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Brooks Conrad Commits Three Errors Costing Braves in Game 3 Against Giants

Brooks Conrad was somewhat of a novelty for the Atlanta Braves this year. The 30-year-old backup infielder saw plenty of action with Chipper Jones in and out of the lineup and he got a starting spot when Martin Prado was knocked out for the year with an oblique injury. Of the eight home runs he hit this season, seven came in the 7th inning or later and plenty were walk-off winners. Despite all the goodwill he built up during the year, most, if not all of it was lost on Sunday.

Conrad committed three errors against the Giants and was one of the primary reasons the Braves lost Game 3 of the NLDS 3-2. Conrad’s first error came on the second batter of the game when he blew a fielder’s choice ground ball from Freddy Sanchez, allowing Andres Torres to reach second base. The Braves luckily escaped without allowing a run, but Brooks’ next two errors were more costly.

Right after Cody Ross tripled to lead off the second, Conrad dropped a popup in short right field. The error allowed Ross to score what was the only run of the game until the 8th. After Atlanta took the lead in the bottom of the 8th thanks to a two-run home run by Eric Hinske, Conrad made another blunder in the 9th.

With runners on first and second and two outs in the 9th, Buster Posey hit a soft liner that bounced just before it reached Conrad at second. Conrad was screened by the umpire and didn’t get his glove down until after the ball went through his legs, allowing a run to score. The miscue gave the Giants the lead 3-2, and Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless bottom half for the win.

I hate to single players out for their poor play, but Conrad’s three errors absolutely killed the Braves. It’s unfortunate that this is the first time many baseball fans are learning his name and that this may be his MLB legacy.

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Billy Wagner May Have Thrown His Last Major League Pitch

Billy Wagner announced in April that he would retire after the season ended, his 16th in the bigs. After saving 37 games and posting arguably his best season ever, nobody could have figured his career might have ended on such a sour note.

Coming in to pitch the bottom of the 10th inning in a 4-4 game between the Braves and Giants, Wagner initially hurt himself trying to field a perfectly executed drag bunt by Edgar Renteria. The next batter, Andres Torres, also bunted, sacrificing one back to Wagner. Billy barely got off the mound but he was able to field the bunt and make the throw to first to get the out. It was clear that Wagner was hurting after the play and he left the game clinching his side. Kyle Farnsworth replaced him and loaded up the bases, leading to one of the game’s most critical plays when Buster Posey grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

The Braves went on to win the game thanks to a home run by Rick Ankiel in the top of the 11th and a successful half inning by Farnsworth, but they lost Wagner for the rest of the series. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says Wagner is out at least the rest of the series with a strained oblique and will be replaced on the roster by Takashi Saito. Based on playoff roster rules, Wagner will be ineligible to return until the World Series. That means Wagner’s career came to an end on that pitch to Andres Torres in Game 2. Unless the Braves make it to the World Series. Or Billy Wagner decides to postpone retirement.

I don’t know what the outcome will be in the situation, but I do know that if that was the last Major League pitch Billy Wagner ever threw, it sure was one crappy way for one of the best closers in history to go out. He deserved much better than that.

Chase Utley Faked Hit-by-Pitch and Scored Illegitimate Run

In the same inning that the Phillies busted open Game 2 of the NLDS thanks to a critical error by Jay Bruce, they were also the recipients of a few other nice breaks. Second baseman Chase Utley led off the 7th against flamethrower Aroldis Chapman. Chapman went up and in on Utley on an errant pitch and Utley was awarded first after acting like he was hit. The trajectory of the ball did not change after crossing the plate, nor did it appear as if Utley was even grazed by the ball. Still, he pulled a Jeter and acted like he got hit and was awarded first. Let me just say that if Utley were indeed hit by a 100-mph pitch, he would not have recovered as quickly as he did. In case you haven’t seen the play, judge for yourself courtesy of this gif from SB Nation:

Utley_medium

Asked after the game if the pitch hit him, Utley responded “I’m not sure.” I think that settles the matter.

But that’s not the end of the bad calls from the inning!

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Jay Bruce Losing Ball in Lights, Towels on Error Cost Reds Big Time

Just over a week ago, Reds fans were celebrating Jay Bruce who hit a walk-off home run to beat the Astros and send Cincinnati to the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Now, many of those same fans are cursing his name.

