Josh Fogg is making the most of a chance to build up some big-game experience this month.
It was noted prior to Sunday night's Rockies victory that Fogg had never started a postseason game. However, the 30-year-old right-hander, who spent most of his seven-year career with Pittsburgh before joining Colorado in 2006, viewed it as just a function of opportunity.
"Well, the play-in game was pretty much a playoff start, too," Fogg, who started the one-game playoff Oct. 1 at Coors Field against San Diego to decide the Wild Card race, told the Rocky Mountain News before Sunday's start. "The atmosphere -- I think it's going to be crazy, but I don't know if it can get any more crazy than it was that night.
"I look forward to it. I look forward to the opportunity to just compete and have fun. That's what we're all doing right now. We're all just going out and having a good time and winning baseball games, which makes it more fun."
By the time the evening was through, he had not just made his first postseason start but got his first postseason victory. He allowed just one run over six innings as the Rockies won for the 20th time in 20 games and put themselves on the brink of the franchise's first World Series appearance.
"I've been throwing the ball well down the stretch, and fortunately, I was able to go out there and do it again tonight," Fogg said.
During the regular season, Fogg was 10-9 with a 4.94 ERA. He went 3-0 with a 3.25 ERA in five September starts before allowing five runs in four innings against San Diego. While his start in the one-game playoff wasn't spectacular, he did throw two scoreless innings of relief in Game 2 of the NLDS against Philadelphia, earning the win as the Rockies rallied to win, 10-5.
Fogg's pitching performance on Sunday night shouldn't have been too surprising, however. In his career against Arizona, Fogg was 6-1 with a 3.71 ERA entering the game. In four starts against them this season, he was 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA.
"I think my numbers against Arizona have been decent throughout the years," Fogg said about why he earned the start in Game 3. "I think they probably looked at those and made the decision based on what they thought was best."
Ramirez, Ortiz peaking: Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz seem to be peaking in the postseason this year.
In Friday's 10-3 Game 1 win against Cleveland, Ortiz and Ramirez reached base five times apiece. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, they were the first pair of teammates with at least five plate appearances in a game to reach base in every appearance.
Through the first four games of the playoffs, the due had a combined .805 on-base percentage, reaching base in 29 of 36 plate appearances. While Ortiz and Ramirez couldn't match their amazing pace of reaching base Saturday night in Game 2, each player went 1-for-4, with Ramirez hitting a two-run home run. It was the 23rd postseason home run for Ramirez, setting a new record. His nine LCS home runs now ties him with Bernie Williams and George Brett for the Major League record.
At one point, Ortiz reached base safely in 10 consecutive postseason appearances, tying the record set by Billy Hatcher of Cincinnati in 1990. When Ortiz grounded out in the fifth inning, it broke a streak of reaching base safely 18 times in 20 trips to the plate.
"I know what they're doing certainly can't last a full year," manager Terry Francona told the Boston Globe, "but hopefully it can be sustainable through a nice little playoff run.
"They're taking their walks, keeping the lineup moving, trusting the other guys in the order. It makes them very, very dangerous. I think I'm probably understating it."
Sizemore turns it around in Game 2: Cleveland Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore struggled in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, going hitless in five at-bats as the Indians lost, 10-3. On Saturday night the Indians' leadoff man came back in a big way with three hits, including a home run, double, a walk and three runs scored in his team's 13-6, 11-inning victory.
Prior to Saturday night's game, Cleveland manager Eric Wedge talked about the difference in the Indians lineup when Sizemore produces.
"I wouldn't say it's that black and white," Wedge told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "But Grady definitely provides a tremendous amount of energy for us at the top of the lineup. I think he's one of the most exciting players in the game."
Sizemore played in all 162 games this season and was the leadoff hitter 150 times. He scored 118 runs (fourth in AL), walked 101 times (fifth in AL) and stole 33 bases in 43 attempts. He also hit 24 home runs, drove in 78 and has played in 358 consecutive games.
Cubs' Soto named MVP of Pacific Coast League: Catcher Geovany Soto definitely left an impression once he finally made it to Chicago this season -- but his biggest impression apparently came at Triple-A Iowa, where he was named the Most Valuable Player in the Pacific Coast League. At Iowa Soto batted .353 with 26 home runs and 109 RBIs, and was also named the MiLB.com Triple-A Offensive Player of the Year.
"I've been in this organization for seven years and I think I've progressed every year," Soto, who had three homers and six RBIs in 17 at-bats with Chicago during the regular season, told MiLB.com. "I've been doing better every year. I think I'm ready to play up here in the big leagues and I hope they give me a chance."
Iowa pitching coach Mike Harkey saw a big change in Soto as the year went on. "From his time in April to now, I think he's 100 times more polished," said Harkey. "He had some issues earlier about what it is he thought he was supposed to do, as opposed to what he was supposed to go out and do. We've had a lot of conversations as far as what he perceived as his shortcomings in calling a game.
"The growth he's had this year has been tremendous. What's hard for young catchers is to put both hitting and catching together at the same time. I think the fact that offensively, he's as solid as anybody can be at Triple-A, he still made great strides in calling the game. Either he hits or he catches, and he did both."
Taveras brings karma back to lineup: With the Rockies playing so well with center fielder Willy Taveras out of the lineup due to a strained quadriceps, some wondered why manager Clint Hurdle inserted Taveras into the lineup for the start of the National League Championship Series. Why mess with karma?
Why? Because Taveras can be a difference maker in a game, as he showed in Game 2 against Arizona. In the seventh inning, Taveras sprinted as fast as he could to right-center field and made a diving, run-saving catch on Tony Clark's line drive.
