Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Kentucky Derby Picks

My only non-Baseball post of the year:

Good morning, and welcome to Derbyville…opening “Oaks Day” with an unexpectedly rough cold symptoms, which is a real drag – the sun is out and STRONG today but rain the rest of the weekend, the ensuing mud may tip all of my picks upside down (a good handicapper knows how to fabricate excuses!).

The mud + wide open field = another potentially ticket-tearing race tomorrow. I am thinking about Smarty Jones in 2004 this morning more than I was thinking about Giacomo in 2005…

Odds listed are from today’s morning line. Good luck, hope your horsey comes in!!

The favorite:
Lookin At Lucky (3-1); After the ‘original’ favorite Eskendereya was scratched from the contender list early this week, enter this 2-year old who was never faster than on dirt. Baffert drew the inside gate as well, adding to the current Derby favorite status Lucky is enjoying. His record is the best in the field (6-1-1 in 8 startes) but has a history of traffic issues out of the gate – if another horse gets in front of him, consider that door closed.

My favorite:
Super Saver (15-1); An impressive and consistent 2-2-1 record in 6 starts (recently finished 2nd in the Arkansas Derby, narrowly) is usually a ho-hum handicapper markup, and trainer Todd Pletcher is notorious for winning everything except the Derby…so, let’s consider the jockey. In a fantasy baseball draft, 2009 NL MVP Albert Pujols goes in the first round. Calvin Borel is the Albert Pujols of graded stakes horse-racing; he knows the horses he rides and knows how to work them into consistently impressive performances. Borel also specializes in come-from-behind wins (remember Mine That Bird last year?) – this horse and this jockey could be a winning combo. Nobody was looking last year, this year they are, hence the close odds. Drawing Gate #4, a strong start is the best bet (Lookin at Lucky, eat my dust!)

Long Shots:
Mission Impazible (20-1) Gina started me looking at this horse, another Pletcher entry with a slim chance of victory…sounds like a good long shot pick to me!! Gate #14 is a happy spot to start, in my opinion, add the preferred position to Paz’ impressive Louisiana Derby victory and we may be on to something here.

Jackson Bend (15-1); Nick Zito returns in Gate #13, with jockey Mike Smith – out of 9 starts he’s got a 5-4-0 record; his last 3 races placed 2nd across the board. He’s known as a ‘stalker’ and if the race is close, providing he’s in the right place he could pull a surprise or so at the last minute. Don’t forget Smith and what he accomplished with 50-1 Giacomo in 2005.

Paddy O’Prado (20-1); Some say he’s better suited for the ‘Irish Derby’ (ha ha, that’s Kentucky Humor, I guess) but hopefully there isn’t more to laugh about than that. Kent Desormeux is a proven winning jockey, but trainer Dale Romans has only made one appearance in the Derby with Sharp Humor in 2006 (finished 19th ‘several hours later’ as they say). Talk about long shot! Gate #10, well that is anyone’s guess – the field is so wide open today, these odds could pay off a lot more by post time Saturday.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

4/29/10 Arizona Diamondbacks 13, Chicago Cubs 5

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Game 1 of 4

They call it…sayonara

It was a dismal day in Chicago as the struggling Diamondbacks succeeded in lighting up Ted Lilly in a most horrendous fashion. At the end of the 7th, Lilly had been replaced by both Jeff Gray and James Russell, Ian Kennedy had only allowed 1 run (earned) and 4 meager hits, and the Cubs were doing nothing worth mentioning, with the D’backs leading 13-1. I’m not even going to waste my time with the details on the whomping the Cubs took in the bottom of the 7th. You can have a look at the scoresheet.

With the bottom of the order (Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin) starting the bottom of the 8th, you could feel the drawstrings of doom circling around the Cubs’ throats. With Ryan Theriot batting at the top of the order, and being 1-for-3 with an RBI in the 3rd…well, heck, he was the only offense out of the dugout thus far, so how much worse could it get? Better was certainly not an expectation.

Up until this point, the best part of the game was Pat and Ron’s discussion on baseball bats. For your edification, Santo used an S2 model Louisville Slugger.

Soto has become a more patient hitter since 2009, this patience resulted in a well-earned base on balls to lead off. Colvin then reached on a throwing error by replacement 1B Rusty Ryal (Ryal came in for Adam LaRoche, who left the game after hitting 2 back-to-back homers and an RBI double…this was obviously the Diamondbacks trying to help the Cubs out). Theriot up next singles on a grounder to RF and suddenly the bags are loaded for Kosuke Fukudome. The Cubs needed a rally, and they got one.

