Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sox, Richard use big first inning to beat Detroit, 5-1


Four of Chicago’s first five hitters scored and Clayton Richard pitched eight strong innings as the White Sox defeated the Tigers 5-1 in Detroit Sunday night, avoiding a four-game sweep.

The White Sox took the lead for good in their first trip to the plate against Detroit starter Rick Porcello. Scott Podsednik led off with an infield single and Alexei Ramirez hit a sharp single to left before Jim Thome hit into a fielder’s choice, scoring Podsednik. Tigers shortstop Adam Everett’s throwing error allowed Ramirez to cross the plate as well.

Paul Konerko then hit a one-out shot to left over the bullpen to score Thome for a 4-0 edge.

Richard (4-3), spotted a four-run lead before he even took the mound, took it from there, limiting the Tigers to one run on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out three on the way to winning for the first time in four starts.

Gordon Beckham aided the Chicago cause in the second with a one-out solo home run to left.

Detroit scored its only run in the fourth inning, when Magglio Ordonez hit a leadoff single to left and scored on Ryan Raburn’s one-out fielder’s choice.

Konerko, who had been in a 1-for-22 slump coming in, led the Sox at the plate with a 2-for-4 evening and two RBI.

Tony Pena pitched a perfect ninth inning out of the Chicago bullpen.

Porcello (9-7) lasted 5 1-3 frames, yielding five runs on five hits, with two walks and a strikeout. Zach Miner and Casey Fien held the White Sox hitless the rest of the way in relief.

Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera each went 2-for-4 for the Tigers.

NOTES: Richard worked eight innings for the second straight game, after allowing one run to Tampa Bay in a no-decision last Tuesday. He had not pitched that deep into a game in 20 previous career starts … Fien made his major-league debut after his call-up from Triple-A Toledo Friday … The Tigers were denied their first four-game sweep of Chicago since Aug. 18-21, 1988 … Detroit (52-45) remains atop the AL Central, with a two-game edge over the second-place White Sox (51-48) … Chicago heads to Minnesota for a three-game series, with John Danks set to work Monday night. The Tigers travel to Texas for three, and Armando Galarraga is the scheduled starter Monday night.


Video credit – ESPN

Monday, July 20, 2009

Former Kentucky star Allen stays busy


HARRODSBURG, Ky. - His own playing days are over, but Dougie Allen is still staying connected to the game.

From coaching receivers to calling games to conducting a Bible study, the former Kentucky wide receiver remains involved in football in a number of ways, including working last week as part of the staff at former teammate Craig Yeast's football camp.

Allen said he is here "for the kids, because there's a lot of talented kids in the area that could benefit from the extra work and the extra attention," he said.

His day job is as an operating partner for a pizza franchise in Lexington, but Allen, 29, said he also finds time to work on routes with area high school receivers during the summer, call games on the radio during the high school season, attend Kentucky workouts and lead a weekly Bible study with the Wildcats during the season.

Allen, who worked Yeast's camp for the first time but has been involved with Dennis Johnson's camp the last few years, said he is finding an intrinsic reward in "just seeing the kids pay attention and get better."

"When you can tell the kids a small minor detail and they take that and they understand it and the next time through they get it, it really makes it all worth it," he said.

He also understands the challenge of teaching technique to kids who aren't necessarily knowledgeable about some football terminology.

"I think you really can't go too deep; you've got to really stay on the surface," he said. "As long as [kids] understand the technique, it's not as important that they know what that technique is called.

"We're telling the receivers to square up the (defensive back). They may not quite understand 'square 'em up,' but they will understand 'run to him.' As long as they get that part, then that's really the main thing making sure they understand the techniques."

Missing the competition

Allen, who also played for the Kentucky Horsemen of af2, said he's happy to move on from the physical rigors of playing football regularly.

"I used to (miss playing) until the knees started to hurt these last few months. Up until probably about the last year I've really missed playing the game, but now I'm OK not playing," he said with a laugh.

He does miss a crucial part of the game, though: "Just competing, going out and working hard. A lot of guys don't like practice, but I enjoyed practice and the opportunity of getting better."

