August 2005

Around the horn: Aug. 30

? In one of the best games of the season, Bobby Kielty hit an 11th-inning homer off Francisco Rodriguez to give the A’s a dramatic 2-1 win and a two-game lead over the Angels in the AL West.

Bobby Kielty

Big Red’s tater ended one of the best pitching duels this year. Barry Zito worked a stellar nine innings, allowing only one run on three hits, with nine strikeouts. And Bartolo Colon became the first Angel in 13 seasons to pitch into the 10th inning. Colon allowed six hits, walked one and struck out three. Colon lowered his ERA from 3.34 to 3.23, and the burly righty finished August with a 5-0 mark and a 1.72 ERA.

? The Angels are free-falling. In their last 20 innings, the Halos have scored two runs and collected 10 hits, and they’ve dropped 5 1/2 games in the standings in just one week.

? K-Rod is gassed. He’s 0-2 this month with a 5.63 ERA.

? Bad news for the A’s: They placed shortstop Bobby Crosby on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to August 28 with a fractured left ankle.

? It was a very Wild (Card) night in the National League East. The Marlins and Phillies are tied atop the NL Wild Card standings after Florida clipped the Cardinals, 7-6, and the Mets rallied to top Philly, 6-4. Meanwhile, the Nationals gained a game after edging the Braves, 3-2. The Mets are a half-game back while the Nats are 1 1/2 behind.

? Let’s not forget about the Astros in that race. Morgan Ensberg tagged his 34th homer of the year as part of a five-run fifth inning that rallied Houston past the Reds, 5-2, on Tuesday night and closed the Astros within half a game of the frontrunning Phillies and Marlins in the National League Wild Card race.

? Despite another rocky start by Curt Schilling, which placed the Red Sox in a swift, 5-0 hole, Boston came storming back, tying it with two in the eighth, and then walking off with a 7-6 win over the Rays on Trot Nixon’s game-ending, RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.

Around the horn: Aug. 29

? Might as well give Chris Carpenter the NL Cy Young Award right now. The Cardinals right-hander became the first 19-game winner in the Majors on Monday night. Meanwhile, the Cardinals whittled their magic number in the NL Central to 17 with the 6-1 thumping of the Marlins.

Carpenter struck out five and walked one in 7 2/3, lowering his ERA to 2.29. He has won 11 straight, and has not lost since June 8 to the Red Sox. He’s 7-0 with a 1.85 ERA in his last 10 starts. His 183 strikeouts are second to Jake Peavy in the NL, and he trails only Roger Clemens in ERA.

Carpenter is one of the biggest reasons the Cardinals — who have been beset by injuries — are rolling this year. Who knows what would have happened in the World Series last year if Carpenter wasn’t sidelined. The big righty will get some NL MVP votes, but teammate Albert Pujols should get that award this year.

Jason Giambi

? Jason Giambi did it again in Monday’s 7-4 win over the Mariners, smashing two homers for the second straight day. His second blast, a three-run shot in the sixth, completed another comeback for the Yankees, who have now won eight games this season in which they trailed by four or more runs. Giambi definitely deserves the Comeback Player of the Year Award. Who knew he was going to provide this much offense?

? For the second straight start, Mike Mussina got whacked. He allowed four runs in three-plus innings. He has now allowed 12 runs in his last 7 1/3 innings. August has been cruel to the Moose: He’s 2-2 this month with a 6.68 ERA.

? The Yankees’ lead over the idle Angels in the Wild Card race now stands at one game. New York still trails Boston by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.

? Ex-Mariner Alex Rodriguez, who was booed throughout the night at Safeco Field, hit his 39th homer of the season. It was a laser shot to left, over Raul Ibanez’s head. A-Rod leads the AL in homers, is third in RBIs (104), and now he’s third in batting (.320). He trails league leader Johnny Damon by just .005 in the race. Damon is struggling, batting .265 in August after hitting .339 in July.

? There’s only one guy that can challenge A-Rod for the AL MVP Award and it’s David Ortiz. Big Papi homered twice in Boston’s 10-6 shellacking of the Rays. His 117 RBIs lead the Majors, and he is second in the AL with 35 bombs. A-Rod, though, has a huge edge over Papi in batting average — Ortiz is hitting .297.