Fukudome gets his pitch and launches a tater into left field. His first MLB career Grand Slam. Didn’t exactly come close to evening the score, but it certainly put crooked numbers up and helped us end the game with something less than a black eye and sore testicles.

Ganbarre, Fukudome-san!!

That's BASEBALL - am I really BITTER?

Bitter? Cubs dropped a series to the Gnats (with their best guy out) after sweeping the Brewers.

Bitter? We are felling GREAT about the Cubs winning 4 straight; the METS just won 7 straight and going.

Bitter? My other team in the NL (the Padres) are this year's Marlins...they will fall very soon and it's difficult knowing that's coming up.

Bitter? Selig and the Players Association just agreed that the All Star Game will have a DH, regardless of the host, and that is completely wrong in many ways.

Bitter? The ultimate sin...corporate sponsorship for the once-infamous crosstown rivalry!! How do you spell "no shame"? (OK, I guess there are more ultimate sins than this)

Bitter? After leading the charge (top 4) in a 12-team mixed league, I found out that my Fantasy team took a KRAP last week and have me second from last.

Bitter? Discussing the Aaron Miles minor-league deal makes me think about "The Mr. Cub that Never Was" and I really miss this guy...

After a great weekend, all these baseball turds keep floating into my pool.

I can't complain and shouldn''s still APRIL and for a couple of days, I can split my focus towards this really important horse race that's happening here on Saturday.

And right off the top of my head:

The crappy pitcher the Cubs got for our crappy outfielder isn't so crappy after all.

Maroln Byrd's catch yesterday was nothing less than OUTRAGEOUS (albeit unintentional).

The Hanshin Tigers are only 3 GB first place in the CL!! HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE!!

Sure I miss Reed, but this guy is still around, I like him better, and better yet his bat is HOT right now:

And finally, when I thought that the signing of Jake Peavy and Mark Teahen was nothing more than another round of sinister White Sox trickery, April is revealing that this must have actually been a sinister Cubs plot, as these guys aren't helping the pale hose much this month.


4/28/10 San Diego Padres 6, Florida Marlins 4

Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL
Game 3 of 3

Nate Robertson starts off with 4 very strong innings for the Marlins, but blows his cool wide open in a 5R 5th inning. Meanwhile, Correia starts off struggling but regains his composure and gets the decision. Every Padre except Kyle Blanks, Kevin Correia, and Will Venable gets a hit...but only one each.

SD 6 6 0
FLA 4 10 0

Fans of tape measure HRs, there were 2 "blue seater" blasts in this game, courtesy of Jorge Cantu (FLA), then Yorvit Torrealba (SD).

Having never seen Clay Hensley (FLA) at work, I was very very impressed with his outing. Luke Gregerson (SD), as always, worked quickly and efficiently...especially when he stole an excellent drag-bunt single from Cameron Maybin

The bland commentary by Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton of Fox Sports Florida slipped a gear, on briefly, during this discourse that occurred just before David Eckstein (SD) ripped out a bases-clearing 3R double to signal the end of Robertson's work:
WALTZ: ...He (Robertson) has a good work ethic...
HUTTON: Well, he needs to work his way out of this!

There were plenty of complaints by the home commentators over Brian O'Nora's strike zone.

I scored this game 2/21/11.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2009 Game Update

More 2009 games posted...I am catching up!!!

As always, check the archives by date of game:

4/25/09 Chicago Cubs @ St Louis Cardinals
4/27/09 St Louis Cardinals @ Atlanta Braves
5/11/09 Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets
5/16/09 Cincinnati Reds @ San Diego Padres
8/23/09 Philadelphia Phillies @ New York Mets

Next update will be Cubs Spring Training games, a handful of opening day games around the horn, and highlights of the recent Cubs @ Brewers series (no, that wasn't me that fell over the railing).

4/26/10 Gwinnett Braves 4, Durham Bulls 3

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC

The first MiLB game broadcast on MLB Network I was able to catch. MLBN continues to raise the bar on their coverage, and for me the addition of live MiLB games is a great asset to their already legendary profile.

GWN 4 7 1
DUR 3 11 0

A swift, low-scoring game as the Bull's Ryan Reynoso and the Braves' Heath Rollins duked it out viciously. The Braves caught an early lead in 4 innings, but were held scoreless by the Bulls and relief pitcher Richard de los Santos after Rollins was lifted. Despite the Bull's threat (spear-heded by a dramatic "Blue Monster" 2-Run HR by Dan Johnson in the 8th) the Braves prevailed.

