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NL Playoff Preview and Players to Watch

Also check out Alan Hull’s AL Playoff Preview

As the season wraps up and the National League contenders begin to separate themselves from one another, here is a look at some key players to watch down the stretch and through October.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Derrek Lee: There is no better way to add zeroes to the back of your next contract than to perform in the post-season when the stakes are the highest and all of baseball is watching. Lee will be looking to sign one last lucrative contract after this season. He had an opportunity to reinvent himself upon being traded to Atlanta, with the hopes he would replace some of the production lost when Chipper Jones went down. Lee responded by hitting a decent .289/.375/.433 since the trade. He will get another chance to start over in October and a few big hits will go a long way for his financial future.

Tommy Hanson: Tim Hudson has had a big season for the Braves, but has faded a bit down the stretch. Hanson, however, is the Braves most talented pitcher and has flown under the radar due to a mediocre win-loss record. This post-season may be a coming-out party for the 23-year-old future ace.

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Jon Garland Changes Clubhouses, from Diamondbacks to Dodgers

Astros Diamondbacks BaseballOne of the simplest transactions in all of sports occurred Monday night at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers beat the post-season roster deadline of September 1st by acquiring Jon Garland from the Diamondbacks off waivers right around the 9pm PT cutoff time. The shift from Arizona to Los Angeles was pretty smooth for Garland considering the Diamondbacks are playing the Dodgers in a four-game series and all Garland had to do was switch dugouts mid-game.

“The hardest thing is keeping those emotions in check,” said Garland, who heard rumblings of a deal before Monday night’s game but was officially informed of the trade in the sixth inning. “I’ve gone to war with those guys the past five months, so it’s going to be different.” Garland said goodbye to his former teammates after the game, grabbed his equipment and walked down the hall to the Dodgers clubhouse.

“That might be the strangest part about it,” he said. “Finding out in the sixth or seventh inning, packing up and showering up, walking right across, it’s a little weird.

As if that’s not enough, Garland was scheduled to start for Arizona on Thursday and now he might be pitching against his team. Getting past the convenience of the situation, I not a big fan of the move. Sure McCourt got Arizona to pay all of Garland’s guaranteed millions (this year and next) but he did so by giving up a player (of course) believed to be Tony Abreu. If Hudson walks after the year, who’s going to play second? I think the rotation they have in place, including Charlie Haeger, isn’t improved by adding Garland. Does this move mean they’re not expecting to have Kuroda back at all? I guess so. Furthermore, I’m not sure exactly how much use the team can get out of Jim Thome, but what’s there not to like about his acquisition?

Bad Day to be Cuddyer, Worse to be Garland, Suicide Watch for Guillen

That was just the sort of embarrassing loss that could put people over the edge. After all, how often is it that your team gives up a 20 spot — in baseball no less. And how often is it that your team scores 14 runs, yes 14, only to lose? Not often is my guess. That’s why it was truly a crappy day for the White Sox. But here’s something I’m going to need some help with. How do you leave a pitcher in long enough to give up 12 runs — 11 earned?

I guess all you have to do is look one line further in the boxscore to find out. Rather take your chances with Garland than whatever schlub they had in the pen who was about to come in for the long relief and give up an additional six runs in three and a third.  So for Garland, probably the worst outing of his career — 12 runs, 11 earned over three and a third. His ERA jumped from 3.15 to 3.92 in one freaking game. That’s really bad. Like Ozzie says, if he doesn’t have anyone in his pen who can do the job, to whom does he turn?Â

Another thing to check out. Michael Cuddyer. How much does it suck when your team bangs out 20 runs, and you go 0-for-6. Those are the types of games that pad your stats for the entire week. Not Cuddyer. Everyone on the team is probably happier than shit, and he’s over in a corner in the dugout watching video wondering how he took an ofer.Â

Which brings me to last but not least, Ozzie Guillen. This game was probably a microcosm of the entire White Sox season.  Whatever can go wrong did go wrong.  Your offense finally wakes up, but then it’s your most reliable pitcher who gets blown up. As does the bullpen. And your fielding? Five errors. Pfffh. I’m sure Ozzie enjoyed that show. Anywhoo, I’m usually not one to break down the significance of individual games in a 162-game-season, but if I know anything, I’d guess that this was the final straw for the White Sox. This was an embrassing loss. I can’t wait for the post-game Guillen fireworks. They should be exciting! Now, imagine if they lose the second game of the double-header. Now THAT would be incredible.