Gameday: Phillies (94-63) at Nationals (67-90)

Philadelphia Phillies (94-63) at Washington Nationals (67-90)

NationalsRoy Oswalt (13-13, 2.80 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (2-9, 7.18)

Time: 7:05, Nationals Stadium
Cloudy, 68
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They call it “The Hangover.” Not the movie, the lineup. No Zach Galifinakis making funnies, but a lineup short the normal starters. Utley and Howard are still in there, with nothing really to play for. It’s obvious Charlie Manuel wants to keep his guys fresh.

Plaicdo Polanco is out, and you may not see him for the rest of the season as he’ll rest that bum elbow. So the good news is he’ll get more than a week to heal. Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, and Jayson Werth are the other regulars to get a blow tonight.

It’s also official: The Phillies will begin their playoff schedule on Wednesday, October 6 at Citizens Bank Park. Going with that start date (the Phils had the choice between Wednesday the 6th or Thursday the 7th), they’ll be assured normal rest for Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt until Game 4 of the NLCS (not getting too far ahead of ourselves). That means Joe Blanton is your long man in the pen and we’ll get to see plenty of the Big 3. Nothing wrong with that.

Tonight is a fine opportunity to take a look at the bench the Phillies will have in the postseason. Greg Dobbs, Dom Brown, Brian Schneider, and Ben Francisco will all get some hacks as they get prepared for the playoff run. More importantly, Jimmy Rollins is back in the order. He’ll get some at bats before the regular season ends. He hasn’t started a game since September 8.

Today’s lineup: Rollins SS, Ibanez LF, Utley 2B, Howard 1B, Francisco CF, Brown RF, Dobbs 3B, Schneider C, Oswalt P

Nugget NectarYour Gameday Beer – Rouge Dead Guy Ale
It was named one of the five best beers in America by Food and Wine Magazine. This is a darker, more intense style of ale (technically, it’s a German style called a Maibock). It’s a bit higher in alcohol — 6.5 percent — with a toasty, malty character and real texture to it. This is my go-to for big, spicy foods: sausages on the grill, barbecued ribs, that kind of thing. -Pat Gallen


Division: Clinched. Business: Unfinished.

Carlos Ruiz after the Phillies clinch the 2010 NL East titleI’ve always been awed by the ability of major league ballplayers to keep things in perspective. Consider Roy Halladay. Halladay signed what was then the richest contract in Phillies history in terms of annual salary, replaced a fan favorite, and, like Atlas, lifted the hopes and expectations of a city of 1.6 million on his shoulders. Tonight was his 33rd appearance of the year, and he was perhaps as stunning this evening as at any other point in his six months in red pinstripes (his perfect game in May notwithstanding). 97 pitches, 65 strikes, no walks, two hits, six strikeouts, no runs allowed. Methodical is the word that comes to mind.

Pitch no. 97 was a fading 84-mph split-fingered what-the-hell-was-that?-ball low and on the outside corner to a befuddled 23-year-old Nationals infielder named Danny Espinosa. I was sitting in Mac’s Tavern on Second and Market when that ball hit Carlos Ruiz’s glove. Mac’s is not really a sports bar, and it was only half full, but its patrons celebrated pitch no. 97 with appropriate pomp and circumstance: the Rocky theme was played, strangers were hugged, fists pumped, and high-fives exchanged. This fourth straight division title is an unprecedented occurrence for this team, so we were pretty jazzed. Imagine how Roy Halladay, a veteran of 13 major league seasons with nary a playoff appearance, must have reacted!

Methodically. Halladay, veteran of 13 major league seasons, none of them ending in playoff runs, pumped his fist, walked off the mound, and gave his catcher a peremptory hug. The eight position players on the field, seven of whom has played in a World Series in the past five years, were similarly nonplussed. Jayson Werth, whose two extra base hits and four RBIs paced a Phillies attack that methodically hung eight runs on five Washington pitchers, jogged in from right field to join the party. The ordinarily effervescent Shane Victorino couldn’t be bothered even to do that–he walked.

The fracas on the mound (if you could call it that) seemed staged, a display no one really wanted to bother with and only put on for the benefit of the TV cameras. The Phillies looked, for lack of a better word, bored with the division title. They expect to have another shot at this pitching-mound-orgy-and-champagne-shower business in a couple weeks. Considering recent events, that might be a reasonable expectation.

