Stats & Info: C.J. Wilson

Four stats you’ll likely hear quite a bit more about on tonight’s "Sunday Night Baseball" matchup between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Chicago White Sox on ESPN.

1-- This game features a pair of starters who successfully transitioned from the bullpen in recent years. Chris Sale and C.J. Wilson are two of the three pitchers since 2005 who won 15 games in a season following only relief appearances (the other was Ryan Dempster).

Sale and Wilson both rank among the top five among AL lefties in strikeouts since the start of last season. Sale is third with 234. Wilson is fifth with 217.

Sale enters 11-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 17 career starts at home and 8-0 with a 3.13 ERA against AL West foes. He wins on the strength of a slider that has netted 129 strikeouts, third-most in the majors in the past two seasons.

2-- The easiest way to sum up the Angels’ woes: Entering Saturday, Josh Hamilton had driven in Albert Pujols just once all season. Hamilton is 3-for-29 with runners in scoring position this season and 3-for-35 versus lefties.

As much as Hamilton has struggled, he’s actually produced more than Albert Pujols did in the Angels’ first 36 games last year. He was hitting .197 with 1 home runs, but broke out in Game No. 37 and hit .312 with 29 homers the rest of the way.

The Angels have the lowest BA in the MLB from the 3 and 4 spots in the order combined (.214).

You can take a look at Hamilton's struggles here and in the interactive heat map above.

3-- Mike Trout got off to a bit of a slow start both on offense and defense. But Trout is hitting .356 (16-for-45) with four home runs and seven multi-hit games in his past 11 games.

On the defensive side, Trout has been charged with costing his team two runs in left field and one run in center (-3 defensive runs saved). Trout ranked second among major league center fielders last season with 23 defensive runs saved.

Trout was the premier home-run robber in the majors last season, pilfering four would-be longballs. He’s yet to steal one from over the fence in 2013.

4-- The White Sox offense has sputtered this season. It ranks in the AL basement across the board in the slashline stats-- batting average (.227), on-base percentage (.278), and slugging percentage (.370).

The White Sox have three batting-title qualifiers currently hitting below .200. They rank last in the AL in runs per game and strike out at a higher rate than any other team.

Anniversary of Josh Hamilton's 4 HR game

May, 8, 2013
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ESPN Stats & InformationMore payroll hasn't translated to more wins for the Angels.
One year ago today, May 8, Josh Hamilton went 5-for-5 with four home runs and eight RBI against the Baltimore Orioles.

That seems like a long time ago, especially considering Hamilton's early-season struggles with the Los Angeles Angels.

So, the one-year anniversary seems like an opportune time to revisit Hamilton specifically and the struggles of the Angels as a whole.

This time a year ago, Hamilton seemed to be well on his way to his second American League MVP award. However, last June Hamilton went into a tailspin that not only hasn’t stopped, but it’s getting progressively worse.

Baseball Tonight analyst Aaron Boone brought up a good point last week: Hamilton is becoming increasingly more aggressive and it’s having a detrimental effect on his production.

The rate at which he’s chasing pitches out of the strike zone has increased in each of the last four seasons: 35 percent in 2010; 37.5 percent in 2011; and north of 42 percent in both 2012 and 2013.

It would be one thing if Hamilton was effective at hitting pitches out of the zone, but that’s no longer the case (see second chart).

In addition, there’s a huge chasm in Hamilton’s approach and his success with it. No player swings at the first pitch more often than Hamilton (51.4 percent), yet his performance in 0-0 counts (.280) is well below the league average (.357).

The result thus far in 2013? Hamilton has been among the least productive position players this season. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is -1.0, tied for the third worst this season among position players.

As for the Angels, they have shown a willingness to spend money on high-profile free agents; however, the increase in payroll has not led to a better product on the field.

With the exception of pitcher Jered Weaver, the Angels’ spending hasn’t been to lock up homegrown players but to acquire high-profile free agents.

In the last two offseasons, the Angels have committed $480 million to free agents, $152 million more than the next closest team, the Detroit Tigers ($328 million). More than $440 million of that went to Hamilton, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. And all three players have been showing signs of decline.

In 2010, Hamilton, Pujols and Wilson combined for a 20.8 WAR. Last season it was 9.4, and so far in 2013 their combined WAR is -0.8.

