Cole Hamels was on the mound for the Phillies when they finally took over first place in the NL East and now he'll be in front of the rotation when the postseason begins.
10/01/2007 11:58 AM ET
Hamels enters postseason on high note
Hamels, 23, tossed eight shutout innings, striking out 13, walking one and giving up just six hits as the Phillies took over first with a 6-0 win on Friday night. He finished the 2007 regular season with a record of 15-5 and an ERA of 3.39 and he'll go into the postseason as the club's No. 1 pitcher.
"He's one of the best young pitchers I've seen in 10 years," veteran reliever Tom Gordon told the Philadelphia Daily News. "Anytime you see a guy so young with the poise to do this in a town that's so demanding: That is special."
Alluding to Coles' request for a team chiropractor in early September, manager Charlie Manuel joked that his young ace could have everything he wanted.
"He keeps pitching like that," said Manuel, "we'll get him two."
Hamels is next scheduled to work on Wednesday in the first Phillies playoff game since 1993.
Peavy ready for elimination game: With the season now on the line, Jake Peavy is exactly where he wants to be -- on the mound. The San Diego Padres scheduled Peavy to start Monday against the Colorado Rockies in a one-game playoff to determine the National League Wild Card team.
"It's going to be fun ... we're starting the playoffs with Game 7," Peavy, who will be going after his 20th win of the season, told Padres.com. "I'm excited about the opportunity. The season is still alive. You play 162 [games], and you still need one more to decide if you're going home or you're in."
The Padres had two chances to secure the Wild Card this weekend in Milwaukee as all they needed was a win on Saturday or Sunday. However, the Brewers rallied in both games to win. While the team would prefer to already have a postseason berth secured, manager Bud Black is confident heading into the game against the Rockies.
"I think that the best advantage you have is your starting pitcher," Black said.
Entering the game, Peavy is the leading candidate to win the Cy Young award after leading the league in wins with 19, ERA (2.36) and strikeouts (234) -- basically winning the triple crown of pitching.
Pressure-cooker role suits Fuentes: During one stretch in June, Colorado reliever Brian Fuentes blew four saves and lost his closer's role. Fuentes, however, never got down and has been a key member of the bullpen down the stretch for the Rockies.
Perhaps at no time was he more important than on Sunday when the Rockies defeated Arizona 4-3 to force a one-game playoff against San Diego for a berth in the playoffs. Fuentes came into the game in the seventh inning with runners on first and second and one out and the game tied at 1-1.
"It became apparent that we needed a stop," pitching coach Bob Apodaca told Rockies.com. "The save was needed in the seventh inning and Tito is used to pitching with traffic, so we didn't hesitate."
Fuentes struck out Conor Jackson and Jeff Cirillo to get out of the inning and keep the game tied.
"It's a huge moment," Fuentes said. "I've been in some big games, some games that I'll probably remember for the rest of my life. This ranks right up there with them.
"I was in the closing role, but to come in in that atmosphere, with the game on the line, whether it's the seventh, eighth or ninth inning, when you're on that back side of a game, every inning's a save situation. You can blow a save in the sixth, seventh or eighth, so you've got to treat it as such."
Record crowd watches Biggio bid farewell: Craig Biggio played the final game of his 20-year career Sunday, and the largest crowd to ever watch a game in Minute Maid Park history was on hand to say goodbye.
Each time Biggio came to the plate to bat he received a rousing ovation from the crowd of 43,823. None, however, was louder than the one he received in the seventh inning before his final at-bat in an Astros uniform. Biggio had a tough time even getting to the batter's box.
"You're standing in the on-deck circle, looking down at your shoes and just going, 'This is your last at-bat, ever,'" Biggio told Astros.com.
After taking a few moments to get into the box, Biggio stepped out upon hearing the loud ovation and tipped his hat to the crowd. Atlanta Braves pitcher Ron Mahay then took some steps off the mound to give the crowd a little more time to cheer Biggio.
Biggio, who doubled in the first inning and later scored, hit a ground ball to third base off Mahay. Chipper Jones took his time to field the ball and throw to first, but the throw beat Biggio to the bag by about half a step.
"I'm too old and slow to get there," Biggio grinned.
"Nobody wants to be the guy in that situation," Jones said. "I figured I'd just kind of catch it, take my time and just flip it over there. Hopefully, he'd outrun it. It beat him by a half-step."
Biggio went to his position in the top of the eighth inning before being replaced by Cody Ransom. Leaving the field, Biggio tipped his hat to the fans once again and hug each of his teammates near the dugout.
"They expressed their feelings; I showed mine," Biggio said. "It's been an unbelievable relationship over a long period of time. To have this many people here the last three games, considering where we are at in the standings and the way the season's gone -- they know I love them. They love me back, and they showed it."
Smoltz: Biggio 'did it right': Craig Biggio played the last game of his 20-year career on Sunday versus the Braves. Both the fans, who gave him a standing ovation when he left the game in the eighth inning, and players on the Braves joined in celebrating his Hall of Fame career.
"It gave you chills," Braves rookie catcher Clint Sammons told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It's hard not to choke up watching Biggio come to the plate every at-bat.
"Having a chance to watch him when I was younger and through the years, what he's meant to the game of baseball and to these fans - it's just unbelievable to see how much they love him here."
The Astros showed video tributes to Biggio from his children during the game.