Fact: DB Athletic Parks' "Blue Monster" measures 32' in height, as opposed to the Green Monster in Fenway's 37'. By comparison, the Bull's Joe Dillon's 'wall ball' single in the 4th would have been an easy HR if it weren't for the monstrosity.

This game was called by Neil Solondz and John Manuel (of Baseball America fame) for MLB Network - simulcast via the Durham Bulls folks, I presume.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

7/12/69 Philadelphia Phillies 4, Chicago Cubs 7

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Leo Durocher called this legendary lineup "The most celebrated 2nd place team in the history of baseball." The 1969 Cubs set the modern-era standard for the kind of team that aren't really the 'losers' everyone else regards them as, but just a team that works hard and falls short consistently.

Our fandom is built upon faith and tradition, and this game is a snapshot from a mosaic of "Proud Cubs Moments" that helped establish what many fans consider a WINNING tradition, even though most of us weren't alive the last time the team won a pennant or beyond.

PHI 4 11 2
CHC 7 12 1

This was a tremendous outing for Fergie Jenkins, with fine performances by Willie Smith, Don Kessinger, Billy Williams and some nice work by Santo, Banks, etc.

This was Billy Williams' 909th consecutive game. Santo's record at the time of this game: AVG .296, 17HR, 77 RBI. Jim Qualls is best remembered three days earlier for busting up Tom Seaver's no-hitter for the Mets.

The official scorer doesn't give PHI's John Briggs any RBI for the 2 runs that scored when he reached on an error by Willie Smith in the 1st...yet, Ernie Banks gets an RBI for the run that scores when he reaches on Don Money's error in the 3rd.

It was SO HOT at Wrigley that home plate umpire Ed Sudol sheds his 'uniform blues' and wears his gear with a T-shirt only starting in the 6th inning.

The game was called by Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek (NBC Game of the Week).

I scored this game on 1/1/10.

10/2/68 Detroit Tigers 0, St Louis Cardinals 4

World Series Game 1
Busch Memorial Stadium, St Louis, MO

The same Cardinals starting order for the 1967 World Series Opener returns to face the wunderkind Denny McLain and the ferocious Tigers. This game would go down in history as Bob Gibson's amazing 17K game.

DET 0 5 3
STL 4 6 0

Gibson's regular season record was 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA. His 14th K tied the World Series record previously held by Carl Erskine (1953). His 15th K tied the World Series record previously held by Sandy Koufax (1963). His next 2 Ks set the new record, which still stands today.

The game was called on NBC by Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek, and "Holy Cow" the Cardinals announcer Harry Caray. Gowdy notes the 2-2 pitch Gibson delivered to Al Kaline in the 4th inning that nearly decapitates him as one that "slipped off his fingers."

Like HELL it did!

I scored this game on 1/2/10.

4/22/10 Cleveland Indians 8, Minnesota Twins 1

Target Field, Minneapolis, MN
Game 3 of 3

Cleveland's offense goes wild on Scott Baker as Mitch Talbot allows 2 hits and only 1 run (unearned).

CLE 8 11 1
MIN 1 4 0

Rookie catcher Drew Butera (MIN) picks up his first MLB hit.

You can see Alexi Casilla's amazing defensive gem (diving catch with glove flip) here.

I scored this game 2/19/11.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Big Z heads for the Bullpen...

...hey, it just might help. Our Bullpen needs some 'muscle' right now, and some maturity. I'm not saying these two elements describe Zambrano effectively, and as a starting pitcher, certainly not.

Zambrano is often a 2nd inning guy, his first inning or so can get really darn ugly and then just when the cabbage starts to stink, he either takes care of business cleanly or descends into oblivion, and by then it's too late.

A trip to the 'pen may give him the chance to use this insanity for the benefit of the team. If his perception is that, well, I've only got 2 innings to work instead of 5 or 6...then perhaps he will be able to work more efficiently.

Would that be a total schocker?

4/21/10 Kansas City Royals 4, Toronto Blue Jays 3

Rogers Centre, Toronto, CAN
(Game 3 of 3)

KC 4 8 1
TOR 3 4 0

I scored this came on 2/13/11.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

4/16/10 Houston Astros 2, Chicago Cubs 7

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

More offensive display from our 2010 Cubs, another stellar performance by Carlos Silva, the only runs scored by the Astros weren't earned, but happened after a 2-out error from a near-collision in RC that should have ended the inning and kept the Astros blanked.