Trout's WAR a Hall of Fame head start

September, 19, 2012
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US PresswireMike Trout is having a historic season this year.
The Los Angeles Angels kept pace in the AL Wild Card race with an 11-3 rout of the Texas Rangers Tuesday night and are now just three games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second Wild Card spot.

But the road is arguably much tougher for the Angels, who have eight games left against teams with winning records, compared to three for the Orioles.

The Rangers held onto their three-game lead in the AL West despite the loss as the Oakland Athletics lost in Detroit on Tuesday night. Texas has been in first place for all but two days this season.

The Amazing Trout
Need any more evidence that Trout is having a historical season?

Trout has 10.3 Wins Above Replacement this season, tied for the 25th-best single-season total in MLB history. Only 14 other position players have posted a WAR that high, and all but one of them is in the Hall of Fame (Barry Bonds).

The last position player to have at least 10 WAR in a single season was Barry Bonds in 2004 and the last centerfielder to do it was Willie Mays in 1964.

His 10.3 WAR are the most by any position player in his age 20 season or younger (age as of June 30). The only pitcher in the modern era (since 1900) to have a 10-WAR season was Dwight Gooden, who posted 11.9 WAR in 1985.

On the mound
C.J. Wilson has been unbeatable in September (2-0, 2.55 ERA) but has struggled against his former team, the Rangers, this season. He is winless with a 7.27 ERA in four starts against them, his second-worst ERA vs any team in 2012 (7.36 vs Red Sox).

The Rangers have crushed his four-seam fastball and cutter, hitting .380 and slugging .560 in 50 at-bats ending in those two pitches this season. He has held the rest of the league to a .242 batting average against his cutter and fastball.

Derek Holland hasn’t had much success against the Angels this year, with 12 earned runs and five homers allowed in just 13⅓ innings over two starts. Albert Pujols and Mike Trout have each took him deep twice this season.

However, Holland is undefeated in his last seven starts with a 2.98 ERA in that span and has thrown a quality start in each of his last five outings.

One key to his unbeaten streak has been his ability to get righties out, who are hitting just .190 against him in those seven starts. In his first six starts after coming off the DL they tagged him for a .263 average.

He has increased his frequency of pitches on the outer third of the plate to righties in his last seven outings and that strategy has paid off for him. He’s held right-handed batters to a .154 average in at-bats ending in pitches away in his last seven starts, nearly 100 points lower than in his first six post-DL starts.

Darvish's curveball is almost unhittable

May, 11, 2012
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Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireRookie Yu Darvish and the Rangers will get their first look at Albert Pujols in an Angels uniform.
The American League West was supposed to be a two-team race between the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels.

However, not only are the Angels in last place in the West, but they are seven games behind the first-place Rangers.

The series begins Friday with C.J. Wilson making his return to Texas after signing the largest free agent contract by a starting pitcher in the offseason. And a big matchup will be how Wilson handles the red-hot Josh Hamilton, who has hit six home runs in his last four games.

Wilson hasn’t been one of the American League’s elite pitchers against left-handed hitters, but he’s been better than most. Lefties are hitting .174 and slugging .239 against Wilson. He’s also struck out 36 percent of the left-handed hitters he’s faced (18-50) and allowed only one home run.

Hamilton is hitting .381 against left-handed pitching with four home runs.

Opposing Wilson will be Yu Darvish, who signed the second-largest contract by a starting pitcher in the offseason.

Darvish has many pitches, including two different curveballs. Almost 15 percent of Darvish’s pitches this season (98 of 661) have been curveballs, and opponents are hitting just .059 against it. That’s the lowest batting average this season against a pitcher who has thrown at least 75 curveballs.

Darvish has been tough on right-handed hitters this season (.196 BA, 9-46), which does not bode well for the struggling Albert Pujols.

Based on the numbers, Pujols can expect to see a heavy diet of off-speed pitches from Darvish. Pujols is hitting .239 against fastballs and .125 against off-speed pitches (changeups, curves, sliders).

As good as Darvish is against righties, left-handed bats have teed off on his fastball. Left-handed batters are hitting .457 against his heater, another reason why the Angels might see a lot of off-speed pitches from Darvish.
Left: Where Trevor Cahill struggled/succeeeded with his sinker (2010)
Right: Where Cahill struggled/succeeded (2011)
Click here to create your own Cahill heat maps
Each Sunday, ESPN Stats & Information reviews significant moves from the past week.