Allen, who along with Yeast was part of Kentucky's 1998 Outback Bowl team and also played on the 1999 Music City Bowl squad, is proud of what his alma mater has accomplished during the past three seasons. After several lean years and NCAA probation following the Hal Mumme era, the Wildcats have won three straight bowls, and Allen is cheering their successes.

"It's been very exciting," Allen said. "When we came through, things were starting to get pretty good, and then with all the violations and stuff like that, things really had a drop-off. So just to look back and say I was a part of that program as it was rebuilding means a lot to me, especially (because) a lot of the guys that came up right behind me that were able to do some successful things."

Allen said he thinks this year's Kentucky team should finish no worse than .500.

"I tell you what, it could go a lot of different directions. But I would expect nothing less than a .500 team, to go out and win six games this year," he said.

"The quarterback situation is very key, but if you look at this schedule, it starts off a lot tougher than it has in the past, so it's really going to matter how well the team starts the season. I think this will be a rebuilding year, so if we can go out and win six games this year, I think it would be a very successful season."

Reprinted with permission from the Danville Advocate-Messenger.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Escobar, Vazquez, Braves beat injury-prone Mets, 7-1


Yunel Escobar drove in four runs and Javier Vazquez limited the Mets to one run over seven innings as the Braves beat New York 7-1 to clinch a series victory in Atlanta Sunday night.

Meanwhile, everything that could go wrong continued to do so for New York as its already-depleted pitching staff suffered another injury when starter Fernando Nieve went down running the bases in the second inning, and the Mets never recovered.

The Braves have won seven of their last 10 contests and three of four in the series to return to .500, while New York has dropped 14 of its last 20.

Already leading 2-1, Atlanta blew it open by batting around in the fifth inning. The Braves loaded the bases against Mets reliever Tim Redding on a Ryan Church walk, an error against Alex Cora, who dropped a throw at second on Braves hurler Javier Vazquez’s bunt, and another free pass to Nate McLouth, chasing Redding.

Martin Prado then greeted new Mets pitcher Elmer Dessens with a single to left to score Church before Chipper Jones’ sacrifice fly to left-center scored Vazquez.

Pat Misch came on out of the Mets bullpen and yielded a two-out, two-run ringing double to Escobar down the right-field line. Casey Kotchman’s single to right then scored Brian McCann, who had singled, with New York’s Jeff Francoeur throwing Escobar out at home to mercifully end the inning with the Braves up, 7-1.

Atlanta drew first blood in the bottom of the second when Escobar lifted a one-out homer to left, and the Mets evened the count in the third when Luis Castillo singled off Vazquez to center field with one out and scored on Francoeur’s two-out single to right.

The Braves took the lead for good in the fourth. Garret Anderson doubled with one out down the right-field line into the corner and took third when Francoeur had trouble fielding the ball, resulting in an error. Escobar’s broken-bat bloop single into shallow left scored Anderson for a 2-1 edge.

New York was forced to dip into its bullpen early when Nieve strained his right quad running out a ground ball to end the top of the second inning, collapsed behind first base and had to be carted off the field.

Escobar went 3-for-4 to lead the Atlanta offense, posting his second career four-RBI game. Anderson was 2-for-4.

Vazquez (7-7) yielded six hits, with five strikeouts and one walk. Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano each worked a perfect inning in relief.

Redding (1-4) took the loss, allowing five runs, only two earned, on four hits, with three free passes. Brian Stokes and Bobby Parnell also worked out of the bullpen.

Castillo went 2-for-3 for the Mets.

NOTES: Kotchman and Prado extended their career-long hitting streaks to 11 and 10 games, respectively … New York’s Gary Sheffield missed his second straight game after leaving Friday night’s contest with a right hamstring injury … McLouth, who went 0-for-1 with four walks, is hitless in his last 16 official at-bats … The Braves (46-46) man second place in the NL East, 6.5 games behind Philadelphia, while the Mets (43-48) are nine games out, in fourth place. Atlanta is 4.5 games back of San Francisco in the wild-card chase, and New York is seven games out … The Braves next host a four-game series with the Giants, with Tommy Hanson the listed probable starter Monday night. New York travels to Washington for a three-game set, with Livan Hernandez slated to take the ball Monday night.