Here are some photos from tonight’s game courtesy of Brian:

Like late home run, Werth is a goner

If you are a fan of Jayson Werth, Sunday was a bad day for you.

You may be thinking “Wait, what? Didn’t Werth hit a walk-off home run that sent the Phillies to a dramatic 7-6 win over the Nationals to keep the team’s lead over the Braves in the NL East at three games?”

He sure did. It was news that came after that homer that should give fans who like seeing Werth in a Phillies uniform a long pause. Werth went out and made a deal with the devil. In other words, he hired Scott Boras as his agent.

Boras, who justly or not, is  the symbol of everything that is wrong with financial aspect of baseball. He is also known as being the best at what he does, which is take teams behind his woodshed and beat them endlessly until every last penny falls out of their pockets.

When a player wants money, and a lot of it, they hire the services of Boras. I’m sure the second Werth’s bat made contact with that 9th inning home run Boras’ eyes lit up – with money signs. In Boars’ mind, each foot that ball traveled equaled another thousand dollars in his pocket.

I don’t blame Werth or Boras for the deal they made. Werth is a free agent who wants to and deserves to be paid. Boras is an agent who does his job better than anyone else in the field. In a way it’s a match made in heaven.

Just not for Phillies fans.

Fans began to accept the fate that Werth would not be around past this season when the Phillies sank money into extending Shane Victorino. The team now has over $150 millions sunk into just 16 players next season, so signing Werth, who will be looking for a contract of at least $150 million, just doesn’t seem plausible.’s Matt Gelb, puts a positive spin on the situation, saying Boras this will ensure that Werth and the Phillies will go to arbitration. The Phillies will offer a deal, Boras will reject it, another team will sign him and since he will be a type-A free agent, the Phillies will get two draft picks as compensation.

You see even the positive side of the story ends with Werth leaving town.

As I stated earlier, realistic fans knew this would be Werth’s last season in Philly barring something unforeseen. This almost certainly would have been the case with or without Scott Boras.

But adding Boars to the story just makes the situation feel a lot worse.

The Werth Dilemma

I’ll say right up front that when Victorino went down with his injury, I groaned. Not just because Shane was hurt, but because, as I immediately texted my kid, “Werth isn’t going anywhere.”

In some ways, Werth is the poster child for this confusing Phillies offense — on paper his stats looks pretty good, but he’s “werthless” when it counts. And Charlie doesn’t have a clue what to do with him.

I’m going to ignore Werth’s pretty stats — the OPS, the doubles, the batting average — because he’s a great hitter when no one is on base. The real issue is that he continues to bat in an RBI position when his bat appears to have ball repellent sprayed on it when there is RISP. (Does anyone in baseball have an uglier strike-out swing than Werth?) If he does hit the ball, it’s a double play or a pop up. I’ve reached the point where when Werth is up to bat with a man on second and two outs, I go to the kitchen for a snack. And why not, I haven’t missed anything but ugly strikeouts and pop ups in a long time.

I wonder when (if) Charlie will ever figure out that Werth is hurting the team when he bats 4th or 5th. I know that others are wondering the same thing, and I saw a couple of comments around the sports sites that suggested Werth bat lead off — since he tends to hit best when no one is on base and maybe the middle of the line up can get him home.

I’d like to add another idea to that. I would bat Werth 8th. There is one thing that he still does better than any other Phillie — he walks. If he’s batting 8th, he might be more willing to take a walk and get to the pitcher’s spot and turn the line up over. Or, if he’s leading off, he’d likely get a hit, and the pitcher can bunt him over (if he doesn’t get picked off — being on the base paths seems to be another issue for Werth lately). It may even take some of the pressure off of him to be an RBI producer.

And when Victorino comes back? I wouldn’t even hesitate — I’d platoon Werth with Brown in right. It’s obvious that we miss Victorino’s glove in center, and Werth is an adventure in the field. Brown has much more upside and a much better arm.

Of course, it’s tough now with all the injuries, particularly to Howard’s and Utley’s power. The team needs to focus on small ball (something I think Greg Gross gets). Werth had his career year. The team can’t afford to continue to wait for him to be the right-handed RBI guy.