The 23-year-old outfielder made a critical error in Game 2 of the Phillies-Reds NLDS that was eerily similar to Matt Holliday’s mistake for the Cardinals a year ago. With his team up 4-3 in the bottom of the 7th, Bruce missed a line drive to right with two men on. Both Chase Utley and Jayson Werth scored on the play, allowing the Phillies to take the lead 5-4. The play was routine but Bruce probably lost the ball in the lights or white rally towels that make it difficult to spot the ball.

As if Bruce’s error wasn’t enough, Brandon Phillips also dropped the relay throw from the outfield allowing Werth to score uncontested. If he had made a quick turn and accurate throw, the game may have been tied.

Bruce’s mistake may have taken the Reds out of the series, but don’t expect any forgiveness from Reds fans. Many of their followers on twitter wasted no time bashing the young outfielder even before the team had actually lost the game:

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‘Year of the Pitcher’ Continues to Hold True in the Postseason

People are calling 2010 the “Year of the Pitcher” in professional baseball.  They’re right.  The regular season saw no-hitters from Edwin Jackson, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez and perfect games from Roy Halladay and Dallas Braden.  Several others, most notably Armando Gallaraga who was hosed by the ump, came unbelievably close.

Cliff Lee kicked off the 2010 postseason by dominating the Rays on Wednesday and scattering five hits through seven innings of work.  His staff-mate, C.J. Wilson, was equally effective the following day and allowed only two hits to the Rays while leading the Rangers to a 6-0 victory.  How about Roy Halladay?  The Doc tossed a no-hitter in his first ever playoff start on Wednesday.  No big deal.  Tim Lincecum nearly duplicated the feat when he threw a complete game shutout and struck out 14 Thursday night to lead the Giants over the Braves.

Perhaps it’s the ultimate signal that the Steroid Era is behind us.  Maybe we just happen to be witnessing an influx of unbelievable pitching talent.  It’s not like these pitchers are dominating poor lineups; this is the playoffs.  Only four teams from each league make the playoffs in baseball.  Good pitching normally beats good hitting, but not like this.  The Reds were the NL’s best offense through the regular season, yet Halladay made them look like the Mariners on Wednesday.

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Ranking the MLB Playoff Starting Pitchers

You’re probably familiar with the old baseball saying “good pitching stops good hitting.” The reason you’ve heard it is because it’s true — the best pitchers can shut down any offense when they’re on. Just look at Roy Halladay who no-hit the NL’s best offense in Game 1 of the NLDS.

With that performance in mind, I decided to rank the starting pitchers for all eight playoff teams. I only ranked the top three starters for each team except in the cases where teams have a scheduled fourth starter. The three criteria I used were domination, this season, and experience. Here’s my explanation for each quality:

Domination – The ability of a pitcher to take over a game and be un-hittable. Guys who throw lots of shutouts, work deep into games, and strike opposing batters out were rewarded. The frequency of domination is weighted heavily (the reason why Roy Halladay is a 10 while Matt Garza is an 8 though each threw no-hitters this year).

This Season – How the pitcher is doing this year. This is important because some guys might not be proven but may be having good years, while some proven pitchers are having bad years.

Experience – Speaks for itself. Both playoff experience and regular season experience are factored in. Andy Pettitte is a 10 for obvious reasons. Roy Halladay still gets a 7 because he’s been around for so long, pitched in the AL East most of his career, and still has made some pressure starts.

MLB Playoffs Starting Pitcher Rankings

Rays Burned After Controversial Michael Young Check Swing

If the Buster Posey stolen base was the controversy of Game 1 between the Braves and Giants, then Michael Young’s check swing was the equivalent in the Rays/Rangers ALDS. Young was up with men on first and second in the 5th inning and facing reliever Chad Qualls. Young had two strikes on him and appeared to go around on a check swing that would have resulted in a strikeout. On the appeal to the first base umpire, Young was ruled safe and got to continue his at-bat. Young belted the next pitch to deep center for a three-run home run giving the Rangers a 5-0 lead. They went on to win 6-0 and take a 2-0 ALDS lead on the Rays. In case you missed it, here’s the controversial check swing:

While the call was wrong, the Rays have less of a gripe than the Braves. Tampa Bay was already down 2-0 and has only managed one run in the entire series. Even if Young was punched out (as he should have been), Josh Hamilton singled and that would have scored a run to make it 3-0. Besides, the Rays need to hit — they’ve only scored one run in two games. Their inability to score consistently plagued them during the season and seems to be their problem in the postseason.