Video credit – ESPN

Thursday, July 16, 2009

IL holds on to win Triple-A All-Star Game, 6-5


The International League All-Stars took an early lead and held off a ninth-inning Pacific Coast League charge to win the Triple-A All-Star Game, 6-5, in Portland, Ore., Wednesday night.

The IL used the long ball to take the game’s first lead in the top of the third inning. Indianapolis’ Erik Kratz, the IL’s game MVP, doubled with one out down the left-field line off Round Rock’s Yorman Bazardo, and Durham’s Reid Brignac’s double to the wall in left-center scored Kratz before Louisville’s Drew Stubbs hit a two-out jack to left to extend the IL lead to 3-0.

The PCL got a run back in the bottom of the frame. Nashville’s Brendan Katin hit a one-out homer to left off Syracuse’s J.D. Martin to cut the Pacific Coasters’ deficit to 3-1.

In the fifth, the IL took back its three-run lead. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Austin Jackson led off with a triple to the right-center-field wall and scored on Rochester’s Justin Huber’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly against Portland pitcher Scott Patterson.

The PCL then got to within a run in the bottom of the inning. Colorado Springs’ Matt Miller hit a leadoff single to left against Pawtucket’s Jose Vaquedano, and Iowa’s Chris Robinson followed with a single to left. Vaquedano uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Miller and Robinson to each advance a base, before Oklahoma City’s Esteban German’s one-out single to center scored two to make the score 4-3.

The IL punched across a pair in the sixth against Albuquerque knuckleballer Charlie Haeger. With two out, Syracuse’s Seth Bynum singled to center before Kratz’s homer to left gave the IL a 6-3 advantage.

The PCL then put together a comeback against two IL closers that fell just short. Portland’s Chad Huffman led off the bottom of the ninth with a double into the left-field corner off Norfolk’s Jim Miller.

Pawtucket’s Fernando Cabrera then came on for the IL and yielded a two-out, two-run shot to German, bringing the count to 6-5, IL.

Cabrera then struck out Colorado Springs’ Eric Young Jr. swinging to end it and earn the save.

Katin was named the PCL’s MVP.

Lehigh Valley’s Andrew Carpenter worked the second inning and was the winning pitcher of record for the IL, while Bazardo took the loss for the PCL.

NOTES: With the win, the IL All-Stars tied their all-time series with the PCL at six games apiece under the current format … The IL pitching staff struck out 14 PCL batters, a new All-Star Game record.


Video credit – ESPN2

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Granderson, Jones extend AL unbeaten streak to 13


First-time All-Stars Curtis Granderson of Detroit and Baltimore’s Adam Jones teamed up for the winning run in the eighth inning as the American League handed the National League another gut-wrenching loss, 4-3, in St. Louis Tuesday night.

The AL has not lost an All-Star Game in its last 13 tries, going 12-0-1 during that time.

With the score tied at 3 in the top of the eighth, the AL took the lead for good. Granderson tripled off the left-field wall with one out against San Diego pitcher Heath Bell, beating Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth’s throw and Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman’s tag.

After an intentional walk to Cleveland’s Victor Martinez, Jones’ sacrifice fly to deep right allowed Granderson to easily score for a 4-3 lead.

The NL then stranded a couple of runners in scoring position in the bottom half of the frame. The Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez drew a two-out walk from Minnesota’s Joe Nathan and the Dodgers’ Orlando Hudson singled up the middle off the mound and off Tampa Bay’s Jason Bartlett’s glove, bringing up pinch hitter Ryan Howard of the Phillies.

However, after Hudson stole second, Nathan fanned Howard swinging to end the threat.

Then, in the ninth, AL closer Mariano Rivera of the Yankees shut the NL down one-two-three, inducing a groundout from Arizona’s Justin Upton, striking out Colorado’s Brad Hawpe looking and forcing Houston’s Miguel Tejada to pop out to second baseman Ben Zobrist of the Rays to end it.

The junior circuit wasted no time taking its first lead, drawing first blood against National League starter Tim Lincecum of San Francisco in the first inning. Lincecum hit the Yankees’ Derek Jeter on the hand with a pitch before the Twins’ Joe Mauer reached on a fielder’s choice.

St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols then committed an NL error on the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira’s one-out grounder, allowing Jeter to score. With the bases loaded, Mauer then scored on Texas’ Josh Hamilton’s fielder’s choice for a 2-0 edge.