ESPN’s Stark speculates Phillies closing in on big move

ESPN’s Jayson start is hinting that a the Phillies could be close to making a big deal for a starting pitcher. Bellow is an exert:

On the pitching front, the Phillies have discussed deals involving a number of starters. They’ve talked about Arizona’s Dan Haren, Baltimore’s Jeremy Guthrie and Oakland’s Ben Sheets, among others. But there were indications they’ve spent a lot of time in recent days exploring a trade for Astros ace Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt would have to approve any trade, and there were no signs he’d been approached about waiving his no-trade clause or that he’d been told any deal was close. He is also said to prefer to go to a team in the South or Midwest, so there were no guarantees he would approve a deal to Philadelphia.

Many teams have downplayed the possibility Oswalt would get traded at all, because he is owed more than $7 million for the rest of this year and $16 million next year, in addition to either a $16-million option or $2-million buyout for 2012.

However, the Phillies are looking to trade for a starting pitcher they can control beyond this year. And if they were to move Werth’s salary (about $3.5 million for the rest of this year) and the Astros pick up several million dollars of Oswalt’s money, it would even out the dollars for the rest of this season.

You can read the whole story here.
It’s good to know that at the very least Amaro is awake. Whether or not the Phillies have the pieces or the cojones to pull of a big deal will be seen.

Down goes Moyer

Maybe Kyle Kendrick’s trip to the minors won’t be so permanent after all.

Phillies Starting pitcher Jamie Moyer strained his left elbow and was removed after one inning of Wednesday night’s game against St. Louis.

The 47-year-old Moyer threw 18 pitches in the first inning Tuesday night. When I hear the words “elbow strain” I don’t think short-term injury. Ye another trip for a Phillies player to the DL looks imminent.

Newly recalled Andrew Carpenter replaced Moyer in the second inning. He went on to pitch three unimpressive innings, allowing three runs.

So now the Phillies really need an arm. Halladay, Hamels and pray for rain just won’t cut it.
And I don’t see fans clamoring for Nelson Figueroa to be back in the rotation.

So who will the Phillies go after? I don’t think Oswalt is a realistic option and the picking after that are not great. You hear names like Jake Westbrook Kevin Millwood and Ted Lilly floated around all the time in trade speculation, but could any of these guys really change the fortunes of this team?

Likely not, which means the Phillies may have to move an asset such as Jayson Werth if they want to get any real pitching help.Of coarse, the way Werth’s stock has been declining you may not be able to get a Pirates castoff.

Or the team can sit back an let Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and Andrew Carpenter lead the way. If that isn’t a blueprint to getting back to the World Series, I don’t know what is.

When will the Phillies offense return?

There are slumps and then there is what the Phillies offense is going through right now.

Things got no better yesterday when the Phillies wasted a great start by Cole Hamels in a 3-1 loss to the Padres. Hamels took a no-hitter into the seventh, but allowed a pair of solo home runs and the Phillies offense had no answer. It was a continuation of what has been a putrid three weeks that has seen the team relinquish first place.

Here are a few of the scary numbers:

The Phillies, figured to be among the top home run hitting teams this season, have belted just 53, good enough for 12th overall. That’s not terrible but not nearly good enough for a team that relies on the longball so much.

• Philadelphia has been held to two runs or less in eight of its last 15 games, including being shutout five times.

• Their .258 team batting average is 16th in baseball. Who knows where they would be without Polanco’s .320 average.

• Chase Utley average has dipped to .260, the lowest it has been since the 2004 season.

• Raul Ibanez is hitting .230 with just three home runs. Dominic Brown’s footsteps get closer every day.

• Joe Blanton has the third best average of the team. He is hitting 308. We will overlook Nelson Figueroa’s .500 average in two at-bats.

• Jayson Werth is hitting .143 so far this month with six hits in 21 at-bats. Over that time he has as many strikeouts (7) as he does hits.

It has been bad, to be sure. Yet here the team sits, still in second place just two games behind Atlanta. The hope is that the worst has already arrived and that the team will straighten itself out and get back on top in the East.

But the question is when? When does the team find the offense that made them the most exciting ticket in town the last three years?

Have you seen my baseball … bat?