"It was a big moment in a big game, definitely, in a tied game," Taveras, who also drew a bases-loaded walk to produce the game-winning run in the 11th inning, told the Denver Post. "It hurt a little bit when you land, when you hit the ground, but I'm OK."
In the first two games in Phoenix, Taveras was 2-for-9 with a double, two runs scored, a key stolen base and the bases loaded walk. Entering the postseason, Taveras showed in the past he could handle the pressure. While with the Houston Astros, he hit .349 during the team's run to the World Series in 2005.
"I just try to play my game," he said. "But the one thing I know is that the postseason, when close games mean a lot, you need speed. ... That's how we've been winning games lately, pitching and speed."
Carmona learned from last season: Cleveland Indians pitcher Fausto Carmona didn't have his best stuff on Saturday night, but don't expect one rough outing to bother him too much. Last year it was Carmona, thrust into the role of closer for Cleveland in August, who blew three saves in one week but managed to turn himself into one of the American League's top starting pitchers this year.
"From the stretch I went through last year as a closer, I learned a lot," Carmona, his Spanish translated by first base coach Luis Rivera, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I don't regret what I went through last year because it makes me stronger.
"I worked hard in the Dominican [Republic] during winter ball, worked on confidence and pitches, and coming into spring training I forgot completely about what happened to me the year before. I feel like it was a new start, and I was going to take the opportunity and do the most with it."
Carmona went 19-8 this season with a 3.06 ERA and was absolutely dominating in the ALDS against the New York Yankees. In that game, he worked nine innings and gave up just three hits.
"People tend to forget what Fausto did after being in that role," said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. "Really, he had a great season [a year ago] for us just in regard to the experience that he gained. He was one of the best set-up guys in baseball for six weeks prior to being a closer."
Tulowitzki plays older than a rookie: Troy Tulowitzki may be only a rookie, but the Colorado shortstop has already stepped into the role of being a team leader. Manager Clint Hurdle said he has not seen a young player like Tulowitzki, 23, have such an impact on a team.
"He brings a very strong will to win every day, and I think that it has affected a lot of other players. It doesn't surprise me, either," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd told the Denver Post. "That's why we brought him up when we did last year, because we wanted him to understand the speed of the game at this level and get comfortable with it so his intangibles would take over."
Tulowitzki showed his leadership during Game 1 on the NLCS against Arizona. In the seventh inning, Chris Snyder of the Diamondbacks hit a double. Starter Jeff Francis then hit Justin Upton on the knee with a changeup, drawing a glare from Upton as he went to first base. As Tulowitzki jogged towards the mound to clam Francis down, he yelled in Upton's direction.
Upton was later called for runner's interference on a slide into second base, resulting in a double play and killing a possible Arizona rally. The Rockies shortstop doesn't regret getting into a discussion with Upton.
"It's over, today is a new day, but I am definitely going to protect my pitchers anytime something like that happens," Tulowitzki said.
Red Sox have Gagne's back: Former Dodgers closer Eric Gagne has had a rough transition to his role as setup man for the Red Sox. While fans have been hard on the reliever, manager Terry Francona and teammates remain solidly behind Gagne and feel he will play an important role for Boston before the end of the playoffs.
"When he first came over here, he had the gall to give up some runs in Boston," Francona told the Los Angeles Times. "You can't do that."
Catcher Jason Varitek is also in Gagne's corner.
"Yeah, the fans have obviously been hard on him, but we're going to need him," Varitek said.
"He's going to have to get some outs for us, and he's fully capable of doing it. He has to come up in a situation where he gets some big outs, and the tide is going to totally change for him."
Will Angels, Bonds find a match?: Will the Angels' early exit in the playoffs due to poor hitting help sway the team to add Barry Bonds to the lineup in the off-season? Bonds has expressed a desire in the past to play in Anaheim, which is close to his home in Beverly Hills. Manager Mike Scioscia is open to the idea of Bonds in an Angels' uniform.
"Let's put all the options on the table and see where it is," Scioscia told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Barry's still a terrific offensive player. But there's a lot of other things that are going to be on the table besides Barry, so I don't think you'd rule it out. I think you'd have to look at a ton of things and see what's going to make you a better club."
Scioscia has no worries about Bonds in the clubhouse.
"Guys know Barry and the talent he brings," Scioscia said. "I don't think anything about that would be an issue."
Twins' Slowey earns Triple-A pitching honors: Minnesota Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey got off to a good start in 2007, posting a 3-0 mark in his first seven Major League starts. Even so, he knew he wasn't entirely ready to pitch in the Majors and took it in stride when he was shipped back to Triple-A Rochester.
"I felt it was more like an assignment than a demotion," Slowey, who went 4-3 with a 2.21 ERA after rejoining Rochester, told MiLB.com. "When they sent me back, they did it with encouragement: 'We liked what we saw, but this is what you need to work on, so go work on it. Go down, learn and come back. We want you to come back, we need you to come back, we expect you to come back.'
"Rochester was a great place for me all year. The players, the coaches, the environment were all great. So it was easy to go back there and feel like you weren't missing much."
Had he not gone back, actually, he may have missed out on recently being named the MiLB.com Triple-A Pitcher of the Year. Prior to being called up by the Twins in June Slowey was 6.2 with a 1.54 ERA for Rochester, and knows that there is a good reason pitchers get plenty of chances to pitch in the minors before being called up.
"At every level is a different type of hitter," said Slowey. "The way to pitch to guys in Double-A and Triple-A was not the way to get hitters out in the big leagues. In the big leagues, the key is to keep the ball low. In the Minors, my focus was on hitting the corners. There's nothing like the way big-league hitters approach at-bats."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.