Diamondbacks trade with Athletics for P Trevor Cahill
Cahill is coming off a disappointing season, in which his ERA rose more than a run from 2010, even though his strikeout-to-walk ratio and home run rate were almost identical in both seasons.

The difference in Cahill’s performance over the last two seasons was a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) that rose from an MLB-low .236 in 2010 to .302 in 2011.

Was his 4.16 ERA last year a product of bad luck?

Cahill is a ground-ball specialist, ranking first among AL starters in ground ball rate over the last two seasons (56.4 percent).

Last season, he struggled to locate his signature sinker down in the zone, especially against righties.

Only one-third of his sinkers thrown to right-handed hitters in 2011 were located in the lower-third of the strike zone or below the knees, compared to 43 percent in 2010.

The effectiveness of the pitch was much worse last season compared to the previous year, as noted in the chart on the right.

Cahill continued to challenge hitters with his sinker in 2011 despite its ineffectiveness, throwing it more than 50 percent of the time compared to less than 40 percent in 2010.

Cahill recorded double-digit ground outs in just two of his 14 starts in the second half, after doing so in half of his 20 starts before the break.

The heat map at the top of this piece shows the difference in the effectiveness of Cahill’s sinker in each of the last two seasons.
--Katie Sharp

Angels sign C.J. Wilson
Wilson pitched like an ace last year, with the fourth-highest WAR and seventh-best ERA among AL pitchers.

There is a thought that in 2012 Wilson could post even better numbers than he did in 2011, when his ERA ranked seventh-best.

He’ll be moving from the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark to Angel Stadium, which last year reduced run-scoring by an AL-high 16 percent according to ESPN.com’s Park Factors.

However, Wilson must now face the Texas Rangers lineup likely four or five times in 2012. The Rangers ranked among the AL’s top three in batting average, slugging percentage, runs and OPS.

Last year, just four of his 34 starts came against the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Detroit Tigers, which ranked first, second and fourth, respectively in OPS in the league.

Via Baseball Prospectus, the opposing hitters that Wilson faced had a combined .728 OPS, lowest among pitchers who threw at least 150 innings last season.

Wilson could be replacing his six starts against the Angels with six against the Rangers. He had a solid 2.65 ERA against his current team last season, but will be challenged to repeat that against Texas in 2012.

Last season 17 pitchers made at least three starts against the Rangers. Only four of them posted an ERA below four, led by Cahill’s 3.10 in six starts.
--Katie Sharp

Brewers sign SS Alex Gonzalez
The Milwaukee Brewers signed Gonzalez to replace Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.

It's an even move offensively; Gonzalez has a career on-base percentage of .291 and slugging percentage of .399. Betancourt’s career numbers are .292 and .391, respectively.

But over the past two seasons -- according to Baseball Info Solutions’ stat Defensive Runs Saved -- Gonzalez has saved his teams 31 runs. Betancourt has cost his team 27.

If we use the sabermetric value of 10 runs equaling a win, that means Gonzalez has been worth nearly six more wins than Betancourt over the past two seasons with his glove alone.

That’s a big upgrade for a team that had its share of defensive issues during the postseason after finishing 11th in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved in 2011.
-- John Fisher

C.J. Wilson is in position to cash in big

November, 1, 2011
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C.J. Wilson
Wilson
Despite going 0-3 with a 6.08 ERA in five postseason starts, Texas Rangers ace C.J. Wilson is in a great position this offseason. Wilson is the best starter available on the free agent market, now that CC Sabathia signed an extension with the New York Yankees. His case is aided by the recent history of free-agent spending on starting pitchers.

Going back to the offseason prior to 2006, there have been nine contracts of $50 million or more given to starting pitchers. Excluding Daisuke Matsuzaka -- since he had no major-league statistics to compare prior to coming to MLB -- Wilson’s seasons leading into free agency compare well.

Derek Lowe, Ryan Dempster and Gil Meche are poor comparisons given pre-free agency track record and the return expected around the industry. Wilson will be in his age-31 season in 2012. He’s accumulated 10.5 Wins Above Replacement in the two seasons preceding his free agency, third behind only Sabathia and Lee during the period being analyzed.

Interestingly enough, the three best-compensated pitchers during this period are all left-handers. Barry Zito’s contract is considered among the worst ideas of all-time, which seems to place Wilson in the “gap” between the Sabathia/Lee class and the Burnett/Lackey class.