There’s a giant search going on right now for a precious piece of Philadelphia. It is a piece that has brought much joy to the city’s people the last three seasons. It’s been lost before, but never for this long and to this extreme.

Has anyone seen the Phillies offense?

The Phillies were shut out for the third straight game by the Mets and the fourth time in five games overall. The last time the Mets kept a team off the scoreboard in a three game series, they did it with guys named Seaver and Ryan. This time they did it with Takahashi and Dickey. Just five games ago the Phillies were seven games up on the Mets, now that lead is two. In fact, all five teams in the NL East are within three games of each other.

So what exactly has happened here?

The Phillies offense has always relied on the long ball so periods of offensive struggles have happened , but this is of epic proportions. Every time it looked like the Phillies would finally break through last night they hit into a double play – three to be exact.

Hey, remember those first two weeks of the season when the team was scoring eight runs a game? The Phillies would kill for one right now.

All totaled, the Phillies have scored one run in their last 47 innings. You would think a blooper would have had to fall in just once during this spell. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are striking out at a rate that has Adam Dunn shaking his head. Even Jayson Werth shaving his beard didn’t change his luck.

If you are having a hard time watching this team right now, you are not alone, but keep in mind that it has to end soon. And I feel sorry for the team who faces them when it ends. There’s a lot of frustrating waiting to poor off the bats of these players.

 Hopefully it happens tonight in South Florida against the Marlins. If not we always have the Flyers on Saturday. There is no way anyone is keeping them off the board these days.

Philly Offense Wins Battle of Pennsylvania

Kyle Kendrick took the mound Monday in Philadelphia’s match up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, looking for his second win of the season. The right hander went 8.0 innings (105 pitches) allowing only two runs, striking out four, and leading the Phillies to a 12-2 victory. The win moved Philadelphia to 24-13 on the season. Read more

The fall of Pat Burrell

When Raul Ibanez got off to such a poor start on the heals of a bad second half last season chatter began about whether or not the decision to sign him to a three year deal was a mistake. There is still fear that Ibanez’s contract could be one of the factors that keeps the team from re-signing Jayson Werth at season’s end. Time wll tell if that holds true.

There is one thing we know for sure, however.

The decision to sign Ibanez was a lot smarter than bringing back Pat The Bat.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays shipped the slumping Burrell down to the minor league’s today, a move that could in no way have been envisioned when they signed him last offseason.

This season he is hitting a measly .202 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. You can read the report here.

What a downfall for a player who got to leadoff the Phillies World Series parade.

Phillies Rally Against the Giants

Despite a slow start in their series against the Giants this week, the Philadelphia Phillies would not fall easily, fighting to earn a win. In what was expected to be an exciting series between two of the National League’s best, the Phillies seemed to be overwhelmed with San Francisco in their first two games. The Phillies struggled on both side of the ball as they tallied only three runs, while they allowed San Francisco 11 runs in games 1 and 2. Read more

Phils win home opener, now 6-1.

The Phillies won their home opener 7-4 behind Cole Hamels to run thier National League leading record to 6-1.    They dealt Marquis his second loss of this young season.  Hamels and Halladay are now both 2-0 and the Phillies bats are smoking hot.

Jimmy Rollins was a late scratch due to a calf injury but his replacement, Castro, was 1-4 with a double and an RBI.   Rightfielder Jayson Werth left the game after the fifth inning due to a sore left hip.   Chase Utley ripped a two run homerun with one out in the fifth.

Ibanez and Victorino are the only two starters who have not hit their stride as yet, with the remainder of the starting lineup batting above .290.  The team as a whole continued their torrid hitting. They’re averaging 7.1 runs and 11 hits per game.

The fans showed up in force for the home opener, giving the Phillies their 43rd consecutive sellout at home dating to last season.

Game 2 of the series is tomorrow night, and the Nationals have got to be searching for answers after dropping 3 of their first 4 games against the defending NL champion Phillies.  Even the new pitcher signed for 15 million after an All Star year with Colorado last year was unable to keep the Phillies hitters in check.  Our team now leads all of baseball in hitting.

