MLB Watch: Boston & Philly Build On Division Leads

MLB Watch: Boston & Philly Build On Division Leads

Jimmy Rollins continues to turn heads in his Jordan baseball cleats this season.Jimmy Rollins continues to turn heads in his Jordan baseball cleats this season.

words // Nick Engvall

The Phillies may have added former Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence to the team before the MLB trade deadline, but, for the last week or so, it’s been the club’s veteran’s Cliff Lee and Jimmy Rollins that have carried them to a 9-game lead in the National League East. Now at 77-40, the Philadelphia Phillies are hands down the best team in baseball based on their record.

The second best team in the league after a 4-game winning streak, is the Boston Red Sox. Boston struggled early in the season, with high expectations leading to even a solid winning record being a disappointment, have now seemed to have the pieces in place for a strong run into the postseason. Most importantly, closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had one of the worst cold streaks of his career early, has now run off 21 consecutive saves, and is one of the hottest pitchers in all of Major League Baseball.

Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees are also playing well and as we expect every year, the American League East will be a great race to watch for the last month of the season.

Check out photos from this week in baseball in our latest MLB Watch below.

MLB Watch: A look at what the pros are using.

The Flyin' Hawaiian Shane Victorino gets beaned but his Nike batting gloves are safe.The Flyin’ Hawaiian Shane Victorino gets beaned but his Nike batting gloves are safe.

Mariano Rivera still sticking with his Nike baseball cleats.Mariano Rivera still sticking with his Nike baseball cleats.

Derek Jeter in his latest signature cleat from Jordan.Derek Jeter in his latest signature cleat from Jordan.

Cliff Lee gets his Nike cleats some height with his signature follow through.Cliff Lee gets his Nike cleats some height with his signature follow through.

Carlos Lee prepares for the pitch wearing Franklin batting gloves.Carlos Lee prepares for the pitch wearing Franklin batting gloves.

Justin Upton connects wearing the adidas Diamond King.Justin Upton connects wearing the adidas Diamond King.

Tsuyoshi Nishioki with some nice looking adidas batting gloves.Tsuyoshi Nishioki with some nice looking adidas batting gloves.

Jonathan Papelbon is back to un-hittable form in his Under Armour baseball cleats.Jonathan Papelbon is back to un-hittable form in his Under Armour baseball cleats.

Jo-Jo Reyes wearing Reebok baseball cleats.Jo-Jo Reyes wearing Reebok baseball cleats.

A good look at A.J. Pierzynski's player exclusives from Nike.A good look at A.J. Pierzynski’s player exclusives from Nike.

MLB Watch: Rangers & Giants One Step Closer

MLB Watch: Rangers & Giants One Step Closer

MLB Watch: A look at what the pros are wearing on the field.words_Nick Engvall

The Texas Rangers used post-season Superman in disguise Cliff Lee’s nearly un-hittable pitching to grab a 2-1 lead over the Yankees and then followed it up with an offensive onslaught to further their lead in the series in Game 4. Yankee Stadium looked like the home-run derby on Tuesday and unfortunately for the Yankees and their fans the only player in pinstripes to participate in the slug fest was Robinson Cano. Cano started it off giving the Yankees an early lead in the first inning. However when it was all said and done the Rangers blasted 4 home runs, 2 by slugger Josh Hamilton, 1 from Bengie Molina and the icing on the cake, a 421-foot shot by Nelson Cruz in the 9th inning, to defeat the Yankees 10-3. The Rangers will now look to advance to the World Series for the first time in franchise history Wednesday afternoon in New York.

In the National League, the San Francisco Giants took a 2-1 lead in the series against the Philadelphia Phillies behind a strong pitching outing from right-hander Matt Cain. Cain threw 7 innings giving up only 2 hits on Tuesday to continue San Francisco’s impressive post-season pitching. On the mound for the Phillies was Cole Hamels who also pitched well but the Giants seem to have found the NLCS MVP in outfielder Cody Ross. Ross has come up big throughout the post-season but has gone 4-9 with 3 home runs and 4 runs batted in against Philadelphia. The Giants will host the Phillies again on Wednesday for Game 4 of the best of seven series.

Check out some of the images from the recent games.

Cliff Lee was nearly unhittable wearing the Nike Zoom Coop V.Cliff Lee was nearly un-hittable wearing the Nike Zoom Coop V.

Josh Hamilton makes his home run trot wearing Franklin batting gloves.Josh Hamilton makes his home run trot wearing Franklin Carbon Fibre II batting gloves.

Vladimir Guerrero wearing the adidas Diamond King.Vladimir Guerrero wearing the adidas Diamond King.

Tommy Hunter pitches wearing the Under Armour Natural II.Tommy Hunter pitches wearing the Under Armour Natural II.

A.J. Burnett wasn't able to shut down the Rangers offense.A.J. Burnett wasn’t able to shut down the Rangers offense in the Nike Air Max MVP.