Wilson’s 10.5 WAR is 29.6 percent higher than Burnett’s 8.1 mark prior to his free agency. If you scale that relative to Burnett's contract, Wilson could expect to receive $21 million per season.

On the flip side, Wilson contributed 76.1 percent of what Lee did prior to his free agency. Based on that, he’d be expected to receive $18 million per season. Splitting the difference, Wilson could be looking at a contract with an average annual value of $19.5 million, or $97.5 million in a five-year deal.

His agent can argue Wilson is superior to the likes of John Lackey and A.J. Burnett -- even without the aid of hindsight -- and thus we’re already starting to look at contracts approaching $90 million.

As we saw with Jayson Werth this past offseason, it only takes one team to change the expected market for a player. As such, don’t be surprised if the Rangers ace lands one of the richest contracts in the history of the sport for his position, particularly given the idea that he has so few innings on his arm relative to most pitchers who reach free agency.

How Wilson's struggled, Carpenter's won

October, 24, 2011
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Left: Where C.J. Wilson threw his fastball most often to right-handed hitters through Sept. 11.
Right: Where Wilson threw his fastball most frequently to righties in Game 1 of the World Series.
Click here to create your own Wilson heat maps and images.

The pivotal nature of Game 5 in a best-of-7 World Series knotted at 2-2 can be seen in the following stat: The Game 5 winner in such situations has won the World Series 26 out of a possible 39 times, or two-thirds of the time. So it's apt that each team has its ace on the mound heading into this contest.

Let's take a closer look at some of the keys to Monday's game.

The Starters: A closer look
C.J. Wilson lost Game 1 and fell to 0-3 this postseason largely because of problems locating his fastball.

Against right-handed hitters, he threw just 13 of 27 fastballs for strikes (48 percent), a rate below his season average of 62 percent.
C.J. Wilson
Wilson
Missing with his fastball not only led Wilson to use the cutter more often (44 percent of his pitches to right-handers were cutters, a season-high), but allowed St. Louis to sit on that pitch and drive it.

Of the Cardinals' 17 swings against cutters in Game 1, they made contact on every one -- fouling off eight pitches and putting nine of them in play. Three of those nine went for hits, including David Freese's 6th-inning double that would ultimately be the game-winning run.

The heat maps at the top of the story show the primary location of Wilson's fastball to right-handed batters. The image on the left shows the primary location to them through the date of his last win, September 11. The image on the right shows a change: how Wilson primarily located that pitch in Game 1 of the World Series.
Chris Carpenter
Carpenter

One of the reasons that Chris Carpenter was successful in Game 1 of the World Series was his pitch location to left-handed hitters. Lefties were 0-for-7 against him in that contest.

Carpenter worked inside and outside to lefties with great effectiveness. He threw only one pitch that landed over the middle-third of the plate, width-wise (his other 26 were inside or outside). He got strikes with 11 of the 16 pitches he threw away from a left-handed hitters and twice got Josh Hamilton out with pitches located over the inner-third of home plate.

History Watch
Wilson is chasing history in a bad way. Another loss would make him the first pitcher to lose four times in a single postseason (20 different pitchers have lost three times, including Tom Glavine twice).

Wilson is also looking to avoid this list of pitchers who have gone winless in eight or more straight postseason starts: Al Leiter (11), Dwight Gooden (9), Gary Nolan (9), Randy Johnson (9) and Charles Nagy (8).

Meanwhile, Carpenter can become only the third pitcher in the last 10 seasons to win four consecutive starts within one postseason. According to Elias, the only pitchers to do that over the last decade (2002-2011) were Josh Beckett (2007 Red Sox) and Cole Hamels (2008 Phillies).

From a team perspective, the Cardinals have won their last five postseason Game 5s. The only team in major league history with a longer streak is the Phillies, who won seven straight from 1995 to 2010. The Rangers have lost their last three.

Matchup to Watch
Mike Napoli clubbed a 415-foot opposite field homer against Carpenter in Game 1, the third-longest opposite field home run hit in 2011. He's now 4-for-5 with two home runs against Carpenter.

US Presswire
C.J. Wilson and Chris Carpenter get the call in Game 1 of the 107th World Series. Carpenter is 1 win shy of tying for the most wins by an active pitcher in postseason play.

The 107th World Series begins Wednesday with the Texas Rangers visiting the St. Louis Cardinals. The AL has won 62 of the previous 106 series and the winner of Game 1 has won seven of eight and 12 of the last 14. There have been 102 Best-of-7 World Series. The winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the World Series 64 times (62.7 percent).