"I teared up a couple of times," Chipper Jones said, "especially when his kids came out on the field, when his kids were talking on the big screen.
"We all put ourselves in that situation and think, you know, 'What if that were my kids up there saying that about me?' And I don't think there's a dad who wouldn't get choked up."
The Braves joined the Houston crowd in cheering for Biggio when he was removed from the game.
"I don't think he gets enough credit from a standpoint of, he did it right," John Smoltz said.
Smoltz now has the longest-active tenure with one team.
Rangers' Young reaches Ichiro, Boggs territory: The 2007 season didn't start well for Texas shortstop Michael Young, but he ended the year in typical fashion -- as one of the best hitters in the American League.
Young missed a week of Spring Training after getting hit by a pitch in the head. Perhaps still feeling the affects of the beaning, he started the year slowly as he was hitting .192 on May 3. Since then, however, Young has hit .343 to rank third in the American League, trailing only Magglio Ordonez and Ichiro Suzuki.
On Wednesday, Young collected his 200th hit, making it five straight seasons for him to have at least 200 hits. In the last 70 years, only Ichiro and Wake Boggs have accomplished the feat. Young is also only the seventh player to drive in more than 90 runs in a season while hitting less than 10 home runs.
"I said at the time that what I was going through was going to make me a better player," Young told the Dallas Morning News about his early season struggles. "I'm happy with the way I battled back. I guess I'm at a point in my career where I feel like I can overcome just about anything."
At least one Zambrano goal within sight: Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano had two goals before the season started, and he was very vocal about them. First off, he wanted to win a Cy Young Award. His second goal, a World Series championship, is within sight as Zambrano and the Cubs will open the NLDS against Arizona on Wednesday.
"So far, one of the two goals that I have this year is in [sight]," Zambrano told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I think my English was a little misunderstood. What I was trying to say was I will try to do the best to win the Cy Young, and we will try to do the best to win the World Series."
As the starter for the Cubs on Wednesday, Zambrano hopes to be the man that can lead the Cubs to their first World Series Championship since 1908.
"I've been thinking about that since I've been in this organization," he said. "I always say to myself, 'There's many people that have worn this uniform and did not make the playoffs' -- people like Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, the great ballplayers who have been in this organization. And now we have the chance to win everything here. If we do win everything, this will be special for the city of Chicago."
Dunn hopes for a return to the Reds: Cincinnati Reds outfielder Adam Dunn, who missed the last few games of the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, would like to come back to the Reds in 2008. The Reds have an option on him, and since it's nothing that's under his control he's not going to worry about it too much.
"It's like being traded, there's nothing I can do about it," Dunn told the Cincinnati Post. "I've got other things to worry about, like crawling out of bed."
Having played on the bad knee all season definitely hampered Dunn, who finished the season number one on the Reds leader board with 40 home runs and 106 RBIs.
"I can't put my finger on what did it. I just remember, I don't know. It was last year and this year, I just don't know when," he said. "If I had to run in the gap or down the line was the worse. That's why it always seemed like I used the wall to stop me. That was the reason, I couldn't stop."
More chapters in Royals' storybook for Sweeney?: After a 17-year affiliation with the Kansas City Royals, Mike Sweeney knows that he may have played his last game as a Royal. Not under contract for 2008 Sweeney knows it's possible that he won't be back next year, though the team has not indicated one way or the other what they plan to do.
"It's a very unique emotion," Sweeney told the Kansas City Star, "because I don't have any information that would lead me to believe one way or the other. I'm going to go out and play the game as hard as I can and hope to do my best.
"But I don't know if the finish line is (Sunday) at 4 o'clock or two years from now at 4 o'clock."
Whether he comes back or not, Sweeney wants everyone to know how much he's loved his time in Kansas City. "I can say that 100 percent of my time with the Royals has been great," he said. "There have been tough times with the injuries and not playing as well as we could have as a team."
Wang gets the opening ball for Yankees: For the second year in a row, it will be Chien-Ming Wang who takes the mound in Game 1 for the New York Yankees Thursday night in the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. Wang is 2-1 with a 3.72 ERA in three career starts against Cleveland but did not face the Indians in the regular season this year.
"They're a good team, but the Yankees are better," Wang told the New York Daily News of the Indians. "I'm happy. I'm going to try to do my best."
Wang has pitched much better at home this season than on the road, but manager Joe Torre isn't worried about Wang facing the Indians in Cleveland, which has the home field advantage in the first round.
"That doesn't really scare me; he is who he is," Torre said. "There's something very unusual about this guy in that he's handled stress and pressure very well."
Ross impressed with Marlins' role as spoiler: Cody Ross had two hits, drove in two and scored two in the final game of the season, as the Marlins knocked the Mets out of the playoffs with an 8-1 win.
"I'm sure they were pumped up to come out today and try to win," Ross told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "We were just as pumped. We weren't going to lie down and let them take it."
The Marlins did their part for contenders down the stretch. They won five of their last six games, sweeping the Cubs and taking two out of three from the Mets. Ross took pride in his team's late-season surge.
"For us to show so much heart and not give up and try to play spoiler, we could have just went out there and went through the motions and not really care what went on," Ross said. "But we definitely didn't want to see either one of those teams [get in]. We wanted to make a difference and I think we did."
-- Red Line Editorial