No offense? Roger that

Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens can probably kiss his eighth Cy Young Award goodbye. The Rocket was superb on Sunday, hurling six shutout innings. But he got no run support before exiting as the Dodgers won, 1-0.

Clemens yielded just two hits over six frames and did not allow a baserunner to progress past second base. The Astros managed seven hits, but struck out 10 times and stranded nine baserunners. The loss leaves Houston 1 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card race.

Of the Astros’ 16 shutout losses this year, Clemens has been on the mound for eight. The Astros have been unable to score in three of his last four starts.

Clemens’ MLB-leading ERA dropped from 1.56 to 1.51. And his 167 strikeouts rank fourth in the NL. But with his 11 wins through August, the Rocket won’t be able to challenge Chris Carpenter for the Cy Young award.

I thought Houston might have a good chance to win the Wild Card thanks to its big three of Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte. But if the offense continues to stall, the ‘Stros won’t be making a repeat trip to the playoffs.

Hang loose

Michael Memea is swarmed by teammates after his walk-off homer

Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world. I went to Maui five years ago, and can’t wait to go back. Hopefully, I’ll even retire there one day — or set up’s West West Coast office beforehand.

On Sunday, Ewa Beach — which is located on the island of Oahu, west of Honolulu — became the first team from the 50th state to win the Little League World Series. And they did it walk-off style, beating the defending champions, Willemstad, Curacao, 7-6, on Michael Memea’s dinger in the first extra-inning finale since 1971.

Ewa Beach had trailed 6-3, but tied it with three runs in the sixth before Memea’s extra-inning heroics. It’s a great victory for the entire state, and serves notice that Hawaii is to be reckoned with from here on in when it comes to the Little League World Series.

Same old Mets

The Mets are like that beautiful girl that sat next to you in homeroom during freshman year of high school. She flirts with you, convincing you that there is a slight chance something might happen.

Instead, nothing happens.

Like that girl, the Mets flirted with their fans this past week, scoring runs at an obscene pace of a four-game road sweep of the Diamondbacks. The Mets scored 39 runs in four games, more runs than they had scored in any four-game sequence this year.

The Mets headed to San Francisco with their chests thumping. Fans were talking Wild Card.

Kris Benson

And once, again the Mets teased the world.

New York had an un-Amazin’ weekend by the Bay, scoring just three runs — their lowest three-game output of their season. Steve Trachsel, Tom Glavine and Kris Benson each turned in quality starts, but the team left its bats in the desert. The Mets’ big three struggled at SBC Park. Carlos he’s so overpaid Beltran went 3-for-12 with an RBI, David Wright went 4-for-12 and Jose Reyes went 2-for-12.

But the starting pitchers came through. Trachsel picked up the win on Friday night, while Glavine and Benson were dealt bitter losses.

The Mets did catch a break, though, in the Wild Card standings, as the Phillies also lost on Saturday and Sunday. The teams, separated by 1 1/2 games, meet in a crucial three-game series this week at Shea Stadium.

Around the horn: Aug. 28

? We are going to have some amazing races down the stretch in the American League. The Yankees, who pulled within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Red Sox in the East on Saturday, took sole possession Sunday of the Wild Card lead by a half-game over the stumbling and bumbling Angels. Meanwhile, the red-hot A’s are back atop the AL West.

Jason Giambi

? Jason Giambi continued his amazing season on Sunday, decking two homers and tying a career high with seven RBIs on Sunday, helping the Yankees complete a series sweep of the Royals with a 10-3 victory. Giambi — who I thought would be a non-factor this season — has 23 homers and 60 RBIs. His .440 on-base percentage leads the Majors. Despite their 6-1 homestand, I still think the Yankees will have to settle for the Wild Card.

Derek Jeter, of course, thinks differently.

"Our fans don’t want to see us win the Wild Card. They want to see us win the division."

? The A’s will not go away quietly. They won their fifth straight Sunday, ripping the O’s, 10-3. A’s righty Dan Haren snapped a personal three-game losing streak, and Scott Hatteberg went 3-for-3 with a solo home run and two runs scored. The A’s, who opened the season 8-23 on the road, have won 17 of 20 away from Oakland.

Even if the A’s drop the finale of their four-game series against the O’s on Monday, they’ll open a three-game series in Anaheim on Tuesday no worse than tied atop the division.

? Speaking of the Angels, they are headed in the wrong direction. They got swept by the Rays on Sunday and have dropped four straight. It was the first time in team history that the Angels were swept by the Rays.

