Cody Ross turns the much-anticipated matchup between Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum into his own showcase.
PHILADELPHIA—So you wake up Saturday morning and decide to drive from the western end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the eastern end—a trip that takes more than five hours—because this doesn't figure to be any ordinary Game One of a League Championship Series. No sir, this opener of the NLCS features the most-hyped pitching matchup in recent memory, even counting Stephen Strasburg against the overmatched and overwhelmed Pirates back in June in his major-league debut.
A series that will feature spectacular pitching may come down to the tiniest advantages to decide the winner.
So, let's see, for an initial checklist for maximum LCS entertainment potential, is there anything missing? Record-wise, the two best teams in National League? Check, even if we allow for the fact that the Giants weren't one of the top two teams in Clay Davenport's adjusted standings. The two best rotations in baseball? Check. Heck, it even features two of the three best defensive units in the league (via PADE), with only the already-vanquished Reds separating the Giants and Phillies. And the offenses are... well, OK, this whole clash of the titans thing only goes so far, because they're not both among the best in the league. The Phillies are, tying for third in the league in team-level True Average, but the Giants finished back in ninth place, even with Brian Sabean's ticky-tack trades to accrue incremental improvements.
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Obvious Good News: Getting O'Flaherty back from the DL provides Bobby Cox with a second lefty he's come to trust, now and into October-if the Braves get there-although it's worth noting that Dunn has been effective in a low-leverage role, if as wild and frightening as Kimbrel was in his previous stints. Speaking of Kimbrel, he's been exceptional since his return, striking out 12 of 16 batters faced, allowing a lone hit-and going walk-free.
The 2010 Florida Marlins are who we thought they were. While their upper brass may have had pipe dreams about a potential contender during the spring, a more likely scenario had the Fish finishing the year as close friends of the .500 mark. Entering play Wednesday, only a recent streak of hot play has them hovering around .500. This streaky play exemplifies their status as a team with several solid pieces but with a decent number of faults as well. Perhaps these characteristics were all put on display last weekend when they blew a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning to the Braves thanks to poor defense and below-average pitching. The Marlins may boast star power in the forms of Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, but neither their hitting nor pitching in the aggregate has intimidated opponents—they rank 15th in the NL in WXRL, 13th in OBP, 12th in SLG, and 13th in Defensive Efficiency.
A conversation with the well-traveled Marlins outfielder about a frenzied debut and his peregrinations around the game.
Cody Ross is genuine. The Marlins outfielder may not be a superstar, but he personifies what fans love to see when they look beyond a player's statistics: Ross is not only humble and hard-working, he has a sincere appreciation of what it means to hold down a spot on a big-league roster. Now 28 years old and with his fourth organization, Ross was given his first opportunity to play full-time last season, and he responded by hitting a workmanlike .260/.316/.488 with 22 home runs. Originally drafted by the Tigers, the native of Portales, New Mexico is putting up solid numbers again this season, leading the Marlins in extra-base hits and ranking second on the team in home runs. Ross talked about the path he followed to Miami, some of his best memories along the way, and why he doesn't like hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors.
A Pedro-Dontrelle matchup makes for a bonus edition of the Game of the Week.
For the Mets, the season has turned into an exercise in avoiding complacency and injury. While a 13 game division lead in early August does not guarantee a playoff spot, it's pretty darned close. The Postseason Odds Report has the Metropolitans with a 99.49% chance of winning the division, 99.83% of making the playoffs. So the Mets are trying to avoid any more bad cab rides, at least until October.
The White Sox begin the summer trading season with a bang; the Reds make a great acquisition in D'Angelo Jimenez; Josh Beckett is unleashed from the DL in Florida; and the Royals take a flyer on a man named Gookie (remember him?). All this and much more news from around the league in your Wednesday edition of Transaction Analysis.