP, Rays
NL Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies
2. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves
3. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies
The Boston Red Sox defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 12-3 in a Sunday afternoon rubber match at Fenway Park. Yovani Gallardo took the loss and saw his ERA rise to 4.11 after giving up five earned runs. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield stymied the Brewers all day, but did give up home runs to Nyjer Morgan (2) and Prince Fielder (20). The Brewers finished 2-5 on the road trip that began in Chicago. Before their series with the Cubs began at Wrigley Field, Milwaukee had won eight of their last ten games and were riding high after a weekend sweep of rival St. Louis which vaulted them into first place in the NL Central. Yet with the Cardinals scuffling as of late, the Brewers find themselves still tied atop the division. Ron Roenicke’s crew has the most drastic home/road split in baseball. The Brewers are an astounding 25-9 at home, the best in the majors; however on the road they are an abysmal 15-24. They return home tomorrow to take on the Tampa Bay Rays; Chris Narveson will toe the rubber for the Crew and oppose Jeff Niemann, who gets the nod for Tampa Bay.
The next fifteen games on the dock for the Milwaukee Brewers will distinguish them as contenders or pretenders. The Brewers begin their Interleague schedule tomorrow with a three-game series in Boston against the 1st place Red Sox, the start of five consecutive three-game sets against American League foes. After a trip down nostalgia lane at Fenway Park, Milwaukee will then return home to the friendly confines of Miller Park to square off against the scrappy Tampa Bay Rays. The last time the Brew Crew faced off against the Rays was in 2005 when a young Prince made his big league debut. The Twins, who have suddenly become one of baseball’s hottest teams winning 11 of their last 13 games, will then come into town seeking blood versus their next-door-neighbor rival. The Brewers will then make their first ever trip to the new Yankee Stadium, playing three games against the powerhouse Yanks, also for the first time since 2005. Finally, Milwaukee will end it’s long Interleague stretch at Target Field for three more games versus the Twins. Without a doubt, this upcoming stretch will test the Brewers physical and mental make-up. It’ll be grueling, but if the Brewers come out alive and still in first place, their bandwagon will have reached capacity. The following pitching matchups against Boston are set in stone, while the rest are all projections – subject to change due to rain outs, injuries, etc.
Brewers @ Boston Red Sox
6/17 – Shaun Marcum (7-2, 2.68 ERA) @ John Lackey (4-5, 7.41 ERA)
6/18 – Randy Wolf (4-4, 3.20 ERA) @ Jon Lester (9-2, 3.73 ERA)
6/19 – Yovani Gallardo (8-3, 3.76 ERA) @ Tim Wakefield (3-2, 4.39 ERA)
Brewers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
6/20 – Chris Narveson (4-4, 4.48 ERA) vs. Jeff Niemann (1-4, 5.74 ERA)
6/21 – Zack Greinke (6-2, 5.23 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (7-5, 3.09 ERA)
6/22 – Shaun Marcum vs. David Price (7-5, 3.51 ERA)
Brewers vs. Minnesota Twins
6/24 – Randy Wolf vs. Scott Baker (4-4, 3.55 ERA)
6/25 – Yovani Gallardo vs. Francisco Liriano (4-6, 4.67 ERA)
6/26 – Chris Narveson vs. Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.20 ERA)
Brewers @ New York Yankees
6/28 – Zack Greinke @ Brian Gordon (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
6/29 – Shaun Marcum @ Freddy Garcia (5-5, 3.60 ERA)
6/30 – Randy Wolf @ A.J. Burnett (6-5, 4.09 ERA)
Brewers @ Minnesota Twins
7/1 – Yovani Gallardo @ Francisco Liriano
7/2 – Chris Narveson @ Carl Pavano
7/3 – Zack Greinke @ Nick Blackburn (5-4, 3.47 ERA)
After this 15-game run of AL opponents the Brewers will play seven home games (a three-game set against the contending Diamondbacks and a four-game series versus the surging Reds) before reaching the All-Star break.
1. Philadelphia Phillies (33-20; 1st NL East)
Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels have combined to go 17-9 with a 2.93 ERA, 250 strikeouts and only 44 walks.
2. Cleveland Indians (31-19; 1st AL Central)
Asdrubal Cabrera is hitting .452 (19/42) with runners in scoring position this season.
3. Boston Red Sox (30-23; 1st AL East)
Adrian Gonzalez (45) and Kevin Youkilis (34) trail only Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder (42) and Ryan Braun (38) for the duo with the most RBI.
4. Florida Marlins (30-21; 2nd NL East)
Leo Nunez leads all of baseball with 18 saves in 19 chances.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (32-22; 1st NL Central)
Lance Berkman (.354 AVG/.473 OBP) and Matt Holliday (.347/.440) are making up for Albert Pujols’ slow start (.257/.326).
6. Milwaukee Brewers (29-24; 2nd NL Central)
Ryan Braun ranks top 10 in the majors in runs (40), hits (62), triples (3), homers (12), RBI (38), total bases (114), walks (31) and steals (13).
7. Arizona Diamondbacks (29-24; 1st NL West)
Superb pitching has led Arizona to a MLB best 9-1 in their last 10 games.
8. New York Yankees (28-23; 2nd AL East)
Derek Jeter is only 20 hits away from becoming the first New York Yankee to reach 3,000.
9. Texas Rangers (28-25; 1st AL West)
Josh Hamilton has driven in a run in 4 of 6 games since coming off the disabled list May 23.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (28-24; 3rd AL East)
Jeremy Hellickson, 6-3 with a 2.80 ERA, looks to be the early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year.
If the season ended today:
AL MVP: Jose Bautista – RF – TOR
NL MVP: Ryan Braun – LF – MIL
AL Cy Young: Trevor Cahill – SP – OAK
NL Cy Young: Jair Jurrjens – SP – ATL