Roy Halladay

NLDS Preview: Cardinals vs. Phillies

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Phillies and the Cardinals have in store for us in the National League Division Series.

The Teams

St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (102-60)

The Matchups

Game 1 Saturday in Philadelphia: Kyle Lohse vs. Roy Halladay
Game 2 Sunday in Philadelphia: Undecided vs. Cliff Lee
Game 3 Tuesday in St. Louis: Cole Hamels vs. Chris Carpenter
Game 4 (if necessary) Wednesday in St. Louis: Roy Oswalt vs. Undecided
Game 5 (if necessary) Next Friday in Philadelphia: Undecided vs. Undecided

Analysis: I think Tony La Russa is leaning way too hard on Undecided here.  His arm is really gonna be sore at this rate.  My guess: he goes with Jaime Garcia — a groundball pitcher — for Game 2 in the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park, and then Edwin Jackson — a flyball pitcher — at home in Game 4 at the more pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium, but La Russa could flip-flop those guys around.  Carpenter, who threw a shutout Wednesday night, is a lock for Game 3. As for the Phillies, Oswalt in Game 4 is an assumption. If the Phillies found themselves down 2-1 going into that game, I have this feeling we’d see Doc Halladay again.

The Storylines

  • It might be tempting to say the Phillies will simply steamroll the Cardinals, but the Cardinals took six of nine from the Phillies head-to-head this season;
  • One of the reasons: Jaime Garcia. He has been brilliant against Philadelphia for the past two years, allowing one run against them in 15 innings in 2011;
  • Another reason to give the Cardinals a puncher’s chance: the best offense in the National League. If anyone can touch the Phillies’ dominant starting rotation, it’s these guys;
  • That said, Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal are both banged up.  Allen Craig has been hot lately and will take over for Holliday, but if Furcal can’t go, it’s a big falloff to Nick Punto;
  • Both of these teams have seen high drama — not the good kind — from their bullpens in late innings. The Phillies crew is the more talented bunch, but they’ve had their bad moments. The Cardinals blew 26 saves this year. It’s safe to say that a lot of these games will be decided late.
  • Quite a study in contrasts with these two managers too. Charlie Manuel is the epitome of no-nonsense. Tony La Russa is nonsense personified. Expect a lot of tight closeups of these guys blowing bubbles and looking concerned during playoff broadcasts.

Prediction

Despite the in-season advantage the Cardinals had and despite their potent offense, it’s pretty hard to say that they can beat Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Heck, hard to say they could beat two of those guys.  Remember: the 2010 Reds had the best offense in the NL and they just got steamrolled by Philly in the first round themselves. Tony La Russa always has a trick or two up his sleeve, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to overcome the Phillies.

PHILLIES WIN THE SERIES 3-1.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.

Report: Tyson Ross not expected to pitch in April

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park September 29, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:

We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.

Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.