HOU 2 6 0
CHC 7 11 1

Both starting pitchers wore Jersey #52, and both catchers wore Jersey #55. Silva makes a baserunning blooper that one could only expect from a pitcher whose past 6 seasons were spent in the AL. He executes a beautiful SAC bunt but fails to make it stick, instead it's a BIDP as Silva doesn't make it to 1B and is thrown out by Chris Johnson to Pedro Feliz. Later we learn that Silva thought the ball was bunted off of his foot, and that's why he lost his chug to first. Carlos, please do this: run first, ask questions later. You are such a great pitcher this year, don't spoil it.

During Michael Bourn's PA in the 3rd, Wrigley Organist Gary Pressy plays "Born Free." He's a damn genius.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

4/14/10 Indianapolis Indians 3, Louisville Bats 0

Louisville Slugger Field, Louisville, KY

Home Opening Night (Game 1 of 2)

Great expectations totally fulfilled - with the exception of one minor detail, the Bats LOST to the visiting Indianapolis Indians (affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates).

You couldn't ask for better weather (it's quite unusual to attend a game in these parts in April when it's 80+ degrees out), and the matchup (as far as pitching) was outstanding...a wild pitcher's duel with enough ups and downs to keep an average baseball fan in suspense, albeit with a bit of predictability; it became clear after a few innings of play what kind of pitch you were going to see next from either starter.

You could also tell which hitters the pitchers 'read' well and which ones they stuggled with. Defensively, both teams had enough finesse to handle plays, and there were a few riotious acts of baseball insanity (including a dramatic inning-ending 9-4-2 putout at home) so it wasn't an 'ordinary' pitcher's duel.

IND 3 8 0
LOU 0 4 0

The Bats' Travis Wood pitched 6.2 remarkable innings, with 3 consecutive 1-2-3 innings. Also notable: he went 2-2 in 2 plate appearances, best game average of the entire lineup. The Indians' Brad Lincoln had the edge only due to the silenced advantage of his backup offense. The Indians worked like bears to get the 3 runs they had by the end of the game.

Indians RF Brandon Moss' pop fly to short that ended the Indians' 4th induced a rocketing Broken Bat that flew within 5 feet or so of landing in the Club Level right in front of us. A great souvenir to bring home, providing you catch it with your hands and not with your head!!

Travis Wood fans Luke Carlin in the 2nd inning:

Enjoyed the game, weather, and festivities with my buddy Don (who joined us at the Royals game during BIL Tour 2009):

Opening Night at Slugger Field, the promotion was free magnetic schedules and (of course) end-of-the-game fireworks! Here, Indians OF Brian Myrow (who didn't play this evening) enjoys the fireworks with a couple of fellas who, I believe, must be his kids...

A 'W' would have been GREAT, but the best news of all, it really feels like Baseball Season now, I had a fantastic time!!

Official Program

Official Scorecard Cover and Gameday Stats

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

4/12/10 Milwaukee Brewers 5, Chicago Cubs 9

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL
Cubs Home Opener (Game 1 of 3)

A wonderful home opener game, complete with the Ricketts family singing the 7th inning stretch.

MIL 5 8 1
CHC 9 13 0

After the Braves and Reds series, I had some uneven expectations for this game but it's all true...offense when we need it, defense when we need it (well, the near-collision of Baker and Nady was nearly ruled an error). Dempster had me very worried as he started to roll on his characteristic 'unraveling inning,' this time in the 5th when the Brewers threatened to catch up. And why on earth would you pitch to Braun with a runner on?!?

Fortunately, the damage done to Doug Davis (whose super-slow from-the-stretch delivery added 20 minutes to the game) was enough to keep the Cubs above the red and our bullpen (even Samardzija!!!) kept the lead clamped down.

4/12/10 Atlanta Braves 2, San Diego Padres 17

Petco Park, San Diego, CA
Padres 2010 Home Opener

ATL 2 4 1
SD 17 19 0

Friday, April 9, 2010

4/8/10 Chicago Cubs 2, Atlanta Braves 0

Turner Field, Atlanta, GA
(Game 3 of 3)

The opening series finale, after two brutal defeat episodes the Cubs rise to grab their first W of 2010 behind an effective performance by Randy Wells, holding the Bravos scoreless thru 6 innings. Tyler Colvin belts his first career HR (take that, Heyward!).

CHC 2 4 0
ATL 0 8 0

Byrd also homers, Tommy Hanson gives up the games only runs as HR to Colvin and Byrd, ergo he gets the hook with one down in the 6th. Eric O'Flaherty, the amazing sidearm/submariner, and Jesse Chavez hold the Cubbies down to those 2.

The game was broadcast on the MLB Network as their inaugural "Thursday Night Baseball" telecast for 2010 by Matt Vasgersian and Jim Kaat.

