Hank Aaron Award nominees announced (and then picked apart)

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The Hank Aaron Award nominees were announced on Monday.  The award is meant to honor the best offensive performers in each league.  As always, there’s one nominee from every team and the winner will be selected by a fan vote in combination with a vote of select Hall of Fame players.

Here are the nominees:

American League
Baltimore: J.J. Hardy
Boston: Adrian Gonzalez
Chicago: Paul Konerko
Cleveland: Asdrubal Cabrera
Detroit: Miguel Cabrera
Kansas City: Alex Gordon
Los Angeles: Mark Trumbo
Minnesota: Michael Cuddyer
New York: Curtis Granderson
Oakland: Josh Willingham
Seattle: Dustin Ackley
Tampa Bay: Evan Longoria
Texas: Michael Young
Toronto: Jose Bautista

Of course, with one player from every team nominated, the fans can vote for Ackley for AL offensive player of the year, but not Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz or Robinson Cano.

The pretty awful pick here was Trumbo over Howie Kendrick on the Angels. Of course Kendrick didn’t match the first baseman when it came to RBIs, but he hit .285/.338/.464 to Trumbo’s .254/.291/.477.

Young was the Rangers’ fourth best hitter, but he played in 159 games, while Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton played in 113, 124 and 121 respectively. Napoli still deserves the nod, though. He hit .320/.414/.631 to Young’s .338/.380/.474.

National League
Arizona: Justin Upton
Atlanta: Brian McCann
Chicago: Aramis Ramirez
Cincinnati: Joey Votto
Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki
Florida: Mike Stanton
Houston: Carlos Lee
Los Angeles: Matt Kemp
Milwaukee: Ryan Braun
New York: Jose Reyes
Philadelphia: Ryan Howard
Pittsburgh: Andrew McCutchen
St. Louis: Albert Pujols
San Diego: Cameron Maybin
San Francisco: Pablo Sandoval
Washington: Michael Morse

Things were cut-and-dry for a lot of NL teams. It’s a shame Hunter Pence couldn’t get a nomination, considering that he was better than Lee in Houston and Howard in Philadelphia. Shane Victorino probably should have been the Phillies’ selection, but… yeah, fat chance.

St. Louis was the one I’d most argue against. Lance Berkman hit .301/.412/.547 to Pujols’ .299/.366/.541. That nearly 50-point difference in OBP is very significant, and Berkman only played in two fewer games over the course of the season.

I’m not going to complain about Maybin (.716 OPS). Chase Headley (.773 OPS) and Nick Hundley (.824 OPS) were considerably better hitters, but they played in 113 and 82 games, respectively.

Phillies’ 6-run ninth tops Cardinals in 6-3 wild-card win

phillies wild card
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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ST. LOUIS — Philadelphia scored six times in the ninth inning off the stingy St. Louis bullpen, highlighted by a bases-loaded single by Jean Segura, and the Phillies beat the NL Central champion Cardinals 6-3 on Friday in the opening game of their National League wild-card series.

The Cardinals, who were 74-3 on the season when leading after eight innings, were poised to put away another close game after Juan Yepez connected for the first go-ahead pinch-hit homer in franchise history with two outs in the seventh inning.

But after struggling all afternoon against Jose Quintana and the St. Louis bullpen, the Phillies finally got their powerful offense going against Ryan Helsley. JT Realmuto began the ninth-inning rally with a single, and walks for Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos loaded the bases before the All-Star closer plunked Alec Bohm to score a run.

The Cardinals training staff came out to check on Helsley, who had jammed the middle finger on his pitching hand earlier in the week in Pittsburgh. He tried to throw another warmup pitch but was pulled for Andre Pallante, who gave up Segura’s hit through the right side of the infield that put Philadelphia in front.

Edmundo Sosa added a run when he brazenly scored on Bryson Stott‘s grounder to first base, and Brandon Marsh drove in another run when a tough hop got past Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong.

By the time Kyle Schwarber added a sacrifice fly, Phillies reliever Zach Eflin had plenty of wiggle room in the ninth.

It looked as if Eflin might need it, too, when Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson reached base and Nolan Gorman hit a two-out single to right. But Eflin responded by striking Yadier Molina to end the game, leaving Philadelphia a win away from facing NL East champion Atlanta in the divisional round.

There was a sentimental breeze sweeping through Busch Stadium before the game. Ozzie Smith cheerfully walked to the mound to deliver a ceremonial first pitch, and if the flag-waving Cardinals fans packed into every nook and cranny closed their eyes during introductions, they might have thought they were watching a game a generation ago.

After all, some familiar faces were in the lineup from the last time St. Louis and Philadelphia met in the playoffs.

That was 11 years ago to the day Friday, when the Cardinals beat the Phillies in a dramatic pitchers’ duel between Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay in Game 5 of the NL divisional series. Molina and Albert Pujols played for St. Louis that night while erstwhile ace Adam Wainwright, pitching out of the bullpen this series, also was there to celebrate.

Just like that night in Philadelphia, pitching dominated most of Friday’s series opener.

Quintana, who arrived in a deadline trade from Pittsburgh, was masterful for the Cardinals, allowing only a single to Matt Vierling and a double to Bohm while pitching into the sixth. His day was done after fanning Schwarber for the second time on his 75th pitch, handing the game over to a relief corps that had been downright dominant this season.

Zack Wheeler was the equal of Quintana, allowing a leadoff single to Lars Nootbaar and nothing else until Tommy Edman‘s leadoff single in the sixth. Edman was left stranded on third when Paul Goldschmidt grounded out.

Wheeler departed after retiring Arenado to start the seventh. He struck out four and walked one on 96 pitches, his most since Aug. 20, shortly before the right-hander landed on the injured list with forearm tendinitis.

Then it came down to the bullpens, and the Phillies managed to overcome one of the best in the game.

UP NEXT

The Phillies will try for the wild-card sweep on Saturday night when they send right-hander Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) to the mound. He was stellar his last time out against Houston in clinching Philadelphia’s wild-card playoff spot.

The Cardinals will turn to right-hander Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29 ERA) to force a decisive Game 3. Mikolas struggled in a tune-up out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh but allowed one earned run over his last two starts.