The Rangers are the first team lose the World Series and return the following season since the 1992 Atlanta Braves (who lost to the Toronto Blue Jays a year after losing to the Minnesota Twins). The last three AL teams to return to the Fall Classic a year after a loss have gone on to win the World Series. The last AL team to lose back-to-back World Series was the New York Yankees in 1963 and 1964.

The Cardinals are in their 18th World Series, tied for the second-most all-time with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cardinals are making their third World Series appearance since the start of the 2004 season, the most of any team in that span.

On the Mound
C.J. Wilson gets the nod for Texas. Wilson has not enjoyed recent postseason success as he is 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three starts this postseason. According to Elias, the only other time a Game 1 starter in the World Series had lost two previous games in that postseason was Tom Glavine for the Braves in 1992. He was 0-2 heading into his Game 1 start against the Blue Jays. He pitched a complete game and won.

A major problem for Wilson has been the long ball, as he has allowed six homers this postseason after giving up just 16 in 223⅓ innings during the regular season.

Chris Carpenter takes the mound for the Cardinals. Carpenter has seven career postseason wins which is one shy of Mariano Rivera for the most among active pitchers. The seven wins are also tied with Bob Gibson for the most in Cardinals history.

Carpenter will face a Rangers lineup that includes six regulars who bat right-handed. Carpenter’s main secondary pitch versus righties is a tight-breaking slider that sits in the high-80s. Carpenter likes to work his slider down and away to get hitters to expand their strike zone. However, he faces a tough challenge in a Rangers lineup that features some of the most disciplined hitters in the league against sliders.

Carpenter got right-handed hitters to chase 47 percent of his sliders that were out of the zone during the regular season, a mark that ranked in the top three in baseball among qualified righties. However, Rangers righties combined to chase just 24 percent of the sliders they saw, led by Michael Young, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli. Each of them ranked in the top six in the league in chasing the lowest percentage of sliders against righties.

Stat of the Game
With frost and freeze warnings posted across much of Missouri and temperatures expected in the 40s for Game 1, it’s worth pointing out that neither team is used to these conditions. There were 39 games this season that were played at a game-time temperature of 100 or higher, with 27 of those games being played in Arlington.

The Cardinals played 15 games (10 at home) where the listed boxscore temperature was below 60. They went 5-10 in those games. The Rangers played 13 games with a boxscore temperature below 60, going 5-8 in those contests. All of those were on the road.

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
After winning his postseason debut in the 2010 ALDS, C.J. Wilson is 0-3 in his last five playoff starts.

The Texas Rangers can advance to the World Series for the second straight year with a win in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

If the Rangers win, they would be the first AL team to play in consecutive World Series since the New York Yankees played in four straight from 1998-2001. Before last season, the Rangers had never won a playoff series and had one win in 10 all-time postseason games.

On the Mound
C.J. Wilson takes the hill for Texas, looking to end a five-start winless streak in the playoffs (0-3, 5.86 ERA over that span). Wilson won his first career playoff game in the 2010 ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays – allowing no runs on two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts in 6⅓ innings.

For the Tigers, ace Justin Verlander will take the mound, trying to extend Detroit’s season. Verlander has struggled in the playoffs this season, going 1-1 with a 5.54 ERA. Taking away the one inning he pitched in the postponed Game 1 ALDS against the Yankees, Verlander has allowed seven earned runs in his last two starts. In fact, over his career, Verlander’s postseason ERA is more than two runs higher than the regular season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Verlander posted a 16-3 record in the regular season following a Tigers loss. That was the most such wins for any pitcher since 1972, when Steve Carlton won 19 games after a Philadelphia Phillies loss.

Player to Watch
Nelson Cruz is hitting .357 (5-for-14) with one double, four HR and nine RBI in this series. Seven of his nine RBI have come in the ninth inning alone!

Cruz hit his fourth HR of the series Wednesday night (in the 11th inning it should be noted). No one else on Texas has homered in the first four games of the series. According to Elias, if no different Rangers player clears the fence in the rest of the series, Cruz would be the second player to hit four home runs in a postseason series in which his teammates failed to hit even one.

The only player to do that was Babe Ruth, who homered four times in the 1926 World Series, while the rest of the Yankees went without a long ball. Willie Stargell and Rusty Staub are next on the list with three - Stargell in the 1979 World Series, Staub in the 1973 NLCS.

