Wednesday’s Wild Card matchup preview

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161 games down. One to go. And we have ties for the Wild Card in both the American League and National League. Is this fun or what? OK, well for most of us, anyway.

Here’s what to look for in Wednesday’s matchups:

American League Wild Card

Boston – Jon Lester (15-9, 3.49 ERA)
Baltimore – Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85 ERA)

New York – TBA
Tampa Bay – David Price (12-13, 3.35 ERA)

The Red Sox (90-71) and Rays (90-71) remain tied for the AL Wild Card after both teams won Tuesday night.

Jon Lester will be starting on three days’ rest Wednesday for the third time in his career. He threw just 55 pitches in his last outing Saturday against the Yankees, when he was chased for a season-high eight runs over 2 2/3 innings. The southpaw has allowed four runs or more in each of his last three starts. Simon is coming off a solid start against the Tigers last week, allowing three runs over eight innings, but has a 6.52 ERA in five starts this month. He gave up three runs on eight hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings in his only appearance against the Red Sox this season back on July 9.

The Rays are in pretty good shape Wednesday, even though it isn’t confirmed who they’ll be facing. Either way, the Yankees are expected to rely heavily on their bullpen, primarily with pitchers who will not be on the postseason roster. However, Yankees manager Joe Girardi is expected to have most of his regulars in the starting lineup, at least for a couple of innings. David Price is winless over his last five starts, but has a 3.03 ERA this month and a 2.86 ERA since the All-Star break. He is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA and a 17/8 K/BB ratio in four starts against the Bombers this season.

If the Red Sox and Rays remain tied following Wednesday’s action, they will meet a one-game playoff Thursday at 4:07 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field. Nothing official yet, but the Rays would likely use Jeff Niemann or possibly Matt Moore while the Red Sox could go with either John Lackey or Tim Wakefield.

National League Wild Card

Philadelphia – Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.03 ERA)
Atlanta – Tim Hudson (16-10, 3.23 ERA)

St. Louis – Chris Carpenter (10-9, 3.59 ERA)
Houston –  Brett Myers (7-13, 4.31 ERA)

The Braves (89-72) and Cardinals (89-72) are now in a flat-footed tie for the Wild Card after Atlanta lost Tuesday night and St. Louis beat up on the Astros.

After starting the final game of the regular season to help secure the Wild Card last year, Tim Hudson will attempt to do it again Wednesday. He allowed three runs over 5 2/3 innings in his last start Friday against the Nationals before leaving due to a cramp near his neck. The veteran right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.48 ERA in three starts against the Phillies this season. Joe Blanton, who is currently auditioning for a spot in the bullpen for the postseason, is making his first start since May 14. However, he is only expected to go a couple of innings. While this sounds like advantage Braves, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley could also see some work Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals will turn to their de facto ace Chris Carpenter with the season on the line. The veteran right-hander has been excellent recently, posting a 1.45 ERA and 21/6 K/BB ratio over his last four starts. He took a no-decision in his lone start against the Astros this season back on July 27, allowing two runs over seven innings. Brett Myers has been equally brilliant lately, allowing exactly one earned run in each of his last five starts dating back to late-August. He has a 5.14 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals this season. One significant development to watch is that Matt Holliday won’t start after aggravating an injury to his right hand, though his replacement Allen Craig did homer and drive in four runs in Tuesday’s victory.

If the Braves and Cardinals remain tied following Wednesday’s action, they will meet in a one-game playoff Thursday at 8:07 p.m. ET at Busch Stadium. The Braves would use Brandon Beachy while the Cardinals would counter with Kyle Lohse.

The Braves are banning outside food. And they’re probably lying about why they’re doing it.

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Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t realize: there are a lot of ballparks that allow you to bring in outside food.

Not all of them, but a lot do. They don’t publicize it, obviously, because they want you to buy their expensive food, but if you go to the concessions policy page on most team’s websites, you can get the scoop. It often lists “soft-sided coolers” under “permitted items,” which is code for “yes, you can bring your own food in.” Some may specifically limit THAT to sealed plastic water bottles, but for the most part, if you can bring soft-sided coolers into the park, that means it’s OK to bring in grandma’s potato salad and a few sandwiches. They may check your coolers, of course, to make sure you’re not bringing in alcohol or whatever.

The Atlanta Braves have always allowed food into the ballpark. But thats going to change in shiny new Sun Trust Park. The AJC reports that the Braves have announced a new policy via which ticket holders will not be allowed to bring in outside food. Exceptions will be made for infant food and for special dietary restriction items.

Which, OK, it’s their park and their rules. If they want to cut out the PB&J for junior and force you to buy him a $9 “kids pack” — or if they want you to forego grandma’s potato salad to buy that pork chop sandwich we mentioned yesterday — that’s their choice. Everything else about the Braves new stadium has been about extracting money from fans, so why not the concessions policy too?

My beef with this is less about the policy. It’s about their stated reason for it:

The changes are a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league, said the Braves spokesperson.

This, as the French say, is horses**t.

We know it is because not all teams are prohibiting outside food. If there are tighter security measures across the board, other teams are implementing them without the food restriction. Even the Yankees, who take security theater to extreme heights as it is, are still allowing fans to bring in their own food.

The Braves, I strongly suspect, are using these measures as an excuse to cut down on competition for their concessions. Which, like I said, go for it. Just be honest about what you’re doing and stop blaming “tightened security” for your cash grab.

Yadier Molina says Adam Jones “has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people”

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After the U.S. won the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night, Adam Jones told a reporter that he and his teammates were motivated in part by the fact that Puerto Rico already had championship t-shirts printed up and plans for a parade/celebration in Puerto Rico in place beforehand.

Which, OK, whatever you need to motivate you, Adam, but all of that seems complicated by the fact that (a) ALL teams playing for a championship have pre-printed gear, thus enabling them to be put on moments after the final out; and (b) Puerto Rico’s celebration plans were not contingent on winning or losing. In fact, they went ahead and had a parade/celebration even though they lost. The WBC was a big deal to them in ways it simply wasn’t to the U.S., so it makes sense.

Yadier Molina of Team Puerto Rico did not take kindly to Jones’ comments. He tells ESPN Deportes this:

“Adam Jones … is talking about things he doesn’t know about,” Molina told ESPN. “He really has to get informed because he shouldn’t have said those comments, let alone in public and mocking the way [preparations] were made . . . He has to apologize to the Puerto Rican people,” Molina said. “Obviously, you wanted to win; he didn’t know what this means to [our] people.”

Kind of a messy little controversy, eh?

My feeling about it is that Jones probably didn’t know the whole story about Puerto Rico’s plans and misinterpreted celebration for arrogance. I also suspect that most players motivate themselves in all manner of irrational ways like this, but we just don’t hear about it all that much. Jones can do whatever he wants to psych himself up, but it changes the equation a bit when you talk about it to the press. Perceived slights that an athlete uses internally can seem petty once exposed to the light of day.

Either way: Jones does not have a reputation for being insulting or disrespectful, so I seriously doubt that was his intent here. I also think that, while Molina has a right to be miffed, the “he must apologize to the Puerto Rican people” thing is laying it on a bit thick. Maybe Jones can just text Molina and some P.R. players and say he was sorry, followed by a “we’re all good, man” and this can end? That makes the most sense.

If not, well, the Orioles do play the Cardinals in an interleague series this summer, so maybe we’ll see some fireworks.