Quoting Kaat verbatim, albeit out of context and in truncated form as his entire comment had nothing to do with this portion: " the National League, where they play real baseball, there's no DH..."

I had to add that to my commentary. Well said, Mr Kaat!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

4/7/10 Chicago Cubs 2, Altanta Braves 3

Turner Field, Atlanta, GA
Game 2 of 3


I was worried (mostly) about Ryan Dempster's performance...5-point-plus ERA in Turner Field, 0-8 record there as well.

Dempster was GREAT, a truly solid performance and he deserved at least one RBI, but didn't get it. The 5th inning was astounding, I felt vindicated as a Cubs Fan 2010 when that inning ended. Soriano's bloop double was awesome. I was even hooting Sean Marshall after his stellar performance in relief.

Good Grief, here comes Chipper Jones. Just when I felt like 'hey, our offense may be on its way up' the future HOF-er chops a reminder that this is only 'Opening Week' (hey, we dropped a BUNCH of games early on in 2007 as well) and that adjustments need to be made.

I'm also developing a bad taste for the Braves, but that's only envy right now.

USA Today: Louisville Slugger Field ranks in the Top 10

USA Today writer Graham Knight wrote a small piece on the 'Top 10' Minor League Ballparks, he was kind enough to include Louisville Slugger Field in the list.

The article was published yesterday, you can read it HERE.

I give credit to the writer for having the super powers required to only narrow the list down to TEN. Minor League Baseball really is one of the most underrated American experiences today.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

4/6/10 San Diego Padres 6, Arizona Diamondbacks 3

Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ

Fun game; keeping a close eye on the Padres (my 'other favorite NL team') and also scouting the D-Backs for the upcoming 4-game series with the Cubs.

SD 6 10 1
ARI 3 7 0

Chase Hedley sporting some great 3B 'hot corner' defensive plays. This was Edwin Jackson's debut as a Diamondback...he pitched well, but would soon try to forget this outing.

Bud Black's 2010 Padres are looking remarkable, 6 solid shut-out innings by the 'big guy' Chris Young and some great run support, particularly thanks to smokin' Evereth Cabrera.

Diamondbacks pitcher Esmerling Vasquez has got the most insane inside curve I've ever seen. Crazy movement.

Fox Sports Arizona broadcast, called by Mark Grace and Daron Sutton.

Monday, April 5, 2010

4/5/10 Chicago Cubs 5, Atlanta Braves 16

Turner Field, Atlanta, GA

Opening Week! Cubs OPENING DAY! We're gonna tomohawk dem BRAVES!

Aieeee...I think we just got scalped. Huge-time.

1. Good job, Atlanta has a home win on Opening Day, that's CRUCIAL.
2. Heyward looks GREAT, that must make Braves fans feel GREAT.
3. If the Cubs would have smeared the Braves, you would hear the 'they will CHOKE by the end of the season' talk tonight, instead of...tomorrow...

Nuts. One down, 161 to go. Just a 'rough start,' plenty of time for adjustment. 11 runs is 11 runs.

4/5/10 Minnesota Twins 3, Los Angeles Angels 6

Angel Stadium, Anaheim, CA
(Opening Day)

The Angels' combined firepower (with the charge led by Matsui-san) decimates the Twins. Scott Baker can't hold down the Halos while Jered Weaver does his job well and gets a back-up with run support.

MIN 3 7 0
LAA 6 10 0

A few statistical notes:
  • Joe Mauer's 700th career game
  • Bobby Abreu's Opening Day hitting streak ends at 13 with this game
  • Hideki Matsui belts his first HR as an Angel

Opening Day 2010: The Universe is Balanced Once More

"Every cliche in baseball is a religious truth." - Ron Shelton

As this, one of my favorite quotes, suggests (sometimes seen in the title header for this blog) there is a natural, theological and metaphysical relationship between baseball and the universe itself.

Only 'divine coincidence' that Easter and Opening Day should be on the same day in 2010. As the church calendar begins, with a joyous celebration after a period of fasting, so beings the 2010 season, and Shelton's quote finds its justification in a chance cohesion of a religious calendar with a secular one.

So it was the Yankees met the Red Sox last night in majestic Fenway Park...the Yanks owned the game early on as their offensive line sent Beckett to the showers prematurely. Sabathia (much like Santana) spits fire and undeniable control as the Red Sox wait for their chance to get a crack at the bullpen. Which they did, and turned the game around just as fast.

The double-steal (with Gardner grabbing home), I am so glad I was lucky enough to see it - I nearly didn't believe it.

Baseball is back, all is right with the Universe again.

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