Daily Windup (cont.)
Stud of the Day
Jason Marquis is still on the bubble for the Cubs' postseason roster. That's how deep Lou Piniella's pitching staff is. But the veteran righty didn't do his cause any harm on Monday night when he crushed a curveball from the Mets' Jon Niese for a grand slam in the Cubs' 9-5 win. Marquis drove in five runs in earning his 11th win of the season.
Dud of the Day
He's only a rookie, so you don't want to come down too hard on the kid. But the last thing the Mets needed from righty Jon Niese was to give up a grand slam to the opposing pitcher, let the other guys jump out to an early lead, last only three innings and force manager Jerry Manuel to dip into an overtaxed bullpen. The Mets' starting pitching has been good lately. It wasn't on Monday.
What Was He Thinking?
The Braves' season has gone like this: Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning on Monday in Philadelphia, with Phillies at first and third with one out. Sharp grounder to third. Substitute third baseman Martin Prado fields the ball cleanly and throws to backup catcher Clint Sammons at the plate. Except Sammons, nearly inexplicably, wasn't blocking the plate. He was standing on top of it. Runner scores under the tag. Phils take the lead. Pat Burrell hits a three-run homer. Phils win, 6-2.
Quote of the Day
"We have to exorcise those demons at some point, there's no question about that. Some big ones, too."
-- Mets manager Jerry Manuel, on ridding the team of the memory of the '07 collapse
Tuesday's Key Games
Braves (Hampton) at Phillies (Hamels), 7:05 p.m.
Attention, shoppers: Hampton 7 straight starts of at least 6 IP
Cleveland (Lee) at Boston (Wakefield), 7:05 p.m.
Red Sox clinch playoff spot with a win or Yankee loss
Cubs (Marshall) at Mets (Santana), 7:10 p.m.
Fill-in Marshall just 1-4, 4.24 ERA as starter
Pirates (Karstens) at Brewers (Bush), 8:05 p.m.
Bush winless, 4.88 ERA in four September starts
White Sox (Vazquez) at Twins (Baker), 8:10 p.m.
All or nothing for Twins, who are 7-8 vs. ChiSox
Diamondbacks (Johnson) at Cardinals (Lohse), 8:15 p.m.
Unit has 3.10 ERA in last 14 starts, but NDs in last five
Padres (Peavy) at Dodgers (Billingsley), 10:10 p.m.
L.A.'s 23-year old righty is 5-1, 3.06 ERA in last 11 starts
I love the contrast of the upcoming Twins-White Sox series. The ChiSox lead the league in home runs. The Twins are last. The Twins have the league's best batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs (.273). The White Sox are hitting .229 in those situations, ranking them 11th in the AL. Sluggers vs. Piranhas. Should be fun.
Up 2 1/2 games in the NL East with less than a week to play, you have to like the Phillies' chances of winning their second straight title despite Pat Burrell hitting just .178 since the beginning of August. Burrell had a big three-run homer in Monday's win over the Braves, but .178? Come on.
The Phillies have hit a home run in 18 consecutive games, a club record. The most amazing part? Only eight of those games were in Citizens Bank Park.
Cardinals' fans showed a little hometown love to their World Series hero of 2006, David Eckstein, giving him a standing ovation on Monday when he stepped into the box as a member of the Diamondbacks. The scrappy Eckstein backed out of the box, tipped his helmet, recognized manager Tony La Russa in the opposite dugout and, after his at-bat, booked it down the first base line with a walk.
The Cardinals, bless their big hearts, are 6-13 in September and 27-33 since the All-Star break. Nice run. Just not enough.
While the Mets battle arguably the best team in the league in the Cubs, the Brewers face the Pirates for three games starting on Tuesday night. Milwaukee, a game behind the Mets in the wild-card standings, is 11-1 against the Pirates this season.
With a loss by the Red Sox on Monday night and a win in Baltimore, the Rays' magic number for clinching the AL East is now four. We can't hype Tampa Bay any more than we have, but realize this: The Rays are going to have, probably, at least a 95-win season. They had never won more than 70 before.
The Angels won another one-run game on Monday. Francisco Rodriguez picked up save No. 61 by throwing 11 pitches at three overmatched Mariners. K-Rod's suffering a little backlash lately with all the MVP and Cy Young talk. He probably won't win the Cy, and he's probably not the MVP. But don't doubt his value to the Angels. He's a big reason why they'll likely finish with the best record in baseball.