Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Royals And Mets On The Brink

Well, didn’t see this one coming. Following their dominant offensive display (and a shocking performance by Chris Young) the Royals are one win away from playing in their second consecutive World Series. The Mets find themselves in the same position as the Royals up 3-0 over the sentimental favorite Cubs. Pitching has been the overwhelming obstacle for the young Chicago squad but only time will tell… Boston can attest to that. However, the most important thing that both of these current underdogs need to realize is that it is going to take more than two runs to win a game!  

Royals Obliterate Blue Jays 14-2

The Royals are one win from going to the World Series for the second consecutive year after putting a stranglehold on the American League Championship Series with another victory over the Blue Jays. Ben Zobrist and Alex Rios homered for Kansas City, which scored early and often for a 14-2 victory in Game 4 at Rogers Centre on Tuesday. With a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Royals have a chance to clinch the AL pennant with a victory in Game 5 on Wednesday. "We've still got work to do," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "This feels good, but we know how good that team is over there." The Blue Jays once again have their backs against the wall and will have to win three games in a row to advance. Teams that take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven Championship Series are 29-7 all-time, so Kansas City is clearly in the driver's seat, but Toronto can at least fall back on the fact that it rallied from an 0-2 deficit to beat Texas in the AL Division Series. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was responsible for putting the Blue Jays in the early hole. He allowed four runs in the first inning, including a two-run homer by Zobrist, and another in the second before he was pulled after recording just five total outs. Dickey departed with a five-run deficit, and Toronto never recovered. "This team is a really good team," Dickey said of the Royals. "They spit on a lot of good knuckleballs, and they hit the ones that were a little bit flatter. Two singles and two home runs, and I'm out of the game -- it happened really quickly. This is, like, my 103rd start with the Blue Jays, and this is the first time I've gone this short, so it was the anomaly for sure, but it was a poor time to have the anomaly." Kansas City right-hander Chris Young came within one out of picking up the second postseason victory of his career, but he was pulled with two outs in the fifth. He allowed two runs on three hits and a pair of walks while striking out four. The only real sign of difficulty Young encountered was in the fourth, when he surrendered an RBI double to Josh Donaldson. Royals manager Ned Yost is feeling pretty good about where his team is. "We feel good about it," Yost said. "I felt great going into this game because we had Chris Young on the mound, and I felt he would give us a really, really good performance. "We like the way we're playing right now. Our offense has been really, really good. We have [Edinson] Volquez coming back tomorrow, our defense is always spectacular and our bullpen is primed to go tomorrow, too. "We didn't have to use Wade [Davis]. We have Danny Duffy if we need him for multiple innings tomorrow. Kelvin [Herrera] and [Ryan] Madson had short stints today, so they'll be ready to go tomorrow, and so will [Luke Hochevar]. We're in really good shape." But Young cautioned that they can't get too giddy yet. "We haven't won anything yet," Young said. "Toronto is such a good team. We have to come back and play hard and play our game tomorrow."

Mets Tame Cubs 5-2

In this old ballpark where even the outfield ivy has taken on a role, the weight of history is now on the Mets' side. Their 5-2 win over the Cubs in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday at Wrigley Field gave them a 3-0 series lead, moving the Mets to within one victory of their fifth NL pennant and their first World Series appearance since 2000. "That clubhouse right now, that's all they're talking about is tomorrow," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "They know what they're facing." What the Mets are facing is a Cubs team backed into one of Wrigley's quirky corners, knowing only one Major League team has ever come back from a 3-0, best-of-seven series deficit in 34 attempts. They also know that the architect of that club, the 2004 Red Sox, was none other than Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. "Of course you think about those things, you think about the parallels, think about the fact that that happened against a New York team," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We think about all that stuff, but it's up to us to go out and play and execute. I put all my stock in the fact that I know our guys are going to be ready to play tomorrow." Maddon's hope is that the Cubs can rip apart history in much the same way the Mets have done this month. Before this series, Collins' club had not beaten the Cubs all year. Until Game 3, they had not won at Wrigley since May 19, 2013. They overcame that last part behind second baseman Daniel Murphy, who matched an MLB record by homering in his fifth consecutive postseason game, and starting pitcher Jacob deGrom, who overcame a rocky first inning to move to 3-0 this October. Aside from solo homers to Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler, deGrom was everything the Mets needed him to be. Along the way, the Cubs made multiple defensive mistakes, including a Soler blunder in the sixth that allowed a Wilmer Flores double to scoot into the ivy. Though that play wound up being a positive break for the Cubs, who could not parlay it into a comeback, other mistakes cost them dearly. Chief among those was a Trevor Cahill wild pitch that allowed Yoenis Cespedes to score the go-ahead run on Michael Conforto's sixth-inning strikeout. "I think we're all very aware of how close we are, and at the same time, we're not taking it for granted because they are a very, very good team -- a very explosive team -- that can blow up at any time," Conforto said. "We're not taking them lightly. We're going to show up the same way tomorrow that we have the last three games." By the ninth, a light rain had begun falling on Chicago's North Side, as Jeurys Familia locked down the final three outs for his franchise-record fifth postseason save. "There's no excuses to what happened today," Schwarber said. "They just played better than we did. Now we've got our backs against the wall, but we're going to keep fighting until the end."


