Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
First-half record: 50-42
Standings: Trailing Rangers by 1 in AL West, Yankees by 5 in wild card
Catcher: Well, any reasonable person would think so. Jeff Mathis is hitting .195/.241/.286, and while Mike Scioscia deserves credit for working Hank Conger into the mix, Conger hasn’t quite shined while batting .221/.305/.369. The Angels should bring in a half-season stopgap and kick Mathis to the curb.
Bench: The Angels don’t really have any holes besides the catcher spot: the problem is that they’re not that good anyway. They had the financial power to add a superstar last winter, but they took on Vernon Wells’ salary instead. Now all they can do is fill in around the margins. With just 18 homers from left-handed hitters this year, the Angels could really use a left-handed bat for the bench. Russell Branyan was nice in theory, but he’s useless when he’s not playing fairly regularly.
Closer: With Rich Thompson looking good and Hisanori Takahashi having improved as the season has progressed, the Angels don’t need any sixth- and seventh-inning help. So, there’s no point to upgrading the pen unless it’s to replace Jordan Walden in the closer’s role. Heath Bell, though, wouldn’t be nearly as much of an upgrade here as he would be in some cases.
Ramon Hernandez (C Reds): Stumbling along at 45-47, Cincinnati is a team in need of a bit of a shakeup, and a Hernandez deal, with top prospect Devin Mesoraco stepping into his place, would definitely create some upheaval.
Hernandez for RHP Garrett Richards
Richards, a 2009 supplemental first-round pick, is 10-1 with a 3.14 ERA and a 79/31 K/BB ratio in 106 innings for Double-A Arkansas this season. It’d be a high price to pay for a half-season rental, but the Reds aren’t simply going to make a change for change’s sake. All Hernandez has done this year is hit .322/.377/.539 with 10 homers in 180 at-bats.
Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp on the mound and at the plate so far in this must-win NLDS Game 4 at New York’s Citi Field.
After no-hitting the Mets in the first two frames, Kershaw smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the top of third inning. Howie Kendrick followed soon after with a two-out single to left and then Adrian Gonzalez blooped a ball to shallow center that drove in Enrique Hernandez, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base.
That all set up this Justin Turner two-run double down the left field line that put Los Angeles up 3-0 …
That’s now four doubles this postseason for Turner, which is a Dodgers franchise record for the Division Series. Los Angeles is trying to force a Game 5.
In the first postseason meeting between the two longtime archrivals, the Chicago Cubs prevailed over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Watch as Cubs closer Hector Rondon whiffs Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty with a nasty 0-2 breaking ball to clinch a Division Series victory and send Wrigley Field into a frenzy (this is actually the first time in franchise history the Cubs have won a playoff series at home) …
Chicago dropped Game 1 but took three straight to finish off St. Louis. Next up is a matchup against either the Dodgers or Mets in the National League Championship Series.
After taking Game 1 of the NLDS in an outstanding performance from John Lackey, the Cardinals dropped three straight to the Cubs by scores of 6-3, 8-6 and 6-4. It’s not difficult at all to imagine a healthy Carlos Martinez swinging one of those games.
Martinez wasn’t the Cardinals’ best starter this year, but he was the one who could shut a team down by himself, with little help from the defense needed. Martinez struck out 184 batters in 179 2/3 innings while going 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA. He left his next-to-last regular season start with a shoulder strain that was going to cost him the entirety of the postseason no matter how far the Cardinals advanced. It was a killer blow for a team whose offense had already been slowed by injuries.
October just came at the wrong time for the Cardinals, what with Martinez down, Yadier Molina nursing a significant thumb injury, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk far from 100 percent and Adam Wainwright still weeks short of potentially pulling off a Marcus Stroman-like return to the rotation.
It’s Molina absence Thursday and lack of effectiveness otherwise that serve as a popular explanation/excuse for the Cardinals’ loss. And the downgrade from him to Tony Cruz behind the plate was huge, even if Molina is no longer the hitter he was a couple of years back.
Martinez, though, had the potential to even up the NLDS just by doing what he did in the regular season. And had Martinez been in the rotation, the Cardinals wouldn’t have moved up Lackey to start Game 4 on three days’ rest. They’d have been the clear favorites in a Game 5 Jon Lester-Lackey rematch back in St. Louis, though we’ll never know how that might have worked out.