The Angels need to take this week’s series against the A’s, or they could be in serious trouble.

? The Rays are a hard time to figure out. The three-game sweep of the Angels was the Rays’ first in team history and it gave the Rays six series sweeps for the season. This month alone, they have taken series from the Angels and Yankees, but lost series to the O’s and Indians.

Tampa Bay finished its 13-game stretch at Tropicana Field with a 9-4 record ? a franchise record for wins during any homestand. And it improved to 27-15 since the All-Star break.

Thanks to their post-break stretch, the Rays are getting super cocky.

"We’re a good team right now," Aubrey Huff said after Sunday’s win. "If we could have maybe played .500 ball in the first half, you’re looking maybe at a Wild Card team. We’ve been playing that good. …"

? David Wells came through in a big way for the Red Sox Sunday. With the bullpen taxed almost beyond comprehension over the last few days, Wells pitched Boston to an 11-3 victory in the rubber match of a three-game series with the Tigers.

Wells scattered nine hits over seven innings, giving up three runs — two earned. He struck out seven. In the 14 games that preceded this one, Matt Clement was the only Boston starter to go seven innings in a game, doing so twice.

? As for the Sox bullpen, the team designated Mike Remlinger for assignment before Sunday’s game. And closer Keith Foulke — making his second appearance with the Spinners as he rehabs from left knee surgery on July 6 — entered the game in the seventh inning, with the Class A Lowell Spinners leading the Tri-City Valley Cats, 4-0. He threw 21 pitches, 12 for strikes, giving up a run on a walk and a hit, while striking out one.

Hank Blalock

? My wife’s cousin, Hank Blalock, lifted the Rangers past the Twins, 2-1, with a walk-off infield dribbler.

? The loss is a mighty blow to the Twins’ playoff chances. It was the fourth time this week that the Twins scored one run or less in a game. Johan Santana delivered his seventh straight quality start, allowing one run on three hits over seven innings. He struck out six and walked three. His 195 strikeouts lead the Majors.

? The Cardinals are ridiculous. Starter Mark Mulder was scratched due to stiffness in his neck, forcing Cal Eldred to start. Albert Pujols was ejected in the first inning. Yet, they still handled the Nationals, 6-0, for their MLB-leading 83rd win of the season.

Picture of the week

Blue Jays third baseman Corey Koskie

Blue Jays third baseman Corey Koskie made a sick play on Wednesday night, diving into the stands to snare Gary Sheffield’s foul ball in the third inning. Watch the play and see for yourself.

This play got barely any dap, though. Now if A-Rod made the catch, we would have seen it hundreds of times of ESPN. Instead, ESPN is busy showing us skiing squirrels instead of Koskie’s grab.

Check out the picture. There is so much going on. The one dude in the Yankee jersey is totally blocking Koskie, yet he still makes the play. And how about the frightened kid in his blue shirt? He’s bracing himself.

Around the horn: Aug. 24

Mike Jacobs and David Wright

&#149 Beware of the Mets. They clobbered the Diamondbacks for the second straight night, 18-4. The Mets have won eight of 11 and should sweep the four-game series. Pedro Martinez gets the start on Thursday.

Wednesday night, Jose Reyes missed the cycle by a double, and rookie Mike Jacobs and David Wright — who both went 4-for-5 with two dingers apiece — each missed the cycle by a triple.

Jacobs is the Mets version of Kevin Maas, who smacked 21 taters in 79 games for the Yanks in 1990. Jacobs, who was called up Sunday, has four homers in 13 at-bats.

Wright really impresses me. This guy is on the cusp of becoming a superstar. He now has 20 homers and 82 RBIs this season. His .314 average is good for fifth in the National League. And his .927 OPS makes him ninth in the league.

&#149 The Mets are locked in a three-way tie for third in the NL Wild Card race with the Nationals and Marlins, two games behind the front-running Phillies. Philly beat the Giants, 7-4. Starter Cory Lidle left with a strained oblique muscle in the fifth.

&#149 The Astros remained in second in the NL Wild Card race after losing, 7-4 to the Padres. Padres closer Trevor Hoffman took over sole possession of second place on the all-time saves list, passing John Franco with his 425th save.

&#149 Put Chris Carpenter’s name on the NL Cy Young Award. Carpenter became the Major Leagues’ first 18-game winner as the Cardinals defeated the Pirates, 8-3.