National League Championship Series
New York leads series 3-0
Game 4: Wednesday, October 21, at 8:00 PM

American League Championship Series
Kansas City leads series 3-1
Game 5: Wednesday, October 21, at 4:00 PM


A Closer Look At Nick Williams – Background: For what seemed to be an eternity, the baseball world wondered when the Philadelphia Phillies would trade their perceived greatest asset, Cole Hamels, in an effort to rebuild the franchise with younger players carrying lengthy team control. On July 31 this season, the Phillies transformed their franchise by sending the star left-hander Hamels and hard-throwing lefty reliever Jake Diekman to the pitching starved Texas Rangers. Both pitchers are among the reasons the Rangers made it to the playoffs as the American League West champions. But the other end of the deal may have changed the Phillies for years to come. Prospects Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Williams and veteran Matt Harrison offer a boatload of talent. The trade was stunning and far-reaching. One of the component players in the transaction was Williams, a left-handed outfielder with a bag full of tools. He's 22. The 6-foot-3, 195 pound Williams has a well-proportioned athletic frame. The Rangers selected him in the second round of the 2012 Draft out of Ball High School in Galveston, Texas. After parts of four Minor League seasons, Williams is No. 3 on the Phillies' Top 30 Prospects list. Hitting: Williams is still a work in progress. He has been inconsistent in his approach and results until this past season. He hit a combined .303 playing for Double-A Frisco for the Rangers (.299 in 415 plate appearances) and .320 over 100 plate appearances at Double-A Reading in the Phillies' organization. I first saw Williams when he played for Surprise in the 2014 Arizona Fall League. He hit .277 with two homers and a solid 19 RBIs in his 27 autumn games. Williams is an aggressive hitter with a very quick bat. That excellent bat speed helps him drive the ball and allows him to generate power from his strong body. Using the entire field, Williams is a solid gap hitter with emerging home run power. Defense: Considered an average outfielder by most, Williams is known more for his hitting and power upside than his fielding. He has played all three outfield positions, but I project his best position to be left field. He looks and reacts more comfortably in that role. Strengths: Whenever I watch Williams play, his power and his good foot speed are evident. His outstanding bat speed forms the foundation of his overall hitting mechanics. He has a fluid swing and can punish a fastball. Weaknesses: Recently I have seen his highly aggressive approach become reduced a bit. That's a good thing. This year, his splits against right- and left-handed pitching were a bit troubling. He hit .a very solid .330 against right-handed pitching, but only .210 vs. lefties. In 2014, his splits were close to equal, both being above .275. I find this interesting: Williams is still a raw player. He is gaining momentum and learning more about his game as he continues his development. Williams is a player who could ultimately hit .300 with 25 home runs if he continues his current progress. But risk remains that he won't consistently harness his abilities. The future for Williams: There is risk involved in going out a limb with Williams. He has such great upside that the Phillies will likely give him every opportunity to be an offensive force in their hitter-friendly home park. I can see him arriving in late 2016. His bat speed and the power in his athletic body are real. Can he translate upside to reality? Williams in a word: Explosive.

The Phillies finally put an end to the season finishing in last place in the NL East with a record of 63-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! However, there are some former Phillies still making headlines in the playoffs this year.

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