The NL took the lead with a two-out rally in the bottom of the second against AL starter Roy Halladay of Toronto. The Mets’ David Wright blooped a broken-bat single to shallow right-center and the Phillies’ Shane Victorino singled on the ground to right before the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina’s single to center scored Wright. Hamilton’s throwing error to third on the play chased home Victorino to tie the game.

Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder, the home run derby champion, then hit a pinch-hit ground-rule double down the left-field line to score Molina for a 3-2 lead.

The AL tied the game in the third. Jeter reached on a two-out fielder’s choice against Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley. Mauer then doubled into the left-field corner, and Jeter scored from first to knot the score.

The AL then dodged a couple of bullets in the seventh with Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon on the mound before taking the lead. The Rays’ Carl Crawford robbed Hawpe of a first-pitch homer to left, and Tejada flew out to Jones on the warning track in right on the first pitch he saw.

Crawford earned the game MVP award after his potentially game-saving catch.

Papelbon was credited with the win for the AL, while Rivera earned his fourth All-Star Game save, the most ever by one pitcher. Both worked one perfect inning with one strikeout.

Bell took the loss for the NL, yielding two hits and a run in one inning of work.

NOTES: The senior circuit’s last All-Star victory came in 1996 in Philadelphia. The game infamously ended in a tie in Milwaukee in 2002 … President Barack Obama threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Pujols. Obama, who hails from Chicago, wore a White Sox jacket while becoming the fourth sitting president to throw out the first pitch and the first since 1976 … After last year’s 15-inning marathon in New York, this game lasted just 2 hours and 31 minutes, the shortest All-Star contest since 1988 … The AL staff retired 18 straight NL batters, beginning in the second inning and running through the eighth. The streak was the second-longest in All-Star history; NL pitchers got 20 straight AL hitters out in 1968.


Video credit – FOX

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ludwick, Wainwright, Cards split twin bill with Cubs


Ryan Ludwick hit two two-run home runs, Adam Wainwright pitched eight innings of two-run ball and the St. Louis Cardinals split both Sunday’s day-night doubleheader and their four-game series with the Cubs with a 4-2 win in Chicago Sunday night.

With the win, the Cardinals enter the All-Star break with a 2 1/2-game-lead over second-place Milwaukee in the NL Central, while Chicago is one game off the Brewers’ pace.

St. Louis took the lead for good in the first inning against Cubs starter Randy Wells. Skip Schumaker hit a leadoff single to center field before Ludwick’s two-out home run to left-center for a 2-0 lead.

The Cubs cut their deficit in half in the bottom half of the inning. Derrek Lee, back in action after leaving Saturday’s game and missing the doubleheader opener with neck spasms, singled through the left side to score recent call-up Sam Fuld, who had led off with a double to left and moved to third on a Ryan Theriot sacrifice bunt.

Ludwick struck again in the sixth to give Wainwright all the offense he would need. Colby Rasmus led off with a single to left, and with one out, Ludwick homered to left-center for a 4-1 edge.

Chicago scored the game’s final run in the bottom of the frame. Milton Bradley’s two-out double to the wall in right-center chased home Aramis Ramirez, who had singled with one out to left, closing the scorebook at 4-2.

The Cubs kept hope for a comeback alive in the top of the ninth, stranding three Cardinals on defensive replacement Reed Johnson’s diving catch in left field to end the inning.

However, Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin struck out Bradley, Jeff Baker and pinch hitter Micah Hoffpauir, all looking, to earn his 21st save.

Ludwick went 3-for-4 for the Cardinals, with four RBI, while Wainwright helped his own cause, going 2-for-3.

Wainwright (10-5) ran his record against the Cubs this season to 3-0, scattering seven hits and two runs over eight innings, with three walks and five strikeouts.

For the Cubs, Fuld, who was recalled Saturday from Triple-A Iowa, and Bradley each went 2-for-3.

Wells (4-4) allowed four runs on seven hits over seven innings, walking three and striking out four. Angel Guzman, Sean Marshall and Aaron Heilman worked the final two innings out of the Chicago bullpen.