Carpenter won his 10th consecutive decision as the Cards won for the 13th time in a row when he starts a game. He pitched eight innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits, striking out four and walking two. The three earned runs Carpenter allowed matched the most he has allowed since May 7.

And Carpenter is a Triple Crown threat, too. His 178 strikeouts trail only Jake Peavy (189) in that category, and his 2.34 trails only Roger Clemens (1.56).

&#149 Carpenter’s victory gave Tony La Russa the 2,194th of his career, tying him with Sparky Anderson for third on the all-time list.

&#149 Before the game, the Pirates and Cards nearly came to blows. A TB replay of the incident showed Cards pitching coach Dave Duncan and Pirates hitting coach Gerald Perry involved in a confrontation, although it was unclear if there were any punches thrown.

&#149 Meanwhile, the AL Cy Young race got interesting. Bartolo Colon earned his AL-leading 17th win in the Angels’ 3-1 victory over the Orioles. And Mark Buehrle scattered six hits over eight innings as the White Sox snapped a four game-losing streak to the Twins with a 6-4 win. I like Johan Santana’s chances, though, in that race. Especially if he continues to pitch the way he has since the All-Star break.

&#149 The Jays and A’s rolled to easy road wins on Tuesday night, enabling Oakland to tie for the AL Wild Card lead. Vernon Wells hit a three-run homer in a nine-run fifth as the Jays clobbered the Yanks, 9-5. And Oakland ripped four homers in a 9-2 rout of the Tigers.

&#149 Mike Mussina was rolling right along through four innings, retiring the first 12 batters he face. Then he got ripped to shreds in the fifth. In that inning, Mussina allowed eight runs on six hits and two walks.

&#149 The nine-run fifth inning was the biggest frame by a Yankees opponent this season.

&#149 Curt Schilling has opened his mouth … again. During his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan show Wednesday, Schilling said he agreed with Nationals manager Frank Robinson that Rafael Palmeiro’s records should be erased because of his failed drug test.

“Yeah. I read something the other day about his career, his career numbers and how a lot of his career numbers coincide with certain dates and he obviously sat next to me in Washington [before Congress] and lied, so I don’t know there’s any way to prove that anything he did was not under the influence of performance-enhancing drugs,” Schilling said.

&#149 Schilling makes his first start on Thursday since returning to the Red Sox rotation.

Around the horn: Aug. 23

Johan Santana

? If you missed the incredible 1-0 duel between countrymen Freddy Garcia and Johan Santana, download it. It was one of the best games I have watched this year.

Garcia dominated the Twins from the get go. He got two lucky breaks in the sixth. First, Pablo Ozuna misplayed a ball hit by Michael Cuddyer. The official scorer ruled it a two-base error, but it could have gone either way.

Then with two outs and Cuddyer on third, Nick Punto launched a drive toward right field. Jermaine Dye raced back towards the wall at full speed, reaching up over his head and grabbing the ball as he slammed into the fence for the third out. It was our Top Play of the Day.

At that point, I thought Garcia would get the no-no for sure. Plays like that always happen in no-hitters.

But Garcia’s luck ran out in the eighth

He hung a 1-2 curveball to Jacque Jones leading off the inning, and Jones ripped a 423-foot tater. It was an incredible feat for Jones, who played the game with a heavy heart. Jones will miss the next two games of the series and return to his hometown in the San Diego area for the funeral of his uncle.

Jacque’s jack opened the door for Santana, who is 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA since the All-Star break. The Venezuelan gave up three hits and one walk in eight innings. He could be headed to another Cy Young award.

The White Sox are reeling. They have lost eight of their last nine games, scoring 26 runs in total. Their lead in the American League Central has dropped from 15 games on Aug. 1 to seven over Cleveland and 9 1/2 over the Twins as of Tuesday night.

? In the last 10 seasons, the only other pitcher to lose a game in which he allowed only one hit was Ted Lilly for the Yankees on April 27, 2002 at Safeco Field.

Ironically, Lilly’s mound opponent that night was Garcia, who was then a Mariner.

I remember watching that game at O’Neill’s Bar in Hoboken, NJ. Cablevision wasn’t carrying the YES Network yet, so on my nights off, I would go to O’Neill’s and watch the Yanks.