I limited myself to 2 hotdogs and four beers and had a great time rooting for my Phillies.  For some reason a Mets fan sat behind me and booed every time the Phillies had a good play, but after checking the standings, I refrained from comment, the poor guy already has enough going against him and the Mets season is only going to get worse once they starting playing Philadelphia !

I think I will have to get tickets in my normal spot on April 30th and see if he shows up again to watch the Phillies play the Mets for the first time this year.  Maybe I will buy him a beer.  Who says Philadelphia fans are horrible ?

The extra bad news for my friend in blue; it is likely Halladay will have the start on that Friday night game, in which case, the Mets, who will arrive at Citizens Bank sporting a 6-16 record or so, don’t have the faintest chance !

Phillies risking losing their Werth

You can call this Operation Save Jayson Werth.

Speculation about the Phillies being unable to retain Werth’s services after this coming season have been going on since Werth established himself All-Star last season. With contracts already given out to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Roy Halladay, Shane Victorino and company, and the Phillies front office setting a cap to its spending, many fans believe this will be it for Werth in a Phillies uniform.

Of course a lot can happen between now and the start of free agency next season, but if Werth continues to take his game to new levels, the dollars in his next contract will also head north.

More bad news came out this weekend when the New York Post reported that Werth had an hour-long lunch with Yankees Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. is reporting that “The strong implication was that Jackson was doing some early recruiting since Werth can be a free agent at the end of the season.”

As if the Yankees need to recruit. Their method of recruiting involves hiring a truck driver to unload a U-Haul full of cash at a free agents door. That type of negotiation tactic speaks for itself.

For his part, Werth said that Jackson is an old family friend and that the two were just catching up.

I believe him.

But that won’t stop the rumors that will persist throughout the season, particularly if Werth puts up monster numbers again.

I understand that the Phillies  have a budget and plan to stick to it. I also understand they sell out home stand after home stand. If they want to charge $7 for a beer, the least they can do is put some of that money into a “Save Jayson Werth Fund.”

If Werth hits the open market the Yankees, Red Sox and whoever else is in need of, and can afford, a guy who hits over 30 home runs and has a strong arm in the outfield will come calling.

As much as it pains me to say it, this is the time for the Phillies to take after the Yankees. Just open up that check book baby.

Werth’s value is only going to get higher and fans shouldn’t be forced to cringe every time he has a two-homer game, knowing that it just became even harder to re-sign him.

Gold In Sight

Tomorrow the National League Gold Glove Award Winners will be announced. There is a good possibility that the trophy room will be “philled” with red and blue.

Jimmy Rollins with his Major-League best .990 fielding percentage will almost certainly win his 3rd straight Gold Glove, but he may not be alone. Shane Victorino and Chase Utley also have a good chance of joining Rollins. For Victorino, it would be his 2nd consecutive Gold Glove and for Utley his 1st. Carlos Ruiz, Pedro Feliz and Jason Werth are sure to receive some consideration. Stay Tuned….

The American League announced its Gold Glove winners earlier today:

P: Mark Buehrle

C: Joe Mauer

1B: Mark Teixera

2B: Placido Polanco

SS: Derek Jeter

3B: Evan Longoria

OF: Adam Jones

OF: Torii Hunter

OF: Ichiro Suzuki

World Series offensive breakdown

We are now just one day away fro Game 1 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees. There promises to be plenty of drama as these two teams face off in the World Series for the first time in 50 years.

Bellow is a breakdown of how the teams match up position-by-position.

 First Base: This would be the marquee position with two players who are not only of All-Star caliber, but MVP worthy. Ryan Howard has been a monster year after year, producing 40-plus home runs and 140 RBIs a season. His defense has improved and he defines the word clutch. Most people credit Jimmy Rollins for being the engine of the team but it became clear this season that the Phillies would go as far as Howard takes them.
On the other side, Mark Teixeira has been as good as advertised. The Yankees paid him big money in the offseason and he delivered with 39 homers and 122 RBIs. He has also delivered Gold Glove play at first base. Howard’s knack for getting the big hit gives him a slight edge on offense, but Teixeira seems to save a run a game with his glove, making this a toss up.

Verdict: draw

Second base: Robinson Cano has developed into the type of players that could be a cornerstone for the Yankees for many years. He hits for average (.320) and power (25 home runs).
Chase Utley also had a strong regular season, though his average dipped to .282. Something just doesn’t seem quite right with his swing right now and he only has two RBIs in the postseason. Utley may just be the hardest-working player in baseball and if there is something wrong there is a good chance he will fix it.

