Daily Dose: Sizemore gets some good news

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Grady Sizemore received good news Monday, as an MRI exam on his injured
left elbow showed that most of the inflammation has subsided. Without
that progress surgery would have been an option for Sizemore, but
manager Eric Wedge noted Monday that the “best-case scenario” would now
have him back off the disabled in 7-10 days.

Before that happens Sizemore will need to avoid a setback while
swinging a bat and throwing Tuesday, so he’s not totally out of the
woods. “There’s a chance it could get worse, there’s a chance it could
stay the same,” Sizemore said, adding that “it definitely could linger
all year” even if he can return next week. His ability to play through
pain will be put to the test and he struggled before the DL stint.

While the Indians celebrate their Sizemore news by blowing a
five-run lead in the seventh inning, here are some other notes from
around baseball …

* Lou Piniella stuck to his guns Monday, explaining that Alfonso
Soriano will stay atop the Cubs’ lineup despite going 14-for-95 (.147)
over the past 22 games and sporting a ghastly .296 on-base percentage
on the season. “We’ve been through this many times,” Piniella said.
“When we signed Alfonso, he was a leadoff hitter. We’ve won two
divisions with him being a leadoff hitter. What else can I say?”

In other words forget about his good power, sub par on-base skills,
and declining speed and just focus on the fact that he’s been in the
wrong role for a long time now. When he was swiping 30-40 bases per
season hitting Soriano leadoff made sense from a conventional wisdom
standpoint, but he has six steals in 58 games this year and has a so-so
.331 OBP while slugging .529 since joining the Cubs.

* Jason Isringhausen walked off the mound with his right arm
dangling at his side Sunday, so it came as no shock when the Rays put
him on the 60-day disabled list and announced Monday that he’ll miss
the remainder of the season following Tommy John surgery. He allowed
two runs while posting a 6/5 K/BB ratio in eight innings between DL
stints and the 36-year-old may call it quits with 293 saves.

AL Quick Hits: Ervin Santana has been scratched from his Tuesday
start due to forearm tightness and is awaiting the results of an MRI
exam … No decision has been made yet about his joining Boston’s
rotation, but John Smoltz said Monday that he’d like to pitch beyond
this season … Jason Bartlett (ankle) came off the disabled list Monday,
with Reid Brignac heading back to Triple-A … Glen Perkins (elbow) will
rejoin the rotation Tuesday and Michael Cuddyer (finger) is hoping to
be back in the lineup after receiving a cortisone shot … Orlando
Cabrera has been removed from the A’s leadoff spot after posting a .280
on-base percentage through 62 games … Kelvim Escobar is expected to
replace Scot Shields (knee) in the bullpen next week, but for now has
been placed back on the DL … Jake Westbrook has been scratched from his
next scheduled minor-league rehab start because of soreness in his
surgically repaired elbow.

NL Quick Hits: Brad Lidge (knee) threw long toss Sunday and is
hoping to return from the disabled list when eligible next Tuesday …
Former pitching coach Rick Peterson said Monday that he’s heard rumors
of Johan Santana being bothered by his surgically repaired knee … Pedro
Martinez reportedly has been working out six days per week in the hopes
of joining a contending team after the All-Star break … Kyle Lohse
(forearm) played catch from 90 feet Sunday and reported zero problems,
but remains likely to be out until the second half … Manny Acta
reportedly will remain manager for at least a few more days while the
Nationals’ brain trust weigh their options … Meanwhile, the Nationals
increased their odds for next year’s No. 1 pick by signing Horacio
Ramirez to a minor-league contract Monday … Gary Sheffield will keep
playing through knee soreness after the Mets said Monday that he
doesn’t need an MRI exam.

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

cardinals logo

The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.