Stat of the Game
The Tigers have trailed three games to one in a seven-game series four times in franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Detroit came back to win such a series once, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the 1968 World Series. In the other three instances - the 2006 World Series, 1987 ALCS, and 1908 World Series - the Tigers lost Game Five to end the series.
Rookie Matt Moore -- 22 years old and making just his second career major-league start -- threw seven shutout innings, allowing two hits, and the Tampa Bay Rays took Game 1 of the ALDS from the Texas Rangers 9-0.

At 22 years, 104 days, Moore is the youngest American League starting pitcher to throw at least seven scoreless innings in a postseason win since Bret Saberhagen's shutout in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.

Moore passed Vida Blue (1971 Athletics) as the youngest pitcher in AL history to start his team's first postseason game and became the least experienced starting pitcher in MLB postseason history (one career regular season start). He’s the youngest starting pitcher to win his team's first game of a postseason series, passing Gary Nolan of the 1970 Reds.

It’s the most runs scored in a Game 1 postseason shutout since the 1984 Chicago Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 13-0 in the NLCS. Johnny Damon got the scoring started with a second-inning home run, the 10th of his postseason career. He broke a tie with Barry Bonds (among others) and tied such notables as Lou Gehrig, Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench and George Brett.

Kelly Shoppach added two homers and five RBI, just the second catcher to ever put up a line like that in postseason history -- the other was Bench in the 1976 World Series at Yankee Stadium. It's the 22nd time a player has had two HR and 5 RBI in a postseason game -- others on the list include Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Kirk Gibson and Ryan Howard.

His second home run, which came in the fifth inning, went 432 feet -- just three feet farther than his first of the night. It’s the longest home run of the season for Shoppach and the longest that C.J. Wilson allowed this year.

Wilson set a Rangers postseason team record with eight runs allowed and falls to 1-3 in his postseason career. The Rangers, who set a Live Ball Era record for slugging percentage in the month of September, matched their season-low for hits in a game (two against the Twins on June 12) and their fewest hits in any postseason game (two in Game 1 of 1999 ALDS).

Looking ahead, teams that win Game 1 of an LDS have won the series 47 of 64 times in the wild-card era (since 1995).

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
Matt Moore makes his second career start against the Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS.

Just two days removed from completing the greatest September rally in MLB history, the Tampa Bay Rays look to build on their strong finish against the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series.

Inside the Series
This is a rematch of last year’s ALDS, a series Texas won in five games. The series was unique in that it was the first in postseason history where the road team won every game.

The Rangers edged the Rays during the regular season, taking five of the nine meetings.

Rangers catcher Mike Napoli proved a particularly tough out against Tampa Bay this season, batting .407 with three home runs.

On the Mound
Taking the mound for the Rays will be left-hander Matt Moore, a September call-up who began this season as the top pitching prospect in all of baseball.

Moore has made only one career start (with two appearances out of the bullpen), going 5.0 innings while allowing no runs on four hits, 1 walk and 11 strikeouts against the New York Yankees on Sept. 22 at Yankee Stadium.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Moore’s one career start is the fewest by a Game 1 starter in MLB postseason history.

Texas brings its own lefty to the mound in Game 1, sending C.J. Wilson to the hill. Wilson’s 2.56 ERA after the All-Star Break was second-best in the AL, behind Doug Fister (2.47). He had a 1.21 ERA in September and is 4-0 as a starter in his career against the Rays, combining regular season and the playoffs.

Getting Defensive
These teams ranked in the top four in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved this season – Tampa Bay was first, Texas was fourth. The strengths of these teams defensively have come at second, short and third base.

Ben Zobrist (17) and Ian Kinsler (16) ranked 1-2 in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved at second base. Elvis Andrus (13) ranked third in the majors, Elliot Johnson (11) ranked tied for fifth and Reid Brignac (8) tied for seventh among shortstops. Among third basemen, Adrian Beltre (17) ranked second in the majors and Evan Longoria (12) was fifth.

Stat of the Game
While the Rays dominated headlines for their late-season surge, they aren’t the only team in this series coming off a noteworthy September. The Rangers closed the book on the regular season with a .544 slugging percentage in September, the highest slugging percentage by a team in September in the live-ball era (since 1920).
Two aces squared off in Anaheim Thursday afternoon, and though the Angels emerged as the 1-0 winners against the Rangers, both Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson pitched like Cy Young candidates.

