Pressure nothing new to rookie Porcello
Tigers youngster to toe the slab in play-in game Tuesday
Tigers teammates stopped thinking of Rick Porcello as a rookie awhile back, so they're comfortable with him on the mound for Tuesday's one-game tiebreaker against the Twins to determine which club moves on to the playoffs.
"I think he's surprised a lot of people all year," teammate Justin Verlander told MLB.com. "He's got one more chance to do the same. I really think he can draw from what he did last start."
Porcello, who is 14-9 with a 4.40 ERA over 30 starts and a 165 innings, also had a crucial start when he faced the Twins last Tuesday in Detroit. In that game, which the Twins eventually won, Porcello allowed just seven hits and one earned run over 6 1/3 innings.
"In my opinion, he's going to have the same amount of pressure on this start that he did last one. Not knowing what was to come, he had a ton of pressure on him his last start and was able to handle it very well. Like I've said all year, he's so mature for his age, he's unbelievable. He's confident in himself. He'll be able to draw off that, go in and do a good job for us."
Pujols sets season assists record: Albert Pujols set a record on Sunday, picking up his 185th assist of the season -- the most ever for a Major League first baseman. The previous record had been held by Bill Buckner, who set the mark in 1985 while a member of the Boston Red Sox.
"It's a great accomplishment, and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to be able to do that," Pujols, who won a Gold Glove in 2006, told MLB.com. "As a defensive first baseman, or whatever in the infield, my job is to catch the ball and try to do everything that I can. Going to Spring Training, I don't think I was putting it in my mind to try to break the assist record. But my job was to try to be out there and do everything I can to help my ballclub to win."
Prado's success alters winter plans: Martin Prado is reconsidering his approach to winter ball in Venezuela after playing regularly for the Braves in the second half.
"I might skip it or I might play at the end," Prado told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I've just got to watch what I do, do what I need to [in the offseason] to progress to another level. When I just got 200 at-bats [228 in 2008], I could go home and play winter ball. Now, playing every day, it's something different.
"It changes everything with my winter. I'm just going to go home and get ready to come back next year and play every day."
Smoltz in familiar territory: John Smoltz, who is 15-4 with a 2.65 ERA in postseason play, will begin this year's playoffs in the Cardinals' bullpen. In the Braves' NL Championship Series against the Mets in 1999, Smoltz relieved in Game 2, started Game 4 and came out of the bullpen again in Game 6.
"And that was when my elbow was at its worst with Atlanta," Smoltz told MLB.com. "So I've done it before. Everything changes in a best-of-five series. In a best-of-five, obviously, you're just trying to win. In a best-of-seven, it's more uniformed, but in a best of five, you just have to win Game 1 and go from there."
Ramirez swipes third to set up Cantu's 100th RBI: With teammate Jorge Cantu sitting on 99 RBIs, Hanley Ramirez stole third base -- and banged up his right knee -- to give his teammate a better shot at reaching 100. He proceeded to score on Cantu's sacrifice fly.
"Everybody knows he's got 99," Ramirez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "You have a chance to help your teammate to do something like that, go ahead, but unfortunately I got hurt."
"I have to give all the credit to Hanley," Cantu said. "That was a big stolen base for him. He told me he was going to get into scoring position for me. That tells you what kind of teammate he is. He sacrificed pretty much his body for me to score. Thanks to him and all the guys hitting in front of me for making it possible."
Mora ready to grab a glove for someone: Melvin Mora is ready to play in 2010 regardless of whether the Orioles pick up his option.
"It's kind of hard when you're going to go to a utility guy, go back to what you were, after you've had all those great years at one position," the Orioles third baseman told MLB.com. "In my mind, I'm not thinking about utility guy, because I can still go strong for a long time. If there's a team that's going to give me a chance to play every day and prove that I can knock in another 100 like last year -- if I could play every day, it doesn't matter where. I have the ability to play the outfield and the infield, so it's no problem. I just need to grab a glove."
Ausmus becomes the skipper: Manager Joe Torre traditionally lets a veteran player manage the last game of the season. This year it was Brad Ausmus, so Ronnie Belliard was given the day off and Casey Blake was pulled after four innings. Ausmus even inserted himself as a pinch-runner.
"There's some guys you want to give a break, and there's some guys you want to get more at-bats," Ausmus told the Los Angeles Times. "We're fortunate we're in a position where we can have something like this."
Junior caps season with single: In his final at-bat of the 2009 season, Ken Griffey Jr. delivered a single to center field and was removed for a pinch-runner.
The Safeco Field crowd erupted into a standing ovation and cheered for a curtain call, not knowing whether Griffey will return next season.