Lilly took a no-hitter to the eighth inning of a scoreless game, but with one out Dan Wilson drew a walk. Pinch-runner Luis Ugueto moved to second base on a wild pitch and scored on Desi Relaford’s single, the only hit allowed that night by Lilly.

In the last 20 seasons, two other pitchers have lost a complete game one-hitter on a dinger: The Royals’ Kevin Appier against the Rangers on July 27, 1993 (home run by Rafael Palmeiro in the seventh) and the Jays’ Paul Menhart against the Orioles on Aug. 2, 1995 (homer by Harold Baines in the second).

? One last tidbit on the duel: Both Jones and Garcia are on my fantasy team.

? The Indians and Yankees leapfrogged over the slumping A’s in the American League Wild Card race with 5-4 wins on Tuesday. The Tribe won their sixth straight, overcoming a four-run deficit to beat the Rays. And Felix Escalona’s walk-off single lifted the Yanks past the Blue Jays.

? The Yanks showed a lot of heart in that comeback win. They just kept coming right back against the Jays. They trailed 2-0 after five against red-hot Josh Towers. New York scored single runs in the sixth and seventh to tie the game. Toronto retook the lead in the eighth, and the Yankees tied it. Toronto did it again in the ninth against Mariano Rivera, but Bombers responded in a big way.

Hideki Matsui — again how clutch is this guy? — led off the ninth with a game-tying homer, then Escalona’s two-out hit won it.

Al Leiter pitched well, allowing three runs on six hits and just one walk over seven-plus innings.

? The Yankees became the first AL team to erase deficits in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to win in the ninth since the Washington Senators against the St. Louis Browns on May 21, 1949, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

? Mo Rivera is worrying me. After going 1-0 in July with a 1.08 ERA, he’s 1-1 this month and his ERA has gone up to 3.46. He’s given up at least two hits and a run in three of his last five outings.

? Facing his boyhood idol, the great Roger Clemens, Jake Peavy was the better man on Tuesday night at PETCO Park. The Padres’ 24-year-old right-hander outdueled the Rocket in a 2-0 decision, fanning six and holding Houston to four hits in a complete-game gem.

The shutout was Jake Peavy’s third of the season and second in four starts.

? Who says all the offense is in the American League? The Pirates, Cubs, Brewers and Mets rolled to easy wins on Tuesday. The Pirates shut out the Cardinals, 10-0; the Cubs slammed the Braves, 10-1; the Brewers beat up the Marlins, 11-2; and the Mets clubbed the Diamondbacks, 14-1.

I am ready for some Fantasy football

I had Monday night off for the fourth annual Major League Baseball Advanced Media Fantasy Football Draft. I have had great success in the 12-team league, winning it in 2002, then finishing fourth in 2003 and third last year.

It’s a far cry from my Fantasy Baseball status. I absolutely stink this year in baseball. Currently, I am 13th in a 15-team league. I cracked the top 10 for a bit, but injuries just killed me.

But I have always had luck on my side in Fantasy Football. I picked third overall on Monday, the highest selection I have ever had in any draft. Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper went one and two, respectively, which was fine with me, since I wanted LaDainian Tomlinson and got him.

Since receivers are heavily rewarded in this league, I took Chad Johnson with my second-round pick instead of another running back. On the way back, I snagged Terrell Owens with my third-round choice. I hate the guy with a passion — and I despise the Eagles — but I couldn’t pass TO up.

With the quality running backs gone, I turned my attention to tight end, nabbing Antonio Gates with my fourth pick. I then went with quarterback Marc Bulger on the way back.

Our league uses individual defensive players instead of team defense. So I went out and got myself some stud defensive backs — Ed Reed and Rodney Harrison. Later on, I would pick Sammy Knight. I turned my attention to linebacker, drafting Zach Thomas, James Farrior and Antonio Pierce.

Getting those picks out of the way enabled me to pick the two best kickers on the board — Jason Elam and Mike Vanderjagt. That keeps one of those guys away from everyone else in the league.

I got Jerome Bettis late to serve as my second running back, and added rookie backs Frank Gore and Eric Shelton real late in the draft. Keenan McCardell, Keyshawn Johnson, Tyrone Calico and Reggie Williams round out my receiving corps. Eric Johnson will back up Gates at tight end.

In all, I am happy with my team. I can’t wait to see how the season plays out.