Victorino shines in postseason spotlight
Phillies outfielder continues to be unlikely hero
Shane Victorino, after picking up a pair of RBIs in Game 4 of the NLCS, has now driven in 11 postseason runs, the most in Phillies history for a single postseason. In 1993, Lenny Dykstra drove in 10 runs in 12 games for the National League champions.
"[It's] what you play for as a kid," Victorino told MLB.com. "You play for it in the Minor Leagues. You get an opportunity and try to make the best of it."
Teammate Brad Lidge is glad to have Victorino on his side.
"Victorino's one of those guys that kind of goes under the radar because we have so many big hitters," Lidge said. "But he has home-run power from both sides of the plate, he's got incredible speed, he's got a great arm and plays great defense -- I mean he's really a complete player, and hopefully teams keep taking him lightly because he's as good as it gets."
Upton, Longoria leaves exec at loss for words: Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton continued their outstanding postseason play Tuesday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against Boston. Longoria hit a home run -- his fifth of the postseason -- giving him at least one home run in three straight ALCS games. Upton, meanwhile, had several good plays in the field and drove in a run with a single as the Rays defeated the Red Sox, 13-4, to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"I've really never been around this kind of young talent at this stage of their careers," Rays senior vice president Gerry Hunsicker told the St. Petersburg Times. "I've given up on trying to come up with the adjectives to describe these kids.
"They're just special players."
Kotsay received boost at first from Washington: By trade, Mark Kotsay is an outfielder. It is the position he has played most of his career. But with Mike Lowell injured for the Boston Red Sox, Kotsay has seen most of his playing time at first base, with Kevin Youkilis moving over to third base to replace Lowell. The last time Kotsay played first base before manning the position in the ALDS against the Angels was in 2006, as a member of the Oakland Athletics.
"Ron Washington actually instilled the most confidence in me as a first baseman," Kotsay, referring to the former Oakland coach, now managing Texas, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He said I had great actions, that my footwork looked great and that I could play over there."
Billingsley gets the ball in must-win start: Chad Billingsley will take the mound for the Dodgers in a must-win situation in Game 5 of the NLCS. Both the Dodgers and Phillies expect he will rebound in his second NLCS start.
"This guy's competitiveness is off the charts," Logan White, the Dodgers' assistant general manager for scouting, told the Los Angeles Times. "But he's not one of those players that's going to be brash, or brag about it."
"I think the only adjustment he's going to try to make is to get us out," Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, a teammate of Billingsley in the Minors, said, "and not give up as many runs as he did last time."
Rested Hamels brings gaudy stats: With the Phillies in position to clinch an appearance in the World Series on Wednesday night, they turn to Cole Hamels. Hamels has been dominant thus far in the postseason, with 17 strikeouts against just three walks. He now has a career postseason ERA of 2.08.
While there was some temptation to bring back Hamels on short rest for Game 4, both the team and Hamels are glad they didn't do so.
"To have him twice is nice," pitching coach Rich Dubee told MLB.com. "To have him three times, would it have been nicer? If we thought the risk was worth it -- but we weren't certain about it."
Baldelli makes memories in front of family, friends: Rocco Baldelli must think he is living in a dream. Only months removed from being unable to walk around the house, much less play baseball, Baldelli started Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday night in Fenway Park. Baldelli, who grew up in Rhode Island and had family and friends in attendance, hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning to help the Rays win, 9-1.
"Everything I do this year is pretty special, coming from the condition I was in in Spring Training," Baldelli told the Denver Post. "So everything I get now is pretty rewarding. Especially to do it here in front of family and friends was really nice."
Extended play no problem for Lidge: For the first time as a member of the Phillies, Brad Lidge recorded a four-out save on Monday night in the Phillies' 7-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite not having picked up such a save all year, Lidge was glad to have done so.
"I knew that this would hopefully be a night where I would have an opportunity to do it," Lidge told MLB.com of pitching more than one inning. "Our bullpen's been so good this year that I haven't had to do that. To get an opportunity tonight, I actually really enjoyed it."
Gross at home in Tampa Bay: When Gabe Gross was traded from Milwaukee to Tampa Bay one month into the season, he found his niche quickly. Gross started 79 games and appeared in 127 games for the Rays.
"It really turned out to be a blessing to come over here and get the chance I got," Gross, who was traded for Minor League pitcher Josh Butler, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "They welcomed me pretty quickly and it's been great. You run out of words to describe what's been going on here."
Stairs gets elevation and a celebration: After logging just 17 at-bats with the Phillies this season, Matt Stairs got everyone's attention on Monday night when his two-run home run gave the Phillies a 7-5 lead and eventual victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLCS.
"I'm not going to hit a single and steal second base," Stairs told the Philadelphia Daily News. "So I think the biggest thing is get up there, swing hard and elevate."
As important as the home run was for the team, it was important for Stairs as well.
"You want to get that one big hit where you feel like you're part of the team," he said. "Not that I don't feel like I'm part of the team, by no means, but when you get that nice celebration coming into the dugout and you're getting your [rear] hammered by guys, it's no better feeling than to have that done."
Garza's confidence secured Game 3 win: Matt Garza had something to prove Monday night. After struggling against the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS, suffering the lone loss the Rays had in the series, Garza shut down the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS on Monday night in Boston. Garza held the Red Sox to one run in six innings of work en route to a 9-1 victory.
Garza relied on his fastball for much of the night, throwing it consistently in the 96- to 97-mph range. The confidence he had in his fastball showed as he attacked the Red Sox hitters in the strike zone.
"With [David] Ortiz saying that we looked scared, we looked intimidated, I wanted to come out and set the tone and say, 'You know what, we're not scared,'" Garza told the St. Petersburg Times. "We're here to play. We're going to stick around for a while, boys."
Victorino gets postseason praise: Shane Victorino has been a catalyst in this NLCS, a fact not lost on his teammates.
"He's been arguably the best asset for our postseason right now," Geoff Jenkins told the Los Angeles Times. "There's always that one guy in the postseason that you don't think is going to have big [games]. And so maybe Shane's that guy.
Pujols undergoes procedure on elbow: Albert Pujols had minor surgery on Monday -- a procedure called the transposition of the ulnar nerve -- and is expected to begin rehab this week and be back on the field within three months. St. Louis team medical supervisor Dr. George Paletta says that the troublesome right elbow does not require reconstruction.
"I'm still optimistic we can still manage [the ligament] without surgery for the remainder of his career," Paletta told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Carlos Lee's pinkie still not healed: Two months after having his left pinkie finger shattered when he was hit by a pitch on the hand, Carlos Lee said the finger is still not completely healed. Lee was in Houston on Monday to have the finger examined by Astros physician Dr. Tom Mehlhoff. Lee, who led the National League with 100 RBIs and the Astros with 28 home runs when he was injured on Aug. 9, expects to be 100 percent for Spring Training.
"The doctor says it's going to be about six more weeks so that everything will be back to normal," Lee told the Houston Chronicle. "Right now, I'm doing exercises to get stronger and to have the movement needed in the finger."
Elbow procedure paid off for McClellan: With teammate Albert Pujols having just undergone a transposition of the ulnar nerve in his right elbow, Kyle McClellan could provide him with firsthand knowledge of the recovery. McClellan had the same procedure done after the 2006 season.
"I woke up from surgery feeling like I was a million times better," McClellan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Like I could go out and throw that same day."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.