Lance Berkman swings wearing the Under Armour Ignite Low.Lance Berkman swings wearing the Under Armour Ignite Low.

Robinson Cano brought out another Player Exclusive Nike Air Huarache LWP90.Robinson Cano brought out another Player Exclusive this time the Nike Air Huarache LWP90.

Ryan Howard unveiled another Player Exclusive colorway of the adidas Diamond King.Ryan Howard unveiled another Player Exclusive colorway of the adidas Diamond King.

Jimmy Rollins bats wearing the Nike Air Max Diamond Elite Player Exclusive away colorway.Jimmy Rollins bats wearing the Nike Air Max Diamond Elite Player Exclusive away colorway.

Cole Hamels pitches wearing the adidas Diamond King.Cole Hamels pitches wearing the adidas Diamond King.

Aubrey Huff singles wearing the Nike Shox Fuse 2.Aubrey Huff singles wearing the Nike Shox Fuse 2.

Matt Cain throws wearing the Mizuno Pro GMP11.Matt Cain throws wearing the Mizuno Pro GMP11 glove.

Brian Wilson's Sharpie work seems to be holding up nicely and isn't costing him anything now.Brian Wilson’s Sharpie work seems to be holding up nicely and isn’t costing him anything now.

MLB Watch: Rangers & Giants One Step Closer

MLB: Breaking Down the LCS Match-Ups

words_Nick Engvall

The Texas Rangers will host the New York Yankees tonight as the American League Championship Series gets underway. Although the Yankees are the Wild Card in the American League, with their prolific history and recent post-season track record, they are probably still at an advantage. However, that alone may give the Rangers a mental edge they need to surprise the Yankees.

Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers - Photo Courtesy YahooAnother thing to point out about this series that may lean the advantage in the direction of the Rangers, they have beaten closer Mariano Rivera this year. Very few teams have beaten the Yankees closer, and even fewer when it comes playoff time. This year however, Rivera has blown 5 saves, one of which came last month at the hands of the Texas Rangers. Rivera gave up a hit in each of his two saves against the Minnesota Twins, which for any other closer in the game wouldn’t be reason for concern. For Mariano, who is easily the most untouchable closer in MLB post-season history, it might give the Rangers comfort in knowing there’s a chance.

The Rangers, after getting their first post-season series win against the Tampa Bay Rays, will have a tougher time with the Yankees. The key for the Rangers, as it was in their first round series, will be getting a victory in Game 1 or 2. With Cliff Lee set to go in Game 3, by winning one of the first two games all but guarantees the Rangers could be up 2-1 by the time Game 4 rolls around on Tuesday. Getting a victory against CC Sabathia in Game 1 will be more likely with C.J. Wilson coming off a solid start where he didn’t give up a run. Wilson hasn’t pitched incredibly against the Yankees, but the Rangers have come through to win both of the games he’s started. The Rangers also won 4 of the 5 games they played at home this year against the Bronx Bombers.

Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants - Photo courtesy of Yahoo.In the National League, all the talk is about the pitching and rightfully so. Game 1 will see Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay take the mound, arguably the best pitching duel this post-season could offer. Lincecum went 9 innings striking out 14, and of course, Halladay threw a no-hitter. The one thing that the San Francisco Giants have in their favor is that they’re the only team in the league to beat each of the big three Phillies pitchers, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. On top of that, the mental edge of having everyone expect you to lose gives the Giants nothing to lose. Like they have all season, they’ll look to surprise the critics with finding an unexpected way to win.

No matter how you slice it though, the Phillies have been unstoppable lately. Just four wins away from their third consecutive World Series appearance, Philadelphia and their fans are out for revenge on the Yankees, who ended last season’s World Series hopes in Game 6. The Phillies are a better team this year, with better pitching and hitting capable of beating the Yankees if they get passed the Giants. They have all the pieces to do so, we’ll see if they can assemble them.

It might sound obvious, but the determining factor in both series will be the teams that can win on the road. It always is the key, but keep in mind none of these four teams has lost a road game in this year’s MLB Playoffs yet.

Who do you think will be first?

MLB Watch: Rangers & Giants One Step Closer

MLB Watch: Yankees, Phillies Sweep

MLB Watch: A look at what the pros are wearing.

words_Nick Engvall

One week into the 2010 MLB Playoffs and two of the teams are already set for the Championship Series. The Yankees and the Phillies, much like many expected, rolled through the first round of the post-season with hardly a threat. The Philadelphia Phillies behind impressive pitching, including a no-hitter from Roy Halladay, continued on a hot streak that began in September with an impressive win streak.

In the other National League match-up the San Francisco Giants took an early series lead behind 14 strikeouts and a complete game from Tim Lincecum. However the Atlanta Braves roughed up the San Francisco bullpen in Game 2 to even up the series. The Giants took a 2-1 lead in the series behind Jonathan Sanchez and some tough luck for Braves second basemen Brooks Conrad.