NOTES: The Cubs won the afternoon contest 7-3 … The Cardinals have won five of seven games against the Cubs and eight of 12 overall … Wainwright has pitched at least six innings in each of his last 17 starts … Wainwright avoided injury on the base paths in the fifth inning after breaking up a potential double play sliding into second base by deflecting the throw to first with his pitching hand … Chicago’s Jake Fox came on as a defensive replacement behind the plate for Koyie Hill, who caught 16 total innings Sunday, in the top of the eighth, making his first career major-league appearance at catcher … Marshall played left field for one out in the ninth inning. Chicago manager Lou Piniella brought on the right-handed Heilman to face right-handed-batting Brendan Ryan, but left Marshall, the only left-hander in his bullpen, in the game and brought Marshall back to the hill after Heilman struck Ryan out … St. Louis’ Albert Pujols has 87 RBI this season after posting two in the doubleheader opener, tied for the most for a Cardinal at the break by a Cardinal in the last 50 seasons. Mark McGwire knocked in 87 runs in the 1998 first half … Chicago has won seven of 12 … This game concluded the first half of the baseball season, with the All-Star Game scheduled for Tuesday night in St. Louis. The Cardinals (49-42) have an extra day off Thursday before opening a three-game series Friday night against Arizona, with no starter announced. Chicago (43-43) returns to action Thursday night in Washington, with Rich Harden scheduled to work the opener.


Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rangers sweep Rays, remain tied for division lead, 5-2


The Texas Rangers held Tampa Bay without a hit from the fifth inning on and completed a three-game sweep of the Rays with a 5-2 victory in Arlington, Texas, Sunday night.

With the victory, the Rangers (45-35) reclaimed a tie for the AL West lead with the Los Angeles Angels, who defeated Baltimore Sunday. Texas and the Angels will play a three-game series in Anaheim, Calif., beginning Monday.

With the score tied at two, Texas took the lead for good in the bottom of the third inning. Michael Young led off the inning with a double to the left-center-field wall off Rays starter Matt Garza. Then, with the bases loaded and one out, Nelson Cruz grounded into a fielder’s choice, but Tampa Bay’s Jason Bartlett dropped the ball at second for an error, and Young scored from third for a 3-2 lead.

That would be enough support for Ranger starter Scott Feldman, who allowed two runs on three hits over six innings, and the Texas bullpen.

The Rangers tacked on two more in the fourth. Elvis Andrus led off with a single to left and Ian Kinsler reached on a fielder’s choice. With the bases loaded, David Murphy and Marlon Byrd hit back-to-back sacrifice flies to score Andrus and Kinsler for a 5-2 edge.

Texas drew first blood in the first inning. Kinsler, the leadoff batter, reached on a hit-by-pitch and scored on Byrd’s one-out infield single.

Then, in the second, Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off with a double to deep left-center and came home on Andrus’ sac fly to lead 2-0.

Tampa Bay knotted the score in the third. B.J. Upton was hit by a Feldman offering to lead off and Carl Crawford walked. Upton and Crawford then executed a double steal to move to third and second base, respectively.

An Evan Longoria sac fly scored Upton, and Cruz’s throw home was cut off by Saltalamacchia, who then threw the ball away down the left-field line trying to get Crawford at third, letting him score and tying the game.

Feldman (7-2) walked four and struck out two to earn the win for Texas. Jason Jennings, C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco each threw a perfect inning in relief, with Francisco registering his 14th save of the year.

Murphy was 3-for-3, while Byrd put up two RBI.

Garza (6-6) allowed five runs on seven hits over five innings, with two walks and seven strikeouts. Grant Balfour, Randy Choate and Dan Wheeler all also worked out of the Rays bullpen.

NOTES: Texas has won five straight games and eight of 11 … Despite losing four straight for the first time since a five-game losing streak from May 24-28, the Rays have still won nine of their last 14 … Crawford extended his personal hitting streak to 13 games … Kinsler has no hits in his last 21 at-bats, the longest skid of his career … The Rangers and Angels lead Seattle by 3.5 games in the West, while Tampa Bay (44-39) is in third place in the East, six games behind Boston and five back of the Yankees … Kevin Millwood is scheduled to pitch Monday night for Texas against the Angels. Tampa Bay is off Monday before beginning a three-game set with Toronto, with James Shields slated to work Tuesday night.


Video credit – ESPN