Verdict: Slight edge Yankees

Shortstop: This was nowhere near Jimmy Rollins’ best year, but his second-half was certainly acceptable. Rollins is hitting just .244 in the postseason, but it was his two-run double in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the NLCS that all-but finished off the Dodgers.
Meanwhile Derek Jeter is having a career year, which is saying something given his track record. He hit .334 during the regular season and his playoff performances in the past have been well-documented. If Rollins was having a typical year this would be a tough call. Since he has struggled, the check mark has to go to the Yankees’ captain.

Verdict: Edge Yankees

Third base: Alex Rodriguez finally learned how to hit in the postseason. Like Howard, A-Rod has been an RBI machine with 12 and is hitting .438. Clearly he is making up for lost time.
Pedro Feliz has been a great defensive presence throughout his career and even with his age creeping up continues to play the position well. Offensively Feliz is not a big cog, but had a three-run homer against the Dodgers in the NLCS and has given the lineup great depth.
He’s just not A-Rod.

Verdict: Edge Yankees.

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz or “Chooch” has been a monster this postseason, both behind the plate and as a hitter. Ruiz is hitting .346 and has driven in seven from the eight-hole. His pitchers love throwing to him and he has become one of the best in the league when it comes to throwing out base stealers.
Jorge Posada is not the player he once was. He still had good numbers with 22 homers and a .285 average, but his shortcomings defensively have led to the Yankees using Jose Molina more than anticipated. In fact, the Phillies will likely see Molina in games that A.J. Burnett pitches.

Verdict: Edge Phillies.

Left Field: The Phillies could not have asked for more than what Raul Ibanez gave them this season. He was an NL MVP candidate the first half of the year and hit a career-high 34 home runs. Even at 33, his defense is not a shortcoming. “Rauuuul” instantly became a fan favorite and remains one.
The Yankees counter with Johnny Damon who can still swing the stick, but has nothing in terms of an arm in the outfield. He is a liability out there and is usually replaced in the late innings.

Note: Ben Fransisco will star in left field on the road and Ibanez will DH. We still list Ibanez as the left fielder because he will play there during the home games.

Verdict: Edge Phillies

Center field: Shane Victorino made the first of what is likely to be many All-Star game appearances this season. He led the team in several offensive categories, including hits (181), average .292 and steals 25. He also provided Gold Glove defense. Last season he introduced himself to all of baseball. This year he announced that he isn’t going anywhere.

Melky Cabrera didn’t quite meet the expectations he ha set for himself with a big 2008 season, but still hit a respectable .274 and is an outstanding defender. Cabrera has good speed, but can not compete with Victorino in that department. In fact, there is not one part of his game that is clearly superior to Victorino’s.

Verdict: Edge Phillies

Right field: What a player Jayson Werth has become. Finally healthy, Werth had a huge season and has kept it up in the postseason. Werth is the team-leader in home runs during the playoffs, knocking five out of the park. He is making opposing pitchers pay for pitching around Howard.

Few people would have predicted that Nick Swisher would be starting for the Yankees in the playoffs when the season started. Xavier Nady was the opening day starter but an injury erased his season after seven games. Swisher stepped in and stepped up. He is not the player Werth is, but the pop in his bat still makes him a threat.

Verdict: Edge Phillies

Designated hitter: Ben Fransisco is the extra bat added during games in New York. Seen as a throw-in in the Cliff Lee trade, Fransisco has been solid in limited action. He hit .278 on the year and is 0-for-4 in the playoffs. Matt Stairs could also see a game in this role with Ibanez playing left.

Hideki Matsui is on the south-side of his career, but can still come up with the big hit. He hits lefties and righties about the same and finished with 28 home runs and 90 RBIs.

Verdict: Edge Yankees.

There you have it, a pretty even matchup on paper. The Yankees get the edge of the infield, mostly due to A-Rod at third, while the rest of the infielders are pretty similar. The Phillies get a big edge in the outfield in both fielding and hitting. There is a reason all three players were All-Stars.


Check back later for the breakdown of the pitching matchups.