For the Yankees, despite the hope of many Twins fans that thought this might be the year for the “good ol’ boys” to finally get passed the Bronx Bombers in the Playoffs, Minnesota just couldn’t find the offense it needed to win. The Twins scored first in each of the first two games but the Yankees came back to win both, requiring extra innings to do so in Game 2.

In the Rangers and Rays series, Texas cruised to easy victories in the first two games in Tampa Bay, winning 5-1 and 6-0, however the Rays seem to have a new spark with their backs against the wall. Tampa Bay got home runs from Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena in Game 3, and then from Evan Longoria in Game 4 to even up the series at 2 games apiece. The deciding Game 5 will take place in Tampa Bay, where the Rangers were able to steal games 1 and 2.

Elvis Andrus pre-game wearing the Nike Air Max Trainer 1.Elvis Andrus pre-game wearing the Nike Air Max TR1.

Andrus switched it up to the Nike Shox Fuse 2 at game time.Andrus switched it up to the Nike Shox Fuse 2 at game time.

Ian Kinsler makes the tag wearing Mizuno 9 Spike cleats.Ian Kinsler makes the tag wearing Mizuno 9 Spike cleats.

Ben Zobrist wearing Easton Stealth batting gloves.Ben Zobrist wearing Easton Stealth batting gloves.

Matt Garza of the Rays had a strong outing in Game 3 but ended with no decision.Matt Garza of the Rays had a strong outing in Game 3 but ended with no decision.

Phil Hughes in the Under Armour Heater III.Phil Hughes in the Under Armour Heater III.

Nick Swisher hits a home run for the Yankees.Nick Swisher hits a home run for the Yankees.

Mark Teixeira hits a walk-off home run for the Yankees.Mark Teixeira hits a walk-off home run for the Yankees.

Derek Jeter connects wearing the Jordan Jeter Throwback.Derek Jeter connects wearing the Jordan Jeter Throwback.

Joey Votto warms up in the Nike Air Max 2010+Joey Votto warms up in the Nike Air Max 2010+

Cole Hamels delivers in the adidas Diamond King.Cole Hamels delivers in the adidas Diamond King.

Drew Stubbs can't quite grab Chase Utley's home run.Drew Stubbs can’t quite grab Chase Utley’s home run.

Jason Heyward just misses Mike Fontenot's triple.Jason Heyward just misses Mike Fontenot’s triple in the Nike Air Huarache LWP90.

Tim Hudson makes a diving catch.Tim Hudson makes a diving catch in the Under Armour Ignite.

Freddy Sanchez shows some excitement after scoring.Freddy Sanchez shows some excitement after scoring the go ahead run.

Brian Wilson after getting the save in the Wilson A2000 glove.Brian Wilson after getting the save in the Wilson A2000 glove.

images via yahoo

MLB Watch: Rangers & Giants One Step Closer

Roy Halladay Near Perfect in Philly Post-Season Debut

words_Nick Engvall

Roy Halladay throws a no-hitter in post-season debut.This season has been labeled by countless people: “The Year of the Pitcher.”

Tonight, however, I think it’s safe to say that many of those people would agree, it might just be Roy Halladay’s season. After pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 seasons, Halladay got his wish to play for a team in the post-season this year. Remember, Halladay joined the Phillies after last season in a three-way deal that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, who ironically also had a great start for the Rangers in the first day of the post-season action as they beat the Rays.

Regardless of where or who went to any other teams, it is safe to say that the Philadelphia Phillies got the best of one of the biggest trades in recent baseball history.

Halladay became the first player in history to throw a no-hitter in his post-season debut, and only Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series had ever thrown a no-hitter in the post-season before. Halladay led the Phillies to a 4-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the series.Roy Halladay tips his hat to the crowd after throwing a no-hitter.

This year, Halladay will inevitably add his second Cy Young Award to his shelves. His first came in 2003 when Halladay went 22-7 with a 3.25 ERA and 204 strikeouts. This year, his first in the National League, Halladay has been even better.

On May 29th, he threw a perfect game against Florida, only the second in Phillies history. Halladay’s magic has baffled hitters all season. The Phillies ace finished at 21-10, but set a career high in strikeouts with 219. He also posted one near-bests in innings pitched with 250.2, second only to his first Cy Young season in 2003, as well as in ERA with an impressive 2.44 this season, second only to his 2.41 in 2005.

Wednesday’s game was more of Roy’s dominance. There wasn’t even much of a well-hit ball against him, and he tallied eight strikeouts, missing a perfect game by just one walk given up in the fifth inning. Halladay threw just 104 pitches, 79 of which were strikes. The right-hander threw a first pitch strike to 25 of the 28 batters he faced. The exclamation point came with a solid play from his partner behind the plate, Carlos Ruiz, who made a nice play on a Brandon Phillips’ barely tapped ground ball.

Now we all know that Cy Young Awards are won during the regular season, but really, could this season be anyone but Roy Halladay’s?

images via yahoo