"In all the years I've been in this game, I don't know if I've ever been as emotional as when Griffey came off that field and into the clubhouse," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu told the Seattle Times.
"I don't really think about those things," Griffey said. "That's not one of those things that's really that important. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I'm not the egomaniac that wants everybody to recognize. It's more important for other people to talk about you than for you to talk about yourself."
Tejada's season ends with 21-game hitting streak: Miguel Tejada kept his hitting streak intact -- at 21 games -- but fell one shy of getting 200 hits for the fourth time in his career. Craig Biggio remains the only Astros player to get 200 hits in a season.
"I talked to my family already and said, if I don't get to 200, I thank God for giving me the opportunity to get to 199," Tejada, who finished the season with a 21-game hitting streak, told the Houston Chronicle.
Zavada makes memories in front of hometown fans: Clay Zavada, who grew up two hours south of Chicago, threw a scoreless inning at Wrigley Field in the D-backs' final game of the season. He called the experience a "dream come true."
Zavada will probably most remember a play he made on a ball during the seventh inning. Serving as the bullpen protector during the inning, Zavada speared a hard hit ball off the bat of Micah Hoffpauir of the Cubs, saving bullpen catcher Jeff Motuzas from getting smacked.
The bad news, however, was that the ball was ruled fair by first base umpire Ed Rapuano. Zavada dropped the ball and took a step away, but a ground-rule double was awarded to Hoffpauir.
"I looked at the ump and he points toward fair and I go, 'That was fair?'" Zavada told the Arizona Republic. "He goes, 'Yeah.' I was like, 'Oh, crap.' I didn't know what to do so I just threw the ball back into fair territory and took a couple of steps back.
"But I saved a run. That would have been a triple and a run-batted in. So I thought I did good, even though I screwed up. It was stupid. It's going to be on Not-So-Top 10."
Zobrist named MVP by Tampa writers: The Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of American voted Ben Zobrist the Rays' Most Valuable Player after he had a breakout season in '09.
Zobrist, who played all over the field for Tampa Bay this season, finished the year with a .297 batting average with 27 home runs, 91 RBIs, 91 runs scored and 17 steals. Carl Crawford finished second in the voting, and Evan Longoria was third.
"It's a huge honor," Zobrist told the St. Petersburg Times. "Any one of four or five guys could have gotten it."
Lester named starter for Game 1: Jon Lester has been named the starter of Game 1 of Boston's American League Division Series against the Angels. Boston manager Terry Francona announced Lester will be followed by Josh Beckett and then Clay Buchholz.
"What it really came down to is the fact that, when you look at how our rotation was set up -- and Beckett knows we feel this way -- because for us to get where we want to go we're going to have to lean on both of them," Francona told the Boston Globe. "To flip-flop them around would have one guy on normal rest, another guy on [seven days rest]. That doesn't make sense to any of us, including Beckett and Lester.
"As we go forward, again we don't know when we're playing, but we think Lester is situated where he can come back on short rest, and that would have, say, Beckett if there's a Game 5 on regular rest. There's a lot of options that are open to us that we're interested in exploring."
Playoff spot uncertain for De La Rosa: The Rockies won't make a decision about 16-game winner Jorge De La Rosa's roster status until he throws on the side on Tuesday to test his injured groin.
If he feels good, he will likely start Game 3 at Coors Field. If the groin does not respond well, he will probably be left off the Division Series roster.
"If he's able to throw a bullpen, there's a good chance he factors into the mix. But we don't have a definite answer yet," manager Jim Tracy told the Denver Post.
Phillips oh, so close to hitting his mark: Brandon Phillips didn't quite reach his late-season goal of 100 RBIs.
"It was a great journey to try and get 100, but I just fell short," Phillips told MLB.com. "That's the name of the game. Maybe one year, I'll be able to do it. It would have been nice this year."
Fuld glad to see arrival of RBI No. 1: Sam Fuld waited until the final game of the season and his 102nd at-bat to hit his first home run and get his first RBI.
"I wasn't sure," Fuld told MLB.com. "I hit it pretty well, and I knew the wind was kind of blowing out in that direction, so I knew it had a chance. Then I saw [right fielder Justin] Upton going back like he had a chance to catch it, and maybe some negative thoughts crept in there, but when I saw him look up, that's when I knew. Pretty amazing feeling."
Napoli shows his power to right field: Mike Napoli blasted his way to four hits in seven at-bats over the weekend against the A's. One of his hits was an opposite-field home run, which pleased Angels manager Mike Scioscia.
"When he goes to right field, that's a good sign," Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times. "He has big power everywhere. I also like the way he's matching up defensively."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.