Weaver tossed seven scoreless innings for his 12th straight quality start. That’s the third-longest streak in a single season by an Angels pitcher, behind a 14-gamer in 1977 by Frank Tanana and a 13-start streak by Bert Blyleven in 1989.

Weaver recorded 18 swings-and-misses, his second-highest total this season, and kept the Rangers guessing, with nine misses on fastballs and nine on off-speed pitches.

C.J. Wilson threw a two-hitter but took the complete game loss as the lone run was scored on an error. He’s the first pitcher to a lose a complete game with zero earned runs and two hits or fewer allowed since the Yankees’ Kenny Rogers did it on May 28, 1996 against the Angels.

Wilson did his best to keep the Angels from scoring, allowing zero hits in nine at-bats with runners on base, including three strikeouts.

It was the first win for the Angels with two-or-fewer hits since May 1, 2005 against the Twins, and the first loss for the Rangers allowing fewer than three hits since Aug. 15, 1989 against the Mariners.

Later in the night, two more aces battled in a pitchers’ duel, with James Shields and the Rays winning a tight 2-1 game over CC Sabathia and the Yankees at the Trop.

james Shields
Shields
Shields dominated with his changeup, as the Yankees went 0-for-11 in at-bats ending in the pitch. Shields was also effective in finishing off the Yankees, retiring 15 of the 16 batters that reached a two-strike count on him.

Sabathia went the distance but saw his seven-start win streak end, though he continued his hot pitching, and is now 5-1 with a 0.76 ERA and 58 strikeouts over his last six starts.

Elsewhere around the diamond
•  Justin Verlander continued his stellar season, throwing eight innings of one-run ball against the Twins. Verlander relied on his fastball, throwing it nearly 66 percent of the time, his highest usage this season. He kept his heater out of harm's way, as 42 of his 83 fastballs were out of the strike zone, and the Twins went just 1-for-7 when putting those in play.

•  Seattle Mariners lost 7-5 to the Toronto Blue Jays, extending their losing streak to 12 games. That matches the second-longest losing streak in team history, behind only a 14-game streak in 1992.

•  The Tigers' 6-2 win over the Twins was their 10th straight vs Minnesota. That’s the longest win streak by Detroit over the Twins franchise in team history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

•  Atlanta Braves came back from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Colorado Rockies 9-6 in Denver. Craig Kimbrel earned his 30th save of the season, tying the Braves rookie record set by Kerry Ligtenberg in 1998.
The National League made it two wins in a row at the All-Star Game for the first time since it won three straight from 1994-96, with a 5-1 victory at Chase Field Tuesday night. Before last season's win, the NL had been winless in 13 straight All-Star Games.

Prince Fielder
Fielder
It’s the first time since a 9-4 AL win in 2004 that the game has been decided by more than two runs, and it’s the largest victory margin for the NL since a 6-0 win in 1996. The NL has allowed just one run in each of the last two contests, the first time they’ve done that since 1984 and 1985.

This marks the sixth consecutive All-Star Game in which the winning team has not scored more than five runs. That matches the longest such streak in the history of the game, set from 1986-91.

Prince Fielder put the NL in the lead for good with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fourth inning. He’s the first Brewer to homer in an All-Star Game and the sixth player in the last 35 seasons to hit a three-run homer or a grand slam in the Midsummer Classic. The last to do it was Alfonso Soriano in 2004.

Fielder earned MVP honors for his performance, becoming the first Brewer to be named MVP at the All-Star Game and just the fourth first baseman to win the award.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Fielder is the fourth son of a major-leaguer to win All-Star Game MVP. The others are Ken Griffey Jr (1992), Sandy Alomar (1997) and Roberto Alomar (1998).

Roy Halladay, who was the first pitcher to start an All-Star Game in both leagues, threw two perfect innings for the NL. In his first five All-Star appearances Halladay had been knocked around, allowing 13 hits in 29 at-bats.

The AL didn’t have a player reach base until the fourth inning, when Adrian Gonzalez homered, snapping a streak of 3⅔ perfect innings pitched by NL pitchers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the longest perfect game bid in an All-Star Game since a 4⅓ inning bid by the AL in 1986.

Gonzalez's home run was the first homer by either team in an All-Star game since J.D. Drew went yard in the seventh inning of the 2008 game. That ended a drought of 206 at-bats in the All-Star Game without a home run.

C.J. Wilson took the loss, allowing all three runs in the fourth inning. Wilson is the second Rangers pitcher to lose an All-Star Game, joining Jim Kern in 1979.

Tyler Clippard
Clippard
Tyler Clippard pitched a scoreless one-third of an inning for the win. He’s the fouth pitcher to win an All-Star Game in Nationals/Expos franchise history. Matt Capps won last year, Steve Rogers won in 1982 and Charlie Lea won in 1984.

Brian Wilson got the final two outs for the save. He’s the first Giants pitcher to get a save in an All-Star Game since the save became an official stat in 1969.

What does the National League’s win mean for the Senior Circuit team that reaches the World Series? Since 1985, the team with home-field advantage has won 20 of the last 25 World Series. And if it goes to a decisive Game 7, the home team has won each of the last eight times, with the last road win in a Game 7 by the 1979 Pirates.
We are only a few days away from the All-Star break and in the middle of summer, so it shouldn't be surprising that things got a little heated Friday.

In Boston, the Red Sox scored double-digits against the Orioles for the second straight game in a 10-3 win but the big story was the bench-clearing brawl featuring David Ortiz.
David Ortiz
Ortiz

The Sox designated hitter charged Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg and both were ejected after throwing (and missing with) punches. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Orioles reliever Jim Johnson were also tossed.

Earlier, Royals infielder Chris Getz was thrown out of his game with the Tigers. That increased the July ejection total to 21 in the month's first eight days.

In Philadelphia, two of the sport's hottest teams hooked up as the Phillies took on the Braves. In the 10th inning, Raul Ibanez's sixth career walk-off home run ended the Braves' four-game winning streak and gave the Phils their seventh win in the last 10 games.
Raul Ibanez
Ibanez

The victory increased Philadelphia's NL East lead to 3 games over Atlanta.

In the top of the 10th, Phillies reliever Juan Perez struck out the side on nine pitches. He is only the second pitcher in MLB history to accomplish that feat in an extra inning (Hollis Thurston, 1923) and he's the first Phillies pitcher to do it since Andy Ashby in 1991.

In Texas, the Rangers defeated the Athletics, 8-5, with a game-time temperature of 106 degrees. According to the Rangers, it was the highest temp ever recorded at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. C.J. Wilson stayed hot, too, improving his record to 5-0 in his last nine starts.
Roy Halladay
Halladay
Roy Halladay turned in another great performance Friday -- overcoming the Philadelphia Phillies' struggling offense -- to beat the Texas Rangers 3-2 as interleague play got underway.

Halladay allowed a run in the first inning for the first time all season, and didn't allow another one until the eighth, holding the Rangers to 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Since Halladay’s rookie season in 1998, he’s won 79 starts when he’s pitched eight or more innings. That’s the most in the majors in that span. Only four others are within 20 of that figure, two of which are active.

It's the 51st time he's thrown eight innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer since 2006, also most in the majors in that span. It's good news for the Phillies that two of his teammates are on the list.

Halladay threw 116 pitches and 79 of them were fastballs, which made his offspeed stuff even better. The Rangers went 0-for-10 with six strikeouts against his curveball and changeup -- five of the six strikeouts were swings and misses on pitches out of the strike zone.

The Phillies offense is in a funk right now so they are lucky that their ace was on Friday night. This was the seventh straight game that Philadelphia had six hits or fewer. That’s their longest such streak in the Live Ball Era (since 1920).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, you have to go all the way back to June of 1908 to find the last time the Phillies had a streak this long, when they scored six or fewer in nine consecutive games.

It's also their seventh straight game scoring three runs or fewer, which is tied for the longest streak of three runs or fewer AND six hits or fewer by any team in the divisional era (since 1969). One more game like that and they'll tie the 1930 St. Louis Browns for the longest such streak in the live ball era.

C.J. Wilson
Wilson
They managed only two at-bats with runners in scoring position all night, but thanks to two unlikely home runs, they came out on top. Ben Francisco homered for the first time in 19 games. He was hitting just .140 since his last home run.

Raul Ibanez, who entered the game just 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, took him deep in the fourth inning for the Phillies' deciding third run. Elias tells us that it snapped a 329 at-bat HR drought by lefties against Wilson, the longest such active streak in the majors at the time.

Things are so bad for the Phillies offense that slugger Ryan Howard is hitless in his past 23 at-bats, the longest such streak of his entire career.

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